January’s Jumbled Thoughts

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(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser.  If you are seeing this post through an e-mail, please visit the blog by clicking on the title above to see all of the photos and the video at the end of the post and so the narrative is not clipped or shortened.)

The events of the last two years – most notably the pandemic, have generated profound changes – in economics, culture, politics, media, communications and interpersonal relationships as well as education – to name a few.   (*1 See end of post for external photo attribution)

And, in part, due to the stress and the unfortunate influence of social media (except for blogs….) there is a spate of irrational thought as the chorus in Billy Currington’s song states:

“God is great, beer is good
And people are crazy.”

One wonders about those who question the need for masks and the debate has caused a lot of strife.  It made me think back to one of my favorite childhood TV shows – the Lone Ranger

Perhaps those who oppose masks and don’t believe in the scientists’ assertions, could  protest by adopting the legendary Texas Ranger’s – facial adornment as shown below rather than an N95 mask or suitable alternative. (The people in Texas might approve of this style.) 

Clayton Moore and Silver – “Master of Disguise?” *2

And what struck me as somewhat humorous is that the description of the Lone Ranger’s attributes on Wikipedia listed “Expert marksman, above-average athlete, horseman, hand-to-hand combat, and master of disguise.”  (emphasis added)  This raises several questions I never thought about in the “50’s such as “Did he just make the University of Texas RodeoTeam, but not get into the starting roster and therefor was only considered above average?”  

More importantly, “Did Clayton Moore and the Directors really think that this mask, which he always wore (even without a mask mandate), would keep most people from surmising who wore it?  What about this facial covering makes him a “Master of Disguise?”

Statistics

COVID has also resulted in a need to redirect the emphasis of Thebeerchaser blog from exploring new bars and breweries – at least until the statistics trend downward.  But, in pondering the pandemic, I offer a few thoughts – and questions.

Although it is vital that they are monitored, we’re all tired of hearing about trends for the virus – statistics which are always filled with nuance and disclaimers.  And then, a new variant springs up.  I don’t know as many statistician jokes as lawyer or bar jokes, but this one is pretty good and also works in a bar theme:

“A guy met a statistician at a bar and asked her for her phone number.  She gave him an estimate.”

We made it through 2020 – a horrible year and as 2021 closed, most people thought, “We are out of the woods,” only to have Omicron start a new and more contagious surge.  This prompted one guy to ask rhetorically, “Omicron is like eternity.  When is it going to end?”

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And one empathizes with parents, teachers and students as education has been turned inside out.  One wonders if grade school kids are now going to have to learn the Greek Alphabet — and what it will look like in cursive?

There are other crazy news items including this one which most people wouldn’t comprehend.  And as can be seen below, it wasn’t just because of COVID, but a repeat annual record.  (Maybe I just have more time to read this type of valuable information since the lockdowns and constraints on traveling.)  

“Spam sales hit a record high for the seventh year in a row, the CEO of parent Hormel said.”  It appears that this is because of global sales:

“Outside the (Continental) US, Spam has a large international market, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. It has been a household name in Hawaii since it was introduced in 1937.  It can be found on menus across the islands, as Spam musubi – a sushi-like dish – Spam fried rice, and the popular breakfast – Spam, eggs, and rice.

In South Korea, it was introduced by the US army during the Korean War, when food was scarce.  Today, Spam is so much a part of South Korean culture, that it is the staple ingredient in one of the country’s favorite dishes: budae jjigae, or army stew.”

And if you would like to personally take in all the facts about this pork product, take a trip to Austin, Minnesota where the Spam Museum is located and admission is free!

 “The museum tells the history of the Hormel company, the origin of Spam, and its place in world culture.  Austin is also the location of final judging in the national Spam recipe competition.”

What Were They Thinking???

But perhaps the most bizarre event I’ve read about occurred recently in my own city – Portland, Oregon.  It made papers ranging from The Oregonian to the New York Times to The Guardian. It begs the question, “What were these people (a lot of them in different roles) thinking?”

