Saturday, May 13, 2017

Headlines from April 2017 on THE BEER BEAT.

Previously, I explained several reasons why this blog has gone on hiatus, and explained that my thoughts about beer will be posted alongside my utterances about everything else, over yonder at NA Confidential.

You'll find them there via the all-purpose tag, The Beer Beat.

However, whenever the urge strikes -- probably monthly -- I'll collect a few of these links right here. Following are April's ruminations, with the oldest listed first. Some are more topical than others, and I'm past the point of caring about it.

Having noted this, I found that writing about my favorite pubs made me feel good. There may be more of it.


THE BEER BEAT: Indie, not craft, because "There is absolutely NOTHING 'independent' about AB/InBev."

I haven't gone cold turkey on the "craft" descriptor, and find myself using the word here and there (usually in quotation marks, as intended to emphasis the escalating irony), but zero tolerance is a worthy goal to which we might aspire.


THE BEER BEAT: Retro and dive, tavern and free house. Stages of development. A rumination.

We’re approaching an important local anniversary in the saga of better beer, because at some point in the late summer of 1992, the first keg of Guinness was tapped at the Public House formerly known as Rich O’s.


THE BEER BEAT: The Hibernian (Hi-B) Bar, one of my favorite pubs in the world.

It's been 30 years since I climbed the stairs to the first floor (in Europe, that's how they're numbered) and beheld the cramped majesty of the Hi-B. Somewhere up or down another set of stairs was the loo. The publican Brian O'Donnell was a legend even then, and as I write, it is my earnest hope that he's still alive and scowling.


THE BEER BEAT: The Dolphin, one of my favorite pubs in the world.

Few such pubs can boast a semi-official house artist. The late Beryl Cook was a painter who moved to Plymouth after the retirement of her husband. They opened a guest house nearby, and gradually Cook gained fame as an artist. Because The Dolphin was her local, several of her paintings chronicle pub life.


THE BEER BEAT: BrewDog's private equity $$$ bonanza: "Not bad for ten years of being rude about the rest of the UK brewing industry."

BrewDog's antics have entertained me for a long time. The company's success reminds us that while P.T. Barnum may have been an American, hucksterism never has been confined to just one country. I hope the founders of BrewDog make a mint, whether in dollars, Euros or pounds sterling. I'll be at a local establishment somewhere, drinking myself to sleep.


THE BEER BEAT: Jim Koch ponders whether it's "Last Call for Craft Beer."

Just my two cents. It's hard feeling sorry for Jim Koch, though in some ways I do. Samuel Adams Boston Lager is one of the most important beers in American brewing history, whether "craft" or macro. It helped pioneer a whole segment, and it's still really good for what it is.


THE BEER BEAT: St. Radegund Free House, one of my favorite pubs in the world.

Regrettably, my paean to St. Radegund Free House in Cambridge, England must begin with the sadly belated report that former landlord Terry "Bunter" Kavanagh died five years ago at the age of 75.


THE BEER BEAT: A neighborhood dive bar for the post-craft beer world?

It's feeling like a lab rat, as though you're part of an ongoing experiment in anxiety escalation -- like an arms race, always hoppier, sourer, stronger and plain weirder; the wheel constantly is revolving, and there's nothing upon which to hang one's metaphorical chapeau for longer than one keg (a sixth barrel), lest another begin pouring the diametrical opposite.


THE BEER BEAT: Sometimes compliance takes a labyrinth.

Attention, oppressed Indian(a) ATC permit holders.


THE BEER BEAT: Valley Malt. Pioneer Valley. It all comes back to me now.

And, during two recent trips to Western Massachusetts, it never once occurred to me that Valley Malt might be located nearby, as in fact it is -- in Hadley, just a few miles from Diana's niece's family in South Hadley. We almost certainly were within minutes of the malting, and may well have passed it a half-dozen while driving back and forth.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Headlines from March 2017 on THE BEER BEAT.

Previously, I explained several reasons why this blog has gone on hiatus, and explained that my thoughts about beer will be posted alongside my utterances about everything else, over yonder at NA Confidential.

