The Session No. 126 – Hazy, Cloudy, Juicy: IPA’s strange twist

As part of today’s Session, Gail Ann Williams of Beer by BART has asked about very cloudy IPAs of which the milkshake-looking New England type is Big Kahuna today.

Having studied the history of beer closely, especially the tradition of top-fermentation brewing from which pale ale and India Pale Ale emerged, I can say cloudiness is a late bloomer. Most authorities and drinkers until recently who commented on haze in such beers disapproved it, in a tradition stretching back hundreds of years.

It was regarded as a fault both aesthetic and from a taste standpoint. It’s not just something related to the onset of glass vessels either, it goes deeper than that. Typical deprecating terms or phrases were muddy, pigs wrestled in it, pond life – you get the idea.

Lager followed the same requirement, yet more rigorously and for good reason IMO given the funky “green” flavours of much yeasty lager.

In the general brewing tradition, German wheat beer was the main exception, and some other wheat styles, as Wit or Gose. Their particular yeast flavours and/or spicing and wheaty taste were viewed to excuse an otherwise inexcusable fault.

Unfiltered in English practice meant the beers were fined on cask to ensure a clear pint. And they were poured clear from bottles left to stand to settle out the yeast.

True, in practice the ideal sometimes wasn’t attained, or became a non-issue (porter and stout), but visible departures from the norm were never viewed as acceptable.

What changed?

I saw it happen over a 40 year period here. I am convinced that craft brewers misunderstood the meaning of unfiltered in English tradition. And being aware some wheat beer was turbid, they started to roughly filter their beer, in some cases just relying on the cold crash or natural yeast settling which still left noticeable haze. It was viewed as natural, even healthy.

In my view, the practice often results in upsetting the balance desired between malt, hop, and yeast background. However, and the New England type is a good example, the very forward New World hop tastes sometime make the balance issue less important. When you have such big hop flavours to work with, a little yeasty offset is no such bad thing. The Vermont method capitalizes on this perception and it does result in some good beers, as are some non-Vermont IPAs which have a cloudy mien.

When the beers are hopped in an English way, or in an American way but modestly, too much yeast generally hurts them IMO. I know some people feel a lot of that haze is simply protein, but in practice most hazy IPA is full of residual yeast, you can taste it.

In a business where nothing is really new under the sun, the emergence of the cloudy style is something truly new. However, it came about IMO due to the onset of American and other New World hop types, which themselves are mostly new – last 40 years or so. So they kind of go together.

Except on draft in a bar, you can adjust cloudiness to your liking by allowing the bottle or can to rest and settle out, as most will over time. I do this and pour them almost clear, sometimes I’ll add a bit of yeast from the base of the can if I think it can help the taste. I’ve noticed the raw acerbic edge of citric hops is sometimes softened by a dose of yeast, which brings it back to my point above.

Finally, I don’t really think the lower bitterness of the New England style (which in practice varies) or the extra opalescence of the type, makes any difference to this question of cloudy being good, bad or indifferent. It’s just another form of citric/fruity/dank IPA, i.e., the American twist that emerged from beers like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Anchor Liberty Ale, and Bert Grant’s India Pale Ale.

A RC Archdiocese’s Jubilee Dinner

The Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto (ARCAT) surely must contain one of the most specialized menu collections anywhere.

ARCAT’s website, the Archivist’s Pencil, sets out archival materials of many descriptions for their historical interest.

A few years ago it reproduced a half-dozen menus from its files. These were meals that commemorated celebrations, or other special events in Diocese history.

Below is one such menu, from 1892.

 

 

The celebration was for a notable occasion, a double-Jubilee of the founding of the Toronto Archdiocese.

Hence, the menu was unusually lavish and went yet further by featuring a wine selection. No other menu in the ARCAT website features alcohol. I cannot decide if the spatial treatment for the three wines, sherry, Champagne, and claret, was meant to designate specific dishes for each wine, or not. If yes, the claret was meant for the fruit course, for example.

It’s a seeming anomaly, but in British dining at the time dry red wine was, or could be, drunk at the end of the meal. See this 1890s edition of Table Talk, where claret is advised for the cakes.

So possibly the clerics drank sherry with all food after the soup until the game, and from then Champagne until claret met the fruit.

This is 1892, and might be considered late for such treatment, since the “rule” of red wine with meat had currency by then. But given the meal was in Canada, distant from ruling gastronomic centres (Europe), and given perhaps too the inherently conservative nature of religious organizations, an older custom may have prevailed in the Diocese.

