Beer Awards are Dumb and You Should Stop Caring About Them

There was a time when I would excitedly wait for the results of beer awards, reading the pages and assigning power rankings in my head to beer and breweries alike. It was a fun way to bring beer into the world of sport… but it was stupid.

See, I learned early on that beers and Breweries were not awarded for the subjective best beer in each category but rather for closest to style guidelines… Some of you are probably saying “what the hell does that mean?” Well in most beer competitions beers are rated on their ability to meet style guidelines like this:

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Really oozes cool doesn’t it

Who came up with this guidelines? Beer dorks many years go (not to say I’m not a beer dork myself, but when they came up with this stuff I was a Power Rangers Dork). So, to continue on my sports analogy that would be like awarding the Stanley Cup not to the team who won in subjective circumstances (the playoffs) but to the team that best resembled a hockey team according to Toe Blake. That’s stupid…

Moreover ,it also means that innovation is rendered insignificant until some beer dork decides it is worth create a new box around the new style (Style Guide).

Of course some will say the brewers are not beholden to these style guide lines and can brew what they want. Sure, but winning an award such as brewery of the year or best in show or for some stupid reason European Style Amber to Dark Lager (actual stupid category at the Canadian Beer awards) often means sales to the breweries. This means there is an incentive for breweries to brew boring similar beers. This is the same logic that got us to MACRO LAGERS. Furthermore, the depth of awards for different lame versions of German lagers and English ales and the contrasting dearth of awards for sours and new styles of IPAs (y’know the shit people actually drink) again incentivizes brewing boring beer.

Now, I’ll pause for a moment because I’m sure you might recognize many flaws in my argument, foremost that no one is forced to brew anything. But i’ll stop you there because my argument is simple – “Brewing boring beer is lame, and beer awards that incentivize boring beer are lame.”

I reject all your objections to this opinion because my opinion is not objective, its subjective just like tasting beer is. It is imperfect and impossible to replicate, and to do so would be foolhardy (dumb). So if you are going to award a beer do it because you like it not because it totally hits those SRM guidelines (SRM is the colour of the beer… THE COLOUR).

My Case Study- Mount Begbie Brewing out of Invermere. A small brewery who’s stuff I’ve had I’ve generally liked, good beer. Mount Begbie won awards for:

German Style Kölsch

Gold: Mt. Begbie Brewing Company, High Country Kolsch

Scotch Ale

Bronze: Mt. Begbie Brewing Company, Brave Liver Scotch Ale

Cream Ale

Gold: Mt. Begbie Brewing Company, Begbie Cream Ale

&

Brewery of the Year

Hold Up! you won brewery of the year hot on the heals for Gold medals for your Kolsch and Cream Ale!? Can you imagine bringing those beers to a bottle share down in Bellingham? or New Westminster even? You’d get laughed out of town. Kolsch, Scotch Ale, and Cream Ale are figuratively the old white guys of craft beer they literally are consumer examples of fucking colonialism – but hey Canada, this is the best god damn beer we make! Don’t be bothered by a Hill Farmstead beer or a hazy Monkish IPA, oh no, you come take a seat on the beach in your pantaloons and sip on a fucking scotch ale, like fuck, when did you turn 124?…

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“Go Fetch me a cream ale and that article about how trickle down economics help the poor”

https://www.bjcp.org

https://www.canadianbrewingawards.com/

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A Guide to the #BeerTrade

So, you want your fridge to look like mine:Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 2.51.25 PM.png=

Chock full of the latest releases from the USA, Hazy IPAs Barrel aged Stouts et al.

The thing is you don’t want to mess with high shipping cost and fear of breaking cross border shipping laws, well here is the solution if you live in the Lower Mainland…

  1. First of all you need an instagram page… like mine:

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2. Start following some cool breweries, Like Monkish, Trillium and Treehouse and decide what you are looking for.

3. Also follow local breweries especially the photos of new releases.Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 3.06.03 PM.png

4. THIS IS KEY, scour the comments sections for three important letters “ISO”. ISO stands for “in search of” and indicates someone is looking for your local beers.

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5. Next take a look through this person’s profile and see if they have access to beers you are interested in. If so contact them politely and see if they are willing to trade.

