Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Check out "Indiana Beer" coverage of Gravity Head 2006.

Matt Dunn is the Indiana Beer website's correspondent for that third of the state that few in Indianapolis and points north know exists, i.e., the part south of Columbus that upstaters commonly assume to be par and parcel of Kentucky (except Seymour, which qualifies as an enclave of Indiana owing to it being the birthplace of John Mellencamp).

In any event, Matt was in town on Saturday afternoon for Gravity Head, and he has contributed a wonderful report, with an accompanying photo of my good friend and former employee Buddy to accent the music:

Gravity Head 2006

At this point Radiohead's Paranoid Android is playing. The speaker is right next to me. It's loud. I'm fairly inebriated. After many hours of being some of the only people in the bar, I look around and notice it has really filled up. To get to the bathroom I had to navigate the tangle of legs and arms outstretched clutching half pints of strong ale all to the da-dada-da-da-dum-dumdum-da-da then the siren like guitar would explode: reeeerr reeeerr rereeeerrr weeeoooo weeeeooooo wooo. Man, I felt like I was in a Hunter S. Thompson book. That song is intense. I wish they wouldn't play that song at Gravity Head anymore.

Note: Photo credits go to Matt.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Not only that, but it helps with scurvy.

A close friend and longtime pub customer -- once, during hard times, I fed him Paulaner Salvator with an eyedropper to wean him from Wiedemann -- stopped by today and related this screamer.

Seems that on Saturday night he was at Stevie Ray’s, a downtown Louisville blues club of some renown, and overheard the following at a nearby table:

Customer: I’ll have a Miller Lite with a slice of lime.

Waitress: A what?

Customer: Miller Lite, and a slice of lime.

Waitress: Oh – you see, we call that an Okolona Corona.

(helpless laughter at my friend’s table)

Customer (red-faced): I don’t get it.

Waitress: It’s when you’re too cheap to drink a real Corona.

If you don’t reside in the Louisville metro area, you might not understand how funny this is.

Okay, okay. Back to your stations.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Report from the front: Gravity Head 2006.

Bountiful thanks to all patrons who enjoyed opening weekend of Gravity Head 2006.

30 liters of Urthel Hop-It and 10 gallons of Dragon's Milk are gone, and the 2004 J.W. Lees lasted roughly eight hours before giving up the ghost. The remaining starters are still pouring.

North Coast Pranqster and De Ranke Guldenberg have stepped into the breach.

Today is a recovery day, with the festivities resuming on Monday.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

We're under way.

As my aching knees will attest, opening night of Gravity Head 2006 was wildly successful, and all of us at NABC thank all of you who came out and made the night festive.

Speaking from my side of the bar, this year's kickoff was the smoothest ever. FOSSILS and LAGERS club members enjoyed preferred seating at Prost, and this relieved the corwding in other sectors, resulting in a better experience for all.

It helps to have a great opening night lineup. Early "best of" sentiments have centered on Rogue Old Crusty 2002, Bell's Batch 7000 and Samichlaus 2001, with Jesse's NABC Thunderfoot drawing much praise.

Also, the choice of the fans' vote for the 17th slot, New Holland Dragon's Milk, is virtually everyone's choice for "way better than we remember."

Wonderful night last night.

See you tonight.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Gravity Head fans speak: New Holland Dragon's Milk will fill the 17th starting slot.

It was a spirited contest, with all eligible beers receiving at least one vote, and three eventually pulling away from the pack with four votes or more: Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine, Founders Devil Dancer Triple IPA and New Holland Dragon’s Milk.

Dragon's Milk was the winner with 6 votes, with 5 for Devil Dancer and 4 for Old Guardian. I'll try to get them on tap as soon as possible.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Both Zagrebs come to mind.

Loyal reader Jay has passed along disheartening news.

Fire kills owner of Bloomington's Little Zagreb (Associated Press/Indy Star).

Although the restaurant, a Bloomington cultural institution of the “old school” variety, will remain in business, it’s always sad to see a generation pass from the scene.

I visited Little Zagreb (the steakhouse) and Zagreb (Croatia) each one time.

The meal in Bloomington was fine, but not “Yugoslav” in any identifiable manner.

The single day in 1987 spent roaming the streets of its namesake was altogether too short, though enjoyable, ending with several mugs of beer at the outdoor seating area of the train station bistro. I recall them as good. Perhaps the proximity to Slovenia's hop fields had something to do with it. The next morning, I boarded an express for Sarajevo.

More on that some other time.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

FOSSILS AND LAGERS members, this one's for you.

For opening night of Gravity Head 2006, we're dedicating Prost (our new banquet and special events area, pictured at left during the 2005 holiday Port tasting) to preferred seating for FOSSILS and LAGERS club members.

Thanks to all the club members who have sent their RSVPs for Friday night, February 24. There will not be reserved seats by name, but there should be plenty of tables and chairs, so feel free to mix and match seating.

We'll not be checking memberships, and expect the honor system to suffice. However, depending on the crowding elsewhere, Prost might serve as a valuable recruitment too (join now, get a beanie and a chair).

We apologize in advance for delays in food, as we know the kitchen will be swamped, but drinks shouldn't be a problem, as the room will have a server of its own (Nikki, who used to work for us). Get the pizza orders in upon arrival, and we'll get it to you as fast as we can.

Sarah Ring informs me that both her son Cody and Ben Capshew will be available to drive people home if necessary. More information will be available on site.

Finally, remember that on Saturday night, Pat, Larry and the Dayton (Ohio)contingent (roughly 30 people) will be using Prost as their Gravity Head staging ground, and if any local club members are around, I'm sure they wouldn't mind visits.

Updates will be posted here at the Potable Curmudgeon's blog, and the usual weekly Publicanista! newsletter will be up on Thursday. Recall that currently I'm having problems with newsletter subscribers who are on AOL, so if you're one, just remember to check the blogs, and you'll get all the information.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Keep those votes coming.

Great work, voters – 30 ballots already have been received, with votes already for 13 different beers to fill the 17th slot for Gravity Head.

