Beer Diary Podcast s05e01: 3G Coverage — Garage Project, GABS, and gastrophysics

And so the Beer Diary Podcast is back for a fifth season — and with our traditional delay in hitting ‘publish’, no less. Episodes should return to their usual non-super-sized format and a sharper turnaround in this back half of the year — but you all know what kind of paving projects are undertaken with good intentions. Here, we accidentally settle on a G-theme: we catch up about the end of my tenure at Garage Project, including some thoughts on how they make their interesting beers; discuss the debut of GABS — Sydney Edition, which also makes us ponder trans-Tasman beer availability; and read a neat little piece in the Guardian on Gastrophysics which sets us wondering about experiments that really should be done at the beer awards.

As always, a direct download is available, there’s a podcast-specific RSS feed, and you should be able to get us on iTunesGeorge and myself can also both be reached on Twitter, or you can leave comments here or on Facebook. You can also now point people at podcast.beerdiary.nz and the show has its own Twitter handle — which you can use for feedback, suggestions and whatnot. Cheers!

Mash tun hopback for Trip Hop (Garage Project, 6 July 2012)
A sea of green
Townshend handpull at GABS Sydney (Australian Technology Park, 30 May 2015)
Townshend being different
Garage Project parting gift (My house, 11 June 2015)
DOTD in perpetuity

 

— Show notes:

  • (0.40) It has been ages, in a few ways, inadvertently. This episode was recorded 9 June 2015.
  • (2.20) Beer of the Week #1: Garage Project ‘Sea Of Green’.
  • (3.10) The speed-winemaking phenomenon is Beaujolais nouveau.
  • (6.40) The poster is included in Pete’s blog post on the making of Sea Of Green, and their original Facebook post garnered a little pushback. The varietals don’t seem to’ve made it online anywhere obvious.
  • (10.30) Leaving the Garage. We made a little Vine on me last day, with me (first official employee) raising a glass of Trip Hop (first official beer).
  • (15.00) The ‘how to buy a beer’ ramble was recorded at Golding’s.
  • (16.20) BDP’s first away mission, damn near four years ago: Garage Project.
  • (18.00) The “cabbage beer” was Mon P’tit Chou, a saison brewed without cabbages. And George is no fan of saisons.
  • (23.20) Beer of the Week #2: Garage Project ‘Bossa Nova’. And I have some idea how they put the fruit in it, but that probably counts as a Trade Secret. Pete addresses the classification question in his blog post for the beer, and has similarly little patience for overly pedantic taxonomy.
  • (35.10) GABS 2015 — Sydney Edition v1.0, an excellent new incarnation of an excellent thing, and a lovesong to festivals in general.
  • (48.00) I did get this right: Robe Town Brewery, in Robe, SA.
  • (50.10) We talked about the ‘dud’ (now resurrected) P.K.B. in our episode with the now-Antipodean Stu McKinlay. ‘Darkmatta’ was released this week, huzzah for coincidences of timing.
  • (54.40) In fairness, Beervana’s new overlords are all over this already.
  • (57.00) Gastrophysics, following a little article in the Guardian.
  • (1.00.00) Tom Scott (H.F.O.T.S.) on grammatical gender. I don’t quite finish the thought in the episode, but I obviously also agree that the “key” example says as many worrying things about notions of gender as it does about oddities of grammar.
  • (1.01.10) It was ‘Black Se7en’ from 666 Brewing.
  • (1.06.40) Doubling-up on brands obviously gets into False Provenance, an enduring bugbear of mine. George’s dairy example was “Piako”.
  • (01.10.00) Beer of the Week #3: Garage Project ‘Day Of The Dead’. I’ve already cashed in my entitlement on Triple Day Of The Dead.
  • (1.14.00) My copy is currently out on loan, but in Cryptonomicon, it’s chapter 70, ‘Origin’, where the family divide up an estate using a parking lot as a large-scale graph.
  • (1.17.50) Our conversation with Hadyn on questionable beer names.
  • (1.25.10) Festivals “coming up” are obviously now long gone. But hey, Beervana is just on the horizon…
  • (1.30.40) Martin’s new URL is, indeed, beertown.nz
  • (1.33.40) Tip of the hat: Little Creatures (part of the Lion Group). It’s not rocket wizardry, people. Wag of the finger: sloppy keg-filling.
  • (1.37.40) Recommendations: Panhead special editions, and Hop Federation American Brown.
  • (1.41.20) Honorary Friend Of The Show: Neal Stephenson, my favourite living author (especially after Iain Banks and Terry Pratchett both died, sadly). I just finished Seveneves yesterday, in fact; it’s responsible for at least a day or two of my delay in getting this online. And speaking of big books, The Year Of Reading Massively is definitely worth a listen.
  • (1.46.30) A round of applause for Luke Robertson, too. Damn nice.
  • (1.49.25) Cue the music: ‘Shopping for Explosives’, by The Coconut Monkeyrocket. Audio editing done in Audacity. Habitual thanks to both.

