Observe & Report The Next Session

session-the
For our 113th Session, our host will again be Boak & Bailey. For their topic, they’re asking everyone to Observe and Report, a very specific Session mission, which they more fully explain in their announcement, Mass Observation: The Pub and The People.

pub-and-the-people-mass-observation-1943

In the late 1930s a team of social researchers descended on Lancashire and spent several years observing the people of Bolton and Blackpool as they went about their daily lives. As part of that, in 1937 and 1938, they made a special study of pubs, which led to the publication of one of our favourite books of all time, The Pub and The People, in 1943.

We’re hosting the 113th edition of The Session in July and we’re asking you to go to the pub, observe, and report.

In the late 1930s a team of social researchers descended on Lancashire and spent several years observing the people of Bolton and Blackpool as they went about their daily lives. As part of that, in 1937 and 1938, they made a special study of pubs, which led to the publication of one of our favourite books of all time, The Pub and The People, in 1943.

This is an extract from a typical entry from the original observation logs, probably from 1938, describing the Vault of a pub in Bolton:

13 men standing, 8 sitting. 4 playing dominoes. 2 of the sitters are postmen.

2 men, about fifty, short, sturdy, caps and scarves, shiny worn blue shirts quarrelling about politics. One keeps saying, ‘If ee don’t like the country why don’t ee go away? No one stops me getting a living.’ Then he suddenly shouts ‘Why shouldn’t the king and queen be there. I’m for them! They should be there.’ … Barman comes round with a small canvas bag, jangling it, asks me if I want a penny draw for a pie. So I put my hand into the bag and get out a worn brass disc about size of a half penny, which says Riggs Pies and has a number in the middle. The draw takes place somewhere else. Number 9 wins… and he gets a small hot pie, the sort you can get for fourpence.

What we want people to do for The Session is to recreate this exercise in 2016: take a notebook to a pub or bar — any one you fancy — and write a note of what you observe.

  • How many people are drinking?
  • Which beers are on tap, and which are people actually drinking?
  • What are they eating?
  • How are they passing the time?
  • What are the topics of conversation?
  • How is the pub decorated?
  • How many TVs are there and what are they showing?
  • Are there pot plants, parrots, spittoons?
  • How many smokers are there? And vapers?
  • Is there a dartboard, pool table or quiz machine, and are they in use?

Over the years, people have fretted about Mass Observation’s attitudes to privacy and so, in line with original Mass Observation practice, you might want to anonymise the pub — city centre sports bar, suburban dining pub, industrial estate brewery tap, and so on. And it’s bad form to give names and details which might allow individuals to be identified from your descriptions.

And an Optional Extra

As a chaser, after your observations, write whatever you like spurred by the idea of ‘The Pub and The People’. Really, whatever you like, as vaguely related to theme as it might be. Or instead of making any observations, even. The main thing is that you feel inspired to write something.

pub-and-people-cresset
This is what my copy looks like.

If you’re curious about the book, The Pub and the People: A Worktown Study (Mass Observation Social Surveys), used copies of two versions are available on Amazon, the original and Cresset Library reprint, or you can read excerpts on Google Books.

So anytime in the next couple weeks, get yourself to a pub or bar with your checklist, and start observing and reporting. Then post the results on or around Friday, July 1. Let the hosts know about your participatory Session post by either posting a comment to the original announcement or by tweeting the link to @boakandbailey. They’re playing fast and loose with the deadline for submission, so as soon as you get around to it in early July is probably fine.

observe-report-boak-bailey

Next Session Uncovers The Other Beer Economy

session-the
For our 112th Session, our host will again be Carla Jean Lauter, a.k.a. The Beer Babe. For her topic, she’s chosen The Other Beer Economy, and I”ll let her explain what that means.

beer-economy

Last year, the total economic impact of the beer brewing industry in the state of Maine was approaching the same scale as the lobster industry. Let that sink in for a second. Maine – which is arguably *best* known for lobsters – is shifting to an economy strongly supported by brewing.

Growing alongside of the boom of breweries are many small businesses that are supporting, or supported by the craft beer industry. Maine is now home to a malt processing facility, and several hop farms. There are multiple beer tourism-focused businesses that help connect visitors to the state’s best beer offerings. There are companies that create beer-related apparel for beer fans, some that have designed unique bottle openers and manufacture them in-state. Maine is also home to a company that manufactures and installs brewing equipment, and another whose sole mission is to clean the lines that serve up that beer to thirsty beer fans.

Yet, we rarely give these businesses a second thought. They are the second beer economy, often operating behind-the-scenes. I think we could give them a bit more credit for keeping things growing, sharing the products of our local breweries with more people, and sometimes even literally keeping the beer flowing.

