I love reading about beer. Not as much as I like drinking it. But I love it all the same. And there was tonnes of good stuff about the good stuff for me to savour this week. Here are a few of my favourites.
From the get-go, Pellicle magazine has released a series of exceptional examples of beer journalism. David Nilsen’s profile of Sugar Creek Malt is up their with the best of them. His beautifully evocative images and exquisite prose drew me in totally and, much like Caleb, my senses were filled with the sights, smells and tastes of the malting. But unlike Caleb, this is a place I have never been to.
It’s the tangible elements of his work that clearly keep Caleb doing this day after day. His senses are drenched in the sights, smells, textures, flavours, and even sounds of malting throughout the day and night, an evocative and complex tapestry of stimuli. As the chocolate malt slowly roasts, notes of caramel, toffee, and cinnamon radiate out and settle over the farmyard.
“Out here by the roaster early on a winter morning, before sunrise, those smells, and that warmth…,” he trails off. “It’s nice.”
Sticking with Pellicle, Matt Curtis’s pilgrimage to Russian River to drink Pliny the Elder struck a chord with me. I’ve never been to Sonoma. And I’ve never drunk Pliny (I really want to though). My Mecca was Tree House Brewing in Charlton, Massachusetts. And my Holy Grail was a plastic pint glass filled with Julius.
“I was scratchy, fidgety, and despite being just 30 minutes away I was worried that Russian River would be closing in nine hours’ time.”
Like Kaleigh, since the weather has warmed up, I’ve been dreaming of beer gardens. Berlin isn’t Bamberg but we’ve got our fair share of shady spots to while away a sunny evening with an endless supply of refreshing Helles. And we were planning a road trip to the Bierstadt for spring/summer. It will probably be our first destination when we can hit the Autobahn again.
Settling in for an afternoon or evening of food, conversation and, of course, beer. Such wonderful beer.
Looking around in awe of the skill of the waiters and waitresses, who are effortlessly carrying multiple mugs of foaming beer or a tray full of glasses, without wasting a single drop of the precious nectar.
The comforting smell of hearty food in the air. Large plates regularly appearing from the kitchen. Eating’s not cheating here.
The pleasant hum of conversation, jokes, laughter. Old friends, new friends. Prost!
Thousands of beer tourists were probably crying into their giant mugs at the news that Oktoberfest has been cancelled this year. The first cancellation for 70 years is a big deal but hardly a surprise. A Mark Dredge tweet reacting to the news led me to this older piece for Ferment on “what it takes to stage the world’s most iconic beer festival”.
On the Wednesday and Thursday before the festival begins, the tanks are filled for the first time. In the two Löwenbräu tents, that first fill will be 140,000 litres, and 188,000 litres will be split between Spaten’s three tents (I was shown around by the teams from these breweries so I know more about them, hence sharing more of their specific stats). Then every night, sometime between midnight and 9am, tankers will go to the brewery, fill cold beer directly from the lagering tanks, and drive it to the tents and refill all the serving tanks. Löwenbrau might get 75,000 litres and Spaten around 100,000 litres. Every night. People drink a lot at Oktoberfest.
A Tuesday morning tweet from Boak and Bailey led me down a rabbit hole of remarkable beer writing.
What's the one blog post, article or book you've written about beer and/or pubs that you'd like to remind the world about right now? Why is it special to you, and where can it be found?— Boak and Bailey (@BoakandBailey) April 21, 2020
The replies led me to new blogs, magazines and writers and gave me several hours of new (to me) reading material. The story of Adam, the kind of regular every great pub needs from Richard Cast is simply charming.
The first sign of Adam’s arrival is the pause, as the door opens. Then, slowly, a wheelchair prods its way carefully through the opening. Eventually, the empty chair is pushed into the pub by its owner – a stooped, white haired man, dressed always in a blazer, jumper and shirt. Adam creeps across the threshold of the Stockbridge Tap, glancing over at the seat he always aims for. The wheelchair is left next to a radiator, and Adam slowly walks the short distance to that seat, from which he can see pretty much the entire pub. Even before he’s halfway through the door, the barstaff have started pouring his drink, and as he carefully sits on the padded bench, one of them brings it over, leaving it on the table with an ‘Evening Adam.’
And finally, this tweet is a real hoot…
Living next to a pub, I'm used to late-night revellers shouting but what really annoyed me was the chap who would imitate an owl hoot around 2.30am every night. Now pubs are shut I realise the hooting still goes on and it's not a drunk. It is actually an owl 😳— Alan Cleaver (@thelonningsguy) April 18, 2020
If your thirst for good beer writing is still not quenched, I highly recommend reading Boak and Bailey’s Saturday morning round up and Alan’s Thursday Beery News Notes on A Good Beer Blog.
Stay home. Stay healthy. Stay hydrated