Monday, July 11, 2016

Prepare for the Video Robot Deluge

The New York Times ran a piece yesterday on the surge in online video and how news and magazine publishers are marshaling all sorts of resources—including semi- or fully-automated video generation tools—to churn out more of it.

It talks about the much-derided announcement from tronc (formerly Tribune Publishing) that it aspires to ratchet up from producing a few hundred videos to 2,000 . . . per day. And it talks about the rising prospects of two tech companies with eminently silly names—Wochit and Wibbitz—that offer automated services that scan the text of a script or news article, automatically find corresponding images and video clips from subscription archives, and generate on screen captions. They can even—if desired—produce complete videos with no human intervention.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Click-Baiting Editors and Barbecue Lists

Yes, I do actually think Cannon's is one of the best BBQ
joints in the Carolinas. And the South for that matter.
The Fourth of July is upon us, which means the Internet is awash with barbecue listicles. Time just ran two such pieces, but they carry a lot more weight than most such roundups because of who wrote them. The authors aren't fresh-out-of-college Millennials leaning primarily on Google and Yelp but two experienced writers with estimable barbecue credentials and a whole lot of pulled pork and brisket under their belts. But you wouldn't know that from the headlines that the editors slapped on the pieces.

The first one promises to name "The 8 Best BBQ Spots in the Carolinas." If you read the copy that follows, though, it's clear that the author, Rien Fertel, set out with a more limited scope: "In the eastern Carolinas," Fertel writes. "Tradition dictates that barbecue pitmasters go the whole hog."

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Yes, There is Such a Thing as Georgia-Style Barbecue

For its recent barbecue week, Eater flooded the web with barbecue content. Some of it was great (e.g. Robert Donovan's trips to Grady's, Scott's, Big T, and more). Some of it was silly (like that guy from Atlanta trying to argue beef wasn't barbecue.) And then there was this one, on regional barbecue styles . . . and in particular what is or isn't Georgia style barbecue. Here's my Daily South post on the subject.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Who Were the Real Pioneers of Southern Brewing?

In today's New York Times, Clay Risen tells the story of the African-American slave who likely taught Jack Daniels how to distill whiskey. "Enslaved men not only made up the bulk of the distilling labor force," Risen writes, "but they often played crucial skilled roles in the whiskey-making process." Whiskey wasn't the only alcoholic beverage with such a history, either. Enslaved African-Americans played a key role in the distilling of Southern beer, too.

In my book Southern Spirits: 400 Year of Drinking in the American South, I tell the story of Edmund Egan, the pioneering Charleston brewer who was the first Southerner to achieve significant commercial success brewing beer. Egan was the one who won the accolades for the quality of his beer ("Let the beer justify itself" was his delightful motto) and, of course, he was the one who pocketed the profits from a business that at its peak brought in £20,000 a year, the equivalent of several million dollars in revenue today. The actual brewing of Egan's beer, though, was performed by eight slaves—skilled craftsmen who not only managed the kettles and malt grinder but built barrels and casks, too.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Southern Spirits Whiskey Tasting & Book Signing in Columbia

If you're going to be in Columbia this weekend, stop by Bourbon on Main Street where we'll be doing a whiskey tasting and book signing for Southern Spirits. It starts at 4:00 pm on Saturday, June 18, and a $45 ticket gets you the bourbon and cocktail tasting, snacks, and a signed copy of the book. Details and tickets here.

Tariff Skullduggery and the American Whiskey Trade

In the original draft of Southern Spirits, I addressed many of the tariff issues that influence the whiskey trade in the 19th century. Ultimately, most of that material was too long and geeky to make it into the finished book, but I still have a fondness in particular for the story of how the "Tariff of Abominations" came about. Here it is: a tale of political folly and miscalculation.

In the early 19th century, British factories were flooding American markets with inexpensive manufactured goods at the same time that the plummeting agricultural prices were damaging the export market for American crops. In 1816, Congress for the first time passed a tariff act that was intended not just to raise revenue for the government but also to protect domestic industry and agriculture from foreign competition.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Why Do South Carolina Liquor Stores Have Red Dots?

In my recent post on the origin of the term “package store,” I mentioned that in South Carolina liquor stores are often called “red dot stores.” The reason for that is simple: almost all of the ones in the state seem to have at least one if not multiple big red dots on their signs or painted on the sides of their buildings. But why did owners start painting those red dots on them in the first place?

South Carolinians often speculate various explanations: that it’s because liquor stores owners needed a way for the people who couldn't read could to find their stores, or because it represents a red sun because the states liquor stores were originally opened from dawn to dusk. The real answer lies back in the swirl of odd and often puzzling alcohol control legislation that emerged in the wake of Prohibition’s repeal.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Old School South Florida 'Cue

Next up for The Daily South, I headed down to Miami to dig into some traditional South Florida-style BBQ . . . and yes, there really is such a thing.

The Fall of the Palmetto Brewery . . . and the Rise of Germania

The original Charleston Brewery, circa 1888. Image courtesy
 Mark R. Jones & The Charleston County Public Library
In Charleston Beer: A High-Gravity History of Lowcountry Brewing, Timmons Pettigrew does a nice job laying out the history of brewing in Charleston, including the rise, fall, and rebirth of the Palmetto Brewery, which operated from just before the Civil War until the early 20th century.  The Palmetto Brewery rose again in 1993, when Ed Falkenstein opened the first post-Prohibition brewery in South Carolina and christened it in honor of the old Charleston brewery, and it’s still going strong today.

One area Pettigrew was unable to flesh out was the transition that occurred during the last two decades of the original brewery’s tenure, when it changed its name and ownership. “At some point between 1895 and September 1896,” Pettigrew writes, “Palmetto Brewing Company became Germania Brewing Company . . . The circumstances are unclear as to why it was sold and why the name was changed.” The folks at the current Palmetto Brewery don’t have much more information, either, noting on the history section of their web site, “We infer this was due to the increasing dominance of German breweries at the turn of the century, as well as lending an air of quality to the beers being made here in Charleston.”

While researching Southern Spirits: 400 Years of Drinking in the American South, I was able to uncover some additional information that sheds light on this transitional period, though it didn’t make it into the final book.

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