Fact Situation:   

  1.  98-year old David Saunders, a World War II and Korean war veteran who lived in Louisiana with his 92-year-old wife, died from the coronavirus.
  2.  His wife donated the body to Med Ed Labs, a Las Vegas based company and is told it would be used for research with the cremated remains returned to her in an urn.
  3. Med Ed sells the body to another company –  Death Science for use in a “Cadaver Lab Class” held during the Oddities and Curiosities Expo, an annual traveling event marketed toward “lovers of the strange, unusual and bizarre.”
  4. Death Science sells tickets for an autopsy to be held at a downtown Portland hotel with tickets ranging from $100 to $500 per person.
  5. The hotel, originally scheduled, finds out about the plan and backs out, whereupon the Portland Downtown Marriott ends up holding the event.  Seventy people watched a “certified anatomist – a former University of Montana professor – handle the remains with ‘utmost respect’ and take questions from people in the audience representing themselves as students, anthropologists, and therapists,  (New York Times)

Perhaps the Manager of the Downtown Mariott took an overly broad interpretation of the corporation’s mission statement: “To enhance the lives of our customers by creating and enabling unsurpassed vacation and leisure experience.” 

Understandably, there was a lot of finger-pointing by all parties involved and both law enforcement and regulatory agencies from Multnomah County and the State of Oregon are investigating.   And then there’s the future law suits…….

Drinking…

And since this is a blog that usually deals with bars and breweries and the beverages consumed therein, I will end with some more statistics, recent events and an observation or two.

The pandemic has obviously affected the work environment and work habits of millions of Americans.  While some workers prefer the remote environment and not having to either dress for or commute to work, it creates stress if their home workspace is small and has to be shared with family members.  Conversely, in many cases, it creates a more relaxed and informal workplace. 

An Oregon Live article published in April 2020, was entitled, “Almost half of Oregonians are drinking while working at home during coronavirus pandemic:” 

“Beer is their drink of choice over cocktails, according to Alcohol.org, but that’s probably little consolation to corporate bigwigs….Advertising and marketing agency employees had the highest percentage of employees answering with ‘Yes’, with 49.14%,’ Fishbowl (a social network for employees) reported…..

The larger Fishbowl survey showed workers in North Carolina, Oregon and Connecticut were the biggest drinkers, each with 47% partaking on the job.”

Having worked in a law firm environment, I can see where a gin and tonic could help a lawyer’s attitude when trying to formulate a creative justification for the taking clause in an eminent domain case or construct a Daubert motion to exclude expert testimony.

However, this is a disturbing trend and it remains to be seen how companies will implement policies on working on/off site once the pandemic is over. 

Philippine-stock-market-board

And one article asked,What’s more embarrassing—a drunk text or a drunk trade? Nearly one-third of investors, and 59% of Gen Z investors, have traded while inebriated, according to a survey from consumer finance site MagnifyMoney.”  *9 

And so Oregonians don’t get overly concerned about the statistics above, (after all, the survey was taken during a global pandemic) consumption by those in Oregon pales in comparison to Australia and France as set forth in this fascinating piece from The Guardian – 12/3/2021 with the caption: 

“Risky levels  – Australia is the drunkest country in the world, survey finds — While French drank most times a week, Australians surveyed got drunk an average of 27 times a year, almost double the global average.”

It begs the question, “Were respondents sober enough to give an accurate answer to the questions?”  The results are summarized below:

The international survey found Australians drank to the point of drunkenness an average of 27 times a year, almost double the global average of 15.  Almost a quarter of Australians reported feeling regret for becoming intoxicated.

The Global Drug Survey (GDS) asked more than 32,000 people from 22 countries what their drug and alcohol consumption was last year….(the majority of participants tend to be young and the findings are not representative of the wider population).

On average, Australians drank alcohol in line with the global average of two nights a week, and became heavily drunk about once every two weeks. The French topped that metric, drinking around three times a week.”

What’s interesting is how time (and booze) ebb and flow.  For example, in October 2020 during the first year of the pandemic, I read a headline, “Millions of kegs of beer have gone stale as venues and bars closed down across the country, Bloomberg reports.”

“While some companies have found creative ways to turn the beverage into natural gas for electricity generation or into hand sanitizer, a majority of it will ultimately be dumped—a college fraternity’s worst nightmare.”  *12

800px-Kegs_in_Bristol

Fortunately, offsetting the statistics on increased alcoholic consumption as COVID raged, is a new trend addressed in an ABC News article (3/15/21) entitled, “New wave of bars creates buzz without the booze.  Alcohol-free bars are opening around the world amid a growing number of people exploring sobriety”

I have often said that I could pursue my hobby and “Beerchase” while drinking Sprite or soda water, because I primarily want to discover the ambiance and history of the bar or brewery.  For example, on my 2019 solo road trip through Montana where I hit 29 watering holes in six days, you better believe I did not consume a Budweiser at each stop.

