29 Jul 2014

Comfortably bland

Today I was in one of those rare good moods where I fancied trying something I don't remember hearing anything about, a světlá 11° from Pivovar Sedlčanský Krčín, and the best way I can describe it is, paraphrasing Pink Floyd,
Is there any flavour in there?
Just nod if you can hear me,
are there any malt or hops?
The pint was very well tapped, and there was nothing in the beer that could be considered really bad, or really good. It was halfway between everything, almost like political correctness in a pint; a non-denominational beer.

It had me wondering whether that isn't intended; as if the brewer believed that people are bound to repeat what they have forgotten.

And then I realised that there must be more than a few other, equally bland and joyless beers whose names I have forgotten.

Na Zdraví!

25 Jul 2014

On Rich and Successful People Wanting Free Money

You must've read already about Stone's crowdfunding campaign to raise cash to help them (or not?) with their expansion plans in the East Coast of the US and in Europe, and their response to the negative feedback they received, which reminded me of a high-profile professional athlete being forced by his PR to apologise for something stupid he said.

I won't comment too much on the almost arrogant, rich cunt, holier-than-thou style of the press releases and the video (and the “we are going to save German beer culture” bollocks I've seen everywhere on the internet) because I understand that it's part of Stone's marketing discourse. And because it is not what really bothers me about this

Reading the press release again (and suffering the video) I don't think Stone are being honest here.

In the best case scenario, they are (ab)using the crowd funding platform for marketing (and attention whoring) purposes. They aren't the first, and certainly not the last to do that. But it is still unethical, at least in the way it's being done.

Look at this other brewery, Freetail, who are also promoting themselves in IndieGogo. Not only they are doing it with a very clever satire, but likely is that they will not keep the money, as their campaign is set as “fixed funding”--the donations get refunded if the target is not met—while Stone's is “flexible funding”–they get to keep the money one way or another.

But that aside. Stone say that the projects will be carried out with or without the million dollars, which leads to me to believe that they already have secured the funding or are very much on the way to secure it. So why do they need that money for? To make beer? Really? I thought they were making beer already.

Neither of those breweries exist yet (they haven't even decided on a location for one of them!). It could take years until they start producing anything. And besides, what will those beers be like? Other than a bunch of marketing buzzwords, that is.

I'm not convinced. As far as I'm concerned, that million USD (4% or not, is still a fuckton of money for most mortals, and probably enough to get a fairly well equipped microbrewery going in quite a few countries) could be the cash they need to take one of those breweries to a new level, or to buy Greg a pad in Berlin, I don't know, and it doesn't matter. I feel there is something important Stone is not telling us. I feel that all Stone wants is free money from their fans, which they'll pay back, at some yet to be determined point in the future, with expensive beers that may or may not be good, because nobody knows anything about them yet, which the lenders will be expected to pick up themselves so they can get discounted merchandise or whatever. Doesn't sound like a very good deal to me.

But this is not of my concern, really. I am under no obligation to take part in this campaign anymore than I will be to buy their German made beers.

That being said, I'm sure that at least some of you are seriously considering throwing a coin in Stone's cap before they have started playing. Before you press “Donate”, answer this question: Aren't there any small breweries near where you live (or not) that are already making great beer and perhaps need your 50USD a lot more than Koch and co.?

Na Zdraví!

23 Jul 2014

Some Musings and a Short Book Review

I liked this post by Boak and Bailey on their state of their relationship with beer, and Alan's own take on the topic, mainly because I agree with pretty much everything they say, even when translating it to my own beer ecosystem.

Like them, I've come to prefer well known, reliable beers and breweries over the uncertainty of the new. And when it comes to new breweries (and to some extent, new products from breweries I know), I rarely buy stuff I have no (good) references of. I can understand why so many people give preference to new beers, it can be fun, it was for me at some point, but not any more. I want to get the most value out of my money and “will be good”, or at least “should be good”, gives me better value than “might be good”.

This brings me to price. I've all but given up on expensive beers. My limit for a (large) bottle is 8-10€, and only on very exceptional occasions and with beers I've already drunk. Really, when I can get something as good as Schneider TAP 5 for about 2€ (not to mention many excellent Czech beers, for less), I find it hard to convince myself to spend several times more on another beer.

Which brings me to this other point. Maybe it's because I'm already in my 40s, or because I have less time, money and energy than in the past, or because my priorities in life have changed, or, most likely, a mixture of all of that, but I feel that my relationship with beer has come full circle, or sort of.

Beer is again “just beer”. All beers. It's something I drink while doing something more stimulating than paying attention to the lies my senses of taste and smell might be telling me. I've also got bored of taking beer seriously; partly because I have nothing to gain from it, and partly because I've realised that there's nothing special about beer. Let me say that again, beer isn't special. It's booze that, like wine, cured bacon, music, books, and other consumer products, wants to get a share of my disposable income and time. It might get a bigger share than all those things, and it's still fun to write about it, but that doesn't make it in itself special.

The people behind the beer. That's another thing. I find their stories more interesting than the beverage itself. But I mean the real stories, not the tales that've been filtered and pasteurised by PR or marketing.

And that is why I liked so much Evan Rail's new e-book The Brewery in the Bohemian Forest. It tells the story of the author near obsession with Kout na Šumavě, in particular, with an old brewing log the current owner claims to have found hidden somewhere in the building. Evan wants to see that book and visits the brewery several times. In the process you get a glimpse of his family life, and also get to know a lot about the Kout's current owner, his relationship with the brewery, his views, struggles and plans, or at least what he chooses to tell Evan.

Would Evan have written this book if he didn't like Kout so much? Most probably, not. But that's not something that should concern the reader, because it's the story and not the beer what matters.

This is the first book in a series called Beer Trails that will include works from the likes of Stan Hieronymus, Joe Stange and Adrian Tierney-Jones. I'm already looking forward to those stories.

In the meantime, I'm off for a beer.

Na Zdraví!

PS: Evan's a good friend of mine. He sent me a free copy of the book, but you can buy it here in Amazon.

11 Jul 2014

Well, look what we've got here

I suddenly remembered about that bottle of Fuller's Vintage Ale 2011 I still had in my cellar, and I felt like drinking it while listening to some good music.

One part of me, however, wanted, you know, to age it, to keep it for a truly special moment. The other part punched him in the mouth with a sock full of 50CZK coins and proceeded to open the bottle and serve the beer.

Well done, other part. Well done. You do understand beer. YUM!

Na Zdraví!