Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Tastings: Gaffel Kolsch and Reissdorf Kolsch.

Sometimes it seems that American beer appreciation is just as polarized as the country’s political scene.

Scan the preferences of the Internet beer ratings boards like Rate Beer and Beer Advocate, and you see big beers – Three Floyds Dark Lord and the fairly new Peche Mortel (Canada) to name two – consistently rated the highest. These are examples of the styles that are the most sought after by the aficionados who frequent these web sites, and who are helping to drive big increases in the otherwise small market shares of microbreweries.

Closer to home, the annual success of Gravity Head is prefaced by an anticipation that never would materialize if the festival were dedicated to smaller beers rather than heavyweights like Imperial Stout and Barley Wine.

Yet the American mass market remains the domain of light, lighter and lightest, and this preference isn’t restricted to megabrewing. Sierra Nevada’s smallest and mildest year-round beer (Pale Ale) is its biggest seller, as is Boston Beer’s (Samuel Adams Boston Lager).

This week, I’ve decided to sample two smaller, lighter beers, both versions of Kolsch, which is created and brewed to be mild, but can be quite tasty given the circumstances.

Gaffel Kolsch and Reissdorf Kolsch

Kolsch is a protected appellation of golden ale brewed in Cologne, Germany and defined environs. Kolsch is fermented with ale yeast but conditioned at cold temperatures, which has the effect of muting the extravagant profile of flavors found in other ale styles and rendering them delectably subtle.

Anyone who has been to the city of Cologne and enjoyed this signature treat as served in an undersized cylindrical glass (the “Stange”) will understand why I felt a twinge of dissonance when pouring half-liter bottles of Gaffel and Reissdorf into my war-torn, 1980’s-vintage Slovak handled beer mug.

Gaffel’s nose is suggestive of a mildly sweet fruitiness, and in this respect, the flavor does not disappoint, with hints of marshmallow (a flavor I always associate with the delightful Malzmuhle brand, unfortunately unavailable in America). As expected, the body is light, the palate is crisp, and the overall impact is one of restrained elegance.

My only experience with pork tartare came during the 2002 group Benelux pub crawl. After our tour of the Reissdorf brewery, which dates from the late 1990’s and is located in a suburban Cologne industrial park, we were served an incredible lunch in the sumptuous banquet room, draining a 5-gallon barrel of Reissdorf Kolsch.

Compared with the Gaffel, Reissdorf is drier and less floral in the nose, and in terms of moth-feel, seems more attenuated. The finish is hoppy, short and dry with little lingering aftertaste, and in general terms, more in keeping with the cleanness of a German lager than the gentle fruitiness of Kolsch.

The Gaffel reminds me more closely of the varieties available in Cologne’s old town, near the city’s towering cathedral, but they’re both fine examples of the genre, and differ in the same manner that lighter white wines do – Gaffel a bit sweeter, and Reissdorf a bit drier.

Bring on the blood sausage and marinated cheese … no, wait; that’s Dusseldorf, right?

In terms of availability, Reissdorf comes to us via B. United and has been a staple on the Rich O’s bottled beer menu for quite some time. Gaffel is on the way, should be available soon, and probably will be added to the list when possible.

This summer, I intend to serve both simultaneously on draft so as to facilitate comparison … perhaps in the intended Stange, if some are available from the importers. It won’t be the stand-up tables in the doorway of P.J. Fruh’s, but it’s the best we can do.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Swill merchants clog the NBA playoff airwaves with propaganda; Goebbels reported to be spinning in grave.

The opening weekend of the NBA playoffs has provided the opportunity for the Curmudgeon’s annual cautious glance into the Lower Depths – not Maxim Gorky’s seminal text or the exceedingly poor free throw shooting of the otherwise brilliant Spurs, but the current condition of televised beer advertising.

After watching all or part of eight first-round games, we’re pleased to note that this spring’s crop of beer ads is as relentlessly idiotic and comprehensively patronizing as in previous years.

Analysis will be confined to the major thematic contributions of the Big Three as presented on all networks during all times of day. There have been the stray Heineken “all about the beer” and Corona “Cinco de Mayo” advertisements, but the marketing bulldozers manned by Budmillercoors remain the dominant vehicles of beer disinformation.

“When beer starts out this cold, it ends up this refreshing.”