You'll find them there via the all-purpose tag, The Beer Beat. However, whenever the urge strikes -- probably monthly -- I'll collect a few of these links right here. Here is another month, with the most recent listed first. Apologies if topicality has gone out the window. I'm still groping for a working routine.


THE BEER BEAT: An assortment of headlines for beer and dissection.

Every year is the same, and I repeat once again: SUNDAY SALES ALREADY EXIST. Each year without fail, someone writes a column like this one lamenting Indiana's undisputed legal weirdness, and it always ends with the broad claim that there is a prohibition on Sunday sales. But beer, wine and spirits are available for carry-out on Sunday from small Indiana's brewers, vintners and distillers -- and there are virtually no restrictions pertaining to on-premise consumption.


THE BEER BEAT: I've decided to skip this year's Session Beer Day observance. See you in 2018.

As most readers know by now, (my mother) died two weeks ago, and I'm happy to have kept my vow of sobriety (if not outright abstinence). We're never to old to learn, or to feel. Session Beer Day was to be the resumption of normality, and yet to be honest, I'm not feeling it. I can see myself having a couple of beers somewhere, just not in the previously suggested format.


SHANE'S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS meets THE BEER BEAT: Boontling, a local dialect made famous by Anderson Valley Brewing Company.

Hop Ottin' was a precursor to our IPA-crazed contemporary era, and it also serves to introduce today's lingo.


THE BEER BEAT: Bryan Roth on sexism, anonymity and speaking openly about diversity.

If the guild is supported by the majority Indiana breweries, and it is, and if these breweries agree that it's a good thing for the guild to lobby on their behalf, then the corollary is for them to accept an obligation to be socially responsible -- precisely because the Indiana legal regime stipulates that irresponsibility (serving minors, etc) is grounds for the revocation of the brewing privilege.


THE BEER BEAT: "'Pinup versus pin her down': Indiana beers stoke controversy."

Last December, I was revisited by ghosts. It's a recurring phenomenon with me.


THE BEER BEAT: Airline pricing for movie theater drinks, although we've little idea which ones.

If I were an editor at Business First -- well, that's unlikely, given that business-oriented publications contain far too many numbers for a humanities major like me, and anyway, it's my habit to refrain from fetishizing grubby capitalists -- I'd ask the contributing writer why some of the following beers are tagged by brand name, but the wines are identified by style.


THE BEER BEAT: Highlights but no Lites, or a beer news roundup.

Coincidentally, as I ponder the most recent effort (fingers crossed) to bring the NABC buyout saga to a conclusion, All About Beer offers a wonderful tip about the power of realism.


THE BEER BEAT: No beer ... but a whole lotta mezcal in the new edition of Food & Dining, including a previously unpublished feature-length essay.

The assignment began as a column-length look at Louisville resident Marcos Mendoza and his Mala Idea line of mezcal, then John Carlos White turned me loose to write about mezcal at length -- and at deadline, we'd see where it took me.


THE BEER BEAT: "HopCat is the craft beer lover’s meow."

Since Food & Dining is a quarterly, I wait until the current issue is published, then backtrack three months for the reprint, so this profile of HopCat is from Winter 2016; Vol. 54 (Aug/Sept/Oct) -- and yes, HopCat is a chain pub and eatery.


THE BEER BEAT: The revenge of analog in terms of drinking beer? I like the idea.

The single most memorable beer article I came across during the past week didn't so much as mention beer, not even once. Instead, the article in question is a brief rumination on the message to be gleaned from a new book by David Sax called The Revenge Of Analog: Real Things And Why They Matter.


Friday, March 03, 2017

Headlines from February 2017 on THE BEER BEAT.

Previously, I explained several reasons why this blog has gone on hiatus, and explained that my thoughts about beer will be posted alongside my utterances about everything else, at NA Confidential.

You'll find them there via the all-purpose tag, The Beer Beat. However, whenever the urge strikes, I'll collect a few of these links right here.

Here are another month's worth of them, with the most recent listed first. One of my columns sneaked in there, too.

Apologies if topicality has gone out the window. I'm still groping for a working routine.


