Category Archives: International

Guid Ale Comes and Guid Ale Goes

Back in January I participated in an evening celebrating the life and poetry of Robert Burns. Burns is the National Poet of Scotland. Every year, Scots and non-Scots alike gather on or around January 25 (Burns’s Birthday) to commemorate the life of this literary genius. Growing up in Scotland I cannot recall a time when I was not aware of Burns and his poetry. At the very least, a rudimentary knowledge of Burns seems to be part of the Scottish DNA.

Whateverandeveramen celebrated the life and poetry of Robert Burns in Seattle, WA and Toledo, OH
Whateverandeveramen sing the songs of Robert Burns at the Black Cloister Brewing Company in Toledo, OH

The celebration was held at the Black Cloister Brewing Company in downtown Toledo, OH. The evening was organized by Brad Pierson who is Director of Choral Activities at the University of Toledo. Brad is a Burns aficionado. He has been organizing Burns’ celebrations since 2014. He started doing so in Seattle, WA while he was in graduate school. This year, in addition to the event in Toledo, Brad organized two other celebrations, both in Seattle. The fact that Brad chose the Black Cloister for his first Toledo Burns celebration is no accident. Brad is a craft beer lover and, in fact, one of the Seattle events that he organized was held in Naked City Brewery and Taphouse. Brad is also the founder of Whateverandeveramen, “a project-based ensemble dedicated to the performance of high quality choral literature of varied styles from all musical eras.”

Brad asked me to participate in the evening and to provide some background on the life, times, and poetry of the great man in between the sets performed by Whateverandeveramen. This I was happy to do. My first contribution to the evening was to regale the crowd  with a brief biography of Burns, while at the same time trying to convey why his poetry was, and still is, considered important.

Burns was born on January 25, 1759 (he died in 1796 at the age of thirty-seven) in the village of Alloway in Ayrshire. His father was a tenant farmer; a vocation that Burns later took up himself. He was the oldest of seven children. Burns was educated both at home and in a formal school setting. At age fifteen he discovered a love for poetry, to the extent that he soon started writing poems.  And it was his poetry that would make him famous the world over.

Burns’ poetry was important for a number of reasons. First, he wrote in the Scots language at a time when to do so was highly unpopular in Scottish literary circles. Scotland had entered into political union with England in 1707 and as a result there was a movement afoot to Anglicize Scottish culture and language. This is something that Burns opposed vehemently. He knew the important role that the Scots language played in Scottish identity.  Second,  Burns “used small subjects to express big ideas“. For example, in his poem To a Mouse he makes comparisons between the lives of mice and men. A farmer, plouging his field, accidentally upsets a mouse’s nest. On doing so he apologizes to the mouse; realizing that he has upset the mouse’s plans.  It is at this point that the farmer recognizes that mice, like men, make plans and that these plans can, in a split second be upset. As Burns notes in the poem – “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley” –  (translated as “The best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew”). In Tam ‘o Shanter he suggests that Tam, upon being chased by witches, should perhaps have heeded the advice of his wife and stayed at home (are you listening gentlemen?).

Postage stamps issued by the Soviet Union in 1956 on the 160th anniversary of Burns’ death

Centuries after his death Burns’ work continued to be recognized and have impact. John Steinbeck took the title of his 1937 novel Of Mice and Men from a line of the Burns’ poem To A Mouse. In 1956 the Soviet Union issued a set of commemorative postage stamps on the 160th anniversary of the poet’s death. In 2008, when asked to name the verse of lyric that had the greatest impact on his life the iconic American artist Bob Dylan identified the poem A Red Red Rose, written by Burns in 1794.

