Hales, ed. – Beer & Philosophy

Beer & Philosophy: The Unexamined Beer Isn’t Worth Drinking edited by Steven D. Hales; foreword by Michael Jackson

Date read: 5 April / 15-24 September 2016
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016nfc

Cover image of Beer & Philosophy: The Unexamined Beer Isn’t Worth Drinking edited by Steven D. Hales

Paperback, x, 233 pages
Published 2007 by Blackwell
Source: Summit / Own

Table of Contents

  • Foreword: Michael Jackson.
  • Editor’s Introduction: Steven D. Hales (Bloomsburg University).

Part I: The Art of the Beer:.

  • 1. Thirst for Authenticity: An Aesthetics of the Brewer’s Art: Dale Jacquette (Pennsylvania State University).
  • 2. The Beer Matrix: Reality vs Facsimile in Brewing: Garrett Oliver (Brooklyn Brewery).
  • 3. The Truth About Beer: Michael P. Lynch (University of Connecticut).
  • 4. Good Beer, or How to Properly Dispute Taste: Peter Machamer (University of Pittsburgh).
  • 5. Quality, Schmality: Talking Naturally about the Aesthetics of Beer; or, Why is American Beer So Lousy?: Martin Stack (Rockhurst University) and George Gale (University of Missouri).
  • 6. Extreme Brewing in America: Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head Craft Brewing).

Part II: The Ethics of Beer: Pleasures, Freedom, and Character:.

  • 7. Mill v. Miller, or Higher and Lower Pleasures: Steven D. Hales (Bloomsburg University).
  • 8. Beer and Autonomy: Alan McLeod (Senior Legal Counsel for the City of Kingston, Ontario).
  • 9. Another Pitcher? On Beer, Friendship, and Character: Jason Kawall (Colgate University).

Part III: The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Beer:.

  • 10. Beer and Gnosis: The Mead of Inspiration: Theodore Schick (Muhlenberg College).
  • 11. The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Beer: Neil A. Manson (University of Mississippi).
  • 12. What’s a Beer Style?: Matt Dunn (University of Indiana at Bloomington).

Part IV: Beer in the History of Philosophy:.

  • 13. Drink on, the Jolly Prelate Cries: David Hilbert (University of Illinois at Chicago).
  • 14. Beer Goggles and Transcendental Idealism: Steven M. Bayne (Fairfield University).
  • 15. Beyond Grolsch and Orval: Beer, Intoxication, and Power in Nietzsche’s Thought: Rex Welshon (University of Colorado at Colorado Springs).
  • Index

That subtitle is ridiculous [The Unexamined Beer Isn’t Worth Drinking]. Too easy of a shot and entirely incorrect. Although a propensity to examine one’s beer can be a fine thing, sometimes, in some contexts, beer just does need to be simply drank; not thought about and deity forbid “examined.”

The foreword by Michael Jackson is, of course, sensible. The only issue is that it is somewhat dated now, as many of these pieces are, due to a rapidly changing industry.

“When Fred [Eckhardt] and I first met, his home town, Portland, Oregon, had one brewery” (x).

It is far closer to 90 now.

“Today, there are between 50 and 100 styles of beer being produced in the US, by about 1,500 breweries” (x).

No idea on current number of styles–and by whose counting?–but we’re much closer to 5000 operating breweries in the US, with ~6500 permitted ones.

Certainly not Michael’s fault that the market has changed and, as I said, this is a fault with several of these pieces. Many times market examples are simply that, but sometimes someone uses them to do philosophical analysis and that is pretty much a non-starter. Sure. There is sometimes little choice but I would have hoped the editor focused on more time-insensitive discussions. [MJ is not doing analysis, just commentary, so he gets a bye on this.]

Anyway, the work as a whole is not completely time-bound.

Editor’s Introduction: provides an overview of the chapters themselves and of the groupings (Parts) into which they were put.

Part I The Art of Beer

1 Jacquette: primarily on “authenticity” but is confused, confusing, and extremely prejudiced. Poor philosophy and with the amount of prejudice shown should never have been included in this collection. Period. Certainly should not have been the first piece; although, it did set a very low bar for the rest.

While discussing glassware we get things like the following:

On the Bavarian Maß he says:

“Still, if such tankards are used extensively in certain places where good beer is made, doesn’t this mean that they are an authentic part of beer-drinking culture?

The answer, as we can say in few areas of philosophy, is an unqualified no. Big heavy glass mugs are out” (20) [emphasis in text].

Just. What. The. Actual. Fuck?! The editor should be smacked for allowing this asinine shit. Even if the Bavarians have only been using the Maß for several decades–not his point, or my claim–that does not make it inauthentic. In fact, sitting in a beer garden drinking a Bavarian Lager out of most anything but a Maß would be inauthentic.

“I have seen brandy-snifter beer glasses for specialty beers, and these are often acceptable, if perhaps a little pretentious” (21).

Um. Fuck you, Jacquette.

He finally goes on to decide, quite reluctantly, that a Maß is authentic for current Bavarian culture, but only after deriding the glass for another few pages. Yes, it has issues as a “proper” glass for some purposes but that does not give him license to dismiss it out of hand. Nor are his personal preferences in “an optimal vessel” either (21). Simply not relevant to a philosophical discussion of authenticity.

He is also highly confused on, perhaps ignorant of, how styles evolve. He claims “the good European beers have had in some cases as much as a thousand years, and most at least several hundred, in developing their craft” (27). So I guess Oktoberfest Bier is no longer authentic then.

On whether we must enjoy the truly authentic:

“I may not like Belgian kriek (cherry-flavored) beers — indeed, I personally loathe them — but I think I can recognize an authentic kriek, which in the first place I do not consider to be an authentic beer, without appreciating the flavor, enjoying the taste, or approving the concept” (28).