Wellington bars, from inside and out

Malthouse as "Ma house" (13 September 2013)
My former workplace, after serendipitous signage failure or inspired minor vandalism

After a (nearly) three-year sojourn among the (nearly) nine-to-fivers, I’m back bartending.1 Happily, I can report that this is still an excellent town in which to do so. Despite an increasingly-plausible2 rivalry between a few centres, the sanest conclusion is that Wellington is (still, for now) the country’s best place for going out and having a beer. The established reputation and the potential challengers make it an easy target for muggle-media dispatches ― of which two recently caught my eye for their disconnect between how things look to their authors, and how they appear to me, a long-serving drinker and drink-server.

'Wellington — the home of craft beer' by Donna-Lee Biddle (Stuff.co.nz, 11 July 2015)
An article in the Waikato Times, featuring my new workplace

The first ― a travelogue-ish piece from Donna-Lee Biddle in the Waikato Times ― is innocuous enough. It’s a little overawed and awkward, but isn’t that basically all of us upon stepping into a new scene? Two minor details were a little jarring, though. The line that “plenty of brew bars have the brewing equipment on display” overstates things rather a lot, unfortunately, since we only have three such places (one of which is very recent) and this is one area in which our “beer culture” is unambiguously bested by (at least) Auckland and Christchurch. It’d be unseemly to brag about the things you knew you were behind on.

Weirder, though, was the doubled-up emphasis on Golding’s Free Dive as the after-work hangout of all the brewers in town. Which is firstly unfair to all the other bars ― this town’s beer drinkers are, in my experience, a more ecumenical lot who merrily wander about the place and could fairly be said to be “regulars” of multiple places ― and paints an unreal picture of brewers’ social lives. By and large, more’s the pity, they go home. They work stupidly long days which usually start at Unreasonable O’clock in the morning. And besides, they make their own beer, of which there’s always offcuts to take home, and the beer business is frankly just not among those lucrative enough to support the habits and hobbies some others maintain. I wouldn’t want to give anyone the impression that any or all of our bars are perpetually crammed with industry insiders. They’re more diverse and welcoming than that.

More pernicious, however, was the nonsense in Cuisine magazine from David Burton,3 who is to local food writing what Gordon McLauchlan is to local beer writing: a dinosaur without the actual-dinosaur saving graces of being awesome and/or extinct. His protracted whinge as to the state of beer-bar food bears basically zero resemblance to reality and does the City a real disservice. The anchor of his piece is this claim ―

With each successive craft bar fit-out in Wellington, in has gone the deep-fryer, and out have come the bar snacks of old school Kiwi pubs, albeit this time in the guise of “dude food”.

― which is manifest bollocks on multiple counts. For starters, let’s torpedo his overused “dude food”4 forever, as a phrase. With very rare exceptions, food has neither genitals of its own nor opinions as to yours. This is a non-category for precisely the same reason that there is no such thing as “girls’ beer”.5 People of various kinds enjoy things of various kinds. If you’ve been paid to spend time in restaurants for several decades and haven’t noticed that, just what the fuck have you paying attention to?