THE BEER BEAT: Some great ink for Floyd County Brewing Company.

Crucially for Floyd County Brewing Company, the business is a classic brewpub model. The beer is brewed and consumed in-house. It's the right model for the here and now. The object is to dial in the beer at FCBC's home base, and then become a can't miss destination for local beer lovers.


ON THE AVENUES: A stern side view of Gravity Head, nineteen times over.

Gravity Head might be staged differently, but as they pertain to what unexpectedly has become a bona fide tradition, an array of minor and often weirdly eccentric points adds up to a greater sum.


THE BEER BEAT: A compendium of local and regional craft beer headlines.

Once upon a time the pace of change in regional brewing circles was fast, but not so rapid as to defy the efforts of an intrepid observer or two to consistently document the phenomenon.


THE BEER BEAT: Why not a Session Beer Day pub crawl in downtown New Albany?

With Session Beer Day 2017 less than two months away, it's time for me to decide how I'll be honoring the occasion this year, and here's what I've come up with. This year, I'd like to make my Session Beer Day stroll in downtown New Albany. You're welcome to join me.


THE BEER BEAT: You may need pickle brine after the Stupor Bowl, or throughout Trump's term.

Welcome to the pickleback: A whiskey shot with pickle brine as a chaser. Thanks to K for the link.


THE BEER BEAT: "There is not ONE FREAKING IOTA of truth about how AB got started in this beautifully-crafted, button-pushing, faux-sensy-poo, piece o’ trash ad."

For those readers who may be coming late to my beer-related scribblings, know that Stevefoolbody is my hero. He is so awesome that typically I have nothing whatever to add, and merely attach a link and brief teaser to encourage you to go to his page and read.


THE BEER BEAT: It took a week to get the details straight, but BBC is leaving its current St. Matthews location after 23 years and hopes to reopen elsewhere in Louisville.

So, to recap: Owner Pat Hagan bowed (intelligently, in my view) to leasing and area development realities and now hopes to move BBC to a new location, one that will allow the expansion of brewing into bottling and/or canning. The 3rd Street brewery and restaurant remain open, and the 4th Street branch will reopen when the Kindred building is finished. The coming week will be a victory lap for BBC in St. Matthews, and I hope to make it over and learn the future of my Wort Mug, number 66.


THE BEER BEAT: No selfies necessary, because localism is why I believe the impending Falls City expansion is good news.

But localism as an economic doctrine provides another way of looking at the world – capitalism with a more human face, complementary to a good beer ethos, and also a different collection of information that permits tying a singular love of mine (beer) to another (the community in which I live, and how to make it better). It offers sense and sensibility out of relative scale, and suggests differing standards of value and achievement.


THE BEER BEAT: Tailspin Ale Fest returns to Bowman Field on Saturday, February 18.

In my view, Tailspin Ale Fest has become Louisville's premier beer festival, and it's the brainchild of New Albany's own Tisha Gainey.


THE BEER BEAT: Green Mouse sez the rumors are unsubstantiated and it's business as usual at BBC St. Matthews.

If and when further information becomes available, I'll let readers know. Until then ... can someone bring daddy a nice growler of David Pierce's signature BBC APA? I've been known to pay cash for such favors.


The past month on THE BEER BEAT.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The past month on THE BEER BEAT.

Previously, I explained several reasons why this blog has gone on hiatus, and explained that my thoughts about beer will be posted alongside my utterances about everything else, at NA Confidential. You'll find them there via the all-purpose tag, The Beer Beat. However, whenever the urge strikes, I'll collect a few of these links right here.

Here are a month's worth of them, with the blockbuster first.

THE BEER BEAT: The rumorama insists that Bluegrass Brewing Company (St. Matthews) will soon cease operations, but is a plot twist coming?

As for my sporting habits, times have changed, as have the beers that used to accompany them.

THE BEER BEAT: Football, how it used to be for me, why I seldom watch it at all -- and don't even mention those horrid beers.

My recent podcast was tremendous fun.

THE BEER BEAT: In which we talk beer on the "Flies on the Wall" podcast at Crescent Hill Radio.