With Coors and Molson equally insipid, and now floor-stacked together in your favorite supermarket’s NAFTA aisle, Rocky Mountain spring water has been deemed unacceptable for brewing if it does not arrive in the brewhouse frozen solid. Presumably, it is no longer necessary to heat water for mundane purposes like the mash and the boil; instead, a frozen beer concentrate I-V drips thimbles into vats, one spoonful per metric ton of the Silver Bullet.

Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, in a query worthy of Aquinas or Ignatius J. Reilly, SAB Miller asks: “How do we (Miller Lite) get more taste than Bud Light with half the carbs?”

(a) By spending 150 years perfecting (our) brewing craft?
(b) By spending 150 minutes praying at the grave of saintly Doc Atkins?
(c) By spending 150 gajillion dollars in advertising each year?

The answer isn’t (a) or (b).

The execs at SAB Miller apparently didn’t receive the memo, because carb obsession is passé, and so is the company’s empire of liteweight wet air. The techniques of industrial mass production perfected by America’s megabrewers are not to be confused with quality in any meaningful aesthetic sense, so all that remains is to confuse craftsmanship in the artisanal realm with efficiency in the manufacturing sphere.

However, SAB Miller uses an entirely different ad campaign to remind us that someone in its agency once happened to be walking through Barnes & Noble and “saw” (not to be confused with “read”) Garrett Oliver’s wonderful book “The Brewmaster’s Table,” so if you can’t snag ‘em with low carbs and raw fear, then co-opt the concept of beer as accompaniment to food, as in this swill shill:

“When it comes to food, you need a light beer thaSCCRAAATCHHHH.”

No, you don’t “need” a light beer, with food or anything else. Drink the iced water – at most restaurants, it’s free, and it has fewer carbs than Lite and Bud Light combined, along with all the lack of real beer flavor that you’ve become accustomed to confusing with real beer.

After all, you’re an American, “taste loss” is chronic, and having a clue has nothing to do with it.

Speaking of 800-lb flag-waving gorillas, just guess who is making this observation about the state of the world economy?

“The only major American brewery that’s still American-owned (because) the greatest country in the world deserves the best beer in the world.”

(a) Paul Wolfowitz
(b) Lee Greenwood
(c) The management of the Louisville Bats
(d) Anheuser-Busch

Leave it to the St. Louis-based but globally active Anheuser-Busch to joyously play the Xenophobia Card, and by doing so, manage to lower the bar of the beer ad war even further.

Look ahead to the critical summer sales season for A-B’s next round of chest-thumping ads, including “Miller Lite: Official Beer of Apartheid” and “Coors: Abetting Canadian Pacifism since 2005,” both set to debut on July 4.

Perhaps it’s true that consumers of swill have a higher tolerance for disingenuousness than that of other demographics, but it does not require an advanced degree to understand that multinational players like A-B play any and all angles of the world economy to their advantage on an hourly basis.

A-B has a perfect right to feel patriotic about its various acquisitions and partnerships worldwide and the neo-colonial awe that Budweiser’s availability from China to Peru to Greenland tends to inspire on those for whom beer is a commodity.

Although none of this should be mistaken for craft, flavor or a particularly valid reason to launch pre-emptive wars, beer advertisements espousing unthinking patriotism as a compelling reason for frenetic buying certainly fit the temper of the times.

That’s very, very sad.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

BBC Taproom's reopening to coincide with Thunder Over Louisville.

Louisville’s annual celebration of phantom male potency, otherwise known as Thunder Over Louisville, will bring a half-million people to the banks of the Ohio today in the orgiastic expectation of a chauvinistic middle finger of an air show and a garish fireworks extravaganza that will allow them to forget – if only for a brief span of time – that there’s a NASCAR race in Phoenix.

For beer aficionados in the Louisville metropolitan area, Saturday, April 23, is important for reasons that go far beyond bread and circuses for the benumbed locals, because the BBC Taproom (and Louisville Breweriana Museum) reopens today.

The Taproom had been closed during the past winter as BBC Brewing Company underwent a management metamorphosis and welcomed new investors. There has been an obvious revitalization of the whole enterprise, with bottles reappearing on store shelves and new flooring being installed at the Taproom itself.

Outsiders confused by the various incarnations of BBC should take comfort in knowing that locals find it just as difficult to understand. Here’s the way it looks today.