Emerson's 'Southern Clam' stout, plus whisky and oysters (LBQ, 20 July 2014)
Beer with superfancy lunch. And whisky. Admittedly my beer-and-food photo collection is relatively rather lacking.

Secondly, deep-fryers are just machines. They can be used for bland stodge as much as for delicious interestingness; I’ll wager there’s one in most places he raves about. And anyway, he’s simply wrong: Hashigo Zake and Golding’s lack them entirely and the former, especially,6 bends the usual notions of “pub food” quite dramatically and has been around for yonks in local subculture terms. It would’ve at least made for a fine counterexample ― but instead he weirdly cites The Hideaway, a spot which is in no sense a craft beer bar; not by its own claims, or by its menu, or his own review, or… anything. And against his implied boast that the good-wine places are still exclusively the good-food ones, you need only look back to his notes from Ortega Fish Shack: in a rightfully glowing review he entirely fails to even notice their lengthy and mindful beer list, which regularly gains beer-nerd praise (and isn’t the only top-end restaurant in town to do so).

The simple fact is that David Burton just isn’t a “beer person”. And that’s fine and fair. Not everyone has to like what I like as much as I like it. It becomes problematic, however, when he’s repeatedly tasked by editors to report on something he neither particularly knows nor especially cares about ― and yet feels so free to pontificate despite those two factors. Donna-Lee Biddle might not yet count herself a beer person, but her mis-steps are the polar opposite; the tiniest stumblings of an open-minded and enthusiastic newcomer.

‘Outsider’ writing is a necessary and excellent thing; a key part of bringing more outsiders in, if they find themselves keen. And there’ll be a lot more of it in the run-up to Beervana and then (later) during the annual Brewers’ Guild awards season. I just hope it tends toward the Donna-Lee kind and increasingly little comes from throwbacks like David.7


1: About which more in the next episode of the podcast, he says, getting very-slightly ahead of himself. 
2: If still prone to occasionally lapses in to mean-spirited-ness and badly-judged / poorly-executed humour. (Looking at you, Steve Plowman, on the latter.) 
3: Perhaps mercifully in this case, they don’t put their stuff online. Unless and until they tell me to take it down, though, here’s a vaguely-readable rendition so you know I’m not misrepresenting the bastard, at least.
4: Limiting myself to one easily-searchable location, he uses it for write-ups on Coene’s Provisions, Crafters & Co., and San Fran. Judging by the latter, we might have Tim Ward to blame for introducing him to the term. 
5: Note the careful apostrophe. 
6: As to the latter, you’d think he might’ve noticed while praising the bar and its surroundings ― and feebly trying to coin the nickname “Little Portland” for the area. But alas. 
7: And since I’ve put myself on first-name terms, I’ll close with a quiet smattering of applause for the “says Beth” and “said Scott” of Donna-Lee’s piece. The newspapery pratice of Last Names Only For Everything, like we’re stuck in some fucking Dickensian boys’ school, really grates on my brain. 

Beer Diary Podcast s04e08: 2014 Year in Review

Back at last for a traditionally-belated ‘Year in Review’ episode, George and I called in a few guests to help ponder what 2014 meant to us in beer, since we were both extra-busy in everything else.  Now-recidivist Friends Of The Show Jono and Hadyn graciously took up the challenge and joined us in searching our memories for the year’s highlights, disasters, themes and oddities — and, just for good measure, they also threw in bonus musings on professional wrestling and the sociology of Palmerston North.

As always, a direct download is available, there’s a podcast-specific RSS feed, and you should be able to get us on iTunesGeorge and myself can also both be reached on Twitter, or you can leave comments here or on Facebook. You can also now point people at podcast.beerdiary.nz and the show has its own Twitter handle — which you can use for feedback, suggestions and whatnot. Cheers!

