Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Details coming today: ReSurfaced, a six-week pop-up art space and beer garden.

FYI

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10 a.m. Tuesday news conference

Louisville Metro sent this bulletin at 08/18/2014 03:07 PM EDT

MEDIA ADVISORY

WHO:
Mayor Greg Fischer and the non-profit group City Collaborative

WHAT:
Will announce details of ReSurfaced, a six-week pop-up art space and beer garden on Main Street.

WHEN:
10 a.m.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014

WHERE:
615 W. Main Street (behind the facades)
Enter the site from the alley in the back


MEDIA CONTACTS:
Chris Poynter, 574-4546 / 396-2015
Phil Miller, 574-1901 / 439-4726

Monday, August 18, 2014

The PC: Slave to words.

The PC: Slave to words.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

Words matter, and so I decided to do some brainstorming.

In the amount of time required to listen to the album The Jazz Age by the Bryan Ferry Orchestra (roughly 35 minutes), I’d do some free association, letters A to Z, and compile a list of words in reply to a simple question: “What does the world of better beer really mean to me?”

My only self-imposed caveat was that these freely-associated words had to be non-specific to beer and brewing. The idea was to chart how better beer affects my brain as a concept, beyond its familiar chemical effects. Here are the results.

Authenticity, anti-fascist, agitprop
Broad-minded, breakthrough, bona fide
Community, cadres, credibility
Diversity, development, dissenter, Dionysian
Education, exercise, egalitarian
Foment, fun, feisty
Genuine, gadfly
Heterodoxy, healthy, heretical
Integrity, insurgency, idiosyncratic
Jamboree, jamming
Knowledge, kinship
Localism, leadership, liberal
Multicultural, mythological, militancy
Non-negotiable, neighborhood
Original, openness
Pride, placemaking, passionate, progressive, polemics
Qualified, quantifiable
Revolt, restoration, reuse
Substantive, subversive
Tactile, transformation, truth, timelessness
Unapologetic, underground
Viva la Revolution, validity, venerable
Walkability, work ethic
X
Yummy, yearning
Zealotry, zymurgy

Admittedly, there were times when I caught myself daydreaming, even though the music was chosen quite purposefully to be instrumental, without words and distractions. You’ll notice that the letter “x” was a problem, and yes, zymurgy is a beer-specific term. Exceptions, and all that.

Something else is obvious. I’ve consciously avoided attaching the word “craft” to any of it. Slowly and inexorably, I’m engaged in the process of purging this beer descriptor from written and spoken usage. Like so many other useful processes, doing so involves a steady shift, and there’ll be lapses.

It’s clear to me that as the market share of better beer gets ever larger, and efforts to explain what “craft” actually means in terms of process – say, as a maker of handmade furniture might compare and contrast his hand-driven methods to that of a room-sized machine – are downplayed, we’ll increasingly turn to economic descriptors like those of the “buy local” movement. Consciousness about matters like independent ownership will become necessary to help dispel the craftiness of Trojan Goose.

I’ve been saying it for a long time, and generally find myself heckled for it. That’s okay, because at some point, the pendulum will swing back. To indulge in drinking without thinking isn’t drinking at all. It’s just swallowing.

Which brings me to the point of the exercise: I didn’t get into better beer merely to swallow or “drink” reservoirs of it, although doing so might be a collateral result of proximity for three decades. Rather, I got into it so as to change the world, or as much of the world as I could reach.

Grasp is another matter.

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Perhaps appropriately, the book currently occupying space atop my nightstand is wonderful: Thinking the Twentieth Century: Intellectuals and Politics in the Twentieth Century, by Tony Judt and Timothy Snyder. In The Guardian, reviewer Neal Ascherson sets the scene.

In this marvelous book, two explorers set out on a journey from which only one of them will return. Their unknown land is that often fearsome continent we call the 20th century. Their route is through their own minds and memories. Both travelers are professional historians still tormented by their own unanswered questions. They needed to talk to one another, and the time was short.

Tony Judt, author of Postwar, found that he was suffering from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), an incurable degenerative disease. His friend Timothy Snyder, a younger American historian, offered to help Judt create his final work. It takes the form of a series of conversations, recorded and then transcribed for Judt's approval over the best part of two years. Judt died in August 2010, a few weeks after dictating a long "afterword", which is as lucid as anything he had written. He was 62 years old.

