Thursday, March 30, 2006

LouisvilleHotBytes will join LEO in providing Louisville area "restaurant reviews and food-and-drink coverage."

Both the Curmudgeon and the BBC Beer God (otherwise known as David Pierce) are frequent visitors to the Louisville Restaurants Forum, which is moderated by food and wine writer Robin Garr – who also edits the quarterly beer columns I write for Food & Dining magazine.

Beer pops up on the forum fairly often, and because food and beer go so well together, it seems fitting and proper that I share this announcement from Robin.

I am absolutely delighted to announce that LouisvilleHotBytes will be joining with LEO to provide restaurant reviews and food-and-drink coverage for the region's first and best alternative newspaper.

We'll begin with the issue of April 12, and will introduce a new format that I like to call "blog on paper," featuring not only a lead weekly review of a restaurant (or several), with additional material that may range from capsule reviews to food-industry comment and opinion pieces, reports on what's coming and going, public-service announcements about food-related events and much more, along with photography provided by LouisvilleHotBytes, LEO staff and contributors.

I'll serve as lead writer and organizer but will count on a large and growing group of volunteers - including many familiar personalities from this forum and familiar contributors from LEO's staff - to provide an exciting and diverse range of voices and, not insignificantly, to ensure that key reviews are done anonymously. Like LEO itself, we're going to make this thing light, bright, interactive and reader-friendly, and maybe just a bit off-beat and even occasionally wacky. I can guarantee you this: It won't be your grandmother's staid, gray newspaper.

In addition to appearing in print in LEO every Wednesday, this feature (tentatively titled "LEO's Eat'n'Blog with LouisvilleHotBytes" unless we come up with something even better) will appear after print publication on both LEO's Website and LouisvilleHotBytes.I'm excited to have LEO join the growing list of LouisvilleHotBytes media partners ... it goes without saying that I'll continue my editor-in-chief and content-providing relationship with Food & Dining and my recently launched restaurant and wine columns in The Voice-Tribune.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Coffee – the other beverage of choice for the Curmudgeon.

My Wednesday morning bicycle ride brought me into proximity of Caffe Classico on Frankfort Avenue in Louisville, and another great conversation with Tommie Mudd, the owner.

Tommie has a marvelous new neon sign that displays “open” in English, Spanish and Arabic.

The Danesi brand Italian-roast espresso is top-notch, as always; they're the same beans I buy from him for the Saeco home espresso machine.

Using beer as a point of comparison, Classico’s espresso is smooth and burnished like an aged Old Crusty, while the roast served at places like Heine Brothers is more aggressive, like a young Double IPA (see yesterday’s rumination about Hoptimus).

Both have their place.

Visit Robin Garr’s web site for more information – there hasn’t been an update for a year or so, but the information’s sufficiently accurate. Tommie serves beer, too, including Duvel and sometimes Chimay Blue, and he has been expanding the schedule of activities during evening hours.

If memory serves, Classico is now closed on Monday.

Maido Essential Japanese is but a few minutes down Frankfort Avenue in one direction, and the Irish Rover only a couple of blocks away in the other. The Grape Leaf – super Middle Eastern cuisine but no beer – is just across the street.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

NABC brewery news: St. Radegund & Hoptimus.

During their months together, NABC’s brew crew of Jesse Williams and Jared Willamson have developed a creative and productive working rhythm, and apart from the occasional blown bung of Imperial Stout and a dead baby squirrel, life in the brewhouse is efficient and settled.

Just don’t ask me to explain the squirrel.

Having narrowed the daily beer range to five during the crazy time of the brewery expansion and serving tank installation, we’re thinking again about seasonals and one-offs.

Forthcoming is an English bitter called St. Radegund, which calls to mind a dragon-slaying abbess from the Dark Ages and a Cambridge, England pub where several of us have drained the grain. Half the naturally carbonated batch will be served by hand pump, and the remainder with CO2. St. Radegund is set to debut during the first week of April.

It must be said that both the batches that Jesse managed to squeeze in during the unpredictable brewery expansion period were bona fide winners: Old Lightning Rod and Thunderfoot Imperial Stout. There isn’t any left of Benjamin Franklin’s tercentenary ale, although we’ll brew it again next year.

We’re holding on to a few kegs of Thunderfoot. How will it age? It will be tasted and portions released at selected intervals, and one entire keg will be kept until Gravity Head 2007.

