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Monthly Archives: June 2012

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Molson’s New Packaging Line

I have a mildly complicated relationship with Molson.

This is probably because reality isn’t white hats and black hats. Craft beer isn’t Alan Ladd and Macro isn’t Jack Palance. Molson has a lot of strong points. They employ a number of immensely talented people, some of whom I like personally. My co-author Mark Murphy works out there, and he’s a heck of a guy. Also, most of the PR team people seem like nice folks who understandably remain vigilant about what they say around me.

They make beer extremely consistently in huge volumes, which is not an easy thing to do. Some of those beers are not to my taste, but you’ve got to respect that effort. I will admit that there’s nothing wrong with an ice cold can of Coors Light on a really hot day. You could do better, but you could also do worse. It was good enough for Burt Reynolds.

It’s also worth mentioning that I like their long term strategy with Six Pints. I believe the thinking is that promoting all beer is better than warring within the industry over a couple of points of market share. Plus, their management strategy seems to be that they should take the talented microbreweries they buy and throw resources at them to make their lives easier and their products better.

There are a lot of problems with Molson as well. They are owned by Americans, which I wouldn’t mind so much if the transitive property didn’t dictate that The Beer Store is currently experiencing 0% Canadian ownership. That’s not any one person’s fault, so it’s hard to get angry. It is problematic, though. You have to assume that they know there’s a coming push to review that situation and you have to assume they’ll fight tooth and nail to keep the 48% or so they own. They’re sort of obligated to. Doing anything else would be silly.

I think one of the reasons I have a decent working relationship with Molson is that I’m honest about the fact that they’re pretty largely a bunch of decent folks operating under a corporate mandate, and not some kind of dragon to be slain. Because of this, sometimes I get invited out to the Downsview plant to cover events and have a look at their new toys. The first time I went out there was to get a sense of the place. Craft brewing is all well and good, but a 10HL brewhouse is a human scale. To get a sense of what Molson does daily, you really need to stand next to a row of fermenters you could hunt for Red October in.That was not a press event. That was a personalized tour, which doesn’t seem to happen very much.

This was a press event. There were cameras and dignitaries and high ranking officials within the company. It was all to show off Project Acrobat. Project Acrobat is a 13.5 million dollar project that involves transforming an area of the Downsview Molson plant into the home for a new Krones flexible packaging line.

The new Widemouth bottle is a screwtop kind of thing.

I think that for most of the journalists and dignitaries in attendance, the story was about the economic development. Molson employs 1400 people in Ontario alone, which is pretty neat. The Downsview plant produces 45% of their national volume. 13.5 million dollars is a lot of money. All of this is good news for the economy in a vague, “look, people are still investing locally” kind of way that is reassuring even though it’s not specifically obvious what it will do in the long term. In order for it to seem important, you need the specifics.

It’s a 473 ml package, essentially meaning it is the same size as a traditional can, but with a gimmick.

Here they are:

The flexible packaging line is a beast. It’s all sleek stainless steel and precision calibrated automation. The installation took approximately 2.5 months beginning in February and included fixing up the environment the line would go in with new floors and stripped, cleaned and repainted ceilings. It can package in a number of different formats, including bottles, cans and the new widemouth aluminum bottles, which were on display at the event.

The automated 120-head filler can manage 300 units a minute. It is currently being operated on a single shift when needed, which can process 100,000 HL a year. According to Martin Gonzalez, who is currently in charge out at Downsview, if it went to three shifts, it could go as high as 350,000 HL annually.

When I saw the counter on the can QC, it had processed something like 160,700 units of which 54 were duds. That’s a success rate of something like 99.9997%. Jeff Nancekivell, who was giving me the detailed tour was quick to point out that that was “40 too many.”

That’s practically a Charles Bronson line. Jeff is awesome.

The press release and the dignitaries talk about innovation. That’s not entirely what this is about. This is about flexibility to respond to the market. If you have brands like Molson Canadian and Coors Light, which are key to your success, you can’t change them. The best you can do is figure out which way the public best enjoys them. Are bottle sales up over the last three months? This machine lets you produce more bottles. Are people buying the 355ml cans? Well, normally, with your canning line going at full tilt, you’d be hard pressed to keep them on the shelves. Not so in this case. Just use the flex line for more cans. It even introduces a third packaging option: the widemouth aluminum bottle. Maybe it will go over big with the public, maybe it won’t. The point is that the flex line ensures that even if it falls flat on its face, the production capacity won’t be wasted.