NOTE: There are several different ways to trade, most often I trade can for can, but its not unheard of to trade dollar for dollar or to trade many beers for one beer etc. IT IS ILLEGAL TO SELL BEER. FINALLY throw is a can or two of your favourites, everyone does this and its great to try unknowns too!

6. Once you have decided on a trade pack a box there is an art and respect aspect to this so try this link http://homebrewacademy.com/how-to-ship-beer/

7. This is where the magic happens. After you have boxed your beer DO NOT SEAL THE BOX. You will drive the box over to the border and tell the Border guard what you are doing if it is your primary reason for going over the border. It is legal to bring the beer over the border and it is legal to ship beer with UPS, FEDEX etc. but NOT USPS. They may ask some questions don’t lie and be ready to answer truthfully.

8. Once you are across head to a shipping store like UPS in Blaine or Bellingham. Go ahead and ship the box, if they ask what it is I say salsa just because it keeps the process moving faster. You will pay significantly less shipping from the states.

9. to receive your beer set up an account with a service that receives packages just over the border like Pic It Up in Sumas. http://picitupinsumas.com

They have a flat 3 buck Canadian fee to pick up a package and good hours. When you head back over the border declare the beer you are bringing back. I have it on good authority that it is not worth the time of the guard to charge duty on anything less than 12 beers after a short stay in the US. Therefore do not bring back more than 12 beers.

NOTE: Make sure you have beer to trade that people actually want. Unfortunatley Canadian beer is really not a big deal in the States. They know little and want little of what we have. What they seem to like at the moment is Twin Sails Hazy beer program. outside of that they seem to care little. We can change this slowly by including other brewery’s beer as a “throw in” to expose them to more beers. I often throw in hazy beers from Yellow Dog, and Superflux. START BUILDING A TRADING INVENTORY:

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Why I’m Over Beer Reviews…

Ok ok ok… I dont hate beer reviews, in fact I like knowing what people enjoy and I like people recommending beer to me. But there is a limit and we have hit that limit without a doubt. We clearly live in a world where pedanticness=credibility and that is just plain wrong. We also live in a world where a lot of people drink craft beer but don’t know much about it… and thats ok, as long as you don’t try to shove content down my throat telling me about how good that 3 month old pale ale with galaxy dry hops is (its not good, it tastes of little, and I don’t care what you think).

First lets start positive…

How to do it right:

Have an angle… Craft beer, especially in Canada, is very regional and in many cases is confined to a town. Which means it doesn’t matter how well you compare the malt profile to a specific biscuit from the the former Yugoslavia. It means sweet F all to anyone but those people living in that town, all 5 craft beer drinkers from 100 Mile house hanging out at Jackson’s Social Club And Brew House (I googled that because seriously no one has heard of it). Seriously it doesn’t matter if you are the Robert Frost of beer reviews, you are boring as hell.

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“Nothing Gold can Stay” and neither can you with your description of the hop profile on your Belgian IPA as a dried durian on a cool midwestern summer evening.

That means how the beer tastes isn’t interesting enough on its own because I cannot get it. How do you make it more interesting?

Have an angle… and tell me what that angle is… Its not enough to have an angle, state it, or at the very least it should be clear what your angle is from your writing. What makes your blog about reviews interesting? Why do you happen to have an affinity for porters but hate all pale ales? If its not clear to me, I don’t care what you have to say…

Some People do this well… The Beer Rater for example clearly states his angle and I can situate his reviews in relation to myself, see here:

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http://thebeerrater.com/how-i-rate/

As you can see The Beer Rater has clearly defined what he is doing, now you have a point of reference from which to decide how seriously you can take their opinion.

A lot of people do this quite well, off the top of my head I would mention BarleyMowat.com who explains his rating system, Mikescraftbeer.com who simply gives you a quick run down of the flavour profile allowing you to decide if you like it or not and many others.

 What not to do…

Talk about beer and expect everyone to be at the same level as you…

Here’s the thing a lot of beer writers and reviewers know about beer, but few know exactly the same amount about beer. They talk and talk and talk ad nauseum about noses, flavours, profiles and balance but they don’t think about their readers and viewers. They don’t realize that people aren’t coming to know what the beer tastes like:

“Because if you know anything about beer, you know a beer brewed in Port Moody and consumed a month later in Edmonton tastes a helluva a lot different than one consumed in Kelowna from the discount bin 8 months after brewing.”