Meanwhile, if drinker comments are any gauge, Jesse’s struck gold with his session Double IPA (if there can be such a thing), Hoptimus.

Hoptimus is brewed with Simpson's Golden Promise malt; Northern Brewer, Fuggles and Cascades hops; and fermented with the house London ale yeast. It is dry-hopped in the kegs with Fuggles and Cascades. The OG is 1.094, and IBU's are somewhere around 100.

The alcohol by volume is 9%, and although it’s a clichĂ©, be aware that Hoptimus is deceptively drinkable.

There’s much to like for the card-carrying hophead, but to me the most endearing quality of Hoptimus is its youth. Without a concerted effort on our parts to stash a keg somewhere, it’s never going to be around long enough to “mature,” and in this sense, I believe Hoptimus bears comparison to certain young wines, and especially Ruby Port – a bit rough around the edges, but honest and in the end, better for it.

I drank three pints last night – and felt a bit rough around the edges this morning.

But refreshed, and seemingly better for it.

Monday, March 27, 2006

I’m guessing she’s not a beer enthusiast.

Desperately in need of content, the Louisville Courier-Journal recently ran this piece of fluff from the Rockies:

You are what you drink, by Sheba R. Wheeler, Denver Post Staff Writer.

The premise is reasonable:

Experts have made a science out of pegging people's inner qualities based on their outer actions. Personality shows up in everything we do, and folks judge us accordingly.

The music we download, the clothes we wear and the cars we drive reflect who we are, how we view the world and how we choose to interact in it at any given moment, says Cherry Creek psychologist Maximillian Wachtel.

The same principles apply to alcoholic beverages. Particularly so because they often contribute to the first impressions we make on others - sometimes on a date, other times at a business dinner or a family reunion.

It's all downhill from there. The writer goes so far as to list personality types as indicated by different varieties of flavored vodka, but predictably, beer is lumped into one generic category -- as though the Miller Lite drinker and the consumer of Imperial Stout were one and the same.

The less said about it, the better.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Third and final chapter (for now) of Ted Fulmore's "The Rise and Fall of Market Street Brewery."

Local historian Ted Fulmore has finished his astonishing exploration of 19th-century brewing history on 10th Street in New Albany:

Part 3 - The Rise and Fall of Market Street Brewery.

Here are links to the two earlier installments:

Part 2 - The Rise and Fall of Market Street Brewery.

The Rise and Fall of Market Street Brewery (Part 1).

The Publican/Curmudgeon lives perhaps two hundred yards east of the location Ted describes. I'd like to say that this fact entered into my thinking while house shopping, but that's not the case; as noted previously, it wasn't thought that the two buildings in question were used for brewing. Ted’s diligent research emphatically indicates otherwise.

(Photo credit: Ted Fulmore)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Spring 2006 sports ‘n’ beer events from Rick and Jeff tours: Horses, golf and the Cubbies.

Jeff “Professor” Gesser’s namesake BBC (St. Matthews) strong ale ran out on Friday, and coincidentally, the man himself stopped in shortly thereafter to make us aware of the spring slate of activities offered by his Rick and Jeff Tours.

Ask anyone who’s gone along for the ride, the Curmudgeon included, and you’ll be told that these sports-themed excursions are well-organized, great fun, and always incorporate craft beer from Louisville-area breweries.


We have some spring and summer events that may interest you:

April 23 (Sunday) … Spring Keeneland Trip.
Includes barbecue, beer, reserved seats, fun, and transportation. This the seventh year in a row and it’s always a great time. Cost is $55.

June 4 (Sunday) … Pubfest Golf Scramble.
12:00 noon at the Old Capitol Golf Club in Corydon, Indiana. It is a great course! The cost is $65 includes prizes, beverages & cookout.

July 14, 15, and 16 (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) … Weekend at Wrigley Field and Chicago.
We have been trying for four years to get tickets, and finally we succeeded. It’ll be the Cubs vs. the New York Mets:

Tickets for the Friday game (1:20 pm) are in section 211.
Take Saturday off to enjoy Chicago.
Sunday tickets (5:05 pm) are in section 229.

This trip includes two nights in downtown Chicago at the Homewood Hilton Suite. The bus leaves Friday morning at 6:00 a.m. Lunch is provided on the way, and of course beer and soft drinks will be provided for the entire weekend.

