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The Oakes Weekly - Dec. 12

A Random Walk
Oakes Weekly December 12, 2002      
Written by Oakes

Vancouver, CANADA -

<P>Welcome to the last Oakes Weekly before I get all weepy and nostalgic for Christmas (which includes playing the Boney M Christmas Album non-stop in the days leading up to Dec. 25th). Since last year’s sucked (worked Christmas Eve and Boxing Day) I’ve made sure to have ample time off this year. I’ll be hitting the west coast, and I’m already planning it all out. The requisite Vancouver brewpub crawl - check. Okanagan brewery tour - check (haven’t been out there in ages). Seattle - check. In fact, more than just Seattle, if all goes as planned. I’ll be stopping in Mukilteo for a return visit to Diamond Knot. I will not, however, be paying that parking ticket I got four years ago when I first visited. I’ll also be making a return to the Archer Ale House in Bellingham, Washington. This was the place where I had one of the best beer-drinking experiences of my life.

<P>It was the day after my 21st birthday, and I wanted to go down and try all of these famous beers I’d never seen before in Canada. Christoffel Blond, Schlenkerla Märzen, Thomas Hardy’s, St. Georgenbräu Kellerbier, Schierlinger Roggen. I also had Winter Fish Ale, Mogul Madness, Bokrijks Kruikenbier and a whole bunch more (I wasn’t sampling all these by myself, for the record). I tasted 18 beers that night, with only one clunker in the bunch (Adelscott). I guess I was already a certified beer geek before that, but it was one of my earliest legendary beer nights.

<P>A lot of talk has gone on about Premium Membership. Here’s what I know (not much more than the rest of you). What I know is that the site is very rapidly growing, and costs are expected to spike in the coming year. I also know that it takes a lot of work to keep this thing going. We’ve taught you guys to be discerning beer drinkers, and you’ve also become discerning beer site users. Dealing with the minutiae of Ratebeer takes a lot of time, and we do it so that you guys can come here and enjoy what we’ve built. To cover the costs of running the site, and buy those of us who work here the occasional pint (my guess, very occasional), I don’t think ten bucks a year is much to ask. And for those who don’t want to pay - you still can rate beers, post on the forums, read ratings, chat, and almost everything else. Don’t get me wrong, Joe and I are both idea factories so you will miss out on a lot by not becoming a member, but the basic functions of Ratebeer will still remain. Already both Joe and I, and a number of users as well, have come up with some sweet ideas to incorporate into the site, so keep your eyes open.

<P>I cringe every time Sleeman’s issues a press release. This week, their COO quit, and like every other Sleeman press release it was picked up by the wire services verbatim, and contained the house propaganda about being a craft brewer. Explain to me this - how precisely is a 1,000,000 hl company a craft brewer? How is a brewery that makes Old Milwaukee a craft brewer? Their flagship Cream Ale contains 20% corn, they have plants from coast-to-coast, and are bigger than Moosehead - sound like craft brewing to you? I’ve seen their Guelph farmhouse. It’s bigger than the Labatt’s plant near my parents’ place in New Westminster. Does anybody really believe that a Honey Brown is a craft product?

<P>From the gratuitous segue department, I wrote in the first ever Oakes Weekly about Big Rock’s move into macrodom. Less than three months later, we now have Big Rock Honey Brown. While I haven’t yet had the pleasure, you can bet it won’t take long to make its way to Ontario - which incidentally is just one more sign that they are a micro no more (oblique reference to the interminable delays Unibroue faces at the LCBO Lab which are preventing me from drinking the new Éphémère).

<P>Speakings of micros gone macro, you can’t hear the name Tim Webb these days without reading about the shitstorm he’s kicking up with Chimay. Well, unless you’re reading this month’s edition of What’s Brewing in which case you can’t miss the shitstorm he’s kicking up with "one so-called Trappist brewery". For those who don’t know, Chimay is now using sugar and/or wheat starch in its recipes, in place of malt. To me, the beers have suffered a significant decline and I thank Mr. Webb for uncovering the reason why. The other day, the local importer offered up online 1991 Chimay Grande Reserve magnums for $20. Yeah, I was turning that down. He realized his error and corrected himself - it was 2001. I should have known it was too good to be true. But it’s not the ten years of bottle-age I’m going to miss, it was one more crack at the proper Chimay recipe. Incidentally, if you can find a copy of What’s Brewing, the Chimay reference appears in a great article called "Interbrew must be stopped". Actually, by scoring a big fish early on in Canada, Interbrew hasn’t done much damage here save for spreading the notion that Alexander Keith’s, a pale lager, somehow represents the India Pale Ale style.

<P>Is it just me or has the editorial quality of All About Beer gone all to hell lately. I don’t remember an issue this year that did not contain a glaring error. I don’t mean little stuff (after all, it wouldn’t be the Oakes Weekly without a tpyo), I’m talking full-blown silliness. For example, in the latest issue they have a great article on the Danish scene (best article in a long time, actually, and a hundred times better than their award-winning - I wish I were kidding - but inaccuracy-riddled Finland piece) but they put a couple paragraphs in twice, taking up real estate that was intended for the into to the Refsvindinge section. Typesetting mistakes, guys? This isn’t a high school newsletter, it really shouldn’t look like one.

<P>Anyway, I shall conclude this random walk through the beery recesses of my mind and encourage you to check out the other three articles we’ve got on tap this week - they’re all excellent.



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start quote For those who don’t know, Chimay is now using sugar and/or wheat starch in its recipes, in place of malt. To me, the beers have suffered a significant decline and I thank Mr. Webb for uncovering the reason why. end quote