By contrast, the typographical design is rather modern, especially the right side for the dishes listed. The layout would not be amiss in the menu of a modern upscale restaurant.

The dinner was held at the Palace, on Church Street, Toronto. It sounds perhaps like a commercial hotel, but was not. The Palace was the rectory for the Archbishop and Bishops of Toronto, a fine example of Victorian Gothic architecture. Indeed the building still stands, see below.

The Toronto website Taylor on History, source of the image below, presents an excellent overview of its history and design.

 

 

The Palace was built to serve nearby St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica. Its website notes:

St. Michael’s Cathedral endures as the principal church of the largest English-speaking diocese in Canada. The Bishop’s Palace remains in use as the Cathedral Rectory and is recognized as the oldest building in the City of Toronto still in use for its original purpose.

I suspect the dinner was prepared in the Palace’s own kitchen and with wines from a cellar below.

The food might be termed prosperous middle class. It is not excessively ornamented or sauced, the sweetbreads apart, perhaps. It offered familiar yet quality choices: joints, fowl with minimal dressing, game, and one fish. The inevitable turtle soup of late Victoriana appears. The desserts do look nice, considered as a unit with the entremets and ices.

The luxury was more in the range of things to eat, not elaborate recipes or presentation.

I love the Violet and Vanilla Ice Cream. Apart from the pleasing alliteration, the combination sounds enticing, even contemporary. Still, the ginger and glazed fruits, with most else on the menu, evoke a Victorian atmosphere.

The menu, finally, presents a yin and yang of the familiar and long-past – frequently encountered in historical food study.

Violet is the colour of some vestments, isn’t it? And of the wine used in sacraments? Here I will stop as I am entering unexplored territory.

Note re images: the images above were sourced from the websites identified and linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to their lawful owner. Images are used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

Edwin Guillet’s “Pioneers Inns and Taverns” – an Appreciation

 

Pioneer Inns and Taverns is a landmark five-volume work published by the Canadian historian Edwin C. Guillet (1898-1975). Born in Cobourg, Ontario, his ancestors, of French Huguenot lineage, arrived in Upper Canada in the early 1800s, from Jersey. He claimed in fact a blood connection to another son (distantly) of Jersey, American writer Henry Thoreau.

The first volume was issued in 1954, and the remainder by 1962. Volume One indicates clearly that it was self-published; the other volumes bear the imprint “Ontario Publishing Company” but I think this was an alter ego of Mr. Guillet.

The set comprises four printed volumes, since Volumes #2 and #3 were bound together. They were republished at least once, in a two-volume set. The series deals mainly with early Upper Canada but Lower Canada (Quebec) and parts of New York State are also covered. The fifth volume is a history of British pub names and signage.

 

Later researchers of early Ontario tavern life and drinking practises have acknowledged the importance of Guillet’s work. He was what today is called an independent or unaffiliated researcher. He worked in teaching, including at a technical high school in Toronto, and later as an archivist for the Ontario government.

Guillet held a master’s degree in both history and English from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and this shows in the book. True it remains that every generation has its writers who elucidate the past but inevitably, reflect their time. Since Guillet’s time, the academics Craig Heron, Douglas McCalla, and Julia Roberts, among others, have covered similar subject matter but from new perspectives. For example, Julia Roberts has examined how the tavern functioned for different social classes, and particular groups within them such as women and blacks.

Historiography reflects finally the personality and background of the writers. Guillet was not an academic historian but more than a popular or antiquarian writer. I use these terms without intending anything pejorative.  Much important historical, and other learned work, has been performed outside the ivied halls, goodness knows …

Guillet’s work is not referenced in the usual academic way. Rather, he quotes extensively from a wide range of sources. He lets the sources speak for themselves and since no analytical framework is applied, at least not expressly, the reader can form their own impressions.

The book does reflect its time, as consideration of liquor’s role in early communities is followed by a respectful look at the Temperance movement. Still, the book is less moralistic than one might think even though written within a generation after Prohibition ended in Ontario, within its shadow so to speak. We must factor as well that Guillet was a public servant and hence probably cautious when discussing liquor questions.

His essentially modern sensibility appears in a number of ways, for example an amusing anecdote in Volume One. He relates that a male traveller in early Upper Canada was preparing to retire for the night at an inn. Thinking he had the room to himself, he was taken aback by the sudden appearance of five “buxom” females, who started disrobing for the night. To his self-professed relief they chose another part of the room for their repose. It was sheltered by a curtain, at any rate.