Cost is $425 per person based on double occupancy. Rates drop for three and four to a room.

We have received tremendous interest in this trip, so reservations are a must! $150 Deposits are due by May 15.

Call Jeff Gesser at 502.807.7531 or e-mail Rick Southward with questions or reservations. Visit rickandjefftours to keep updated.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Great beer in Broad Ripple

There’s not better beer destination in Indiana that Broad Ripple Village, where one hundred yards of Monon Trail pedway separates Broad Ripple Brewpub and Brugge Brasserie -- Indiana’s first and most recently established breweries, respectively.

We visited both yesterday while in Indianapolis for the Oasis concert downtown at the Murat.

There was a quick half-pint at Broad Ripple Brewpub, then a stroll around the neighborhood. Brugge Brasserie offered a pleasant interlude as the afternoon crowd shuffled in: Herring snacks and Belgian fries accompanied by house-brewed Pale Ale and The Black – the latter a quasi-Porter or Stout grist brewed with Belgian ale yeast, and something that needs to be attempted far more often than it is.

Back at BRB, the focus was on Scotch Eggs and D’s Salad with Grilled Portobello … with a hand-pulled Bitter first, capped off by the pub’s enduring ESB, which I’ve named the all-time Indiana signature microbrew (Alpha King being a very close second).

Elsewhere in the village, there are numerous imports and microbrews on tap to complement the English and Belgian brewing heritages celebrated at BRB and Brugge Brasserie.

From New Albany, take I-65 north into downtown Indianapolis and exit at Meridian. Follow Meridian north to Westfield Blvd. (the next cross street after 58th, I believe), and follow it straight into the heart of Broad Ripple. Both the pubs are to the north as you enter the built-up area. Park somewhere, get out – and walk!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Part 2: The Indianapolis Star's "Sunday alcohol law" poll.

See yesterday’s post: Part 1: The Indianapolis Star's "Sunday alcohol law" poll.

When it comes to Indiana’s enduring “blue” law against Sunday package sales, I’ve spent more than two decades in a perpetual state of bemusement derived primarily from watching my state hemorrhage tax revenue into a neighboring state’s coffers on one of every seven days.

In my case, that beneficiary state is Kentucky – but on the other hand, a majority of people from central and northern Indiana believe that Kentucky begins just south of Columbus – maybe that should be Seymour, or how else do we explain John Mellencamp’s status as “Hoosier” icon?

Perhaps you have to live near a state line to grasp this.

Meanwhile, it comes as no surprise that fundamentalists, health fascists and professional anti-teen drinking lobbyists are opposed to an “expansion” of alcohol sales into Sunday – where they’re already allowed on-premise and have been for years, and even recently “expanded” from restaurants to any licensed facility that sells Fritos as its primary foodstuff.

Here’s that part of the poll that I found most intriguing:

The Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, which represents liquor stores, is against Sunday package sales.

John Livengood, the organization's president, said many liquor stores are family-run businesses where Sunday is their only day off. He said there may not be enough customers for liquor stores to warrant being open an additional day.

"People are just used to buying on Saturdays or Mondays," he said.

On the surface, this seems an exceedingly bizarre argument on behalf of mom ‘n’ pop package stores. One would imagine that if given the option of opening or not opening on Sunday, either mom or pop would be better placed to decide if the trade justifies it than the state legislature. If “yes,” someone goes into work on Sunday or must be hired to do so, and if “no,” the door need not be opened at all.

Same as on any other day of the week, right?

It’s not so simple, though. If one recalls that Livengood and the IABR were the prime movers of recent legislation requiring grocery store and drug store alcohol sales regulations to be tightened and brought into line with those applying to package stores, it all becomes very clear. The IABR’s support of Sunday as a “rest day” is intended primarily to keep Wal-Mart out of the game, even if it means excluding mom ‘n’ pop outlets, too.

The Indy Star didn’t dig that deep – but that’s what I’m here to do, anyway.

Kindly note that I have deep and abiding love and respect for the institution of the mom ‘n’ pop package store, and not just because I’ve spent so much money in such establishments. I cut my teeth stringing at one, and have good friends who own and work at others. Price competition from the supermarket chains and big boxes is oppressive for the mom ‘n’ pop shops, which survive in many locales solely because of half-pints and cold six-packs.

