Wednesday, August 31, 2005

NABC to expand brewing capacity to 1,000 barrels per year.

(Press release; cross posted at NA Confidential)

In response to escalating demand for its house-brewed draft beers – Beak’s Best, Elector, Community Dark, Bourbondaddy and Croupier, to name just five -- the New Albanian Brewing Company (NABC), New Albany’s only microbrewery and first brewery of any kind since 1935, is pleased to announce the commencement of its long-awaited brewery expansion project.

In the time-honored NABC tradition of meticulous attention to detail, this work has taken far longer than initially predicted.

Actually, a full year longer -- but who’s counting.

NABC has purchased two additional fermentation vessels and four serving tanks from DME Brewing Services of Prince Edward Island, Canada.

The fermenters are to be installed in the brewhouse annex that faces University Woods Drive, while the serving tanks will be housed in what is currently the game room of Sportstime Pizza. Draft lines will be run from the serving tank area to a new tap station planned for the current Rich O’s Public House floor space generally referred to as the “coffee room.”

NABC sells most of its draft beer on site at Sportstime and Rich O’s, so being able to dispense four brands from “single keg” serving tanks rather than fourteen standard /12 barrel kegs will enable the brewery to produce a greater diversity of beers and to have more of them on tap at a given time.

Brewing capacity should double to roughly 1,000 barrels per annum after the expansion project is completed later this fall, and we anticipate that a modest surplus will be available for kegging and off-premise consumption, perhaps at a taproom project in downtown New Albany, options for which are always under investigation.

There are no plans to bottle.

The New Albanian Brewing Company, Inc., was founded in 1994, and brewing began in 2002. Sportstime Pizza dates to 1987 and Rich O’s Public House to 1990. Including all positions, NABC employs 28 people, nine of them full-time. The business is located at 3312 Plaza Drive, off Grant Line Road, and is nationally recognized as one of America’s finest specialty beer bars.

Neighborhood brewing once thrived in New Albany.

(Cross posted at NA Confidential)

In the era that followed the Civil War, when New Albany was half a century old and still growing, multi-national brewing conglomerates were unknown. When it was time for a beer, the city’s residents walked around the corner and down the street to one of New Albany’s neighborhood breweries, which thrived by brewing and serving quality beer to the local market – sometimes in barrels, sometimes in bottles, often in buckets or jugs.

These jugs, called “growlers,” were carried home from the brewery tap to accompany the workingman’s evening meal and to fuel his nightly conversations with friends and neighbors on the front porch, or to quench thirsts engendered by sandlot baseball games.

It was good beer, or so stated a writer for the New Albany Ledger Standard, who in 1877 observed:

For many years New Albany has been famous for the excellence of her beer … and the demand is so great that until recently our brewers could not supply orders.

Earlier newspaper records show that Hew Ainslie, an immigrant from Scotland, established a commercial brewery in New Albany in 1840. We can surmise that Ainslie -- a published poet and fervent Scottish nationalist -- brewed ales and porter in the style familiar to him from his upbringing in the British Isles. In the 1850’s, Germans began to settle in great numbers in New Albany, bringing with them an appreciation for the newly emerging lager beers of their homelands.

Brewery owners Paul Reising, Peter Bucheit and Veit Nirmeier are forgotten today, but at one time their names were synonymous with business acumen and civic rectitude, and their breweries held respectable places in the pantheon of local manufacturing excellence.

New Albany’s brewing heritage was fully intact at century’s end, and the city’s residents still regarded the availability of freshly brewed local beer as a social and cultural norm. Two independent breweries, producing lager styles and the indigenous Louisville-area ale called Kommon, thrived in New Albany in 1900. Another had closed only two years before.

A handful of smaller brewing operations were recognized, including “saloon” breweries (known as “brewpubs” today). Another moderate-sized brewery operated in Jeffersonville, while across the river in Louisville, there were as many as 20 breweries in operation at various times during the years prior to World War I.

Things began to change in the early years of the 20th century, when a number of social and economic developments conspired to weaken the bond between Americans and their local brands of beer. Brewers in larger urban areas began to apply the techniques of industrial mass production to the process of brewing. Markets were expanded by the use of refrigerated rail cars, and smaller local rivals fell victim to unfavorable economies of scale as well as the unscrupulous methods familiar to those who have studied the “Robber Baron” period of American history.

New Albany’s German brewing tradition was dealt a blow when America entered the Great War. Subsequently, the cultural atrocity of Prohibition effectively killed smaller-scale local brewing in much of the United States. The way was paved for the rise of the monopolistic, multi-national beer factories that have diluted not only their beer, but also the experience of drinking fresh beer locally in the truest sense that our forbearers intuitively understood.

Repeal of Prohibition proved to be too little, too late for the majority of these family-run businesses. The only New Albany brewery to operate after the repeal of Prohibition was the Southern Indiana Ice & Beverage Company, popularly known as Ackerman’s. Brands like Vienna Select, Old Rip and Imperial Double Stout were brewed where the Holiday Inn Express now stands, but unfortunately the business was short-lived. It closed in 1935, and the city’s brewing tradition entered a period of dormancy.

67 years later, in 2002, the New Albanian Brewing Company set out to recapture the small-scale, artisanal spirit of brewing in New Albany during its late 19th-century zenith, while at the same time incorporating the global stylistic perspective afforded by the American craft beer revolution of the 1990’s.