I’m only hallway through it, but already the two historians have discussed a panoply of ideas, some still an active part of the political lexicon (Zionism, the Jewish experience), while others (Marxist theory) currently are situated just offstage, perhaps to return some day. George Orwell, Arthur Koestler and Stefan Zweig are among the writers popping up in these chats, along with Communism, Nazism, Fascism, Stalinism, Reaganism and Thatcherism.

While reading this book, I’ve experienced much familiarity with the historical contexts, personages and schools of thought therein, but at times it has been necessary to reach for the iPhone and research who a Romanian poet or English trade unionist actually was. Overall, it has been exhilarating, serving as a timely reintroduction to ideas and the life of the mind, these being what inspired me to study philosophy and history at college in the first place.

In turn, it’s probably why I can’t keep various hop varieties straight in my mind, and couldn’t remember a fermentation temperature if you held a Lite to my temple. Science doesn’t scratch the itch. The idea of better beer is what matters to me – the history, theory, sociology, geography and culture of it. If you want to watch yeast mate under a microscopic eye, marvelous. I’d rather draw political insights from Woody Guthrie or find ways of connecting urban revitalization to the ready availability of Porter.

The most important word of all just might be the first one that popped into my head, with an assist from my former co-worker Joe. It’s authenticity, and as ideas go, it’s one of the best. It is my goal to combine authenticity with fun, polemics and localism, and see where they lead in my better beer life these coming months.

As for the Bryan Ferry album, I still go with “Avalon”. It’s the island from Arthurian legend, named for the apple trees located there – and cider’s always a pragmatic second choice to beer.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

About that wasteland of craft-drinking promiscuity.

I would like to be the first to thank Summit Brewing's Mark Stutrud for coining a phrase that's destined to make me smile more often than a well-turned Ordinary Bitter.

America Now Has Over 3,000 Craft Breweries—and That's Not Necessarily Great for Beer Drinkers, by Joshua M. Bernstein (BON APPÉTIT)

... Endless choice is not always the be-all and end-all. “The promiscuous drinkers are never satisfied,” says Summit’s Stutrud.

Let's consult the dictionary -- not the primary definition of promiscuous, which is outdated and derogatory, but the second line down.

pro·mis·cu·ous
prəˈmiskyo͞oəs

adjective

demonstrating or implying an undiscriminating or unselective approach; indiscriminate or casual.

"the city fathers were promiscuous with their honors"

synonyms: indiscriminate, undiscriminating, unselective, random, haphazard, irresponsible, unthinking, unconsidered

RateAdvocate reviewers nationwide may now angrily reply as one:


Yawn.

Here's another excerpt.

... On a recent summer morning, you could plop beside Dogfish Head president Sam Calagione and discuss craft beer’s coming bottleneck.

“We’re heading into an incredibly competitive era of craft brewing,” he says. “There’s a bloodbath coming.”

It seems plausible to me that the growth rate of "craft" beer can be maintained, as better beer continually erodes the American monolith of swill. But there really isn't a metric for predicting which among the 3,000+ stand to enjoy the benefits of growth. I'm no mathematician, but it also seems plausible that there could be an increase in overall "craft" beer sales even if 20% of the breweries ceased functioning -- if the ones closing were small breweries.

Sierra Appalachia's volume alone would make up for how many failed nanos?

That's why the coming bloodbath is worrisome to me.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

These requests from abroad, volume three: "I am writing to ask if you could help me to increase my collection."

(Other instances of voyeurism are here and here)

If you own a brewery or work for one, you may have fielded e-mail inquiries from overseas asking for beer labels, crown caps and the like, as destined to become cherished keepsakes of private collectors who've heard of your beer, even in far-off Belarus or the Kalahari.

To me, there is something haunting about the foreign requests, which tend to come from Central/Eastern European locales, these being places of longtime personal interest to me historically and geographically. They stoke my inner melancholic, and for the life of me, I don't know why.

Lately, I've been pasting their addresses into Google Map and seeing what their places of residence look like. Here are the most recent ones.