Concepts such as Zero-Proof Therapy explained in a fascinating New Yorker article “An Ex-Drinker’s Search for a Sober Buzz” and Dry Januarys are becoming more prevalent.   The same article stated:

“But an increased interest in health and wellness has allowed brands to try to own the practice of moderation. A 2019 Nielsen survey found that 66% of millennials are trying to cut back on alcohol consumption, compared with 47% of all people of drinking age in the US.” (“Marketing Brew” Newsletter – 9/27/21)

In addition, alcohol-free beers and cocktails are starting to appear.  For example, Heineken started marketing its “0.0” beer in the US in 2019 and a senior marketing rep stated “…the Heineken brand is spending nearly half its US media budget in 2021 on marketing 0.0.”

Brewing a great tasting 0.0% alcohol free malt beverage, is it even possible? *13

If your preference is for ready to-drink cocktails rather than beer, check out this Thrillist article entitled “Our Favorite Non-Alcoholic Canned Cocktails.”  

And before those of you who prefer a high ABV beer get too concerned with this trend, you can finish this post with some reassurance as reported by “CNN Business:”

“Samuel Adams is launching a new, limited edition beer, (‘Utopias’) and it packs such a potent punch it’s illegal in 15 states.”

Although your buzz ((28% ABV) will be expensive, since the limited edition’s suggested retail price is $240 for 25.4-ounce bottle!   

Finally – you know it’s really too late for Dry January in 2022, but February only has 28 days…..

Cheers

2020- Pam draw 2

External Photo Attribution

*1 Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons  (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f6/AntiCoronaShield.png)  This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication – 8 April 2020.

*2 Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lone_Ranger#/media/File:Lone_ranger_silver_1965.JPG) This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published in the United States between 1927 and 1977, inclusive, without a copyright noticeAuthor: Pleasure Island – 2 August 2011.

*3  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons: (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Omicron_uc_lc_2.svg)  File is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.  Author: Miguel C. Ventura  -15June2015.

*4  (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spam_2.jpg)  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.  Attribution: Cypher789 (Bodo Akdeniz) – 7 November 2005.

*5  (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spam_Museum_Sign.JPG)  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.  Author: Darb02 -16 March2016.

*6  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons  (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Autopsy_Room_at_Indiana_Medical_History_Museum.png) The copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide. Author: Huw Williams 29 July 2010.

*7  Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Instrumental_para_autopsia_Jetter_%26_Sheerer,_Tuttlingen,_1940.jpg)  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Author:  Pablo de otto 18 August 2020.

*8   Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – PacWest Center (icensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.  Author: Cacophony 18 June 2006.

*9  Wikimedia Commons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stock_market#/media/File:Philippine-stock-market-board.jpg)  By Katrina.Tuliao – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12262407

*10  Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Reliefmap_of_Australia.png)  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.  Author:  Hans Braxmeier – 15 January 2008.

*11 Wikimedia Commons  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/France#/media/File:France_base_map_18_regions.png By Chessrat at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50060468.  Author: User:ChessratUser:RosssUser:Sting 28 December 2015.

* 12  Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kegs_in_Bristol.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.  Author: Tiia Monto  3 August, 2018.

*13  Heinekin ‘0.0’ Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/heineken0.0ru/photos/a.106680548076221/1066813180761440

Contemplating Life and Beer in the Fall

Contemplating Life and Beer in the Fall

(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser.  If you are seeing this post through an e-mail, please visit the blog by clicking on the title above to see all of the photos and so the narrative is not clipped or shortened.)

As I’ve stated before – belabored if you will – in two previous blog posts, I’m not a connoisseur or beer technology guy and my palate is not nuanced enough to discern the subtleties of beer flavor and criteria used to evaluate them in competitions such as the Great American Beer Festivalhttps://thebeerchaser.com/tag/thebeerchaser-and-the-taste-of-beer/

https://thebeerchaser.com/2021/01/07/leaving-2020-in-good-taste/

I certainly respect those who do have a grasp on the different elements of flavor including brewers such as Fr. Martin at the Benedictine Brewery, Mark Becker from Flyboy Brewing and Andrew Lamont, the Head Brewer at Old Town Brewing.  