This is a critically important point but it is again shot through with utter prejudice. He does not show or analyze why kriek maybe ought not be considered authentic but only claims it is not. He also blurs (conceals?) the real point about being able to recognize authenticity despite not enjoying the authentic item or even the concept of it as authentic.

His method for pouring beer (p. 23)–which he calls “[t]he proper method”–is ridiculous and wastes beer.

His ideals of authentic beers are Grolsch, Pacifico, Dos Equis, Red Stripe, Little Kings Cream Ale and so on. In other words, Euro-Lagers are the sine qua non of authentic beer for him. Jacquette is not an idiot but he certainly acted like one in this piece, as did the editor in including this piece.

2 Oliver: “artificial”

Mass market beer is NOT “real beer,” he claims (32).

Based on his butter –> margarine –> butter example, “artificial” is (sometimes) determined by fashion (33).

When he gets to where “the concept of beer style becomes useful” (36) he uses “Pilsner.”  But to the Czechs it is unique—the Pilsner just is Urquell. What he goes on to describe he labels “Pilsner-style beer” (36). Not a huge deal but I think he understood this was a fraught example but kept at it anyway; especially as it helps later with his argument that American mass market lagers are artificial.

All in all this is a definite improvement over the 1st essay.

At the end, he admits that we all have those things we accept as artificial. So the point was …?

3 Lynch: A fairly clear epistemological romp to sort out what sort of truth can be known; mostly in a “good”/ranking way. Quite short and an easy read.

Probably should have been in Part III though.

4 Madamer: doesn’t really get anywhere but is a nice ride. Discusses aesthetic description, evaluation and enjoyment.

The three aesthetic activities he is concerned with are describing, evaluating, and enjoying (53).

Under description:

“This is the main point: Descriptions, of anything, are produced by people for certain purposes. Descriptions are speech acts. As actions they accomplish their purpose or not, but the purposes themselves have to be judged as good or bad on independent grounds” (56).

This is a basic and important point. If you cannot grasp it then you ought never use Untappd or Ratebeer or generally even attempt to provide descriptions to anyone other than yourself.

“Sometimes metaphors are all we have” (60).

Amen! Another basic point about language.

Glad to see we are on an improving quality track so far.

5 Stack & Gale: aesthetic evaluation of beer.

“It can safely be said that the universal, worldwide estimation of these beers [American mass-market] is that they are of poor quality” (66)

“Universal”?! Um, no. They do later back off this claim a bit but it is too late. Two academics–one a philosopher–and they make this basic mistake. I know they are writing “pop” philosophy but who gives a fuck? You still can’t go making universal statements.

 “Acidity, perceived tartness, is measured by the pH scale: …” (67).

No, pH does not equal perceived tartness!

“CoSeteng and others (1989) showed that solutions of citric, malic, tartaric, lactic, and acetic acids with equivalent pH and titratable acidity gave significantly different sour taste responses. Likewise, Pangborn (1963) found no relation between pH, titratable acidity, and relative sour taste intensity of several organic acids at both threshold and suprathreshold concentrations” (R34).

The evidence that it is not that simple by a long shot is immensely varied. And large. Humans and other animals seem to have multiple channels for the sour taste and these channels differ widely across species.

“Although significant efforts have been made to understand the chemistry of sour taste, it is not currently possible to accurately predict and modify sour taste intensity in foods by simply knowing the concentrations of acids and pH” (R35).

Both above quotes from:

Neta, E. R. D. C., Johanningsmeier, S. D., & McFeeters, R. F. (2007). The Chemistry and Physiology of Sour Taste—A Review [Concise Reviews and Hypotheses in Food Science]. Journal of Food Science, 72(2), R33–R37. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1750-3841.2007.00282.x

“Barley is the sine qua non of beer production, and thereby, the foundation of beer quality. That’s where the process begins” (68).

Another universal and, again, incorrect. “Sine qua non” means “an essential condition” and barley is not that. For most beers known to much of the world, yes, but it sure as heck is not essential (in either the common or philosophical sense).

Their understanding of the brewing process is also close to bonkers. Few mashes are done over “several hours” (69). Adjuncts do in fact add (or at a minimum, change the) flavor despite their claim otherwise (69). It just goes on.

“The question of the relation between barleys and adjunct-brewing in American beers deserves a few remarks. Though turn-of-the-century American farmers …” (71).

This book was published in 2007. Which damn century do you fools mean? I grok it from context and perhaps most will but that was two turns-of-the-century ago.

No good passages to point to but import beers (into America) get a consistent pass throughout. I want to know why. Some of those are no better than American mass market ones either (see 74 and others prior).

They created a strategic map, or model, of the industry to compare price against advertising (80-81) but, of course, the market has now changed. Tis not good philosophy to include historically contingent market analysis as a more permanent feature of a phenomenon under analysis.

6 Calagione: I like Sam’s writing well enough but this is mostly “Kumbayah” and “Hail, Columbia!” He says normal Sam things here but they are unwelcome in philosophy.

“Big breweries make a product, small breweries make consumable art” (86).

Give me a fucking break! There may be more art [how is this measured?] in a small brewery’s beers but they are all products.

“As craft brewers we are not in the business of growth — we are in the business of making world-class beer. Growth is just a by-product of our business. Money is a means to our end and not an end in itself” (90-91).

Well ain’t that just convenient? And utter bullshit.

Anyway, if you know how Calagione talks and writes then you got this. Not bad overall but what was the point actually other than to sit around the fire basking in the glow of the craft beer brotherhood? Please tell me we are past this now.

