Thursday, March 31, 2005

Gravity Head Journal: Fourth Thursday report from the front.

March is finished, warmer weather has brightened the days this week, and as expected, Gravity Head progress has slowed.

Gravity fatigue sets in each year, so it isn't a surprise.

We're 18 business days into Gravity Head 2005, and there are only eight beers yet to be tapped, and here is the way it stands as of 5:00 p.m. today.

ON TAP NOW: Thursday, March 31.
BBC Brewing Bearded Pat's Barley Wine '02
*New Holland Black Tulip Trippel Ale
De Dolle Ara Bier
EKU 28
Fantome Ete
Gales Prize Old Ale 2003 (keg)
*Great Lakes Blackout Stout
Guldenberg (De Ranke)
*Hitachino Japanese Classic Ale
Mahrs Der Weisse Bock
*New Albanian NobleSmoker (3rd keg)
*New Holland Black Tulip Abbey Tripel
Rogue Imperial Pilsner (2nd keg)
Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine (2004)
Avery Hog Heaven
*Avery The Beast
Bluegrass Brewing Co. Mephistopheles Metamorphosis
Bell’s Batch 6000
Bell’s Expedition Stout
De Dolle Boskeun
De Dolle Dulle Teve (Mad Bitch) (first keg)
Fantome Saison
Gale’s Prize Old Ale 2004 (cask-conditioned)
*Geants Goliath Tripel
*Great Divide Hercules Double IPA
*Great Divide Oaked Yeti Imperial Stout
J. W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale (5-gallon pin; 2003; Lagavulin-primed)
New Albanian NobleSmoker (four kegs gone)
*New Holland Pilgrim’s Dole Wheatwine Style Ale (2004)
*Ringneck Brewing FOTB Barley Wine
Rogue Imperial Pilsner (first keg)
Rogue Old Crustacean Barley Wine (Vintage 2000)
*Rogue Roguetoberfest (first keg)
*Rulles Tripel
Stone Double Bastard Ale
Stone Imperial Russian Stout
Two Brothers Bare Tree Weiss Wine (2004)
*Weihenstephaner Korbinian Doppelbock
Anchor Old Foghorn Ale
*Avery Maharaja Imperial IPA (in transit)
De Dolle Oerbier
Gales Millennium Ale
Hitachino Celebration Ale 2005
N’Ice Chouffe
Samichlaus 2003
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale (Vintage 2004)
De Dolle Dulle Teve
*Rogue Roguetoberfest
*Rogue Fresh Hop Harvest Ale
The Rogue Fresh Hop did not make the trip from Oregon and has been scratched.
*Three Floyds (to be announced)
The Three Floyds keg proved to be Brian Boru, which is not a Gravity Head beer.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Urge Overswill: Social engineering in New Albany, or an uwelcome guest finally leaves the building (from 2002).

The following originally was published in 2002, when the NABC brewery first began operations. The piece came back to mind after the Bulls - Pacers game last weekend, during which something like 30 of Miller's new "prevent taste loss" ads were aired ... and my blood pressure rose to breathtaking heights.

For those who are not yet aware, the arrival of house-brewed beers at Rich O’s Public House and Sportstime Pizza signals the departure of American mass-market lagers and low-calorie “light” beers from Sportstime, and the completion of a crusade that began almost a decade ago.

There isn’t a beer snob among us who hasn’t experienced the dissonance that arises spontaneously when a brewpub patron is spotted drinking Budweiser or Miller Lite, usually straight from the bottle, while all around people are enjoying craft beers.

While it is lamentable that so many beer drinkers routinely settle for the lowest common denominator and choose to define themselves by reference to a mass-market product, and a generic one at that, it isn’t only a case of people consciously or unconsciously bowing to the incessant and pervasive nature of modern mass marketing.

It must be remembered that they are allowed to do so by the management of the brewpub in question.

Explanations for this incongruity on the part of management are many and seemingly varied, but quite frankly, most have at their foundation an implicit admission of cowardice on the part of ownership, further implying a lamentable unwillingness to trust the veracity of the beer being brewed on the premises.

