Saturday, February 06, 2016

More on the former Pyynikki (Amiraali) brewery in Tampere, Finland.

Google's roving camera shows us Koulukatu 11 in Tampere, Finland. The image is from 2011. In a recent installment of my 1985 travelogue, I explained how the brewery formerly functioning at this address drew me to a city I hadn't ever planned on visiting.

THE PC: Euro ’85, Part 28 … A Finnish detour to Tampere for beer and sausages.

... Tampere originally was settled at the narrowest point of land separating two lakes, astride rapids that provided power for mills. By the 19th-century, Tampere was an industrial city (textiles and metallurgy) often compared to Manchester, England, and as we know, factory workers drank lots of beer in those times. In turn, their consumption was good for both brewers and prohibitionists.

The brewery was called Pyynikki, and was owned for six decades by the family of my cousin's Finnish friends. They sold Pyynikki to Sinebrychoff in 1985, and brewing ceased in Tampere in 1992. The buildings have been adaptively reused as apartments.

Bizarrely, a specific label of just one of Pyynikki's line of Amiraali beers still is being brewed -- in Japan. A photo at Goodreads proves it, and below is an older view, when it was being brewed in Finland. To learn more about the connection between Finnish beer and a Japanese admiral, refer back to the above "Euro '85" link.

Information about the long-departed Pyynikki is scarce on-line, but there are some good views for the repurposed buildings here, along with some of the brewery's history: Pyynikki Brewery, by Berlioz-II (Deviant Art).

Click through to see the photos and read the text. I snipped one of the images to show the "ghost sign" that was painted to the upper right above the brewhouse windows.


Friday, February 05, 2016

I've resigned from the Brewers of Indiana Guild's board. Now it's YOUR turn to grab an oar.

Fellows like these have made it worthwhile for me.

It's been real, and I'll miss it, but all guild things eventually must come to an end. In a roundabout way, this week's column at NAC explains my departure from the the Brewers of Indiana Guild's board

There are 120 breweries in Indiana, compared to less than 40 in 2009, when I began my first term as a director. I feel much, much pride in how far we've come during that time, and I remain bullish about Indiana beer in general terms.

At present, there are at least two vacancies on the board, and could be three.

Hoosier brewery owners, heed the call and get involved. Whatever your political perspective, it's impossible not to concede that there is strength in unity, and the guild has gotten things done. The Indiana Craft Brewers Conference is coming in a month, and the annual meeting takes place on Sunday, March 6.

Be there and be heard. That is all.

ON THE AVENUES: Hello, I must be going (at NA Confidential)

Almost every other month for the past seven years, I’ve attended a Wednesday meeting of the directors of the Brewers of Indiana Guild.


Thursday, February 04, 2016

Something was missing when the Austin chef recreated the gate-fold meal from ZZ Top's Tres Hombres.

It was a big deal for me to purchase ZZ Top's album Tres Hombres back in 1973. I was a 7th grader without liquidity, beer or cash, and the money probably came from putting up hay -- or shameless begging. Rock and roll wasn't popular in my house, but the little ol' band from Texas was seismic in my social circle.

The gate-fold photograph of heaping Tex-Mex platters and regional bric-a-brac is justifiably renowned, and from the vantage point of 2016, it is genuinely impossible to overstate how exotic this food appeared to us in 1973. It made you salivate just looking at it, and there was nothing available locally to compare. Hard shell tacos might have been served in the school cafeteria by then, but that's as far as it went in New Albany, at least until the Tumbleweed restaurant opened.

In January this year, the story of an Austin chef's recreation of the Tres Hombres gate-fold spread went viral, and justifiably so. Tom Micklethwait cooked, filmed and ate the same meal, but there was a difference that seems to have escaped the notice of many.

In the video recreation, Micklethwait's bottle of beer has no label. It isn't Southern Select, because Southern Select no longer exists. As aspiring under-aged beer guzzlers back in 1973, we definitely noticed the brand. Some day, we said, we'd go to Texas and find some. I doubt it ever happened.

For a bit about the history of Southern Select and the involvement of Howard Hughes in Texas brewing lore (yes, THAT Howard Hughes), the Bottlecaps blog has the story: THE BEER SERIES: Part Three | Good times on the Gulf.

The best account I've seen of of Micklethwait's feat is at Texas Monthly, because ZZ Top's guitarist tells the story of the original photo shoot.

An Austin Chef Recreated ZZ Top’s “Tres Hombres” Album ... And Billy Gibbons loves it, by Andy Langer (Texas Monthly)

The shot from the gatefold is the final frame Galen was able to snap. At some point, we took a fifteen-minute break. And when we returned we found his German Shepherd laying on his side gasping for breath. He’d jumped up on the table and consumed the entire lot. He got it all.

The video is there, and also at Rolling Stone.


Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Come drink beer with me on Session Beer Day, April 7, 2016.

As noted in January, Lew Bryson has returned to beer and beer blogging. Happily, he's been beating the drum about Session Beer Day, 2016.

Specifically, Lew has issued a challenge to brewers.


... If you're a brewer interested in participating, it's simple. The "session IPA" has taken over the American session beer category, when it was supposed to be a meta-category, a category that would include many different types of beer at 4.5% and less. Session beer awareness is supposed to be about increasing choices for the beer drinker...and we largely got one extra choice out of it.

Snap out of it! Take this opportunity to show off your skills and make a session-strength beer, 4.5% or less (you can do it; you can go lower!), that doesn't rely on shouting hops for all its character. We get it, brewers know how to make a light, wildly hoppy beer: EVERY brewer's doing it.

Be different! On April 7th, show us some real innovation, or some real skills to make a beautiful example of a classic session-strength beer that stands apart from the herd of 'monkey-see, monkey-do' dialed-down IPAs.

I cannot "like" this sentiment often enough. This year's Session Beer Day takes place on Thursday, April 7, and I feel a scheme coming on.

Of course, for several years at NABC, I've tried to coordinate Session Beer Day as the de facto "close" of Gravity Head. Lew was in town once for the occasion. I'm no longer in a position to make NABC's observance happen, and cannot be sure if it will. In fact, I've been shrugging so often lately that I may be compelled to break with practice and visit a chiropractor.

But I've bounced the date off Rick Stidham at Akasha Brewing Company in Louisville, who thinks he might have as many as three session beers pouring. He'd like to do something to mark the occasion. There is no firm plan (yet) apart from holding a ceremony at Akasha later in the afternoon, and yet this should be sufficient to keep the tradition alive.

As for me, I'm toying with the idea of starting before lunch and traversing downtown Louisville on foot, much like Leopold Bloom in James Joyce's Ulysses -- walking from brewery to brewery, and having a session beer at each. Most usually have at least once 4.5% choice available on draft.

I'm doing pints, and won't be driving. If I could manage this without a single "Session IPA," it would suit me just fine.

The brewery list, traveling roughly west to east, would be Falls City, Gordon Biersch, BBC 3rd Street, Against the Grain, Goodwood and Akasha. Others might be too far away to walk, but perhaps they could sell kegs to Akasha for duty on the guest taps.

I know: It's a work day, and so is Friday. However, if you're interested in joining me, let me know. I just may see you on Session Beer Day, 2016.


Monday, February 01, 2016

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 28 … A Finnish detour to Tampere for beer and sausages.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 28 … A Finnish detour to Tampere for beer and sausages.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

(Twenty-eighth in a series chronicling my travel year 1985)


"The Fenni live in astonishing barbarism and disgusting misery: no arms, no horses, no household; wild plants for their food, skins for their clothing, the ground for their beds."
Tacitus (c. 55-120) "Germania"

No, Tacitus was not speaking of youthful backpackers in Europe.

You might guess his passage explains why many non-Finnish speakers refer to the Suomalaiset people (as they call themselves) as Finns, and this is partially correct, although the Fenni referenced by the Roman historian probably were the Sami, natives of the Arctic region, later to become known as Lapps, which may be a mild pejorative in the fashion of Canucks, and anyway, there are many more of the Sami in Svenska (Sweden) that Suomi (Finland).

Concurrently, the Finnish language is fiendishly bizarre to non-natives. It is from the Uralic family of languages, entirely removed from Russian or German.

English: My hovercraft is full of eels.
Finnish: Ilmatyynyalukseni on täynnä ankeriaita.

Hence my advice to native English speakers: Please stop and give thanks that so many others on the planet deign to learn our language. For their willingness to absorb English in sufficient measure to help tourists like me (and you), we collectively owe the Finns a beer, a hug, and maybe some mustamakkara.

More about that particular delicacy in a moment.

On July 29, 1985, the overnight ferry from Stockholm docked in Turku, Finland. Immediately upon debarking, I presented my passport to the uniformed man and received yet another national entry stamp, my fourteenth, stamped straight and level, neatly contained within the delineated box. With every degree of latitude traveling north, greater attention was given to orderly detail – or so it seemed.

Another country and the same familiar drill: Lodging, eating, drinking and learning. What did I know about Finland at this early stage of my global awareness?

I knew that Finland’s history as an autonomous nation was relatively brief. For centuries, Finland was dominated by Sweden. Thereafter, it was attached to the pre-Soviet-era Russian empire. Finland only became independent in 1919 following World War I, and then fought twice against the USSR during World War II – retaining its independence, garnering acclaim for sheer tenaciousness, but still losing territory (Karelia) amid the post-war reordering.