Part II The Ethics of Beer: Pleasure, Freedom, and Character

7 Hales: Mill on pleasures. The pragmatics of polling competent judges is completely avoided as it was in hedonic calculus. They do, though, address what constitutes a competent judge in a domain.

“In short, it is a mistake to hold that pleasures are desirable because the competent judges desire them. Far more reasonable is the view that competent judges desire certain pleasures because those pleasures are antecedently desirable, and the judges, informed and educated about that kind of pleasure, are able to reliably detect the qualities that make those pleasures desirable” (103-4).

“The recognition of quality comes at a cost” (107).

Indeed.

The upshot is that we should, within our means, pursue high quality pleasures (109). Thus, become a knowledgeable beer geek.

8 McLeod: Nice. Shows how Canadian liberty is constrained by ridiculous beer laws; although it applies to all governments. Nicely argued and well-written.

He provides an intro and then covers the law in relation to homebrewing, making beer commercially, traveling with your beer, packaging and advertising and the public experience, and wholesale and retail: taxes, fees and price and how one’s autonomy is curtailed across all of those areas.

Highly recommended!

9 Kawall: friendship. Nice. Basically asks if our “beer buddies” can be true friends.

“So it is here that we begin to see the especial value of beer-inclusive friendships. They include a regular practice which encourages openness and extended conversation, a practice that will improve and deepen a friendship” (128).

Part III The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Beer

10 Schick: William James (& others) on altered states of consciousness/truth/reality

“The dominant theory of knowledge in the West is known as “empiricism.” It holds that sense experience is the only source of knowledge. But it doesn’t indicate what state of consciousness we must be in to acquire knowledge. Ordinary waking consciousness may not be the only state of consciousness that puts us in touch with reality” (140-1).

I do disagree with a few small points but overall is quite good.

The knowledge gained under the influence of beer (or other alcohol or drugs) is neither propositional knowledge/knowing that nor performative knowledge/knowing how, but

          = knowledge by acquaintance/knowing what

11 Manson: a riff on Hume’s dialogue. Meh.

12 Dunn: Read this a couple times as why I looked at the book in the first place after seeing mentioned in some blog post comment thread.

Yes. Yes. Natural kinds are highly problematic. Is OK but could have been much clearer. His conclusion, though, is correct: beer/styles are the wrong kinds of things to have “right” criteria.

13 Hilbert: Berkeley, Bishop G. and his ridiculous “God saves it all, except matter, argument.” It isn’t a bad overview of Berkeley’s argument. It’s just that it is a bad argument; then and still.

14 Bayne: primary / secondary qualities. Kant on space & time. Not especially interesting; what was the larger point but to ramble on about Kant?

15 Welshon: Nietzsche’s antagonism of beer yet praise for intoxication. Again, not bad, but not sure what the point was.

Most of these final chapters seem to be excuses for the authors to write “pop” intros/overviews to their pet philosophers, which is almost always a bad idea.

If we look at the fifteen chapters, they were authored by 16 individuals [one chapter had two authors]. Ten chapters were authored individually by academic philosophers, one by an academic management person and an academic philosopher, and one by a PhD student in History & Philosophy of Science. Only three of the fifteen were authored by non-academics: two by brewmasters and one by a lawyer (and beer blogger).

I gave each chapter a score from 0 [did not like; no point] to two [liked] with one [meh to OK]. If you add up the scores and divide by number of chapters it seems the non-academics did a bit better for me than the academics, but that is also driven mostly by Alan McLeod’s excellent chapter. If I was a bit tougher on Oliver and Calagione, as I probably should be, then that groups score would tank.

  • Academics: 12 / 12 = 1.0
  • Non-acads: 4 / 3 = 1.33

Maybe I ought make three categories and then we would get:

  • Academics: 12 / 12 = 1.0
  • Brewers: 2 / 2 = 1.0 [or less]
  • McLeod: 2 / 1 = 2.0

Overall score per chapter is 16 / 15 = 1.066 so mostly “Meh” or OK.

Not sure what any of that adds up to in the larger scheme. There were three chapters by philosophers that I gave 2s to but also four by academics that I gave 0s.

All in all, is quite variable and I say that some of those folks ought have been able to do better. Much better. Get it from the library unless you’re a philosophy geek like me.

This is the 24th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Announcing the next Session #109: Porter

For The Session 109—my first as host—I would like us to discuss porter. It seems that this highly variable style has not been done in The Session before.

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

What is The Session?

“The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry” (The Sessions at Brookston Beer Bulletin).

It takes place on the first Friday of every month, so 4 March 2016 for this one.

Porter

“The history of porter and the men who made it is fascinating, for it deals with the part that beer has played in the development of Western Culture. Conversely, of course, much of porter’s growth was the result of profound changes in the nature of British society. It is also a microcosm of how our industries have developed; events in porter’s history explain the structure of the modern brewing industry, not only in Britain, but in the other major Western countries.

Porter is intimately tied in with the Industrial Revolution, in which Britain led the world. Through the growth it enabled the brewers to achieve, it was instrumental in the development and technological application of a number of important scientific advances” (Foster, Porter, 17).

I am not talking about your long dead relative’s porter—although you might be—but about all of the variations currently and previously available. Hey, feel free to write about the porter of the future or some as-yet-unrecognized sub-style of porter.

There are English porters, Brown porters, Robust porters, American porters, Baltic porters, Imperial porters, Smoked porters, barrel-aged variants of most of the preceding, and so on.

With as many variations as there are it is hard to believe that porter is perhaps a neglected style. Then again, it did disappear for a while [see Foster, Porter, and others]. Of 14 beer people asked about overrated and underrated styles three of them said porter was most underrated and no one suggested it as overrated in our current market climate. [Yes, I know that is from Thrillist; feel free to ignore it.]

