A Quick Hit for May Brewdiligence: Break Me Off Some of That Funky Stuff

May is going to be about yeast. Without yeast, there is no beer. The ales and lagers that dominate our drinking are but two varieties. This month I’ll do my damnedest to seek out the others.

That’s it. No mantra, no screed, no hashtag. Just the on-going quest for knowledge.

Now go drink.

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NoIPApril: 30 Days With No IPAs

Dontbescared

This month I am encouraging everyone to join me in 30 days of IPA-free drinking. Let all those who see my words heed the call and take part in the first annual NoIPApril. Want to participate? It’s easy. Simply drink other styles of beer for the entirety of April.*

Why? IPAs have simply become too easy. They’re easy to find, they’re easy to drink, they’re easy to select. Walk into any bar, brewery, or taproom and you are sure to find one; more often than not you’l have several iterations to choose from. For general purposes I take no issue with this. They’re big and tasty and can encompass a wide range of flavor profiles. But they have also become the de facto choice for craft beer enthusiast across the country. While I celebrate the search for a beer containing enough hops to pull the teeth out of your head, a month off will be a marvelous thing.

Moreover, it will reaffirm why you started drinking craft beer in the first place: the choices. After cutting your teeth on fizzy yellow lawnmower beers, the craft beer movement showed that you can get a buzz on and discover something completely new. Realizing beer could taste like something other than Budweiser was profound and it drove the hunt for evermore new taste sensations. So this month, rather than scanning menus and boards for the IPA with the highest ABV or a clever name, eschew them altogether. Pick a style you normally wouldn’t. Branch the fuck out. Give your overwhelmed palate a break and use this opportunity to embrace subtlety and nuance. Seek out some Old World Styles. Try that blonde you’ve been ignoring. Delve into different yeast strains and get into Belgians, Bretts or some kind of mixed fermentation brews. There is so much beer out there that isn’t loaded with lupulin, and every bit as delicious. You just have to open yourself up to it.

Times might get tough during NoIPApril and you’ll likely find yourself needing a piney, resinous hit of the good stuff. Fear not! This doesn’t require you to forsake hops altogether, merely one particular vehicle for them. Need to feed that IBU addicted monkey on your back? Get a hop-forward pale ale. A hoppy wheat. A hoppy red, a hoppy amber, and so on. Hops are plentiful in enough other styles of beer that even in IPA’s absence you can get your fix.

Think you like IPAs now? Wait until you’ve given them up for thirty days. Come May 1 you’ll find yourself embraced in their loving, bitter arms once again, and your relationship will be that much stronger as a result. That time you bought a shelf-turd with faded, muddied flavors? All in the past! Remember when you opened that ill-advised 11% triple IPA bomber at the end of the night and woke up wanting to die? Forgotten! The two of you now have the rest of the year to become reacquainted and grow to love each other even more. If you love something, let it go they say, despite the uncertainty of its return. No worries here. You know exactly when IPAs will be back.

We all love IPAs. It is the craft beer style of choice and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. And I’m not here to encourage such a thing. But the other shoe is always waiting to drop. Tastes will change, styles will come in and out of favor. Sooner or later brewers will move on and something else will occupy 8 out of 12 taps you have to choose from. Start preparing now. Open your heart and mouth to something new. The possibilities are endless, but to experience them you might need to close the door on something else, if only for a month.

So join me, friends, and say no to IPAs. The sacrifice will be great and so to will the rewards.

*As with any rule, there are exceptions. If you need to taste IPAs for work, go right ahead. If you are at a festival, indulge. Come across something rare? Don’t pass on the opportunity to try it. If someone who doesn’t know about NoIPApril buys you a nice hoppy DIPA, drink it; good brewdiligence doesn’t mean you have be to rude. Beyond those circumstances, however, once you’ve read this you are bound by blood to comply with the month’s restrictions. Harsh penalties will be levied on anyone found in violation of the rules.