For this month’s session, let’s talk about those businesses in the beer world that aren’t breweries. What are the roles that they can play? What opportunities still exist for new niche roles to be developed? What can local/state/regional governments do to encourage this kind of diversity of businesses around an industry?

I’m excited to hear your thoughts and stories.

spatalesbeer

So this June 3, start thinking like a dismal scientist and look at the economic indicators, the market forces and the new economic models. To participate in the June Session, leave the link to your post in a comment to the original announcement or tweet your link to her at the @beerbabe on or before Friday, June 3.

beer-good-for-economy

Beer Birthday: Alan McLeod

a-good-beer-blog
Today is also beer blogger extraordinaire Alan McLeod’s 53rd birthday. Alan runs a good beer blog, called — curiously enough — A Good Beer Blog. I’m not sure what came first, the goodness or the blog. Anyway, though I’ve yet to meet Alan in person I feel as if he’s already a great, not just good, friend through our many conversations via e-mail and commenting on one another’s blogs. If you haven’t read his essay in the book Beer & Philosophy yet, rush right out and buy yourself a copy. He also published The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer, with Max Bahnson, available as a Kindle single on Amazon, and last year co-wrote both Upper Hudson Valley Beer and Ontario Beer: A Heady History of Brewing from the Great Lakes to Hudson Bay. Join me in wishing Alan the very merriest of birthdays. Cheers, mate.

amcleod-1
Alan pondering the mysteries of Stonehenge at age 7.

amcleod-2
A night with bald pate, circa 2002.

amcleod-3
Contemplating a jump near Prince Edward Island a dozen years ago. Happily, he decided against getting wet.

Alan-McLeod-VIP-2012
Letting everyone know his status as a VIP at an event in 2012. [Note: photo purloined from Facebook.]

How Will You Survive A Beer Midlife Crisis?

session-the
For our 111th Session, our host will be Oliver Gray, who writes about Literature & Libation. For his topic, he’s chosen Surviving a Beer Midlife Crisis, in which the bloom is coming off the rose and he’s finding his excitement about new beers and breweries waning as the years roll on, as the barrels keep rolling out. And he’s wondering if he’s the only one. I suspect he’s not alone, as the number of blogs that go dark seems to be growing every day, as the internet continually evolves in the way we use it and communicate with one another online. But before you go to the dealer to pick up your new convertible, let Oliver explain what he’s talking about.

midlife-crisis-ahead

Full disclosure: I don’t work in the beer industry. OK, yes, sometimes I get paid to write about beer, but that money does not my livelihood make. Despite pouring myself into brewing and beer culture for the last 6 years, I remain little more than an overly involved consumer.

I think that’s true about a lot of bloggers and beer writers. Some may work directly for breweries or distributors or behind the till in a beer store, but a lot of us toil in vocational worlds apart, spending our free time and free dollars on what can only (by definition) be called a “hobby.”

Recently, I’ve found my interest in said hobby waning. The brilliant luster of new beers and new breweries looks now, a few pounds heavier and a bunch of dollars lighter, more like dull aluminum oxide.

The thing I have embraced so fully and spent so much time getting to know and love, suddenly seems generally, unequivocally: meh. It’s like I’ve been living a lie, and everything I’ve done is for not. I’m having a beer mid-life crisis, yo.

Maybe it’s the politics of purchasing or selling. Maybe the subculture has peaked. Maybe this is the natural progression of a hobby that has no real tie to the industry behind it.

Maybe I’m way off the mark, and this whole thing is just a figment of my imagination.

But I’m willing to bet it’s not. All that talk of beer bubbles might prove true, but instead of a dramatic *pop* we’ll might see a slow deflation followed by a farting noise as some of the air leaks out and the hobbyist move on the spend their time and dollars elsewhere. It’s impossible to see the future, but if my fall from rabid beer fanboy to dude-who-drinks-beer-and-sort-of-wants-to-be-left-alone is indicative of a trend, I’ve got some signs to make a doomsaying to do.

What say you?

Do you find it hard to muster the same zeal for beer as you did a few years ago? Are you suffering through a beer-life crisis like I am? If so, how do you deal with it?