Bluegrass Brewing Company
The original BBC brewpub (1993) is located on Shelbyville Road in the St. Matthews neighborhood on Louisville’s east side. The brewer is Jerry Gnagy, and the beer lineup includes classic BBC styles (American Pale Ale, Dark Star Porter, et al) as formulated by original brewmaster David Pierce, as well as Jerry’s own rotating seasonals and even a few holdovers from Tim Rastetter, who served as a consultant for a brief period circa 2002-2003. Food is served seven days a week, televised sports and live music are constants, and there is an attractive outdoor seating area.

BBC Brewing Company
Located on the downtown Louisville site of the now defunct (circa 2002) Pipkin Brewing Company, BBC Brewing is a production brewery wholly separate from the original brewpub from which it was spawned. This split came about as a result of what can only be called a civil war between brewpub and brewery investors, circa 2002. Eventually a settlement was reached, and now BBC Brewing kegs and bottles for off-premise sales, with original brewmaster David Pierce producing versions of his classic styles similar to, but distinct from and in the case of the Curmudgeon’s favored APA superior to, those still brewed in St. Matthews. No food service is offered at the Taproom, but visitors are invited to bring their own snacks and meals or consult a handy guide to local eateries that will deliver to the Taproom.

BBC 4th Street
The newest BBC outpost (2005) is a partnership between Bluegrass Brewing Company (St. Matthews) and Third Avenue Café, with the latter in control of the kitchen. Currently there is no brewing on site, with the beer coming from Jerry’s brewhouse in St. Matthews, but with brewster Eileen Martin (late of Browning’s) on board as a manager, this could change in the future.

Congratulations to David and Chris (his assistant) on the Taproom’s reopening, and we'll be bringing the bicycle over soon.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

At Browning's the only constants are change and the management's inexplicable beerlessness.

It's only been two months since the Courier-Journal's dining writer, Susan Reigler, reported Eileen Martin's departure as the Browning's Brewery brewster and the elevation of assistant Bill Dinkins to the top job.

Browning's Restaurant & Brewery

Now we're told that Bill has left, and a battlefield promotion has been given to an employee with little brewing experience.

There's no sense in raging until all the facts are known, but it sadly bears repeating that the ownership of Browning's and the adjacent Park Place has shown very little good beer aptitude and has as times seemed bizarrely determined not to utilize the gleaming brewing system, which most of us would recognize as far too expensive to display merely as a ballpark lawn ornament.

Strange, yet true. Good luck to Elliott, and perhaps the ownership will someday awaken to the novel possibilities of emphasizing beer at a brewpub.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Second annual lambic by the glass coming in June.

For too many of my customers, Lindemans Framboise is the only Belgian lambic they’ve ever tasted. We keep it on tap year-round and sell 20 liters a week like clockwork.

The Curmudgeon grimaces, but never fails to deposit the filthy lucre.

To be sure, there’s a place in the cosmos of beer styles for sweetened raspberry concoctions that manage to appease the spouse while you savor something, well, a bit more challenging, but in ideal terms this isn’t at all what lambic should be about, as it functions as a classic beer style on a number of worthy levels.

Lambic is joyfully archaic, brewed from a mash of barley and unmalted wheat, hopped with (intentionally) stale hops as preservatives, then transferred after boiling to large, flat, rectangular pans (“cool ships”) for overnight exposure to all the wild yeast the Belgian breeze can muster.

Aging takes place in oak barrels previously used for wine, sherry or port. Unblended lambics are rare, but occasionally found within Belgium, and sometimes exported. Generally, batches of young and old lambic are blended to achieve individual house character, yielding Gueuze.

If fruit is added, as in the cases of local cherries (kriek) or raspberries (framboise or frambozen), a second fermentation occurs. Ideally, no sugar is added. The flavor characteristics of lambic, even with fruit added in the traditional manner, are dry and musty, and often with the tell-tale wild yeast aroma charmingly referred to as “horsehair blanket.” Bottle-conditioning provides effervescence.

Last year I became possessed of the notion that my Lindemans drinkers needed to be exposed to the flavors, textures and sheer olfactory jolt to be derived from lambic, and gently guided beyond their fruity comfort level.

The major obstacle to this intended enlightenment was the price asked for a bottle of Cantillon, Hanssens or Drie Fonteinen, so for the first time ever, we veered away from the usual “festival of draft beer” approach and devoted two evenings to pouring lambic by the glass.

Along with the usual Lindemans flavored lambics, we rounded up a case of Lindemans Cuvee Rene, ten Cantillon styles, three vintages of Drie Fonteinen and three or four Hanssens, with the total coming to 22, and procured rubber wine stopper caps from Old Mill Liquors. Prices were calculated and pricing tiers established. The tasting began ... and after quality control was finished, a few ounces remained for the paying customers.