Here I am reciting “Guid Ale Keeps The Heart Aboon”

After some more singing by Whateverandeveramen I got back on stage and recited one of Burns poems – Guid Ale Keeps The Heart Aboon. It was a poem written in 1795, a year before Burns’ death. It tells the story of a farmer and the lengths to which he goes to keep himself supplied with good ale and the price that he sometimes pays for over indulging. The latter included being publicly rebuked by the minister in the local church. Burns lived in post-Reformation Scotland which meant that the Church of Scotland was dominant religious institution. The Church of Scotland, colloquially known as the Kirk, was Presbyterian. It was heavily influenced by the ideas of the French reformer John Calvin and, as a result, was quite puritanical in its outlook. Drinking and drunkeness were most certainly frowned upon; too much beer and you ended up on ‘the stool” in Kirk on a Sunday morning where you would be chastised by the minister in front of the entire congregation.

The individual in Burns’ poem went to great lengths to finance his love of guid ale. He owned six oxen (sax owsen) and found himself selling them one by one (ane by ane). When he had spent that money he sold his stockings (hose) and pawned his shoes (shoon). Drastic steps, but worth it because drinking guid ale lifted his spirits (keeps the heart aboon). It also causes him to meddle with the servant girl (“gars me moop wi’ the servant hizzie”).

Guid Ale Keeps The Heart Aboon

I had sax owsen in a pleugh,
And they drew a’ weel eneugh:
I sell’d them a’ just ane by ane –
Guid ale keeps the heart aboon!

O, guid ale comes, and guid ale goes,
Guid ale gars me sell my hose,
Sell my hose, and pawn my shoon –
Guid ale keeps my heart aboon!

Guid ale hauds me bare and busy,
Gars me moop wi’ the servant hizzie,
Stand i’ the stool when I hae dune –
Guid ale keeps the heart aboon!

O, guid ale comes, and guid ale goes,
Guid ale gars me sell my hose,
Sell my hose, and pawn my shoon –
Guid ale keeps my heart aboon!

Robert Burns Scottish Ale from Belhaven Brewery

The ale for which Burns’ character was willing to go to such lenghths to acquire was known as Scottish Ale (those with an ABV of 6.5% and higher were known as Scotch Ales). Hops were not grown in nineteenth century Scotland; the closest hop fields were in Kent in the south of England.  High transportation made hops cost prohibitive for Scottish brewers; so few were used and with the result that the ales of the period had a sweet, malty character. A number of modern-day breweries produce an ale that commemorates Burns. One of these is Scotland’s Belhaven Brewery who brew a Robert Burns Ale which they describe as a “classic, malty Scottish Ale”.

The evening at the Black Cloister was highly memorable. As a Scot, participating in events liks this affords me an opportunity to reconnect with my cultural roots. I have lived in the United States since 1985; but I still have a strong emotional affinity for the land of my birth. And while I am a passport-carrying American (I became a U.S. citizen in 2003) evenings such as this remind me from whence I came.

 

 

Brewed By The Birds

Polly James (left) and Nerys Hughes (right) as The Liver Birds

 

The two sculptured birds atop Liverpool’s Royal Liver Building

The British can take credit for the creation of some wonderful situation comedies. Growing up in Scotland during the 1970s and 1980s I was a regular viewer of a number of these. Some of my favorites included Only Fools and Horses, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, and Porridge. Recently I was reminded of another – The Liver Birds. The Liver Birds ran for ten seasons on BBC from 1969 and 1979. Set in Liverpool the storyline focused on the lives of two women (Sandra played by Nerys Hughes and Beryl played by Polly James) who shared an apartment. The title for the series was inspired by two sculptured birds that are perched on top of Liverpool’s Royal Liver Building. The building, opened in 1911, was built to house the offices of the Royal Liver Assurance Group. The “bird” reference in the show’s title, however, is also a nod to the British slang word “bird”, which refers to a young woman. The American equivalent would be the word “chick”.