If not, put me in my place!

therabeer

So this May 6, begin working on your comb-over, get the convertible out of the garage and start writing. Are you still excited by the beer industry or getting world-weary and jaded? Does the pfft of the bottle or can opening still give you that thrill of anticipation or does it instead fill you with a sense of dread or apathy? Oh, look, another new IPA, this one with mooseberries. To participate in the May Session, leave the link to your post in a comment to the original announcement or tweet your link to him at @OliverJGray on or before Friday, May 6.

crisis

Next Session Takes On Twitter

session-the
For our 110th Session, our host will be Sean Inman, who is on a Beer Search Party. For his topic, he’s chosen a tiny Twitterific topic, which he explains concisely, as befits the topic. Apparently Twitter is strongly considering lifting the 140-character maximum that has been its defining feature since it debuted in 2006, and replacing that with a limit of 10,000.

big-drinking-twitterbird

So, before the 140 letter limit is lost, how about us in the beer blogging realm take one last crack at “original” Twitter.

Some possible routes to take:

  • write your own beer theory in multi-parts. Be it 1/15 or 1/20
  • use Twitter for your own craft beer April Fool’s Day prank
  • channel your inner web troll and go all negative on a topic
  • debate or applaud the points made by Daniels in under 140 characters
  • talk about brevity and how it affects writing about beer

You can do it on Twitter or on your own blog or both. Just no Instagram.

bottle-beer-twitter-bird

So this April Fool’s Day, say a lot with a little, or say a lot with a lot, just don’t stay silent. To participate in the April Session, leave the link to your post in a comment to the original announcement on or before Friday, April 1.

Beer Birthday: Knut Albert

knut-albert
Today, it’ also the 56th birthday of Knut Albert Solem from Oslo, Norway, who has one of the premiere beer blogs in Scandinavia, Knut Albert’s Beer Blog. Though I’ve never met him in person, we have corresponded a time or two through blog comments or e-mail and I certainly enjoy his perspective on beer. Join me in wishing Knut a very happy birthday.

knut-1
Hoisting a pint (photo nicked from Knut’s Facebook page).

knut-2
Knut near water, the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland actually (ditto).

Next Session Raises A Glass Of Porter

session-the
For our 109th Session, our host will be Mark Lindner, who is the Bend Beer Librarian, and writes the By the Barrel in Bend, Oregon. For his topic, he’s chosen the beer style Porter, and wants us to explore what he calls a “highly variable style.” Jon goes on to explain what he means by that in his announcement for the March Session:

porter

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

anchor-porter-logo

So what is your favorite porter? Or do you like them at all? What’s your take? You know what to do? To participate in the March Session, leave the link to your post in a comment to the original announcement on or before Friday, March 4. Or e-mail your URL at mark (.) r (.) lindner (@) gmail (.) com, or tweet your link with the hashtag #thesession and it wouldn’t hurt to add him, too, using @bythebbl.

younger-porter
Still my favorite Porter, so good he could even make Don Younger smile!

Beer Birthday: Chris Nelson

beergeek
Today is the 50th birthday of Chris Nelson, better known as The Beer Geek. Chris and his wife, Merideth Canham-Nelson, recently completed an around the world beer festival tour, but are still traveling the globe searching for great beer. A few years ago his wife also published Teachings From the Tap, her account of the year they spent circling the globe visiting beer destinations. Join me in wishing Chris a very happy birthday.

srbf08-05
The first “official meeting” of the Bay Area Beer Bloggers. From left: Merideth Canham-Nelson, me, Chris, JJ (the Thirsty Hopster), and Gail Ann Williams and Steve Shapiro, both from Beer by BART.

merideth-rocky
In front of the Rocky statue in downtown Philadelphia during our trip to the first Philly Beer Week.

obf07-20
At the OBF media tasting: Rick Sellers, from Pacific Brew News, Merideth and Chris Nelson, The Beer Geek, and Meagan Flynn (at right) with her assistant, Annalou, former publishers of Beer NW during the 2007 Oregon Brewers Festival.

pub-talk-radio
Chris, at right, with Shaun O’Sullivan, Merideth, and Jeff White in Pub Talk Radio in Monterey in September of last year.

chris-nelson-pangea
Chris and Merideth at Pangea in 2012 (photo “borrowed” from Facebook, by Virginia Vasquez)

Stay Snowed In For The Next Session

session-the
For our 108th Session, our host will be Jon Abernathy, who writes the Brewsite in Bend, Oregon. For his topic, he’s asking us to consider being Snowed In, which is in fact his topic. Jon goes on to explain what he means by that in his announcement for the February Session:

beer-in-snow

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.

For those of you living in the southern climes who don’t have snow to worry about, perhaps it’s some other stormy situation keeping you indoors—hurricanes or tropical storms, for instance. You tell me—I live northerly!

