From the Spam Files

I just noticed that WordPress has caught over 134,000 spam comments to date over the course of the life of this blog. Here are some excerpts from the last few dozen:

“However, it is necessary to emphasize that median home prices in San Francisco
are down 31.” Really? 31 what, though?

“If all goes wellSolar Power found at 0:42Fri,” Damn, I guess all didn’t go that well.

“I say to you, I definitely get annoyed whilst folks think about worries that they just don’t know about.” Me, too! Those damn worries people don’t know about!

“Cats are wonderful canine and cats.” Don’t tell the dog.

“I don’t unremarkably comment but I gotta state regards for the post on this great one.” Why, thank you…I think.

And finally…

“Looks prefer klipsch is really made to partner with iProducts?” Absolutely!

Back in the Saddle

The last six or so days have seen zero posting here and precious little on World of Beer’s Facebook page. Here’s why:

–          Over the weekend, I was speaking (in support of the MS Society of Canada) at the Beau’s Oktoberfest, which was a great, if rather cold and wet, time. I posted a couple of times to FB from my phone, but was without my computer, so nothing here;

–          Then, on my return, it was time to play host to my World Atlas of Beer co-author, Tim Webb. That went on for a couple of days;

–          In between, I had a request from my editor at to quickly pull together a round-up of diverse and geographically scattered U.S. Oktoberfest celebrations, which is now online over here;

–          After a late night with Tim, there was more work in the morning, lunch with Mr. Webb and then more work well into the evening;

–          What I recall of Wednesday was busy, and punctuated with an all-too-brief visit from my sister, but such was my sleepless haze that it’s all a bit vague.

Which brings us to today, and these bits of interesting beer news:

–          The mid-sized British brewer Wells & Young’s has purchased the Younger’s and McEwan’s brands from Heineken, which will significantly strengthen their overall sales, but in my opinion, unless the beers themselves are rather significantly changed, do nothing to further the company’s brewing credibility;

–          Kirin of Japan has made an offer for the remainder of South American brewer, Schincariol, which is to say the minority part they don’t already own. This will, of course, cement their ownership of Brazil’s number two brewer, but also firmly place all three of Brazil’s top brewing countries under the yolk of large multinationals, including Anheuser-Busch Inbev and Heineken, which respectively own number one and three brewers, the latter through their Mexican arm, FEMSA;

–          And in what I can only figure is a singularly odd move, Diageo is moving production of Red Stripe for the U.S. market to Pennsylvania, where it will be brewed under contract by City Brewing. Ah, to dream of the tropical beaches of Latrobe!

“Microcarbonated.” Huh?

If you live in Canada or near the border in the U.S., you’ve likely heard of Molson’s new “microcarbonated” lager called M. And if you’re like me, you wonder, “What the hell is ‘microcarbonated’?”

I started my sleuthing with the Molson M website, which revealed nothing. Then I watched some online ads, which offered even less info than did the website. And finally I went to the MolsonCoors global website, where it was revealed that M is “injected with CO2 through smaller, finer bubbles with precision and consistency to attain a level of carbonation that we believe to be close to perfection.”

Uh-huh. I have no idea what that means, expect to say that, like virtually every other packaged beer on the market today, M is carbonated at the filling line. Oh, “through smaller, finer bubbles,” whatever that means when it’s at home.

But the proof is in the tasting and I have at my side a chilled bottle of M. So let us see what “microcarbonation” tastes like.

In the glass, M doesn’t look any different than other mass-produced lagers: it’s pale gold and fizzy, with a head that dies out rather quickly. And the bubbles appear to be of the same size and quantity as you’d find in any other lager.

On the nose, M is sweet and cereally, with some vaguely fruity notes and, yes, a floral note of hoppiness. I would say that the taste is drier than a typical mass-market lager, perhaps thanks to those floral hops I smelled, but still sweet at the outset, with a bit of flowery creamed corn, rather cereally in the body and off-off-dry with restrained icing sugar notes in the finish.

If it was up against Blue and Bud and Canadian in the North American Style Premium lager category at last year’s Canadian Brewing Awards, I can see how it would have won. Head-to-head against a King Pilsner or (Molson owned) Creemore Springs Premium Lager, it wouldn’t stand a chance.

And I’m still no closer to understanding “microcarbonation.”

My Fascination With Beer

The discussion that has ensued in the comments section of my last post serves to remind me yet again that beer is a fascinating beverage and one deserving of much respect. This might seem obvious, I know, but it’s something I think people often forget.

For instance, in the glass in front of me right now is a light golden liquid with a faint sweetness and moderate hop taste. Many people would dismiss it out of hand as overly simple and undeserving of attention, and on certain occasions in certain circumstances I might agree with them. But at the end of a long and arduous day, it’s a nice quaff, and yes, so much more besides.

It is, as most readers here will know, created from malted barley, hops, water and yeast. Yet it tastes like none of these things. I have sampled the grain which is used as its base and it tastes a little sweet, a little cereally, and absolutely nothing like what the beer tastes like. I have held a handful of the hops used to season it and inhaled deeply, yet the aroma I detected then is only faintly similar to the wafts of floral perfumes emanating from the glass in my hand. Water I have consumed in copious quantities over my 46 years, from tap, filter, spring, well and bottle, yet never have I tasted water that tastes like this beer. And as for yeast, well, being not at all a fan of Marmite, I think the stuff tastes rather disgusting, whereas this beer is tasting quite fine right now.