Thanks to Conrad Selle and Peter Guetig, authors of “Louisville Breweries,” for their invaluable research.

Westvleteren 12 or Rochefort 10? The Curmudgeon casts his ballot.

By now, the panic has subsided and you’re learning how to cope without your best friend’s able solicitude.

Monks run out of world's best beer (CNN/Reuters).

Well, not really, because the Westvleteren ales, brewed by the monks of Sint Sixtus Trappistenabdij in West Flanders, near Poperinge, always have been considered the rarest of Belgian Trappists even before being belatedly discovered by the on-line community of beer aficionados.

As explained in the widely disseminated wire service article, the continuing policy of the abbey has been to brew only enough ale for its own use and to sell in limited quantities from what amounts to a drive-through window beside a bucolic country lane.

However, in recent years the abbey has aggressively moved into the 21st century by agreeing to supply the Café de Vrede (the extent of the monastery's involvement is unknown), a spanking new version of an old tasting café and taproom across the road, and it remains the preferred venue for tasting three very good beers: Westvleteren Blonde, 8 and 12.

How good? Westvleteren 12 is the choice of readers as the world’s finest beer, but as you might expect, the Curmudgeon begs to differ. Westvleteren 12, while admittedly a world classic, isn’t even the best Trappist ale in Belgium, an honor that goes to Rochefort 10, brewed by the monks of Abbaye Notre-Dame de St. Remy near the Ardennes town of Rochefort, a few hours to the east of St. Sixtus.

To be sure, more Rochefort is brewed, and it is becoming readily available here in the United States, but in its own way it remains reclusive. There is no sanctioned taproom nearby (as with Westvleteren, Westmalle, Achel and Orval), no tour of the facility (as is partially the case with Chimay), and no effort to explain the beer to outsiders -- although the Rochefort ales can be purchased at cafes in the town itself.

Rochefort’s “10” refers to a measurement of the starting gravity, but the alcohol content finishes at 11.3%, and the unfolding waves of richly complex malt character are nothing if not orgasmic.

Westvleteren 12 is similar, a sliver less rich and a bit more vinous – an ale to be enjoyed in bed, though not with crackers, and in my estimation it finishes a close second to the Rochefort 10 in sheer celestial impact.

Diana and I will be in the neighborhood on September 17 and 18, and perhaps bike to St. Sixtus for a visit to the Café de Vrede to see whether the monks saved any of the nectar for the locals. A bottle of Westvleteren 12 would be the ideal apertif before the hop fest parade in Poperinge ... if you can get it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Road trip, anyone? Warrior hop experiment night at San Francisco's Toronado Pub.

My good friend Ed Parish, recently returned from an apparently exhilarating trip to the Bay Area, has forwarded this notice from the world-famous Toronado Pub in San Francisco.

The varietal hop experiment outlined here is the perfect illustration of why it's so much fun to be in the craft beer business. What would mainstream breweries do in a similar vein? Serve the same beer in six different cans? To six different focus group targets?

Some choice ... but that's the swillocracy for you.

At any rate, the only bad thing about reading this press release is that I want to taste each beer and can't.


All Six Beers On Draught

1. HOP

Six breweries decided to try an experiment. What would happen if each brewery were to use their own malt, yeast and water and set up guidelines to follow but use only one hop? This is the result of the "WARRIOR HOP EXPERIMENT."

93% 2-row Malt
4% Munich Malt
3% Crystal 45 Malt
60 IBU's

Drake's Brewing Company
2-Row Malt- Crisp
Crystal Malt- Crisp
Munich Malt- Durst
Yeast- White Labs 001
Original Gravity- 16.3*P (SG 1.063)
Terminal Gravity- 3.5*P (SG 1.014)
Mash Temperature- 152*F
Fermentation Temperature- 65*F

Marin Brewing Company
2-Row Malt- Gambrinus
Crystal Malt- Thomas Faucet
Munich Malt- Gambrinus
Yeast- White Labs 002
Original Gravity- 16.5*P (SG 1.066)
Terminal Gravity- 3.5*P (SG 1.014)
Mash Temperature- 154*F
Fermentation Temperature- 67*F

Magnolia Pub and Brewery
2-Row - Thomas Faucet Maris Otter
Crystal Malt- Thomas Faucet
Munich Malt- Weyerman type 1
Yeast- White Labs 002
Original Gravity- 16.3*P (SG 1.065)
Terminal Gravity- 5.2*P (SG 1.021)
Mash Temperature- 150*F
Fermentation Temperature- 65*F

Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse
2-Row Malt- Crisp
Crystal Malt- Crisp
Munich Malt- Gambrinus
Yeast- White Labs 002
Original Gravity- 16.6*P (SG 1.068)
Terminal Gravity- 3.0*P (SG 1.012)
Mash Temperature- 150*F
Fermentation Temperature- 67*F

21st Amendment Brewery, Restaurant, Bar
2-Row Malt- Rahr
Crystal Malt- Crisp
Munich Malt- Crisp
Yeast- White Labs 001
Original Gravity- 16.5*P (SG 1.065)
Terminal Gravity- 3.3*P (SG 1.011)
Mash Temperature- 158*F
Fermentation Temperature- 72*F

Bison Brewing Company
2-Row Malt- Briess organic
Crystal Malt- Briess organic C-40
Munich Malt- Briess organic
Yeast- White Labs 001
Original Gravity- 16.3*P (SG 1.063)
Terminal Gravity- 3.5*P (SG 1.014)
Mash Temperature- 154*F
Fermentation Temperature- 68*F

Location: Toronado, 547 Haight, San Francisco, California
Time(s): 6:00 PM
Contact E-mail

Saturday, August 27, 2005

A glimpse at the storage room at Rich O's.