Because they’re the same size as a can, they palletize easily.

This is about Molson becoming lighter and quicker. They’ll be able to respond quickly and quietly to what people want based on sales data. In an era with giant monolithic brands, this is what catering to public taste looks like. It’s a clever way of maximizing the efficacy of your production capacity, leading presumably to less loss of volume through old product on shelves. It will save money and provide flexibility to move against AB InBev, who are their real competition. That’s why it’s important.

If the mayor drops by, people come to see the speech, even if they’re up in the rigging, so to speak.

On the widemouth bottles, I have an observation, and it is not really about the beer. I had Molson Canadian out of the widemouth bottles, and my feeling is this: You can actually drink out of them, which is what they’re designed for. You don’t get the metallic can taste you might from the lid of a can. The odd thing is that I, at least, felt compelled to screw the top back on to the bottle after each sip. I did it without thinking. I guess it might be a holdover from when you’re drinking a bottle of water. It’s a pretty odd sensation that I neither like nor dislike, but mention by way of pointing out that I think it means the packaging will sell.

People are used to the sensation of a 500ml screw top.

OCB Week Beer and Food: Fanny Chadwick’s

As Ontario Craft Beer Week continues on its merry, slightly lumbering way, I find that the events that I’m most interested in are the ones that deal with pairing food and beer. I suspect that this has to do with the fact that we don’t get enough of this in Toronto at the moment. There are, of course, any number of restaurants that serve good beer and good food, but there’s not always that much in terms of designed pairings.

Even beerbistro, whose menu exists for that purpose, theoretically, has beers sequestered into various groups based on their properties: robust, sociable, assertive, extroverted, yielding and, of course, manic. It’s a little like a Meyers-Briggs chart. That works relatively well as a baseline for pairing, but what I really want to see is a specific dish paired with a specific beer. I want to see someone play with a specific set of flavours.

I admit that it’s not the kind of thing that can often be done outside a beer dinner.

On Monday night, Harbord House had their third OCB Week beer dinner with Great Lakes. Since I’ve been covering this event for the last couple of years during OCB Week, I figure that at this point, it’s just become tradition. Harbord House always surprises me a little bit, mostly because I hear about it less often that I feel like I ought to. I get there maybe twice a year, but I’m never disappointed.

As per usual, the Great Lakes beer dinner at Harbord House was hosted by David Bieman and featured a wide assortment of their beers. At $50 a seat, I feel like it was the most affordable of the beer dinners on offer this week and it proves to be good value for money year after year.

Some of the pairings worked better than others, as is always the case during a four course dinner. The starter beer was the OCB Farmhouse Ale, which is a collaboration between Amsterdam and Great Lakes. It’s a very tasty beer. The difficulty is that it was served before the first course, which was a Poached Pear Salad with spiced pistachios, chevre, baby arugula and a maple balsamic vinaigrette. The pear salad was served with Great Lakes Green Tea Ale, but I feel as though the better pairing would have been the starter beer, if only because the lingering bitterness of the arugula would have worked with the sting of the Farmhouse yeast.

Poached Pear Salad.

While some pairings are obviously going to work (strawberry chocolate cheesecake and Harry Porter and the Bourbon Soaked Vanilla Beans), others surprised with their quality. Cooking mussels in beer is not a new concept, but the Moules Frites served as a second course were surprising because I usually see mussels cooked with wheat beer. Cooking them with a Saison, No Chance With Miranda in this case, is sort of revelatory because the flavour is more complex. If you serve them with the same beer, you get two versions of the same flavour, experienced slightly differently.

The other venue I visited for beer and food pairing was Fanny Chadwick’s. I’ve only been to Fanny Chadwick’s once before, but the impression I got was that it somehow eludes being on the radar as a destination in Toronto. I don’t know how that’s possible, because I’m convinced that they serve the best burger I’ve ever eaten. It might be the house made pickles that make it, or possibly the general high quality of the ingredients. I’ve been to BQM and Holy Chuck. I think Fanny Chadwick’s blows them out of the water.

One of the reasons I like Fanny Chadwicks is that it manages a retro diner kind of feel without being kitschy.

The event that they’re hosting for Ontario Craft Beer Week is simple: Flights and bites.