For greater insight as to why people would ever stand in line for rare beers, there is this wonderful essay by Bryan Roth, otherwise known as "my kind of beer writing."

THE BEER BEAT: Rarity, beer quality, authenticity, and why it's so difficult to love the beer you're with.

Lew rocks.

THE BEER BEAT: The beer and whiskey that Lew Bryson wants to drink in 2017.

There was a roundup of Southern Indiana beer news.

THE BEER BEAT: News and views from local breweries, and an incredible Uff-da.

And, if you're not aware of the Pearl Street Taphouse, you need to be.

THE BEER BEAT: The Pearl Street Taphouse in downtown Jeffersonville.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The advent of THE BEER BEAT, and three links to it.

Previously, I explained several reasons why this blog is going on hiatus, indicating that my thoughts on beer will be posted alongside my thoughts on everything else, at NA Confidential. You'll find them there via the all-purpose tag, The Beer Beat.

However, whenever the urge strikes, I'll collect a few of these links here. First, a flashback.

THE BEER BEAT: Addressing diversity in "craft" beer, with Naughty Girl once again on the wrong side of the debate.

Let’s put an old saw to the test: Is it really true that any publicity is good publicity?

Specifically, if a New Albanian Brewing Company beer and beer label, as conceived on my watch in 2011, appears alongside an article by a national recognized blogger in 2016 and then is linked on Facebook by a brewing superstar, that’s wonderful, right?

Next, when good people succeed.

THE BEER BEAT: Localism in action, from Big Woods to Quaff On, now also Hard Times.

I've always like the people at this company, and it's been instructive to watch as they've expanded the business, geographically and in terms of product lines.

Finally, saying what you mean and meaning what you say.

THE BEER BEAT: Words like "local" and "unique," and beers for cold weather.

According to what I'm hearing, Flat12 as currently constituted has no plans to brew in Jeffersonville. Of course, this could change.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Allow me to explain several reasons why this blog is going on hiatus (psst ... go to NA Confidential instead).

Ever since I began the process of disengaging from NABC, which diligent future historians will observe taking place at various intervals in the year 2015 (and which isn't yet concluded), my relationship with beer has been in flux.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's just different.

The world of beer has changed considerably during the past decade, and so have I. So have all of us. At times these days I want to throw Molotov cocktails at what I perceive beer is in the process of becoming, but at other times I love it as much as I always did.

Yeah, it's complicated.

To get to the point, and stated simply, my head currently isn't in alignment with the effort required to maintain two blogs. For whatever reason, NA Confidential -- which I've always referred to as my "public affairs" outlet -- has absorbed most of my time in recent years, with results that better reflect my interests, and that have produced gains in terms of readership.

As my column there Thursday explains, it makes more sense to fold my beer writing into NA Confidential, while keeping The Potable Curmudgeon as an archive (and ready source for cannibalizing past ideas).

All of these considerations also feed into an impending personal reality check. It was planned for me to take a year off to regroup, and the missus has been patient, but now the year is over. The column explains it; just know that easing back into the game via altered circumstances is the path I'll likely be pursuing.

In the meantime, look for beer writing at NAC prefixed by THE BEER BEAT, and remember that everything I've just explained could be obsolete the day after tomorrow. I'm playing things by ear, readying to go to the mattresses, and whichever other tired cliche might be inserted here.

Of course, anyone who might be in the market for an unemployed curmudgeon who can write a bit and probably is otherwise unemployable might be able to delay my entrepreneurial plans. 

To those of you who've been eavesdropping here these many years, I cannot thank you enough. There'll yet be a few things to tidy up here, and I'll get to them soon enough. Cheers!


ON THE AVENUES: It’s never too late to beer all over again.

It isn’t that I’ve fallen out of love with beer. We’re not divorced or anything. A better word is estranged, which implies an alienation of affection, but doesn’t entirely rule out the possibility of reconciliation.

These thoughts occurred to me recently as I was contemplating the future of The Potable Curmudgeon, my beer-themed blog. It dates to 2005, and has enjoyed some fine moments over the years, though recently my commitment to maintaining it has waned.