Not to mention, y’know, everyones palates are different and have biases. Rather than give interesting angles or perspective many reviewers these days simply try to cover up the lack of interest with slick production values which is cool, i guess, if you like video production…

For example:

These guys seem like nice people they have a lot of cool videos that i check out regularly and recommend you do to, but beer reviews, man they are hard to do in an interesting way… For example, he goes back and forth on calling an ESB an Extra STRONG Bitter and an Extra SPECIAL Bitter (its the latter). Then he goes onto say he doesn’t know much about styles, and then for some reason he expects the viewer to take him seriously? I mean what is the angle here? How is the video adding interest? It might be interesting if he said I know little about this beer and I recommend it to people in the same boat. But nah, … My favourite part is how he says he likes Arrowhead beer because they brew with the local water… as if brewers are importing water or using Dasani or something… C’mon.

That said  cool beer wall, nice video production… solid beard. I’m sorry for being a jerk and hope we can be friends in the future. Check out these guys other videos, like this one:

Opinion- Mission Springs Should Rebrand Their Beer Big Chief Cream Ale

Let me begin by pointing out that I am NOT suggesting that Mission Springs is bigoted or hateful. I am however concerned that the branding of this beer was created out of ignorance, and that is concerning.

I should also say that in my other life (not this blog) I am a Secondary History teacher with a keen interest in Aboriginal History – That’s my appeal to logos, just so we are clear…

So here are the cans in question:

 

So what is the issue here?

The issue is simply that this branding (likely unintentionally) serves to perpetuate negative stereotypes of Aboriginal people, and given present need for reconciliation that is simply not acceptable.

How?

-The Image

The most visible feature of the can of course is that of the Aboriginal in the Head dress. The branding is clearly a reference and amalgamation of many different Aboriginal brandings associated with the automotive industry in the 20th century such as those below:

So what is so terrible about in image?  It would be hard to describe the images above as disparaging I agree, but just as there a few simple things in out complicated world their are few simple images too.

These images are examples of cultural (mis)appropriation.

Of course the next question becomes what does that mean?

Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of another culture. Cultural appropriation may be perceived as controversial, even harmful, notably when the cultural property of a minority group is used by members of the dominant culture without the consent of the members of the originating culture; this is seen as misappropriation and a violation of intellectual property rights.-Wikipedia

If you would like to know more I recommend this article.

How does it apply in this case? These images although not in themselves harmful are the cultural property of Aboriginal peoples and have been used without any compensation to the people themselves, in fact they are used in a time where Aboriginal admission to society at large was either blocked or marginal.

Really you ask? Yes Really! Can you imagine if your jerk neighbour one day walked over to your house with a gun. He kicks you and your family out of the home and makes you live in the doghouse living off his garbage. Then he has one of his marketing bros take pictures of you and create a brand around your family for lets say bread from the grain he grows in your backyard. The bread company makes it big and you still aren’t allowed out of the dog run, let alone any of the profits… Fuck that guy right?… Fuck Oil companies…

So for the sake of this piece I am stating that the old Aboriginal oil company images are misappropriation of Culture… Where does that leave Big Chief Cream Ale?

Answer: Appropriating a cultural appropriation!

This apart from being inconsiderate branding is lazy branding. You’ve simply used an old branding trope and applied it your own product. But more importantly you affirming that it is ok to (mis)appropriate culture in a time where we are trying desperately to reconcile.

I always have people pressure me as to what affirmation is in the context social issues and why it is negative. In this context Affirmation is:

         A statement (through media, art, writing, or spoken word), that unintentionally or accidentally persuades the consumer of said statement to a larger philosophy despite the statement being of seemingly less substantive quality or quantity than the Unintended Larger Logical Philosophy.

Example:

Statement: To a boy “Don’t cry like a girl!”

Logical interpretation/Affirmation: Girls crying are bad, acting like a girl is bad

Unintended Larger Logical Philosophy: Being a girl or acting like a girl is bad

In this case:

Statement: Settlers use and make money from images of Aboriginal Culture without any compensation to Aboriginals

Logical Interpretation/Affirmation: It is good to make money from images of other cultures.

Unintended Larger Logical Philosophy: It is acceptable to exploit the culture of people such as Aboriginals.