'The Story of Beer' (on my coffee table, 10 May 2015)
Not a great book
Testing the 'Chillsner' (Golding's, 9 May 2015)
Not a great gadget
The 'Quadruple Dayum' (Cambridge Terrace, 5 July 2014)
A great match

 

— Show notes:

  • (1.30) In the guest chairs, two returning Friends Of The Show: Jono Galsuzka (who joined us for s03e07) and Hadyn Green (who first appeared a little earlier, in s03e03).
  • (2.10) Cracked’s ‘Year in Review in Review’ episode.
  • (3.50) Beer of the Week #1: Townshend ‘Thunder Drum’, supplied by Hadyn. A gusher, and properly weird. But not ruined.
  • (8.10) Blog of the Year: The Bottleneck, by Dylan Jauslin. Again — and (almost) unanimously. Posts cited: 20 Beers…; Recycling Bin Bingo; ‘Epic Lupulingus’ review; . His ‘Year in Review’ posts are great fun, too. Hadyn’s stuff from Fishhead, sadly isn’t all put online. But if you can find the most-recent issue, this episode gets a write-up. Nice.
  • (16.40) An article on Indigenous Malaysian words for smells.
  • (18.20) Worst Beer Writer: Gordon McLauchlan, one of our absolute dinosaurs. But not in a good way.
  • (22.00) Beer of the Week #2: Emerson’s ‘Taieri George’ 2011.
  • (27.00) Pleasant Surprise: Emerson’s, under Lion.
  • (37.00) Beer of the Week #3: Billy B’s Apple Stout, via our comrades at Ale Of A Time, and from South Australia as I later get totally wrong.
  • (40.40) Pleasant Surprise (cont’d): Homebrewing (at work).
  • (44.50) Unpleasant Surprise: The Chillsner™ — an abject failure of design, which I did at least have fun testing; see below.1
  • (49.30) 2014, Year of the x: Session (according to Beer Without Border’s ‘Beer Word Of The Year’); or Community; or Oligopoly — “thanks” to the rise of the Asahi-Boundary-Founders-Etc. hydra (via clever positioning, and bastardry); or Attack of the (Pacific Ale) Clones (with a trademark shitfight on the horizon); or of the Wheat (slightly jumping the gun…); or of the Tin (as beer-in-cans goes mainstream).
  • (1.15.40) Glossary of professional wrestling terms.
  • (1.18.10) Beer of the Week #4: Schneider Weisse ‘Tap X — Meine Porter Weisse, courtesy of Jono.
  • (1.23.20) Beer of the Year: Stone & Wood ‘Pacific Ale’ (again— plus its descendants and clones, and applause for the company); or non-Hefe-non-Wit-Wheat (more generally); or Garage Project ‘Garagista’; or Yeastie Boys ‘White Noise’.
  • (1.32.00) A profile of Tim Gibson, and his website. The Hops On Pointe can-factory-ballet video.
  • (1.35.50) The Ballast Point re-brand / tightening-up.
  • (1.40.30) Matthew 27:53.
  • (1.41.30) Useful Thing: Taking notes. Seconded, obviously.
  • (1.42.00) Dish Magazine’s Drinks section (there doesn’t seem to be a handy catch-all spot for Alice’s columns, sadly). The Boysenbeery float.
  • (1.43.40) Beer of the Week #5: St. Bernard’s Jet. Wayback at Malthouse. My Greater Elaborated Theory Of Session Beer is still undergoing beer-review.
  • (1.46.00) One of Manuka Magic’s many failed crowdfunding efforts.
  • (1.46.20) Glass of Beer of the Year: Probably-a-Tuatara-Pilsner (on the occasion of fatherhood); or Yeastie Boys ‘Minimatta’ (post-run, dying); or Garage Project ‘Beer’ (with dirty-licious burgers); or Matutu ‘Mai’ (on holiday in Rarotonga); or — among surprisingly good company in what I thought was a quiet year — Yeastie Boys ‘Gunnamatta’ (a UK-brewed cask, on an excellent evening).
  • (2.04.50) I hasten to add: people (i.e., George, Hadyn, and co.) were taking crotch-shots of their own pants and beaming them to my phone.

