Showing posts with label words. Show all posts
Showing posts with label words. Show all posts

Monday, April 22, 2013

Drinking Commercial

Imagine for a moment, if you will, that you are a homebrewer who has decided that the time has come to 'go professional'. One of the first things that you do is form the company that will eventually be the public front of your dreams.

During the process of making your dream a reality, you write a business plan, a marketing plan, engage in a feasibility study, study the numbers and only if you are convinced you can make a living out of the business you are starting, and pay back your investors, do you move forward.

Eventually you have your location, your equipment, your staff, and your recipes. Your opening day looms and the first customer walks into your tasting room, assuming of course that you have one, and hands over money for either a flight of samples or a pint of your beer. Welcome to the world of commerce.

The word 'commercial' seems to get a bad rap in the beer world, heavily linked, as it is, to the multinational conglomerates that churn out millions of gallons of beer a year. The reality though is that every brewery, regardless of size, is commercial, for the very aim of being in business is to make a profit, without which your bills don't get paid and you end up losing everything.

All the romance, passion and craft in the world is no replacement for solid business practices coupled with professional sales and marketing activities, an area that I tend to think ranges from bloody awful to just mediocre in a sizeable swathe of breweries. I have read many brewery business plans that simply have no marketing plan or budget from the get go, which makes me wonder how the business expects people to know they exist, and no, Twitter/Facebook/Social Media Fad of the Week do not replace proper marketing.

Let's be honest people, as beer drinkers, we all drink 'commercial beer' simply by virtue of paying for it, which allows the business making it to make more, assuming they are doing everything on the business side of things well. In reality, the only non-commercial beer is homebrew.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

In Praise of Pints

Is there any more iconic symbol of beer drinking than the pint? Whether it is the American pint of 473ml, or the British at 568ml, or even the 'metric' pint at a round, even 500ml. Beer drinking and pints go together like fish and chips, apple pie and ice cream, or gulá? and knedlíky. Apparently the etymology of the word 'pint' is that it originated from a painted mark on a drinking vessel up to which a publican or landlord was supposed to fill in order to give a proper measure of beer.

The pint glass is also iconic, and clearly I don't agree with Ben McFarland in his Guardian article of last year that the pint glass is an 'outdated relic'. My personal glass preference is the classic, some might say 'old fashioned', nonic.


Sure it might not be the trendiest glass in the world, but it does the job - and let's be brutally honest, who really gives a damn about the shape of the glass as long as the liquid in it is good? I don't give much credence to the whole 'different glasses for different beers' malarky and a pint of lager tastes pretty much the same in a nonic as in a fluted glass.

I can think of no better way to spend a Friday afternoon, having finished with work for the week (and I am still looking), than sitting at a bar drinking a few well earned pints. I might have a sample of something, but only to see if I want to have a full pint. I don't want a sample on which to write a review of the beer for websites that advocate its rating, I want to know is this the kind of beer I want a full pint of? I don't particularly care if the beer in question is a 10% imperial stout, I'll just drink my pint all the slower - I have essentially given up on half pints because I invariably get a second anyway.

I only have eight and a bit days until I am finished with my annual beer fast, and I am sure that first pint will taste magnificent. Whether I have it at Beer Run, McGrady's or crack open a Fullers 1845 into a nonic, it will be a pint with which I get back in the saddle, ready for another year of pints. I am looking forward to it muchly.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Defining 'Good'

Yesterday my good friend, and once upon a time drinking buddy, Pivní Filosof, tweeted the following:
"Too many people trying to define what "craft beer" is or isn't, not enough talking about what makes a beer good..."
So, I thought that what would be a better way to mark the 750th post on Fuggled than to finally try and define 'good' beer? I am perfectly aware that I might be on a hiding to nothing here, but here goes.

Firstly let's think about words for a moment, what does 'good' mean? Well, if you do a search on Dictionary.com, you will see that it lists many possible meanings as both a noun and an adjective. I won't list all the options here, but if you click the link then you can check them all out for yourself. One thing I will reference here though is the etymology of the word, which apparently comes from Old English:
"god (with a long "o") "having the right or desirable quality,"
Apparently the Old English is itself derived from the Proto-Germanic 'gothaz' meaning "fit, adequate, belonging together".

Using the definition of 'good' as something which has the 'right or desirable quality' brings us rather quickly to the sticking point in trying to define 'good beer', what is the quality in your beer that is 'right or desirable'? Ultimately 'good beer' is a very personal thing, something unique to each drinker, which then raises the question, what is 'good beer' for Velky Al? Let me answer that question.

