Monday, November 24, 2014

The PC: Local remedies are a fine palliative for RateAdvocate.

The PC: Local remedies are a fine palliative for RateAdvocate.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

There was an edifying on-line conversation under way about “craft” beer cultural values, and in the middle of it, a questioner asked whether I was aware of the RateAdvocate scores for my own brewing company’s beers.

Now, the most obvious way to answer a question like this is with a simple “yes” or “no,” but in life, almost nothing good comes easy. As a philosophy major, serial contrarian and periodic ass, cooperation generally strikes me as the most problematic reaction, although I’ll accede to it in times of extreme duress.

To me, it’s always better to peel back a layer and ask an immediate follow-up question: Exactly what does my ownership of a brewery have to do with my ability to think rationally and independently about “craft” beer cultural values … or their absence?

Which is to say: The original question directed to me is not particularly relevant, but for the record, just because I’m coming off a wonderful weekend filled with local beer, food, people and good times: No, I’m not aware of my own brewery’s ratings at RateAdvocate – nor at Yelp, Urban Spoon or any other aggregator of uninformed opinion, one advancing the theory that subjectivity becomes increasingly virtuous so long as the sample size of ignorance continues to grow.

Speaking only for myself, I’d rather read actual books than endure reviews like this, and while I’m no fan of authors like Ayn Rand, those having read The Fountainhead may recall the famous exchange between Ellsworth Toohey and Howard Roark, as paraphrased.

Toohey: What do you think about RateAdvocate?

Roark: I don’t think about RateAdvocate.

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So, why do I find the question irrelevant?

It presupposes that my current position as brewery owner colors my objectivity as it pertains to larger matters in the world of beer and brewing, and more cleverly, it insinuates bias, whether intentional or inadvertent, in the sense that if our beers are dismissed by a ratings aggregator, I’d be inclined to attack whomever I held responsible for the slight.

To be sure, maintaining one’s objectivity can be an exacting challenge in a society that urges consumers to thump their chests and scream louder than the next adjacent product line, then rinse and repeat. Consequently, the method I deploy to keep myself as honest as humanly possible is a constant process of questioning and self-examination:

Is what I’m saying and writing true?

Am I being fair?

Would I still say and write these things if I weren’t a brewery owner, but a typical “craft” beer consumer?

Lest I lapse inadvertently into the hoary "Four Way Test" of the Rotarians, this is a good place to stop. Of course, perfection is impossible, but consistency needn’t be implausible. RateAdvocate doesn’t scratch my itch because to me, better beer isn’t about collecting scalps. It’s about collecting experiences, and we do that in places, with people – not by attempting to numerically quantify bliss.

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It isn’t that I don’t consult reference materials when choosing beers, especially when traveling near and far.

NABC is a member of New Albany First (NA 1st) and the Louisville Independent Business Alliance – LIBA, which encourages you to Keep Louisville Weird. These two Independent Business Associations (IBAs) encourage support for independently owned, small local businesses, and it always pleases me to see breweries on their membership lists, and those of IBAs in other cities.

IBAs have three primary focus areas:

1. Public education about the greater overall value local independents often can provide, as well as the vital economic, social and cultural role independent businesses play in the community.

2. Facilitating cooperative promotion, advertising, purchasing, sharing of skills and resources and other activities to help local businesses gain economies of scale and compete more effectively.

3. Creating a strong and uncompromised voice to speak for local independents in the local government and media while engaging citizens in guiding the future of their community through democratic action.

NABC and our comrades in “craft” brewing sink or swim as locally-oriented independents, and consequently, many of us pledge support via these IBAs. Happily, the approaching holiday season provides a perfect opportunity to put worthwhile principles into real-world, grassroots action.

We all know about so-called “Black Friday” (November 28), which is the biggest sales day of the year for big boxes and multinational chain stores -- the ones where the money promptly flees town for corporate headquarters worldwide.

In response to media hype and saturation advertising, which steer so much trade to the country's biggest, richest and largest companies on “Black” Friday, the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA) promotes Shift Your Shopping, of which Plaid (as opposed to Black) Friday is a component.

Instead of Black Friday it’s PLAID FRIDAY! Shift Your Shopping and wear plaid as you shop on Friday to remind yourself and others to make the 10% Shift. The 10% Shift encourages you to shift 10% of your holiday purchases from non-local businesses to Local Independents (also called indies or locally owned and independent businesses). Making the shift to local independents is one way we can build sustainable economies and create jobs in our local community.