By doing so, the establishment’s reason for being is fundamentally contradicted.
Speaking philosophically and conceptually, a bottle of Miller Lite is the antithesis of a pint of house-brewed ale. The very existence of the house-brewed ale, and by extension of the brewpub that produces it, is predicated as a necessary reaction to the bottle of Miller Lite.

The bottle of Miller Lite symbolizes the mass-market “McWorld,” in which the individual is subordinated to the system. Conversely, the pint of house-brewed ale celebrates the uniqueness to be found in every person and the joy of the differences to be discerned in pre-industrial commodities.

At this juncture, there will be readers who are unable to fathom the preceding. Some are irrevocably loyal to a certain brand, and no amount of persuasion will budge them from the certainty that McBeer, and McBeer alone, is the only beer in this huge and diverse world that can be allowed to touch their lips.

While most of us find comfort in the idea that human beings are rational animals; others embrace irrationality as a non-negotiable article of faith, and there is nothing that can be said, and no alternative to be offered, that will alter their perceptions.

A far better argument on behalf of Miller Lite goes something like this: A licensed establishment enters into business in order to make a profit, and the light, mainstream beers are the biggest selling brands in the world.

Furthermore, if the establishment is a restaurant and not just a bar, customers want to drink their favorite brands when they come in for their favorite meals.

I reiterate: What were these management people thinking when they made the decision to become a brewpub?

To brew one’s own beer and serve it on the premises is to stake out specific and specialized territory; one is proposing to jump far past Miller Lite in the same manner as a steak house is a more specific, specialized version of a hamburger joint.

Besides, isn’t it possible (and in fact, usually always the case) that the on-premise brewhouse can produce a mild, yellow-colored liquid for the flavor impaired?

I will concede that it takes patience and fortitude to navigate America’s insipid sea of swill, and I know that neither Rome nor the Lite Free Zone was built in a day. Now that Sportstime Pizza and Rich O’s Public House have added a brewing arm, the time has come to take the next logical step and provide New Albany with its first venue in which to enjoy the city’s, the country’s and the world’s finest beers without the taint of Anheuser-Busch and Miller.

On January 1, 1994, American low-calorie “light” lagers were banned from Rich O’s Public House, and the prices of dubiously “full-flavored” mainstream lagers (Budweiser prime among them) were raised. The advent of the Lite Free Zone was momentous, but as most Rich O’s patrons always grasped, it was a “zone” only, a foothold from which to wage war against the prevailingly “lightweight” mentality of Kentuckiana until such a time as it would be possible to extend the “good beer” mandate to the remainder of the building.

Consequently, we pursued a pragmatic strategy at Sportstime Pizza and continued to offer mainstream golden lagers and American low-calorie lagers. At the same time, we used Rich O’s Public House and its Lite Free Zone as the rallying point for the revolution. The results of this gradualist approach became increasingly evident as the millennium arrived: Steadily declining sales of mainstream lagers and light beers at Sportstime Pizza accompanied by concurrently increasing sales of good beer.

With the new brewery approved for operation and the first batches of beer already brewed on premise, it’s finally time to complete the process of transformation at Sportstime Pizza, which in its original incarnation (circa 1988) was the leading draft Budweiser account in all Floyd County. Now it will be the taproom and pizzeria fronting a brewpub dedicated to the revolution of good beer over mass-market swill.

When current stocks of Budweiser, Bud Light and Miller Lite are depleted, no more will be ordered. The New Albanian Brewing Company has brewed an authentic English Mild, a dark-colored, light-bodied and lightly hopped ale, to serve as the house “dark light” beer.

For those customers demanding the familiar golden hue, we will offer Spaten Premium Lager, certainly the easiest drinking of German beers. We have introduced Flying Dog Old Scratch Lager, and still offer Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Lighter imports like Red Stripe and Warsteiner still are available, albeit at regular prices.

