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The Oakes Weekly - Nov. 21

Stepping Back in Time
Oakes Weekly November 21, 2002      
Written by Oakes

Vancouver, CANADA -

<P>Before I get to this week’s Oakes Weekly, I just wand to add my own contribution to the thread about beer songs. Yes, the Chouffe song is nice, but it pales in comparison to the masterwork that is the <a href="http://www.ratebeer.com/sounds/Han.wav">Khan Bräu song, straight from Ulaanbaator.<P>Now, on with the Weekly...<P>After a grueling day sitting in front of my computer, I mustered up the strength to embark on the epic twenty minute walk home. As you can imagine, such journeys are best broken up into pieces. To that end, I popped into the local bibliothèque, to reset the homepage on all the public computers to Ratebeer.com. I was halfway done when the librarian came by, and I had to make a quick exit to the non-fiction stacks. While there, I noticed the cookbook section. This is where the unbridled genius that is my brain really shines. Cooking = food = beverages = beer! I didn't get into MENSA on my GMAT scores alone. <P>What did they have for me but the second ever edition of Michael Jackson's Pocket Guide to Beer! I'd seen the first edition before, dated 1982 and found it a great encapsulation of an era I thankfully never knew. Okay, I secretly wish I did know that era because I would love to have been next door neighbours with Paul Grossman and tasted test batches of Sierra Nevada Pale in his garage in 1979, but I digress. <P>The second edition is dated 1986. The European section of the book had at this point taken a form (and verbatim text) that would carry Jackson for another decade of Pocket Guides. The real action, however, was on the other side of the water. By 1986, from the contemporary's point of view, the microbrewery revolution was booming, and no longer restricted to a handful of bearded pioneers. It may seem a little strange to the 2002-dweller, but excitement abounded at the prospect of cities that had two, or even three breweries. As essentially a collection of tasting notes, the Pocket Guide certainly did not document this era in Herodotarian fashion, but for those of us who spent the mid-80's sucking back Coca-Colas and liking it, this book is a great introduction to what it was really like to be a beer geek back at the outset of the Flavour Revolution.<P>This Flavour Revolution has taken place in different countries at different times, starting with Saxon tribes in Franconia back in 937 BC, but more recently accredited to CAMRA in 1970's England. By 1986, as though carried by blackflies and mosquitoes, it has spread to the Netherlands. One my Dutch favourites, Zatte from 't IJ, is already listed in this book. Most of the other Dutch micros at the time, however, seem to have gone by the wayside. Scandinavia and Italy, two other homes of microbrewing movements today, were still populated by citizens happy to see a macrobrewer attempt a dark lager. The Irish still had their bottle-conditioned Guinness, and a wide variety of ales, so they didn't need any microbreweries.<P>Hopping a plane to Canada, it is noted that the Troller Pub (the forefather of Horseshoe Bay Brewing) in Horseshoe Bay, north of Vancouver, made the first cask ales outside of the British Isles in at least three generations. I also noted the listing for a brewery called Bryant's, located in Maple Ridge, BC, about a ten minute bike ride from where I lived, just down the street from where I played hockey. Ok, I was in the sixth grade, but how the hell did I miss that? <P>The US section is just as interesting. In the first edition, there wasn't much more than Anchor, Sierra Nevada and New Albion to talk about. Here we see such names as Widmer, Redhook, Pyramid, Mendocino, Samuel Adams, Grant's, Hale's, and BridgePort rubbing shoulders with giants like Ballantine, Blitz-Weinhard, Iron City, Rolling Rock and Champale. Jackson had some interesting things to say about some of these, too. He basically begged Dixie to create Blackened Voodoo, which they did a few years later. On Henry Weinhard's Private Reserve: "When this product was launched in the bland 1970's, the brewery too the revolutionary step of admitting that it employed hops." On Coors, "Coors (** - wtf?) must be the lightest and cleanest premium beer in the world, with just a hint of maltiness to remind the drinker that this is not pure Rocky Mountain spring water." I have to admit, I liked his edge back then. There are also a handful of tantalizing entries where he mentions breweries that have just opened, with products "too new to rate". Among them - "a boutique just announced for Westbrook, Maine" - Geary's and "a home-brew boutique in Michigan" that would later be widely known for its Expedition Stout. <P>A lot of people who love their beer today grew up in a world where microbreweries were commonplace. I, myself was a fan of the aforementioned Horseshoe Bay, along with Okanagan Spring and their long-long Old Munich dunkelweizen. Now we have twenty year olds with 500 beers under their belt. For those who weren't there, myself included, it is a lot of fun to flip through this bit of history, as Jackson waxes poetically about beers that paved the way for beers that paved the way for the beers we enjoy today. The sense of pioneering excitement that the three beer geeks for whom this book was written must have felt flipping through these pages must have been extraordinary. It would have been fun, but then again, it's nice to come back to reality, too, and appreciate first hand the advances we've made since 1986.


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start quote I noticed the cookbook section. This is where the unbridled genius that is my brain really shines. Cooking = food = beverages = beer! I didn't get into MENSA on my GMAT scores alone. end quote