So what’s next? That is what I want you to write about—as it pertains to beer, of course! Not sure where to start? Here are some suggestions to hopefully inspire some ideas:

  • What style(s) of beer do you prefer for this cold weather? Open one up and write about it.
  • Do you dip into the stash or cellar, and drink something special? Does the occasion warrant it? Why, or why not?
  • When you know the weather’s coming, do you stock up on a favorite or go-to beer? What makes you pick this particular beer?
  • Are you a homebrewer? Maybe this is the perfect time for a brew day—what would you brew? Have you brewed in the snow before?
  • Alternatively, perhaps you have a hodge-podge of brewing ingredients lying around but nothing definitive—could you MacGyver up a homebrewed beer from only what you have on hand?
  • Imagine you were snowed in at a cabin in the mountains for the winter. What one beer would you want with you, and why? (Think “desert island beer” but colder.)
  • There’s plenty of time to catch up on reading; what beer book(s) would you read? If not a beer book, what would you be reading—and what beer would you pair with it?

I hope these can get you started, but feel free to write about whatever you like, as long as it has something to do with beer and being snowed in, on Friday, February 5.

So what does winter mean for your beer consumption. Does it go up or down. Does being stuck indoors effect it? And how does the weather change what you choose to drink? Lots of questions but since these beers won’t drink themselves and you won’t find any answers until you start drinking, I guess you know what to do. To participate in the February Session, leave the link to your post in a comment to the original announcement on or before Friday, February 5.

beer-winshield

Announcing Typology Tuesday: A Session About Styles

typology
So at the risk of annoying a great many people, I’ve decided to charge straight ahead this year into the hornet’s nest. I love the monthly Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, and was thrilled that it was saved last year and continues to soldier on. But I’ve also wished almost since the beginning that it was all about the beer, not that the broader topics aren’t interesting. On the contrary, they’re often very compelling and interesting, especially seeing how disparate people think about them.

But I’m also fascinated by the idea of beer styles, types or kinds of beer. How should they be codified, and of course the ever present question “should they be codified?” So I decided this year to make a conscious effort to think more about different kinds of beer and what makes them unique. And that’s the basic idea behind “Typology Tuesday,” a monthly exploration of different types of beer, with no hosts and me doing most of the work. If you want to join in that would be lovely, and it couldn’t be easier, and I really hope you will. All about Typology Tuesday is in greater detail below, and will also live permanently on a page where all of the previous Typology Tuesdays will be archived. While I won’t be asking for help hosting, there is plenty of opportunity to make suggestions, participate and help shape the inevitable ensuing debate.

Typology-Tuesday

What is Typology Tuesday?

 
Typology is “the study of types,” in this case, of course, I mean types of beer, or “Beer Typology.” I have a love/hate relationship with beer styles. In many ways I believe them to be unnecessary, especially for brewers. But for consumers, they can be quite useful, and provide some sense of consistency for ordering. If you’re thirsty for a hefeweizen or a pale ale, knowing what those are and what you’ll be getting if you order a frosty beverage calling itself by one of those names seems pretty important. And of course, for commercial and homebrew judging, putting like beers with other like beers makes the job of judging much easier and ultimately more fair.

It’s also a bit like music, specifically jazz, but all music, really. I grew up playing jazz (and classical) music, and there’s an almost rite of passage for up and coming artists to perform jazz standards, putting their own spin on songs already very well known. Anyone can do original tunes, designed to showcase a performer’s talents, usually written by that performer, but it takes real talent to be able to take someone else’s song and make it your own. And I think that translates to beer, as well. There are great original brews, but it in some ways it’s more impressive when a brewer makes something amazing within rigid guidelines that nails the style parameters. It’s great when you do something with no rules and no limitations, but it’s at least as impressive when you can create something original and amazing within a structured environment. Yes, rules are meant to be broken but Johann Sebastian Bach is just as marvelous precisely because his music stayed within the confines of baroque music. It took later musicians to break those rules and usher in the period of classical music. Without rules, neither movements would have happened. Instead it would simply have been a free-for-all.

So that dichotomy may seem contradictory but its push/pull nature is, I think, a necessary one. Perhaps it’s like Schrödinger’s cat. Beer styles, or whatever we call them, both matter and don’t matter simultaneously. It’s as if they were in different dimensions and matter on some levels, while not in others. I think that’s why we can never definitely say they do or don’t matter, because it just depends; depends on the circumstances, or the context.

When Stan started The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, in early 2007, many of those early Sessions were about specific styles. But bowing to the wisdom of crowds, the topics have veered off in many directions, only occasionally coming back to stylistic topics, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I even wrote An Open Letter To “The Session” in a vain attempt to steer us back in a stylistic direction, but more people were interested in a wider range of subjects. In the end, I’m just really happy that people are still interested in participating in the Sessions, and that it’s still continuing on.