Slightly less so Roger’s Simple Beer Pleasures, a page at Facebook that I started in late 2015. It is far better suited to the truncated social-media-driven attention spans ruling the planet at present, including my own, at least as it pertains to beer and brewing.

In spite of my efforts, I can’t seem to make The PC blog and Simple Pleasures work in harmony the way NA Confidential’s blog and Fb page do, primarily because my efforts are half-hearted.

There’s the rub.

I care more about what I’m writing at NA Confidential than The Potable Curmudgeon, so I’m willing to make the time at one and not the other. Taking it a step further, this indiscipline owes to my sense of estrangement from the world of beer and brewing. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy writing about beer, thinking about it and even drinking it, just that it isn’t a daily priority at present.

Consequently, I’ll be altering the routine in the weeks to come. The beer writing I undertake will be featured here at NA Confidential, and I’ll allow The Potable Curmudgeon to remain dormant as an archive.

Perhaps Fridays will be NAC’s Beer Day, or some such. Since so much of my beer writing has sought connectivity between beer and other interests in my life, putting them all in one place rather than separating them makes the most sense.

That is, until it doesn’t.

Read the rest here.


Monday, November 28, 2016

AFTER THE FIRE: Hip Hops ... Bourbon-barrel aged Imperial Stouts.

AFTER THE FIRE: Hip Hops ... Bourbon-barrel aged Imperial Stouts.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

I'm always an quarterly issue behind when it comes to reprinting my columns from Food & Dining Magazine. This one is from Fall 2016; Vol. 53 (August/September/October).


Bourbon-barrel-aged Imperial Stouts

You’ll hear one sort of pitch at a sales meeting, and see another thrown during a baseball game, but brewer’s pitch is completely different.

Brewer’s pitch is a resinous substance used to line wooden barrels so liquid doesn’t come into contact with the wood.

That’s because exposure to a wooden barrel affects the flavor of its contents, and generally over the centuries, brewers have preferred their wooden vessels to be neutral. Brewer’s pitch remains a handy means to this end, and anyway, stainless steel long ago supplanted wood for beer’s storage and serving.

But what if beer’s modification is the stated aim of the exercise?

If submerged wood can positively complement the taste of beer, as with white ash chips or oak spirals, and if wooden cooperage harboring funky microorganisms can leverage its own intended outcome (for example, in some styles of sour beer), then barrels formerly harboring spirits offer a wide potential range of flavor and aroma characteristics for beers aged inside them.

Consider an emptied oak Bourbon barrel. It was charred in order to properly host Kentucky’s indigenous corn-based liquor, and after a period of years, the mellow finished whisky was removed for bottling to proof.

However, this once-used barrel retains considerable evidence of Bourbon. Why not repurpose these flavors and aromas by aging beer in it?

It seems a forehead-slapping moment, and yet the genuinely strange thing is how long it took for someone to grasp the possibilities.

Lost Abbey brewmaster Tomme Arthur, no stranger to the nuances of barrel aging, identifies Bourbon Barrel Zero in this 2013 excerpt from All About Beer magazine.

In 1992, Greg Hall from Goose Island Beer Co. in Chicago might very well have become the first American brewer to produce a bourbon-barrel-aged beer when he filled six oak barrels that previously contained Jim Beam. He poured this experiment at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver that fall, inducing rumors, appreciative nods and whispers of something entirely new.

I can second Arthur’s emotion, for at a GABF vintage beer tasting in 1997, the late, great beer writer Fred Eckhardt was seated next to me. When I asked him the beer he considered the festival’s finest ever, he didn’t hesitate: Goose Island Bourbon County Stout.

In our contemporary craft beer era, all manner of spirit-soaked barrels are being merrily procured by enterprising craft brewers as creative mediums for aging and experimentation.

The number of beer styles deemed appropriate for barrel again also has expanded, although certain combinations strain credulity to such an extent that I’m almost afraid to joke about Organic Free Range Mezcal-Barrel-Aged Imperial Kolsch lest it somehow comes to tragi-comic fruition.