There's a frontrunning pack of four ... but I'm not going to tell you which ones are leading.

Remember, voting continues until midnight on Thursday.

Note: Ties will be broken by coin flip.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Vote now for the 17th and final Gravity Head starting slot.

Here are the first 16 of 17 Gravity Head starters for 2006, not including cask-conditioned selections, which are treated (and scheduled) separately.

The 17th starter is a “fan selection,” to be chosen by you from the list provided. Vote for just 1, and submit to your choice to me at this e-mail address before Thursday, February 23.


Bell’s Batch 7000
Dark Horse Sapient Trip
EKU 28 (Germany)
Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter
Founders Dirty Bastard
Great Divide Hibernation Ale
Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout
NABC Stumble Bus 2005
NABC Thunderfoot Imperial Stout
Rogue (John's Locker Stock) Skull Splitter
Rogue XS Old Crustacean Barley Wine 2002
Samichlaus Bier 2001 (Austria)
Stone Double Bastard Ale
't Smisje Kerst (Belgium)
Unibroue Maudite (Canada)
Urthel Hop-It Belgian IPA (Belgium)

(plus a 17th "fan selection" to be determined)


Feb. 24 on the hand pull:
Old Engine Oil Special Reserve (Scotch aged 2005), and in the days to follow after the OEO is gone, first Browning's Brewery Imperial Stout, then Gale’s Christmas Ale 2005 will be poured.

Feb. 25 on top of the counter:
JW Lees Vintage Harvest Ale (port aged 2004)

March 3 on top of the counter:
JW Lees Vintage Harvest Ale (Scotch aged 2005)


Clipper City (Heavy Seas) Below Decks
Flying Dog Horn Dog Barley Wine
Founders Devil Dancer Triple IPA 2004
Great Divide Hercules Double IPA
Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout
Great Divide Old Ruffian Barley Wine
New Holland Dragon’s Milk
North Coast PranQster
Ringneck Brewing Old 21 Imperial IPA
Ringneck Brewing Bourbon Aged "FOTB” Barley Wine
Rogue XS Imperial Stout
Rogue XS I2PA
Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine 2005
Two Brothers Bare Tree Weiss Wine

De Ranke Guldenberg (Belgium)
La Rulles Cuvee “Best Wishes” (Belgium)
N'Ice Chouffe 2004 (Belgium)
't Smisje Dubbel (Belgium)
Urthel Samaranth Quadrium (Belgium)

Kulmbacher Reichelbrau Eisbock (Germany)
Weihenstephaner Korbinian Doppelbock (Germany)

Christoffel Winter Bock (Netherlands)

Gale’s Prize Old Ale 2004 (UK)


Avery "The Beast"
Avery "The Reverend"
Bluegrass Brewing Company Professor Gesser's Mind Numbing Ale
Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree IPA
Founders Blushing Monk Belgian Razz
Rocky River Neptune's Nemesis
Chouffe La Gnomette

Gouden Carolus Classic
Gouden Carolus Tripel

JW Lees Moonraker

Saturday, February 18, 2006

From Jamaica Plain to Germantown.

Transplanted New Albanian native Gina provides this fascinating link to a neighborhood revitalization project centering on a long abandoned brewery complex in Boston.

The toast of JP: Neighbors hope rehabilitation of a former brewery will bring new life to their long-neglected section, by Christine McConville, The Boston Globe.

One tenant at the former Haffenreffer Brewery site is Samuel Adams, which was the topic of a previous AP story in 2005:

A bit of Boston's rich brewery past lives on at Sam Adams Brewery, by Mark Jewell, Associated Press.

More details are presented by the Jamaica Plain Historical Society, which covered some of the same ground in this article, copyrighted in 1995:

History of Beer Making in Jamaica Plain.

My personal interest in beer runs parallel to longstanding obsessions with history and geography, and all these paths converge in articles like the ones linked here.

Don’t forget that when it comes to the history of brewing in Louisville, focusing primarily on the pre-microbrewery era, the standard and highly recommended text is, "Louisville Breweries: A History of the Brewing Industry in Louisville, Kentucky," by Peter R. Guetig and Conrad D. Selle.

It is available at Destinations Booksellers in downtown New Albany.

(Photo credit: http://www.falstaffbrewing.com/haffenreffer.htm)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Gravity Head 2006 t-shirt design.

Here are artist Tony Beard's designs for the Gravity Head 2006 t-shirts.

The back will be edited to reflect the recent additions. All in all, I'm quite satisfied to have found a real artist and graphics person, as opposed to the cut 'n' paste world that I inhabit.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Dreaming about Northern French ales? I am.

This is an advance warning.

I’m in the process of stockpiling various Northern French ales, some of which might fit into the Bieres de Garde designation, others not.

Among them are St. Sylvestre Gavroche, from the maker of Trois Monts; Thiriez Blonde and Thiriez Amber, the subjects of a previous musing; and Cuvee des Jonquilles (Biere de Garde de L’avesnois) from the Brasserie Bailleux.

Already in reserve are a few bottles of La Choullette de Noel and Les Sans Culottes, both about a year and a half old.

After Gravity Head gets under way, a select few are going to conduct a sampling of these ales as a prelude to devoting a special section of the bottled beer list to them.

There will have to be food. Perhaps I’ll do a cassoulet, accompanied by a table of cheeses and salamis and bread, and dream of the two times I’ve climbed the hill at Cassel for a feast of artisanal ale and farmhouse foodstuffs at the Kasteelhof cafĂ©.

If you are interested, please let me know.

The photo? It's Kevin Lowber, as taken by Bob Reed aboard a train bound to Germany from Belgium in 2001. The ales were procured in Cassel. The bread required foraging while waiting for a change of trains in Brussels.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Indiana House bills restricting consumer choice await Senate action as wholesaler lobby sharpens knives.

Wholesalers Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee compare middle-tier prattle at the Bistro Monopoly.

Last week, we stole a glance at Indiana’s General Assembly and two bills with potentially harmful ramifications for consumer choice in wine and beer purchasing.

