It has become a British stereotype that Real Ale is “for old men with beards.” And that stereotype rankles Martyn Cornell, the Zythophile. He admits to being in his sixties and to having a beard, but goes on to say: “I’ve been drinking cask ale since the 1970s, when I was a young man, without a beard (and with much more hair on my head). And at that time, vast numbers–half or more–of CAMRA members were under 30, like me, and like the organisation’s founders, who had been in their mid-20s in 1971 when the Campaign for the Revitalisation of Ale kicked off.”
He adds that this phenomenon is not limited to Real Ale: “Of course, people’s pleasures actually barely change from their youth as they pile up the years and wrinkle like a shar pei, which ought to be obvious, but seems not to be. You might add on a few more likes, such as malt whisky and Frank Sinatra, neither of which I really understood until I was well past 25, and lose a few of the stranger ones, such as wearing brown corduroy and too-tight tanktops, but pretty much all of the things I enjoyed when I was just out of university I still enjoy now.”
Cornell takes Real Ale marketers to task for their apologizing for the age of their customers, something that the makers of other products don’t do. Point taken.
You might have noticed the “Worts of Wisdom” on the front page of our calendar. Ludwig tries hard to avoid commonplace beer quotes, like the famous quote by Ben Franklin who, by the way, probably never uttered it.
Ludwig has found a kindred soul in Martyn Cornell, who blogs at The Zythophile. Cornell recently compiled a collection of 20 beer quotes that even Ludwig hasn’t run across.
For example, there’s a good chance that you’ve read 1984, but do you remember the scene in which a now-brainwashed Winston Smith goes to the pub?
“You must have seen great changes since you were a young man,” said Winston tentatively. The old man’s pale blue eyes moved from the darts board to the bar, and from the bar to the door of the Gents….“The beer was better,” he said finally. “And cheaper! When I was a young man, mild beer–wallop we used to call it–was fourpence a pint. That was before the war, of course.”
Cornell explains that “wallop” was a 1930s slang term for mild ale, a style that Orwell was fond of. There’s plenty more in his article–enough, in fact, to get you through a pint, even if it’s stronger than the mild that Winston Smith alluded to.
A website called FirstWeFeast.com recently convened a panel to choose the 20 “most influential” beers of all time.” It didn’t take long for Martyn Cornell, The Zythophile, to file a dissenting opinion.
Never one to mince words, Cornell called the selections “a totally crap list, with far, far more misses than hits.” The hits include Gablinger’s Diet Beer, which inspired the “lite” beers that dominate America’s beer scene; Pilsner Urquell; and Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. Heading the list of notable misses are Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye, Allagash White, and Sam Adams Utopias.
Cornell goes on to list his 20 Most Influential list. Topping the list is Spaten Dunkel because brewmaster Gabriel Sedlmayr’s lagering techniques, and the yeast he shared with other European breweries, powered the lager revolution the swept the world. Pilsner Urquell is second, followed by Hodgson’s East India Pale Ale, which inspired Bass Pale Ale. Cornell gives the number-four spot to Sir Humphrey Parsons, of the Red Lion Brewery in London, for his porter that everybody else copied. Rounding out the top five is Barclay Perkins Russian Imperial Stout, the first brewery known to have made this style.
You get the idea. Cornell is a beer historian, and to him “influential” has a specific meaning: the size of the effect it had on subsequent beer history. By that criterion, Budweiser earns a spot in his top ten: “It pioneered national beer distribution around the US, and it set the standard for what American beer was expected to be.” That’s influential.
Today is the second annual International IPA Day, an occasion for beer enthusiasts to toast one of craft beer’s most iconic–and most popular–styles. The event, created by beer writers and social media personalities Ashley Routson (The Beer Wench) and Ryan Ross, will be celebrated at hundreds of establishments around the world.
Martyn Cornell, The Zythophile, is celebrating in his usual curmudgeonly fashion by debunking myths about IPA. You’ve got to love a guy who dismisses an untrue assertion as “complete cobblers’ awls.”
On this day in 1980, the Cable News Network debuted. After an introduction by Ted Turner, the husband and wife team of David Walker and Lois Hart anchored the network’s first newscast.
Travel tip: if you’re going to Toronto this summer, do not refer to that enormous tower on the lakefront as the “CNN Tower.” Every Canadian within earshot will give you a dirty look.
And now…The Mash!
We begin in Colorado, where the owners of Oskar Blues hope to operate a “beer train” between their Longmont and Boulder locations.
Sara Dickerman of the New York Times updates us on San Diego’s craft beer scene. San Diego County has more than 50 breweries, and many of the area’s beers can be found far from California.
