Friday, February 27, 2015

We're Only in It for the Money: Gravity Head 2015 has arrived.

This weekend's weather looks to be cold, and that's a wonderful forecast.

Gravity Head 2015 opens at 7:00 a.m. on Friday, February 27 at NABC's Pizzeria & Public House. For the second time, there'll also be a special Sunday observance at Bank Street Brewhouse (see below).

Following are two articles to help make sense of the institution, as well as links to relevant information.

A particularly relevant note for those planning to visit during Gravity Head's month-long run: Plan your evening and arrange transportation at the conclusion of your gravity session, or have a designated driver. We can help you call a taxi … and be aware that both UBER and LYFT serve the Pizzeria & Public House from many metro locations.

First, beer writer Kevin Gibson.
As craft beer popularity rises, New Albanian’s Gravity Head enters 17th year, by Kevin Gibson (Insider Louisville)

It’s 2015, and so-called “craft beer” has never been more popular, with barrel-aged, big-bodied, high-alcohol brews leading the way.

But rewind 17 years, and we can revisit the humble beginnings of a mini beer festival that happens annually, right under our noses. That celebration of beer is called Gravity Head, and the 2015 version begins Feb. 27.

Here's my take on the local angles of Gravity Head.

The PC: Happy Gravity Head!

Gravity Head is hard to explain, and I’m proud of the obscurity.

In my view, the fundamental difference between Gravity Head and other beer festivals is that from the very start, when we decided to have a second Gravity Head in 2000, we had no idea as to what the “proper” organization of a beer festival entailed. Conventional wisdom utterly eluded us, for which I remain eternally grateful.

The following links contain most, if not all, of what you might need to know.

Gravity Head 2015 starters and lineupdate page … what’s on tap? (as selections change, they'l be listed here)

Link to the Daily Gravity Form (2015 official program, u-print only)

2nd Annual Gravity Head Hangover Hoedown at Bank Street Brewhouse is Sunday, March 1 (a full slate of guest beers, NABC beers, vegan food from VGrits, the Bloody Mary bar and music, wrapped together to benefit the Uplands Peak Sanctuary)

First-ever Oaktimus 22-oz bomber release is at BSB on Sunday, March 1 (available for carry-out at BSB on Sunday)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Media notice: Roger A. Baylor will take a leave of absence from NABC to run for mayor of New Albany.

Media notice: Roger A. Baylor will take a leave of absence from NABC to run for mayor of New Albany.

Two months ago, I utilized the bully pulpit afforded me by my weekly blog column to announce that in 2015, I’d be running for mayor of New Albany as an independent.

ON THE AVENUES: To the third floor -- but first, we throw the rascals out.

My rationale isn't overly complicated. I’m running for mayor because a city in transition like New Albany desperately needs progressive ideas like those espoused by people like me, from all walks of life, who routinely have been marginalized or ignored by the same old game, played the same old way, by the same old, tired political suspects.

It’s a big undertaking for any candidate. One must complete various forms and gather the necessary signatures, and then organize a whole campaign from scratch. All along, it has been my intention to begin the campaign in earnest come March 2 ... and we're right on schedule.

Consequently, the first of many transitions on along the path to come begins today. Effective immediately, I’m taking a leave of absence from the New Albanian Brewing Company (NABC), so as to devote my full attention to the campaign for mayor.

Of course, I’ll honor all previous commitments, but from this point the day-to-day is in the capable hands of my business partners, Kate Lewison and Amy Baylor, and our fine staff.

As many readers may already know, I own 33% of NABC’s two incorporations. When the November election is over and I’ve been elected to the office of mayor, I’ll act immediately to sell my shares to my two business partners, according to the terms of our buy-sell agreement.

Which is to say, I’m all in. I’m very serious about running for mayor -- and winning. Let the fun begin.

Questions? Just ask.

502-468-9710 (mobile)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sam Calagione outlines the Doctrine of Trojan Geese Transubstantiation.