Failure In Brewdiligence Leads to Unwitting Patriotism

Depending on how you look at it, March’s Brewdiligence was either a total flop, or a rousing success.

The explicit goal of this year long project was to pick a theme for each month and stick to it as assiduously as possible. March was supposed to be about European beer of all styles. I wanted to explorer the Old World one pint at a time. I knew going in there would be challenges: access, freshness, lack of familiarity, and cost.

How much the place I live would dictate the month’s research was not something I factored in to this. I have lived in San Francisco for going on four years, but by no stretch do I feel myself to be a part of this city. It’s too dense, there is too much going on, and too many people have been here far longer than I. But just because I am not of this place does not mean it hasn’t effected me. Like many here, I tend not to leave my own neighborhood, let alone the city. Driving somewhere is almost a laughable notion at this point.

I could have walked to my neighborhood Safeway, which, in spite of its negligible cleanliness and inept staff, does have a respectable beer selection. Said selection, though, is not what anyone would describe as continental. They have Duvel, Chimay, and some six packs of Pilsner Urquell, but beyond those it’s mostly domestic beer on the shelves. Also within walking distance of my house is a decent bottle shop. Their variety of European beers outshines Safeway’s, but the prices are high, and many of the bottles are discernibly old. I don’t sling that tech-money like so many in San Francisco do, so I can’t afford to roll the dice on a $15 bottle that is past its prime.

What this amounted to was a month long internal conflict where I constantly prodded myself to either drop money I shouldn’t or to get in my car and drive to the BevMo in Daly City. “Do you want to try some German lagers?” I’d ask myself. “ Are you committed to this, ya piece of shit? There aren’t any farmhouse ales on at the pizza place down the street. Get off your ass!” Followed by, “You know that $15 might buy you groceries at the end of the month, right? You know you’ll waste a bunch of gas driving to BevMo and end up buying way too much, right? You know this whole thing is stupid and it’s just beer, right?” It was an ugly cycle that fueled self-loathing and doubt, and one I repeated several times a week.

Needless to say, I didn’t fall in love with Belgian yeast or discover stumble on to an exquisite French sour. And in that respect, my plan to get Eurotrashed was just shy of an abject failure.

The bright side to falling short of my goals was realizing how committed I am to American craft beer. I am a straight up, dyed in the wool, diehard patriot in that regard.: these grains, hops, and yeast don’t run. It became very apparent to me early on in the month that I would much rather go to a local taproom and try some of whatever is fresh, and made by hand of a person in my own community, than I would to seek out some Euro-fetish pub bent on serving a stale version of whatever brew is consumed in the providence they are aping, or be reduced to scouring shelves of dust-crusted imports in hopes of finding that one gem no one outside of Alsace has heard of.

Given this, my mission for the month took something of a turn. Rather than a quest for European beers, I was on the hunt for European inspired beers. I went to my regular stops and ordered the Belgians I typically forego. I drug myself across town to a place I shall not name, that leans heavily on the Old World for its offerings (it also bills itself as being “malt forward”, yet more taps were IPAs than any other style). I forced down dubbels and tripels and golden ales, and let the fruity esters wash over me.

I got deep into the euro-inspiration one Saturday and had a pint of gruit, a traditional herbal ale that doesn’t contain any hops. Gruit is a combination of various herbs; which herbs were found in the mixture is a bit unclear, but from the research I have done, sweet gale/bog myrtle was a constant. Gruits were standard fare in northern Europe before hops became the additive of choice and today they are pretty uncommon. A few places in the Bay Area make something touted as gruit, but without the requisite bog myrtle, I’m calling spice on that. Those are herbal ales, not gruits. This is not a controversy that has the beer community embroiled in some battle over stylistic definitions, but it’s a conversation I’d like to see started. Expect more on gruits in a future article.