1: While writing up these notes, I gave the Chillsner a good test, and can report on its spectacular crapness. It doesn’t fit all common bottlenecks (ParrotDog: no, Panhead: yes, Tuatara: yes-but-only-after-a-sickening-cram) and the uneven (and mysterious) ribbing makes it impossible to judge in advance. It displaces a good 10% of the beer; either an initial warm sip or a bunch of wastage. And even when cooled to minus nine, itself, it could only take two or three degress Celsius off a bottle — five degrees at best. The physics is just way off: it just doesn’t have the mass or the conductivity, and the water in beer (i.e., most of the stuff) is just too damn hard to shift in temperature. (And if, as they might retreat to as last resort, it’s for keeping already-cold beer cold longer, then stubby-holders already exist.) 

Testing the Chillsner (My house, 9 May 2015)
Stuck
Testing the Chillsner (Golding's Free Dive, 9 May 2015)
Ribbed
Testing the Chillsner (Golding's Free Dive, 9 May 2015)
Archimedes

Little billboards

A freshly-arrived Craft Queer t-shirt (My house, 10 April 2015)
My freshly-arrived Craft Queer t-shirt

As is probably also true of many or indeed most other long-standing / high-level1 beer enthusiasts, I have unfeasibly-many branded t-shirts. But there always seems to be room for one more, and I’d been meaning for ages to get one from the Craft Queer Project. Born from a particularly-rad present my comrade2 Dylan made for a fellow bartender, it evolved into a generally-purchasable thing and a worthy little fundraiser to boot. I’ve also seen way too much of the homophobic nonsense that he mentions in his post; from trolls fouling up the online beer community to boorish lunkheads in bars acting like they’d tumbled in from a prior decade — and see Melissa Cole’s latest piece if you need and/or can stomach examples from the Antipodes. But still, I share his optimism that things are (as they say) getting better.

It was really heartening, two weekends ago, to spy a few of these t-shirts in the crowd at the Great Kiwi Beer Festival, worn on the persons of total strangers. That was enough to at last jolt me into ordering mine. But as a habitual Overthinker, who coincidentally exists very much to the left of the Kinsey Scale, I vacillated for a while between getting the original ‘QuB version and the slightly-bowdlerised, ahem, straight-Beer one. But an analogy to all that brewery merch in my drawers eventually occurred to me: I’ll happily wear, for instance, a ParrotDog t-shirt, a Stone & Wood hoodie, and a Dogfish Head hat — perhaps even all at once — despite working at precisely none of those companies.3 I may not be of them, but I like them, and I wish them well in their many endeavours, supporting their good works and deeds where I can. Likewise this, really.4 Simple.


1: I mean this in the Dungeons & Dragons sense — lots of experience and a few perks. 
2: Disclaimers ahoy: then, in his day job, he was a customer of my day job (which, in turn, made the beer the artwork references); now, he’s officially my boss, since I’ve reshuffled my working life rather dramatically. 
3: So far, at least. I’d let you know
4: If I seem to be harping on these down-with-grossness and show-of-solidarity angles, I make no apology. I’ve seen two of my other beloved Domains Of Nerdness — namely videogames and speculative fiction — develop disgusting little cancers of reactionary bullshit and I’ll kick against that where I can.  Calling out whatever nonsense comes within reach is the least any of us can do, and now we can do it while wearing a snazzy t-shirt. Win-win! 

The pants are always greener — farewell, Stu McKinlay

Yeastie Boys Dioramarama (Golding's Free Dive, 1 October 2013)
Yeastie Boys Dioramarama — from their fifth birthday ‘zine; artwork by Jed Soane, colours by Em and myself, on a much-embiggened copy, over several enjoyable beers at Golding’s

This past weekend, the local — i.e., Wellington, but also New Zealand more generally — beer community exported one of its stalwarts, Stu McKinlay,1 best-known as a founder and large fraction of the Yeastie Boys. I first met him back in my Malthouse bartending days, at the debut of Pot Kettle Black, and it’s been excellent knowing him since. He was an early giver-of-encouraging-nudges to this very Beer Diary project, is officially a Friend Of The Show, and can frequently be found here disproving the old maxim of Don’t Read The Comments. I’m very much on board with his broader philosophies of beer; our disagreements are the quibbling-at-the-margins that happen among comrades. You never worry that he’s an opportunist, an interloping con-man, or anything other than a True Believer — he’s a proper mensch.

