Equal parts hope and dread

Mount Taranaki at Sunset, on the way home (7 August 2016)
Big Friendly Geology
The days are just packed.1 This is always a weird time of year to be a beer geek who works in the beer business; the combination of so much going on and so much to do warrants one of those legendary compound German words. I am exhaustixhilarated. This is terrificifying. So, naturally, Emma and I nicked off for a fifteen-hour one-day road-trip to see the final days of an exhibition and that freakin’ gorgeous mountain. There wasn’t even any beer involved. It was great. Bring on the week ahead, I say.

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Full disclosure: one free hat, etc.

My Dogfish Head hat, on Mount Tongariro (14 February 2016)
Well-travelled and well-faded
I’ve just got the one actual beer hat — which does stand in stark contrast to my predictably-overstuffed t-shirt drawer. My Dogfish Head cap is a beloved and battered souvenir of a ridiculously enjoyable afternoon spent bartending at Beervana 2010,1 relatively early in my full-time-beer-person career. As I was doing my taxes this week, generally feeling fortunate to’ve been able to patch together a modest living doing work I enjoy, I thought I should lay out my metaphorical hats — in the spirit of delight (my plan, such as it is, is vaguely working!) as much as disclosure,2 though I’m a big fan of both.

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We are drug dealers

Mandatory signage in signature style (Golding's Free Dive, 7 April 2016)
Three simple rules
One of the two real constants in my Philosophy Of Beer is that drinking is drug-taking.1 You can say this without being puerile or Prohibitionist; it is, after all, just the plain and literal truth. A lot of things are drug-taking ― from my morning coffee and daily antihistamines to things like morphine and amphetamines ― and there’s no point pretending otherwise or ignoring the wider context, variable as it is. The “drug” concept is (like everything) fuzzy at the margins, but I’m most interested in the ways it entails the need for some kind of moderation in your personal life (which I’ll return to later) and some kind of regulation in society.2 Needless to say, the details vary wildly with the character of the particular drug, and it’s entirely possible to strike the balances very badly indeed. For now, as a warmup to tackling trickier issues later, let’s address one specific rule ― age3 ― and how compliance with it is tested.

The Police regularly conduct “controlled purchase operations”, where an underage person is recruited to attempt to purchase alcohol from, say, a supermarket or a bar. That person can lie when asked their age, but they don’t carry fake ID. Recently, Dominic Kelly ― proprietor of beer bar Hashigo Zake and its importing arm Beer Without Borders ― criticised the practice, labelling it entrapment, and describing it as ‘seedy’, ‘inherently unfair’ and ‘appalling’. Now, I like Dominic. I count him a friend and consider him one of the country’s unsung beer writers; through his editorials in B.W.B.’s entertaining newsletters and his occasional blog, he’s a strong and valuable voice on its regulatory and business aspects. But here, he’s almost completely wrong.

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Beer Diary Podcast lost episode (s05e02) — Dave Wood & Denise Garland

As we mentioned in the last podcast, we’ve got a few Lost Episodes in our proverbial back pocket. They’ve become little exercises in time travel, but we didn’t want them to languish forever, so I’ll be uploading them over the next few weeks. This conversation was recorded on 17 September 2015.

We sat down for a few beers ‘on the record’ with our friends Dave Wood and Denise Garland. Dave is the general manager of Wellington beer bar Hashigo Zake as well as the current President of SOBA (the Society of Beer Advocates) and Denise is a journalist — and both have long been key members of the beer community. They talk about the rapid evolution of the local scene, their introductions to it and their ‘epiphany’ beers, the simple pleasures of everday beers in their right place, and the joys of making your own homebrew. We also discuss the bar business, SOBA festivals, women-in-beer groups like Beerded Ladies and Pink Boots, lament the general lack of brown ales and have a few dated-but-foreboding words to say about company takeovers — Dave idly ponders a Ballast Point buyout that was just a few weeks in the future.

As always, a direct download of this episode is available, should that better-suit your listening habits. We’re on iTunes and there’s also a podcast-specific RSS feed you can follow through whatever app or gadget you listen to these things with. For handy reference, you can direct people to podcast.beerdiary.nz, and you should feel free to contact us — via this very page, the podcast’s Twitter account, or on Facebook — with any feedback, corrections, suggestions, or whatnot. Cheers!