Funny, isn't it?

When I say and write almost exactly these same things, local Indyucky beer aficionados look at me as if I've urinated on Baby Jeeebus.

Then they trot right out to buy Dogfish Head ... and worse, Trojan Goose, the latter pumping money into AB InBev's coffers to pay the lawyers who are opposing House Bill 168 in Kentucky -- you know, the one the aficionados support.  They can spend hours debating wood grains in used barrels, and yet cannot manage to follow the money. Regrettable, but not uncommon in an age of solipsistic narcissism, whether braggot or braggart.

Anyway ... right on, Sam Calagione.

Maybe you can talk some sense into them.

Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione Squares Off Against Budweiser, by Matt Allyn (Men's Journal)

Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione is one of craft beer's great evangelists. Since launching his initial Rehoboth Beach, Delaware brewpub in 1995, Calagione made waves in the brewing world for innovative hopping techniques, recreating ancient recipes, and pushing the limits of extreme beer. Outside his brewery, he travels tirelessly to spread the good word of craft brewing through food, music, and beer events.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The PC: Happy Gravity Head!

The PC: Happy Gravity Head!

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

For the uninitiated, Gravity Head is a month-long celebration of potent beers held each year since 1999 at NABC’s Pizzeria & Public House location in New Albany, Indiana. The program, which provides far greater details, can be found here.

When Gravity Head comes calling, familiar space and time continuums often are found to be briefly altered. Normal routines are rendered Byzantine by comparison. Life’s infinite horizons narrow, and one reverts to existence by the hour, minute by minute. The act of passing through the looking glass inspires boredom by comparison.

Mind you, I’m not speaking of the fest’s actual commencement, because once the opening bell sounds on Friday morning at 7:00 a.m., we all collectively observe the Sidney Freedman dictum from television’s M*A*S*H – in 2015, perhaps literally:

“Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice - pull down your pants and slide on the ice.”

Actually it’s the preparation for Gravity Head that saps working days and requires attention to detail during the run-up to the event’s attendant bacchanalia. We might choose to do it differently, but when it comes to what has unexpectedly become a venerable tradition, an array of minor points adds up to a greater sum. It’s just a beer festival, but it’s more, and different from the rest.

Gravity Head is hard to explain, and I’m proud of the obscurity.

In my view, the fundamental difference between Gravity Head and other beer festivals is that from the very start, when we decided to have a second Gravity Head in 2000, we had no idea as to what the “proper” organization of a beer festival entailed. Conventional wisdom utterly eluded us, for which I remain eternally grateful.

Since then, I’ve become increasingly dismissive of the notion that there are “right” and “wrong” beer fest templates. Buying into black or white norms merely reinforces the predictability of the status quo, and focusing on single day fest events doesn’t necessarily translate into a daily undertow, without which we cannot exist as a business.

If Oktoberfest in Munich can last for 16 days, then Gravity Head surely can run for 30 … or more.

Our aim has been to contextualize Gravity Head within a larger framework of emphasis on localization. Understanding that we’ll be doing something different from the pub’s daily norm by stocking so many steroidal beers all at once, we’ve sought to provide our regular customers and locally-based friends with as many opportunities as possible to taste special beers over a longer period of time, during cooler weather, each year.

That’s it in a nutshell. Of course, the fest doesn’t exclude visitors, who are more than welcome to join the fun, and yet it remains a feast designed for those denizens of the longer haul seated at the Stammtisch.

The listed beers never have been served all at once at Gravity Head. They unfold steadily in waves and appear over a period of weeks. We don’t do flights, because flights imply a vague “right” to taste them all. Rather, the desired end is for folks to taste a few, and then return another time and taste a few more. Not too many at once, because they’re strong.

Of course, Gravity Head’s opening day has become somewhat of a scrum, and possesses a singular tradition all its own. I’m content with the interior logic occurring therein, but while the revelry usually claims me, it isn’t what I look forward to experiencing each year.