I've been working on a project to better organize the beer stocks at Rich O's. Fellow owner Kate Lewison recently installed new racks for the canned goods and kitchen accessories, freeing up space in the storage area and enabling me to arrange things more logically than before.

Bottled beers are now shelved alphabetically, with ciders and meads at the lower right end.

A further bonus is a place to store glassware according to point of origin.

Just for the fun of it, here's a view of the walk-in cooler on an uncrowded day.

During Gravity Head, humans don't fit into the available space.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

4th Lupulin Land Harvest Hop Fest at Rich O's begins Friday, October 7.

Once again, we’ll be exceeding OSHA’s legal limits on IBU’s per square foot of floor space when Lupulin Land 2005 begins on Friday, October 7.

It is our fourth harvest hop celebration, and a good occasion for Kentuckiana’s hopheads to unite over a pint or two of America’s most bitter beer and to banish thoughts of abominations like Keystone to the nether regions formerly reserved for silver bulleted sinners, Miller Lite miscreants and Auggie Busch’s backyard brunch chardonnay sippers.

Lupulus Eroticus.

The American Heritage dictionary defines lupulin as the “minute yellowish-brown hairs obtained from the strobili of the hop plant, formerly used in medicine as a sedative.” The word lupulin is derived from the new Latin lupulus (hop species, a diminutive of the Latin lupus, hop plant, from lupus, wolf).

Or, more simply: Bitterness beats watery flaccidity any old day.

Contrary to persistent rumors - probably spread by the same people who still insist that Bock beer is the result of brewing vats being cleaned once a year in springtime - beer is not “made” from hops. Beer is “made” from barley, and sometimes wheat and oats and rye. In short, beer is brewed from grain. The body and color of beer derives from these grains, and the alcohol is but a calling card left by yeast happily snacking on sugars in the malt.

Hops act as the spice of beer. Hops balance the inherent, malty sweetness. Hops provide the seasoning. Hops cleanse the palate and leave you begging for more. Hops make it interesting, and perhaps healthy as well: According to researchers for Japan’s Kirin Brewery, isohumulones, agents of bittering in hops, may help curb the development of fat in the human body.

Misconceptions about hops are annoying, persistent and entirely understandable. If one is to judge by the non-flavor profile of America’s best-selling mainstream lagers, it is certain that the majority of beer drinkers in our purportedly great nation are suffering from severe lupulin deprivation.

Trellis succulence: There is no exit strategy.

It’s always too early to predict what beers will pour and when, as typically the juggling of late arrivals and temperamental firkins requires last-minute improvisation.

However, here’s the first list of what we believe will be featured during Lupulin Land 2005.

I. Louisville area breweries.

As before, Louisville’s microbreweries will be featured at Lupulin Land 2005. This year’s theme is cask conditioning, and accordingly, BBC Beer Company (Main and Clay), Bluegrass Brewing Company (Shelbyville Road), Browning’s, Cumberland Brews and New Albanian Brewing Company each have been asked to make available a firkin of something hoppy.

We’ll try to deploy the firkins (along with the anticipated Bell’s Two Hearted cask-conditioned entry) for pouring during the first two weekends of the festival.

BBC Beer Company (APA?)
Bluegrass Brewing Company (?)
Browning’s (single hop varietal ESB?)
Cumberland Brews (?)
New Albanian Brewing Company (Croupier IPA squared?)

II. American microbrews.

Some are dispensed year-round.

Alpha King
Arrogant Bastard
Bell’s Two Hearted Ale (cask-conditioned)
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Others are not. Some of these are available periodically throughout the year, while others are coming via special order (*).

Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
*Founders Devil Dancer
*Great Divide Hercules Double IPA
*Oaken Barrel Super Fly IPA (or an experimental hoppy ale)
*Rogue Anniversary Ale “Glen”
Rogue Dry-Hopped St. Rogue Red
Rogue I2PA 2003
Sierra Nevada IPA
*Two Brothers Hop Juice Double IPA

III. Imported beers.

Our fourth assemblage of hop-laden draft beers once again is dominated by American microbrews, although many “Old World” beer styles showcase the hop. For instance, we serve Pilsner Urquell throughout the year.

Pilsner Urquell (Czech Republic)

So far, we managed to locate four diverse examples of hoppy European ales and lagers:

Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted (Scotland)
Jever Pilsner (Germany)
Poperings Hommel Ale (Belgium)
St. Georgenbrau Keller Bier (Germany)

IV. Waiting by the phone.

Special beers from Avery, New Holland and Three Floyds still may surface in the weeks preceding the festival’s opening on October 7.

We’ve also yet to hear from an importer or two. Stay tuned for further details.

V. Introducing a very special guest: Randall the Enamel Animal.

“Randall, a Dogfish head invention, is an organoleptic hop transducer module –- a three-foot-long, cylinder-filter packed with a half a pound of whole leaf hops that we affix to the beer line leaving a keg.”

We have purchased a Randall from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, and will equip him for action beginning on October 7.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A killer Tuesday: Beer, wine and cuisine at the Bristol downtown.