The 'right or desirable' qualities that I look for in a beer can be best summed up as:
  • flavourful
  • balanced
  • refreshing
I realise that even within that fairly short list there are any number of personal preferences as to what constitutes flavour, balance and refreshment, but as this is my definition of good beer, let me attack those one at a time.


I like beer that tastes good, again that awkward word 'good' pops up. Good tasting beer to me is one where you can taste the elements of the beer as expected for that particular style or type of beer. If I am drinking a stout for example, I want to be able to taste the roastiness, coffee and chocolate that you expect from that kind of beer. Likewise if I am drinking a Vienna lager, I want none of the roastiness of stout, but rather the toastiness that comes with using Vienna malt. You could argue that it is about 'authenticity', is this really how stout, pilsner, mild or whatever is supposed to taste like?


I sometimes wonder if 'balance' is becoming something of a dirty word in the beer word, in much the same way 'session' is interpreted by some as meaning 'insufficiently sexy'. In my definition of 'good' beer though, balance is important, mainly because I like drinking beer. I am not the kind of person who is happy to go to a beer festival and sample 10 to 15 2oz samples, I prefer beer festivals where you order a half pint, or a full pint, and you stand around drinking and talking with friends. In my experience, beers which are imbalanced are not beers that I want to drink more than a single serving of. An absence of balance normally, though not always, means that a shit ton of hops have been dumped in making the experience of the beer like sucking a grapefruit. Alternatively imbalanced beers can have too many hop varieties, and when I read the hopping list of some beers having 7 or 8 different high alpha hops I can't but wonder if the brewer is simply having a lupulin wank.


Drinking is primarily about refreshment, whether after a day of manual labour or sitting in a cubicle staring at a computer screen, both require refreshment and there are few feelings in the world as wonderful as that first sup on a pint at the end of a day. A refreshing pint can just as easily a stout as it can be a witbier, indeed when I was laid off last week I found the couple of pints of Left Hand Milk Stout I had at McGrady's very refreshing, especially as one definition of 'to refresh' is 'to cheer' and I certainly felt happier after the pints than before.

Thankfully with those criteria of 'good beer' there are many individual beers that I consider 'good' and am more than happy to drink, regardless of corporate structure, method of dispense or style. Good beer is really something intangible, indefinable in some ways, as it is, in the final analysis, what the individual likes to drink.

Perhaps that is why more people want to try and define 'craft beer' because that is, seemingly, an easier task, though as I have written about before, a pretty daft one.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Adult Beverage O'Clock?

Last night I went for a drink. On Saturday afternoon I sat down, having spent most of the day house hunting, and had a drink. On Sunday I served beer to a steady stream of visitors to the Starr Hill Brewing Company. This weekend, I might go for a drink or I might not. Safe to say though I enjoy going for or having a drink.


Now read that paragraph again, but substitute the words "drink" and "beer" with the term "adult beverage":

"Last night I went for an adult beverage. On Saturday afternoon I sat down, having spent most of the day house hunting, and had an adult beverage. On Sunday I served adult beverages to a steady stream of visitors to the Starr Hill Brewing Company. This weekend, I might go for an adult beverage or I might not. Safe to say though I enjoy going for or having an adult beverage".


Ridiculous isn't it? The fact that I bought a beer in a pub in a country where you get asked for ID if you have less than 45% gray hair coverage kind of suggests I qualify for the legal definition of an adult. On top of that, the cultural convention of both my home country and the country in which I live is that "going for a drink" suggests "going for alcohol", I am yet to meet anyone who when asked that most convivial of questions "fancy a drink?" has reacted with glee at the thought of going to a diner for a milkshake.


Quite where this daft term has come from is beyond me, though perhaps if I am being cynical it is an attempt to put the drinking of beer, wine and spirits on a moral par with buying girly mags and having an interest in sex that goes beyond procreation and the missionary position. To put it another way, calling beer an "adult beverage" is to equate it with an immoral lifestyle. What's next? Are pubs and restaurants going to have to re-brand as "adult beverage emporia", complete with the frosted windows of a bookmakers in order to protect the innocent from seeing what goes on in such dens of iniquity? Will breweries, wineries and distilleries suddenly become "adult beverage factories"? Will the drunk sat on the park bench become an "adult beverage addict"?

I can kind of see the messed up logic behind the term, after all you have to be an adult in order to purchase beer, even if the definition of "adult" means you can die on the battlefield at 18 but you can't enjoy a case of beer if you survive said battlefield. Having a comprehensible logic though doesn't make the term useful in any meaningful sense.

To put it bluntly. Beer? Yes. Wine? Sure. Whisky? You bet. Adult beverage? Bugger off.

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