In Melbourne I enjoyed this Sunset Ale by Two Birds Brewing Company
Melbourne’s Hairy Little Sista Bar/Restaurant where I enjoyed a Sunset Ale

The show popped into my head, a few weeks ago, when I was in Melbourne, Australia. This was my fifth visit to Australia, but my first to Melbourne. I first visited Australia in 2006. While not much has changed since my first visit ten years ago one change that I have observed is the growing popularity of craft beer. Like Americans, increasing numbers of Australians, are demanding better quality and more flavorful beer than that which is offered by the large macro-brewers. I sampled quite a number of these Australian craft beers on my eight day trip there. One that I sampled was called Sunset Ale by Two Birds Brewing Company. It was recommended to by a bartender in Hairy Little Sista, a bar/restaurant in Melbourne’s CBD. I was with a colleague and we went into the Sista to get a beer. It was my round so I went up to the bar to see what was on offer. The bartender saw me perusing the selection of beers on tap and before I could make a decision she said “You should try the Sunset Ale by Two Birds Brewery. The brewery is owned by two women, that’s why it’s called Two Birds, and they make some really good beer. It’s brewed here in Melbourne”. This particular bird, the bartender, had a sweet smile – I couldn’t refuse her recommendation. And I was not disappointed. Sunset Ale is a tasty amber ale that comes in at an ABV of 4.6%. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I had another the next day in another bar; this time from a bottle.

The two birds behind Two Birds Brewing are Jayne Lewis and Danielle Allen. They both grew up in the city of Perth, in Western Australia and met there while teenagers. Throughout the course of their friendship they both developed a love and appreciation for  beer. Lewis eventually entered the brewing industry where she gained valuable experience working  for a number of Australian breweries, including as head brewer at Mountain Goat Brewery in Richmond, a Melbourne suburb. Allen, meanwhile, was putting her Marketing and Public Relations degree to work. Her passion was the food and beverage industry and she worked for a number of private sector firms following graduation. These included some time spent as Product Development Manager with the Australian retail giant, Woolworths, where she worked on the company’s private label brand of food products, ‘Select’.

In 2011 Lewis and Allen decided to enter the world of commercial brewing. At that point they were not ready to invest in a bricks-and-mortar brewery; instead they contracted with other  breweries to brew their beers. This allowed them to concentrate on other aspects of the business, including recipe development, establishing a distribution network, getting their brand known in the market, and also raising the financing to build an actual brewery. The latter they did in 2014 when they opened Two Birds Brewery in the Melbourne suburb of Spotswood. Within the Australian context Lewis and Allen are pioneers – they are the country’s first female brewery owners. As part of the process of establishing their brewery the Two Birds made several pilgrimages to the United States, one in 2010 and one in 2013. They did so to immerse themselves in the American craft beer scene, to see what they could learn, and to draw inspiration – the fact that they made not one, but two visits to the United States is  a testimony to the cutting edge nature of the American craft beer industry.

Regular readers of this blog know that I have covered the topic of female Brewers in previous entries. In March 2016 I interviewed Shannon Fink, Head Brewer at the Black Cloister Brewing Company in Toledo, OH. In July 2016 I wrote an entry about female-owned High Heel Brewing of Lakeland, FL. Historically, before beer became an industrialized product, the role of brewer was a predominantly female one.

After I returned from Australia I came across an article about two women, Aida Musulmankulova and Arzu Kurbanova. Musulmankulova and Kurbanova are the owners of Save the Ales, the first craft brewery to be established in the central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan. The brewery is located in Bishkek, the country’s capital city. Not only are the owners (who also happen to be the Brewers) female but they made the decision to hire an all-female staff.

While female brewers are still heavily outnumbered numerically by their male counterparts there is no question that the number of female brewers is on the rise. And here in the United States we have, I believe, reached the point where female brewers are no longer regarded as a curiosity or an oddity. And while there is still a ways to go female breweres are slowly, but surely, becoming mainstream. And that, surely, is a good thing.