As is the case with a lot of life, sometimes in brewdiligence you miss the mark. Though my aim in drinking all European beers for the month of March was off, I hit on a brand of patriotism in American craft beer I didn’t know I had. And that is what this is all about: learning something new, even if by accident, and always with a good beer by my side.

Former Boxing Champ Pascal Piles on to the Ignorance and Homophobia

Former boxing champ Jean Pascal jumped on the ignorant, homophobic train many in his sport seem to be aboard, when earlier this week he gave an interview calling out UFC star Nick Diaz.

In the video, Pascal says he would fight Diaz in the octagon, but under boxing rules. He goes on to say that UFC fighters “claim they can box. But I don’t see that,” before following up with the now tired, and not so subtly homophonic aspersion that too many boxers levy against ground fighting: I don’t get on the ground with other men.

 

“To go on the ground with another man, it’s not my thing. I’d rather to go on the ground with a woman.” he said, laughing. “I’m a fighter,” he continued. “I’m not a UFC wrestler….boxing, it’s art.”

The homophobia laced throughout, coupled with his willful lack of knowledge about grappling and insistence that real fighting takes place on the feet is as offensive as is the public’s continued tolerance of such drivel.

If one’s personal preference is for stand up fighting, that is fine. However, it is incumbent on the combat sports community to stop allowing the “grappling is gay” trope to be an acceptable thing. To say grappling is not an art, or not a “fight” is one thing; statements of that kind only demonstrate how clueless the person holding such an opinion is. But when we allow people to imply they don’t grapple because it is somehow gay, is to be permissive of a level of homophobia that has no place in 2017.

Diaz, a long time fan favorite, has yet to take a fight since serving a suspension for marijuana use. In spite of the lack of activity, there is no shortage of potential opponents. He has been called out by UFC Welterweight Champion Tryone Woodley, along with a number of UFC fighters seeking out their own “money fight,” which Diaz is perceived to be.

Pascal’s call out is further evidence of the Stockton native’s drawing power, and the depth to which  escalating talk of a super fight between Connor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather has penetrated both sports.

To paint the entire boxing community as homophobic because of comments like Pascal’s would be as closed minded as his belief grappling is gay. I’m certain there are plenty within the boxing world who respect it as a fighting art. I’m equally certain there are people in MMA with less than tolerant views on same-sex relationships; they just don’t express that by decrying ground fighting. Neither fact absolves either sport from taking responsibility for policing this kind of hate-speak.

It’s time to start calling these people out the way they are calling each other out for these much sought after money fights. We cannot respond to their subtlety with our own. They should be put on blast, their fear and ignorance hyped up like pre-fight trash talk. Don’t be scared, homie. Let’s hit these creeps where they live.

 

More Bad Beer History

Yesterday this nonsense was posted on a beer-related Instgram account that nearly18,000 people follow: “The word ‘toast,’ meaning a wish of good health, started in ancient Rome, where a piece of toasted bread was dropped into wine.” What a load of tripe.

While there might be an etymological connection from the latin torrere, to parch, there is no clear connection between a Roman tradition of adding bread to wine and the word “toast” being used in the afore mentioned way.

Bread and wine were staple foods in the ancient world and as such, likely made for decent bed fellows. There is no fundamental objection to saying the two went together in some combination. However, Romans added a lot of things to their wine: water, honey, various herbs and spices. Bread was likely among that list of things, but if you do any amount of reading on the subject you’ll find numerous additives far more common than bread.

What little substantiation there is to be found on the matter indicates that the charcoal on toasted bread was a means of dulling off flavors in wine, like some kind of pre-modern Brita Filter, or that it was meant to cut wine’s acidity. Neither claim about bread’s ability to perform those tasks can be rejected out of hand, but the addition of water was a more likely way of cutting acidity, as was honey and herbs to cover off flavors. Moreover, any historical precedent given as evidence for this to be true cites customs from the 1700s rather than those from classical antiquity.