Legislative update: Two Indiana House bills that restrict consumer choice by targeting small breweries and wineries.

HB 1190 (small winery sales) and HB 1250 (changes to the alcoholic beverage code that might or might not affect small breweries) both passed the House and will emerge in yet-to-be-determined form in the Senate.

About HB 1250, State Senator Connie Sipes promptly responded to my questions:

I received your information/education. This bill has many problems.
The bill now comes to the Senate, will go through committee and then to
the floor for a vote.

Meanwhile, with regard to the HB 1190 abomination, this article in the Indianapolis Star provides perhaps the clearest explanation yet of the legal issues and future stakes of legislation that clearly targets Indiana’s small wineries:

Will state wineries die on the vine?; Industry says bill halting in-state shipments could cripple it, by Bill Ruthhart (Indy Star)

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that states must treat all wineries equally, the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission decided to eliminate state wineries' right to ship their products to Hoosiers.

Nine state wineries then sued in Marion Circuit Court, receiving an injunction in November that allows them to continue shipping wine in-state until March 1 -- the deadline given for the General Assembly to solve the issue.

That has left Indiana lawmakers with a decision: allow all wine to be shipped to Hoosiers or none.

For now, legislators seem poised to choose the latter.

In essence, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that Indiana mustn’t have two different sets of rules with respect to shipping wine as such rules apply to in-state and to out-of-state wineries.

The state predictably responded by attempting to ban in-state shipments to winery customers, a practice of long standing, and was then sued on behalf of all consumers.

Subsequently, the ball was tossed into the General Assembly playpen, and as Ruthhart notes, so far it has shown an inclination to (a) be draconian with the little guys, and (b) mollify the ruffled feathers of Indiana’s wholesalers, who unlike their small winery counterparts, long ago learned the ropes when it comes to preserving their monopolies:

According to the reports filed with the state by the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Indiana Political Action Committee, from 2000 through 2004 the lobbying group gave $181,043.21 to Indiana politicians and candidates. Large and small, prominent and obscure, Republican and Democrat, the wholesalers who have been fighting direct-shipping have spread around an average of $36,000 a year.

That isn’t chump change, is it?

This useful information comes to us from Don’t allow money to tilt shipping vote, by Dan and Krista Stockman (Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette).

The wholesalers claim to base their opposition to direct shipping on the grounds that if allowed, mega-merchants like Wal-Mart would buy direct and cut wholesalers out of their three-tiered, middle-man role.

As if it were a bad thing.

While all this toxicity swirls confusingly around the heads of consumers, who merely want to be able to have a case of wine shipped to them by the small winery they visited while on holiday, the usual assortment of do-gooders and health fascists are chanting the same tired incantations against underage drinking, asserting with straight faces that we’re about to witness an epidemic of 16-year-olds paying $25 dollars for an Internet bottle of wine rather than handing their cash to Uncle Billy for a journey to the package store on the corner and two cases of Milwaukee’s Best … cold.

We’ve yet to hear from Indiana Governor "Someone’s Man Mitch" Daniels, who presumably would respond by privatizing something, somewhere.

The New Albany Tribune takes a look in this article:

Grapes of wrath: Area wineries call bill business-unfriendly, By Eric Scott Campbell, (News-Tribune).

And, finally, bookmarking the Indiana Law Blog is something that never goes out of season.

Ind. Law - Will state wineries die on the vine?

Remember to contact your State Senator and register your opinion. A compromise is needed here, and fast, before the General Assembly guts an entire industry with a single stroke of its legislative pen.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Gravity Head preparations: Fast and furious.

Remember that the updated beer list is here: February 10 updates and current listings for "Gravity Head 2006: Reality ABV."

I’m now trying to lock down the starting lineup.

As noted previously, the object this year will be to assemble a mix of microbrewed and imported choices, with each one different from the next.

After initial indications that foraging would be scant, the number of listed beers for Gravity Head has zoomed to 53, with 22 of them first-time drafts at Rich O’s, and because several of the best ones already are known to be late arrivals, this may well be the deepest group I’ve ever put together.

The lineup in mid-March could be as good or better than the one on February 24.

Stay tuned, because next week, things will start getting crazy …

Monday, February 13, 2006

Another fine beer weekend in Indianapolis.

Over at NA Confidential, a brief consideration of the Valentine’s Day pro basketball game between the Indiana Pacers and the San Antonio Spurs is provided.

Back from a fine weekend in Indianapolis, and the best hoops in the world.

There was no beer on Sunday, primarily because opportunities were many for scientific sampling on Saturday, beginning with another excellent lunch at Oaken Barrel Brewing Company in Greenwood, Indiana (located just off I-65 south of Indianapolis).

Diana chose the pasta special with sun dried tomatoes, jalapenos, artichoke hearts, garlic and mushrooms, tossed in extra virgin olive oil, while I had three medium rare beef medallions topped with mushrooms, bacon and blue cheese. A baked potato and two of brewmaster Ken Price’s house beers accompanied my meal.

Ravenswood Red is a seasonal, with a full, sweetish malt body reminiscent of Scotch Ale, and very good with the beef. Gnaw Bone Pale Ale is a longtime Oaken Barrel offering, and I believe it is more balanced now than during the previous brewing regime. The waitress provided a small sample of Old No. 10 Barley Wine, which proved to be a fitting nip at the end of an above average meal.

We met Joe and Karen at the Broad Ripple Brewpub, where I had a 10-ounce portion of Poor Richard’s, brewer Kevin Matalucci’s version of the Benjamin Franklin birthday ale. In spite of NABC’s conscious recipe tweaking, there’s a strong resemblance between the two, which perhaps is testament to the flavors given to the Colonial-era revival by molasses and corn.

There was also a clean, light-bodied and dry-hopped Amarillo Red Lager, which might have sufficed as a prime session beer given the right time and place (and warmer weather). I finished with Broad Ripple’s signature ESB.

Apologies to Ted, creator of the great Belgian-style ales at Brugge Brasserie; by the time we finished cocktail hour at Broad Ripple Brewing, it was time to coordinate vehicles at Joe’s and plan the evening meal at Barley Island Brewing Company in Noblesville, and we didn’t have time to stop by the Brasserie.

