Beer Birthday: Steve Parkes

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Today is the birthday of Steve Parkes. Steve owns and runs the American Brewers Guild, which trains brewers. I’ve known Steve for a number of years now and he’s one of my favorite Brits in the industry. I had the pleasure of writing a profile of him for Beer Advocate magazine a few years ago, from which I learned the following. Steve studied brewing sciences at Heriot-Wyatt University in Edinburgh and worked at several small UK breweries before moving to Maryland to open British Brewing (later known as Oxford Brewing). He then moved to California and created Red Nectar for Humboldt Brewing, which is also where he caught the teaching bug. Eventually buying the ABG school in 1999, three years ago finally making the leap to running the school full-time. In 2009, Steve was awarded the Russell Schehrer Award for Innovation in Brewing by the Brewers Association at CBC in Boston. Steve said at the time. “It’s gratifying when someone notices what you’re been doing every day. It just feels tremendous, like standing on the shoulder of giants. The willingness to share is the best part of this industry. I love being part of a working community that thinks like that. It makes you a better person.” Join me in wishing Steve a very happy birthday.

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Pete Brown and Steve at the GBBF in 2009.

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Steve at Cantillon in Brussels.

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Enjoying a Rodenbach.

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Words fail me. Happy birthday Steve.

P.S. – Phinal three Photos Purloined from Facebook.

Beer Birthday: Michael Jackson

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Today would have been Michael Jackson’s 72nd birthday. I first met Michael in the early 1990s, shortly after my first beer book was published. He is all but single-handedly responsible for the culture of better beer that exists today. He began writing about good beer in the 1960s and 70s and his writing has influenced (and continues to influence) generations of homebrewers and commercial brewers, many of whom were inspired to start their own breweries by his words. There are few others, if any, that have been so doggedly persistent and passionate about spreading the word about great beer. I know some of my earliest knowledge and appreciation of beer, and especially its history and heritage, came from Michael’s writings. Michael passed away in August 2007, seven years ago. I still miss him, and I suspect I’m not the only one. Last year, J.R. Richards’ new documentary film about Michael Jackson, Beer Hunter: The Movie, debuted, which I helped a tiny bit with as a pioneer sponsor.

I did an article three years ago for Beer Connoisseur, for their Innovator’s Series, entitled Michael Jackson: The King of Beer Writers, A personal look back at the man who made hunting for beer a career. I reached out to a number of people who also knew Michael for their remembrances as well as my own, and as a result I’m pretty pleased with the results (although the original draft was almost twice as long).

I’ll again be playing some jazz and having a pint of something yummy in his honor, which has become my tradition for March 27, which I’ve also started declaring to be “Beer Writer’s Day.” Join me in drinking a toast to Michael Jackson, the most influential modern beer writer who’s ever lived.

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At the Great Divide Brewing’s media party in Denver over fifteen years ago.

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On stage accepting the first beer writing awards from the Brewers Association with Jim Cline, GM of Rogue, Stan Hieronymus, who writes Real Beer’s Beer Therapy among much else, and Ray Daniels, formerly of the Brewers Association.

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At GABF in 2006, still wearing the same glasses. But my, oh my, have I changed. Sheesh.

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With Carolyn Smagalski receiving an award at Pilsner Urquell.

Beer In Ads #1128: Beer Is Best Etching


Wednesday’s ad is for English brewer’s “Beer is Best” campaign, from 1936. The campaign began in 1933, and ran for 30 years, and included “a generic advertising campaign with a nationwide poster campaign and television advertising involving Bobby Moore and his wife Tina and the entire Liverpool football team. At its peak it was worth over AL1 million per annum in today’s money.” It was done by a C. Harrison and depicts an on-going darts game of 301. There are four beer glasses on the table, two full and two empty. I’m getting thirsty just looking at it.

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Beer In Ads #1127: Good Honest Beer


Tuesday’s ad is for Mitchell & Butlers, a “Good Honest Beer” from the Cape Hill Brewery in Birmingham, England. It’s a curious ad, with a pair of full beer glasses, portrayed almost as if they’re a couple on a romantic date sitting on a bench surrounding an old tree overlooking a field. Or maybe it’s just a couple of mates hanging out by a field of wheat. Either way, it’s a funny little ad.

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A Historical Look At English Drinking Habits

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This is an interesting report from the British Parliament, specifically from the Health Committee. It’s a memorandum by Dr. Phil Withington and Dr. Angela McShane entitled Fluctuations in English Drinking Habits: An Historical Overview.

The overview includes a chronology beginning around 1550 and discusses increases and decreases in alcohol consumption in five periods since then, which they summarize as follows below.

