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Ding’s Christmas Wish List 2013

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Here I go again with my annual Christmas wish list. The things I want Santa to deliver to my beer world.

It goes without saying (I think), that the old chestnuts of me wanting the abuse of cask beer via the addition of crap (i.e., treating a cask as a Randall), and the misuse of the term @sessionbeer, remain front and center for me, and as such I decided to leave them out of the list this year. They are not seasonal or fleeting ‘wants’, rather they are ubiquitous. Also, I’ve decided to leave out some of my more curmudgeonly wishes. Don’t get me wrong, they still exist and some remain the most important things for me, but I’m just not mentioning the annoying, hype driven scene, geeks and hipster culture that is associated with so much of the American beer scene, the lack of public transport or a whole host of other things that bother me on a daily basis.

So, what does make the list this year? Still some old favorites (with maybe a new twist), and some newer thoughts as the American beer scene continues to lurch from one hysterical, unsustainable, ill-advised fad to the next.

10. I’d like to see an arrest of the upward trend in beer prices in bars. Sure, wouldn’t we all? Of course, this is related to a larger question of economics that has nothing to do with beer per se, but for me, it’s getting to the point where the value is being lost. I’m lucky in as much as I have very few restrictions on what I can afford, but nevertheless, I’m now at a point where the value is very seldom realized for me. It’s beginning to make me think twice about spending money on draft beer.

9. I’d love a European, online retailer to somehow get a business model that could reduce the cost of shipping to the USA. Right now it’s REALLY difficult for me to justify the shipping cost of getting some of my favorite English and European beer to the USA. There are a number of really nice stores out there, but nobody can really give me a financial model that will work. Not necessarily their fault I understand, but it’s so frustrating to have a cart filled and then have to abandon it when I see the shipping costs.

8. #9 would become increasingly less of a concern if I could get some of the beers listed below, in the USA.

Cotleigh, St. Austell, Sharps, Leffe products other than Blonde and Brune, Pelforth Brune, more Adnams (Ghost Ship) and BUNCH of other English and Belgian brews that are far too numerous to mention.

7. I’d like to see some UK style Weights & Measures legislation in the US, including a federal legal requirement to display pour sizes and prices on beer menus. Far too often I come across the proverbial, ’14 oz pint’, and whole bunch of other ambiguous nonsense. I know Americans often cry about regulation, but would it be OK for gas stations to start the dispensing of random volumes? I think not. How people in the USA are not up in arms about this as it relates to mixed drinks, remains beyond my comprehension.

6. I hope that we start to see some breweries actually close. Just because you’ve home-brewed since 2006 it doesn’t make you fit to be a commercial brewer, and nor does it necessarily make your beer any good. The market is close to saturated at the consumer end of things, and there’s a LOT of mediocre, poor, bad and also really OLD beer on the shelves in many stores. I don’t pretend to know the intricate economics of the market, but what I do know is that there a plenty of brewers that are making beer that isn’t very good, but continues to sell because the market loves novelty and shiny things - this is a reflection of the immaturity of the market. I’ve said for a long time that this hurts the discerning consumer as well as the ignorant one, as good beer can get squeezed out of shelf space at the expense of poorer (but newer) product. The consumer market in the USA is still ignorant enough for corrections not to automically and naturally take place. For now, the market will not correct itself.

5. I’d like to see a growler store in West Georgia. Douglasville would be the obvious location, Villa Rica would be better for me! I think there is definitely a market for this on the west side, but I guess there may well be a lot of legal obstacles, out here in the sticks. Frankly, I don’t fill that many growlers these days, so for me it be less about the ‘need’ for it and more about the convenience, and the fact it would bring a little increased beer profile to this hopelessly barren part of the world. I find it quite odd that there has been no word on one out this way, given (a) the preponderance of growler stores in and around Atlanta right now, and (b) the fact that they have turned up in places as equally provincial as Douglasville, GA.