Unfortunately for the older generation of package store operators, few have shown an aptitude for reinventing their operations into distinctive and profitable niche market leaders in the fashion that my friend Todd has at Keg Liquors in Clarksville, where craft beers are increasingly important to the bottom line, and Todd is trying hard to provide the specialized knowledge so important to selling them successfully.

In the end, the bottom line is unchanged: Indiana’s remaining Sunday “blue” laws are laughable, and are a messy vestige of government interference in private decision making that has no place in contemporary Hoosier life. They should be gutted at the first opportunity, but remembering that this is Indiana, don’t hold your breath.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Part 1: The Indianapolis Star's "Sunday alcohol law" poll.

It usually isn’t my habit to reprint entire stories from other sources, but I’m making an exception today for the simple reason that the piece is from the Indy Star, a newspaper in the Gannett stable, and Internet readers are given only one week to read Gannett newspaper articles before they're relegated to the for-pay archive.

The Curmudgeon intensely dislikes this practice, but as my friend Buddy (who’s on the Gannett payroll in Louisville) frequently remarks, it’s guh-NETT – as in “net” profit.

I’ll reserve my comments about the poll results for Thursday’s episode of the Curmudgeon. For now, read and absorb.


March 20, 2006

Indianapolis Star poll: Half of Hoosiers oppose lifting Sunday alcohol laws; Support for liquor sales restrictions remains strong.

Hoosiers who favor keeping state laws that prevent most Sunday alcohol sales outnumber those who oppose the restrictions, according to a new poll.

Fifty percent of those surveyed favored keeping the current laws, while 43 percent supported allowing more Sunday sales of beer, wine and liquor, according to a poll commissioned by The Indianapolis Star. The poll, conducted Feb. 28 to March 2, is based on the responses of 501 residents statewide.

The poll, conducted by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, Iowa, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

A wide range of groups oppose expanding liquor sales at convenience, grocery and liquor stores to seven days a week, from conservative Christians to advocates trying to curb underage drinking and even mom-and-pop liquor store operators anxious to preserve their one day off.

Pam Ingram, 49, from the southwestern Indiana town of Bloomfield, said she doesn't see anything wrong with having one day without alcohol sales in stores. "I just don't see a purpose for the sales," said Ingram, who added that she does not consider herself anti-alcohol. "If you want it on Sunday, there are six other days you can get it."

Rural residents were less likely to support Sunday store sales than urbanites, according to the poll. Rosemary Eads, 50, who lives in Indianapolis' Fountain Square area, said stores should be allowed to sell alcohol to compete with restaurants and bars.

"If they can, then I don't understand why grocery stores can't," she said. "It doesn't make sense."

Religion also is related to how people feel about the issue, said J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co.

"In a state like Indiana, there's a fairly substantial number of born-again Christians, so the results aren't surprising," she said, "but they don't account for everyone."

Darrin Jackman, 37, Plainfield, said he hoped Sunday sales would remain banned out of respect for Sunday as a religious day. Jackman, a Christian, said he occasionally drinks but considers Sunday to be special.

"The day should remain sacred and holy," he said.

Economics, however, should prompt a move to Sunday sales, a grocery and convenience store lobbyist said. Grant M. Monahan, president of the Indiana Retail Council, said allowing Sunday sales provides convenience for shoppers and helps retailers sell inventory.

"Customers often use free time on Sunday to catch up on everything in their busy lives, including shopping," he said. "Many do their shopping on Sunday and would like to purchase alcohol."

The General Assembly did not address Sunday liquor sales this year, but Monahan said he hopes the law will one day be reconsidered.

Not everyone associated with the liquor industry favors relaxing the Sunday "blue laws," as the laws are also called. The Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, which represents liquor stores, is against Sunday package sales.

John Livengood, the organization's president, said many liquor stores are family-run businesses where Sunday is their only day off. He said there may not be enough customers for liquor stores to warrant being open an additional day.

"People are just used to buying on Saturdays or Mondays," he said.

Limiting Sunday sales also makes it for difficult for minors to obtain alcohol, said Lisa Hutcheson, director of the Indiana Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking. She said she thinks many Hoosiers believe it is a positive thing to limit alcohol sales for at least one day.

"If you want alcohol on Sunday, why can't you just buy it on Saturday?" she said.

Ingram said that she and many others hope Indiana's alcohol laws won't change soon to allow Sunday package liquor sales.