It’s simple: Give shift a chance … and shift happens.

You're not being asked to go cold turkey, except for those post-Thanksgiving sandwiches, which I find pair quite well with growlers of session-strength bitter. Rather, merely allocating a percentage of trade to independent local businesses is a readily achievable objective.

Yes, it’s true: I’m touting my independent local business brethren, but what’s being written here is true and fair, and it still would be my position even if I did not count myself among the ranks of small biz owners

Meanwhile, while priestly castes can have their uses, empowering them is a far less urgent goal than building a well-informed base aware of the “craft” beer gospel as stated in the vernacular. Now more than ever, it’s a great time to think globally and drink locally, if for no other compelling reason than the more localism, the less importance attached to the likes of RateAdvocate.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pride bar + lounge adds an Indiana Statutory Compliance Restaurant Menu, and it looks familiar.

Matt, the owner of Pride bar + lounge, messaged me to report that the Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission (ATC) recently busted his bar for not having the requisite food requirement stashed in the freezer. Seems the bartender on duty said the "kitchen" was closed, and out came the citation.

Matt and I chatted about what is sufficient to please the state, and he jokingly observed that it would be easier of he might just use the legendary Bank Street Brewhouse Indiana Statutory Compliance Restaurant Menu.

Be my guest, I replied -- with attribution, all is possible.

So, slightly modified for adaptive reuse, here is Pride's new state-mandated food menu.


Seriously, Bank Street Brewhouse is hosting a pop-up Taco Punk kitchen visit this weekend, and maybe some day soon, we can dispense with the freezer pretense. It wouldn't make the state's laws any more rationale, but our drinkers would enjoy the meals. Stay tuned.

Flat12 Bierwerks taproom location in Jeffersonville: "Soft" opening on Nov. 22, grand opening on Dec. 6, brewing to follow.

It's a good idea getting in ahead of the toll bridges, and an even better notion to be as local as humanly possible.

Being situated adjacent to the Big Four pedestrian bridge is excellent, too.

Flat 12 Bierwerks eyes Dec. 6 opening in Jeffersonville, by Kevin Gibson (Insider Louisville)

... As for exactly which beers will be brewed in Jeffersonville versus Indy, and the exact setup of the brewery, Finch said that’s still being worked out.

“What I do know for sure,” he said, “is that we’re going to brew some beer here that we’ll sell exclusively here. That’s the only way to make the local connection work.”

And part of Flat 12’s plan is to become as local as possible by hosting events, getting involved in community happenings, collaborating with Louisville-area breweries and generally being a local presence rather than an annex of the Indianapolis brewery.

Here is the official press release.

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Flat12 Bierwerks has been hitting taps and shelves all over the Louisville area, and the fast-growing, Indianapolis-based craft brewery is set to open their second location November 22 in downtown Jeffersonville. The soft opening will be followed by the official Grand Opening Celebration set for December 6.

The December 6th Grand Opening Celebration held at the new riverside venue will include live music, selections from local food vendors, samples from the new Flat12 menu, and of course, pints of the new lineup of core beers plus an array of specialty beers. The event is 21+, open to the public, and FREE. Pints, growler fills, and food will be available for purchase.

About The Jeffersonville Flat12 Taproom
Situated in scenic downtown Jeffersonville just blocks away from the Big Four Bridge, the rustic, yet polished taproom features a bar with 32 taps, ample table seating, large-screen televisions for sporting events, and a spacious deck overlooking the Ohio River, outfitted with heaters and sidewalls for year-round use. With up-cycled keg pendant lights and reclaimed wooden walls offering a warm rustic feel, and contemporary touches giving it an industrial edge, the overall atmosphere is laid-back and inviting! “We saw the excitement building in Jeffersonville and we’re happy to be the newest member of the growing Kentuckiana community,” said Sean O’Connor, co-founder and president of Flat12. 

The house beer list will feature current Flat12 favorites, unique brews such as Spirit Mover Saison, Joe Brahma Coffee Brown Ale, Kattenstoet Belgian Pale, as well as taproom-only offerings. "We wanted to make the Jeffersonville location truly unique by offering an exclusive lineup of beers. Look for a host of one-off beers on the rotating taps that will only be available at the Jeff taproom," said Rob Caputo, Director of Brewery Operations at Flat12. 

About Flat12 Bierwerks
Established in 2010, Flat12 Bierwerks is a regional brewer of uncommonly distinct craft beer and an active participant in supporting community organizations that foster their shared values. The brewery distributes across Indiana, the Greater Cincinnati area, Louisville, and eastern and central Tennessee. The Jeffersonville taproom will be the second location for the brewery.