4. In the same light as #5, I wish that there was an establishment on the west side that offered a non-sports bar, half-decent, beer experience. Essentially, after I leave Smyrna and Muss & Turners (shout out to Tristan) I’m pretty much done until I get Taco Mac in Douglasville. Of course, that’s still a sports bar and even Varner’s and McCray’s hardly offer anything different. The Taco Mac on the East West Connector is also long gone to add to the malaise.

So, if there is an angel investor out there who can support the things I call for in #4 and #5 (including healthcare and a hefty salary for me), then I’m listening! ;-)

3. I hope that Mark Broe has a great 2014 with Yes Face. After the Eagle & Lion (which I suspect was doomed from day one regardless of any specific problems that occurred in Griffin), there seems to be real hope, here. Coincidentally I drank his O Face Stout a few days ago.

2. I hope that Alex Hall (and whomever else is involved) can get Cask Marque off the ground in the USA. It’s going to be a monumental task outside of a few, obvious markets, but I wish him and Cask Marque, well. If Cask Marque are looking for a full-time employee, I might just know someone! This ‘wish’ seems like a really obvious one that I would get behind 100%, but there is one caveat that worries me a little. Will Cask Marque decide to compromise in order to get a foothold here? I really don’t think that they would, nor do I have any reason to think that will happen, but America is a strange place and strange things happen. If, in the process of attempting to educate, Cask Marque were to get corrupted on this side of the Atlantic, then I think that would be the final straw for me. One to watch – closely!

1. Although I’m pretty close to actually giving up, I still hold out some slim hope that I can find my beer peace in America. I doubt this will ever happen, but in truth it’s my #1 ‘want’.

9 Comments

  1. George Killian Irish Red, brewed still I believe by Pelforth in Lille, owned for some years now by Heineken. Coors has a license to brew it in the U.S. (has had for many years) but the Pelforth version is superior, IMO.

    Gary

  2. Great to see Pelforth Brune mentioned, fine beer, as is the blonde on draft certainly in France. These beers just taste great. Years back I remember a Scotch Ale from Pel but don’t know if they still make that. I once read the name come forms Pelican (an old trade mark of the Lille brewery from when it was independent) and “fort” or strong, so a strong version of the basic beer. Somehow it got anglicized, maybe to give an English or British image to the local market. But where is the true George Killian? I tried Coors version once or twice and never again but the Lille version is excellent, if still made.

    Gary

    • I like Pelforth largely for purely nostalgic reasons which, when it comes to beer, I believe is entirely acceptable. I suppose I could Google it, but what is the ‘Lille’ Killian’s that you speak of?

  3. This is a serious blog! I too wish we could be better distribution from European retailers and brewers. In Michigan the issue is the complex legal structure, it greatly limits availability. Again great topics. I could use your feedback on a blog we are just getting started.
    http://sommbeer.blogspot.com/

  4. The Brick House chain has cask conditioned ale in almost all of their outlets. The one in South Plainfield NJ has had ale that’s ranged from vile to lovely, but always a little pricey. Currently, there’s Carton of Milk stout which is fantastic. It dry, not sweet and 4 % ABV which makes it right up your alley.

  5. We’ll be selling Northern style. However, Southern style will be served if customers request it.

  6. Regarding #2 – We’ll be working on that a few months after opening. I bet this caused you to hold your breath though, “Bars and restaurants which use cask breathers are NOT discriminated against and are always given full listings.”

    Merry Christmas humbug,

    Stu

    • Well, I believe that’s the personal position of Alex, as it relates to compiling a list of cask outlets as a service to drinkers, and it does not (necessarily) reflect the views of Cask Marque. Actually, you raise a great point, and I have sent an email to Cask Marque to inquire if they have a position on breakers.

    • OK Stu, here’s the answer; http://t.co/pUYZYjicxN

      So, in short this means that Cask Marque accredited pubs could be using breathers. Now, of course, this would absolutely NOT be my first choice, but given where we are starting from in the US, and given the relatively large void in terms of cellarmanship skills, I think this is one of the smaller problems that are confronting us.

      More interestingly is Fortnight in the South or the North? You know what I’m asking right…….???

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