Shut up about Shut Up About Barclay Perkins

I’m sure this is what my wife’s thinking. She’s always thinking something. If she’s anything like me, she thinks about porter. A lot.

Lest you were worried that I’d run out of topics for my blog, I wanted to point out that I’ve enjoyed reading Ron Pattinson’s Shut Up About Barclay Perkins for quite a while, but lately I’ve spent a lot of time there.

Why, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you, since I have the answer right here. The answer is porter. And stout. Numbers. I’m not good with numbers. As the art and science of brewing goes, I’m an art guy. But you gotta have the numbers. And grain. And hops.

Back in high school, I didn’t really care about history. But I liked beer. And rock and roll. One day, when I was a junior in college, I had an epiphany. Lord Byron was basically a rock star. When I realized that Coleridge was a junkie, I knew that books were alright. And I also epiphanied that Tom Petty is a poet. And so is Robert Plant. And a bunch of others. So to my collection of music, I started adding books. Some of them are old, and some of them are about beer. But unlike Ron, I don’t have a lot of really old books about beer. Especially the kind with numbers in them. If I had those I could analyze stuff over time. Like Ron does. Anyway, at some point I got interested not only in literature, but also history.

So, anyway, back to porter. I really love it. And lately, Ron’s been on quite a porter streak. He’s really informative. You can tell he really reads a lot, and ingests the information and takes notes. Or he’s really good at making stuff up. But I’m pretty sure he’s done the reading part.

Like did you know that stout is a porter, but porter isn’t necessarily a stout?

“Porter was used to refer to both specifically the weakest beer of the type and as a general term for all Porters and Stouts.

London brewers regularly made Porter and Stout from the same mash. I have examples of this that span pretty much the whole period I’ve looked at (1805 – 1955). At some periods Whitbread almost never brewed just one beer from a brew. At one time in the 1800’s all their beers – two Porters and half a dozen Stouts – all have exactly the same recipe, except for the quantity of water.

Guinness Porter and Guinness Extra Stout in 1883 had pretty similar recipes.

All the crap about them being two distinct styles has just been made up in the last 30 years.”

That’s just one example. I took that little nugget of possible truth from a comment on some post about porter. Rather than try and remember which post it was, I’d recommend checking out his whole blog, which is full of information. If you just feel like reading about porter, then click here. That’ll take you to all his porter stuff.

But if you’re going to check out Ron, I should tell you something. He’s opinionated. He might disagree with you. For example, he doesn’t care for the BJCP. If you click that link, you’ll smell sarcasm emitting from your keyboard. Hopefully you take time to read the comments, because it demonstrates better than the post that Ron’s not just obnoxious, but also that he has good and worthy reasons for his opinions.

“Time and place are vital elements of beer style. To ignore them is to deny much of beer’s diversity.

Taxation, regulation, demography, geography even geology all play their part. Beer is culture specific.

I’m explaining this very pompously and very poorly. Why should anything stay the same? Music doesn’t. Clothes don’t. Neither does food, or cars, or lightbulbs or children’s television (for us Noggin the Nog was a highlight). In just the same way as, even in this age of globalisation, pop music, children’s TV, food, sport – and I hope much more – aren’t exactly the same, neither is beer everywhere. Even if it bears the same style name.”

Lively banter here and there.

I once had an acting professor tell me to just go into an audition and go over the top. Make a bold statement and even if that’s not what the director has in mind for the part, he’ll remember you, and shape you into his plan for the production. That’s Ron, to me. He ain’t afraid to say what he believes. I reckon his fervency ruffles some feathers.

Not mine. I’m proud to say that I took the BJCP exam and made Certified. If I was better at numbers, I might have done better. I learned a lot as I prepared for that exam. And my learning didn’t end when I walked out the door. I’ve learned a lot just by reading Ron. From my perspective, the BJCP is doing its best to put together an education program that is generally good for Beerdom. It’s not an evil empire. It defines style parameters, but it also updates its work. It’s not perfect, and it’s not Gospel. To me it’s a tool. Until I die, I’ll continue learning. Revising. Epiphanying.

Some people that know a lot come off like they think they know everything. And Ron could be accused of that.

I should point out that Ron nearly apologized for his grumpy and comedic BJCP post.

I should point out that Ron continues to learn:

“I seem to remember posting something about Scotch Ale a while back. One of my main points was that the don’t-use-many-hops-because they-don’t-grow-in-Scotland story about Scotch Ale was just that: a story. Well, I’ve been poking around a bit more. Perhaps I was a little hasty in my assessment.”

I should point out that Ron asks questions about things he doesn’t know.

That’s a good thing. Learning’s a good thing, and Ron’s a part of it for me. Just when I think I’m getting smart about beer, I encounter a whole homebrew club full of knowledgeable members. Just when I think I’m getting smart about beer, I discover my buddy Ken Hilton. Just when I think I’m getting smart about beer, I study for the BJCP exam. Just when I think I’m getting smart about beer, I stumble upon Ron Pattinson. It’s good every so often to get your stuck up self kicked back to kindergarten. I’d recommend that you check him out, if you don’t already read him.

I meant to take a picture of my bookshelf to prove that I have both books and beer in common with Ron, but I forgot. Please just take my word for it.

Tonight, I’m drinking porter, in honor of Ron Pattinson. And Barclay Perkins. And me.



4 Responses to Shut up about Shut Up About Barclay Perkins

  1. Great post! I love reading Ron’s blog. He’s always so quick and funny. I skip the tables of data a lot of times, but I love the quotes from his kids. I have tons of respect for his researcher nature.

  2. Wilson says:

    I love the tables. He distills it all down so I don’t have to. All the historical stuff. I think it’s amazing and informative. Another paradigm shift in my walk with beer. My wife walks in the room and there I am again, looking at a table of grain bills from the 1800s.

  3. Boak says:

    The kids’ blogs are pretty cool too.

  4. hey_kevin says:


    I’ve brewed 3 of Ron’s historical recipes and have some of them laying around. If you ever find yourself in Iowa City I could send you home with some…



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