To drinkers of light beer, I say this: Try to remember what it was like when you were a baby (of course I do), and a quivering spoonful of Gerber’s goo was lovingly offered in the vicinity of your mouth.

Sure, it tasted good. It was easy going down, and it served the purpose – but c’mon, you knew even then that it was a passing stage, because you really were thinking about growing up someday and being big, and when you were big, you certainly wouldn’t have to eat Gerber’s any longer; there’d be steak! Chicken! Lasagna! Bacon! Even falafel (for the veggie crowd)!

It’s the same with beer.

Now it’s time to grow up, to wean your long-suffering palate from the spoon-fed swill, and to become an adult beer drinker. Sugarcoating no longer is necessary: If you can’t drink Spaten Premium Lager, you have no business drinking beer, here or elsewhere. It’s as simple as that, and as a business, we’ll sink or swim with that dictum in mind.

Thank you for your support.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Belated, but Schlenkerla Fastenbier appears on draft at Rich O's.

There's action on the non-Gravity Head front with the tapping today of Schlenkerla Fastenbier (Lenten Beer), a very special treat from the Brauerei Heller Trum in Bamberg, Germany.

In Bamberg, the Fastenbier has been served only from Ash Wednesday through Easter, and only from the Schlenkerla tavern's familiar wooden barrels. However, a small portion of kegged Fastenbier was sent Stateside, and we purchased two 30-liter kegs. The importer, B. United International, was a wee bit tardy getting them out to us, so we'll be selling the beer past Easter ... although it shouldn't be around for long.

While Schlenkerla's flagship Marzen and superb Ur Bock both are made with 100% smoked malt from the brewery's own maltings, Fastenbier is made with 50% smoked malt and 50% pilsner malt. Naturally, this proportion yields a milder smokiness. The beer is reddish amber, and unfiltered, though it was pouring bright today.

The flavor is very fresh. There's more smoke in the nose than on the palate, but it's there, and although I favor the smokier examples, Fastenbier is an ideal introduction to the nuances of smoked lager.

Those close to me know that I can't say enough about Bamberg, and Schlenkerla is my favorite brewery (of ten) in that lovely Franconian city. I've had the incredible good fortune to meet and become friends with Matthias Trum, the sixth in his family to own the brewery and tavern.

Sampling the Fastenbier this afternoon, I could shut my eyes and pretend that Bmaberg, not New Albany, lay outside the doors. All that was needed was Schlenkerla's beer cheese and smoked ham ... which prompts an idea. Perhaps I'll save the second keg until we can round up some German food, and then have an intimate gathering of smoked beer aficionados.

Stay tuned. I'll let you know.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Gravity Head Journal: Third Thursday report from the front.

One facet of Gravity Head that never changes is that no matter how I try to plan the progression of beers, inevitably it turns out that we're short of certain types of tavern heads (the keg connectors).

All the American kegs were assumed to use everyday Sankeys, but the five-year-old Rogue Old Crustacean required a Golden Gate, i.e., different fittings for CO2 at the top of the keg and the beer line on the bottom. Luckily I found these in the bin, and with Chris's help, got them working.

I thought all the Belgians would be Euro Sankeys (longer probes), but more turned out to be German sliders than I'd imagined. Because I'd loaned out a German slider and couldn't find a part for another, there are only three on line, limiting what can be tapped when a keg is blown.

It's the same story every year. At some point, everything I need will be present and workable.

This year's scratches are Rogue Fresh Hop (never made it in with the rest of the shipment) and the Three Floyds "mystery beer," which turned out to be Brian Boru, a red ale that doesn't fit the Gravity Head profile but is perfectly good in its own right.

This means that as of today, we're 30 or 31 beers into 43, meaning that there are 14 on tap, 16 or 17 (can't remember which) gone, and the rest remaining to be tapped. That's a good depletion rate for 11 business days.

In personal terms, after two weeks I'm finally able to muster enough sensory capacity to actually taste the Gravity Head beers. Today's sips were of Hitachino Japanese Classic Ale and BBC Bearded Pat's Barley Wine (2002).

