Sunday, 27 June 2010

Traditional Watch II

I've found another good use of the word "traditional" to hide the author's total lack of historical knowledge. This is taken from an All About Beer article on Modern IPA, written by Rob Haiber.

"Right. India pale ales, commonly called IPAs, are a group with great pedigree and historic roots. By now, most beer lovers have heard about how traditional IPAs were brewed strong and extremely hoppy to survive long voyages to distant, God-forsaken heathen lands of the British Empire (and a rather large former colony), so let’s skip the rest of the history lesson and dive straight into the deep end.

. . . .

The closest thing to traditional British IPAs can now be found in North America. Good for Yanks, bad for Brits. North American craft brewers more closely adhere to early specification than do British brewers who, as a group, do not. That IPAs now thoroughly dominate this style has been acknowledged, in writing and in personal conversations, by practically every British beer judge, writer, and others thought expert in the field.

. . . .

Give me a break--3.5 percent ABV IPAs? That doesn’t even qualify as a bog-standard bitter. It’s enough to make a grown man cry--or scream. Have those brewers gone mad? Either they are ignorant of what an IPA really is, or their trying to pull a fast one on consumers. I think it’s getting near time to call in government investigators, as labeling a 3.5 percent ale an IPA crosses the line of consumer fraud. Slapping on a label with the words IPA on it does not make the beer an IPA."

Let's start with the first paragraph. "Traditional British IPAs" - what exactly are these? When were they brewed? 1830? 1880? 1920? He doesn't specify, making the whole paragraph totally meaningless. And does he mean Burton or London IPA, two very different things? I think it's been well-established that IPA's were not strong beers by the standards of the day.

Closest thing to a "traditional British IPA" is found in the USA? Bollocks. And which tradition does he mean? Greene King IPA is a perfect example of a low-gravity London-type IPA. A type of beer that has been brewed for 100 years or so. No, that's not "traditional;" because it's not what modern Americans think IPA should be. Anyone who thinks modern American IPA's resemble British IPAs of the 1840's knows nothing.

The last paragraph just demonstrates the author's total ignorance of beer history. What's he saying? "Greene King, don't dare call your beer IPA, even though you've brewed it for a century. We Americans decide what can and can't be called IPA." Arrogant twat.


Rabidbarfly said...

'so let’s skip the rest of the history lesson and dive straight into the deep end.' Sounds like something I'd write! I think he's plagiarising me.
Seriously though, even I wouldn't try to write a historical piece without any research, what a prat.

Mark Oliver said...

Tradition is the best possible word to be seeking for such criticism.

When European empires (including my own north american one, after Roosevelt I) sent forth their hordes of anthropologists to define the culture of natives/inlanders for administrative purposes, it was that very word that was used to stick them with a pin -- not necessarily by the anthropologists themselves, but the janitors and reavers who followed them.

In that particular use, the word was mostly intended to deprive anyone to whom the adjective was applied of her individuality, personhood, humanity, or rights granted as a result of those states.

Imagine my interest, then, upon reading your post on the topic and looking in the OED, to find the word 'tradition' to connote 'surrender,' as early as the sixteenth century.

It has long been a word applied specifically for the exaction of tribute.

John Clarke said...

As ever Ron - forcefully and cogently put. I don't know what it is about IPA that brings out the bollocks in people but there sure is some right old crap written about it. Personally I have always been mystified as to why people try and define the "authenticity" of IPA by its mid to early 19th Century parameters while no other beer style has suffered the same fate.

"Call that a traditional mild? When it's less than 5%?" Bollocks isn't it? Mild is a style that has been allowed to evolve and the stronger versions now emerging are often called "revivalist" compared to the stronger IPAs which are "authentic".

Velky Al said...

All About Beer is such an infuriating magazine at times, I think I have ranted about a few bits and pieces over on Fuggled, usually to do with categorisation of beers, but the blitheness with which so many untruths filter through to the magazine is astonishing.

Barm said...

Why do they get so worked up about a difference of 2% points in ABV, but ignore the substantially different malt bill and the totally different hops?

Jim said...

The article seems to have been pulled. At least the URL isn't working for me.

Anonymous said...

Piss poor article to begin with and then there is this little nugget

"or their trying to pull a fast one on consumers"

"their" should be "they are" or "they're". If you write for a "magazine" then you should be well aware of that non-esoteric grammar rule.

Gavin Davis said...

It's a shame that your research doesn't find it's way into a wider readership, such as, CAMRA's "Beer" magazine. I find that people are pretty desperate to hold on to what they have read until they see it written elsewhere, in print preferably, and with some pretty pictures.

I wish that bad writers, like this, would make a point of referring to Green King or Harvey's etc, when they mention weak IPAs and consumer law, as it would be good to see them disgracefully proved wrong in a court of law. Whatever opinion one has about a product, it is utterly wrong to claim it as a fraud when it is nothing of the sort.