I would like you to sit down with one or more porters of your choosing. Pay a few minutes attention to your beer and then use that as a springboard to further thoughts on the style.

Possibilities include:

  • Contrast and/or compare two or more of the styles
  • Contrast and/or compare two or more beers within/across porter styles
  • The history and development of the style
  • Your love/hate relationship with any porter style
  • Baltic porter – ale or Lager or a mixed fermentation?
  • Is hopping the only difference between English and American styles?
  • Food pairings with your favorite porter or style of porter
  • Review the porter(s) you are using as a creative springboard
  • Construct a resource along the lines of Jay Brooks’ Typology style pages, see for example American Barley Wine or Bock [I’ve already collected some of the information below for you.]
  • Recipe and procedures for brewing your version of a great porter

How to Participate in this month’s The Session

On Friday 4 March, you may comment on this post and leave the URL to your Session post in your comment, or you may email me with your URL at mark . r . lindner @gmail . com, or you may tweet your link with the hashtag #thesession and it wouldn’t hurt to @ me too @bythebbl.

By the way, my blog’s comments are moderated for first-time commenters but it will be quickly approved as long as it doesn’t look like spam.

Within a day or two of the first Friday (March 4th) I will post a round-up of all of the submissions with links.

Further Resources

To give you some food for thought I am providing some resources below:

I took some inspiration from Jay Brooks’ new Typology Tuesday [see this for example] but being inclusive of all the porter variants precludes doing anything close. There’s no way I am copying and pasting all of the descriptions from all of the style guides I can find for all of the versions.

Style References

BJCP

  • Baltic Porter BJCP 9C [Strong Euro Beer]
  • English Porter 13C [Brown British Beer]
  • American Porter 20A [American Porter and Stout]

The only mention of Imperial Porter in the 2015 BJCP is in a comment under Baltic Porter.

Comments: May also be described today as an Imperial Porter, although heavily roasted or hopped versions are not appropriate for this style. Most versions are in the 7–8.5% ABV range. Danish breweries often refer to them as Stouts, which indicates their historic lineage from the days when Porter was used as a generic name for Porter and Stout” [9C, p. 17).

Brewers Association 2015

  • Brown Porter : British Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
  • Robust Porter :British Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
  • American-Style Imperial Porter : North American Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
  • Smoke Porter :  North American Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
  • Baltic-Style Porter : Other Origin Lager Styles : Lager Styles

World Beer Cup 2016 or PDF  

  • 17B American-Style Imperial Porter : Other Strong Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Beer Styles
  • 31F Smoke Porter : Smoke Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Beer Styles
  • 34 Baltic-Style Porter : Styles of European and German Origin : Lager Beer Styles
  • 74 Brown Porter : Styles of British Origin : Ale Beer Styles
  • 75 Robust Porter : Styles of British Origin : Ale Beer Styles

GABF 2015 or PDF   

  • 17B American-Style Imperial Porter : : Other Strong Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Lagers or Ales
  • 31E Smoke Porter : Smoke Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Lagers or Ales
  • 47 Baltic-Style Porter : Lager Beer Styles
  • 82 Brown Porter : Ale Beer Styles
  • 83 Robust Porter : Ale Beer Styles

BreweryDB

This looks a lot like the Brewers Association style breakdown. I wonder if they’re using an older version of the guidelines. Seeing as the schema is the same as BA above,  I am just going to list and link these.

Periodic Table of Beer Styles

  • Brown Porter 34
  • Robust Porter 48

UnTappd

UnTappd lists the following styles of porter: American, Baltic, English, Imperial/Double, Other

Other References

Foster (2014) – Brewing Porters & Stouts: Origins, History, and 60 Recipes for Brewing Them at Home Today

I consider this to be a significant update to Foster’s Porter below. My reasoning is included in my reviews [the links].

Foster (1992) – Porter (Classic Beer Styles 5) [Publisher’s page]

Pattinson (2012*) – Porter! [see here for a bit of info on author]

Eckhardt (1989) – The Essentials of Beer Styles

Alworth (2015) – The Beer Bible pp. 140-165

Daniels (1996) – Designing Great Beers chap 23, pp. 263-282

Klemp – “BIG BALTIC PORTER” (Stylistically Speaking column), All About Beer, 29:1, March 2008 [There may be others.]

Fodor – “Robust Porter: Style of the Month” Brew Your Own, December 1997.

Dornbusch – “Robust Porter: Style Profile” Brew Your Own, September 2006.

Zainasheff – “Robust Porter: Style ProfileBrew Your Own, September 2012 [May be others.]

Michael Jackson – Beer Styles: Porter

Oliver, ed. (2012) – The Oxford Companion to Beer 

Baltic porter, 82. See also porter

porter, 27, 30, 84, 107, 166, 179-80, 195, 356-7, 422, 439, 479, 483, 485, 494, 587-88, 638, 660-64, 770-1, 792-93, 824, 841; Americanized porters, 663; Baltic porter, 663; comeback of, 663; craft brewers, 663-64, decline of, 663; origins of, 661; robust porter, 663; smoked porter, 688; stout porters, 663. See also stout (index)

[Main entry for porter by Horst Dornbusch and Garrett Oliver]

Oliver (2005) – The Brewmaster’s Table 

porter beer, 30, 43, 137

American, 47, 313-25

British, 135-38, 145-52

food with, 138-39, 314-16

producers of, 145-52, 316-25 (index)

And, to leave you with some potential choices although I suggest going further afield than some of these, according to Men’s Journal on Yahoo the “15 Best Porter Beers From Across the Globe

For more history, see Cornell (2003) – Beer: The Story of the Pint and for recipes see, among many others, Lutzen & Stevens (1994) – Homebrew Favorites chap. 5, pp. 97-116 or Zainasheff and Palmer (2007) – Brewing Classic Styles which contains recipes for Baltic, brown and robust porters, including smoked and vanilla porters.