Fanny Chadwick’s usually have 12 Ontario Craft Beers on tap, which is a huge number for a restaurant that might seat 40. For the purposes of the Flights and Bites event, they have come up with unique food pairings in appetizer sizes that work with, and are made with, a specific beer on the menu. Most often, this kind of attention to detail comes with a set menu during a beer dinner. This is a la carte beer and food pairing at a very high level for an extraordinarily good value.

It’s like chess in beer terms.

Flying Monkeys Stereo Vision is paired with Deep Fried Asparagus. Stereo Vision is apparently meant to be a hoppy Kristalweiss, although that combination is esoteric enough that I would not have been able to guess the style. The Stereovision is used in the batter for the Asparagus and then again subsequently in a reduction drizzled over the Asparagus consisting of shallot, honey, and citrus zest. The acidity of the reduction picks up the grassiness of the Asparagus and prepares the palate for the hoppy kick of the Stereo Vision.

Great Lakes Orange Peel Ale is paired with Pulled Pork on a Buttermilk Biscuit. I am, generally speaking, just about done with Pulled Pork, as it gets served everywhere. This is an interesting twist on it, however, because it’s not a heavily vinegared Carolina Pulled Pork or a saucy Texas pulled pork. It’s practically a French treatment of the dish, which incorporates the Orange Peel Ale in the braising liquid along with thyme and what I think may have been sage. Sort of a Porc Tiré, if you get my meaning. For all that it isn’t heavily sauced, it retains its moisture and plays off the citrus character of the Orange Peel Ale.

Pulled Pork, seconds prior to demolition by a hungry blogger.

The most successful of the bites is the Wellington Arkell Bitter Chick Pea Patty served with Caper, Olive and Habanero Tapenade. The reason it works as well as it does is that it is extremely subtle. Arkell Bitter has a caramel backbone that persists on the palate as you make your way through a sip. In the case of the Chick Pea Patty, every component plays off this backbone: The slight nuttiness of the chickpeas, the salt from the caper and olive, the heat from the Habanero, even the acidity from the carefully considered slice of tomato. It’s one of those rare pairings that leaves you contented without knowing exactly why. Extremely balanced.

Wellington Arkell Bitter and Chick Pea Patty

There are other bites, of course. There’s the Muskoka Mad Tom IPA Chili Cheese Fries. There’s the Mill Street Organic Beef Liver Pate and Avocado Dip. There are Rainbow Trout Fish Cakes topped with Beau’s Lug-Tread Lagered Ale Air.

10 Point IPA Ice Cream. Odd, because you tend to perceive the hop character as it melts in your mouth, leaving a strangely earthy perfume. Good, though.

Did I mention that a flight of samples is $6.75 and that most of the bites that go with those samples are under $5.00?

Look, I really like beer and food pairing, but my observation is that not everyone has the desire to sit through a beer dinner. Sometimes you want the care and attention that goes into a beer dinner in a much smaller format, and that’s what they’re doing at Fanny Chadwick’s during OCB week. You want a dish that someone has put a lot of thought into that will teach you something about food and beer and won’t cost an arm and a leg? This is the best place to go in the city this week.

In fact, even if you’re reading this after OCB week, you should know one thing. This is the only restaurant I have ever been to where a waiter set down a vegan dish at the table next to mine and I looked at it covetously. It’s that good.


Ontario Craft Beer Week 2012

It’s the week after Father’s Day and that means that it’s time once again for Ontario Craft Beer Week. OCB Week is now in its third year and the number of events that are available has jumped pretty considerably from last year. It’s a jump that seems conceptually tied to the near 50% year over year increase in sales that the OCB participants continue to experience at the LCBO. Craft continues to be popular and OCB Week is, in part, a celebration of that fact.

In fact, the sheer preponderance of events has to do with the fact that the stage for craft beer in Ontario continues to grow. The number of venues where it’s possible to serve interesting beer has increased steadily since I started writing about beer a couple of years ago. When I started, there were a relatively small number of people writing about beer in Toronto. Nowadays, you can’t swing a dead cat without the risk of blinding a scribbling inebriate. It’s as good a time as any to reflect on the changes that are now possible as a result of this growth.

To begin with, I feel as though I should address something of a controversy that existed in the leadup to OCB Week. When the events were initially listed on the website, there was a claim that there were 350. The majority of these were Mill Street events and they lasted all week. Usually, these involved taking over a pub and serving a sampler flight of Mill Street beer with some cheese.