Barley Island’s on the historic main courthouse square in Noblesville, a county seat that slowly is being transformed along the unapologetically exurban principles that long ago consumed and enriched nearby Carmel and Fishers.

Strangely, Barley Island has yet to really benefit from the proximity of a microbrew friendly target demographic, and this seems not the fault of brewmaster Jon Lang’s ales, which are tasty and well made, and aim for the middle of the stylistic target.

The brewpub is located in a historic building, and to be honest, the renovation is somewhat schizophrenic – not a bad thing when leaning toward eclectic, but sometimes just confusing. There’s a bar and a stage, a section reconstructed with the help of a pub interior left over from a defunct Irish pub down the road, big and rather forlorn meeting rooms, and a tidy brewery area.

My Reuben was good; D’s salad was not. It happens. Fortunately, Jon’s taking chances with a bourbon barrel aged Stout and Porter, and the brewery has its beer in bottles in area supermarkets. Still, far too many customers were drinking Miller Lite from longneck bottles, sans glassware, and as most readers know, that’s as profound a red flag as a brewpub can fly.

Brewpubs exist to be radical, because that’s what they are. When they veer from that, it’s usually a bad thing. Brewpubs fail not because they’re too innovative given their surroundings, but because they’re not innovative enough.

A final note: At Conseco Fieldhouse, just to the right of the main concourse that begins after the turnstiles, there is a portable draft (nitro) Guinness dispensing station.

That’s progress. Wonder if the AAA Louisville Bats will have a single good beer on hand this year? More on that as the season draws nearer.


See a previous account of lunch at Oaken Barrel, and also this description of One road trip, three Indiana breweries.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

C-J says: "Do yourself a favor" and "try a local brew."

For her second “The Drink” column since the Courier-Journal’s recent revamping* of its Louisville area food, dining and drinking coverage, Sarah Fritschner considers the local brewing scene:

Mo' better beer -- Do yourself a flavor: Try a local brew

I appreciate Sarah allowing me the opportunity to comment on Louisville’s microbrewing excellence, a point I never tire of making. While Nashville has as many breweries as Louisville, and perhaps more depending on the way you count them, I’d put Louisville ahead on style points and creativity.

Feel free to disagree.

Given Nashville’s clustering of admittedly good breweries, it’s also interesting to note Louisville’s location in the context of proximity to microbrewed beer. There are seven breweries in greater Indianapolis (including English and Belgian specialist spots), and two more in Bloomington, Indiana.

A north-to-south road trip from Indianapolis to Nashville, via Bloomington and Louisville, would result in the opportunity to sample the wares of at least 20 different breweries, and while the yield isn't as plentiful moving east or west, it's still a pleasing phenomenon worth noting.

When it comes to statistics that show a vast majority of Americans refraining from drinking craft beers, I see an increasingly secure niche for those of us that do, and unlimited growth potential for microbrewers.

* See also Courier-Journal notes “passing of the fork” as restaurant critic Susan Reigler moves to travel writing.

Friday, February 10, 2006

February 10 updates and current listings for "Gravity Head 2006: Reality ABV."

February 17 note:

In what may be the final change, Bluegrass Brewing's Professor Gesser's Mind Numbing Ale has been added to the listing.

February 13 note:

Below Decks, a barley wine that is part of the "Heavy Seas" series of Clipper City Brewing Company (Baltimore, MD), and N'Ice Chouffe, (vintage 2004) are in stock and have been added to the listing.

February 10 note:

(1) I have learned that the regular keg of JW Lees Vintage Harvest Ale (non-wood aged) was not shipped from the UK. It is scratched.

(2) Chouffe La Gnomette, a 9% abv "experimental" Wallonian ale from Achouffe, will be coming to Gravity Head after all.

(3) I do NOT expect either of the Averys or the Crooked Tree Double IPA to be here by opening weekend of Gravity Head, but the two Gouden Carolus ales should be here in time.


February 8 note:

An Ohio contingent of one beer from Rocky River Brewing Company (Cleveland) and two from Ringnech Brewing (Strongsville) joins the unexpected arrival of Great Divide's Old Ruffian to lift microbrew orders to 30, and a grand total of 51 gravity kegs to begin flowing on February 24.


February 2 note: With the addition yesterday of Rogue's Skull Splitter, microbrew gravity orders are up to 26, with import orders at 21, for a total of 47 -- yikes! Roughly two-thirds are in stock already, with the most of the remainder due by February 14.


Here's an updated list of advance orders for Gravity Head 2006, as of February 14, 2006.

Please note that owing to special circumstances, Gravity Head 2006 has been moved forward two weeks, and will begin on Friday, February 24.

We believe this change will occur this year only, and in 2007, the festival will revert to its usual starting position during the second weekend in March.

Or perhaps not.

As the weeks pass, this list will be augmented with further information. Remember that foraging proceeds apace, and there will be numerous changes to the roster between now and opening day.

Read: Contact me about group seating possibilities for Gravity Head opening night.

A brief history of Gravity Head, 1999-2006.

* indicates that the beer already is in stock at Rich O's.