See you and your thoughts on porter—whatever that is for you—on Friday, March 4th.

Snowed In (The Session #108)

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

From Jon Abernathy at The Brew Site who is hosting this month’s Session:

“The theme is “Snowed In,” and I want it to be open-ended. It’s the first week of February—we are solidly in the grip of the winter, which means hunkering down from the cold and, depending on where you live, waiting for warmer days to thaw out the ice and snow. But perhaps it’s one of those winters, where the snow starts falling… and falling… and falling some more, and the next thing you know, schools are closed, there’s four or more feet of snow on the ground—and you are effectively snowed in and not going anywhere.

So what’s next? That is what I want you to write about—as it pertains to beer, of course! …

My birthday is 2/3rd of the way solidly into winter, late in February. People can complain about winter weather all they like—as do I on occasion—but my birthday is during that hell of sleet, rain, ice, snow, freezing winds and everything else that comes with being in the Midwest or Central Oregon in the dead of winter. I used to despise it but now I embrace it. I want it all. And I want all the winter types in February! Now I’m not sadistic; I am perfectly pleased with a day or two of each of the bad kinds of winter weather or even a good gobsmacking by two or three all in one day. Then it can go away. It can, of course, be as nice as it wants; although, admittedly, I’d be a bit freaked out by temps over 60F/15C.

All of that to say, I am fully down with Jon’s topic. And while perhaps not as prepared as I would like “knowing the snow’s coming” we are not unprepared either. Both contingencies will be addressed, as will most of the ideas Jon proposed.

Cold weather beer styles

My cold weather beer styles are pretty much my normal beer styles, although a few specific beers creep in during the colder temps. Imperial stouts and barley wines, barrel-aged or not, are our go-to beers, all year-long. I am not a fan overall of the winter warmer category but a few like Deschutes’ Jubelale and Anchor’s Our Special Ale/Christmas Ale do get put into the winter line-up, at least a couple of each. It also means trying more of them to hopefully find others that can do spicing the way I prefer; not many do. There are also other winter seasonals, such as Deschutes’ Red Chair, that also need a few or more imbibed.

Dip into cellar? Something special?

Here is where we are already prepared. Our cellar is two smaller fridges—4.4 and 11 cubic feet—which are temperature controlled, for which we have a by shelf inventory (spreadsheet). We also—as we buy more beer than we can actually cellar—have several boxes full, all of which is also accurately inventoried. Then there’s the general drinking beer which we do not bother (anymore) to put into the spreadsheet. “General drinking beer” may still be an Impy stout or a barley wine but we simply had no intention of cellaring them when we acquired them; we simply meant to drink them “soon.” We were buying mostly cellar beer for a good while. Had to get that (somewhat) under control. We also used to put every beer into the spreadsheet. We were young. Or something.

So … “snowed in and not going anywhere”? We do have projected dates for most of the cellared beers but we adjust some of the longer, more hopeful, dates based on drinking as we go. Some have definitely moved up across time. We also realized we needed to drink a lot more of them sooner rather than later based on incoming amounts so we are “suffering” our way through that. 😉

I am going to assume this is around my birthday in a couple weeks; thus, as of now anyway, first up would be my last Firestone Walker Double DBA Proprietor’s Reserve Series No. 001 (2012). I drank the previous one February 28th last year and it was freaking ridiculous. It was simply one of the best beers I have ever had the pleasure of tasting and we had a whole 22 oz. bottle to the two of us. I got four of these from our friends at Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Café in late 2013 and they have been amazing all along but the improvement along the way has been off the charts! So I have chosen this as this year’s birthday beer. Could change my mind but not thinking I will.

Next up for consideration:

Some of the tasties we are already scheduled to drink soon: 2013 editions of Brasserie Dieu du Ciel’s Péché Mortel, Dogfish Head’s World Wide Stout and Crux’s Tough Love. There are far more coffee stouts than the Péché, like a 2013 BCBS Coffee, a Stone 2013 IRS Espresso and a Founders’ Breakfast Stout. among a few others.

We might finally get on with our Fort George Cavatica Stout tasting. We have 16 oz cans of regular Cavatica Stout from 2014, along with the barrel-aged versions from the last few years: 2013 Rye, 2014 Rum (also 16 oz cans) and 2015 Bourbon (22 oz bottle). Should make for a fun excursion.

I spy a 2014 Firestone Walker Velvet Merkin slotted for sometime in 2016. Snowed in seems like as fine an occasion as any for it.

Perhaps one evening as we’re winding down, we could sip on a Westvleteren XII (2012) and contemplate our moments of good fortune. I still have three of these that I got in the “fix the roof” six-pack.

Like I said, there are others, listed in the spreadsheet or not, but these are some of the more intriguing and, in a few especial cases, better—fully world class—beers that would fit the extended snowbound occasion.

Stock up on go-to beer

Depending on the timing, I would want a case of Deschutes’ Jubelale. This year’s (2015) is my favorite so far. Every time I drank it I wanted another. Sometimes I chose not to but the “but I want another” was strong for me in this year’s Jubelale. The thing is … I only drink this fresh. Same as with Red Chair. And I do mean fresh. If I can’t verify this is only a month old or less I generally won’t touch it. My choice, I know. Saw a 12-pack at Haggen’s (supermarket) the other day (first week of January) for a reasonable price and I had a tough time rationalizing my way into following my own principles. I adore both of these beers but can only drink them for a few weeks each year as if it isn’t fresh it is not the same to me. I am not so much on this level of freshness with any other beers. Not at all. Don’t get me wrong I like fresh beer (and appropriately aged beers, no doubt) but this is some kind of hyperfreshness fetish. But, to me, when definitely fresh, these are both world class beers of the highest order but when not quite fresh anymore they rapidly start to approach “Meh. There’s better beer available in this town/bar/pub.” I don’t want to be there with either of these beers. So I self-limit in an odd way.