In both cases the Unintended Larger Logical Philosophy gets Affirmation because the original Statement does not explicitly deny aspects that would logically follow.

You might say that because these statements are not intentional hateful they are therefore acceptable. I do not accept that. Life and history have shown time and time again the original intention and actual conclusion may have correlation but not always causation.

I could give you the example of the lawful election of the Nazi’s but I won’t. Instead think of the time someone got a nickname at work and the person weeks later asked everyone to stop. The intention was collective fun. Once one person used the nick name this affirmed to others in the work place that it was ok to do so too. The effect of this nick name, despite the intention, was to hurt the owner of the nick name.

In other words continuing with the first example if we were to say to a boy “Don’t cry like a girl… even though boys and girls are equal.” The statement doesn’t make any sense because logically it is a contradiction. To overtly deny the Unintended Larger Logical Philosophy we must actually contradict the statement itself thus proving (to some at least) that telling a boy “”Don’t cry like a girl.” affirms thats being or acting like a girl is bad.

The above shows the first example is innatley within the Unintended Larger Logical Philosophy of acting like or being a girl is bad, but that is not always the case with Cultural Appropriation. Sharing Culture can be positive of course as the diversity of peoples has shown us time and time again.

The can in question could be a positive example of Cultural Appropriation if Mission Springs had contacted Aboriginal Nations asking for their thoughts and consent and commisioned Aboriginal artist. Before i go any further, there is a slight chance this is the case, however i very much doubt that. Even if this is the case everything i have written in regards to Cultural (Mis)appropriation remains standing tall.

Doing what I have described above and letting the consumer know in the note would help in the reconciliation process by respecting Aboriginal cultural norms and our own cultural norms of compensation for value. In this case compensation for the cultural image which oil and beer companies clearly think has value. Despite my thoughts we get something very different in the note.

-The Note, and writing.

 

On the can side: Its time to rev your engines with high-performance sophistication. Our signature Big Chief Cream Ale is beautifully golden-coloured, smooth and lightly hopped with a traditional English variety . A seductive malt body provides the sweetness of caramel and biscuit… (the rest is unreadable) 

First of all the note on the side totally ignores the image’s connection to Aboriginal people. Instead the writer references the use of similar images for the oil company making automotive references all around.

Next we might consider the name of the beer “Big Chief Cream Ale”. Chief is not an Aboriginal word despite most often being associated with Aboriginal Nations. Chief has origins in French and Latin and is yet another example of the Colonialism living on today.

In both cases we see here unwillingness on the part of Mission Springs to face the tension of the image and words presented to persuade the consumer to buy their product. By not facing the tension Mission springs is clearly Affirming Cultural Misappropriation at the expense of aboriginals and by doing so undermining reconciliation process.

CONCLUSION

Mission Springs clearly sees values in the image and the words of this brand but seems more interested in depositing money in their pokets than with the effects of their branding. I will not knowingly give a dime to Mission Springs until this branding is dropped and ask you to do the same. I’ll leave you with words by Mr. Thomas King with a link to his Video which incredibly parallels concepts I have attempted to discuss.

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I’m not the Indian you had in mind

I’ve seen him, I’ve seen him ride

Rush of wind, darkening tide

With wolf and eagle by his side

His buttocks firm and well defined

My God, he looks good from behind

But I’m not the Indian you had in mind

I’m not the Indian you had in mind

I’ve heard him, heard him roar

The warrior wild in the video store

The movies that we all adore

The cliches that we can’t rewind

But I’m not the Indian you had in mind

I’m not the Indian you had in mind

I’ve known him, oh I’ve known him well

The bear greased hair,

The pungent smell

The piercing eye

The startling yell

Thank God he’s the friendly kind

But I’m not the Indian you had in mind

I’m that other Indian

The one who lives just down the street

The one you’re disinclined to meet

The oka guy, remember me?

Hipper wash, wounded knee?