But I find myself returning time and time again to the subject of beer styles; what they mean, why they are (or aren’t) important and how they should be classified. Are there too many, not enough or are we simply going about organizing them in the wrong way. I know there will be those who think the exercise is futile, and that we should not even try to continually categorize different kinds of beer. But I’m wired that way, and I know I’m not the only one. I love to organize things, feel fairly compelled to do so, and can’t help but feel it’s an essential part of my humanness. As humans, I think we all tend to categorize and organize our surroundings, to a greater or lesser extent, and I think I’m probably on the high end of that spectrum.

So I want to make more of a concerted effort to explore the nature of different kinds of beers, how they can, or should, be organized, divided, dissected and shuffled around, preferably with one in my hand. And that’s the idea behind “Typology,” “Beer Typology” and “Typology Tuesday.” To talk about different kinds of beers, what makes them unique, and where they fit into the taxonomy of all beers is my goal. I’d love to have your help, and include different voices in the journey. Obviously, this is not for everyone, and if the idea fills you with contempt and scorn, please restrain the impulse to bludgeon me with acrid criticism and walk away. Above all else, I want to have fun trying to better understand beer’s diversity, and while that certainly doesn’t preclude critical thinking, criticism and disagreements, they needn’t be disagreeable in and of themselves, especially with an ultimate goal of enjoyment with education. 2016 marks my 25th year working at some level in the beer industry and writing about beer, and even though I know more than I did in 1991, I still feel like there’s a lot to learn and more of a journey ahead of me than behind.

I hope I’m not alone in wanting to better understand beer at both the individual level and the wider and widening landscape of beers, plural. I hope that there will be others who share that desire to keep learning, to keep drinking, to keep wondering.

How to Participate in Typology Tuesday

 
If you write a beer or beer-related blog, please consider joining me on this project about beer styles or types of beer. It couldn’t be easier. It will be sort of like The Session, but also a little different and, hopefully, even a little easier. First of all, there will be no hosts, so you’re off the hook there.

As the name implies, Typology Tuesday will take place on a Tuesday, in this case I’ve chosen the last Tuesday of each month, which should make it at least a few days before the regular Session, and in some cases will provide a week or more in between them. This also gives you the weekend to pick up a beer or beers in a particular style or type and try them, and then another day or two to do your write up about those beers or whatever else you want to contribute. Plus, I’m a big fan of alliteration; just can’t get enough.

The topic for each month will be announced at the beginning of the month, probably no later than the first weekday, but I’ll try to have the schedule up at least a few months ahead on this page for anyone who wants more advance warning. And the topics themselves will simply be the type of beer to highlight and talk about. When the announcement is made, I’ll also provide a style guide using multiple resources to create a page that include lots of information about the type of beer being featured for that month. Use it as a jumping off point, or follow the links provided to delve deeper, or ignore it altogether. Your choice.

Then on or before that day, write a post on that style, type, kind or whatever of beer. You can essentially write about whatever you like, with the only proviso being it should have something to do with the featured type of beer. After your post is published, please let me know it’s up so I can include it in the subsequent round-up. You can send me the URL to your post either by e-mail to Jay (.) Brooks (@) gmail (.) com or by leaving a comment on the original announcement post, or even by including the hashtag #Typology in a tweet.

I would encourage each participant to use the Typology logo for your posts because it lends consistency to all of our efforts and makes it easy for readers to know and understand that your post is part of a larger project. But it’s by no means mandatory. They’re free to use, of course, but please don’t hotlink to them. Instead, please download them and host them on your server or use a photo hosting website like Flickr or Photobucket.


That’s the basics, I’ll also archive each session in a similar format as I’ve done with the Sessions. The first type of beer for the last Tuesday in January — January 26 — will be American Barley Wine.

I’ll also create a sort of style guide for each kind of beer that I’ll publish concurrently with the announcement of each month’s style. Look for the one on barley wine later today. Drawn from a variety of sources, it will hopefully be a resource to get you thinking about that particular kind of beer and get your mental juices flowing with what you want to say about it. That should also give you several weeks to think about the style of beer up for discussion and even learn more about it ahead of time.

Almost anything is fair game. You could simply review beers in the style. You could discuss its history, how it’s changed over time, or why it shouldn’t be considered a separate style at all. It’s up to you, I only ask that you make it relevant to the discussion about each particular kind of beer, and keep the discussion civil and respectful.

That’s about it. If you have any questions, leave a comment or send me a note. I hope to see everybody’s first posts in about three weeks.

typology-logo