It all worked so well that there’ll be a reprise this June, with the exact date to be announced later, after special orders have been confirmed.

Now, if we could just lay our hands on a truckload of mussels ...

Saturday, April 16, 2005

"All" about beer again as publisher answers the Curmudgeon.

Here's the background.

In February, 2005, Daniel Bradford returned to the family magazine, "All About Beer." Mr. Bradford's previous position as head of the Brewers' Association of America disappeared when the BAA was merged with the Association of Brewers (AOB) to yield the Brewers Association.

Regular readers know that I'd long since taken to referring to the magazine as "Some About Beer" owing to an omission explained in this article, which was published in early 2004:

When “Some” About Beer Simply Won’t Do: The Sins of "All About Beer."

More recently, when I received a mailing from "Some About Beer" urging me to "help grow the high-end beer market" by using shelf tags with featured beer ratings generated by the dreaded Beverage Tasting Institute, I decided to write directly to Mr. Bradford and solicit his opinion about BTI and the "beer bar" article that led to my renaming the magazine.

In short, I asked for an apology, and it was forthcoming.

Without further comment, here is his response.



Another thing that I missed in my absence.

I couldn’t read the whole article on the website (it didn’t scroll beyond the BTI bit), but you observations about BTI are pretty common. The answer is rather simple, though. We don’t publish low reviews, which they do give out. I know that may seem like a bias. However, I’m pretty clear in that I don’t want to publish bad news. I don’t make up good news. I just don’t publish negative stuff. Call it a personality defect, but I firmly believe there is so much to say that is great about our industry that I just don’t see the reason for crabbing about negatives. We both know that you get two beer lovers at a table and you’ll have three opinions about whatever they are drinking. We both also know there are a lot of uniformly shitty beers out there which you and I would both spit out, but there are thousands of great beers out there.

As for the fact that people pay to enter, that’s the case with the GABF, the World Beer Cup, the British Industry International Awards, for every judging that I have worked with or know the details about. We’ve entered magazine competitions, too, and paid an entry fee. There is a self selecting aspect to that, by the way. You usually don’t drop the cash on a beer which you don’t feel will do well. Sure there is a reality factor (what brewer doesn’t feel their beers should win a medal?), but you’d be surprised at the correlation between winning in different competitions. At my brewpub we regularly pick up awards in whatever competition we enter. We don’t enter many any more because we’re doing really well and the beers are very well respected locally.

However, one thing I do like about BTI which is different than GABF or WBC is the beers are judged based on how much the judges like the beer. That’s it, how much do you like it on a scale of 1 to 13. No more, no less. No beer is thrown out because it doesn’t agree with a written style definition, the single largest reason for a beer not winning a medal at the GABF or the WBC. Now, the BIIA asks their judges, all commercial brewers, to judge a beer simply on whether they would stake their pension on taking it to market, a completely different approach.

Now, as to your joint being excluded in our list, I’m sorry about that. I don’t know your place but reading your writing tells me it’s a pretty dedicated beer joint. I suspect it has that atmosphere I call a “peak pub experience.” I get this stupid grin on my face, like last Friday night at Gritty McDuff’s in Freeport, when I just know I’m in one of those places. However, the list that we published, if my fading memory serves me well, was submitted by a group of several hundred beer writers and industry professionals, and not put together by the staff. There were omissions that lots of people were very passionate about.

I do know being a bona fide curmudgeon is a thankless task. Whether by position or personality a curmudgeon is honor bound to poke at things, to stir things up; which can rub people wrong. I’m almost the opposite, but more by passion than position or personaltiy. I’m like the cheer leader looking for the best in everything. Frankly, I grew up in a small town in Maine, in a very large family filled mostly with women, of very, very old Yankee stock. I can get down and trash talk with the best of them. I’ve just decided to head in a different direct. Having a young kid can do silly things like that to you. So, keep up the finger poking. It serves to keep everyone on their toes which us cheer leaders do need.

And I sent you a comp sub, which you won’t be able to cancel, Roger because its free! Thanks for taking the time to get on my case, and I do hope to get by your joint and see if it is a “peak pub experience.”


Daniel Bradford, All About Beer Magazine

Friday, April 15, 2005

Avery Maharaja Imperial IPA now on tap as Gravity Head draws to a close.