That other one

The one who runs the local bar

The CEO, the movie star

The elder with her bingo tails

The activist alone in jail

That other Indian The doctor

The homeless bum

The boys who sing around the drum

The relative I cannot bear

My father who was never there

He must have hated me I guess

My best friend’s kid with FAS

the single mom who drives the bus

I’m all of these

and they are us so damn you for the lies you told

and damn me for not being bold enough

to stand my ground and say

that what you’ve done is not our way

but in the end the land won’t care

which one was rabbit which was bear

who did the deed and who did not

who did the shooting and who got shot

who told the truth who told the lie

who drained the lakes and rivers dry

who made us laugh, who made us sad

who made the world monsanto mad

whose appetites consumed the earth

wasn’t me

wasn’t me

wasn’t me

for what it’s worth

or maybe it was but hey let’s not get too distressed

it’s not as bad as it may sound

hell we didn’t make this mess

it was given us and when we’re gone,

as our parents did, we’ll pass it on

you see we’ve learned your lessons well

what to buy and what to sell

what’s commodity, what’s trash

what discount you can get for cash

and Indians, well, we’ll still be here

the real one and the rest of us

we’ve got no other place to go

don’t worry we won’t make a fuss

well not much

still, sometimes,

sometimes late at night

when all the world is warm and dead

i wonder how things might have been

had you followed, had we led

so consider

as you live your days

that we live ours under the gaze

of generations watching us

of generations still in tact

of generations still to be

seven forward

seven back

yeah it’s not easy

course you can always ask this buck you like so much

this Indian you idolize

perhaps that’s wisdom on his face

compassion sparkling in his eyes

he may well have a secret song

a dance he’ll share

a long lost chant

ask him to help you save the world

to save yourselves

Don’t look at me I’m not the Indian you had in mind

I can’t,

I can’t.

Hit or Miss: Wet Hops!

hopswithleaf

Wet hopping is when brewers take hops before drying them and use them in their brews. The supposed benefit is increased freshness of volatile oils. this sounds great but there are some inherent problems with the method.

Wet hops weigh much more than dried hops, due to their wetness. They also must be shipped with hours from bine to brewer.

So?

The first thing that hops to mind is since each shipment of hops is the first no one actually knows how they taste in beer or how to use them well. Brewers don’t get a shot at a pilot batch with fresh hops and most will simply insert them into an existing beers recipe. This is for the best, at least we are cutting down on some chance. The fact remains no one knows well how these hops are going to react, more to the point no one knows how these hops are going to react in multiple thousands of litre batches. Furthermore, Its in the brewers best interest to get these beers to market as soon as possible. This means by the time the brewer decides their beer isn’t as good as it should be its already on the shelves and your Craft beer hyped buddy has already swiped 3 bottles of Steamworks Yak Attack, a half case of Sartori Harvest and a couple american wet hopped beers from a brewery whose name he can’t rememer… “YOU TOTALLY HAVE TO COME TO MY BASEMENT SUITE AND DRINK THIS WITH ME!”

Secondly these hops weigh much more than normal hops due to their wetness. One ounce of wet hops is not equal to one ounce of normal hops so brewers are playing with fire. Now we might say we can just cover at 6-1 or something, but who knows what the actual moisture level is, on average, for all these hops. Especially when we consider  how many kilos of wet hops make up each beer.

What am I getting at here? Just because the bottles say wet hopped doesn’t mean these beers are better, or for that matter even good. In fact i’d wager that most of the wet hopped beers i’ve had this year were messes.

What’s my conclusion here? I wouldn’t go pre-ordering box of sartori harvest anytime soon. Wait it out, find the hyped beers and get them whilst you can. I recommend Little Dog Syndrome from Yellow Dog Brewing This year.

Changing Art and Culture in Port Moody

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Port Moody is changing from the back water it was in the 40 years ago into one of the trendiest inner suburbs. The upcoming permanent sky train connection to Vancouver is simply the latest and most obvious example but this has been years in the making. The city has created two well designed urban villages (New port Village & Suter Brook) that have among the best connections to park and forest space in metro Vancouver, these spaces, have in turn attracted young professionals to the area which have changed the commercial character of the city. Wheras Port Moody 20 years ago was home to dunkin donuts and soup and sandwich spots artisanal and faux artisanal coffee shops have proliferated. Next came the breweries. now let me be clear not all breweries are created equally, some are better than others, and there are some terrifically bad ones in many suburbs. Port Moody is home to some of the best around with Twin Sails, Yellow Dog and Moody all winning awards in their short lives. Awards aside their success can also be attributed to their local clientele who are among their most important revenue streams. In short the success of breweries suggests a high urban awareness specifically in Port Moody and more broadly the Tri Cities. Even so, the cultural renaissance is far from complete. There are still a dearth of decent restaurants in town, although places like Originals Mexican are bright spots. Things maybe changing though as Romers burger bar (despite their poor Yelp reviews) opened their first location outside of Vancouver in Port Moody, and another trendy taco joint (Taps & Tacos) looks to open in Port Moody. Still, quality food is lacking.