Krzysztof lives in Wrocław, the fourth-largest city in Poland. It appears to be a pleasant, newer housing development outside the city center.


It took some thought and head-scratching to find Roman's and Igor's house in Lviv, Ukraine, which is a place I almost visited once in the mid-1990s until the length of the train ride from Slovakia deterred me. Instead, we went to Hungary and got juiced in Eger.

In their request, the brothers' chosen English transliteration of the Cyrillic came out as Ogienka Street, which would not register as a search. Fortunately, I have a bare-bones familiarity with the Cyrillic alphabet (actual language proficiency is another matter), and eventually got the right letters in a process that can be quite variable: Not Ogienka, but Ohijenka Street.


Is it one of them coming out the door in this 2011 street view?

Let's hope no privacy protocols are being violated by my depicting their buildings, seeing as there's a drone hovering outside my front door even as I type.

It's just that I can't help wondering: What's the rest of the story?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Muzzling myself: "5 Restaurant Chains Banking on Craft Beer."

Maybe so, but seeing as two of the five are brewpub chains, this article isn't exactly telling us what we'd like to know, and what might actually change the game: When will Ruby Tuesday, Olive Garden and other casuals address their sales decline by getting in the game?

Do their cookie-cutter concepts simply not permit experimentation? Is it better MBA strategy just to spin off new concepts?

What do they do with all those unredeemed gift cards in the checkout lane at WalMart?

5 Restaurant Chains Banking on Craft Beer, by Jason Notte (The Street)

... As of February, visits to casual dining establishments including Olive Garden and Ruby Tuesday are at a six-year low.

People ages 18 through 47 have been shunning such establishments in huge numbers and have dragged down their sales every quarter since 2010, but the numbers get a little better once there's some beer involved. We took a look around the restaurant landscape and found five establishments that are making either the brewpub or taproom model work, with craft beer as a whole benefiting from their efforts.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

One night stand: "Hot fried chicken pop-up coming to New Albany."

For the menu, visit the NABC listing:

Danny Joe’s “Nashville Style” Hot Fried Chicken pop-up kitchen comes to Bank Street Brewhouse on Saturday, August 16

Meanwhile, Chef Thomas does publicity, too.
Dish | Hot fried chicken pop-up coming to New Albany, by Dana McMahan (Special to The Courier-Journal)

“Danny Joe’s Hot Chicken Pop-Up at NABC Bank St.” will bring Nashville-style hot fried chicken to New Albany on Saturday from 5 to 10:30 p.m. Dan Thomas is setting up shop at Bank Street Brewhouse, 415 Bank St., for a “one night show” with the Nashville-inspired fare.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The PC: Well, ya gotta start somewhere, part five, and a closing rumination about revolution, orthodoxy and contrarianism.

The PC: Well, ya gotta start somewhere, part five, and a closing rumination about revolution, orthodoxy and contrarianism.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

If you feel like having a beer, and better choices are limited or even non-existent, what do you do?

For quite a few years now, my thoughts on this matter have been simple: Go somewhere else, do something else, or drink something else, even if this means water, coffee, wine, or something even stronger.

Or nothing at all. The older I get, the fewer years remain … and life becomes even shorter for drinking wretched mass market swill.

Sorting through available options resembles a process of triage, and it requires principled thinking. There are considerations of flavor, and these exist alongside equally compelling explorations of origin.

It’s true that I have periodic issues with Samuel Adams, but in a pinch, I’ll drink Boston Lager in an airport. The same goes for Sierra Nevada Pale Ale … for now, but as Sierra Nevada inexorably morphs into Sierra Appalachia, my thoughts might well change.

Those ubiquitous house mockrobrewed atrocities trotted out by the big boys, from Blue Moon to Landshark and back, might as well not exist in my world. I’m far too loving of my greenbacks to sacrifice them on charades, and there is too much preying on the gullible already.

The same reasoning applies to the late Goose Island, as reduced perhaps forever to inert zombie bondage. Goose Island is little more than a Craft Shaped Hologram, and the money spent on it goes straight to Leuven, hence to Chardonnay-sipping shareholders the world over. Sorry, but I cannot support subsidizing leeches.

