Sunday, October 16, 2016

Last of my summer's patience: Walking holidays in the UK that lead to pubs.

The Craven Arms (from The Guardian).

One of my obsessions during the period spent contemplating my NABC-xit was the long-running British television show, The Last of the Summer Wine.

ON THE AVENUES: The last of the summer beer.

 ... It’s hard to imagine a more unfashionable concept in the milieu of the smart phone and driverless car, and perhaps that’s why I’m so attracted to it.

For the uninitiated, the series ran from 1973 through 2010, a staggering 37 years, with almost 300 episodes aired. Virtually all emphasize a timeless sense of place, with much location filming amid the workmanlike stone buildings and rustic, gorgeous rolling hills of Holmfirth, Yorkshire.

There is a basic narrative premise remaining unchanged throughout the program’s run: “A whimsical comedy with a penchant for light philosophy and full-on slapstick (following) the misadventures of three elderly friends tramping around the Yorkshire countryside.”

I actually stopped watching the show during last year's mayoral campaign, as it rendered me dreamy and inert, and no longer willing to read sewage treatment consent decrees.

Then, this morning, the missus pointed me to a piece in The Guardian about walking the English (and Welsh, Scottish and Irish) countryside and drinking real ale in the UK, and I dissolved into melancholy reverie. It is 9:00 a.m., and all I can think about it Ordinary Bitter.

Coincidentally, the Inspector Morse episode we watched two days ago contained a wonderful subtle vignette, wherein Morse and Lewis have retreated to a pub to discuss their investigation, and as Lewis speaks, Morse (a cask devotee) gazes soulfully at a pint of ale being sinuously drawn.

By the way ... get me the fuck out of here.


20 great UK walks with pubs, chosen by nature writers

Pull on your boots and enjoy the countryside in all its autumn glory. Ten of Britain’s best nature writers reveal their favourite routes – and where they like to refuel on the way.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Brewers take note: Clarksville's redevelopment site has its own sewage treatment plant. Just saying.

A couple of months ago I had lunch with Dylan Fisher, the town of Clarksville's redevelopment director. I went to college with Dylan's dad, and it's always delightful to see the next generation rising.

Dylan is a sharp young man who speaks the contemporary urban language, and for a town about to pivot away from suburban-oriented development to a denser, multi-modal future, his knowledge base is a tremendous asset to the community.

He also likes good beer.

For those reading from afar, New Albany's on the west side, Jeffersonville's on the east side, and Clarksville's right in the middle.

It is no exaggeration to posit that given Clarksville's location directly across the Ohio River from Louisville, coupled with these sixty-plus acres of former industrial properties now open to adaptive reuse, plus the completion of regional highway and bridge projects and the Ohio River Greenway (which slices right through Clarksville's waterfront), the South Clarksville Redevelopment Plan represents some of the greatest redevelopment potential we've ever witnessed on this side of the water.

Specifically for those who may be considering the merits of brewery expansion in Louisville metro, the old Colgate property has its own sewage treatment plant. I believe it's currently unused, but could be restarted, and I needn't remind brewers of how important this one single fact might be (and already has become for many), not to mention the mothballed industrial and transport infrastructure already waiting there.

I'm not getting a commission for any of this, though a growler or two would be nice.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: South Clarksville redevelopment captures waterfront appeal, by Elizabeth Beilman (News and Tribune)

"Right now, we are focusing on the waterfront," Clarksville Redevelopment Director Dylan Fisher said. "The waterfront is a big thing for us because we think it's not only a leverage point for development activity ... but preserving our waterfront and improving our waterfront was a big thing for the public."

A waterfront park would have a raised walking platform, fountain and three catwalks out to old fuel storage tanks that could be converted into piers. Along Riverside Drive, Fisher envisions restaurants and a hotel. More gates could be installed in the floodwall to make way for additional roads that will make access to the shore easier.