No timelessness for the impatient

Such embellishments are hip, and I’m square. 25 years are more than enough to concede the elegant pre-eminence Hall’s foundational Bourbon-barrel-aged Imperial Stout.

Hall sourced oak Bourbon barrels in Kentucky, and he filled them with Imperial Stout, the stout family’s brawniest hitter. This inspired pairing remains the bellwether. Bourbon and Imperial Stout are burnished and challenging, richly assertive and subtly intricate. They bring out the best in each other.

At strengths typically in excess of 10% abv, Imperial Stout’s dense, black, viscous intensity lends itself to a panoply of descriptors, including roastiness, coffee, caramel, smoke, vanilla, sultana, plums, figs, cherries, chocolate, brown sugar, licorice, fruit cake and bubblegum.

A wooden barrel saturated with Bourbon offers similar and complementary flavors and aromas, as well as a pinch of added alcoholic potency. The brewer’s objective is to choreograph these delightful factors by calibrating, aging and blending with ultimate “Bourbon Stout” balance in mind.

Consequently, Bourbon-barrel aging is a thoughtful, time-consuming process. Used barrels must be visually inspected for imperfections, and kept from drying out. While uncut whiskey is an effective disinfectant, it’s better to fill the barrels with beer relatively quickly, lest undesirable microorganisms find a safe haven.

Once filled with beer, the barrels need a place to rest, and you’ll sometimes see stacks of barrels in the brewhouse. Ambient temperatures matter, as well as ready access, because brewers will need to pull samples for taste testing. Often they’ll drill holes in the wood and use stainless steel nails as plugs after regularly scheduled nipping.

Just as most Bourbons are blended to achieve uniformity of character, typically beers from multiple Bourbon barrels are, too. Brewers often blend in a second batch of base beer. Aging and blending take time and money, explaining why Bourbon-barrel-aged Imperial Stouts tend to be limited cool-weather seasonal releases, both rare and expensive.

Save that cigar for the second bottle

Imperial Stout is ideal, but it isn’t the only style of beer suitable for Bourbon-barrel-aging. From the hoppy (Double India Pale Ale, Barley Wine) to the malty (Doppelbock, Belgian Quadrupel), characteristics of Bourbon can meld with those beer styles boasting the heft and complexity to compete.

Balance, smoothness and harmony are the watchwords when seeking worthy Bourbon-barrel-aged beers. Beer and barrel must co-exist as equals, with discernible contributions from each. If they don’t, a glorified boilermaker is the likeliest outcome.

Here’s how not to do it

Head Brewer: “We’re making our Bourbon-barrel-aged beer today.”

Assistant Brewer: “Great. How many fifths of Old Rotgut should I pick up at the package store?”

A small number of Bourbon-barrel-aged beers are available year-round (Goodwood Bourbon Barrel Stout, New Holland Dragon’s Milk). Others are the sporadic targets of fervent cult appeal, like Against the Grain’s Bo and Luke.

Plan now for the approach of winter. On-line ratings aggregators like and are the best sources for building your shopping list. Brewery web sites list seasonal release dates, and it’s always a good idea to befriend the beer buyer at your neighborhood package outlet.

Goose Island Bourbon County Stout endures, more widely available than ever thanks to AB-InBev, the Chicago brewery’s parent. BCS remains an impeccable example of Bourbon-barrel aged Imperial Stout, these days the elder statesman in an extensive, ever-changing yearly barrel-aged program. Even I can remember the annual release date for BCS.

It’s Black Friday, on Thanksgiving weekend.


November 21: AFTER THE FIRE: Hip Hops ... Goodwood Brewing Company: Touched by a Barrel.

October 17: AFTER THE FIRE: These old, old habits die hard.

October 10: AFTER THE FIRE: The Great Taste of the Midwest is the best beer fest of them all.

October 3: AFTER THE FIRE: New Albany’s Harvest Homecoming occupation isn't alleviating my "craft" beer Twitter depression.

September 26: AFTER THE FIRE: The seasonality of Oktoberfest in time, beer and year.