At the recent L & N beer dinner, a chat with table mates led to the setting of a date for a meal, accompanied by wine and beer, the idea being to compare pairings of both libations with food -- and to give the Curmudgeon something to write about for the next issue of "Food & Dining" magazine.

Deadlines have a way of sneaking up on you.

Last night was the night, and the Bristol Bar & Grille in downtown Louisville was the place. It was a gorgeous, cool summer evening, with a light breeze coming in from the terrace, and a view of "old" Main Street across the way.

We join the party well in progress:

Highlights included Lindemans Cuvee Rene Gueuze with fried calamari, Schneider Weisse and a Bibb salad (including Stilton cheese, walnuts and mandarin oranges) and Stone Smoked Porter with the glazed pork chop and baked potato at the bottom of the photo.

Great wine, mostly reds, and all European, flowed courtesy of the three high ranking area wine gurus in attendance. It's always a treat to receive instruction from the best.

With a closing port flight available, only one dessert beer made it onto the table.

My only regret is that I have but one liver to give for research like this.

Monday, August 22, 2005

PC '96 - A Day at the Fair.

Each year at the Kentucky State Fair, the LAGERS home brewing club (Louisville) runs the fair’s home brew competition, and it sponsors the home brewing information booth. The FOSSILS (Southern Indiana) club helps staff the booth.

I’m stunned to note that the following was written in 1996. On several occasions since, I’ve taken time to pull a shift at the booth, and they always seem to play out the same way.


On the morning of the gorgeous summer Wednesday that I had chosen to man the LAGERS information booth at the Kentucky State Fair, I awoke to that irritable feeling of discomfort that many people describe as a hangover.

I was shocked and appalled. As a trained, professional drinker of fine ales, I have "hangovers" about as often as I find Beluga caviar next to the Star-Kist tuna at the Dairy Mart down the street.

Anyway, what had I done the previous evening to even merit the mention of a hangover? I’d only had one Old Rasputin Imperial Stout ... followed by an abbey dubbel ... and a couple of Sierra Nevada drafts to ease my aching feet ... and a nightcap of Old Foghorn to chase down an evening meal of one and a half cold breadsticks and thoroughly coagulated garlic butter.

It must have been some kinda allergy, ‘coz it simply couldn’t have been a hangover.

To prepare for the rigors of the day, I ate two doughnuts and drained three cups of black coffee. Thusly fortified with sugar and caffeine, I was off to greet the fair going public.

I was driven to the fairgrounds and deposited at the first Crittenden Drive gate near the I-65 exit ramp. I stepped from the gasping car into a cloud of sweat-laden dust raised by the University of Louisville football players who were practicing nearby in the shadow of the former Mt. Schnellenberger, which has been reduced to the status of mere knob in the collective memory of University of Louisville football fans. It was a little after 10:00 a.m. when I paid the admission fee at one of the auto booths, and then produced my ticket for the next bored employee a few yards further on, who looked at me incredulously and said, "a walk-in?"

I headed for the third base side of Cardinal Stadium, took advantage of the pedestrian crosswalk through the horse promenade, joyously filled my lungs with the accompanying Bluegrass ambiance, navigated the east concourse of Freedom Hall, and emerged on the South Lawn, to be greeted by Freddy Farm Bureau. Freddy was too busy ogling the scantily clad young schoolgirls to bother with me, but I had spotted a Courier Journal booth and decided to ask if I could buy a newspaper to keep me company.

"No, we don’t have any newspapers," yawned the woman on duty, turning grudgingly away from her telephone conversation about the dating habits of fellow office inhabitants. "But there’s plenty of free maps of the fair! You want one of those?"

Sure. It had a nice recipe for pie, and a reminder that our one metropolitan newspaper was always there when it’s needed.

I turned toward my destination, only to be jarringly confronted by a beer tent that trumpeted the availability of Budweiser beers, those fine premium products from the House of Busch -- in this case, the Outhouse of Busch, where carbonated urine enriches the Busch family as it impoverishes the collective palate of the nation, which in turn worships the swill barons like medieval peasants groveling in the presence of the local nobility.

To conquer swill, you only have to think ...

The LAGERS booth was right where it was supposed to be. I assembled the free handouts (LAGERS, FOSSILS, BBC, Silo, Tucker Brewing, Nuts ‘n’ Stuff, Winemakers Supply) on the long table, surveying the sparse crowd wandering through the exhibits in the South Hall. It occurred to me to keep a log of sorts. Here are a few hours of it.

10:30 First of the very accurately billed "heartburn" specials -- loaded Chicago-style hot dogs from the stand out front of Freedom Hall on the South Lawn.

10:35 First "hey, you givin’ out samples?" question from a passer by.

10:47 First "I remember my dad’s/granddad’s/uncle’s bottles of homebrew blowing up" story, this one from a woman who now lives in Pittsburgh.

10:53 I quit trying to count the number of Kentucky Wildcats ball caps bobbing past.

11:45 Sincere man about my age (36) asks me "do you think there are any places at the Fair where I can get a specialty beer to drink?" My answer: "Do you think Auggie Busch drinks his own swill?"

12:00 (noon) Lengthy country music cerebral torture begins emanating from a stage somewhere in the distance. One Patsy Cline number was tolerable, but the remainder utterly inane.

12:05 Ball cap on ambling, tank-topped redneck reads "tell me now before I spend $20.00 on drinks."

12:10 Pleasant older gentleman asks me if I know the best way to filter red wine vinegar.