"I don't have anything against drinking," she said, "but I don't see a need to expand the laws."

Sidebar: A divided state.

Indiana laws prohibit the sale of alcohol in grocery, convenience and liquor stores on Sundays. A recent Indianapolis Star poll asked Hoosiers whether they favor or oppose such sales.

• Oppose Sunday sales: 50 percent

• Favor Sunday sales: 43 percent

• Not sure: 7 percent

Behind the numbers.

Here's a deeper look at The Star poll on whether alcohol sales should be permitted in stores on Sundays:

• Gender: Men feel more strongly than women about allowing alcohol sales in stores on Sundays. Forty-nine percent of men support Sunday sales compared with 36 percent of women.

• Age: A majority of poll respondents younger than 35 support Sunday sales; less than one-third of poll respondents older than 55 agree.

• Geography: Rural residents were less inclined than urban or suburban residents to support Sunday sales. But support for Sunday sales did not top 50 percent in any geographic grouping.

• Religion: Nearly 70 percent of those people who identify themselves as born-again Christians oppose Sunday sales.

The laws.

In Indiana, alcohol sales end at 3 a.m. Sundays and resume at 7 a.m. Mondays. By-the-drink sales are allowed from 10 a.m. Sundays to 12:30 a.m. Mondays.

By-the-drink sales on Sundays began in 1983, and the law was modified in 2004 to allow drink sales to start at 10 a.m. instead of noon. Any restaurant or bar with a valid liquor license can sell alcohol on Sundays; the General Assembly removed restrictions based on food sales during the 2005 session.

About the poll.

The Indianapolis Star poll was conducted by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, Iowa, from Feb. 28 to March 2.

The poll is based on telephone interviews with 501 Indiana residents age 18 and older. Interviewers contacted households using randomly selected telephone numbers.

The sample was drawn in such a way that every household equipped with a land-line telephone had an equal chance of being contacted. The poll was adjusted by age and race to reflect Indiana's population age 18 and older.
Most questions in the poll have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points at a confidence level of 95 percent for the full sample. The poll asked this question:

Would you favor or oppose allowing the sale of beer, wine and liquor in stores on Sundays?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Geography lesson: Stella is to Belgium what Corona is to Mexico -- pet shampoo.

In his autobiographical “The Factory of Facts,” the Belgian-American writer Luc Sante recalls the drab post-WW II industrial reality of his childhood home of Verviers, a city in the Wallonian rustbelt.

Reading Sante’s reflections on a society both stratified by factory life and traumatized by its wartime experience, my thoughts turned to lager beer of the German model.

Lager developed in lockstep with the industrial revolution throughout Europe, supplanting traditional beer styles that had origins in the countryside. It finally “conquered” Europe and the planet during the Cold War, taking full advantage of modern distribution and marketing techniques along the way.

More than one sociologist has observed that cigarettes represent the perfect adaptation of design to the necessities of time and space brought about by the industrial revolution, as well as the reduction in prices stemming from mass production. Cigarettes are cheap, effective conveyances of nicotine, and can be consumed while you’re waiting for the bus. Pipes and cigars take more effort – and more time.

Mass-market lager fully parallels cigarettes in this sense. It’s a quick and easy alcohol delivery device, familiar and trusted through saturation advertising techniques pioneered by odious totalitarian regimes, and benefits in the business sense from economy of scale and incessant "market rationalization,” which is geek-speak for “species extinction.”

Belgium has somehow managed to retain a healthy semblance of its diverse brewing heritage in spite of the country’s domestic consumption now favoring bland, mass-produced lagers to the tune of 70-30, and growing with each passing year.

While we can argue over whether the survivors of pre-industrial brewing traditions like farmhouse saisons, lambics, sour reds and Trappist ales are as “good” now as they were before, it is agreed that Belgium remains a country where there is relatively customary proximity to beers that differ from the industrial lager norm.

You can lead a tourist – a native, for that matter – to diversity … but you can’t make him think. For that reason, visitors to Belgium all too often fail to notice the numerous choices available for their enjoyment, exercising instead the world-renowned clueless timidity of the American psyche and subsisting on a beer diet of Stella Artois, Jupiler and Maes Pils – the Budweiser, Miller and Coors of Belgium.