The women resorted to this, he states, after a glance in his direction. This seemed to discomfit him – something novel in his experience, he adds. The physical separation proved only partly successful, as he was disturbed by the ladies’ snoring and constant chattering – in German.

A window on pioneer conditions, indeed.

The general tone of the book is even and balanced. Guillet explains absorbing aspects of early tavern and inn culture such as food and smoking facilities – people shared a communal pipe – and the accommodations available, including for horses. This could vary widely in amenity. As well, details of architecture, staffing, taverners’ origins, and entertainment are offered.

Perhaps oddly to our ears, Guillet does not describe, or in much detail, the drinks available. I read a good part of Volume One and paged through the remaining volumes, but this dimension seems absent. He mentions sometimes whether a pub serves whisky, brandy, beer, wine, etc. But he does not give a rigorous account of each type, and pricing. Some of the pioneer and traveller accounts he quotes offer some information, eg. whether someone’s whiskey was “bad”, but in general little light is shed in this area.

Why he refrained is hard to say. In 1950s Ontario a well-defined, albeit post-Prohibition moralism set the public tone. An undue interest in liquid offerings, even from a historical standpoint, may have raised eyebrows, given especially again Guillet’s governmental position.

Maybe there was another reason for his restraint. Consider the passage below, from the introductory part of Volume One:

 

 

Guillet doesn’t state he was an abstainer, although he may have been, but clearly he did not patronize taverns or bars very often.

(Maybe this personal habit favoured his impressive writing output – over 30 volumes on a variety of historical subjects).

By drawing attention to his work, I hope a re-publishing of Pioneer Inns and Taverns will see light, with a critical introduction. His pictorial record alone – hundreds of drawings and photos of historic inns – would justify the effort. Much in the text retains value as well.

 

 

A Cider Sampling

Below is a trio of ciders, selected not quite at random but quickly off the shelf for a comparison. They were tasted over a few nights. Kept in the fridge, the cans hardly lose carbonation over that time.

The English Blackthorn is slightly sweet with a good apple taste, but the flavour is hard to place in terms of “national” classification. It’s not quite English and not quite North American, I’d guess the formula aims at an indistinct “international” profile. Blackthorn Dry, the original formulation – or original since the 1960s when the Blackthorn brand was first introduced – is now sold only in England vs. this sweeter and stronger export.

Apple concentrates are used with added sugars. I support authentic methods but at the same time, the taste is fine, so this is not something I would linger over.

The Okanagan, from British Columbia, is by far the sweetest cider I’ve had, a liqueur cider if that makes sense. It would go well in small glasses iced after a light dinner with a biscuit. The apple used seems yellow Golden Delicious or of that type.

I plan to blend it with a lean stout – Ontario has a number of dry (“Dublin”) stouts with a burnt cereal edge – to create a Black Velvet. The extra dryness of the stout will be offset by the sweetness of the cider, and the latter’s sugary quality will be diffused in the mix.

The Thornbury, from Ontario, had a bright, North American apple taste and an alluring carbonation, soft and enveloping. It was least sweet of the three with a nice acid undertone, yet not a scrumpy-style, not, that is, bone-dry and strong. It shows how far cider has come in Canada as it offers good complexity yet without losing the appealing fresh quality. Thornbury is well known too for its brewing line.

None of the three had a Brettanomyces or wild yeast note which in my view ramps up the quality. Brett is such a dominant taste, even in small amounts, it tends to overwhelm the appealing qualities of cider. But it’s a question of taste of course.

Ontario has been making cider for a long time, it’s probably another early Yankee import. It pops up in tavern bills of fare from at least 1800.

Quebec’s cider scene surely derives ultimately from the Norman and Brittany apple yards and fermenting vats, after all most Quebeckers’ ancestors came from those regions.

I am not sure what the antecedents of British Columbia’s cider industry are. Perhaps it is truly home-grown given the long repute of the Okanagan Valley fruit orchards.

The cider barrel was a stock notion of the 19th century. It been reinvented for our time by artisans and ambitious multi-national companies.

 

Whiskey Gap

There is another connection of Americans to Canada in the matter of liquor, less creditable than their more orderly introduction of whiskey to Upper Canada.

It is highlighted by the National Film Board documentary, The Days of Whiskey Gap. From 1961, you may view it here. The film was directed by Colin Low and narrated by Stanley Jackson, whose bios you can read in Wikipedia. Both were highly respected professionals, indeed Low’s award-winning work influenced some American film-making, including by Stanley Kubrick.