12:15 Sudden burst of energy has me out of the chair, trying to work the crowd.

12:20 Energy subsides.

12:30 First hot fudge sundae at booth on the South Lawn.

12:40 "My granny used to make it. My daddy used to make it. We’d just sit on the front porch and listen to it explode."

12:50 A teenager asks me a question. His country accent is so thick that I’m unable to understand him. I tell him I’m sorry, but I just moved here from France and I haven’t picked up the language yet.

13:15 An older man tells me stories about his late father, a rural physician in a dry county, who’d send him out for soft drink bottles to use for the homebrew, which "he’d make out of anything he could."

13:35 Mark, one of the owners of the Liquor Barn in Lexington, stops by to chat.

13:55 Idle speculation: Why do old men dress the way they do -- dress shoes and socks, knee-length shorts, golf and polo shirts? It’s like some sort of AARP-mandated public uniform, which I presume they can purchase at a discount at Wal-Mart.

14:00 Wanderlust. Off in search of TARC schedules, having concluded that I could take a bus to get to Bluegrass Brewing Company after my shift, and meet my friend Buddy Sandbach there.

14:15 First ostrich burger.

14:26 Back to work.

14:35 First gyro from booth on the South Lawn.

14:51 Fifteenth request for samples. Make that sixteen.

14:53 Seventeen.

15:10 The band in the South Hall lobby tears into an inspired rendition of the theme from "The Brady Bunch." People actually sing along. Women with babies in strollers go past me again. A cooking demonstration gets under way. Men in town for the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention wear political buttons, some Gore/Clinton, many more Dole/Kemp. I find that I’m very thirsty, but although there are leftover homebrew entries hiding in the back of the booth, one wrong move could yield a smoked spruce. So I wait.

At some point before 17:00 (notice how fond I am of the 24-hour clock?), FOSSILS Supreme Brewmaster Dennis Barry arrived to commence the night shift. I headed off in the direction of Crittenden Drive with the aim of finding the bus stop, but there was a taxi stand by the side of the Redbirds (remember, that’s the local baseball club that lied to the world about its intention to have good beer at ball games -- you don’t think the Curmudgeon would forget such a slight, do you Dale Owens?) ticket office. What the hell, I thought. I’m thirsty.

The efficient, professional cabby regaled me with stories of convention traffic, noting that religious conventions are particularly good for business, with numerous fares requesting to be picked up a block or two away from the convention hall, to be taken to "whiskey stores and tittie bars." The best of all, according to my driver, were the visitors to the annual farm implement show.

"Man, those farmers raise hell!" he exclaimed.

As we pulled into the BBC lot, I was telling my driver about ways of hailing cabs in the old Soviet Union, when you could stand on the street corner and hold up a pack of western smokes or toothpaste, and then watch the competition for your patronage. He was extremely amused by these anecdotes, and he vowed to tell his fellow drivers.

I slipped him a twenty, went inside, ordered a Dark Star Porter, clipped the end off a Punch Diademas, and relaxed, finally among my own.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Leipziger Gose comes to New Albany for a limited engagement.

In August, 1989, just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, I spent three weeks as a parks department laborer attached to a summertime student brigade work camp in East Berlin.

In truth, my contingent of Westerners was on site to be handily referenced as an example of the DDR’s tolerance, which in turn allowed group members to avoid the usual hassle and red tape of visiting East Germany, and to make friends with students.

In exchange for three weeks of work at the normal pay scale – two crisp Karl Marx adorned 100-Ost Mark notes each week -- we were to be awarded a one-week tour of the DDR at the conclusion of our stint polishing statues in preparation for the country’s 40th anniversary celebration.

We received the reward, but in altered form.

Unbeknownst to all of us, East Germany was only two months away from collapse. Earlier that summer, vacationing East Germans had begun streaming across the unguarded Hungarian border, and later invading West German embassies to demand transit westward.

Things were falling apart.

Our weeklong junket was trimmed to conform to evolving political realities. Specifically, our Monday and Tuesday stint in Leipzig was cancelled, and we stayed in Dresden for two extra days instead. A few of us went to the Dresden train station and tried to buy tickets for Leipzig, but were refused when the seller grasped that we were foreigners.

We didn’t know that Mondays were protest days in Leipzig.

In 1991, on a return trip to the eastern provinces of united Germany to visit my friend Suzanne, I finally had the chance to visit Leipzig for a day. In truth, I remember very little about it. The downtown seemed composed of a few holdover buildings from an earlier golden age, surrounded with the garishness of Communist urban construction, with other areas either blossoming with pre-fab cement blocks or decaying pre-war housing stocks.

In short, like much of the rest of the DDR.

At that time, although I didn’t know it, Leipziger Gose was in the first stages of revival.

This pleasingly archaic and stylistically esoteric style of wheat ale, spiced with coriander and salt and with a tartness that is vaguely reminiscent of Belgian Wit ale sans orange peel, once was a local specialty with a complex method of brewing and vending (see link below), but faded into oblivion in the face of the popularity of lager and the indifference prevailing in Ossie times.

The Gasthaus & Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof now brews Gose and exports limited quantities through the stellar B. United importing company.

And yes, it currently is on tap at Rich O’s. It won’t be for long; there’s only 30 liters, and we’re selling it by the half-liter.

Go here for an excellent overview of the history and return of Leipziger Gose.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Read the Publicanista! newsletter.