Chris Grimley pointed out that these made up the majority of all events across the province, even going so far as to use a helpful chart. Mike Warner pointed out correctly that these events cluttered the events page and made it difficult to find anything. The OCB have helpfully, and I think wisely, fixed this problem by streamlining the events section of the website. It is now easy to find something that you would like to go to. To be honest, as I was doing an initial run through the events a couple of weeks ago, it was not unlike hacking your way through a jungle, dragging your canoe behind you.

Kreegah bundolo.

Let’s reflect on this for a moment, shall we? The fact that Mill Street is even able to support this many events is not something that could have been possible in previous incarnations of OCB Week. They’ve basically got 14 locations in Toronto where there are sample flights and cheese pairings.  There are 20 locations where they’re doing this outside the GTA.

I think that part of the reason this drew so much ire from bloggers is that these are not seen as marquee events, or even as being particularly interesting events. It’s beer and cheese. I mean, if you’ve been around the beer scene a while, you’ve seen beer and cheese pairing events. It’s the kind of event that would make a particularly hard bitten blogger jump about while satirically yelling “yippee-skip.”

Sometimes, we forget that we’re not really the audience.

The entire point of OCB week is to spread the sales of craft beer across the province. I almost typed message there, but that leans towards evangelism. We’ll go with sales. Believe it or not, the vast majority of people out there are going to find a beer and cheese pairing at a reasonable price pretty gosh darned impressive.  It doesn’t do to forget that the increased availability of one offs and tap takeovers and all of the other stuff that we’ve come to view as inevitable is all funded by actually selling beer.

That 45-50% year over year increase at the LCBO? That’s because craft beer is finding a new audience and that’s because of straightforward introductory events. It’s also why the market now supports this many people writing about beer. The industry is drumming up interest.

That said, I am glad that they streamlined the search function. I practically sprained my mouse wheel from scrolling.

Over the course of the week, I’m going to be attending a number of events around Toronto despite the looming heat wave. This year, I’m attempting a novel approach. Rather than attempting to cover all of the marquee events, I’m adopting a back to basics approach of attending only events that I actually want to attend. In previous years, I’ve tried to go everywhere and do everything with the result that I tend to end up on Thursday morning of Ontario Craft Beer Week with a debilitating amount of writing to do and an anorexic wallet.

This year, I’m using OCB week as an excuse to go places I haven’t been to or places I enjoyed briefly but have not been back to. I’m just going to go out and have fun. You know: Like people who don’t have a blog.

How Not To Manage A Crisis: Labatt Blue

There are some particularly good examples in the history of crisis management.

Take Tylenol, who in 1982 suffered a major setback in Chicago. Some bottles of Extra Strength Tylenol had been tampered with and contained potassium cyanide. Because the bottles came from different factories, it was pretty clear that it wasn’t the result of a disgruntled employee. It is likely that because all of the capsules had been from around Chicago, there was some maniac going around tampering with the Tylenol on the shelves at different stores. Seven people died from ingesting the capsules. It’s referred to as the Chicago Tylenol Murders.

The answer was to recall all of the Tylenol on the market. Whether or not the company was at fault, there was something wrong with the product and since there was no easy way to ensure that the product wasn’t tampered with in an isolated region, they just pulled it all.

It was a sensible solution. In fact, it was the only sensible solution. They were open and transparent about why it was being recalled. Sure, it was a $100 million dollar loss of product, but compared to the lasting damage to the brand that might have happened, that was a reasonable loss to take. They brought in the Chicago Police, the FBI and the FDA in order to help in the search for the person responsible for the tampering.

There is still a $100,000 reward available for the capture and conviction of the Tylenol Killer, which you can probably try to claim if you’re feeling like getting your Mickey Spillane on.

Let’s look at this rationally

1) There was a problem with their product.

2) Which led to a problem with their brand.

3) Which they took positive action to resolve.

Eventually, partly because the solution was so sensible, they received a lot of sympathetic media coverage and the brand rebounded within a year to its previous market share.

I mention all of this because this was a CRISIS in all caps.

Do you know what’s not a CRISIS?

That’s right: Having a newspaper print a story about a deranged serial killer accompanied by a picture of the serial killer enjoying your product.

If you’re not already aware of the situation, the Montreal Gazette printed a story about Luka Magnotta with a picture of the guy enjoying a bottle of Labatt Blue.  If I had to guess, I would guess that the picture came from facebook.