Fisher argues its the missing piece of Southern Indiana.


Friday, October 14, 2016

Galloping very soon to the "undisputed queen of street food" in Catania, Sicily.

If you're planning on visiting Sicily (we are), and you have a friend in Italy (I do), then you ask him questions about vital topics like food and drink.

Earlier today I was chatting with Fabio, who runs a beer bar in Arezzo and has been very helpful during trip planning. He has pointed so far to a bottle shop and beer bar in Catania, our destination, and recently mentioned a pasta recipe using wild boar (not exactly a staple at Olive Garden). This led to further discussion about street food, and the revelation that among the admired specialties of Catania is carne di cavallo ... horse meat.

I used to joke about the likelihood of having consumed horse meat many times while beer-tripping and budget-eating in Europe, in the form of "mystery meat in gray sauce" specials at my favored dirt cheap proletarian cafeterias. It reminds me of the old W.C. Fields diner gag.

W.C. Fields (to waitress): "I didn't squawk about the steak, dear. I merely said I didn't see that old horse that used to be tethered outside here."

The link Fabio provided is in Italian, and of course this can be translated -- shall we say, imperfectly, but the meaning is fairly clear: If you wish to dine on horse meat without a side dish of political correctness, then the shadier the neighborhood, the better -- and here are the five most "disreputable" (read: best) places to do it.

Horse meat in Catania more the neighborhood is the most infamous is good ... 5 disreputable places, very recommended, by Mara Pettignano

Horse meat: bright red, succulent, from the undisputed taste trend with ten out of ten to sweet, to eat if possible to the blood. If you too are passionate to know that there is one place in Italy where it is sanctified, he adored, revered .

A city where horse meat is the only and undisputed queen of street food, become long tradition before the "street food " became a commonly used term.

That place is Catania, but if you want to enjoy the delicacy of this meat, net of ethical issues that can create eat it, you have to get your hands dirty: the places where you need to go are hardly reported by the Michelin Guide.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Taco Steve has beer now. Tacos and beer. America.

It's the best six-can beer list in New Albany. Taco Steve is located in the rear of Destinations Booksellers at 604 East Spring Street, opposite the very nearly completed Breakwater apartment development.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

"The Kentucky Guild of Brewers has hired its first paid executive director."

Read about the release of Kentucky Proud beers.

Straight up: The Kentucky Guild of Brewers (KGB) has a paid director, and apologies for being way overdue on this one. We were in New England when the story broke, and it wasn't until I was researching my most recent Food & Dining Magazine piece (it's about HopCat and will appear in the next issue) did I realize what had happened.

So, all due props to KGB and Derek Selznick, and thanks to Derek for his quote for the article. From my days on the Indiana guild board, I know that this move is going to help Kentucky breweries very much, especially on the lobbying front.

Ky. brewers guild hires first paid director, by Bailey Loosemore (Courier-Journal)

The Kentucky Guild of Brewers has hired its first paid executive director with help from a national nonprofit that promotes American craft brewers.

On Monday, the local organization announced it has selected Derek Selznick for the newly created position, which will be funded by the Brewers Association. Selznick will begin the role Sept. 6, according to a press release.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A couple of beers at Next Door Brewing Company in Madison, Wisconsin.

Borrowed from the Interwebz.

As a final Wisconsin trip note, a tip of the chapeau to Next Door Brewing Company, located in Madison on Atwood Avenue near Willy Street and right across from the weirdly distinctive St. Bernard Catholic Church -- is it the truncated non-steeple that reminds me of somewhere I've been in Europe?

We went to Next Door for the first time (ever) on Sunday afternoon after brunch at Great Dane and beers at Capital. I chose Porter as a restorative, and it turned the trick nicely. In the end, I'll always be a fan of Porter on such occasions. It isn't just a colder weather style.

The closer was a Berliner Weisse sans syrup, and it was another winner, refreshing and low gravity with textbook tartness.