The last untapped Gravity Head 2005 beer arrived yesterday morning and was pouring a few hours later.

As described by Avery Brewing Company:

"The Maharaja - Imperial IPA is royally welcomed to Colorado. Weighing in at a huge 112 ibs's, and 9.7% abv, The Maharaja is a maniacal display of hops and malts. This newest Avery Dictator completes the "Dictator Series" joining the likes of The Kaiser & The Czar. Be aware that the Maharaja is a limited release only available for the summer."

Here's the Gravity Head story as of Friday, April 15.

Second kegs of De Dolle Dulle Teve ("Mad Bitch") and Fantome Saison have yet to be tapped and will go on line as the last Gravity Head kegs are consumed.

Anchor Old Foghorn Ale
*Avery Maharaja Imperial IPA
De Dolle Oerbier
Gales Millennium Ale
Gales Prize Old Ale 2003 (keg)
Hitachino Celebration Ale 2005
*Hitachino Japanese Classic Ale
N’Ice Chouffe
*New Albanian NobleSmoker (5th keg)
Samichlaus 2003
Avery Hog Heaven
*Avery The Beast
BBC Brewing Bearded Pat's Barley Wine '02
Bluegrass Brewing Co. Mephistopheles Metamorphosis
Bell’s Batch 6000
Bell’s Expedition Stout
De Dolle Ara Bier
De Dolle Boskeun
De Dolle Dulle Teve (Mad Bitch) (first keg)
EKU 28
Fantome Ete
Fantome Saison (first keg)
Gale’s Prize Old Ale 2004 (cask-conditioned)
*Geants Goliath Tripel
*Great Divide Hercules Double IPA
*Great Divide Oaked Yeti Imperial Stout
*Great Lakes Blackout Stout
Guldenberg (De Ranke)
J. W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale (5-gallon pin; 2003; Lagavulin-primed)
Mahrs Der Weisse Bock
*New Holland Black Tulip Abbey Tripel
*New Holland Pilgrim’s Dole Wheatwine Style Ale (2004)
*Ringneck Brewing FOTB Barley Wine
Rogue Imperial Pilsner (both kegs)
Rogue Old Crustacean Barley Wine (Vintage 2000)
*Rogue Roguetoberfest (both kegs)
*Rulles Tripel
Stone Double Bastard Ale
Stone Imperial Russian Stout
Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine (2004)
Two Brothers Bare Tree Weiss Wine (2004)
*Weihenstephaner Korbinian Doppelbock
*Rogue Fresh Hop Harvest Ale
The Rogue Fresh Hop did not make the trip from Oregon and has been scratched.

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale (Vintage 2004)
Somehow misplaced at the wholesaler. If found, it will revert to 2006.

*Three Floyds (to be announced)
The Three Floyds keg proved to be Brian Boru, which is not a Gravity Head beer.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Jesse Williams accepts the NABC brewhouse keys from a departing Michael Borchers.

(From Publicanista!, to be published on Thursday, April 14)

The New Albanian Brewing Company is pleased to announce that an eager young apprentice brewer has been tapped to succeed Michael Borchers in the NABC garage brewhouse.

Jesse Williams of New Albany has been training with Michael and will become the NABC brewer of record as of April 18, 2005. Jesse already was employed by NABC as a server prior to this juncture, and naturally we’re delighted that an in-house transition has been possible.

While Jesse has no prior brewing experience, his obvious passion for beer, his curiosity about beer and his willingness to learn how to do the job are the most important factors to us.

Jesse is a graduate of the highly regarded culinary school at Sullivan University in Louisville, KY, and has worked in the kitchens of several Louisville metro area eateries of repute. His ultimate ambition is to own and operate his own restaurant, preferably in New Albany.

Beer and food … suppose anyone’s thought of it before?

Luckily, Chris Spellman remains on board as assistant, performing a wide range of duties without which the brewery could not function.

Meanwhile, Michael is departing the day-to-day grind of NABC to return to school, but will remain living in the area, and has agreed to be available for consultation as “brewer emeritus” in exchange for periodic pints of ale.

As a going away present to the faithful, Michael leaves NABC with batches of Stumble Bus and Elector “Grand Cru” already brewed, and two Belgians (Abbey and Saison) on the way, with the Saison being jointly designed by Jesse and Michael.