So what am I getting at? Port Moody is modernizing and most aspects of local society are aware of that, one section that seems to be left behind is art & culture.

image
Is this 1998?

Port Moody bills itself as the City of the Arts, and by every measure it lives up to its billing, but just as not all breweries are not equal not all art is either. Port Moody continues to be a patron of the safe and the old. Art displays are happy cheerful and if at all possible linked to the city’s mythos of Trans Canada railroad terminus. Free concerts take place through the summer with little air of excitement as faux has beens and safe acts take the stage. For example an oft heard rumour was that Golden Spike days stalwarts Trooper weren’t asked back after one band member swore on stage. The rumour is likely untrue but the fact that the rumour ever existed suggest that Port Moody residents are all aware of the safeness of the city

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The train motif is strong in this town…

Port Moody has an opportunity to change all of this though. Beyond the central railroad terminus mythos is a long history of aboriginal settlement by the Tsleil Waututh nation which is by and large ignored by all in Port Moody, Port Moody would be well served to invite this culture back into the area in the spirit of reconciliation. By doing so Port Moody would benefit with a new dynamism to its art and culture scene and begin to right structural wrongs present not only in Port Moody but any place with a history of colonialism. Further opportunity for cultural dynamism exists in inviting a different and varied contemporay art to share the stage with acts like Mostly Marley. Metro Vancouver has a wealth of young people who very quickly make there marks on the greater world around them, before ceding the stage to Trooper could we not possibly see one of the former Peak performance artists (I use this example with the awareness that acts must remain somewhat appropriate)? Port Moody is home to some of the most pedestrian festivals  in Vancouver the best example being Golden Spoke days, an event nearly entirely catered to the young and old, ignoring the young adults and professionals save for a beer garden. Port Moody has an incredible festival space and it’s not impossible to think that a stellar more modern festival could be staged there to advance the profile of the city. My own personal dream is a craft-beer-folk-festival where a small group of breweries (all 4 locals and perhaps 4 more invitees) and several mid-level metro Vancouver folk indie rock bands get together at Rocky Point on a warm summer day…  no kids though…

Port Moody is changing, so can the art and culture

UK Brewing V. North America.

One of this things you will notice as a Canadian or North American when coming to the the UK is that the variety of style was never concentrated as greatly as it was in North America. This could be down to any number of things.

The UK has tied house laws unlike those in Canada where independent pubs abound. In the UK Pubs are often owned by breweries and leased back to operators who are forced to supply only that brewery’s beers. Thus rather than putting their weight behind a single brand or few like Molson or Anheiser-Busch (if i misspelled there I’m not particularly fussed) the breweries were forced to attempt to appeal to all who walked through that pub’s door.

Historically we might also consider that when people colonized North America there existed no brewing tradition in aboriginal culture. When brewers did come to North America its not a stretch to expect that consumers were happy to take what they could get and brewers having much less resources than they would have in Europe were simply unable to brew a wide variety. Following this the large amount of German immigrants to the US definitely played a part in creating a brewing culture in many ways paralleling their own in Germany where in many regions the Lager or Pilsner was King.

Another cause for the endearing variety of style relative to North America would be the endearing traditionalism and lack of prohibition in The UK. Whereas the North Americans were subject to prohibition which killed small breweries and lead to a concentration of styles and breweries the UK was simply not. Regional beers and style were able to continue to be produced unabated and breweries were free to attempt a regional style to gain Market Share.

The greater consequence of this variety of brewing is less of a market backlash against the macro’s, as the macros to some degree have never stopped producing decent beers. I would take a british Macro Ale over a Canadian or American 999/1000. Of course Craft beer has come to the UK too. The positive effect of the variety of macro beers available in the UK is that british Craft Brewers have had to better than some great brews to gain market share whereas their counterparts in N.A. have just had beat the fizzy yellow swill.