For the sale of some salt, chips and salsa came in handy, but we were far too full to eat a meal. Next time in Madison, I'd like to do that. The barroom was modernist and comfy, and my only regret is we couldn't stay for a longer session.


Monday, October 10, 2016

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

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

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

For the second weekend of October, we went to Wisconsin to escape the ceaseless inanity of New Albany’s annual Harvest Homecoming festival. While in Madison, Fred Swanson joined us on Saturday afternoon for a couple of beers.

Fred’s been an organizer of the Great Taste of the Midwest beer festival from the start, and his official title these days seems to be “brewery liaison.” All it really means is that Fred and other members of the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild work year-round to stage a bucket-list-quality beer gathering. They’re to be thanked and venerated for doing so.

The New Albanian Brewing Company participated in the Great Taste from 2005 through 2014, and I was on hand for perhaps seven of these appearances. NABC has dropped out the past two Augusts, which I find regrettable, but can do absolutely nothing about.

Que sera sera … and so it goes ... with this and so many other avenues in life.

Chatting with Fred back in wonderful Madison served as a reminder of those good times. It also got me thinking about the notion of beer festivals in a general sense. What follows is an amalgam of several previous ruminations, building to shameless praise for the Great Taste.

That’s as it should be.


Let’s begin during the halcyon days of my youth in Southern Indiana, when summer always brought a profusion of outdoor beer festivals.

So did fall, winter and spring.

At 17 years of age, looking more like 13, living at home, ducking prying eyes and requiring divine intervention to get served at rarely obliging package stores, natural settings constantly beckoned.

Priority was placed on those patches of isolated farmland belonging to folks who didn’t know or care that we’d found someone older to procure the cheapest swill possible, borrow a steel tub otherwise used to hydrate future beefsteak, buy ice, and await the grapevine-laden onslaught of teenagers who’d learned there was a field party abruptly in progress.

When it rained, we got soaked; not the worst conceivable outcome in hot weather, especially if any girls bothered to come -- which was seldom.

Every now and then, a measure of transcendence was achieved, and an enterprising reader might insert one of Bob Seger’s nostalgic AM radio hits to accompany this narrative, although I never liked his music very much after “Katmandu,” heard for the first time – where else? – at a summertime outdoor beer festival in the Knobs, with any style of beer you wanted for thoughtful sampling so long as it was Falls Sh(expletive)y, and tunes like Seger’s blaring from the subpar radio of a car stuck axle-deep in a muddy field littered with cigarette butts and spent plastic cups.

Decades have passed, and nowadays, lying about one’s age generally implies a downward revision of chronological information on Facebook. Falls City, our illicitly old-fashioned lunch pail lager, went away – and then reappeared with a craft nouveau makeover. It's not an expletive any longer.

Outdoor beer festivals have evolved considerably, too, bearing little resemblance to the midsummer’s night screams we staged during the presidency of Jimmy Carter – who, after all, legalized homebrewing, but probably never experienced the nuzzle of a well-turned beer bong in the steamy July drizzle.


As befits the era of “craft” beer’s ascendancy, today’s outdoor beer festivals take place in summer – and also in fall, winter and spring. They’re devoted to the exaltation of contemporary brewing, and follow a common template.

Ideally, breweries and wholesalers provide a diverse selection of beers, and when possible, brewers and beer sales representatives will be on hand to answer questions and provide insights. A festival entry fee covers numerous, if not always truly unlimited, wee tastes of these many beers.

Local purveyors vend food, and musical entertainment typically deriving from the rock, pop, blues and bluegrass spectrum is offered, although just once I’d love to hear a string quartet performing modern chamber compositions, or a rollicking Klezmer band covering the Ramones.

As billed, “craft” beer festivals enhance the genre’s visibility through heightened consciousness and increased recognition. They also give back to the community by supporting chosen charities – and if they don’t, suspicion is fully warranted.

