Strange Brews

Some beer news, since I haven’t posted anything in ages. It’s now been four years since I’ve made any beer myself, though I am hoping to get a Saison brewed before the end of summer. (It’s hot enough for it, after all!) 

But this is a news news post, since there’s been some odd and interesting brewing-related pieces in the news.

First, back in May, Danish brewer Nørrebro Bryghus collected 50,000 liters of liquid human waste at a rock festival so they could make, er, “Pisner.” But it’s not as horrifying as it sounds:

Using human waste as fertilizer on such a scale is a novelty, said Denmark’s Agriculture and Food Council, which came up with the idea for what could be the ultimate sustainable hipster beer and has already named the concept “beercycling”.

I mean, we don’t call regular beer (other than Heineken) manure-brew, do we?

Next, a few years ago the discovery of S. Bayanus—”wild lager yeast”—in Patagonia made waves, which I mentioned here. (This powerpoint slideshow explains more about that.) I later mentioned that more S. Bayanus was found in 2014 this time on the Plateau of Leng in Tibet. 

Since then, some research has been done. Here’s what I turned up:

Brewers all know about how brown glass is best for bottling beer, because (unlike clear glass, or even green glass) it’s really good at blocking UV, which reacts to the hop oils in beer, turning it “skunky.” That being the case, why do some commercial brewers sell their beer in green or clear glass bottles? Well, a number of articles claim there was a shortage of brown glass during World War II that necessitated the switch. 

Why would there be a shortage of brown glass, though? Were people using all the brown glass to make pennies, because of the copper shortage?

Not quite: it seems like that brown glass was scarce simply because the additive that turns glass brown during the manufacturing process is sulfur… and sulfur would have been at a premium during World War II, given how heavily it’s used in munitions. It seems likely that it wasn’t a shortage of brown glass per se, but rather a shortage of the sulfur additive necessary to tint the glass dark amber. 

The Huffington post made a big deal out of the brewer Aurosa making a “beer for her”—a beer explicitly targeting female drinkers. I have to admit that the concept is potentially offensive, and I know women who love beer and have adventurous palates… but, at the same time, if you’ve been a part of homebrewing circles, you’ll hear a lot of men talk about having made a special beer for their wives or girlfriends—often with lighter ABVs, more nuanced flavors, a less hoppy profile, and sometimes more sourness or fruit added during fermentation. Indeed, I’d argue that Lindeman’s, by turning lambic beer into what is effectively beery soda pop, quietly appreciates that a sweeter, lower-ABV beer appeals to that segment of the the population who is closely connected to a beer lover, but isn’t one themselves. (Lindeman’s lambic beers are often informally called “girlfriend beer”, not in reference to all girlfriends, but to those who say, “I don’t like beer, but…”)   

What I’m really saying, though, is that usually, “special” means something other than the triple-Imperial IPA with extra hops on top of the double-hopped hoppiness, or the Quintupel Belgian Abbey beer that weighs in at 28.7% ABV and not only can be savored by the mad, but also can be used to treat wounds or strip paint. Not that women can’t dig a hoppy or a strong beer—I’ve known many who do—but it’s never been as many as the male beer aficionadoes. I think partly there’s something very overtly macho about beer marketing, beer product naming, and even the one-upmanship that’s driven the very formulation of beer recipes to extremes. Women don’t need to get into a [redacted]-measuring contest, for obvious reasons.

What I’m saying is that it’s less that we need a special beer for ladies, but more that we need a braoder range of beers in the craft beer world, so that really there’s something for everyone, including the many (women and men) who aren’t interested in macho, over-the-top IBU counts and astronomical ABVs. Happily, I think that’s happening: lower-ABV beers seem to be the new big thing. The mistake Aurosa made was to conflate “people who want something different” with women. As a political move, not wise. As a marketing move? Well… there are stats that suggest trying to attract women to craft beer is a good idea: women are under-represented consumers in the beer market, and those who do drink beer seem to show less preference for it exclusively compared to male beer drinkers. That’s a fact the Huffington Post basically ignores in their account: that yes, women can enjoy craft beer—but the numbers are much smaller than among men, probably for, you know, reasons.    

And no, I don’t think this is the way to attract women to beer—not as regular drinkers, anyway, but you gotta hand it to Macho Beer Bar event that was held a few times in Tokyo for having an (apparently) women-friendly schtick.

My point here is that the cheesy tone and patronizing language used by Aurosa was a bad idea—one probably resulting as much from the excesses of craft beer’s marketing trends, with grandiose text on labels and ads being pretty much de rigeur now—but the intent to attract more female consumers to the market at least is sensible. If they can learn to be inclusive and to attract a wider range of beer-drinkers by being less hamfisted about it, they’ll be doing a good thing.  

(Also, I should note: I’m in South Korea, where access to what’s really going on in craft beer is limited, and where my perceptions have been shaped by the tastes and tendencies of homebrewers and beer-lovers I know, along with what I’ve read online. I may be out of touch or behind the times.)  

Finally, though I’m not a huge Harry Potter fan like some vast percentage of the human race, I still dig the idea behind this proposed Harry-Potter inspired pub in London:

Unfortunately, the Kickstarter campaign didn’t really pay off—it only raised pledges of $37,432 out of a proposed $500,000. However, as a recent comment noted, they’re trying to raise funds in the traditional way, through investment, and plan to open nonetheless. I confess it will be on my itinerary when we eventually do manage to finally visit London. 

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