# indicates a beer that will be appearing at Rich O's for the first time.


Avery "The Beast", 14.9% abv ... ETA circa March 16

Avery "The Reverend", 10% abv ... ETA circa March 16

#*Bell’s Batch 7000, 12% abv

Bluegrass Brewing Company Professor Gesser's Mind Numbing Ale, circa 9% abv

#Browning's Brewery Imperial Stout, circa 9% abv (firkin)

#*Clipper City (Heavy Seas) Below Decks, 11% abv

#Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree IPA, 13.6% abv ... ETA March 16

#*Dark Horse Sapient Trip, 8.6% abv

*Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter, 9.5% abv

#*Flying Dog Horn Dog Barley Wine, 10.5% abv

#Founders Blushing Monk Belgian Razz, 9.5% abv ... ETA March 1

*Founders Devil Dancer Triple IPA, (2004) 13% abv

*Founders Dirty Bastard, 8.3% abv

#*Great Divide Hibernation Ale, 8.1% abv

*Great Divide Hercules Double IPA, 9.1% abv

*Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout, 9.5% abv

*Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout, 9.5% abv

#*Great Divide Old Ruffian Barley Wine, 10.2% abv

*NABC Stumble Bus, (2005) circa 10% abv

#*NABC Thunderfoot Imperial Stout, 10% abv

*New Holland Dragon’s Milk, 10.5% abv

#*North Coast PranQster, 7.6% abv

#*Ringneck Brewing Old 21 Imperial IPA, 8.5% abv

#*Ringneck Brewing Bourbon Aged "FOTB” Barley Wine, circa 11% abv

#Rocky River Neptune's Nemesis, 8% abv

#*Rogue (John's Locker Stock) Skull Splitter, 8.5% abv

*Rogue XS Old Crustacean Barley Wine, (2002) 11.5% abv

*Rogue XS Imperial Stout, 11% abv

*Rogue XS I2PA, 9.5% abv

*Stone Double Bastard Ale, 10% abv

*Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine, (2005) 11.26% abv

*Two Brothers Bare Tree Weiss Wine, 10.2% abv




*Samichlaus Bier (2001) 14% abv


#Chouffe La Gnomette, 9% abv

*De Ranke Guldenberg, 8.5% abv

Gouden Carolus Classic, 8.5% abv

Gouden Carolus Tripel, 9% abv

#*La Rulles Cuvee “Best Wishes”, 7.3% abv (moved from Saturnalia MMV)

*N'Ice Chouffe, (2004) 10% abv

#*'t Smisje Dubbel, 9% abv

#*'t Smisje Kerst, 11% abv

#*Urthel Hop-It Belgian IPA, 9.5% abv

*Urthel Samaranth Quadrium, 11.5% abv


#*Unibroue Maudite, 8% abv


*EKU 28, 11% abv

*Kulmbacher Reichelbrau Eisbock, 9.2% abv

*Weihenstephaner Korbinian Doppelbock, 7.4% abv


#*Christoffel Winter Bock, 7.2% abv


*Gale’s Christmas Ale, (2005) (cask-conditioned firkin)

*Gale’s Prize Old Ale (2004), 9% abv

JW Lees Moonraker, 7.5% abv

*JW Lees Vintage Harvest Ale, (Willoughbys crusted port barrel aged; 2004; firkin), 11.5% abv

JW Lees Vintage Harvest Ale, (Lagavulin Scotch barrel aged; 2005; pin), 11.5% abv

*Old Engine Oil Special Reserve, (Invergordon Scotch barrel aged; 2005), 8.5% abv (firkin)



*Kiuchi Hitachino Nest New Year’s Celebration Ale 2006, 9% abv



Arcadia Hopmouth Imperial IPA ... was not shipped as originally promised.

De Dolle Dulle Teve (Mad Bitch) ... to be shipped after Gravity Head.

JW Lees Vintage Harvest Ale ... non-wood aged; was not shipped from the UK.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

"Tiny patrons" in the bar -- but not the way you'd think.

Now, this one’s really good.


“The City Life: Guy Walks into a Bar,”

Nicholas Kulish (published in the New York Times on February 5, 2006).

Recently my friend Brandon and I walked along Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn looking for a place to watch a football game and to quench our thirst for a cold brew. I pushed open the door and we were headed for a pair of empty stools when we both stopped cold. The bar was packed with under-age patrons.

Some of them stumbled around the pub, others stood on chairs shouting. A few lay back, heads lolling, looking ready to be carried out.

"Stroller derby," Brandon muttered, and we left.

Call me a hard-liner or a party pooper, but I say 21 means 21. No more babies in bars.

Obviously, today's working parents are eager to spend a little quality time with their youngsters, and we're used to seeing small fry everywhere from fancy restaurants to art gallery openings. I've adjusted to the idea that many otherwise reasonable people believe there's no point in paying for a baby sitter on movie night when their toddler can entertain himself by kicking the back of my chair.

But bars? A group of 19-year-olds would be stopped at the door, but no one has the guts to card the really little ones. I blame the law of unintended consequences — in this case, the no-smoking movement. Sure, cigarettes are a public health problem. But the smoky bar filled with unhealthy grown-ups at least felt like a bar. Now, the local gin joints look more like jungle gyms.

It was the bartenders' exposure to secondhand smoke that inspired the tobacco ban. Now their lungs are presumably healthier. But they are saddled with a raft of tiny patrons who never buy drinks. They bring their own bottles. And they never tip.


Indiana state law defines an establishment’s floor plan in terms of family room seating and barroom seating, and any person under the age of 21 is not supposed to be in a barroom, even babies. There exists a vague exception about children dining with parents if no other seating is open, but given the thickness of the state’s alcohol rulebook and the varying interpretations it conceivably affords, it’s better to be literal in most cases.

During my travels in Europe, I’ve watered at bars, cafes and pubs far too many to enumerate, and watched patrons dining and drinking alongside children of all ages and sizes, as well as with dogs, cats and other pets. You’d like to think that such egalitarianism contributes to kids learning the proper way to enjoy alcoholic beverages, i.e., in a family atmosphere, rather than surreptitiously and abusively.

Obviously, parents must be cognizant of their responsibility in such a setting, and also aware that they have an obligation to instruct their children how to behave. Nothing’s worse than an adult food and drink venue being used as a romper room for young children, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

The European approach -- presence and parenting -- is the one that appeals to me, but America’s Puritan legacy often conspires to thwart common sense. That's our loss, both in this and in many other parts of life.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Stupor Bowl advertising memories, attendant controversies, and the empire of wet air.

As noted in NFL: Humorous beer commercials crack open a controversy, by Joe Lapointe of the New York Times, beer is the most advertised product during the Stupor Bowl, America’s annual national sports Sunday holiday from reality.