Next NABC release: Bourbondaddy returns on Tuesday, April 19.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Tubby, the sequel: As much a "master brewer" as the Curmudgeon is a neuro-surgeon.

It's probably best that I provide this news item without comment, lest it be imagined that I'm showing disrespect to a heroic cancer survivor.

But I just can't help myself.

Today we learn that, once again, a Microbrewery (is) planned for former restaurant site. The article is by Larry Thomas of the Jeffersonville Evening News.

Only one question: Is it true that Glenn "Tubby" Muncy could have been "recently certified as a master brewer?"

Not according to the by-laws of the Master Brewers Association of the Americas, which doesn't display a category of membership for Muncy.

In short, don't believe it until you see it, and if you see it, by all means go and try microbrews formulated by a "master brewer" who once commented that Newcastle Brown Ale was the best beer in the world.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Fall trip deposit deadline is May 13.

This is to remind readers that the deadline for joining the fall trip to Netherlands and Belgium is Friday, May 13.

A fully refundable deposit of $250 per person is due on that date.

Please be reminded that the land cost is $1,975 per person before the deposit, with airfares expected to be in the range of $900 per person.

If you are interested and have not spoken to me yet, please write to me at

Previously posted trip description:

It’s 2005, year of the triennial Poperinge hop fest, and time for another joyful immersion into Belgian beer, cuisine and culture.

Once again, I’m organizing a group tour, our eighth European beer-hunting excursion since 1995, and the first under the banner of Potable Curmudgeon, Inc., my new consulting and travel company.

The same great experience is at hand. The tour dates are September 8 – 20, 2005, and all friends, beer lovers, customers, FOSSILS club members, and adventure seekers are invited to make the trip.

Please contact me if you’re interested. Participants are limited to 22, and it’s first come, first served.

Roger A. Baylor/Potable Curmudgeon, Inc.

Here’s a brief chronological overview:


Both the old and the new Netherlands. Our lodging will be in Haarlem, and Amsterdam is minutes away by train.

One of the most beautiful cities in Europe, with beer cafes aplenty, including ‘t Brugs Beertje (Daisy’s place), where we’ll enjoy a guided tasting.

Learn about spontaneously-fermented ale where it is brewed, with visits to Lindemans and the Drie Fonteinen restaurant, brewery and lambic blending house.

Ardennes scenery, food and beer. Tours of Achouffe and Fantome, and an excursion to the Battle of the Bulge museum in Bastogne.

The Wallonian countryside and farmhouse ale are synonymous. We’ll revel in both.

Restored medieval guild city & Great War heritage center, our base for West Flanders.

Classic sites of Belgian beer culture like Dolle Brouwers and Westvletern’s Café de Vrede.

Absolutely charming small-town celebration, with a parade that features the entire community and ample portions of local and regional ales.

Belgian capital & center of European integration.


The land-only price for the trip will be $1,975.00, and it includes:

¨ Motor coach & escort.
¨ Excellent hotels.
¨ All breakfasts.
¨ Brewery tours.
¨ One evening meal.
¨ Guided beer tastings.
¨ Most sightseeing.
¨ All service charges.

Note: The price for the land portion is based on double occupancy of rooms; a single supplement must be paid by solo travelers.

As in the past, flying arrangements will be handled by Mary Pat Bliss at Bliss Travel in New Albany. It is expected that airfare from Louisville to Amsterdam, and from Brussels back to Louisville, will cost in the range of $900. You may purchase the group flying option through Bliss Travel, or make travel plans on your own.


Louisville International …
Schiphol (Amsterdam) …
Zaventem (Brussels) …

‘t Arendsnest (Amsterdam) …
‘Ij Brewery (Amsterdam) …
‘t Brugs Beertje …
Drie (3) Fountains …
Achouffe …
Fantome …
Dolle Brouwers …
Hop festival in Poperinge …

City guides
Amsterdam …
Haarlem …
Brugge …
Houffalize … (only in French and Dutch)
Ieper …
Poperinge …
Brussels …


Sept. 9, 10: Hotel Amadeus, Haarlem …
Sept. 11, 12: Hotel Karos, Brugge …

Sept. 13, 14, 15: Hotel du Commerce, Houffalize …

Sept. 16, 17, 18: Flanders Lodge, Ieper …

Sept. 19: Hotel Vendome, Brussels …

It is my responsibility to note that I must have a minimum of 15 participants to make this trip work. If there aren’t 15 firm reservations by May 13th, then I will return the deposits to you and the trip will be cancelled.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Tastings: Terre Haute Gold Label Bock & Lammin Kataja Olut.