In keeping with the rice "sake" legacy of the brewery, the Hitachino is eposed to cedar during conditioning, and it is strong in the nose. It's a fairly well hopped ale, supposedly based on the old British IPA recipes, and the cedar enhances the hops. All in all, I was pleasantly surprised.

Of course, Bearded Pat's is a longtime area favorite. The 2002 is a wee bit oxidized, but in a very positive way. A very mellow barley wine in every respect, with malt and hop in lovely harmony. While wishing that I could have tasted the 2000 Old Crusty for the sake of comparison, I'm happy that David Pierce made the vintage Bearded Pat's available to us for Gravity Head.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Boston Beer's Jim Koch shoots himself in the foot ... again.

The essence of my beef with Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Company and mastermind of the Samuel Adams line of beers, is his bizarre fondness for randomly spraying mixed marketing signals across the airwaves.

Koch is like a child with a new squirt gun, and his obvious instincts for self-aggrandizement often have the effect, intentional or otherwise, of demeaning the very "good beer" genre that he purports to champion.

Consider that the image of beer as a whole constantly is being cheapened, weakened and gutted outright by the juvenile advertising strategies of America’s megabrewers.

You’d think that a company positioning itself as a “craft brewer” would not emulate such harmful marketing campaigns, but when Boston Beer rolled out the “light beer we previously said we’d never make,” the television ads were every bit as embarrassingly sophomoric as anything conceived by Pete Coors or August Busch IV.

After this degrading debacle, the marketing for Samuel Adam’s lurched crazily back to the simply inane.

An actor portraying the beer’s namesake, suitably garbed in Colonial dress, would suddenly appear and woodenly toast the camera as though auditioning for a junior high school play.

If you think this sort of advertising plays to the clueless denizens of Louisville’s Fourth Street Live, a.k.a. the target demographic of Sam Adams, then kindly come examine the proverbial bridge we have on sale today.

Certain ads in this series still are being televised, including one in which three young men enter a good beer bar and ignore the best beers of the world, opting for a Sam Adams (cue the Colonial dork, please) in what amounts to a leering swipe at European import snobbery.

And so, having spit in the face of the European beer heritage, the ever-expedient Koch now offers an advertisement that exalts the superiority of genuine German hops, including the obligatory pose in which the founder buries his face in hop cones while German-accented voices testify to his faultless logic in selecting such good ingredients for his beers.

Our man Jimmy seems to be having a perpetual identity crisis. Light beer is bad … no wait, actually it’s good – as long as we make it!

And, import beer snobbery is bad … no wait, it’s good, so long as it applies to the hops we buy from Germany and not our imported competitors from the very same country.

On and on it goes, and where Koch's blatant hypocrisy stops ... well, you know the rest.

Says the Curmudgeon: Good beer is good beer, period. All of us, even Jim Koch, who are on the side of good beer need to focus our energies on behalf of good beer and against mundane, tasteless and insipid – yes, "bad" – beer.

The question remains: Which side is Jim Koch really on?

(I would refer you to the Sam Adams web site as a courtesy, but the fact that visitors must endure two age checks before entering has soured the Curmudgeon on the experience).

Thursday, March 17, 2005

(Revised) Turku, Finland leads the way in reclaiming the commercial past for the drinking future.

(Originally posted at NA Confidential, re-posted here with additional notes on Finnish beers).

Turku, Finland (population 176,000) celebrated its 775th birthday in 2004. Located in southwestern Finland, Turku was Finland’s first capital and remains an important port and jumping off point for Sweden and other Baltic destinations.

In 1999, my good friend Barrie and I had the good fortune to spend the day in Turku while waiting for the ship to Stockholm. We wandered around the lovely and clean city, amazed at the seamless blend of new and old.

Perhaps befitting the home of two universities, Turku boasts a thriving nightlife and a series of excellent restaurants and pubs.Even beer hunting veterans like us weren’t prepared for the extent to which Turku has grafted together yesterday’s commercial structures with today’s drinking venues.