India and Pakistan fought three major wars in the 20th century, but beer might bring them closer together. Pakistan’s Murree Brewery will start selling its lager to India for the first time since the two countries were partitioned in 1947.
In Grayslake, Illinois, four hockey fanatics are starting a brewery. All Light the Lamp Brewery beers–for example, Sin Bin Stout–will have hockey-themed names.
Tuscany is known the world over for its wine but even there, craft beer is making inroads. The region has more than 30 craft breweries, plus a number of bars that specialize in local beer.
The term “dive bar” gets a new meaning, thanks to a bar inside a fully functional submarine. The sub recently took guests to the bottom of the Baltic Sea.
Finally, Martyn Cornell, The Zythophile, identifies some endangered beer species, including some that are critically endangered in his native Britain.
Some weeks ago, a festival organizer named Jonathan So asked us to add his event, Beertopia Hong Kong, to the calendar. We happily obliged, and wished him luck.
It turns out that Beertopia, Hong Kong’s first-ever beer festival, was a rousing success. British beer writer Martyn Cornell, who helped publicize the event, was there in person, along with a capacity crowd that emptied the Hitachino Nest beer stand long before closing time. By Cornell’s estimation, one-quarter to one-third of the crowd were Hong Kongers, evenly divided between men and women.
So explained to Cornell why he put on the festival. A native of Toronto, he developed a taste for craft beer while studying at Columbia University. Afterward, he moved to Hong Kong to work for a software company.
On an excursion to Singapore, So attended the highly-popular Beerfest Asia and asked himself, “How come Hong Kong doesn’t have anything like this?” Eighteen months later, Beertopia opened its doors. Don’t be surprised if a larger-scale second edition finds its way onto the calendar next year.
Martyn Cornell, the Zythophile, has yet another fascinating story from history. Its subject is the most notorious brewer in history. His name was Antoine-Joseph Santerre who, more than 200 years ago, owned the largest brewery in Paris.
But it was politics, not beer, that made Santerre notorious. He aided the mob that stormed The Bastille; and four and a half years later, he was one of the men who escorted King Louis XVI, from his prison to the guillotine. Historians still debate whether Santerre gave the military drummers the order to play so the king’s last words couldn’t be heard; and, if he did give the order, why he did so.
Santerre was an innovative brewer: the first in France to use a thermometer to measure the temperature of his mash tun liquor; the first to dry his malt English-style, with coke rather than wood; and the first to install a steam engine in his brewery.
Cornell suggests that Santerre would have been off had he stuck to his day job. He was a terrible general who allegedly ran from the enemy, and lost two-thirds of his men; and he also flopped as a real estate speculator, winding up broke, living with his son, and hiding from creditors.
A recent festival sponsored by the London Brewers Alliance led Martyn Cornell to recount London’s rich brewing history.
Cornell reminds us that London has given the world five beer styles. They are porter, which dates back to 1718; stout, which was brewed in London until after World War II; what we now call Russian imperial stout; India pale ale, first given that name by a London brewery in 1835; and brown ale, which was enormously popular between the world wars.
Cornell’s post also provides a detailed timeline of London brewing, beginning with the birth of Thomas a Becket, the patron saint of the city’s Brewers’ Company. Pay close attention because some of the factoids–like the Great Beer Flood of 1814–might come in handy in a pub quiz.
If you’ve recently celebrated the birth of a child, blogger Martyn Cornell has a suggestion: lay down a beer for his or her coming of age. Cornell points out that “extreme cask-conditioned ale” has a long history. He cites an 1841 celebration for Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn that featured “an abundant supply of rare old ale” in addition to a spread that would put the most lavish Thanksgiving dinner to shame. In all, there were a dozen or so barrels of the ale, which had a formidable original gravity of 1.230. Cornell adds that from the 18th century until the beginning of World War I, other English families laid down extra-strong ales for a couple of decades before they were served.
Cornell also makes this gallant offer: “[I]f anyone feels inspired to make a brew they’re intending keeping in cask (not bottle) until 2032, please get in touch, and I promise to try to be around then to help drink it.”
Today is National IPA Day, and beer historian Martyn Cornell is celebrating by debunking four myths about India pale ale:
1. It was invented by a London brewer named George Hodgson.
2. The style began as a British export to troops stationed in India.
3. It was loaded with hops and alcohol to keep it from spoiling on the voyage to India.
4. Locals first sampled the style when India-bound ships carrying casks of it ran aground.
Admit it. You once thought one or more of these was true.