As a word, “Bock” derives from a corruption of the German city called Einbeck, which apparently was renowned at some juncture for producing rich, dark beers … or for the inability of Bavarians to correctly pronounce the Einbeck local dialect … or, perhaps, because the “Bock” in question is a billy goat.

Or all these reasons, or none.

In any case, Bock is not the result of annual springtime vat cleaning, as generations of American old-timers confused by beer that wasn’t golden alleged to be true, but isn’t and never was.

Terre Haute Gold Label Bock
A century ago, the brewery in Terre Haute, Indiana, was one of the nation’s largest, and its flagship brand, Champagne Velvet, was known throughout the Midwest.

The present-day Terre Haute Brewing Company has sought to revive the spirit of its long deceased ancestor by remaking its beers for the contemporary craft brew market.

Gold Label Bock weighs in at 7.5%, typical for a Bavarian “Doppelbock,” but without the expansive malt mouth feel expected in the German variety. Because GLB is medium-bodied at best, this makes for a marked imbalance, but recalling that GLB is intended to be an American-style Bock, and also to conjure an historical epoch, it can be readily forgiven.

As a lager, the palate is clean. Caramel and chocolate malts are used, and the chocolate flavor is strongly pronounced, but rather simplistic. My memories of American Bocks brewed circa 1978-82, like Huber and Stroh’s, fall somewhat within the range of THBC’s entry, although I seem to recall a more toffeeish character.

Judging Gold Label Bock for what it is, the beer is a success. When drinking it, you must purge your pre-conceived notions of German-style Bock … or you’ll be disappointed. This is a Pre-Prohibition style of American brewing, and should be regarded accordingly.

Lammin Kataja Olut
“Sahti” is Finnish farmhouse homebrew.

By most accounts, during the middle decades of the twentieth-century, Sahti came to be regarded as archaic and passé, and brewing it became somewhat of a dying art.

The past fifteen years has seen a revival of Sahti, now viewed as natural and hip, with commercial examples being brewed and marketed in Finland following the adjustment of a blue law or three.

Apparently the recipe for Sahti involved taking available fermentables (including barley, rye and wheat), mashing in the handy sauna, sparging through juniper branches, boiling, then adding baker’s yeast.

At its best, the unfiltered yield would be bready, evergreen-accented, and redolent with the sort of aromatic esters one might expect from German-style wheat ales (banana, fruit, cloves).

At worst, there would still be 7% to 10% alcohol, suitable for immediate duty if not aficionado status.

When commercial Sahti became available through the B. United importing company, I was intrigued but frightened by warnings that the product isn’t easily shipped and has a short shelf life. Consequently, I ordered a case of the example said to travel best, Lammin Kataja Olut.

As it turns out, Kataja really isn’t Sahti at all. It is a hybrid variation, substituting ale yeast for baker’s yeast, and “laced” with juniper. In all significant respects, the amber Kataja is pleasant, though light-bodied and a tad under-carbonated. Whatever juniper is present is understated, and balances the ale much as hops normally do.

Interestingly, Kataja packs a 7% abv punch, which isn’t expected owing to the subtlety of the flavors.

Yesterday’s samples of Kataja and Gold Label Bock leaves us with 23 bottles of each to sell at Rich O’s, and they’ll be on the “specials” blackboard today.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Tastings: Founders Red's Rye and Jever Pilsener.

Extreme beers are the growth category in microbrewing, but some times milder styles are appropriate to the mood and occasion. There’s no reason why less alcoholic, smaller beers cannot have character – witness the English Mild – although a preference for nothingness seems to be Holy Writ amongst megabrewers and the clueless markets they serve.

Last night I had a couple of smaller beers with ample character.

Founders Red’s Rye
(read about the Curmudgeon’s previous Founders tasting session)

It sounds simple enough – red ale made with rye. To be interesting, the concept must overcome the inertia of custom.

Commercial red ale tends to be nondescript, tasting as though the recipe had been concocted by a sleepy committee in a boardroom somewhere, generally malty but without definable flavor, and with a color seemingly derived from dissolving the red M & M’s in the fermenter.

Not this one!

Small amounts of rye add spiciness, and combined judiciously with dry hopping, produce crisp and dry ale that still boasts a firm caramel malt character.