We first became aware of this at the city’s early 20th century Pharmacy – completely restored and in us as a bar. Ditto the old Bank. The News Stand down the way has a tiny microbrewery squeezed into the back, while the impressive former girls school in the center has been refurbished into a brewpub and restaurant, with a beer garden where the playground used to be.

Crazily, Turku’s public toilet has not escaped this trend to provide historic settings for imbibing. Yes, you can have a beer at the public toilet.

I'm not making this up. It’s all here: Beer Lovers Study Tour.

My point isn’t that such inspired preservationist thinking might ever seep into the conservative, clogged arterial passages of New Albany, although hope springs eternal.

Rather, it’s what can be done by thinking progressively, being unafraid to land somewhere outside the box, and having a little fun along the way.

As for the beers we sampled ...

Everyday Finnish golden lager beers naturally proliferated, but these can be of a higher-than-Euro-average standard, with a good, crisp malt character and some mouth feel.

I recall the schoolhouse brewpub having a German-style Dunkel Weizen as a seasonal, and the Daily News boasting a mildish bitter. Earlier in the trip, in Tampere, we had a good ESB at that city's downtown brew pub, Plevna, located in a huge former cotton mill.

The most frustrating thing about the Finnish visit was our visit to the Sinebrychoff brewery near Helsinki, which required fancy commuter footwork that still left us a couple of miles shy of the brewery (located in an industrial park), resulting in a healthy walk.

With a citation of "proprietary" information, we were asked to leave our cameras at the desk, and the seemingly inconvenienced export department employee glanced constantly at his watch as he led us through the tour.

Next to nothing was said about Sinebrychoff Porter, our sole reason for visiting. Eventually we were dropped off at the commissary and left to root through a fridge for samples, then given our gift package (including "L" tee-shirts and a few mainstream beers) and shunted off to wait for a taxi on the front steps.

I won't judge Finland by the boorishness on display at one brewery. Our hosts in Tampere, Henrik and Eva, are marvelous human beings and treated us to a cookout complete with Sahti at their sumptuous country weekend house.

And, in the final analysis, who can complain about a country where you can drink a beer at the bar in the old public toilet?

See Josh Oakes's Finland beer overview for further information on the beers of Finland.

Gravity Head Journal: Second Thursday report from the front.

In seven years of Gravity Head, there's been one big change, and I'm not sure how to account for it.

In terms of Gravity styles, Barley Wine continues to decline as a fan choice.

The first non-cask kegs to blow this year were NABC's NobleSmoker (Rauchbier; second keg tapped), "Imperial" IPA and Pilsner (Great Divide and Rogue, respectively), Great Divide's Oaked Yeti Imperial Stout, and the unclassifiable monolith of Avery "The Beast."

Meanwhile, Barley Wine kegs from Stone, Bell's and Avery are still heavy, although the Rogue Old Crustacean 2000 nears the end. Still to come are these as-yet-untapped Barley Wines: Vintage 2002 BBC Brewing Bearded Pat's, Ringneck FOTB, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot (2004) and Anchor Old Foghorn. If you remain among the faithful, there's plenty for you in the coming weeks.

Expect Stone Double Bastard and Bell's Expedition Stout to be gone soon. They will be replaced by a Belgians and a German. Our two Fantome kegs have been brought into position, but must be allowed to settle for a few days before tapping.

Finally, the (gulp) Adnam's Tally-Ho Barley Wine will be on the hand pump tomorrow (Friday, March 18).

I've been cleared by the medical staff to go into work during morning and set the table for the day, but owing to my weakened lungs and an enhanced susceptibility to infection (and cigarette smoke), I'm not allowed to work the floor until next week.

How many days into Gravity Head will it be before I'm actually able to take a drink?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Brewer needed at the New Albanian Brewing Company.

Later this spring, the New Albanian Brewing Company will be bidding a fond farewell to Michael Borchers, our brewer since fermentation began in 2002.

