Mass Disappearance in Hebei

I have published an article on East By Southeast discussing an human trafficking case in northern China.

Police are investigating how a hundred people came to be missing last week in Handan County, Hebei. The disappeared aren’t the usual suspects – they’re a hundred young Vietnamese women, brokered into marriage to Chinese men across the border mere months ago, and now gone. The scale of this event highlights the robust, entrenched criminal networks involved in human trafficking in the region – this crime occurs constantly in China; in some parts of the country men openly marrying brokered, foreign brides has become local tradition. Local and regional policing efforts need to work effectively to achieve a solid outcome in this potentially high-profile case so that more attention can be drawn to the crimes of slavery and human trafficking in Asia.

See the full article here.

Rule 47: India Pale Wit

This beer is an annual collaboration brew and therefore is not pinned down to any particular brewery. It is rather defined by a sense of place: Victoria’s high country, the booming-with-beer-and-bikes nook of southern Australia where the four breweries behind this beer reside.

The businesses behind Rule 47 are Bright Brewery, Black Dog Brewery, Bridge Road Brewers and the Sweetwater Brewing Company – some familiar and some not-so-familiar names there. Rule 47 tries to evoke cycling with its marketing; there’s quite a few beers and breweries in Australia doing this now. It also apparently uses an unknown, unnamed variety of hop in conjunction with Summer and Enigma varieties.


Slightly more bitter than a standard witbier, definitely darker and a little boozier, this is a straightforward “hoppy wit”. It doesn’t quite reach white IPA status – it’s nowhere near bitter enough for that – but the nose is right up there, with a familiar party of musky banana esters and floral hops leaping off the head. I even got some watermelon. The body was light and fluffy, influenced by the wheat yeast, and opacity was a wee bit cloudy. I always find this a challenging style: I think because I am so used to quaffing malty wheat beers by the jug and hybrids like this force me to go slower. At 6.6% ABV it is also reasonably heavy.

Overall this is a pleasant beer. It might be one to try and get hold of sooner rather than later since it is an annual release with no guarantees on further production.

I tasted this drop at The Gertrude Hotel.


Wolf of the Willows XPA

It was only a matter of time before a brewery took the romantic English translation of lupus salictarius as their moniker. Although the direct evidence is contested, and will probably never be resolved, it is quite likely that Pliny the Elder was referring to hops when writing about uncultivated foods consumed in Italy in Naturalis Historia.


The Wolf of the Willows brewery is run by married duo Scott and Renae McKinnon, a pair with hospitality, events management, marketing and amateur brewing experience. They currently contract brew out at Cavalier Brewing. The XPA is their first commercially released beer, and is supposed to be an acronym for “eXtra Pale Ale”. They claim the beer is “easy drinking yet satisfying for the hop lover.”

I can agree with that claim: this is an inoffensive beer. My pint featured a standard golden visage (though not extra pale like a pilsener or wit) and a good set of fine-bubbled head. It was light in body, barely masking a mildly harsh bitterness. To my palate it was slightly out of balance in this regard. The hop bouquet was standard pale ale territory: profound, robust, peach and passionfruit dominating. Galaxy and Mosaic hop varieties came to mind.

I spent much of my pint thinking and discussing with colleagues exactly how the marketing of “eXtra Pale Ale” fitted in with the beer in front of me. It doesn’t really do anything “extra” beyond the style – the colour isn’t extra pale, it isn’t extra malty, bitter, pungent, alcoholic – it’s a standard 4.7% ABV American Pale Ale. By no means a bad beer but I didn’t order a second pint.

I tasted this ale at The Gertrude Hotel.


Koh Tao Another Litmus Test

I have published an article on New Mandala summarising the investigation and recently commenced trial of Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo for the Koh Tao murders.

The trial of Myanmar citizens Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo opened yesterday to keen scrutiny by stakeholders. The defendants have pleaded not guilty to all charges. This is unsurprising given the controversy surrounding the investigation, which appears to be yet another example of institutional discrimination against the Burmese underclass in Thailand. The integrity of the trial will indicate how far this discrimination reaches. Fair trial or no, if the accused are found guilty then the millions of Burmese workers providing vital, cheap labour for the Thai economy will be further stigmatised in their adopted country. If the accused are found to be not guilty, they will walk away heroic underdogs, bolstering the sense of discrimination and injustice felt by Burmese residents of Thailand. Then the real investigation will need to begin.

See the full article here.