Andrew Lamont of Old Town Brewing *1

Another guy who is an expert and writes great reviews on Bavarian beers is Rich Carbonara, who has a great blog entitled “Beerwanderers.”  Rich, who lives in Munich, and I connected through our blogs and I would love to have him guide me on one of this noted Bavarian Beer Hikes which you can read about on his blog.  (There’s more than 300 in Bavaria.)

Rich, in his narratives, evaluates each beer giving a summary of its taste, appearance, aroma and critical elements.  His descriptions are not so esoteric that they can’t be understood by someone who evaluates the quality of a beer by the way it tastes to them rather than a technocratic assessment. You will see more about Rich below. (* See end of post for external photo attribution)

And Then There’s Gimmicks

The typical beer-drinker doesn’t care whether the yeast is wild or domesticated, the type of hops, if it is barrel-aged or the attenuation percentage during fermentation. 

As I stated in my posts on the taste of beer, I’m also kind of a beer purist and have no use for beers which are brewed as a gimmick.  This bizarre trend was best summed up by a reviewer in his clip entitled, “Holiday Ale Festival Gone Amok” when he described a disturbing trend in the annual Portland event in 2018 as:

“The festival’s hallmark has always been wonderful strong, winter ales and cask conditioned brews. Just the thing to blast me out of my IPA rut. But this year the festival got too cutesy and lost its way. The so-called stouts all tasted like milkshakes or Snickers bars.  The ales were so fruity that a better name might be the Kool-Aid Festival.     

When creativity goes too far

And they’ve even tried to pollute ice cream with this misguided attempt at creativity. In an effusive July 2021 press releaseKraft Foods and van leeuwen Ice Cream reported that:

“We are releasing limited-edition, macaroni and cheese-flavored ice cream today. If you’re looking for a conversation starter to kick off a meeting…this could work well.”

Let’s all hope that the term “limited release” is meant literally.

Focus on the Basics

Although the term “style” can be subject to some debate as pointed out by one of the nation’s foremost beer experts.  Jeff Alworth is a Northwesterner living in Portland; however, his books on beer – most notably The Beer Bible and his blog “Beervana” are resources used by beer aficionado’s all over the country.  He also teaches at Portland State University.

His comments about styles in The Beer Bible are edifying:

“When people refer to style, they mean category of beers like stouts, dunkels, lagers or witbier.  The word is ubiquitous and spreads yearly like a fungus as new subcategories and sub-subcategories branch out from their root style…….

The one very important caveat to note is styles are constantly in flux.  The idea of style should be descriptive not prescriptive….Use the term, but don’t fix it in stasis.”

That said, the most critical factors to me (for totally different reasons) are ABV (Alcohol by Volume) and IBUs (International Bittering Unit).  Alworth defines ABV as:

“…expressed as a percentage.  A measure of the strength of of an alcoholic beverage, based on the volume of alcohol relative to total volume.”

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Knowing the ABV of your beer is critical if you are driving or plan to drink throughout the evening.  In Oregon, one is Driving Under the Influence (DUI) if the Blood-Alcohol-Content (BAC) is .08% or higher.  While disclaiming that the sentence below is definitely not legal advice, one credible source states:

“On any given day, considering your body size, weight, and several other internal factors, you may have two or three 12-ounce beers before reaching a BAC of .08.”

A few bars have even installed a coin-operated breathalyzer including these two which were provided by Portland’s Gil’s Speakeasy (home of  “the Nicest A-holes in Town…”) and Bottles

While it would not be advisable to depend on this machine (which may not have been calibrated for awhile and may not be advisable in a COVID environment anyway) it could be a good double check of one’s own common sense.

IBU’s are defined by Allworth as “the accepted system for describing the hop bitterness (hoppiness) of a beer.”  The higher the IBU, the hoppier the beer, although he again issues a disclaimer: 

“….many breweries don’t actually have the labs to measure the acids chemically and predict them using mathematical formulae (to call this prediction ‘inexact’ is kind)….while hoppiness is a combination of flavor, aroma and bitterness, IBU measures only the last.”