The regular taproom hours are Wednesdays and Thursdays 3:00 pm to 9:00 pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 12:00 pm to 10:00 pm and Sunday 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm.

Press photos here. More on Flat12 at http://flat12.me/ . If you would like more information, please call Sean O’Connor at (317) 340-0365 or email sean.oconnor@flat12werks.com.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Uh huh: "Are we seeing the end of real craft brewing?"

When an entire generation of beer enthusiasts looks at the demonic visage of AB InBev and sees not the face of pure and unmitigated evil, but a benign grandfatherly figure who provides them barrel-aged stouts brewed in zombie fashion by Trojan Goose ... then yes, it's all over.

The fat lady may now sing.

The only authenticity likely to matter during the years to come will be derived primarily from stubbornly independent on-premise brewing operations possessing genuine principles. So it goes, but no, it isn't going to be the same. That stale smell of money? It's the same great buzzkill, every single time.

Are we seeing the end of real craft brewing?, by Joe Sixpack (Don Russell at Philly.com)

LOOKING BACK on the takeover of a tiny Oregon brewery last week by Anheuser-Busch InBev, some years from now we may remember it as a turning point.

Or maybe we won't remember it at all.

But right now, it feels like the Day the Music Died - the day when craft brewing took the inevitable step from the adolescent innocence of selfless idealism to the maturity of just another bottom-line business ...

 ... For when we think of craft beer as just another business, it's not the aroma of malt and hops we're savoring. That's the stale smell of money.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Vintage Fire Museum offers "Chili, Brats, and (NABC) Brew," this Saturday.


Saturday, November 22 (11:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.) is the occasion of "Chili, Brats, and Brew", a fundraiser for the Vintage Fire Museum and Safety Education Center (723 Spring Street, Jeffersonville). NABC will be on hand with a cash beer bar.

The museum is a nationally known collection of restored fire engines (hand pumpers, chemical engines, horse-drawn steamers and early motorized engines) and other equipment dating back to 1756. It's a worthy cause, so if you're in the neighborhood, check out the collection and enjoy a Progressive Pint.



Monday, November 17, 2014

The PC: Brawling and crawling in the virtual barroom.

The PC: Brawling and crawling in the virtual barroom.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

I've got my clipboard, text books, lead me to the station
Yeah, I'm off to the civil war
I've got my kit bag, my heavy boots, I'm runnin' in the rain
Gonna run till my feet are raw
--Pete Townshend, “Slip Kid” lyrics

Once upon a time at our pizzeria, two male customers came bouncing inside, displaying the obvious symptoms of delirious pre-intoxication. Whether their addled condition owed to liquid or herbal sources could not be clearly determined.

They ordered pizza … and soft drinks. Even they understood there was little hope of being served beer in such a condition.

Staff assumed the best until provided with evidence to the contrary, and sure enough, soon the duo began verbally harassing other patrons. Our man on point called the police, and two officers quickly arrived, spotlessly removing the offenders from the dining area and shifting them outside into the parking lot.

There by the curb, the tragicomic dullards put up a mild, slapstick resistance to arrest. I earnestly hoped the officers would deploy nightsticks, flashlights and perhaps even cattle prods, but they were impeccably restrained in the face of provocation.

Astutely observing the condition of the unruly future drunk tank denizens, the policemen merely shrugged and maintained a loosely demarcated cordon, permitting the Two Stooges to smash into one another like semi-erect, soggy egg noodles. It wasn’t long before they both plummeted onto the unyielding pavement in a tangle of sodden, swill-fueled ineptitude.

One of them promptly began moaning in the fashion of a starving, flea-bitten, matted-wet cur, barred from the soothing warmth of house and hearth:

“We jess cayme ta eeeet peeezza! Whar’s mah peeezza?”

It was as pathetic a performance as I’ve witnessed during a quarter-century in business, and a sad commentary, too, because try as one might as an owner to maintain order and an ambience of non-threatening good times in your place, there is a certain percentage of the human race unable to follow the handy directions on the teleprompter.

While most consumers remain perfectly capable of responsible social drinking, some simply do not possess this gene. Unfortunately, those eagerly digressing into incarceration like the two bedraggled pizza cravers seem to be forever determined to pull others down into their own morass of dysfunction.

There’s no larger point to relating this memory from so very long ago, apart from the uncanny way it mirrors my current state of jaundice, which in turn is a reflection of the dysfunction seemingly characterizing so many facets of the world around me.