In terms of consumption (inevitably crudely measured at times) it can be seen that England experienced a significant rise and consolidation of drinking levels during the “early modern period” (1550-1750). Between 1550 and 1650 there was a commercialisation of “old world” production and distribution plus the introduction of tobacco. The 100 years after 1650 were in turn characterised by the assimilation of, and moral panics about, new commodities, in particular coffee and gin. In the following two hundred years, which coincided with industrialisation and massive increase in population, there was a marked decline in the consumption of alcohol. The post-industrial or post-modern era (post-1960) seems to have returned to the kind of trends in the early modern period: increased consumption—especially conspicuous and public consumption among certain sections of the population—facilitated by powerful business organisations that are extremely competent at managing their relationship with political authority.

The dense information about continuities, discontinuities and gender is fascinating reading, but takes time to digest. It’s still marinating in my brain. I’m especially intrigued by this statement. “The medical industry now has the technology, knowledge, and incentives (especially commercial) to identify and treat many of the biological consequences of alcoholic consumption. This is in definite contrast to previous centuries, when medicine was more likely to use alcohol as a treatment rather than cure its related maladies, and when the primary impact of medical practitioners was, it seems, to create, legitimise and/or popularise new kinds of intoxicants.” The memorandum also notes that “[i]ncreased female consumption of alcohol may go some way to explaining the increases in general consumption since the 1960s since half the population was tacitly barred from drinking before then.” So that would suggest that per capita consumption is actually falling if one of the primary reasons for an increase is essentially a twofold increase in the number of people consuming alcohol.

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As prohibitionists incessantly nip at the heels of drinkers, doing everything they can to curb consumption, I think it’s constructive look at the bigger picture. Patterns of consumption tend to ebb and flow, and are affected by a variety of factors: economic, social, legal, and others. So whenever some prohibitionist group claims their new law, or awareness campaign, or what have you, has caused consumption to go down — or more often claims whatever they’re proposing is necessary precisely to decrease peoples’ drinking — it’s important to remember that people have always enjoyed alcohol, and will continue to do so, and changing the laws merely changes those patterns, it doesn’t really effect much over the long haul. I wonder if anyone has taken a similar look at historical drinking patterns in America?

Beer In Ads #1123: Beer Of England III


Friday’s ad is a third one for Wells Bombardier, from 2009. So this one’s not exactly old, but as I love heraldry, it has a retro feel to it. It’s the third of three ads that Kindred did for Wells & Young in an attempt to link the Bombardier beer with English pride and nationalism. I love the detail in the faux coat of arms. Everywhere you look, there are symbols of England, or at least things that might remind one of Great Britain.

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Beer In Ads #1122: Beer Of England II


Thursday’s ad is a second one for Wells Bombardier, from 2009. So this one’s not exactly old, but as I love heraldry, it has a retro feel to it. It’s the second of three ads that Kindred did for Wells & Young in an attempt to link the Bombardier beer with English pride and nationalism. I love the detail in the faux coat of arms. Everywhere you look, there are symbols of England, or at least things that might remind one of Great Britain.

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Beer In Ads #1121: Beer Of England I


Wednesday’s ad is for Wells Bombardier, from 2009. So this one’s not exactly old, but as I love heraldry, it has a retro feel to it. It’s the first of three ads that Kindred did for Wells & Young in an attempt to link the Bombardier beer with English pride and nationalism. I love the detail in the faux coat of arms. Everywhere you look, there are symbols of England, or at least things that might remind one of Great Britain.

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Beer Birthday: Jeff Bell

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Today is the 35th birthday of Jeff Bell, whose alter ego was, until a few years ago, Stonch, one of England’s best bloggers. He retired from blogging to concentrate on his new job as landlord of a London pub, The Gunmakers, in Clerkenwell, a village in the heart of London. I stopped by to meet Jeff on my way back from a trip to Burton-on-Trent a few years ago. And four years back, I saw Jeff several times during GBBF week. Join me in wishing Jeff a very happy birthday.

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Jeff Bell, a.k.a. Stonch, at The Gunmakers Pub in central London.

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With a Gunmaker’s bartender at the British Beer Writers Guild event before the start of the Great British Beer Festival in 2009.

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In front of Gunmaker’s in the summer of 2009.

Beer In Ads #1099: The George & Dragon


Tuesday’s ad is another one for the English beer Double Diamond Burton Pale Ale, also from 1954. Part of a series called “Inn-Sign Rhymes,” this one shows the iconic Double Diamond dude toasting a sign for “The George & Dragon” pub. Below the illustration is the rhyme of the series and the tagline “A Double Diamond works wonders.”

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