Jackson was famous for almost creating a NFB documentary style. The precision and cadence of his voice illustrates, incidentally, the educated Canadian accent of the mid-20th century. It’s still heard among the older generation here but is fast disappearing. One feature is the breathy “wh” sound, eg. when he pronounces “white”.

The film mainly deals with Western settlement and policing, not so much the liquor issue. Booze though was a prime reason to create the North West Mounted Police, now the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Aged persons are interviewed who helped settling the Canadian west. One, an ex-Mountie, shows his scars from skirmishes with Indigenous peoples.

 

 

Whiskey Gap is in the Milk River Hills in southern Alberta, a passage through which Americans smuggled liquor into the Northwest Territory. The Gap featured a sparsely settled locality, today a ghost town.

That Territory, formerly Rupert’s Land, was controlled by the historic Hudson’s Bay Company until the new Canadian Confederation (1867) assumed control in 1869. HBC was established by the Crown in 1670 to exploit the riches of the wilderness here. The Territory is now encompassed by the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, more or less.

The background to the liquor trade is complex. As such dealings – liquor for furs and pelts – became condemned and rendered illegal in the U.S. due to the devastating effect it had on local tribes, unscrupulous traders sought new opportunities.

Fort Benton had been established in Montana, about 100 miles below the Alberta border and Gap mentioned, by John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company. It was later used as a base to establish a series of trading posts, finally made into forts, extending into Canada. This was late 1860s, early 1870s. One was Fort Whoop-Up (the name origin is disputed), now part of the tranquil Lethbridge, AB. Another was called Fort Standoff. You get the idea.

So Americans “invaded” Canada to set up an illicit alcohol trade with the Blackfoot nation. It caused great distress in the form of rampant crime, malnutrition and disease. Growing Temperance sentiment in the East contributed to the feeling this had to be stopped.

The NFB refers quite accurately to this malignity, but elides a similarly culpable role of the British and Canadians for about 150 years from 1700, when HBC regularly traded or gifted alcohol for furs in Canada. The HBC starting in the early 1800s became concerned about the alcohol trade. It slowly eliminated it, first by stopping the sale of alcohol to the Indigenous, and later endin gifting of liquor.

There is some question how strictly the bans were enforced into the 1860s. In general though, by the time Americans in Whiskey Gap were trading rotgut liquor for pelts, the Canadian trade had mostly stopped. although some persisted on the Western coast. Canada became intent to stop Americans from re-introducing the scourge.

The slightly sanctimonious tone in the film about the American role thus is unjustified due to ample Canadian involvement earlier. In general, the film exhibits mild anti-Americanism, something which took hold in Canada by about this time, at least among the chattering classes.

(In society at large, as shown by the great popularity of American films and other pop culture, the U.S. was as popular as ever).

The film paints the history of the Canadian west as a well-policed frontier versus the lawlessness and gunplay of the frontier south of the border. That may be true in general terms, but I’m not sure the subtext is all that different.

The Northwest Rebellion is an example of the power of the Canadian state being used to subdue a rising of the Metis, a mixed blood people who had Indian allies. Another interpretation is that Canadian Indians did not want a repetition of the Indian Wars occurring south of the border, as the end result was only too clear.

Anyway, in 1874-1875 the Mounties did put an end to the American illicit liquor traffic on the Canadian Prairies. The new troop travelled on horseback from the east under great travail, it included Charles Dickens’ son.

The romance of the Mounties started early and was later abetted by admiring U.S. film treatment. The redcoats always “got their man”… This was a stock feature of 1900s popular culture but is mostly forgotten now.

Reading the accounts of the liquor sold in the forts, a lot seems to have been white whiskey doctored with tobacco, molasses, drugs of various kinds, hot peppers, and other adulterations. They probably added to the harm the ethanol caused when imbibed in great quantities. Lurid names were applied to such concoctions, such as hootchinoo (still with us in the shortened hootch), bug juice, and the denigrating Injun juice.

As various accounts make clear, historically both in Canada and the U.S. liquor was one of many items traded for furs. Blankets (especially), tools, guns, salt, molasses, flour, and other basic commodities also were traded. Once alcohol became banned, honest traders stuck to the legal side of the ledger.

But alcohol did an outsized damage to the tribal societies, who had no or little experience with it before. It is a black mark on European settlement here whose consequences endure to this day.