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Reinheitsgebot’s last birthday

Screenshot from www.deutschesbier.com, a marketing effort from the Radeberger Gruppe
“It’s the Reinheitsgebot that fuels our creativity” — according to a ludicrous ad campaign from a group of German brewers (brought to my attention by Bryan Roth)

Here’s my contribution to the teetering pile of Reinheitsgebot-related reckons that are surfacing around the thing’s putative 500th birthday ― which is being celebrated despite the old law no longer being in force, the new law not being so old (obviously) nor so simple, and the whole thing being colossally pointless in the first place. I wrote the below for the most-recent edition of SOBA’s Pursuit Of Hoppiness magazine but have added back in a few asides that had to be cut from the print version for space and/or tone. Think of this as the Extended Edition. If I had the coding skills to better-emulate the famous footnotes for David Foster Wallace’s The Host, I’d do that. This’ll have to suffice. If you need more Bonus Material, I’ve ranted down these lines beforeFor the record, the original text was written entirely under the influence of Kraftwerk and Reinheitsgebot-compliant beers. The latter was a complete coincidence, only realised in hindsight. To compensate, the annotation and uploading was undertaken while drinking beers that firmly had their thumb in the Purity Law’s eye.

This year marks the five-hundredth anniversary1 of a surprisingly-short text2 that came to be known as Reinheitsgebot, the (‘Bavarian’ or ‘German’) Purity Law. It mandated that “the only ingredients for the brewing of beer must be Barley, Hops and Water”3 and its mythology has proven so strong that it’s still not uncommon4 to see breweries in New Zealand namedropping it in marketing material and referring to it as part of their mission or philosophy — half a world and half a millennium away.

I say “mythology” because the law is vastly overhyped, misunderstood and of basically no relevance to a properly broad view of beer. Almost all of the original 1516 decree concerns the price of the product,5 not its process, and its list of only three permissible ingredients renders brewing impossible since it predates the discovery of, and therefore omits, yeast. That may seem pedantic, but it’s a healthy reminder that old laws and not necessarily good laws. Few of us would be keen to visit a hospital that followed Sixteenth Century standards of hygiene.

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Beer and gender — a guide for marketers

A hopefully-exhaustive summary for the apparently-perplexed:

Q — When should I use gender tropes in pitching my product and in the targeting or tailoring of my marketing?

A — Never.1


Footnotes:

1: That should do it for this topic. It isn’t complicated. We shouldn’t need to keep having this conversation. Seemingly inevitably, though, it came around again just recently and doubtless it will do so once more soon enough. I’ve been in the beer-selling business for a decade now and I’m still not sure things are improving. So fine. I’ll elaborate, if I must.

Facebook ad (now removed) for New World (Screencapped by me, 12 April 2016)
Not good stuff
Last week, for example, New World (a local supermarket chain) started pushing Facebook ads introducing the winners of various categories in their recent beer and cider awards. One beer was pitched “for your mate”, another was “for your boss”, while the only cider featured was suggested as “for the missus” — falling into the boring old stereotype that cider is for women while beer is for men. To their credit, the PR team yanked the ad very quickly and sent the marketing people back to do it over — and they avoided resorting to the usual ‘nonpology’ formula of “sorry if you were offended”. But in a conversation with their representative they ran the line that there’s a long debate to be had on a role of gender in advertising, on which many points of view can be held — which is understandable and even predictable for a PR firm, but still a little depressing and worth addressing, because there really is nothing to this. Relegating my reasoning to a footnote is my little protest.

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Beer Diary Podcast s05e05: Crowd, Fun, Ding

Damn these recurrent hiatuses. It happened again, as these things do. But we’re back this week — rather fittingly, after the long weekend — with a little look at crowdfunding in the beer business, some reminiscences over my marvellous trip to the Mussel Inn, and looking forward to the Great Kiwi Beer Festival this very weekend, at which I’ll be doing one of my little rambles. All that by way of bicycle bells and videogames, and accompanied by two rather strikingly different Beers Of The Week.

There are several sadly-long-neglected episodes in our proverbial back pocket, which I’ll upload over the coming weeks. You — our listeners and our excellent guests — have our apologies, and also our welcome back.

As always, a direct download of this episode is available, should that better-suit your listening habits. We’re on iTunes and there’s also a podcast-specific RSS feed you can follow through whatever app or gadget you listen to these things with. For handy reference, you can direct people to podcast.beerdiary.nz, and you should feel free to contact us — via this very page, the podcast’s Twitter account, or on Facebook — with any feedback, corrections, suggestions, or whatnot. Cheers!

Mussel Inn tap bank, plus miscellany
Beautiful clutter
Crafters & Co.'s ill-fated PledgeMe equity drive
Rightfully doomed
(Most of) the lineup from 'Will It Shandy?' with The Bottleneck's Dylan Jauslin
Shandidates

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Tastings and ramblings and whatnot