I'm playing with an alternative blogspot for posting the Publicanista! newsletter. To read today's issue, follow the link on the title above.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

UPDATED: Stylishness at the Kentucky State Fair homebrew competition.

Today was the annual judging of the Kentucky State Fair homebrew competition. Here are the judges and stewards hard at it.

Most of the judges present have experience in beer evaluation, and many have taken the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) test, which the Potable Curmudgeon managed to pass three years ago with the bare minimum score of 70.

The science parts bedeviled me, so I had to be perfect on the history of brewing and style description.

Today, I was delighted to help judge the opening round in the Pale Ale category. My group of three beer lovers judged 5 American Pale Ales and 4 India Pale Ales, with 2 of the APA's and 1 of the IPA's, along with three beers from another Pale Ale flight, being passed through for evaluation by a different team of judges.

Two of the best beers I judged did not go through. One was a great English-style Barley Wine, and the second was an IPA -- but the IPA was entered in the APA category, and the Barley Wine was entered in the IPA category.

It might be the best beer you've ever tasted, but if it's entered into the wrong style category, it loses points.

Here's a dedicated group of judges, all of whom are members of the FOSSILS homebrewing and beer appreciation club. Left to right are Jay Hulbert, Dave Howard, Tom Henderson and Darwin "Dibbs" Harting:

Of course, the LAGERS club also was present in force. Below, Dennis Stockslager and Gus Klein guard the entry table. It's rough work ...

The list of winners:

1. Gary Smith, New Albany, Ind. Mulberry Lambic
2. Gary Cox, Mt. Eden Ky….Jamacian Jerk Ale
3. Duane Hellums, Lexington Ky….Pink Peppercorn
4. Dennis Barry, Georgetown Ind….Bourbon barrel barley wine

Dark Ale
1. Curt Woodson, Georgetown Ky American Amber
2. Morgan Jones, Bagdad Ky….Amer. brown ale
3. Bill Moore, Louisville ky robust porter

1. Morgan Jones, Bagdad, Ky Blackberry mead
2. Ed Tash, New Albany Ind…..traditional mead
3. Gary Smith New Albany Ind….Apple/raspberry cider.

1. Tim Chancellor, Frankfort Ky Oatmeal Stout
2. Scott Boyer, Borden Ind….Foreign stout
3. Brian Kolb, Louisville, Ky Dry Stout

1. Erik Smith. Corydon, Ind….Berliner Weiss
2. Chris Vandergrift, Lexington Ky….hefewizen
3. Ryan Phillips, Georgetown, Ky….Belgian Wit

Light Lager
1. (no listing provided)
2. Paul Moss, Millersburg, Ky Bohemian Pils
3. Rick Ford Louisville, Ky….Bohemian Pils

Pale Ale
1. Bob Capshew, Lanesville Ind, English Pale ale
2. Morgan Jones, Bagdad, Ky Amer. pale ale
3. Bill Moore, Louisville, Ky English strong bitter

Light ale
1. Bill Moore, Louisville Ky Scottish light ale
2. Rick Buckman, Louisville, Ky Belgian pale ale
3. Tim Chancellor, Frankfort, Ky Calif. Common

Dark Lager
1. Rich Salisbury, Simpsonville Ky….Traditional Bock
2. E.J. Woidich Louisville, Ky Traditional Bock
3. Paul Moss….Millersburg Ky Octoberfest

Strong Beer
1. Chris Vandergrift….Lexington Ky Belgian Strong ale
2. Joseph Whitt Louisville Ky Strong Scotch ale
3. Joseph Clarkson Louisville Ky Belgian Triple

Best of Show
Chris Vandergrift, Lexington Ky Belgian Strong golden ale

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Limited run of Cassissona, Panil Barriquee, Uerige Doppel Sticke and Rogue Chipotle at Rich O's.

The following listing of new, "temp" bottled beers is from the most recent edition of Publicanista!, the official newsletter of the New Albanian Brewing Company, Rich O's Public House and Sportstime Pizza. I've tasted all but the Cassissona, and the excellence is uniform.

To begin with, who says there aren’t craft-brewed beers in Italy? Cassissona is a cassis-infused, bottom-fermented beer matured for six months in the bottle before release. 6.5% abv. Brewed near Como by Birrificio Italiano. A pretty 750 ml bottle of Cassissona goes for $16.00 on premise, and like all bottled beers, it is less for carry out.

Have I lost my mind? Two Italian beers that aren’t Peroni or Moretti? Maybe so, but I’m really excited about Panil Barriquee – dark, sour, Belgian-like, aged in Cognac barrels, and brewed in a suburb of Parma. 8% abv, $19.50. See also some really good comments about Panil Barriquee at RateBeer ratings and reviews.

At the recommendation of Emily, my always-helpful World Class Beverages representative, I’ve purchased a case of Rogue Chipotle Ale, which is said to be a refashioned version of the old Mexicali Rogue. Amber in color, with the typical house character of Rogue, the ale is lightly seasoned with smoky, peppery notes. 22 oz bombers, $6.75.

Uerige Doppel Sticke comes from Dusseldorf’s ranking Altbier brewery, and is a new creation that begins with the special recipe “Sticke,” but turns up the volume to beyond Doppelbock strength (8.5% abv). An 11.2 oz bottle sells for $6.00 (on premise).

Monday, August 08, 2005

Brew at the Zoo tickets are now available.

Here's the press release -- tickets are available at NABC.