Picked up a case of Oskar Blues’ Ten Fidy Imperial Stout end of January. This is currently the wife’s go-to beer whenever I am drinking one of the many things I have around that she isn’t into. I also quite like it and generally leave it to her but with a case I can have a few. We’d been buying it by the 4-packs but realized I should just ask “my guy” for a case. Making that request a couple weeks ago reminded me I have no Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout in the house either. Went through several cases of that the last couple winters especially as that was my go-to beer. Might need to grab a 6-pack or two and see how it’s tasting. Could need to talk to my guy about that again too.

I have been drinking a boatload of Pelican’s Umbrella Single-Hop IPA with Ella hops from New Zealand as my go-to beer lately. I’ve been loving the heck out of that! Also a bit strange as there are only a few IPAs—of any kind or color—that get me excited. And never one I have bought by the 6-pack! I was so excited when Umbrella was put in 12 oz 6-ers and made year-round. Crazy but there it is. Seems I need a good hop bite with none of that “Is it the roast malts, or the bitterness from the hops/coffee/chocolate/ … WTF is that bitterness?” that we get frequently in many of the beers we love.

Even more lately, I have been drinking Fremont’s Dark Star Imperial Oatmeal Stout in 12 oz cans. Fremont has just recently begun distributing in Bend but I have had several of theirs previously thanks to a local friend, Ryan, who is a big fan of them. In fact, he gave me one of these for my birthday last year. I gave it 5-stars (of 5) and wrote “Very creamy. Fruity. Nice. I like this a lot.” I left out the ridiculous roastiness, the massive mouthfeel during and long after, and the lingering complexity. This is big and chewy and at 8% seems even bigger.

Whoa! just checked Fremont’s website and they say this beer is only available January 1st to February 29th. Oh. Hell. No. Just shot my guy a message. Got a case on its way. This is stocking up on go-to beer, right?

Too late for more Jubelale for me this year but maybe if I truly knew the big one was coming I’d break my prohibition as it would still be a tasty beer, to say the least. I would want a case of at least one of the stouts but preferably the Ten Fidy as we need something Sara is happy to consume without investing lots of thought. Going with the Fremont for now but would not a couple 6-packs of the Barney Flats for something more sessionable and also of Umbrella. Need a little variety in your drinking beer, I do.

Homebrewer

I am a fledgling home brewer so do not yet even have all of the equipment and certainly not any ingredients for brewing up something on the spot—well, that’s a lie as I have a good 3/4 lb or so of Cascade pellet hops in the freezer that were given to me.

I have also not brewed in the snow yet but look forward to it. If I can find a way to make it possible.

I think a nice roasty, toasty porter or stout would be a good match for the weather and goes along with many of my other choices in this post.

“Desert island beer” but colder – snowed in for all of winter

Well … this depends. Is this something available and affordable to me? Is it something I choose for myself or for the wife and I both or something we choose together? Those questions will all influence the answer.

Considering that if it isn’t available to me (for whatever reason) or I cannot afford it (one of those reasons) then I’m not going to get it so we will just forget that blissful group of beers and move on.

I think, as of now, the easy answer is Barney Flats if only I’m choosing and Ten Fidy if I am for both of us, and possibly if we both choose one between us. I would go with the almost sessionable Barney Flats over the not-at-all-sessionable Ten Fidy myself as it would have a bit more range.

If I could somehow get fresh deliveries but only of the same beer I might for go this year’s Jubelale but that’s not really possible over Winter anyway since by then Red Chair has replaced it as a seasonal.

Beer book(s) paired with which beer

Well, there’s the easy answer of the appropriate style with each book in the Classic Beer Styles series from Brewers Publications, for instance Pale Ale with one’s favorite pale. I’m not sure what my favorite pale is although I know I like a few. Poking UnTappd I’m going to have to say either Deschutes Hop Trip, Block 15 Print Master’s Pale, Mazama Oregon SMASH, or Crux The Pale Ale.

I own Pale Ale (Foster), Porter (Foster), Stout (Lewis), and Barley Wine (Allen & Cantwell) (all of which I’ve read) and Vienna, Marzën, Oktoberfest (Fix & Fix) which I have not.

Probably couldn’t get very far at a time with Barley Wine unless sipping very slowly. I’ll leave it to you to choose appropriate beers for these and the following.

Might I suggest some possible combinations for your own consideration:

Boak and Bailey  Brew Britannia with the best approximation [if not in the UK] of English beer, preferably a sessionable one, that you can achieve in your location. Actual British beer would be preferable, with something from one of the upstarts even better. Perhaps you ought sit in your local and enjoy your beer there while you read it. That would be my choice. [Learned to read in bars in college & grad school, basically across my 40s. “Retired” from the Army and started college full-time to finish undergrad degree and eventually grad school.]

Patrick Dawson – Vintage Beer with anything cellared for over three years.

Sam Calagione – Extreme Brewing with some Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron, or one of their other off-centered beers [same issue as Barley Wine above, though].

Terry Foster – Brewing Porters & Stouts with tasty porters or stouts or an assortment of the various sub-styles if your tastes are eclectic enough. Mine are. I can appreciate a well-made porter or stout of any origin.

There’s also the Brewing Elements series from Brewer Publications:

Stan Hieronymous – For the Love of Hops with a nicely hopped (whatever that is for you), hop-forward beer, with either your favorite hops or some of the newer German varieties or anything from New Zealand.