What seems to have happened is that someone at the top of Labatt saw the story and panicked, calling on the lawyers to send a cease and desist letter to attempt to get the picture removed. The press, the legitimate press, I mean (not guys like me who contribute from the periphery), don’t really like being told what to do. Other newspapers, like the Toronto Star, have people like Josh Rubin who write about beer and are certainly going to report on a story like this. Not only did the Gazette not remove the picture from their online news, it spread to other papers. And then twitter. And Facebook.

It’s really best not to try and bully the media.

Let’s objectively assess the situation:

Labatt Blue is the same product today that it was on Monday. While beer nerds will probably tell you that Blue is fundamentally flawed, nothing has changed. The fault doesn’t lie with Labatt and there is therefore no reason for them to have reacted in the way they did. If anything, the problem with the photo is that Blue is so universal. It’s something that average people drink on a daily basis. It’s pervasive in Canada. If anything, the reason that the picture is affecting is because of this omnipresence. This is an abnormal person doing a normal thing. I can guarantee you that if you commit some series of bizarre and horrifying crimes, we will be able to find pictures of you on facebook that would be totally mundane in any other context.

This wasn’t a CRISIS. This fell very much in the category of “Shit Happens.”

It’s unfortunate that the picture exists, but once it was out there, it was out there. What Labatt managed to do was turn an unfortunate thing that people would have shrugged off into a calamity.

There are a couple of ways that this could have been handled better:

1)      Do nothing. Absolutely nothing. The nice thing about the 24 hour news cycle is that the constant stream of new coverage pushes things down below the fold. Possibly Labatt might have taken some gentle ribbing for a couple of days, but it would have disappeared down the memory hole without international attention and satire. Just because you can take action doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Sometimes you just have to weather the storm.

2)      If the first idea doesn’t seem like a good idea, and trust me, it would have been the best option, it would have potentially been a good idea to play off the brand’s omnipresence. Something like “We make a good product that is very popular and we don’t have any control over who consumes it. While we don’t like that this association now exists, there are any number of completely normal, law abiding citizens who also enjoy Labatt Blue.” They could then have followed this up with examples of those citizens. Possibly a celebrity spokesperson. This would also have had the effect of dragging the coverage out, but it would have been possible to control the situation to some extent.

The thing that’s really important to take away from this, if you find yourself in a situation where your product is somehow associated by a certified sex maniac psycho killer, is that there’s very little you can do about it. There will be some backlash. All you can do is limit the amount of media coverage that exists online. With the internet existing as it does, every story will find some kind of online reaction. If people can make jokes, they will. Twitter more or less exists to allow people to make calculatedly witty comments. More stories mean more jokes.

No one would really have carried on the association with Labatt Blue for very long. To be honest, the news story is of the variety that creates a certain amount of grim, morbid fascination. People would have forgotten about Labatt Blue with the next grisly detail.

Labatt exposed their belly and made for an easy bunch of news stories and fed into the machine. The twitter hashtag #newlabattcampaign trended massively in Canada. Whoever made the call to try and force the Gazette to do something should be seriously evaluating their ability to understand the way media and social media interact. The lawyers should probably have counselled against the action. Someone, somewhere, should have been able to stop the dumb thing from happening.

Pliny The Elder and Citizen Kane

One of the best things about traveling to San Diego last month was that I got the chance to try Pliny The Elder from Russian River on tap.

I can tell you that I didn’t get it.

I had had it in bottles before; a couple of times in fact. Mike Lackey, who you’ll recall is something of a maverick brewer at Great Lakes, was good enough to pull a bottle out of his fridge during a beer tasting one night. It was early enough in the evening, before it had devolved into a beer drinking that everyone still had some form of palate left. I saw a number of brewers that I respected trying the thing and going oooh and ahhh and I just didn’t get it. It’s a very good Double IPA. It may well be one of the best in the world, but I don’t know that it did anything for me. We had bottles of other things that were just as good if not better.

On the ratebeer list it is valued as being one of the best beers in the world. I don’t know how much stock one ought to put in lists like that, but they do show valuable information in terms of trends over time. At one point it may well have been the champion of the world.

In terms of being the best beer in the world, I would have put several beers of different styles that we tried that night ahead of it. Hill Farmstead had a lovely porter for one. I think Ballast Point Sculpin might have made an appearance.