As Lapointe’s article reveals, there is another side to the ubiquity of megabrew advertising. Some researchers contend that certain of the ads “associate alcohol with destruction,” and others that “youth who saw more alcohol advertisements on average drank more.”

And here I thought that they were merely numbingly stupid, but to be honest, even the Curmudgeon laughed at Anheuser-Busch’s “magic fridge” spot.

During the now mercifully concluded NFL campaign, I watched not more than three downs of any regular season or playoff game until the Stupor Bowl finale, which was viewed from beginning to end with the not unappreciated assistance of close friends, a pot of chili, a growler of Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen and a six-pack of Founders Red’s Rye.

The most annoying of all the A-B shill pieces was the one heralding the birth of a dark AND light beer, Michelob Ultra Amber, perhaps also known as the Q-38 Beer Simulator, which may or may not be any number of things, but that most assuredly is not the first “light dark-colored beer.”

There’s this style called Mild, and it is still brewed in England … aw, never mind. I suppose such a product does in fact appear to be revolutionary when viewed in the context of lifelong Lite lappers.

Previously, in Coors Light – Always better the second time around (May 9, 2005), the Curmudgeon explored the topic of megabrewery television advertising.

Last week, (my wife) asked why television advertisements for America’s “Big Three” multinational megabrewers invariably insult the intelligence (a term I use guardedly) of their own loyal consumers, depicting them variously as leering lechers, bumbling simpletons, and graceless bobble-heads.

Then, as now, there’s no clear answer.

It remains the height of disingenuous prattle for the megabreweries and their sycophant ad agencies to deny that children watch beer ads and form opinions from them that may influence choices later in life.

At the same time, the closer proximity of living, breathing and sometimes vomiting role models surely plays a larger part in this process.

Televised depictions of swill-addled morons almost certainly exalt violence and anti-social behavior, but probably no more so than the 75% or more of motorized vehicle advertisements, which invariably tout the destruction of topsoil and the absorption of impact by comets as the very epitome of the driving experience.

Not to mention video games and the latest offerings at the megaplex.

Does the existence of these advertisements preface the persistent American disdain for education, or is it the other way around?

There’s one to consider over an aluminum-clad, low-calorie, alcohol-delivery device – just don’t forget your bag ‘o’ Big Bufords.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Legislative update: Two Indiana House bills that restrict consumer choice by targeting small breweries and wineries.

I’m tracking legislation in the Indiana House and Senate with potentially adverse commercial consequences for the state's small-scale, artisanal beer and wine producers.

To express the reasons for this situation in a nutshell, the recent US Supreme Court ruling on wine shipments is being construed (probably correctly) by the wholesale alcoholic beverage lobby nationwide as potentially injurious to its protected status within the "three-tier" distribution system maintained as a bulwark against genuine free trade since the repeal of Prohibition.

Combine the weight of the skittish wholesaler lobby with relentless efforts by various groups working toward occasionally worthy matters like reducing teenage drinking, and it's not surprising to see legislators in most states scrambling to tighten regulations on alcohol distribution and to preserve the sacred status of the three-tier system -- not because the system is particularly Constitutional in nature or ever really was from the beginning, but because a considerable bureaucracy exists to perpetuate the three tiers, and as we know all to well, bureaucracies ranging from Communism to apartheid seldom put themselves out of business without a stake driven directly into the heart.

Here are summaries of what is objectionable about these bills. Bear in mind that both incorporate measures to deprive legal consumers of alcoholic beverages of choice, and to further reduce free trade in business that enjoys precious little of it from the start.

House Bill 1190: Farm winery sales to retailers.

See this article in the Indiana Law Blog.

The bill originally was authored by Rep. Marlin Stutzman, and later Rep. Eric Koch was added as co-author. Rep. Koch, a friend of small wineries, was dismayed with the final form of the bill, eventually speaking and voting against it.

Nevertheless, it passed and moves on to the Senate. Happily, local Representatives Bill Cochrane, Carlene Bottorff and Paul Robertson voted against the bill.

If HB 1190 emerges from the Senate in its present form and becomes law, Indiana's small wineries would not be able to ship wine to customers or to sell to retailers without the wine first passing through the hands of a wholesaler. It should suffice to say that these existing conditions of business have prefaced the business plans of Indiana's small wineries, with the inevitable conclusion that they would be affected deeply by such a change.

As the prescient folks at the Indiana Law Blog point out, the bill offers a bizarre plan to discontinue a system that currently works as intended and to substitute for it a convoluted compromise that does nothing except add layers of profit to middlemen.


House Bill 1250: Alcoholic Beverage Matters

The major impetus of HB 1250 appears to be placating concerns that grocery stores and pharmacies are not as tightly regulated as package liquor stores with respect to alcohol sales. There are a number of seemingly minor changes and alterations, but one that stands out for small brewers:

This is the section of the current law that allows dock sales and growler sales at Indiana’s small breweries, which may …

(7) Sell and deliver beer to a consumer at the plant of the brewer or at the residence of the consumer. The delivery to a consumer shall be made only in a quantity at any one (1) time of not more than one-half (1/2) barrel, but the beer may be contained in bottles or other permissible containers.

This passage is deleted in the current version of HB 1250, which appears to be heading to the Senate in this form, although I’m not certain if the final vote has yet been taken.

Oddly, HB 1250 preserves the legal right of small breweries to sell directly to retailers, which HB 1190 proposes to take AWAY from small wineries. It isn’t clear whether a retailer with package sales amendment and a brewery (for example, NABC) could continue selling bottles of beer it doesn’t make, but be restricted from selling growlers of beer brewed on site.

Rep. Stutzman, whose district borders Michigan north of Ft. Wayne, is a chief mover behind both the preceding bills. He has not answered e-mails asking him to explain his position.


Here is contact information for Southern Indiana's Senators. If you’re a resident of Indiana, please drop all three a line to let them know your feelings on the matter, and don’t hesitate to use the URL of this posting as a reference.