John Mallett – Malt with tasty malt-forward beers.

Chris White & Jamil Zainasheff – Yeast with tasty yeast-driven beers. [not yet read]

John Palmer & Colin Kaminski – Water with, well, not sure what a water-forward beer would be, but tasty beers where the style is heavily-dependent on the water profile seems a good start. [not yet read]

Then there are potentialities like working your way style-by-style through some of these:

Mirella Amato – Beerology [read, not yet reviewed]

Garrett Oliver – The Brewmaster’s Table

Jeff Alworth – The Beer Bible [read, not yet reviewed]

Randy Mosher – Tasting Beer

Brian Yaeger – Oregon Breweries (or your own state/region) with a selection of Oregon (or other “district” as appropriate)  beers

Jon Abernathy – Bend Beer [still need to do a proper review of this]

Pete Dunlop – Portland Beer (or your city)

Joshua Bernstein – The Complete Beer Course [not yet read]

Michael Jackson – Michael Jackson’s Great Beers of Belgium with as many of the great beers of Belgium you can (easily) get to hand. [not yet read]

Leaving the easy to come by—self-evident—beer-related pairings:

Anne Brontë – The Tenant of Wildfell Hall with some “home-brewed ale.”

“‘Sine as ye brew, my maiden fair,
Keep mind that ye maun drink the yill.’*”

“From ‘Country Lassie’, a song by Robert Burns (1792). ‘Sine’: then; ‘maun’: must; ‘yill’: ale (Scots dialect). Cf. the proverb, ‘As they brew so let them drink’ (ODEP, 85).” 227/433

If you are still reading, thanks. Sorry for going on so long but I was inspired by Jon’s topic, even if it was mostly meaningful to me.

Oliver – The Brewmaster’s Table

The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food by Garrett Oliver

Date read: 28 November 2015 – 10 January 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016curr 2015poss

Cover image of Garrett Oliver's The Brewmaster's Table

Paperback, xi, 372 pages
Published 2003/2005 by Ecco
Source: Own

Contents:

  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Part One: The Basics
  • 1 What Is Beer?
  • 2 A Brief History of Beer
  • 3 Principles of Matching Beer with Food
  • Part Two: Brewing Traditions
  • 4 Lambic
  • § Gueuze
  • § Fruited Lambics
  • 5 Wheat Beer
  • § Bavarian Wheat Beer
  • § Belgian Wheat Beer
  • § Berliner Weisse
  • 6 The British Ale Tradition
  • § British Bitter
  • § British Pale ales and India Pale Ales
  • § British Brown and mild Ales
  • § British Porter
  • § Irish and English Stout [what he says re IS]
  • § Scotch and Scottish Ales
  • § British Barley Wines and Old Ales [what he says re BW]
  • 7 The Belgian Ale Tradition
  • § Belgian Pale Ale
  • § Flanders Brown and Red Ales
  • § Saison
  • § Trappist and Abbey Beers
  • § Golden Strong Ales
  • § French Bière de Garde
  • 8 The Czech-German Lager Tradition
  • § Pilsner
  • § Helles
  • § Dortmunder Export
  • § Dark Lager
  • § Vienna, Märzen, and Oktoberfest Beers
  • § Bock and Doppelbock
  • § Schwarzbier
  • 9 New Traditions—American Craft Brewing
  • § American Pale ale, Amber Ale, and India Pale Ale
  • § American Brown Ale
  • § American-Style Wheat Beer
  • § American Amber Lager
  • § Steam Beer
  • § American Porters and Stouts
  • § American Fruit Beer
  • § American Barley Wines
  • 10 Unique Specialties
  • § Altbier
  • § Kölsch
  • § Smoked Beer
  • Part Three: The Last Word
  • Glassware, Temperature, Storage, and Service
  • Beer with Food: A Reference Chart
  • Index

This book is in three parts: The Basics, Brewing Traditions, and The Last Word.

Part Two is by far the largest section of the book, 281 of 383 total pages. Each section here consists of a bit of history of the style, a section on the style with food, and a list of notable producers with descriptions of specific beers and their pairings refined even further.

The are four color photo sections with gorgeous photos of brewhouses, regional specialties with their accompanying beer, and so on, throughout the book. There are also lots of black & white images throughout the book.

Chapter 3 on the Principles of Matching Beer with Food contains the following sections: Aroma; Beer Styles; Impact; Carbonation; Bright and Dark; Bitterness; Malt, Sweetness, and Caramelization; Roast; and After Dinner—Matching Desserts and Cheeses.

“Paying that little bit of attention, both to your food and to your beer, is the difference between having an “OK” culinary life and having one filled with boundless riches of flavor. Learn a little bit about the amazing variety and complexity of flavor that traditional beer brings to the table, and in return I promise you a better life. I’m not kidding—it’s that simple” (39, emphasis in original).

The Aroma section gives us lots of words for the various aromas that come from beer ingredients and other foods but the gist is that, “Harmonizing aromatics between the beer and the food is one of the guiding principles of matching. There’s far more to beer than its aroma, but your nose will often lead you in the right direction” (44).

The Beer Styles section emphasizes determining style as “… style describes what the beer tastes like, what the aromatics are like, how strong it is, what sort of body it has, how it was brewed, and even what its history is” (45). There is a cheat sheet provided on the facing pages of 46-47. “”Cheat Sheet”: Beer Styles and Flavors” provides quick, useful information, such as Bitter is “Fruity and racy, subtle, low carbonation, robust hopping” where IPA is “…, amber, strong, dry, robust hop bitterness and aroma” (46). There are approximately 40 styles elucidated via this shorthand on these two pages.