The thing is this: With the context that I have from two years of writing about beer, I didn’t know exactly what was going on or why people were going oooh and ahhh.

I tried it on tap to make sure that I wasn’t missing something. I tried it on tap at Tiger! Tiger! In San Diego. Now, it was during the Craft Beer Conference, so you can bet that Russian River had sent in the freshest stuff possible, knowing full well that people were going to be ordering their beer during the conference. It was fresh. Tiger! Tiger! Is a really good bar, so you know that their lines were probably up to scratch. It was clean.

I still didn’t get it.

At one point my friend Russ Burdick from Biergotter nearly cuffed the side of my head when I told him he should try the Lagunitas Barrel Aged Sumpin’ Wild instead. I got out of that one by buying a snifter for him. Great beer, the Lagunitas Sumpin’ Wild.

I felt nonplussed. I went out the next night in search of Pliny The Elder and tried it again. I’m afraid to say that nothing lifted the fog. I didn’t get the beer. It’s a great beer, but it’s not this great legendary thing.

I don’t think that I was just being contrary. I certainly wasn’t being contrary intentionally. I actually buy into the hype for the Westvleteren 12. In some ways I’m a credulous moron.

Let me change the subject briefly and ask you a question about Cinema.

Have you ever seen Citizen Kane?

It’s quite possibly the best movie ever made. It was made in 1941 and Orson Welles was a first time director. He had final cut approval over the project so it was made exactly the way that he wanted it made. He cast the people he wanted to cast. He got the shots and the editing he wanted. It was a hell of a longshot in a lot of ways. It was codenamed RKO 281 so that people wouldn’t know anything about it. It was based on the life of William Randolph Hearst; an intensely private gentleman who would probably have put pressure on the studio to shelve the project if it had been known that it was being made.

It’s an incredible film even today. The techniques and directorial choices are 70 years old, but the story clips along at a pretty decent pace. The storytelling technique from different points of view of friends and lovers of the main character predates Kurosawa’s technique in Rashomon by a fair bit. There’s even a rollicking musical number. Plus, to be entirely honest, if Welles eventually devolved into a behemoth (more ham than auteur), he’s immensely likeable in Citizen Kane.

The truth is that most of you probably will not have seen the movie.

That doesn’t matter. The influence of damn near every scene in the movie is culturally omnipresent. If you’ve seen the first six seasons of The Simpsons, you have more or less seen Citizen Kane. Monty Burns is basically Charlie Kane. His bear, Bobo is Rosebud. His hound-releasing estate is Xanadu. The show references it with an almost maniacal fervency. Charles Foster Kane. C Montgomery Burns. Smithers even organizes a song and dance tribute to Mr. Burns that’s basically identical to the original.

It’s not even that The Simpsons did it. Everyone did it. The White Stripes did it.

You know the movie even if you’ve never seen it. If you go and watch it, you’ll be overwhelmed by the amount that you know that you didn’t realize you knew. Maybe you’ll be enthralled. More likely, you’ll be bored because you’ve seen it before.

This is the problem with Classics. Even if you’re unaware of them, they influence just about everything that comes after them.

So, to get back to my original point:

I’m standing in a kitchen with brewers who are tasting Russian River’s Pliny The Elder alongside me. I was nonplussed, while they were awed.

What I know now is that it was originally brewed in 2000 and evolved from a 1994 recipe called Blind Pig. It was brewed by Vinnie Cilurzo, who ain’t exactly without reputation. I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess at when the first Double IPA was brewed in Canada, but I’m guessing it wasn’t 1994. I got into the beer writing game long after trying my first Double IPA, which I think was probably Moylan’s. For me, when I started, these were commonplace. You’d come across one every once in a while.

It’s not so much that it’s a legendary beer as that it is a massively influential beer. The fact that it exists means that it must be observed. It’s a cultural touchstone in the same way that Citizen Kane is.

If you experience it, you may not like it. You wouldn’t be the first not to like it. It’s influential because it existed at the right moment in time. Part of its cachet may be that it came to represent the innovations of a certain place and time.

Is it a great beer?

I will tell you this for nothing: When I had it at Tiger! Tiger! I also had a pork belly banh mi sandwich. If I had to choose between having Pliny The Elder again or having the sandwich again, it would be the sandwich.

What follows is my rating for the sandwich: