Crack A Book For The Next Session

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For our 115th Session, our host will be Joan Villar-i-Martí, who writes Blog Birraire. For her topic, she’s chosen The Role of Beer Books, to sum up the topic says. “I believe the importance of books for the beer culture makes them worthy of another Session.”

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Here’s her full description of the topic:

The discussion at hand is “The Role of Beer Books”. Participants can talk about that first book that caught their attention, which brought them to get interested in beer; or maybe about books that helped developing their local beer scene. There’s also the bad role of books that regrettably misinform readers because their authors did not do their work properly. There are many different ways to tackle this topic.

The Session has been about books before just once, and it was about those that hadn’t already been written. I believe that their importance for the beer culture makes books worthy for another Session.

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So before Friday, September 2, crack open some beer books, and some beer, and write about the intersection between the two. Prose seems to be the preferred vehicle, but I don’t see why you couldn’t resort to iambic pentameter or some other poetic form. Rhyming optional. Publish your findings, and then post a comment with a link to your post at the original announcement. Happy reading.

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Observe & Report The Next Session

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Next Session Uncovers The Other Beer Economy

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Beer Birthday: Alan McLeod

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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.

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Alan pondering the mysteries of Stonehenge at age 7.

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A night with bald pate, circa 2002.

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

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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?

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Next Session Takes On Twitter

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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

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

Next Session Raises A Glass Of Porter

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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:

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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

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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.

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

Beer Birthday: Chris Nelson

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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

Stay Snowed In For The Next Session

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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:

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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.

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