Yeastie Boys PledgeMe night: Digital IPA, tipjar and Dylan (Golding's Free Dive, 28 January 2015)
‘Make It Big’ night at Golding’s

After this January’s massively-successful crowdfunding push (no need for a disclaimer, here; I’m not among their new investors), Stu’s off to arrange for the UK-based production and from-there distribution of their beers, starting with Gunnamatta and Pot Kettle Black. Contract brewers from day one — with no pretensions to have or intentions to build a “bricks and mortar” HQ — they’ve found themselves freer to sidestep some of the annoying and complicated business of exporting and simply produce beer closer to its intended market. I find this kind of ‘Distributed Republic’2 model really appealing, not least because it lessens the shipping-around of masses of water and packaging materials. And this is altogether a more-promising example of the phenomenon: morally better than Stone’s recent and rather-disingenuous ‘campaign’3 to build breweries on the far U.S. coast and in Europe, and more loud-and-proud than ParrotDog and Panhead’s current contracting of keg beer in Melbourne for Australian consumption.

So here’s to good people making good money from good beer. And to a homegrown business expanding out into the world in a new, interesting and authentic way — not by resorting to distasteful nonsense,4 nor by subsuming itself within an existing conglomerate.5 I hope locals will raise a glass of beer (or a cup of tea, or a dram of whisky, since they’d all be appropriate)6 to toast their progress and speed Stu on his way. Please do look after him for us, Englishpersons and Other Antipodeans. I’m sure you’ll enjoy his company — in both senses of the word.


1: That’s him in the red pants, above, despite the title of this post, which just occurred to me while I was doing the dishes and wouldn’t get out of my brain until I wrote it down. It seemed vaguely punny and fitting for a celebrated colour-blocker moving to the other side of the world. 
2: To borrow a phrase / idea I’m most familiar with via Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash and Diamond Age — though I’m not madly keen on the association it has with libertarian techbros, to say the least. 
3: A story which went down mid-last-year, while I was on De Facto Hiatus and it was too much of a clusterfuck for me to manage to say anything much constructive. Glen Humphries’ trio of posts — the cash grab, the screw-up, and the cover-up — is excellent coverage from the time. 
4: By now, surely, you know who I mean. 
5: à la Emerson’s, of course, most recently and locally and notoriously. Not that that always goes badly, of course. In the next podcast episode — [SPOILER ALERT] — I have a few things to say about how well the past two years have turned out, for us and for them. 
6: Or anything you like. Or not at all. He’s a big advocate of the blessed subjectivity, so I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. 

A session beer session, this Saturday

Session beer session planning
Session beer session planning underway in my (unimaginatively named) Big Notebook, with the (blue) Beer Diary (III) just visible in the background

This weekend, I’m off down to Christchurch for the Great Kiwi Beer Festival; my third annual visit for what has proved to be a bloody marvellous day in the park with ten thousand of your closest strangers — with a distinct sideline of embarrassing Bogan Dadmusic. It’s probably too late, now, for me to advocate in favour of you changing your travel plans for it (if you’re not already booked in), but you should get to Christchurch for a visit soon, regardless. In addition to the very-many excellent Beer Things going on there, seeing the City recovering from the 2011 earthquake is, in turn, inspiring, fascinating — and instructively aggravating in its many bureaucratic clusterfucks.