Subsequently they compound this mistake by phoning my pub and asking me to help them find the beer they loved so much while in Belgium. Nine times out of ten, it’s Stella Artois ... and the next sound they hear is “click” as I hang up on them.

The Curmudgeon has considered and dismissed Stella Artois previously in this space (“Stella Artois? I'll pass”), but the bile came bubbling back to the surface recently when a customer gave me the drinks menu from a newly opened establishment in St. Matthews.

I won’t mention the name of the bar because I don’t intend to single them out for embarrassment, and besides, it’s a better than average beer list, with one glaring obscenity: Stella Artois on draft for $5 (presumably, in a 16-oz mixer pint).

That’s a higher price for Stella Artoise than for Guinness, Smithwick’s and Newcastle (all at $4.50), and the same price as Delirium Tremens and Hoegaarden.

I don’t have a problem with “what the market will bear,” especially in trendy areas of Louisville. What annoys me is that although Stella Artois has absolutely nothing to do with Belgian beer as it can and should be, any number of brain-dead revelers will coo over the price point as an affirmation of Belgian beer’s intrinsic goodness.

Don’t kid yourselves. Stella Artois is a formless industrial lager, cheaply made, and mass-produced by a nasty multinational corporation. It's priced twice as high as American beer of the same insipid stripe. There’s nothing Belgian about it. If you care so little about what passes through your lips, you might as well drink another Silver Bullet.

You deserve it -- even at half the price.

Monday, March 20, 2006

CJ visits the Wine Rack, Frankfort Avenue, Louisville.

There’s great coverage today for John Johnson and his Wine Rack store on Frankfort Avenue in Louisville.

Wine Guy: Owner makes shopping for spirits easier, by Chris Poynter (The Courier-Journal – limited time for article availability).

Johnson knows most of his customers by name -- and has memorized their tastes. He also has a personal philosophy: Wine should not be the drink of the upper crust only.

"A lot of the public is a little leery about a wine shop. They feel it will be snooty or snobby -- or that they will look stupid for not knowing something," he said. "I wanted to put people at ease when they walk through the door.

"It doesn't matter if they've been drinking wine for 20 years or a couple of months. If they're interested, I wanted to help them."

John's a great guy, and I'm happy to see his mug in the newspaper.

The Wine Rack is located next to the Heine Brothers coffee shop and Carmichael’s Bookstore. A walk along Frankfort Avenue from John’s store toward downtown Louisville takes you past numerous restaurants and shops, ranging from the Irish Rover to CafĂ© Classico and Maido, and is a monthly highlight of our household routine.

If only in New Albany ...

Sunday, March 19, 2006

More on New Albany's 19th-century Market Street brewery.

Local historian Ted Fulmore continues his exploration of brewing history on 10th Street in New Albany: Part 2 - The Rise and Fall of Market Street Brewery.
This has been tremendously exciting for me, and not just because the old-time brewing took place just down the street from where we currently live.

Previous researchers didn’t believe that the two buildings still standing at the site were from the brewing era. Ted’s research indicates otherwise, and history coming alive in this way is a satisfying and soulful phenomenon. Too bad we don't have a firmer idea of what the beers were like -- we can guess, but much has been lost and can never be recovered.

The first part is here: The Rise and Fall of Market Street Brewery (Part 1).

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Revamped Bistro New Albany? NABC's take?

This morning, at my NA Confidential blog, I reported a piece of cautiously optimistic news:

Volunteer Hoosier on downtown commitment; meanwhile, fresh hope for Bistro New Albany.

I’ve been asked on numerous occasions whether the New Albanian Brewing Company still intends to supply beer to the Bistro New Albany, given the revised ownership situation and the generally unsettled condition of the project after such bright initial prospects.

It’s a conditional “yes,” but I’d be lying if I said that my level of enthusiasm matches what I felt back in January.

This isn’t a knock at the new partnership in whatever configuration it eventually takes. Greg, the originator of the BNA concept whose health problems scuttled the opening in February (and who’s now out of the picture - hope's he's feeling okay) is someone I trust to share my views on the importance of craft beer and the proper way to sell it.

Unsurprisingly, until I’ve had a chance to meet the man who is coming in to take Greg’s place, I must reserve judgment as to whether the atmosphere will be conducive to NABC’s beers. His name's been given to me, but until there's public word on the status, it'll be kept confidential.