The word toast (both the food and the action) might well be derived from the original latin verb. But to indicate there is a straight line between that word, and a Roman tradition of adding bread to wine becoming a metonym for honoring someone or something before a drink is a gross oversimplification of things. Rarely is history so linear.

If that were the case, wedding speeches would all started something like this: “I’d like to propose a combination of water and honey and maybe a few herbs? Is that coriander or hyssop? I can’t tell. Anyway, I’ve known Jim for a long time now…”

Here’s to keeping bad history out of beer.

Floyd Mayweather’s Fear and Ignorance on Full Display

While a fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Connor McGregor has yet to materialize, the war of words is ratcheting up. Mayweather called the UFC star a “punk” and a “bitch” in his most recent interview suggesting McGregor doesn’t actually want to make it happen, citing the Irishman’s high asking price as a means of bidding himself out of the fight.

“At one particular time I had to be the B-side. When they brought the money to the table I took it, kicked ass and became the A-side.” Maywaether continued, “Come kick my ass and become the A-side.” This is likely a fair estimation of the situation. McGregor is going to have to settle for significantly less money than Maywearher if he really wants to see this bout come to fruition.

The boxing star’s business savvy and in-ring smarts are not a matter of question at this point, but contained within the rest of his interview are some disturbing remarks that had nothing to do with deal making or fight IQ.

Mayweather stated, “Real men fight standing up. I’m from [the] old school. I’m not going to kick my shoes off, I’m not going to be between no man’s legs wrestling on the ground. I’m going to stand up and kick ass.”

While that very well might come true, Mayweather’s assertion about how “real men” fight, along with his disavowal of being between another man’s legs on the ground contain a good deal of implicit homophobia and the acknowledgement that outside of his preferred skill-set, Floyd does not have a prayer of beating McGregor.

By stating that real men fight standing up, Floyd is attempting to emasculate anyone who chooses to practice ground fighting. Proclaiming that he won’t be on the ground between another man’s legs is, whether he’ll admit it or not, to say that doing so is to be homosexual. In essence, he has called McGregor weak and gay, two things which, in and of themselves are not qualities that should be used against a person, but which Mayweather clearly believes to be the source of great insult. 

The root of this attitude is a deeper issue than I am qualified to address, but there needs to be a conversation started about how much longer we can justify not calling out those who espouse this kind of fear and ignorance. From promoter Bob Arum, to Floyd, to well regarded statesmen of the sport like Bernard Hopkins, the sentiment that MMA and grappling are gay is wide spread.

For Floyd, or any other boxer to single out grappling as gay because it takes place on the floor and often with one combatant’s legs wrapped around the other’s torso is to ignore the fact that boxers spend time in the clinch, essentially sweaty, shirtless hugging. Both are defensive tactics, but to many a pugilists mind, wrapping your limbs around another man in order to avoid damage is not gay, provided the action remain vertical.

As far as being a “real man” is concerned, let us not ignore Mayweather’s well documented history of domestic abuse. This is a person who has done jail time for beating women. Where he suggests that “real men” fight standing up, many others might argue that real men do not hit women, a notion clearly lost on the guy we used to call Pretty Boy.

Though the fight game lacks for certainties, it’s almost scientific fact that in a mixed rules fight a pure striker is fucked. Everyone who is paying attention knowns this, including Floyd. And so you get the “real man” talk as a means to bolster his ego. “Yeah, he’d beat me if we rolled around like a couple gay dudes, but I fight like a real man.” It’s easier to dismiss something than it is to admit you can be beat by it. It’s also why you’ll never see Floyd in the UFC and what makes Connor’s attempt to step inside the ring so compelling. He would go in a huge underdog, but when the likely outcome of him losing a decision did occur, McGregor  would hold a trump card: “I stepped into your world and took it to you. Are you man enough to step into mine?”

The call would be answered by crickets, accompanied by he sound of Floyd off in the distance, hammering a huge check like it was his wife’s head. 

A real man indeed.