Leinenkugel? Spare me. Not since the decline of its Indian Head stubbies in the 1980s has this Wisconsin brewery been remotely independent. Neither do I know which offshore corporate bank accounts benefits from abominations like Summer Shandy, nor do I care. It’s all legal documents under a watery bridge at this juncture.

By the same token, every now and then I’ll drink a Pilsner Urquell or a Guinness, and my doing so strikes some as hypocritical. It isn’t, because the self-awareness of shift precludes it. First and foremost, thinking and drinking locally (regionally, nationally, in ever-widening circles of consciousness from “often” to “much more rarely”) involve shift. “Perfection” is a stupid and non-existent term meant for marring the verbiage on restaurant menus.

Yes, Pilsner Urquell, Guinness and a few other beers worth considering are entirely owned by multi-national conglomerates, from which I shift my interest and cash as often as possible, but the difference to me is that these brands are not incessantly framed to deceive in the fashion of AB-InBev’s Trojan Goose, which is a shelf-space-monopolizing chess piece in a game I don’t care to play.

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Long ago in the 1990s, when I first composed the essay that has provided the inspiration for these past five updates, it was my observation that mass market swill continued to exercise a hold on me many years past the point where I knew far better, and that this grip did not strictly owe to considerations of cost.

Rather, it was something almost cultural, which required a process not unlike active daily therapy to properly expunge. A few passages are worth revisiting.

You can’t know what you’re missing if you haven’t been exposed to it, and when you have, familiar habits and conveniences don’t change easily. It takes an act of calculated volition to escape the subtle noose of conformity that American consumer culture imperceptibly tightens with every ubiquitous ploy in its considerable arsenal, with every billboard, television advertisement and sponsorship agreement that assaults our senses in a typical day. To begin escaping it, you have to be willing to question beliefs that seem all the more sacrosanct owing to the almost religious conviction with which they are advanced.

You must try to cease thinking in terms of packaging and presentation, and begin thinking in terms of essences and ultimates, to abandon the orthodoxy that more for less is always better, and to recognize that enlightenment is far preferable to ignorance even when broader understanding brings with it "unpatriotic" and "antisocial" perceptions and connotations on the part of your peers.

These many years later, the last part remains most difficult, except that now, while having no interest whatever in returning to the intellectually bankrupt ethos of mass market swill, I’m finding myself equally at odds with it and with the “craft” worldview succeeding it, the latter being a book I’ve helped write.

Alas, once a contrarian, always a contrarian. I wondered what would happen in my cranium when revolution mutated into orthodoxy, and now I have the privilege of finding out.

For my money, the sociology of human beings making alcoholic beverages and drinking them, both privately and publicly, is the most complex, intimate and fascinating of all such systems that seek to explain our behavior in the context of interaction with others. All the elements are there: Religiosity, education, science, individual and group psychology … on and on, with all aspects of the human experience, the bodies and the blood, capable of being poured into a glass and consumed. The power and intensity of the metaphor is enhanced by knowledge, and this alters your relationship with the people who are taking part, and with the elixir in the glass.

Not bad. In the original, I was riffing on St. Augustine of Hippo, hence the atypical (for me) religious ale-legory.

Of course, one tinkers with these fragile relationships at his own peril; once released, the genie might be reluctant to crawl meekly back into the bottle, and so it has been with me. It takes a certain hardness of heart to realize that your beliefs are beyond compromise, even if the result is a schism with the past. I’ve come a long way toward achieving my goal of being a better beer drinker than all the rest of them – not in terms of volume, but in terms of understanding. If celebrating this accomplishment means sharing with them the detestable liquid that started us all down this path, and partaking of the liquid they still venerate, as though nothing has changed in twenty years of incessant, clamorous change, then I’ll have to regrettably pass, and urge them to come to me on my terms … or not at all.

“Detestable” aptly covers swill, though not the far better beer I still choose to the exclusion of watery alcohol-delivery devices. It’s the wrong word to describe where I am now, given that “better” beer is precisely that. Where does it go from here? I can’t predict, but I’m fairly serene in the plan I’m devising for myself and my business.

I’m not going anywhere … at least physically, and this fifth segment is the last in the series.

Next week, it’s on to something else.