Connie Sipes
Senate District 46 (Floyd and part of Clark)
1825 Ekin Avenue
New Albany, IN 47150
(812) 948-9445
E-mail: S46@in.gov

James Lewis
Senate District 45 (Clark and points east)
774 Level Street
Charlestown, IN 47111
(812) 256-3585
E-mail: S45@in.gov

Richard D. Young, Jr.
Senate District 47 (Harrison & Crawford, points west)
10347 E. Daugherty Lane
Milltown, IN 47145
(812) 633-4946
E-mail: S47@in.gov

Monday, February 06, 2006

Mustard seeds, Linden blossoms, and the expressive world of Regenboog.

Wostyntje, a Belgian ale brewed with mustard seeds, is on tap at Rich O's.

The Brouwerij de Regenboog ("rainbow" in Dutch) is located in a suburb of Brugge, Belgium, and as many times as I've visited, I've yet to make contact with the owner, brewer, bee keeper and chief bottle washer, Johan Brandt. He's been making plans to move the brewery elsewhere, perhaps all the way to Oudenaarde (in East Flanders), so perhaps I'll find him there someday.

Wostyntje is brewed with 90 % pilsner and 10 % munich malts, and Kent Goldings and Challenger hops. Dark candi sugar and crushed "Torhout Mustaard" seeds are added late in the boil, and light candi sugar is used to prime the bottled version. Alcohol content is 5% by volume.

The ale is a tawny golden or soft brown in color, and while there's not really a mustard flavor, a hint of spice and a mild bitterness seemingly not derived from hops serve notice of the not-so-secret ingredient's presence.

I'm dreaming of how Wostyntje complements food, and in particular, I'm imagining a pairing with the Waterzooi served at the Hotel Erasmus in Brugge.

Regenboog's 't Smisje Blond Ale (6% abv) also is on tap. The recipe is not at all complex: Pilsner malt, Challenger hops and spiced with lime (Linden) blossoms.

Look for Johan's 't Smisje Dubbel (9% abv) and 't Smisje Kerst (Christmas ale; 11% abv) during Gravity Head.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

That certain summer, and my efforts to remember it.

From contract-brewed Carlsberg chasing moussaka in the shadow of the Acropolis to the touristed but essential ambience of Munich's Hofbrauhaus ... from creamy draft Guinness served in international waters aboard the ferry to Ireland, to reindeer sausage with "Admiral" lager in Finland ... my inaugural journey to Europe in 1985 provided a primer for an appreciation of beer that has continued to grow and expand in the years since.

Of course, I didn't always understood what I was drinking, but you have to start somewhere.

Last year, possessed by the weight of twenty years suddenly gone by, I commenced an effort to document the events that transpired during my first European interlude.

As with virtually every project I undertake, the travel chronicle series was undertaken with the best of intentions, but of course the initial fervor eventually dissipated, and only three installments were published. Now there is a fourth. Here's the complete list of locations at the NA Confidential blog:

4 - It was twenty years ago today ... a stay in Pecetto, and the way to Wien.

3 - It was twenty years ago today ... and one fine day in the Italian countryside.

2 - It was twenty years ago today ... and 48 hours to Istanbul.

1 - It was twenty years ago today …

With luck (and time), there’ll be more to follow. Happy reading.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Contact me about group seating possibilities for Gravity Head opening night.

You already know that Gravity Head 2006 opening weekend is Friday and Saturday, February 24 and 25.

Here’s the link to current Gravity Head beer information:

End of January update: "Gravity Head 2006: Reality ABV" advance orders preview.

If you’ve attended past Gravity Heads, you know that the first two nights are wall to wall insanity, especially Friday, although last year for the first time, Saturday night was busier than Friday. Certainly one reason for this was an eagerness to avoid opening night claustrophobia.

This year, we have a previously unavailable option in accommodating the crowds: Prost, the banquet/party room that we’ve been carving out of the wing of the building that formerly was occupied by the accounting office.

Numerous details are left to be resolved, and the remodeling isn’t completely finished, but it’s sufficiently close to completion to use during Gravity Head opening weekend.

Here’s the catch, and also the next issue that must be resolved before we’re able to use the new room for anything other than special events: The kitchen already is too small to handle the volume of business on a Friday, and packing another 50 people into Prost stands not to help the situation.

Now, we’re sorting through solutions to this problem, and there’ll be a workable plan of some sort soon, but the reason I’m telling you these things is that while Prost already is booked for Saturday night (the 25th), it’s available for Friday night. We’ll have a server just for the room, with drink service as always.

I’m doubting that there’ll be a large group to take up the whole space, so putting two smaller groups in Prost would relieve seating anxiety on the 24th, with the sole caveat that we need to discuss dining beforehand. Perhaps we can come up with something equitable to satisfy all of us on a crazy night.

Were you planning on bringing a larger-than-normal group to Gravity Head opening night on Friday, February 24? Contact me at roger@potablecurmudgeon.com, and we’ll discuss the options.

Note too that Prost is non-smoking. Eventually there will be a separately ventilated smoking area.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Barley Island bottled beers available at local package stores.

Barley Island Brewing Company is located in downtown Noblesville, Indiana, just north of Indianapolis, and near Carmel and Fishers. The brewmaster is Jon Lang, whom I've met at various beer functions and found to be a good-natured, talented fellow typical of the good people you meet in this business.

My old friend Joe Brower, Indy northside resident, has tipped more than one glass at Barley Island, and generally provides good reports as to the quality and ambience of the brewpub itself.

Having not visited, my impressions of Barley Island's beers have been gleaned from the aforementioned fests and the fairly recent availability of bottled (12-oz; six-pack) products: Dirty Helen Brown Ale and Brass Knuckles Oatmeal Stout. There may be another that I've missed -- Blind Tiger?

Also, and for reasons that elude me, I've yet to try the bourbon barrel (Buffalo Trace distillery) version of the Oatmeal Stout, so if any reader gets hold of one, bring it in and I'll swap a beer for it.

They're doing the bourbon barrel stout (or porter) the whole year round, which is a good idea, and it would be even better if a Kentucky-based pub brewer did it all the time (BBC Beer Company recently announced a co-branded bourbon barrel rollout).