In short, I marvel at the incredible alchemy that produces from these four ingredients the glass of goodness in my hand. And even if some might dismiss it as mere lager or pilsner or “session beer” or “fizzy yellow stuff,” I view it as a remarkable creation, one I am honoured to be consuming right now.

And the Winner Is…

It will come as no surprise to readers that posts have been few and far beetween here while I tour a wide swath on England. Reason being that I often prefer to grab a pint here or a few minutes of rare and treasured sleep there rather that try to come up with something readable, silly me.

Another thing I haven’t been doing is following my blog feeds, so when I finally logged on this morning, I was curious as to who had been the most prolific in the beer blogging world since last I checked over a week ago, Frankly, my money was on Uncle Jack or Ron Pattinson.

But the surprise winner was…Jay Brooks, with an impressive 16 posts since my arrival on British shores on March 25. Congratulations Jay! Take a bow!

Photo Cleanup

One the the byproducts of having a large memory card in your camera is a tendency to leave the photos on said card for a longer period of time than typical. Like months. Which is why I am only now clearing off pics from my trip to California in January. So here is one you may or may not need to see:

Yes, that is a giant floating Tomme Arthur head, photographed at the Lost Abbey/Port Brewing brewery. You’re welcome.

Lance and Ultra – Huh?

As much as I do considerable research and reading on the web, I’m still a big fan of the printed word and so read a large number of magazines on a more or less regular basis. One of these is Runner’s World, which I enjoy for its tips on how to make my running life easier and less painful. (When you eat and drink as I do, you need some kind of activity to keep the weight from piling on. Mine is running.)

And so I came to the February issue of Running World, where runs an eye-catching, two page endorsement of Michelob Ultra by no less than Lance Armstrong. Which is all fine and good – I begrudge no one their endorsement dollars – except that it contains as a major component a Q&A with Armstrong in which the cyclist is asked “How does Michelob Ultra fit into your balanced lifestyle?” His response:

I am a guy who enjoys going out and pushing myself to the limit. That could mean a 6-hour bike ride or a 2-hour gym session. Whatever the activity, I enjoy the rewards of a hard workout.

Excuse me? Does this at all answer the question, and if so, please someone explain to me how? In suspect that the answer has something to do with the vagaries of US advertising laws as they pertain to beer, but even so, this strikes me as a most curious thing to work into advertising copy.

And One Final Beer Goal for 2010…

11. Get out there!: Drinking in situ is one of the most illuminating experiences a beer aficionado can have, whether it’s at a riverside brewpub in a town a few miles away or in a café on the other side of the world. It’s also (usually) a hell of a lot of fun.

That’s it for me in 2009. Enjoy your New Year’s Eve, everyone, and see you all next decade!

Beer Goals for the New Year

It is with some sadness that I learned of the departure of Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher from the pages of the Wall Street Journal. The husband and wife team have been writing insightful and accessible columns on wine in that paper for a dozen years, and have long been one of the few reasons I would pick up the weekend edition. I still have a yellowed copy of their “How to Order Wine in a Restaurant, In 10 Steps,” which is one of the most common sense pieces of wine writing I have ever come across.

Much of Gaiter and Brecher’s work, I have found, is easily transferable to other realms, including beer. And so, in honour of their years of service to imbibophiles, I am going to riff (yet again) on one of their ideas, with my “10 Things to Do with Beer in 2010.”

  1. Learn to appreciate something different: You may not like, say, lambics or highly hopped ales, but that need not mean you shouldn’t try to understand what they’re all about.
  2. Blow apart your preconceptions with a blind tasting: Sampling a slate of beers without knowing what they are can be humbling and illuminating. For extra credit, try using glasses that hide the colour of the beers.
  3. Learn to love low alcohol: Subtlety is sometimes lost in beer tasting circles, so even if you enjoy your fill of session beers now and again, or again and again, much can be learned by taking some time to ponder the nuances of a 3.5% alcohol mild or 5% alcohol kölsch.
  4. Try a beer under different circumstances: Possibly the greatest thing I’ve learned in my twenty or so years writing about beer is the powerful effect of context on taste. Trying a familiar brew under utterly unfamiliar circumstances – early in the morning, say, or under physiologically stressful conditions – can lend keen insight as to its makeup.
  5. Plan a period during which you will not drink the same beer twice: Be it a week or a month, spending some time in beer drinking promiscuity can be both fun and challenging.
  6. Talk about beer without judgement: Be it with beer aficionado friends or the Bud drinker at the end of the bar, you can learn a lot about beer and beer drinking by simply listening to what others have to say.
  7. Drink both beer and wine with an oenophile: Sample some of your favourites and some of his or her favourites and learn from each other.
  8. Buy blindfolded: Not literally, of course, but randomly grabbing stuff off the shelf, or having someone do it for you, can lead to interesting discoveries, and also, it needs be admitted, huge disappointments.
  9. Splurge: Not on a high-priced beer – although feel free to do that, too – but on a totally unnecessary round for a group of friends and acquaintances. There’s no better way to remind yourself of why beer really is the most sociable of beverages.
  10. Spend time with a notepad: Nobody should feel they need to take notes on every beer they drink in order to assure their “beer cred,” but it can be an interesting exercise to from time to time sit down and record flavour and aroma observations. You may even be surprised at how it improves your taste perceptions.