BEER WITH A SOCIALIST: Catch up on your reading with these links. First, pour a damn beer.

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That’s more like it.

Immersed with patriotism on the 4th of July, or maybe hungover, I decided to make my minimal contribution to the historical record of the Second Civil War.

Exhausted, we bivouacked by a street pockmarked by sharrows, across from a corporate multi-tap. A squad was sent to reconnoiter. They were shaken and ashen-faced upon return: “Rows and rows of IPAs, hazy and mango and coffee-infused — what are we to do?” The major’s gaze hardened. “Drink ’em,” he replied. “Drink ’em all, and let God sort it out.” #secondcivilwarletters

That was fun.

For Independence Day, my six-pack purchase was occasioned by Jeff Alworth’s thoughts at Beervana. Supposedly my choice was a blonde American lager, contract-brewed in Latrobe PA by a multinational-owned Irish brewer — but how can it be called “lager” if using Guinness’s world-famous ale yeast?

Alworth mentions the incongruity only in passing — and yes, draft Guinness still makes the trip to America by Dublin.

Guinness’s American Strategy

Last month I traveled to Baltimore to learn more about the new Guinness brewery project unfolding there. Guinness is a sponsor of this blog, and I wanted to be one of the first to delve deeply into the thinking behind the project, its scope, and its goals. Guinness was happy to make this possible, and paid for me to visit. Today I look at the new national strategy that accompanies the Baltimore brewery project.

Guinness Blonde American Lager has been around a while, but I haven’t tried it until now. The confusing part to me is how a beer labeled as a “lager” can boast of using Guinness yeast.

Conceding that I’m the same guy who recently tasted corn in Yuengling’s new pilsner, which is billed as all-malt, there seems to be slight fruitiness to the Guinness Blonde Lager, as well as a nip of something different in the finish. The same nip comes through in a pint of Guinness Stout, although I always thought it had to do with the roasted malt.

I’d drink Guinness Blonde Lager again in an emergency, but won’t search it out. I’d rather drink a Sam Adams Boston Lager — not that strange Sam ’76, fermented with both lager and ale yeasts. It can’t decide what it wants to be, and consequently fails to be anything decisive.

However, kudos to Wick’s in New Albany for having Sam ’76 on tap, thereby making it easier for me to have a taste. Higher-end beer bars wouldn’t bother, and that’s a shame. Speaking of yeast, America’s most renowned hybrid has new clothes.


After more than a century, Anchor’s flagship Steam beer will meet aluminum cans
, by Alyssa Pereira (SFGATE)

A mere 122 years after Anchor brewed its first beer, its famed flagship, Steam, will be canned for the first time.

The new 19.2-ounce cans, gold and emblazoned with the large blue Anchor logo, will hit mostly local, independent mom-and-pop shops and liquor stores in California this summer. Bottles will still be the norm for most retailers, with the introduction of limited cans, priced about $2.49 each, being sold in standard convenience stores in an effort to meet new customers searching for a quick “grab-and-go” pack.

Hopefully these cans go national at some point, and this may sound like a strange thing for me to say; after all, Anchor’s not local, except in the Bay Area.

It might help to know that the only professional sports team to which I hold lifelong allegiance is the Oakland A’s. 47 years later, I’ve never seen the A’s play in Oakland, and spent exactly two days in neighboring San Francisco in 1978.

Prior to the advent of cable television, to which I didn’t have access until 1988, it could be hard to get West Coast night baseball scores; even then, there wasn’t much in-depth coverage of Oakland, a small-market team overshadowed by the Giants.

So, for many years I’ve gotten e-mail updates about the A’s from the San Francisco Chronicle, more recently adding food and drink newsletters — hence the links here today.

Needless to say, AT&T Park didn’t exist in 1978. My visit took place in December, and while I can say that I’ve been to Candlestick Park, the narrow view was through locked gates.

Did AT&T Park just become the best ballpark in America for beer? by Alyssa Pereira (SFGATE)

The Giants stadium is now selling cans from Moonraker, Temescal, Local and Altamont

The ceaseless debate about what baseball park in America is serving the best craft beers might just have a new winner: San Francisco’s AT&T Park.

16-ounce beers didn’t cost $15 during the Carter Administration, either. This article is the first I’ve heard of Albany, by the bay north of Berkeley. I’d like to go there, right now.

The story of the Albany pub where time stands still, by Emma Silvers (SFGATE)

Schmidt’s Pub doesn’t officially open until noon, but around 11:30 you’ll start to see the regulars. About a half-dozen people, mostly older folks, are the first customers at the offbeat, antiques-packed Albany tavern every day. They trickle in as soon as the door is unlocked, then stay for an hour or two amid the bookshelves and board games in the converted Craftsman. If the weather’s nice, they sit outside …

Owner John Schmidt, who opened the pub in 1978, resists modernity.