As many of you have heard, Michael has decided to return to school in pursuit of an advanced degree, and although he’ll remain on board in a limited capacity as consultant-for-beer, we’re now actively seeking a full-time replacement to brew the staple lineup that Michael developed (Community Dark, Beak’s, Elector, Tunnel Vision, Bourbondaddy, et al), but more importantly, to indulge the whims of creativity with respect to seasonals and special beers, and help phase in the brewery expansion (delayed, but still on the agenda for this year).

Employment will begin very soon. Serious inquiries should be directed to Roger A. Baylor at

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Gravity Head 2005 steams forward

With little participation from the Publican, Gravity Head 2005 is under way.

Gone so far are the two cask-conditioned ales, Gale's Prize Old Ale and JW Lees Vintage Harvest Ale 2003, and also Great Divide Hercules Imperial IPA and Rogue Imperial Pilsner.

Replacements are Bluegrass Brewing Company's Mephistopheles Metamorphosis and De Dolle Dulle Teve ("Mad Bitch.")

For daily updates, go here.

By the way, I'm feeling better. Thanks to everyone at work who's covered for me in various ways. I appreciate your hard work.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Gravity Head +1: Curmudgeon on the D.L.

It is perhaps a fitting conclusion to this most surreal of weeks that I've submitted to my doctor's orders and agreed not to leave the house before Monday at the earliest.

At 1:30 p.m. Friday, having finished with Gravity Head preparations and given the monolith a downhill push (with the beer-side help of Chris, Tim and Tim - thanks, guys), I conceded the inevitable and visited the sawbones, who listened intently to the packing bubbles popping in my lungs and pronounced a verdict of "bacterial pneumonia."

I've now been juiced with antibiotics, heavy-duty prescription cough syrup and ibuprophin, which enabled me to sleep 17 straight hours last night and this morning. A vague feeling of humanity is beginning to return.

Here's what I'll remember from all this: Yesterday morning, tapping Gravity Head beers one after the other, checking the fittings, trying to make sure everything was right, affixing labels and tap handles ... and pouring a half glass of each, which was left to sit beneath the tap. My usual routine would be to smell each and take a nip, but with my physical system screaming "TILT," I was left with exactly the same aroma for 14 different beers: Welch's Grape Juice.

Not exactly useful tasting notes, although I may have seen worse.

When we returned home from the doctor's office, Diana set off for the grocery and pharmacy, asking me what I needed for the weekend. The first thing that came into my mind?

Welch's Grape Juice. Not much hop character, but it's sufficing ...

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Thursday Gravity Head Journal: In sickness and in health.

Yes, Gravity Head starts tomorrow.

There's a story from "Ball Four," Jim Bouton's classic peak into the clubhouse of late 1960's baseball, in which Mickey Mantle crawls off the bench to pinch-hit, so hungover he barely could see, and nails a home run. He returns to the bench, eyes the cheering throng, and comments, "they have no idea how hard that was."

I'm saying the same thing tomorrow.

The show must go on; no choices, really, when you're an entrepreneur and a small businessman, but at the same time this week's taken a year off my life.

At just the time when pre-Gravity Head preparations intensify, I came down with the epizudic (sic). Three days of complete incapacitation have been followed by three more trying to complete pricing, tap handles, the program, and the other thousand and one things that must occur in order to do Gravity Head.

This is the flip side of the freedom afforded those who work for themselves. Sometimes, you simply cannot call in sick.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Eileen Martin to be GM of new 4th Street BBC?

Rumor has it that Eileen Martin, until recently the head brewer at Browning's Brewery, is resurfacing as general manager of the new Bluegrass Brewing Co. (St. Matthews) joint venture on 4th Street in downtown Louisville.

The way I understand the project, BBC's Jerry Gnagy will brew the beer in St. Matthews, while the Third Avenue Cafe will do the cooking. With a location on Theater Square, the new restaurant will be just south of the epicenter of 4th Street Live, Louisville's year-old, chain-dominated attempt to jumpstart downtown -- but just across from The Palace musical venue, which is worth remembering.