I’ve also been invited to have a little ramble in the ‘Beer Academy’ seminar tent. I had masses of fun there, last year — doing a version of my ‘How To Buy A Beer‘ spiel — and this time around my mandate is to rhapsodise about “session beer”, for which I hardly needed my arm twisted. I have, after all, been harping on about them for yonks: there’s a tag for relevant Beer Diary entries on here, and we devoted an early podcast episode to them,1 after I’d shoehorned a ‘Midstrength News’ segment into the ones before it. It should be a good lark; there are a lot of excellent examples on the local market, and plenty of interesting stories to tell about the history, the chemistry, the legal context, and how they all come together in quaffable pints of only-gently-intoxicating deliciousness.

Semi-professional Beer Enthusiast (My house, 26 July 2014)
A (semi-)professional beer enthusiast, never an “expert”

The Press, the local Christchurch paper, did a little preview of my seminar in the run-up to the festival, which appeared online today — click through2 to see my gormless grinning mug as I sat with a pint of Hallertau Minimus shortly before noon sometime last week. Always a strange experience, interacting with the Actual Media, and I inevitably had a few awkward quibbles while reading what eventuated from our chat: I flinched from “expert”, as an adjective, because I feel like there’s a whole bunch more than I don’t know than what I do;3 I wouldn’t want to litigate what was a ‘true’ beer lover, big believer in subjectivity that I am; and I hope I was more gender-neutral in my line about how midstrength brewing requires your A-game. Also, how strange is the newspaper affectation of referring to people, after a brief introduction, by their last name exclusively? So very Private School (he says, with a shudder). But these are the merest nit-picks of a natural-born pedant; it really was flattering to be asked at all, and — if last year was anything to go by — it’s that sort of coverage that helps drive a really healthy attendance into the seemingly-nerdy seminar tent at a large and wonderfully varied festival.


1: During which I substantially flubbed the history of ABV trends in the last few-hundred years of Anglophone brewing — but was rescued by Kieran “Beer Guru” Haslett-Moore in the comments. 
2: I’m loath to re-post the photo because I’m a stickler for properly respecting usage rights and am superannoyed when people boost my own — to the extent that I’ve just sent them invoices, and, on one glorious occasion, collected. 
3: Which is why people upset me, as a bartender, when they say things like “I don’t like beer” — how do they know? I’ve been at this for more than a decade, and I haven’t tried much of a fraction of what’s on offer. In my head, I have this as a beery version of the ‘First there is a mountain’ zen koan, but it turns out I’ve morphed that massively into my own thing; I should do a ‘Zen and the Art of Beer-Geekery’ some day and explain myself. Much closer, on reflection, is our friend Socrates’ “I know that I know nothing” — though, as an Ancient Greek, he’d likely have been no fan of beer, the “Barbarian’s Beverage” as a recent book of the same title puts it. 

A rededication; a short rant elaborated

There are few things more banal and trite, in this strange world of unpaid keyboard-rattling, than the ‘Apology For Not Posting More Often’ post. So let’s not have one of those. In any case, I’m not really sorry; the time off was more than called-for, in the circumstances, and oddly enjoyable, in its own way. Besides, I was hardly on another planet and out of the loop entirely; shorter-form stuff on Twitter and Facebook kept me entertained and let me vent when necessary. But the combination of the extended sabbatical and a recurring pattern of responses — that I both observed and (apparently) provoked — that left me wanting to plant a flag, of sorts, on my way back home; to point at something that’d been murmuring unpleasantly in the background a while and say down with this sort of thing. As I vented once, late last year, in lieu of a proper table-flip:

As a way to deflect negative attention, I’ve been seeing this (and its close relatives) quite a lot — i.e., way too much. To me personally, it happened most bewilderingly when I pointed out some pretty bloody basic grossness by the guys at WilliamsWarn; and a version of the same popped up, perhaps more inevitably, a few times when I’d given Moa a gentle prod for whatever was their nonsense de jour. Geoff Ross, their CEO, eventually retreated to some bizarre form of economic patriotism rather than listening to people who would perhaps quite like to buy his company’s beer but can no longer bring themselves to reward him with their money. The impulse to see criticism as an attack is apparently strong one in us humans,1 poor bewildered monkeys that we are.