It’s that time of year again: Brew at the Zoo 2005! This year’s event, sponsored by BBC Beer Company, will again feature local beer, local wine, local food, and local music….all brought to you at the beautiful Louisville Zoo.

Brew at the Zoo takes place on Saturday, August 27, from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Oasis Field in the Louisville Zoo. Your ticket gets you admission to the Zoo along with the event.

In addition to last year’s participating breweries -- both Louisville BBCs, Cumberland Brews, Browning's Brewery and New Albanian, regional microbreweries like Oaken Barrel Brewing Company, Broad Ripple Brewing Company, Mad Anthony Brewing Company, Kalamazoo Brewing Company (Bell’s), and Hofbrauhaus Newport will be in attendance.

And while you’re there, be sure to check out the raffle prize baskets, containing gift certificates from participating restaurants and breweries, T-shirts, and a host of Zoo goodies.

Tickets can be purchased in advance at your local microbrewery for $25. Advance tickets purchased at the Zoo are $30, and tickets purchased the day of the event are $35.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Check out the L&N Wine Bar & Bistro's Local Microbrew Dinner on Monday Aug. 8 at 7:00 p.m.

I’ve copied the following post by Robin Garr from his Louisville Restaurants Forum, which quite simply is the only place to go while on-line for comprehensive discussions of dining out in this area.

The topic is a “local microbrew” beer dinner at L & N Wine Bar this coming Monday night. I’d have written something myself, but I was either too busy, too lazy, or would rather give Robin a plug, anyway.


I know we've been talking a lot about L&N Wine Bar's upcoming Beer Dinner on the forum, but it just occurred to me that I've neglected to post the specifics, including the course and beer lineup, time and reservation info. If you haven't already signed on (and it's going to be a great one), here are the particulars - thanks to Len for filling me in.

L&N Wine Bar & Bistro ... Local Microbrew dinner, Monday Aug. 8, 7 p.m.

This should be a great time for any beer lover and provides a unique opportunity to sample multiple beers from all four of our local microbreweries paired with a great meal, with representatives from all four breweries present. GM Tom Schreier will be present along with Scott Shreffler, L&N's assistant manager and resident beer guru. Here's the menu.

First course
Pan seared diver scallops, jumbo shrimp, and mussels in a light fennel/butter sauce spiced with a hint of chili's.

Beers: New Albanian Brewing Company Kaiser, BBC Golden Ale, Browning's IPA.

Second course
Baby spinach, arugula, and frisse, tossed in a warm applewood smoked bacon & Capriole Farm goat cheese and white balsamic vinaigrette, with candied walnuts.

Beers: NABCCone Smoker, BBC Pale Ale, Browning's ESB

Grilled Beef Tenderloin filet w/ Point Reyes bleu cheese grits, grilled Field Day heirloom tomatoes, and a cracked black pepper demi-glace.

Beer: NABC Bob's Old 15-B Porter, BBC Nut Brown Ale, Browning's Porter

Cumberland Brew Nitro Porter Ice Cream.

Cost is $45 per person, not including tax & gratuity, and the dinner begins at 7:00 p.m. on Aug. 8 (Monday). Reservations are required - call (502) 897-0070.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Jim Koch of Sam Adams scores points with the Curmudgeon by "insisting glass is best."

Thanks to loyal reader Dave for this self-explanatory link:

Head-to-head war: bottles vs. cans -- founder of Sam Adams sparks industry brouhaha by insisting glass is best.

I've had my differences with Jim Koch, but will go with him on this one. Here's the crucial excerpt:

Koch, considered a microbrewing industry pioneer, maintains that canned beer runs the risk of imparting a metallic taste. Although plastic protects the inside of the can, Koch says the tab and lip of the aluminum can -- where people sip their beer -- is exposed.

The undiagnosed problem is that people DRINK BEER FROM CANS. Insofar as the nation's mass-market swillmeisters condone such behavior, it hardly matters given the lack of flavor inherent in their products, but for a craft beer brewer to do so?

Hate to say it, but Koch's right.

Monday, August 01, 2005

PC in GA: Beers in Savannah.

Savannah, Georgia is a very old city that was freshly immortalized a decade ago in a book I didn’t read and a subsequent movie I failed to watch, which means that among the multitudes of tourists visiting the city during a typical week in July, my mind may have been the only one uncluttered by preconceived notions of dark mysteries and sepulchral sculptures – not to mention Forrest-you-know-who, munching chocolates on a park bench and making you have bad dreams about LBJ whether you choose to or not.

Blessed with a thriving and diversified economy, and afflicted with an exurb as sprawling as any, Savannah’s downtown historical preservation district is justly celebrated. Small and symmetrical for ridiculously easy navigation, and yet sufficiently large to allow getting a bit lost if the mood strikes, the district’s streets are tailor-made for wandering from pub to espresso bar to tidy oak-canopied square oozing genteel charm and Spanish moss.

Arriving in town at midday on Sunday, we reported immediately to the Planter’s Inn facing Reynolds Square, checked in, and parked the car in the adjacent garage, where it remained until departure on Tuesday morning.

The desk clerk’s recommendation for a quick midday bite was to walk three blocks to the City Market, an ongoing urban renewal effort undoubtedly intended to disperse the crowds that descend upon the waterfront River Street. There we found Vinnie Van Go Go’s, an above-average pizza joint, and dined sumptuously on various combos of sun-dried tomatoes, pineapple, anchovies and jalapeno peppers.