So, we'll now have East BBC (St. Matthews), West BBC (Main St.) and South BBC (4th Street). If you can determine who owns which, let me know.

Friday, March 04, 2005

New investors for BBC Brewing Company?

Bluegrass Brewing Company was founded in 1993.

BBC was, and remains, Louisville's signature microbrewery, with a track record under original brewmaster David Pierce second to none in the region, and with high marks nationally.

Unfortunately, the history of BBC, especially since 2002, is a lengthy book waiting to be written by a tireless researcher possessing a taste for hops, intrigue and controversy.

Like a nation-state cleaved by revolution, or more accurately, a married couple headed for divorce court, the concept known as "BBC" has gone through periods of seemingly endless turmoil, with each resting point of calm ending amid a new flurry of rumor and innuendo.

Fans as well as casual onlookers have scratched their heads.

They ... we ... just want the best possible beer. Can't we all just drink along?

At some point, BBC's off-premise BBC brewing arm in downtown Louisville became entirely independent of the brewpub location in the St. Matthews neighborhood.

Downtown, David continued brewing his recipes for bottling and kegging, while at the pub, Jerry Gnagy was hired to run the brewhouse there.

David's American Pale Ale remains Louisville's defining microbrew, while Jerry has crafted several inspired seasonals while keeping the standard house beers on line.

After months of uncertainty with respect to new investors for the BBC Brewing Company downtown, it is hoped that the corner has been turned. I'll let the Courier-Journal take it from here:

Group bargains for BBC: Investors negotiate to buy Louisville brewery, bottler, by David Goetz of the Louisville Courier-Journal.

(Link will be good for a week, maybe slightly more)

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Sampling bottles from Brouwerij ‘t Ij, Amsterdam.

Amsterdam’s Brouwerij ‘t Ij ("eye") is an enigma.

The brewery and café are located in the base of an old windmill by a canal, and it is a good hike from the central train station. Management in general, and opening hours in particular, are eccentric, so it pays to call ahead.

My first visit was in 1998, and the house ales were assertive, clean and well made. Belgian styles obviously served as the starting point for the Ij’s formulas, but the brewery was unafraid to tweak them.

A year later, friends I trust sampled the Ij’s ales and found them infected and barely drinkable. Two years ago, a small shipment of bottles came to Rich O’s, and these, too, were on the funky side, though closer to the form I remembered than the descriptions given to me from 1999.

Improvement was again evident last year, when I spent a few days in nearby Haarlem.

Last week we received a case each of Scharrel IjWit, Natte, Zatte, Ijndejaars, Columbus and Struis. All are unfiltered and unpasteurized. I’ve sampled all except the Wit and Columbus … and they are uniformly excellent and highly recommended.

Natte is in the Belgian Dubbel range, chestnut brown, with hints of raisin and plum, and balanced at 6.5% abv.

Zatte mimics a Tripel. Tawny golden in color, with the honey-like fullness found in the yardstick Westmalle, perhaps slightly more restrained, and benefiting from alcohol notes (9% abv).

Ijndejaar is a winter seasonal, sandier in color than the Natte, but bigger (9% abv), eliciting fond memories of Belgian holiday ales and even the brawnier Danish Christmas and Easter lagers.

Struis is dark, deep and the answer to the question: What do you get when a Dutch microbrewer interprets a Belgian microbrewer imitating an English barley wine? Exuberant, yet still clean and crisp.

The unsampled Wit is a 7% abv organic wheat ale. That's enough alcohol to make it potentially interesting, although there's no further information on the brewery's bare-bones brewery web site. Coumbus has been sampled previously (and will be again when time permits!), and I seem to recall it as another Tripel variant, or perhaps Belgian-style unclassifiable "strong."

For an explanation of the Ij's origins, go to the web site of Shelton Brothers. With the assistance of contacts provided by Dan Shelton, I’m attempting to add a brewery tour to the fall trip in Netherlands and Belgium.