Reduced entry prices for designated drivers and the encouragement of moderation theoretically illustrate that beer consciousness and social conscience go together like espresso beans and imperial stout.

In Louisville, the scrum known as Brew at the Zoo probably remains the largest outdoor “craft” beer festival. Keg Liquors Fest of Ale is the best, with props to Louisville Independent Business Alliance’s annual local brewfest and Tailspin Ale fest, although the latter are partly indoors and partly outside (in Louisville Slugger Field and a Bowman Field aircraft hangar, respectively).

Speaking personally, my favorite festive rite of summertime beer held in an outdoor setting takes place each year on the second Saturday in August: It’s the Great Taste of the Midwest, in Madison, Wisconsin.


The Great Taste of the Midwest is 30 years young, and has been directed from inception by the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild. It is justifiably celebrated throughout Craft Beer Nation. There are more than 150 breweries in attendance, serving samples of 1,000 beers for five hours to more than 6,000 attendees who congregate amid the pleasing greenery of Olin Park on the shore of Lake Monona.

For the participating brewers, who occupy a finite number of display slots and abhor the thought of losing their place in line, the Great Taste is no ordinary festival gig. Brewers bring their “A” teams to Madison, and few beer festivals inspire such good-natured competition, with rare ales and lagers aplenty, and limited releases occurring throughout the afternoon.

(As a side note, Fred remarked that one brewery recently eschewed the practice of hyping “special limited releases” in favor of organizing its everyday core lineup in precisely the same teasing manner: “At 4:00 p.m. – Kӧlsch,” or some such. That’s wickedly appropriate).

Lucky ticket holders cherish these liquid rewards, and fortunate they surely are, because to be sampling within the compound means beating considerable odds. The Great Taste of the Midwest sells out months in advance, and last-minute road trips are discouraged unless you have a guaranteed “in.” For those lacking ducats, there’s a thriving “resale” market under the trees near the festival entrance, and of course, the usual proliferation of on-line scalpers’ bazaars.

There simply is no equal to the Great Taste. It is savory and savvy, its clientele customarily well-behaved, and the organizers among the friendliest and most efficient you’ll find anywhere. Best of all for an unreconstructed social democrat like me, the state capital has a noticeably leftist tinge, so much so that Wisconsin residents of a more right-leaning persuasion routinely refer to the city as the People’s Republic of Madison.

Consider this:

Since this IS Wisconsin, children whose attending parents wish their children to sample beer must pay the full admission price. Parents of consuming children cannot allow their children to ask for pours. The parent must hand the minor the drink and must remain with the minor at all times. No exceptions!

In Indiana or Kentucky, we'd be in jail for this.

When your number comes up at a future Great Taste ticket lottery, plan ahead. Reserve hotel rooms early, and save time for the proliferation of fine breweries in Madison (Great Dane, Ale Asylum, Vintage, Next Door, Karben4, One Barrel, Rockhound, Wisconsin Brewing, and on, and on) as well as nearby, including Capitol in adjacent Middleton, Grumpy Troll and Lake Louie, and New Glarus’s namesake brewing shrine roughly 25 miles south.

On the day of the show, start by attending the incredible farmers’ market, which surrounds the Wisconsin capitol on all four sides and features edibles ranging from ostrich jerky to the freshest squeaky cheese curds on record. Bring a camp chair and some sunscreen, and drink plenty of water during your session. Study the program, and target your choices, because some of them won’t last long.

The Great Taste of the Midwest represents the thinking man’s way of drinking. Paraphrasing Winston Churchill, you can take more from the Great Taste than it takes from you.


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

September 19: AFTER THE FIRE: This week in solipsistic beer narcissism (2014).

September 12: AFTER THE FIRE: England, or one man's heightened cholesterol panic is another man's nostalgic repast (2013).

September 5: AFTER THE FIRE: Beer stories and bedtime for gonzo (2013).