Killian’s drinkers almost certainly would spit out this red beer, which would be reason enough to endorse it, yet it stands on its own merits. We’ll have a keg on tap at Rich O’s very soon, perhaps by Friday, April 8.

Jever Pilsener
Nostalgia is a powerful emotion, and one that can easily tilt objectivity.

My first taste of Jever came during one of my early European backpacking treks some 20 years ago. The exact locale has been forgotten, but I seem to recall that it was in a youth hostel (that’s right – they have beer in at least some European youth hostels), perhaps in Switzerland or, more likely, Luxembourg.

It was an unforgettable experience. I took a healthy drink of the pale golden lager and felt my temples exploding with the onslaught of an almost herbal and highly floral hoppy bite.

Oddly, one of the few libations I’ve ever tasted that compare with the initial unexpected jolt of Jever wasn’t alcoholic. In 1987, while in Hungary, I bought a green bottle of soda that looked like a Sprite, and upon exiting the supermarket, pried the cap off with my Swiss Army Knife, lifted it to parched lips, and discovered that Hungarians had a taste for extremely bitter soft drinks tasting not unlike certain Italian apertifs.

Jever’s effect today isn’t as pronounced. My tastes have changed, beer drinking experiences have widened, and I suspect that Jever has been toned down a bit.

Happily, the herbal hop elements I remember from so long ago remain joyfully in place, even if slightly muted.

In general terms, German pilseners become softer and less aggressive the closer one gets to Bavaria. In the north, a far sharper hop bite is the norm, and Jever is no exception.

Noble hops are everywhere: In the nose, on the palate, and with a satisfyingly bitter presence. There’s less of puckering and no pressure in the skull, and that’s probably just as well.

This is a delicious Northern German pilsener, and perhaps the yardstick of the style. However, before buying, give the bottle an eyeful: If you see sediment, take a pass. When it comes to fragile pilsners, freshest is indeed best.

Monday, April 04, 2005

On measuring achievement: Some merely throw the line into the water, but others are fishermen.

(Crossposted at NA Confidential)

"For the past two months, I’ve been sifting through the contingencies as my business and livelihood, the New Albanian Brewing Company, approaches a challenging transitional time ... "

Go here for the full text:
On measuring achievement: Some merely throw the line into the water, but others are fishermen

Sunday, April 03, 2005

New 4th Street BBC open, reports Eileen Martin.

Eileen Martin, former brewster at Browning's, provides this update on her new gig:

I am a manager at the new Bluegrass Brewing Company on 4th (Louisville) at 2 Theater Square across from the Brown Hotel. We are licensing the name from the St. Matthews BBC location as well as getting our beer from them.

We had our "soft" opening this evening (Saturday) and all went well. We will be serving appetizers for the next two days and will start with our full menu on Tuesday. Wednesday will be Wort Hog day, with mugs of beer selling for 3.00. The food so far is great and I can't wait to try everything.

I hope to have some beer dinners in the future as well. Come in and see me or give me a call. Our number is 568-2224. Hope all is well and I look forward to seeing all of you.

The pub is located just seconds from the Louisville Palace Theater, and a couple of blocks south of 4th Street Live.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

UPDATED: Indianapolis good beer sanctuary Chalkie's has closed.

Chalkie's is no more.

Our friend and Indianapolis resident Joe Brower sent the following on Saturday afternoon:

Guess Marvin McKay didn’t get it worked out with his brother Scott. Just came from there and its all locked up, posted with court judgment notice "to be sold."

A phone call confirms this news. The answering machine refers callers to Marvin's number, and refers to "partnership" issues and the loss of the establishment's lease.

Chalkie's, located on the northside in Castleton, has been a required stop for at least six or seven years. I've always described it as a non-smoking. high-end billiards parlor serving gourmet food and craft beer.

You could live a thousand years and never see such a concept attempted in Louisville, particularly with respect to the "non-smoking" part of the equation.

Although persistent rumors have alleged that Chalkie's was struggling, news of the closing still surprises and saddens. I wish Marvin nothing but the best and hope that he resurfaces soon; a better host I've yet to meet.

April 3 update from Indiana Beer:
Chalkies has closed down. A dispute between partners leaves us beerless. Mark Mahon reports "As everyone has probably heard, our beloved Chalkies has closed, due to a dispute between partners. However I talked to Marvin last Wednesday at The Beer Sellar about his problems, and he reported that plans are in the works, for a new place that will be better! So take heart! Marvin will soon be back!"