A term in foreign relations derived from this state of affairs, post-1945: Finlandization, defined as the process of a stronger country (the USSR) exerting influence against a weaker country (Finland), while allowing the latter to remain (mostly) free.

These things I knew about Finland. I also knew there was …

  • A composer named Sibelius, who spoke powerfully to the Finnish spirit through a piece of nationalistic music known as Finlandia
  • A vodka sold overseas by the same name as the composer
  • An indigenous fermented beverage, Sahti, which often was homebrewed from a variety of grains, spiced with juniper berries, and filtered through twigs
  • A tradition of highly heated bathing, the sauna, involving sweating, swatting and swimming
  • An early 20th-century experience with Prohibition, similar to America’s

It was Monday morning, and it must be the port city of Turku, though only briefly. On Thursday morning, I’d be departing from Helsinki for the weekend bus tour of Leningrad, which from the outset of my European conspiracy had been envisioned as the highest point of what I imagined would be my first and only journey to the continent.

The most logical course would have been taking the short train ride straight to Helsinki, finding a hostel, and relaxing. Instead, I hopped a local train to Tampere (TUM-puh-reh), a mysterious inland city appearing in neither of my two sacred travel texts.


Finland, Finland, Finland,
The country where I want to be,
Pony trekking or camping,
Or just watching TV.
Finland, Finland, Finland,
It’s the country for me.
—Monty Python

Tampere was an option because it offered a final opportunity to take advantage of my cousin Don’s multi-national connections. Among Don’s European friends were Henrik and Eva, natives of Tampere, who had been students of Don’s at the beginning of his academic career. They maintained contact and had met on previous occasions. He let them know that I might be coming to visit, and gave me their street address and phone number.

Intriguingly, Henrik came from a former brewery-owning family. Just months prior to my trip, he and his siblings had finalized a deal to sell Tampere’s Pyynikki Brewery to Sinebrychoff, the largest brewing company in Finland (now owned by Carlsberg).

I’d never in my entire life consumed a Finnish beer, but one of Pyynikki’s brands, Amiraali, was sufficiently well known to have merited inclusion in Michael Jackson’s seminal World Guide to Beer. Amiraali’s unique labeling stratagem was a series of portraits of famous admirals, the majority of them European, but including Japan’s legendary Heihachiro Togo.

Why would a Japanese admiral appear on a Finnish beer label? It might have had something to do with his most famous victim. Togo led the fleet that decisively defeated the Tsar’s navy in 1905 at the Battle of Tsushima during the Russo-Japanese War.

Perhaps one aspect of Finlandization was periodic outbreaks of subtle, passive-aggressive glee -- over a few Amiraali beers. Three decades later, the Amiraali label featuring Togo remains in production -- as brewed under contract in Japan, where it is sold at a memorial to the admiral.

Pyynikki originated in 1897, and later became part of a consortium with eight other local breweries. It rose to become first among erstwhile equals during the stewardship of Henrik’s grandfather (I think) Sulo, who was succeeded by his wife Rosa.

Tampere originally was settled at the narrowest point of land separating two lakes, astride rapids that provided power for mills. By the 19th-century, Tampere was an industrial city (textiles and metallurgy) often compared to Manchester, England, and as we know, factory workers drank lots of beer in those times. In turn, their consumption was good for both brewers and prohibitionists.

By the late 1800s, Tampere’s brewers had switched to lager brewing on the German model. Pyynikki’s brewing plant was located at Koulukatu 11, only a few blocks from the epicenter of industry in the city. Henrik’s family lived close to the brewery. After the family sold to Sinebrychoff, the brewery remained active for less than a decade, eventually being shuttered in the 1990s. Since then, the buildings have been adaptively reused as housing.

I’ve met Henrik and Eva twice since 1985, once in the French Alps, and on a return trip to Tampere in 1999. However, we never got together in 1985, and the blame lies with me. My virulent telephonophobia was a malady borne of crippling shyness, and as in Pecetto and Bergen, it defied my resolve to communicate.

Simply stated, I couldn’t bring myself to call them. Instead, I bought a city map and a bus ticket, and found my way to their home to knock on their door. There was no answer, and this was little surprise; it was late morning, and surely they were at work.

This time there’d be no miracle comeback in the late innings like in Italy and Norway. I punted and made the most of my day in Tampere. Happily, our paths eventually crossed.


Tampere’s youth hostel wasn’t far away, situated in what appeared to be student housing in the university quarter, and tourists weren’t exactly beating down its doors. My belongings duly stowed, I returned downtown and found a restaurant with a handy fixed price lunch special.

The eatery was on the second floor of a 1960s-era retail structure facing one of the main streets, and the rustic wood paneling in the dining room reminded me of Tommy Lancaster’s, an old-school eatery back in New Albany.