IBU’s – for many breweries — an inexact science *6

To provide some perspective, I’m showing the ABV of a few of my favorite NW beers (and also PBR) below.  The IBU is shown when available.  You will see that I am inclined to go with the less hoppy options:

More on ABV

Beer ABV IBU
Pfriem Brewing – IPA 6.8% 50
Migration Brewing – Pale Ale 5.8% 55
Benedictine Brewing – Black Habit 7.8% NA
Block 15 Brewing – Sticky Hands Double IPA 8.1% 110
Fort George Brewing – City of Dreams Pale Ale 5.5% 40
Pabst Brewing (SAB Miller) – Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) 4.7% NA
Flyboy Brewing – Fighting Redtails 9.0% 90
Sun River Brewing – Rippin NW Pale Ale 6.0% 50
Old Town Brewing – Paulie’s Not Irish Red Ale 5.60% 30

In reading Rich Carbonara’s aforementioned blog, I was interested in some of his comments about the ABV’s of various German beers he reviewed. He commented on one of the beers he reviewed: “The finish is clean and dry with a nice bitterness. Dangerous at 5.3%. (emphasis added)

Given the chart above, I was a little surprised by this characterization so I exchanged e-mails and he clarified with the following interesting perspective – another reason why I think Rich’s blog is worth following:

“Most beer here, hover around 5%. It’s always been the benchmark percentage. The feeling here is you want a beer you can drink a fair amount of without getting drunk. In Biergartens, you can only get liter mugs (at least at night) and obviously drinking stronger beer in that size vessel is dangerous.

I know, during Starkbierzeit (see note below) they serve 7-8% beers in such measures. So, you have you have some stronger beers (Bocks, Doppelbocks, Festbiers) but generally speaking, it’s about 5. If anything is really missing here, it’s lower octane offerings like Schankbier which is more in the 3-4% range.

In England, you still find things like Milds, though less so than in former times. It’s nice to be able to go out and drink 8-9 beers and not get really drunk. Have a look at my Beer Styles section, where you’ll get a feel for the ABV of various styles here.”  https://www.beerwanderers.com/beer-styles/

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Note:  “Starkbierfest is held for three weeks during Lent, between Carnival and Easter,[82] celebrating Munich’s ‘strong beer’. Starkbier was created in 1651 by the local Paulaner monks who drank this ‘Flüssiges Brot’, or ‘liquid bread’ to survive the fasting of Lent.[82] It became a public festival in 1751 and is now the second largest beer festival in Munich.”  Wikipedia

And Speaking of Giving Someone Else Your Keys…

I was, however, surprised to read recently that Samuel Adams (Boston Beer Company) is going to break the mold, with this year’s release of its Utopias Beer as reported by CNN Business on 9/21.  Now, don’t try to get one of these 25.4 bottles in Oregon or ……

“The brewer releases a new version of its Utopias brand every two years, and the twelfth edition will be on shelves starting Oct. 11. But don’t bother looking for it in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont or West Virginia.

Utopias are illegal in those states because they contain 28% alcohol by volume, more than five times the potency of typical US brews.”

(These beers may be blissful, but not Utopia(s)!

And Finally….

Regardless of whether you make a point of checking out the ABV of your beer, be cautious driving when you are hitting your favorite bar or brewery – especially around Halloween and the forthcoming holidays.

When I started Beerchasing, I decided to be cautious and as an extra check, purchased my own breathalyzer.  The BAC Track S80 you see below now costs $130, but at that time was less expensive.  (I guess the demand became higher during the pandemic.)  

An Investment Worth Considering

I’ve never come close to the .08% threshold, but felt it was a good investment given my retirement hobby.  There are pros and cons to this idea and according to The Atlantic article, less than 1% of the US population has one.  If you do get one, be sure to have it calibrated or it may defeat the purpose.

In any event, drink responsibly and drive carefully.

Cheers

By the way, how about the Oregon State Beaver Football Team.  According to Oregon Live, “It’s not known the last time OSU had sole possession of first place in the conference standings, but it’s at least not since 1975.” 

Go Beavs! Beat the WSU Cougs.

External Photo Attribution

*1  Old Town Brewing Website (https://www.otbrewing.com/aboutus)

*2 – 4  Beerwanderers Website (https://www.beerwanderers.com/)

*5  Wikimedia Commons (http://By Lynnea Kleinschmidt – Digital photograph made by myself., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6091802

*6  Wikimedia Commons (http://By Schlemazl – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22601592

*7  Wikimedia Commons (http://By holzijue – https://pixabay.com/de/menschen-oktoberfest-m%C3%BCnchen-3237513/ archive copy, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69055677)