Going To The Dogs

I am writing this in the city of Auckland. It is the last day of a ten day trip to New Zealand. The main purpose of my visit was to attend a meeting of the International Geographical Union’s Commission on the Dynamics of Economic Spaces. The theme of this year’s meeting was ‘New Resource Geographies”. I made a presentation on changes taking place in the American hops industry as a result of the growth of the craft brewing sector. The meeting was in Palmerston North, an inland town of about 85,000 residents, located on the eastern Manawatu Plains of the country’s North Island.

As always, when I travel, I enjoy exploring the beer scene in the places I visit. Like many developed economies New Zealand has an emerging craft beer scene. According to a 2016 report there are 168 craft breweries in this country of 4.5 million people. Craft beer accounts for fifteen percent of the country’s beer sales.

dscn4371
There was a large crowd of people and dogs at the Black Dog Brewery to support its annual fundraiser for the Wellington SPCA
dscn4366
Advertising the SPCA fundraiser with special release XPCA Pale Ale
img_4233
The dogs in attendance at the SPCA fundraiser seemed to enjoy themselves

After Palmerston North I took the bus south to New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington. A city of 400,000 Wellington has a vibrant craft beer scene. This was my third visit to New Zealand, but my first to Wellington. While there I took the opportunity to visit one of the city’s craft breweries. Black Dog Brew Co. was established in 2011. Located  right in the heart of the CBD the brewery was a comfortable walk from my hotel. I arrived at the brewery mid-afternoon on a Saturday. As I approached I was a little surprised to see that it seemed to be packed with people – they were spilling out onto the streets. I had stopped in at a few bars on my way to the Black Dog and the Saturday afternoon patrons were few in number. But, as I got closer, I noticed something unusual about the crowd at Black Dog – many of them had dogs in tow. As it turns out my visit to the brewery coincided with the annual fundraiser that the brewery holds for the Wellington branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). I made my way through a throng of people and dogs and found a seat towards the back of the bar. As I looked round I counted  probably a dozen dogs who sniffed around as their happy owners enjoyed a brew. Last year’s event attracted forty or so dogs apparently. This was the third year that the brewery had hosted this fundraiser. And each year they have brewed a special beer; the proceeds from the sale of which are donated to the Wellington SPCA. In 2015 the brew was Skater Hater, a hoppy Pilsner. It was named after one of the dogs who regularly frequents the brewery and has a particular disdain for skateboarders. This year the brewery produced XPCA, a New Zealand Pale Ale. While I was there one of the brewery’s owners, Simon Edward, said a few words about the event and thanked everyone who had come out in support.

img_4253
Black Dog’s Clifford Red IPA

While the brewery was too busy for me to get a few words with any of the owners all indications are that they are dog lovers. In addition to this annual fundraiser and the brewery’s name, a number of Black Dog’s brews are named to have a dog connection. Clifford, a Red IPA, is named (presumably) after the children’s book character, Clifford the Big Red Dog. Then there’s Hair of the Dog, an appropriately-named breakfast IPA that comes in at an ABV of 2.2%. Other dog-inspired beers are Golden Lab (a golden ale), Chomp (a New Zealand pale ale), and Bite (a hopped Pilsner). I spent an enjoyable hour or so at the Black Dog, sampling their beer while watching dog lovers and their pooches.

The fact that Black Dog were hosting an event to support a local charitable cause does not surprise me. Craft breweries tend to be high connected to and engaged with their local communities. In 2014, for example, American craft breweries raised over seventy-one million dollars for charity, That’s an average of $20,664 per craft brewery or $3.25 per barrel.