Impact is the section where we get, in a sense, the most information. First up, “When we are matching beer and food, the most important thing we’re looking for is balance. We want the beer to engage in a lively dance, not a football tackle. In order to achieve the balance we seek, we need to think about the sensory impact of both the beer and its prospective food partner. “Impact” refers to the weight and intensity of the food on the palate” (49). What follows this is a several paragraph “thought exercise” discussing various beer and food combinations that help elucidate further what is meant by impact.

Carbonation tells us that “In finished beer, carbonation gives beer a refreshing lift, concentrates bitterness and acidity, and cleanses the palate. It also lifts the beer’s aromas right out of the glass and presents them to your nose. … The carbonation in beer lifts and scrubs strong flavors from your palate, leaving you as ready to enjoy the next bite as if it were the first” (50).

On the next page, Oliver discusses the range of carbonation and how that works with assorted food choices.

In Bright and Dark we learn that “Brightness refers to a dry briskness on the palate, sometimes with a refreshing zip of acidity. It also refers to citrus or apple-peel aromatics, sometimes from the yeast strain used, but also from some hop varieties. … Darkness refers to roasted flavors such as chocolate, toffee, caramel, and coffee, as well as the flavors and aromas of dark fruits such as plums, raisins, and olives. Sweet spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg belong here too; this is one reason they are often added to stews. Mushrooms are a dark flavor …” (52).

For Oliver it is still all about “harmony” (52).

We also get the highly applicable admonition to “Let’s not confuse bright and dark flavors with light and dark colors, though,” as they are not the same (52, emphasis in original). Often a dark beer has a dark flavor and vice versa with light but this is definitely not always the case!

Under bitterness, we get a discussion of the Italian love of bitterness to start and end a meal, for instance, with something like Campari as an aperitif and a sharp espresso to end it and how this contrasts with Americans’ general distrust of bitterness.

“Well-hopped beers have the ability to cut through heavy sauces, fats, and oils, leaving the palate cleansed and refreshed rather than stunned” (54).

Also critical to understand regarding bitterness in beer, Oliver tells us that “Hops are not the only ingredient that can lend bitterness to a beer. Roasted malts can also add their own bitterness—just as espresso has a roasted bite, so does an Irish stout, and only partly from the hops. In beer, bitterness is focused and accentuated by lowering serving temperatures, higher carbonation, and a low residual sugar content. Conversely, malt sweetness, warmer serving temperatures, and lower carbonation will temper bitterness” (54).

In Malt, Sweetness, and Caramelization we are told that “The warm, breadlike flavors of grain are more prevalent in some styles of beer than others, making them better companions for certain foods. Malty beers tend to be full-bodied and round on the palate” (55).

Perceived sweetness, which is a corollary to malt, depends on four factors: residual sugar, bitterness, carbonation and serving temperature (55). Oliver does a good, succinct job of how those work together and individually affect the beer to generate a perceived sweetness.

Roast expounds on the flavors of roasted malts—primarily across the wide ranges of coffee and chocolate—and how they work with foods.

Desserts and Cheese round out this chapter with some specifics on those topics.

I jumped into a lengthier discussion of this section since, at heart, it should be the core of the book. Alas, I fear it is not. I do believe that Oliver has done a good job overall but it is spread far more throughout the book than concentrated here. Much of what you need to know to pair well is in those detailed style and specific exemplar pages.

Some of the books that have followed this pathbreaking one have done a better job of providing the basics of how to proceed on your own versus the main gist of Oliver’s pairing knowledge being passed on in the style sections, such that the reader must piece more together. Then again, “shoulders of giants” and all that.

For instance, Mirella Amato in Beerology, does a fine job giving one lots of angles from which to explore while giving the subjectivity of individual taste its due. Randy Mosher also does a wonderful job in a short amount of space in Tasting Beer, which I highly recommend overall. Both authors give credit to Oliver, as they should. Another writer, also respecting Oliver, who does a fine job on the topic in a short space is Jeff Alworth in The Beer Bible.

Another early beer and food writer given her due by many is Lucy Saunders. We have, and I have read, her 2013 Dinner in the Beer Garden, which we helped crowd fund. This is more of a cookbook with little in the way of principles but one could learn from it, albeit more slowly perhaps even than Oliver. Saunders has also written Cooking with Beer (1996), Grilling with Beer (2006), and The Best of American Beer & Food (2007), sadly none of which I have seen.

The other writers often bring in the idea of “contrast,” which is an important idea. For Oliver it is (or was) all about the harmony and balance, which is a great place to start but not the only way to go.

I am also hearing really good things about Julia Herz and Gwen Conley’s Beer Pairing: The Essential Guide from the Pairing Pros but I have not seen it yet. I am looking forward to it though.

On cheese and beer pairings I doubt that you can do better than Cheese & Beer by Janet Fletcher.

The best way to proceed may be to peruse one or more of these books and choose a point or two of entry and bravely venture out with (or without) any firm guidance and experiment. Remember to record and grow your experiences from there. They are your taste buds and your palate, after all. No one can tell you how things taste but you.

From English and Irish Stouts with Food:

“The harmony between stouts and chocolate desserts is so big and so wide and so obvious that every restaurant that serves desserts should have at least one stout on its list. If you get only one thing from this book, make this point the keeper—stouts are an absolutely perfect match for chocolate desserts” (144, emphasis in original).

Beer with Food: A Reference Chart is a 7-page quick listing of beers that go with specific foods, ranging from Aioli to Wild boar.

Highly recommended but perhaps not as the first book one peruses on the topic. I feel you can get an easier and quicker start by digging into the short chapters in Mosher or Amato (see above), or others. Oliver is the book you’ll turn to to get a deeper appreciation but one which you’ll have to cull from the entire book.