More Best Posts 2017

As I was thinking about the year just ending, memory of one of my favorite posts came to mind--one not on the "best posts" list. A little scouring revealed three more. If you'll excuse some navel gazing (or solipsism, depending on how critical you're feeling), I'd like to direct you to these four further posts in case you missed them.


Beyond the Brewery: Driving With Van
Before long we were off the main road and zipping down one of Oregon’s spectacular back roads, threaded between fields of hazelnuts and wine grapes. Van was periodically stymied by commuter traffic, as the odd minivan or SUV wallowed out in front of him. He’d lay off the gas, wait until the car turned, and open up all 89 horses to the road. Driving four-bangers is not like dragging muscle cars. They demonstrate their capacities on sharp turns and squiggles in the road, nimbly darting around turns bigger cars must brake to tackle. They also require quick work by the driver on the gearshift, because a mistimed shift either delays progression to higher speeds or lugs the car down as the engine labors in the wrong gear. Good drivers know to shift just before a turn so the car can accelerate rapidly, using the force of the curve as a slingshot to propel it once the road straightens out. Big cars require a lead foot; small cars call for full-body engagement. Van, a lean six foot three, looked like he was playing a pipe organ as we sailed along.

Class and Culture in American Brewing
And while it's true as far as it goes, there's another age-old truth that it conceals: the gulf between brewery owners and workers. Most of the people toiling in beer--pulling pints, delivering kegs, hauling grain sacks--are working-class. Owners are sometimes, too, but they're also the kinds of people with access to family funds or with the background and collateral to secure sizable loans. As companies grow and prosper, that gulf widens; the folks doing the pulling and hauling may get a bump in pay, the real rewards accrue to the shareholders. There's a we're-all-in-it-together ethos that pervades craft beer, but the "it" looks a lot different depending on where your office is located.

How Beer Became a Moral Issue
Within societies, moral violations are the most serious. Laws have one kind of power, but people forgive a tax cheat a lot sooner than they do a pedophile. To moral transgression, societies exact the harshest penalties--shunning for infractions or, most seriously, excommunication--expulsion from the group. Craft breweries have several different identities and associate themselves with others according to these (size, location, beer type, etc), but the unifying morality is independence. It is the taproot for all that has grown up around craft beer--the punk rock attitude, notions of "craft," fealty to authenticity, creativity, and a vague sense of wholesomeness.

A Monastic Brewery Rises in Mount Angel
A crew of perhaps a hundred volunteers gathered at eight o'clock on a Saturday morning (mighty early for a blogger!) and spent the day erecting a frame of heavy fir timbers. The wood came from a stand on abbey lands--where else?--near Abiqua Falls that were cut and milled in March. We used wooden mallets ("beetles") to connect the precut timbers, nearly all of which is mortice-and-tenon construction. (There are a few metal ties hidden inside some of the joints for strength.) Those were fastened by uncountable wooden pegs, a few of which the volunteers signed.

Jeff Alworth