In addition to craft breweries Wellington also has a number of craft beer bars. After Black Dog I visited one of those – The Malthouse. Since its opening in 1993 this Wellington institution has been described as the high alter of the local craft beer scene. It was the first bar in the city to serve Heineken. Today if offers 150+ beers, including 25+ on draft, from all over New Zealand and around the world. Non-draft beer is stored in one of six refrigerated coolers, each one set at a different temperature to suit the. beer inside.

dscn4348
Patrons enjoying beer at Wellington’s Black Dog Brewery

It is really great to see the craft brewing movement prosper outside of the United States. And the more I travel, the more I talk to people, and the more I read about craft brewing in other countries the more I notice commonalities that transcend international borders. Whether you are in Sweden, New Zealand, or in the United States there are a growing number of people who desire beer that is of higher quality and more flavorful and more diverse than that which is being offered to them by the large multinational conglomerates. And thankfully there are brewers who are willing to step-up and take the risk of commercializing their hobby to provide the beer drinker with the wonderful array of craft beers that we have available to us today.

Vienna

My wife and I just spent ten days in Austria. Most of the time was spent in Vienna, but we did take the train to Salzburg and spent two and a half days there. This was part of a longer trip to Europe where we also spent some time in Munich, Germany, and Poznan, Poland. The trip was a mix of business and pleasure. I was attending a couple Continue reading Vienna

Loos American Bar

I travel quite a bit in my line of work. And every now and then I come across a bar to which I know I will return should I visit that particular town or city again. Loos American Bar in Vienna, Austria is one such bar. I first visited Loos in August of 2012. A few weeks ago I was back in Vienna and found myself at Loos once again. Loos has everything – Continue reading Loos American Bar

Global Beer Trends in 2016

The global beer industry has grown significantly in the past two decades, with global beer production rising from 1.3 billion  hectolitres (34.3 billion U.S. gallons) in 1998 to 1.96 billion hectolitres (51.8 billion U.S. gallons)  in 2014.   That growth has levelled off slightly in the past few years as consumption levels have declined in some developed countries.  Fortunately, that decline has been offset by an increase in Continue reading Global Beer Trends in 2016

Nya Carnegie Bryggeriet

I was in Stockholm, Sweden a few weeks ago. I wrote about my visit in my last entry. It was a great trip that allowed me to sample some fine Swedish craft beers. The Swedish craft beer industry is growing steadily. New breweries are opening up every year and one in particular had peaked my interest – Nya Carnegie Bryggeriet (New Carnegie Brewery). The brewery is a joint venture between New York’s Brooklyn Brewery and Danish brewing giant Carlsberg. Continue reading Nya Carnegie Bryggeriet

Taking Stock of the Swedish Beer Scene

image
Prästgatan (“The Priest’s Street”) where Hans’ apartment is located

I was in Stockholm, Sweden last week. I was there attending a meeting of the Regional Science Academy. The Academy meetings only lasted for two days but due to the vagaries of airfares I was able to save over a thousand dollars on my plane ticket by arriving three days before the meetings started. This of course could have meant two extra nights in a hotel but my good friend Hans Westlund came to my rescue on that score. Hans has an apartment in Stockholm’s Gamla Stan (Old Town) and as he was not going to be there during the first three days of my visit he generously gave me the keys to his place. This proved to be an excellent base from which to explore Stockholm’s beer scene.

Continue reading Taking Stock of the Swedish Beer Scene

Beer and Bagpipes

My local brewpub, The Black Cloister, had a couple of bagpipers entertain patrons last Tuesday evening. These weren’t your run-of-the-mill bagpipers (if indeed there is such a thing). Andrew Bova and Dan Nevins are World Champion bagpipers – both members of the Shotts and Dykehead Caledonia Pipeband who were crowned the Grade 1 World Champions at the 2015 World Pipeband Championships. Continue reading Beer and Bagpipes

Around The World in 800 Beers

image
The Beer Professor meets The Beer Doctors at Toledo’s Black Cloister Brewery

Last week I got a visit from two fellow Geographers – Mark Patterson and Nancy Hoalst Pullen. Mark and Nancy are faculty members at Kennesaw State University which is located about twenty miles north of Atlanta, GA. I first met Mark and Nancy in New York City in 2012 at the annual conference of the Association of American Geographers. I was Continue reading Around The World in 800 Beers