Really, though, it’s your closest friends who’ll tell you when you have schmutz stuck in your teeth. Acquaintances and strangers probably couldn’t give enough of a fuck to bother, and usually can’t be relied upon to point out when you’re behaving like a bit of a dick. In a more-perfect world, your friends wouldn’t hesitate. In any particular domain, it is entirely possible — likely, even — that the infamously grumpy curmudgeon or recidivist ranty bastard is, at heart, a disappointed optimist, pissed off that some frustratingly tenacious crapness is marring something wonderful. The beer business / community / scene / whatever is an excellent place; there’s a reason I’m still here after a decade-and-change — I just can’t fathom why the fuck we’re still dragging along boring old sexism and other miscellaneous bullshit.

The world — the “beer world”, sure, but also, you know, the world-world — is a delightfully morally complex place. This bites in two interesting ways, for present purposes: 1) carping on about one action or aspect of a company while praising another is perfectly possible — I’ve raved about Yeastie Boys’ beers and business model for almost exactly as long as I’ve kept poking them in the ribs about better-labeling where everything comes from2 — and 2) you don’t have to back any particular dog in a fight to comment on the dust-up as it happens. Hell, you don’t even need to cheer for “your” dog, to the extent that you have one; in my time at Garage Project, I had my disagreements with decisions of theirs both minor and major and voiced them as best I could.3

Moa Pale Ale, in its aluminum bottle
Moa Pale Ale, in its misbegotten aluminum bottle — rather neat, but made (at silly expense) for the airline market and now suprlus to requirements

More generally, there just isn’t always a side worth cheering for. To take two recent examples from — who else?4 — Moa, their clashes with Air New Zealand and Cloudy Bay are perfect illustrations. When Moa’s contract to supply the national carrier’s flights was terminated early, their detractors had predictable Schadenfreude and could be seen engaging in few celebrations, but the airline’s decision wouldn’t have had anything to do with rejecting Moa’s longrunning grossness and instead everything to do with a dumptruck full of money from Lion and a sadly backwards way of thinking about how to put together a beer list; nothing praiseworthy, there. Likewise, it was impossible to have any sympathy for Moa in their struggle to get resource consent for their brewery expansion; they wailed about how key its location was to their identity (while happily contract-brewing their flagship beers elsewhere), aggressively pissed-away the money from their IPO that was earmarked for the project, constantly fudged the truth about its scope and made obviously-bogus comparisons to the winery up the road. But Cloudy Bay / Veuve Cliquot, in turn, acted a bit the bully and were also bullshitting pretty hard themselves about their operation and its neighbourhood — they’re hardly a quaint little Château in an unspoilt valley: this was two large-scale corporate booze-producers trying hard to play the underdog. Why pick sides?

There’s plenty of room left for more criticism and more optimism. They make a great pair, and together can do some real good. This is, like I said, an excellent little corner of the world — in terms of geography and market share — but pretending it’s perfect, that every actor has the best of intentions, and that we’re “all in this together” to an extent that people feel obligated to speak only in niceties just won’t help anyone. If you see something5 — good or bad — say something.


1: Us New Zealanders in particular, perhaps. It’s certainly a trait you hear speculated-upon quite often, and the Eleanor Catton Fiasco earlier this year would probably count as evidence. But I’m honestly too much of a Mongrel Cosmopolitan to much notice or comment on border-by-border variations among us. 
2: Serendipitously, I noticed yesterday that the new labels now wear their provenance proudly. I claim precisely zero credit for this. 
3: Although not well enough, I think, on reflection. At least not well enough in public. The incredible awkwardness of saying things against the people who sign your paycheck (even in the wider context of obviously being a fan) is my only real excuse, here, and I guess my meta-point is that awkwardness shouldn’t exist
4: Wait. Am I their nemesis, or are they mine? (Neither, of course, really; they’re just a seemingly never-ending source of Useful Lessons and Examples.) 
5: A phrase with unfortunate ties to an MTA / Homeland Security campaign that sits way too close to useless scaremongering and which carries an utterly insane trademark symbol everywhere, but still; is catchy. 

Tastings and ramblings and whatnot