Commercialism has won yet again. Hundreds of years of knowledge, tradition and craftsmanship has been replaced by economic sensibility. Originality, uniqueness and integrity have been pushed aside by bean counters and their bottom lines. They are all betting that YOU can’t tell the difference, and are laughing all the way to the bank.
Sadly, they are right. You probably can’t even tell the difference. Perhaps you are not even worthy to read further. Perhaps you should go drink a Rickard’s Red or some other mediocre beer and forget you even heard of open fermentation. Cut your losses while you’re ahead. Ignorance is bliss. Click the home button on your browser now. I am not kidding, do it now.
You still here? Great. Fasten your set belt and lets talk about the nuances of open fermentation. No other word can strike fear and awe at the same time in the heart of a brew master. Search the web and you will not read anywhere about its endangerment in any of the headlines. It is a silent battle seemingly without opposition. Or so they thought…
First, let us get some of the tech details out of the way. In the brewing process, traditional open fermentation takes place in relatively shallow vessels which naturally encourage the yeast to fall to the bottom at just the right time. The fermenting wort (pronounced wert, don’t ask me why) or beer is not under any head pressure as the yeast faithfully does its work, which allows the resulting carbon dioxide and other non-quantifiable agents to freely and happily dissipate into the surrounding environment. This delicate process preserves the full flavors and complexity of the beer and lends a softness or silkiness to the mouth feel and overall flavor profile. In the modern tall brewing vessel (called conical fermenters) preferred by accountants and business advisers (as they take up less floor space) are many times taller. Thus, the carbon dioxide developed during fermentation rises in greater distances, in effect purging the flavors as it goes up and out. In addition the yeast is very slow to drop which alters the flavor profile. Ok, enough with the tech talk.
Why should you care about all of this? Great beer. Don’t like beer, OK, fine, nobody is perfect, but it still involves you. Please read on. It is about integrity, nuance, originality and the quality of life. It’s about the little things. You know, the things that at the end of a day make a difference. It’s about not letting commercialism continue it rampant destruction with total disregard to tradition and craftsmanship. Take heart, not all is lost, for the battle is not over yet.
It is of great interest that the famous British Bass brewery whom not too long ago replaced their traditional open fermenters with the new shiny closed conical ones, (and thus became the infamous Bass brewery) now seems to be suffering remorse. They are now attempting to preserve the open fermenters that produce the wonderfully soft, delicate and malty Czech Staropramen lager. A true lager at its finest. The other more famous Czeh brewery Budvar began replacing its open fermenters with stainless steel, but happily stopped. Another victory. Sadly the once great Pilsner Urquell has abandoned completely its famous wooden fermenters and reduced its yeast from five strains to two. I know, I know, oh the horror of it all! The much revered beer and scotch expert (at least by me anyway) Michael Jackson sadly reports on his Beer Hunter web site that, it has lost some of its complexity and its malty fullness of flavour.
Some adventurous American micro- breweries and brewpubs are now taking up the cause by embracing open fermentation. These beers are notably more complex and intriguing than their new fan dangled conical fermenter brewed counter parts. (I have always wanted to use fan dangled in a sentence.) You too can join the cause, How?
Try spicing up drab and mundane conversation about HD TV with random references to open fermentation accompanied with an increased heart rate and a glazed look in your eyes. When someone expresses concern about the environment, you may kindly add: “Perhaps you should be just as concerned with the extinction of open fermentation.” Or, “Excuse me, where were you when Bass killed open fermentation?” We could make up bumper stickers that say: “Friends don’t let friends play with conical fermenters.” Ok, may by we need to work on that last one, but you get the picture. Hey maybe we could get the esteemed filmmaker Michael Moore to make a heart-wrenching documentary about the subject. I am sure we can find a brewer in Cuba that practices open fermentation. I could even shed a few tears for the camera while nursing my 100% open fermented home brewed euphoric Imperial India Pale Ale.
Plus, just think of how you can become an instant beer snob and impress your friends by asking the brew master or server at your local brewpub if they practice open fermentation. Stay original… drink original beer.
For a long time we have had the suspicion that there is a link between India Pale Ale and artistic creativity. Before you think we are a little loopy, let’s first look at a brief history of this fine beverage.
The British troops who were sent to India more then a century ago, brought with them of course a good supply of their finest ale. However, due to the long voyage and relenting heat, sadly the ale had spoiled before it reached shore. So what did they do? Since hops are a natural preservative, they added double the amount of hops, and made a stronger ale (higher gravity, more alcohol) to survive the journey. Many months of aging in oak wooden casks made for an exceptional new style of robust ale.
A century later, in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, namely Seattle and Portland, this fine ale was re-invented, trading the classic British hops with the more assertive and bold American hops such as the citrus Cascade, and the grapefruity Chinook to create a hop lover’s dream. When we first traveled to Seattle in the early nineties we fell in love with IPAs. Each small brewery and brew pub set out to undue the other in who would create the most hoppiest and complex IPAs. One of the best at the time was the cask-conditioned Pike Place Brewery (now The Pike Brewery) India Pale Ale.
Interestingly we began to notice that good conversation accompanied a good IPA. The more hoppy the IPA the more creative and artistically inspired we felt. (Yes, even more so then espresso.) It seemed that an IPA always seemed to be surrounded by creative and passionate people. Could this be just a coincidence, or was something less obvious at work here? Is it simply due to the fact that the IPA is usually the brew masters most creative and passionate beer that he produces, and so this in turn attracts an equally passionate creative patron. Or is it the fact that no other beer causes such an extreme reaction in its tasters, ranging from hate to euphoria. Or could it possibly be the lupilin effect?