 … “I have a computer and a cell phone and all that, but I’ve never felt particularly comfortable or interested in it,” he says, at the prospect of a digital upgrade. Besides: “I’ve always felt a place like this doesn’t need it.”

By “a place like this,” Schmidt means a watering hole in the spirit of old English and Irish taverns, like the ones he fell for as a young man on business trips to the United Kingdom. “They’re more about the place than the beer: There’s music, people telling stories and then you have grandma knitting over there,” he says. “I just loved them.”

Shifting from California, here’s a story of interest to anyone who still believes spent grain still goes to a nearby farmer’s livestock. I’m thinking it still occurs, but first government began erecting barriers, then there were 7,000 breweries, many of them urbanized.

From liquid bread back to flour. Expensive, but eloquent.

From Brewery to Bakery: A Flour That Fights Waste, by Larissa Zimberoff (New York Times)

For some people, beer is the perfect end to a workday. For Bertha Jimenez, it’s the start of a new way to eliminate food waste.

Breweries throw out millions of pounds of used grain every day that could have other uses. While some is repurposed as animal feed, compostable products or heating fuel, little has been exploited for its value as food.

But Ms. Jimenez, 35, has created a small start-up, Rise Products, that converts the grain into a flour that is finding its way into sustainable bakeries and kitchens in New York and as far away as Italy.

I conclude the current compendium of instructive reading with a rejoinder to the hoarders, traders and ratings aggregators. At the same time, I don’t view Coors Light as the solution, unless the carbonated urine under this banner is brewed differently for British distribution — and this might be the case.

I recall my friend Barrie and I, traveling in Ireland in 1987.

At some point during our time in Ireland, Barrie and I entered a pub and struck up a conversation with the woman working behind the bar, who turned out to be the pub’s owner.

She was delighted that we were American, happily divulging that she’d put Budweiser on tap the day before, because the great American lager was only then being introduced to the Irish market in earnest.

As gently as possible, we explained that drinking Budweiser really wasn’t why we had come to Ireland, but thanks anyway.

She persisted. Did we happen to know that Budweiser was brewed under license in Ireland, not imported from America? We didn’t. Weren’t we curious? Perhaps we’d like to buy a pint each of Budweiser and see for ourselves if it tasted the same?

After a humorous negotiation, we convinced her to give us a half-pint each, and we’d taste test the Budweiser for her. Don’t worry; we tipped well.

Somewhat anticlimactically, to me Irish-brewed Budweiser tasted almost exactly like Irish-brewed Harp Lager. Fortunately, we didn’t see much more of Budweiser during the trip, but I suppose it was adequate as a calibration beer.

I want to go to Ireland, now, and not drink lager — oh no, not at all. A pint of Plain, sir. You can keep the centimes.

Not every beer has to be special : in defence of average pints, by kirstwalker (ladysinksthebooze blog)

My local sells real ale. They have two pumps, one is perpetually Doom Bar and the other alternates between a number of Golden ales and IPAs from the Robinson’s brewery. At the moment they have on Hoppy Wan Kenobi which is packed with Cascade and Sovereign hops. Regular readers will know my feelings about American floral hops ie when I am Queen they will be launched into the sun, and even the good old British Sovereign (the hop, not Liz) doesn’t rescue this beer. For me every sip was like being hit in the face with a bunch of gladioli.

And so when I visit my local my current drink of choice is a Coors Light with a shot of lime cordial in the top. And it’s fantastic. I can neck four or five pints of that with glee whilst watching football. It’s refreshing, it’s got flavour, and I don’t have to log the damn thing on untappd or worry that it’s getting near to the bottom of the barrel, or do any other kind of thinking which is liable to distract me from more important matters like who they’re putting out at centre back for Iran.

I hesitate to jump on the Anthony Bourdain train but a quotation of his was floating around twitter last week when his death was announced. The gist was that in most brew pubs he visits no-one is really drinking, they are lining up flights going from dark to light, getting out their apps or making notes in a little book about flavour profiles. His drink of choice was ‘what’s coldest’. And there are plenty of great American bars that I’ve visited where your choices are restricted to Coors, Bud, and their ‘light’ counterparts. They are great bars because they have character, and atmosphere, and you feel at home there. Would they be improved by ‘better’ beers? Yes maybe, or maybe it’s nice to have an oasis of averageness in a world where everyone is competing to be the newest, the best, the coolest. Why go out for hamburgers when you’ve got steak at home, asked Paul Newman? Because hamburgers are just fucking good sometimes aren’t they? The cheaper and the greasier the better …

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