Rather, there’ll inevitably be a quiet Tuesday night during the second or third week, with a handful of friends, and the leisurely, contemplative sipping of one or two quality libations, spiced with conversation.

These are the precious times that lead to feelings of timelessness, and timelessness is why I like beer – among other reasons.


And so it’s that time again: the 17th edition of Gravity Head begins on Friday, February 27. As noted previously, nowadays the festival kicks off at 7:00 a.m. at NABC’s Pizzeria & Public House.

That’s because way back in 2008, we convened at 4:00 a.m. for a gravity “breakfast” with Terry Meiners of WHAS television in Louisville. It was tiring, and yet the occasion offered the germ of an idea. In the years since, the concept has been tweaked, and so now breakfast starts at 7:00 a.m., when it’s actually legal to drink beer in Hoosierland.

For several years, NABC’s ever helpful employee Sarah Small cooked breakfast frittatas for the early arrivals, but eventually the throngs became too large, so last year the Pizzeria & Public House’s kitchen was opened early, with the full menu available, including special breakfast pizzas masterminded by the kitchen crew. We’ll do it again in 2015.

There’ll also be locally-baked Honey Creme doughnuts, which I’ll fetch on my way to work; Ed Needham's kickass home-roasted coffee; and the complete opening day roster of Gravity Head selections.

From there on out, your guess is as good as mine.

Also for 2015, we continue to experiment with a Sunday afternoon extension of Gravity Head at Bank Street Brewhouse. This Sunday concept isn’t intended to exactly mimic Gravity Head, but to provide a way of gently descending to reentry and the rigors of the workaday world following opening weekend’s excess.

It’s called the 2nd Annual Gravity Head Hangover Hoedown at BSB, and here’s the itinerary (NABC’s Bank Street Brewhouse’s Sunday hours are 12 noon until 9:00 p.m.)

• Special guest beers from Starlight Distribution
• Unique vegan pop-up kitchen with V-Grits
• Debut of NABC Oaktimus in bomber bottles
• Return of BSB’s Build Your Own Bloody Mary bar
• NABC’s customary beers of proven merit
• Live music TBA
• Benefiting a great cause: Uplands Peak Sanctuary


While writing and arranging today’s column, it suddenly occurred to me that by virtue of Gravity Head being a draft-only party, it is quite possibly doomed to irrelevance. After all, in today’s selfie-driven world of social media one-upmanship, where’s the value in a photo of a beer in a glass, sans bottle, label and bragging rights?

I’m even prouder now.


Recent PC columns:

The PC: On barrelage, Dean Smith and diversity studies.

The PC: The Weekly Wad was a modest start.

The PC: Budweiser explains the Doctrine of Trojan Geese Transubstantiation.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Louisville brewers on ideas for beer and food pairing.

Have food, will beer. Or vice versa.

Local brewers talk beer and food pairing, by Dana McMahan (Courier-Journal)

I'm flattered to bat leadoff -- all hail the power of alphabetizing.

Here are the other interviewees:

Vince Cain .. Great Flood
Sam Cruz ... Against the Grain
Leah Dienes ... Apocalypse
Brian Holton ... Beer Engine
Christopher Turner ... BBC
John Wurth ...

My first thought on the matter follows, and I'm sticking to it.

The best way to begin pairing beer and food is to smile broadly in the knowledge that beer’s dizzying stylistic diversity makes the process fun and enriching. As a beverage fermented from barley and other cereal grains, beer functions not unlike bread with a meal, and it’s also carbonated, which expands possibilities with heavier and oilier foods. Beer is bitter and sweet, pale and dark, heavy and light – sometimes all at once. You could spend a lifetime pairing beers with cheese.

It's been a while since my last beer dinner. Perhaps it's time to correct that.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Structurally, both punk and craft beer are left-wing movements.

Different art form, similar reasoning.