Lupilin is one of the principal ingredients of hops, and the vine itself is a distant relative of the cannabis plant. It is of no surprise then that lupilin has a mild sedative-like effect on the central nervous system, and is often used us a natural remedy for sleep disorders. Reportedly one interesting side effect is that it increases vivid dream activity. Could lupilin be responsible for the hordes of passionate hopheads that seek ever-higher levels of hops in their IPAs? Is that perhaps why the conversations around a pint of IPA more often then not burst with creativity? That is for you to decide.
Stay original… be creative.
The other day someone asked Eva (the greater half of the Underground Art Project) where she gets the inspiration to keep painting. My thoughts immediately turned to the often repeated remark attributed to Brian Eno, that while the Velvet Underground’s first album in 1967 sold only a few thousand copies, every person who bought it formed a band and made more music.
That is the great thing about art. It fuels itself. That is why art in all its forms continue to evolve. Take tango music for example. It all began in Buenos Aires with Carlos Gardel in the 30′s. Now more than 70 years later we see new artists still redefining tango. There is neo tango like the electronic beats of the Gotan Project and the Bajo Fondo Tango Club. Then there is the tango fusion of Tango Crash who fuse neo tango with experimental jazz and Otros Aires who mix tango with the milonga of Barcelona.
The question of course is, who inspired the likes of Carlos Gardel or the VU? I do not know, but of this we can be certain, it was art in some form. Art fuels art. Whether you listen to great music, read a captivating book, fall in love with a beautiful oil painting, savor a perfect shot of espresso (yes, it is art, why you even have latte art, but that is for a future blog), or get lost in the complex aromas and flavors of a hand-crafted, hand-pulled cask-conditioned India pale ale, you are fueling your artistic creativity. All forms of art converge into inspiration, motivating us, fueling us to produce more art.
The music we play in our studio affects the way we paint that particular day, what we write about or how much kerning I want to apply to my favorite font. Art inspires us all to be artists in some way. Artists will continue to redefine and reinvent their art and other people’s art. That is why art has, is, and will always stay original. Stay original… fuel up.
Something is terribly wrong. Are we the only ones that can see it? Are we the only ones who care? Is anyone going to do something? Let us explain.
When we came back to Canada after a several year hiatus in South America, we made a brief visit to our favorite brew pub with a couple of friends. To our horror, one of them, ordered a low carb beer. What? Was what we were hearing true? Has North American culture gone mad? Perhaps it was still the jet lag? Perhaps our ears still needed to adjust from Spanish back to English? But no, sadly, it was very true. The low fat, low carb propaganda bullet had struck again.
Well, you can imagine our embarrassment, but what could we do? After all, they were our friends. Then we started to realize that were in fact surrounded by infected people. People who were trading their India pale ales and Stouts for low carb beers, and right there on the table in front of us was even a low fat, low carb menu.
In the grocery stores we noticed how real food, (yes, food as nature intended, sorry kids but pizza pops are not real food), had been replaced by food PRODUCTS, many of which came with government approval labels, trying to convince us how healthy they are. Hmm… Funny there were no such labels to be found on the few natural and real foods that we found left in the store, the fruits and vegetables. Something is terribly wrong. Are we the only ones that can see it? Are we the only ones who care? Is anyone going to do something?
Yes, we are going to do something and we want you to join us. It is about time we fight back, stand up for real food, real beer, and good health. But first, we need a motto, so here it is folks, are you ready, brace yourselves it’s going to be a good one: “full fat, full flavor, full health.” There you have it. Catchy isn’t it? You see, what we are going do is to eat REAL food with all the fat and all the flavor, but just eat LESS. (Insert our usual minimalist ranting here…) Self-control is the answer, not all the fat free chocolate cake you can eat.
And while were on the subject, sorry people, but you CAN taste the difference, low fat Fettuccini Alfredo does not taste the same, people just agree with you, because you have so little body fat, they are afraid to rattle your cage. Well, there you have it, that’s our solution to the problem. Repeat after us: full fat, fall flavor, full health. Now don’t you feel better already? Stay original… it’s only natural.
Mark Eitzel from the venerable American Music Club (whose CD jackets by the way contain brilliant art and who many believe is one of the best songwriters of all time) once said he writes “pretentious little songs of quiet self-loathing.” If only all artists could be as honest about their work.
You may have noticed that the underground art project does not have an artist statement. It is not because we could not think of some lofty, pretentious things to say about nothing, or babble about some metaphysical junk, but rather because we feel the whole idea of an artist statement is, well, to be honest, is just down right SILLY. Do you really care what some artist has to say about what his work is about or what it SHOULD be about? Can you not tell these things from simply viewing his work? Why is art so pretentious? Why are artists so pretentious?
Art is completely subjective (unless of course you are an art dealer, then in that case ‘subjective’ is a bad word) and is one of the purest forms of expression that eliminates the need for explanations or commentaries. If you like a painting then that’s great, if you don’t then that’s great to. If you can’t decide, then that’s not great, and you should be forced to read endless artists statements until you have an opinion.
If for any other reason you really want to read some poor misguided artist’s pretentious words, the art galleries and the web are full of them (knock yourself out), we however would much rather you listen to Mark Eitzel’s pretentious little songs of quiet self-loathing. After which, you might even be inspired to pick up the brush and start painting.
Stay original… not pretentious.