I know that Chef Dave Clancy’s cool, and that he's staying on, and that helps assuage my anxiety. Much has been passed along to me suggesting that very little will change from the template that Greg designed – and what change there is may well be for the better ... or not.

We’ll see. The recent brewery expansion project was designed with limited outside distribution in mind, but we’re still not a production brewery and won’t ever be. NABC’s capacity is brewpub scale, and on-premise by the pint is more profitable than selling to other establishment in the community – a point conveniently forgotten by a few of my less analytical political enemies.

However, in the right place – and with the right attitude – it would be worth it to have our beers on tap somewhere. Greg’s BNA was to have been such a place, and the revamped BNA might still be. Will the Bistro be up and running by mid-April, as I was told on Thursday night? And will the plan of operation include NABC ales?

Stay tuned. Just now, you know about as much as I do.

Friday, March 17, 2006

On tap today: Upland Castle Rock Red and BBC Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout.

I've been to Ireland. Drank Guinness in Ireland, enjoyed mussels in Ireland, saw U2 perform in Ireland and listened to some of the sexiest female accents to be heard in the world -- in Ireland.

Although I remain a committed fan of all things Irish, any "amateur night" holiday that causes wretched beer to be colored green and consumed along by prospective vomiteers with no known connection to Ireland is not one to be taken too seriously -- but as in so many other ways, the Irish know when not to take themselves seriously for the sake of the party.

We always try to showcase a relevant draft ale or two for the occasion of this Irish international holiday, and this year is no exception. Both the following newcomers will be on tap later this morning (March 17):

Upland Castle Rock Irish Red derives from the Indiana State Fair "Beer Geek" homebrewing competition's winning recipe, as brewed by our friends at Upland in Bloomington and distributed by the competition's sponsor, World Class Beverages. It's unpreviewed, but should be fun.

BBC Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout was launched in conjunction with last week's St. Patrick's Day Parade in Louisville, and comes to us for the first time.

I had a preview last week, and the libation is a balanced one, indeed. At first sip, the roastiness of the stout deftly shadows and masks the influence of the bourbon barrel, but as one gets deeper into the glass, the bourbon sweetness and alcoholic warmth come into play, leaving a quite satisfying and flavorful finish.

This is not an "in your face" bourbon barrel ale, and this will disappoint some, but I believe more will be entranced by the subtleties and complexities of flavor that go so far toward marking an ideally contemplative pint.

Read also: Bourbon barrel stout aging at BBC Beer Company.

And, of course, plenty of Guinness Stout and Smithwick’s Irish Ale will be on hand throughout the day. Remember that the Rich O's "black and tan" is a pint of each, mixed the way God intended -- in your stomach.

Green beer?

That's what you get when a Berliner-style lactic weiss bier is mixed with woodruff syrup ... and it's not a German-theme holiday today, is it?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

New Grist Beer -- more sorghum-based hope for Celiac beer lovers.

A little shy of a year ago, a contract-brewed, gluten-free ale was released in Indiana to much fanfare in the expanding community of Celiac Disease sufferers, who must avoid barley, wheat, rye, oats and spelt in their diets -- in short, the very grains used to brew almost every beer in the world:

Three cheers: Bard's Tale brings beer back to the Celiacs.

Unfortunately, there were quality control problems with the bottling process. Bottles of Bard’s Tale Dragon's Gold self-detonated continuously throughout the summer, and finally last fall, stocks were pulled and the wait began to see when the company's product would return to the shelves.

It still may, although apparently since Bard's Tale was released the Feds have become more interested in labeling requirements for such beers, and this has delayed several other entrants into what might become a crowded field.

In the meantime, a Wisconsin microbrewing competitor has a "sorghum beer" on the shelves – and it’s now in stock at Rich O’s.

The new beer is called New Grist, brewed by Lakefront Brewing Company in Milwaukee. I opened a bottle today, and in most respects it's similar to the Bard's Tale: Light, golden, well-carbonated, and with a slight bitterness up front, but ending sweet in a mildly buttery way that I’m guessing is a characteristic of sorghum.

Here’s the web site: New Grist Beer.

I'm hoping the bottles don't explode this time around.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Possible compromise in wine shipment saga?

According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Indiana’s legislators may have doffed their fading Groucho masks for long enough to see a potential compromise in the long-running wine shipment farce:

Wine-shipping compromise nears fruition; Senate approval needed today, by Lesley Stedman Weidenbener.