However, the lessons of history provide as many reasons to be sanguine as depressed. Life, work and beer are cyclical, and the pendulum forever swings out and back. One merely needs to be patient, and wait for the next bus to stop.

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The pizza drunkards episode provides a final, useful reminder: The virtual barroom on contemporary social media doesn’t differ substantively from the tactile venue in real-life, except that it’s immediately viewable by a greater number of jaded voyeurs.

Whether transmitted electronically or seeping from an adjoining barstool, they’re the very same peccadillos and predilections: The snobbish beer narcissist, the inveterate jokester, the big brother who has everyone’s back, the egalitarian beer geek, the political know-it-all, the lady slayer, the heartbreaker, the matron of honor, the gullible, the sandbagger and the stray couple still in love after all these years.

My least favorite archetype from bartending daze of yore was the perfectly sober fellow who’d arrive around 8 p.m. as the dinner crowd was receding, proceed to have a couple of pints while conversing entertainingly with the assembled regulars, order his third beer at some point around ten, and then promptly descend from the charming normality of Dr. Jekyll to the obtrusive mania of Mr. Hyde, all in the span of minutes, and at times seconds.

He would shakily stand, suddenly emboldened and ready to fight all and sundry over this perceived slight or that deeply ingrained wound from remote childhood -- and my use of the pronoun “he” is purely intentional, because how many times have you ever seen a female acting this way?

Most of the time it would come to nothing. Beer would be spilled, a chair knocked sideways, and a patient, saintly barroom figure would come forward, willing to devote the next hour or two of his or her precious recreational drinking time to soothe the inflamed beast, coax him down from the ledge he loved so well, and in short, provide the sort of amateur counseling he so desperately and obviously needed from a professional, trained headshrinker.

The fundamental things apply, as time goes by. Alcoholic beverages are to dissociative identity disorder what an H.L. Mencken essay is to my attempted rhetorical flourishes. Add the pervasiveness of social media into the mix, and the result can be amplified thousands-fold, and that’s sad, because back in Luddite times, at least we could contain the collateral damage within the physical barroom itself.

These days, from Birdseye to Bangkok, it comes directly to futon and hammock.

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Last week, I had a few difficulties of my own with social media. The Floyd County Democratic Party blocked me from following it on Twitter, and withdrew posting and commenting privileges on Facebook. As a left-leaner who has been denouncing fascists since before the current party chairman was born, I find this intemperate muzzling almost as delicious as one’s first glass of cool, elegant Spezial Rauchbier after four years away from Bamberg.

I’m undeterred by the pettiness. Whether seated at the Stammtisch or pontificating on social media, I derive value from an embrace of knowledge and the primacy of ideas. Because my place of birth attaches a pathetically low value to educational attainment, these areas always have been seriously undervalued hereabouts.

Consequently, to me there have been two choices: Either attempt a measure of self-growth and comprehension by playing the role of contrarian gadfly in the midst of localized incomprehension, or risk the relative happiness of placidity in another locale, where most other people (might) view life in the same way.

My tendency has been to choose Door Number One, because hard-wired somewhere deep within my psyche is the conviction that it’s better to stay put and confront complacency and apathy at home – to be a royal pain in the posterior and a performance artist for my vision of truth whenever and wherever possible in an effort to illustrate the simple fact that it’s okay to be different – than to cut and run.

My preference may or may not be noble. It would be foolish of me to deny my fair share of character flaws, or to defend inconvenient exceptions to my philosophical precepts. It's just me.

The party chairman isn’t the only New Albanian who’d like to vote me off the island, and he has been joined in recent years by various apologists, hoarders and solipsists in the emerging beer appreciation doltocracy, who would be first in line to proffer the hemlock to Socrates if it meant not having to suffer actual thoughts before downing an ice-cold, barrel-aged Trojan Goose.

I have only this to add: Think globally, drink locally, and woe to the functionary with the white-out fetish.

Why wait until the beers of evening to throw a few polemical punches when morning coffee works just as well?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Pop-Up Taco Punk at Bank Street Brewhouse, Nov. 21 & 22 (6 p.m. - close).


Since May, when we suspended kitchen service at Bank Street Brewhouse, we’ve done our level best to provide creative alternatives to a full-time food menu, from the active encouragement of carry-in and delivery from downtown New Albany’s many fine restaurants, to Eh Cumpari’s mobile wood-fired pizza oven and our own Stephen J. Powell’s Pigs and Cows.