Unsurprisingly, the menu was considerably different than Lancaster’s. I chose the mixed sausage platter on the recommendation of an English-speaking waitress, who observed that because we didn’t eat reindeer in America, I should try some in Finland.

The waitress found it difficult to describe one of the other sausages, one colored a deep reddish black and having an odd texture. She translated the word “mustamakkara” as black sausage, and the significance slowly dawned on me – “black” in sausage means “blood.” It was the local specialty, in fact.

There was a pause, but when you’re eating on a budget, parts is parts, calories are calories, and you clean your plate.


A state-run liquor store sat down the street from the restaurant, and it yielded a bottle of Koff and two of Amiraali. One of them was Lord Nelson, and the other wasn’t. Togo was not in stock. The lagers were cool, not cold, and I happily drank them straight from the bottle while seated on a park bench somewhere in downtown Tampere, watching the local people pass by.

For all I knew at the time, two of them might have been Henrik and Eva, returning home from work.

Back at the hostel, I made the acquaintance of my roomies for the evening. In a room with three bunk beds, five of us would be sleeping. My four new friends were traveling together as a group, evidently visiting the university. They were friendly and engaging, but didn’t speak very much English, and judging from appearances and the sound of their language, I guessed them to be Middle Easterners.

The following morning at breakfast their passports came out, and it was revealed that they were Libyans, at the time regarded by Americans as prime exponents of international terrorism, second only to Palestinians.

And I wasn't even carrying a gun.

These Libyan chaps seemed nice enough to me. After coffee, we said our goodbyes and wished each other well. I set off for Tampere’s train station, and Helsinki.



The PC: Euro ’85, Part 27 … Stockholm's blonde ambition, with or without mead-balls.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 26 … The Hansa brewery tour, and a farewell to Norway.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 25 … Frantic pickled Norway.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 24 … An aspiring “beer hunter” amid Carlsberg’s considerable charms.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 23 … A fleeting first glimpse of Copenhagen.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 22 … It's how the tulips were relegated.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 21 … A long day in Normandy, though not "The Longest Day."

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 20 … War stories, from neutral Ireland to Omaha Beach.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 19 … Sligo, Knocknarea, Guinness and Freddie.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 18 … Irish history with a musical chaser.

The PC: Euro '85, Part 17 ... A first glimpse of Ireland.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 16 … Lizard King in the City of Light.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 15 … The traveler at 55, and a strange interlude.

The PC: We pause Euro '85 to remember the Mathäser Bierstadt in Munich.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 14 … Beers and breakfast in Munich.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 13 … Tears of overdue joy at Salzburg's Augustiner.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 12 … Stefan Zweig and his world of yesterday.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 11: My Franz Ferdinand obsession takes root.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 10: Habsburgs, history and sausages in Vienna.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 9 … Milan, Venice and a farewell to Northern Italy.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 8 … Pecetto idyll, with a Parisian chaser.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 7 … An eventful detour to Pecetto.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 6 … When in Rome, critical mass.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 5 … From Istanbul to Rome, with Greece in between.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 4 … With Hassan in Pithion.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 3 … Growing up in Greece.

The PC: Euro '85, Part 2 ... Hitting the ground crawling in Luxembourg.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 1 … Where it all began.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Every 1's a winner on a beautiful winter/spring day in Indianapolis.

Porter, that is.

As it turned out, we never made it to Winterfest yesterday.

D and I drove up to Indianapolis early so we'd have time to explore before going to the State Fairgrounds. She'd never been to the Fountain Square neighborhood, and it's been two years for me, so we parked there and started looking for coffee.

The record will show that it was as gorgeous a spring day as one might imagine occurring on Saturday, January 30.

After lunch at End of the Line, we were browsing shops and happened to overhear two couples talking about going to Winterfest later in the afternoon. One couple had tickets, and the other did not. The ones who didn't have tickets were from out of state. Because the event was a sellout, they were debating creative ways of scoring two additional tickets.

Obviously, they were complete strangers to us, and the back story was unclear from eavesdropping, although my impression was that someone had forgotten to purchase four tickets and bought only two, hence the snafu.

Well, we could fix THAT, couldn't we?

After a brief chat with D, we gave them our tickets with only one small caveat: They were to find Salt Creek Brewery's booth, say hello to Brad, and have a sample or three for me. I hope they did, but it's okay if not.

In my world, all's well that ends well.

After beers at Fountain Square Brewing Company, where we chatted with a few fest-goers from Peoria, we walked the cultural trail pedway along Virginia Avenue to the center and doubled back via the city market, stopping at Chilly Water Brewing for another round. The urban changes along this corridor were utterly fascinating, and it was a gorgeous day on top of it.

I hope those folks (and many others) had a good time at Winterfest. Concurrently, we had much fun just wandering through Indianapolis. Serendipity is a powerful motive force, don't you think?