Savannah Fest from the Moon River brewpub was listed as being on tap at the pizzeria, but upon inquiring, I learned that the same outfit’s summer special Wheezy Heifer had been substituted for the lager. Given my mixed feelings about wheat ales, I opted for water to smooth the way down to the bottom for my beloved little fishies.

It makes me tingle just thinking about it.

Later that evening, Moon River Brewing Company was selected as the venue for an evening meal and sampling. Savannah’s only brewpub is located on Bay Street, just a short stroll and a twenty-foot drop (by stairs) from River Street and nightly party festivities roughly comparable to the arena license ambience of Louisville’s Fourth Street Live. Moon River is just far enough away from the young River Street crowd to be relaxed, but it, too, can issue you a plastic cup for taking beer out into the street, which is legal in the city.

Moon River occupies the ground floor of a former hotel that dates to the early 1800’s, and has been remodeled several times since. Décor is predominantly wood, with some pastel wall tints and pleasant artwork on display. Mercifully unlike Hilton Head Brewing Company, point-of-sale materials for mass-market swill are not in garish, overbearing evidence, and although two famous brands of alcoholic soda pop are sold, they’re neither promoted heavily nor priced competitively.

My house-brewed sampler tray included:

Wild Wacky Wit
A Belgian-style wheat ale in the Hoegaarden tradition, with a good balance of coriander and citrus, but less than optimal head retention. A good effort, though admittedly not my favorite style unless I’m riding a bicycle in Belgium.

Moon Light
A reduced-character version of the Fest, pale and inoffensive, with hints of fruity esters that transcend the style, but the central point is this: Moon River has a light beer, so there’s no sense in accepting less than full mark-up on bottles mass-market swill. Kudos for that attitude.

Savannah Fest Bier
Not overly hoppy, and hinting broadly at a Dortmunder style, it tasted even better with Viet-Thai cuisine the following night at the
Saigon restaurant on Broughton Street.

Swamp Fox India Pale Ale
Clocking in at 7% is the pick of the Moon River litter, namesake of the legendary Revolutionary War guerilla fighter that the hip-hop generation has never heard of, and not at all ironically, hip-hoppiest beer in Savannah.

The Captain Porter
Restrained English character, drinking lighter than its 6% strength, with plenty of chocolate notes, and overall, good Anglo-Porter flavor.

Wheezy Heifer
A veritable unfiltered American-style wheat textbook on the many problems associated with such an abominable style. Certainly there is wheat character in abundance, but no balancing esters or phenols as in the Belgian or German varieties, and with a very blunt, harsh finish. Fruit slices would have to be added to save this beer … please, don’t get me started.

Gallery Espresso Stout
Thin-bodied stout with assertive, pronounced espresso flavor owing to “cold infusion” of beans from the
Gallery Espresso café on Bull Street (across from Six Pence Pub). “Okay,” said the Missus, “but I’d need sugar and cream.”

Mai-Rye Bock
Warming pale bock, albeit a medium-bodied one at best, with the clean lager character suitably nailed, but the requisite malt richness lacking. Still, quite enjoyable at 7.6%.

Swamp Fox IPA won the coin-flip competition to stand alongside a steak and baked potato, beating out Mai-Rye by a handful of delicious hop cones.

All things considered, Moon River was an excellent experience for us, and I recommend it, but do be forewarned that the brewpub’s menu refers to the American Civil War as the “war of northern aggression,” and speaking for myself alone, I find this sort of sentiment patently unamusing.

Amid numerous walks and rest stops in recognition of the steadily escalating heat index, Monday afforded time for lunch at Kevin Barry’s Pub on River Street.

It is claimed by one or another authority that Savannah hosts the second or third largest St. Patrick’s Day festival in the United States, and perhaps that or another on-line poll has confirmed Kevin Barry’s to be one of the Top Ten Irish pubs in America, and be all this as it may, it’s a fine establishment, anyway, though perhaps touched by a smidgen of the blarney when it comes to ratings and rankings.

The pub’s home in a 200-year-old cotton warehouse is exemplary, with then-ancient virgin timbers supporting the ceiling and ballast stones from ships used in the walls. The paper placeholder menus tell the story of Irish literary figures like Brendan Behan, George Bernard Shaw and James Joyce, though not of the ranking Irish bard, Bono.

It’s the usual lineup of Irish ales at Kevin Barry’s, and in this there’s no disgrace at all, because Guinness is a refreshing quaffer of unmatched thirst-quenching character on a sultry day (or night, or morning), and at $4.00 for an Imperial pint, relatively inexpensive. Oddly, contract-brewed Charleston Brown Ale is the same price for a 16-oz mixer. The Reuben is good, and there’s live Hibernian tunes every night for a nominal $2.00 cover charge.

Our final pub stop on Monday night was the Six Pence Pub on Bull Street, which is spotted quite easily by using the red phone booth outside as a point of reference. A branch of the Mellow Mushroom pizza chain lies just around the corner, and Gallery Espresso is a short stumble away. Six Pence features reasonably priced English pub grub, i.e., Shepherd’s Pie and the like, has a short draft list that’s good, and generally speaking, boasts a comfortable, chatty, neighborhood feel.

A final nocturnal glance at a stately handful of Savannah’s squares, fountains and statuary, sans plastic go-cups, brought the Georgia portion of the trip to a close.

Next time: Charleston, South Carolina.