"Craft" beer originated with revolutionary upheaval against the stultifying weight of special interests as exemplified by robber baron capitalism. How can that ever be viewed as right-wing? It's simply impossible, without gutting the conceptual basis.

As for punk, it's an old article, but still relevant.

Left Wing Punk, by satanicpanic (Daily Kos)

So the other day I did a diary on whether or no Punk is Right Wing, discussing a Johnny Ramone quote stating that it is. And I have to disagree. Punk is structurally leftwing- it's democratic, populist and anti-authoritarian. It naturally attracts left wing minds. And it has. A LOT. Left wing bands far outnumber right wing bands in both number and influence, which tends to push the overall feel of the music to the left, maybe more than any other genre. Punk music has covered left/liberal issues like environmentalism, gender, sexual orientation, class, consumerism, religious freedom from the beginning. Rather than trying to name them all, I just wanted to share some of the many left leaning punk bands, artists and songs that I like. And to try to explain why they matter. This is by no means exhaustive, so feel free to add your faves in the comments!

Friday, February 20, 2015

The many faces of Faust.

Photo credit: Linked article in RFT

Thanks to a Twitter exchange between Stan Hieronymus and Mitch Steele, I was made aware of this excellent article about Faust -- a St. Louis restaurateur and lager of olden times, and either of two Anheuser-Busch (now AB InBev) revivals of the beer -- not of the man, even if AB InBev is the Great Satan and the original Faust made a pact with the devil.

Here's the link, and permit me to say that the the rooftop beer garden of Faust's was badass.

Anheuser-Busch Resurrects Faust, the 130-Year-Old Beer Named for a St. Louis Legend, By Nancy Stiles (Riverfront Times)

... Apparently, even non-St. Louisans are instinctively drawn to the man on the postcard: Anthony (or Tony) Faust, Oyster King. Faust was a restaurateur, not a brewer, but he, the Anheuser-Busch family and the history of St. Louis itself became inextricably linked in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1884, Adolphus Busch himself brewed a beer named Faust Pale Lager after his favorite drinking buddy. For many years, it existed only in the documentation in A-B's massive archives.

Mitch Steele was at AB in 1998, when Faust was brought back the first time. I've always enjoyed telling this story (below), most recently last year prior to the beer writing symposium at the University of Kentucky. Mitch was to have been a speaker along with Stan and me, but couldn't make it. Maybe he'll be nearby next year, when Stone opens Gravity Head 2016.

I'm no fan of what AB has become, and yet 130 years might as well be the age of the pyramids. I'd try the latest revived Faust. Wouldn't pay for it, because I don't want my money being recycled to fight House Bill 168 in Kentucky.

But if you gave me one for free ...

Mitch Steele at Rich O’s in 1998 – Part One

 ... One of the American Originals series was Faust, the purported recreation of a 19th-century golden lager, named for a St. Louis restaurateur, and brewed as a house brand for him by pre-1900 AB. I ordered four kegs of Faust from the puzzled wholesaler, yanked the Budweiser, scattered P-O-S materials around the pizzeria, and instructed our employees to pitch the new beer as an AB product just like regular Budweiser, and better than regular Budweiser; furthermore, we were prepared to sell Faust at the very same price point as regular Budweiser even though the cost per keg was higher.

As it turned out, turkeys still couldn’t fly.

Sales of bottled Bud promptly skyrocketed. It took more than a month to sell the first two kegs of Faust, and by the time the third was ready for tapping, the “sell-by” dates already had expired. More confused than ever, the wholesaler bought back the unused kegs.

Brand-loyal Budweiser drinkers wouldn’t touch Faust, even at the same price point, precisely because it wasn’t their totemic Budweiser. Conversely, although it was a good product, and far more interesting a lager than the norm, those aficionados hanging out at Rich O’s wouldn’t drink it, either, because it was suspiciously inexpensive — and emanated from the hated multinational monolith.

(Part Two)