(There also was this, which inspired our friends to the north to follow suit)

In addition, there have been two “pop-up” dinner evenings with Chef Dan Thomas, both of which were culinary and critical successes. He’ll be returning soon for more one-off meals.

In the meantime, there’s another pop-up weekend on the way, this time with Chef Gabe Sowder and his gourmet tacos. Metro Louisville knows Gabe, a native of Jeffersonville, for his bricks ‘n’ mortar shop in NuLu, called Taco Punk.

Unfortunately, Taco Punk’s NuLu shop closed early last month, but Gabe’s still got the goods, and he’s agreed to set up the tortilla press at Bank Street Brewhouse on the weekend of November 21 & 22 (Friday and Saturday). Gabe will be serving from 6:00 p.m. to closing.

During these "pop-up" hours on the 21st and 22nd, just “pop in” and buy Taco Punk tacos. NABC's Progressive Points are the ideal accompaniment, but there'll be soft drinks, too, and all ages are welcome.

We think the combination of Taco Punk and NABC is a good one. If the pop-up goes well ... who knows?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The story of Pappy Van Winkle Jell-O shots lances the boil of libations snobbery.

I wouldn't waste Pappy Van Winkle on Jell-O shots. However, I absolutely WOULD use it as a marinade for frozen weenies.

Steve Coomes picks up the story at Insider Louisville.

Meta gains national news attention, praise and threats over Pappy Jell-O shots

I had to go, and I had to know.

To Meta to taste a Pappy Van Winkle Jell-O shot last Friday and learn how this brilliant and borderline scandalous — for Bourbon Country anyway — promotion turned out for Jeremy Johnson, co-owner of the craft cocktail bar.

Johnson grabbed headlines on Thursday after informing Insider Louisville he was taking a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 15-year-old bourbon and a bottle of 12-year-old and turning those sought-after sippers into Jell-O shots.

Sales were brisk ... and snobs were outraged.

For the most part, Johnson said the Pappy shots were praised by people who “got what we were doing, tasted them and really liked them.” But some regarded using such rare whiskey as blasphemy and were downright vicious in their commentary.

Johnson received an email death threat (Hey, smart guy, you can trace those things) and another threat to burn the bar down. A thread on Fark.com contains a litany of splenetic remarks toward Johnson, his bar and the commonwealth — all because he turned bourbon into a Jell-O shot.

Could it be that Jell-O shots are the egalitarian answer to the question, "Whither bourbon snobbery?"

“People are missing one big point: We took a bottle of Pappy and (150) people got to try it rather than two or three. I think that’s pretty cool.”

Johnson offers a cross-disciplinary conclusion, one that I wish could be applied to beer, too.

Overall, Johnson thinks the whole buy-at-all-costs bourbon craze is way out of hand, and he recalled a story of a Napa Valley winemaker who treated several peers to a dinner at which he served them popsicles made from Ch√Ęteau d’Yquem, a pricey French wine known for its complexity and sweetness.

“They freaked out, they couldn’t believe he did that,” Johnson said. “He told them that at the end of the day, it’s just grape juice, and if they started believing their own hype, then they’re really screwed.”

My friend Tony S. took this ball and promptly ran with it.

Better yet, how about a whole Pappy dinner? Cocktail weenie appetizer, salad with pappy vinaigrette, pork loin with Pappy bourbon mustard sauce, bread pudding with Pappy bourbon sauce.

Boom! I replied that the only form of Pappy to be made unavailable at the dinner was "by the glass," but Tony already was one step ahead of me.

Of course, any bourbon event such as this needs a signature cocktail, I suggest:

86 proof Yellowstone (of a dusty bottle--complete with a faded and broken tax seal--discovered in a basement cabinet of a bungalow owned by someone's old maid aunt who purchased the fifth at Taylor Drugs sometime between Sputnik and the Beatles' "Ed Sullivan Show" appearance for her brother (who visited every Sunday afternoon and dutifully cut her lawn and--in spite of their parents' leadership in the Temperance movement back after the War to End All Wars--acquired a taste for the demon liquor hanging out with those fish-eating, papists at the tavern after returning from THE War.)

While only aged in new charred white oak barrels for four to six years, surely the 50 year bottle-conditioning ought to make it delightful.

Served either neat (for the Foodies), with a splash of water (for the intelligentsia), or with your choice of Big K Cola or the ever-popular "Orange Drink" (for the hipster).

Dude. I have a couple bottles of Dark Lord hidden away. Beef stew?