Technically, both the Brown and the Oatmeal Stout are true to style and hit squarely in the middle of the target, with Dirty Helen attractive and quaffable at 4.3% abv (English Mild territory, bringing to mind NABC's Community Dark), and the Oatmeal Stout sufficiently roasty and bearing the silken touch expected from the genre.

Barley Island's obviously using a small-volume bottling system; the beers I sampled were fresh and the carbonation fine. Labels are stylish and stand out on the shelf -- and when you get into bottling, that's crucial.

If I had the choice of Avery Ellie's Brown and Anderson Valley Barney Flats, and given that Browns and Oatmeals Stouts aren't personal favorite styles, I might opt for the Colorado and California microbrewed versions if the price point were the same -- but my guess is that Barley Island's beers are a bit below that, leaving them a more economical alternative than these competing microbrews, and certainly a better buy than imported Samuel Smith's.

After Gravity Head, I'll try to bring in kegs of Barley Island for the all-important multi-pint test.

Meanwhile, I know that Keg Liquors and Bridge Liquors carries these beers.

Has anyone seen them at Old Mill or anywhere else?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Last night I had the strangest dream …

The last time I drank beer at the late and lamented Automat Koruna was 1991, shortly before it disappeared forever.

Long before the time of my first visit there four years earlier, the Automat had become a characteristically Communist “self-service” cafeteria, dirt-cheap and dirty, but certainly not so bad that it propagated salmonella, rendering it an ideal stop for budget travelers exploring Prague's architectural wonders.

It was located at the downhill extremity of Wenceslas Square, just a few feet away from the Metro stop, and as I subsequently learned, it was an experiment in culinary modernity that dated from the post-Great War period of Czechoslovak independence and actually was fondly remembered as a literary hangout, something that I suppose had faded during the latter period of neglect.

But what a place to drink and watch people during the Communist era!

It may have been a low common denominator in the eyes of judgmental Western visitors, and yet the clientele reflected an indisputably egalitarian ideal. Military men with medal-filled chests jostled for space with longhaired students; backpacking tourists and pretty shop clerks stood side by side; brown-suited functionaries left scraps on their plates, and scruffy street people scooped them up before the busser came to visit.

And the half-liter draft beers were four to a dollar.

You paid at the cashier, took the receipt through a customarily long line, handed it to the white-smocked pourers, and received a cool golden pilsner-style Prazan beer brewed in the Holesovice district – neither the best nor the worst in the then-insular Czech brewing world. You consumed it standing at a stainless steel table. You ate there, too, with a choice of a dozen appetizers, gritty but filling sausages, or whole plate lunches with meat and dumplings.

I dreamed about the Automat Koruna last night.

There it was again, bizarrely welcoming, and there I was againk, draining grain and watching the passers-by … and the reason for it eluded me, even in the dream.

How could this be real again, I thought?

Of course, it wasn’t, and I awoke to strange sensations of confusion and longing, the sort of tricks one’s subconscious enjoys playing on us as a reminder that it has the upper hand.

Four beers for a buck? It's a wonder I lived through it.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

"Go West" -- or, where the Rogue brewers are.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve looked forward to a holiday getaway as much as I’m looking forward to the April road trip to the Pacific Coast, an idea that was briefly sketched in a previous posting, “The Curmudgeon does Oregon? Americana? Is anyone safe?

In short, my friend Graham and I will be driving from New Albany to Portland, Oregon, there to meet his son and family and my wife -- and of course the inimitable Phil “Biscuit” Timperman of Horse Brass fame.

Subsequently, Diana and I will be traveling to Seattle, and Graham enjoying some quality time with the grandchildren in Portland.

Before the road trip rogues hit Portland, there’ll be a first-ever visit to the Rogue brewery in Newport – and I’m utterly psyched at the prospect.

In ten years of doing business with Rogue, the closest I’ve gotten to the brewery is Denver (during the Great American Beer Festival). At this point, I can’t even remember how we got together in the first place, but we did, and the routine hasn’t varied since.

I’ll talk to someone at Rogue (more often than not, Jim Cline, although at present my contact is Adam Lambert), pick 14 kegs to make up a pallet, and they’ll ship it to the North Vernon wholesaler via Best Beers in Bloomington. The kegs are drawn from the usual daily allotment of regular offerings ... with occasional twists.

Generally, but not always, we’ll have two Rogues on tap at any given time, with a vintage dated Old Crustacean every year at Gravity Head, and plenty of the more common Rogue brands (Brutal Bitter, St. Rogue Red, et al).

For a year or so, Rogue has promoted its “John’s Locker Stock” program, named for renowned head brewer John Maier, which in essence extends the courtesy of esoteric selection that Rich O’s has always enjoyed to any pub that wishes to participate, as such: Each month, a specific Rogue beer is showcased, and pubs nationwide receive their allotment of kegs to sell (in this case, the barrels come from World Class Beverage in Indianapolis).
Small batches, one-offs, revivals, seasonals … all are randomly available by spinning the John’s Locker Stock wheel of good brewing fortune. Unlike the casino, it’s a game that’s impossible to lose. They're all good.

In such fashion, the JLS listing for February has come down, and it’s a Gravity Head starter if it gets here on time. Just one thing: Don’t confuse it with the Scottish ale of the same name from the Orkney Islands.

Skull Splitter ~ a strong ale, first brewed as Test Batch #2 in the summer of 2003, (a.k.a. Black Brutal Bitter) for the 2005 Oregon Brewers Festival, this beer is very dark for a strong ale--one on-line reviewer reports it looks like a stout but smells like a double IPA. Skull Splitter is about 8-8.5% ABV. It is a retro-brew in that it was brewed before, but as always with Rogue, with a twist the second time around.

A review on Beeradvocate.com states: "Test batch #2. This new beer from Rogue pours out an opaque black color with a nice tan head. The aromas are all coffee, hops, roasted malts, and booze. The taste is a nice boozy blend of roasted malts, citric hops, and chocolate. The mouth feel is definitely medium-bodied and the drinkability is great!"

(Photo credits - www.rogue.com web site)