Rep. Paul Robertson, D-Depauw, whose district includes two wineries, said yesterday that the bill is a compromise, a true give-and-take among competing interests.

"Someone asked: Who gets the best deal?" Robertson said. "We have a bill that will keep the farm wineries in operation and keep the wholesalers and distributors as happy as they can be."

Of course, anything that keeps wholesalers “happy as they can be” hardly will be conducive to the consumer’s interest in free trade and the benefits of competition that proceed from it, but such is the intrinsic loopiness of the mandated three-tier distribution system.

Earlier, the Indiana Law Blog offered insight into just how convoluted Indiana’s legislators might seek to make this latest compromise:

The compromise legislation would create a direct wine seller's permit so that Indiana wineries and those in other states could ship to Indiana residents.

Wineries that sell less than 500,000 gallons of wine in Indiana and meet other qualifications would have to pay $100 a year for the permit. They would be able to ship 3,000 cases of wine to Indiana customers each year.

Customers ordering wine would first have to visit the winery in person and complete a face-to-face transaction, during which the winery could check their ID. Customers could then order up to two cases per month that could be shipped to them at home.

Presumably, the same “face to face” standard would apply to Indiana consumers ordering from a California winery.

Through the wonders of digital photography, it should be standard fairly easy to falsify.

Monday, March 13, 2006

New Albany's 19th-century Market Street Brewery.

Local historian and blogger Ted Fulmore has been doing research on the old New Albany brewery that once was located on 10th Street, between Market and Spring -- in short, about a hundred yards from where the Curmudgeon family resides.

Read about it here: The Rise and Fall of Market Street Brewery (Part 1).

When the second part is posted, I'll direct you to it.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Gravity Head 2006 update: Much yet to be sampled, but the end in sight.

Between noon on Friday and 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, nine Gravity Head listed beers expired and were replaced by nine others.

Here's the tapping status as we head into Monday. As you can plainly see, only a handful remain to be put on tap, with another small group in transit.

Of the 54 beers scheduled to appear between opening day and the conclusion of this eighth edition of the festival:

18 currently are on tap

5 are in house, waiting to be tapped

27 have departed (including 1 scratch and 1 accident victim)

4 remain in transit


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

Christoffel Werelds Winterbier (Winter Bock), 7.2% abv

Flying Dog Horn Dog Barley Wine, 10.5% abv

Founders Blushing Monk Belgian Razz, 9.5% abv

Gale’s Christmas Ale, (2005) (cask-conditioned firkin; hand pulled)

Gale’s Prize Old Ale (2004), 9% abv

Gouden Carolus Classic, 8.5% abv

Great Divide Hercules Double IPA, 9.1% abv

Great Divide Old Ruffian Barley Wine, 10.2% abv

Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout, 9.5% abv

Kulmbacher Reichelbrau Eisbock, 9.2% abv

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

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

Rogue XS I2PA, 9.5% abv

Rogue XS Imperial Stout, 11% abv

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

Urthel Samaranth Quadrium, 11.5% abv

Weihenstephaner Korbinian Doppelbock, 7.4% abv



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

Ringneck Brewing Old 21 Imperial IPA, 8.5% abv

Two Brothers Bare Tree Weiss Wine, 10.2% abv


Gouden Carolus Tripel, 9% abv

't Smisje Dubbel, 9% abv


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

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

Chouffe La Gnomette, 9% abv ... ETA March 16

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


Bell’s Batch 7000, 12% abv

Browning's Brewery Imperial Stout, circa 9% abv (firkin - blown bung accident victim)

Dark Horse Sapient Trip, 8.6% abv

De Ranke Guldenberg, 8.5% abv

EKU 28, 11% abv

Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter, 9.5% abv

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

Founders Dirty Bastard, 8.3% abv

Great Divide Hibernation Ale, 8.1% abv

Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout, 9.5% abv

JW Lees Moonraker, 7.5% abv

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

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

N'Ice Chouffe, (2004) 10% 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

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

Rocky River Neptune's Nemesis, 8% abv (will not be coming, after all)

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

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

Samichlaus Bier (2001) 14% abv

Stone Double Bastard Ale, 10% abv

't Smisje Kerst, 11% abv

Unibroue Maudite, 8% abv

Urthel Hop-It Belgian IPA, 9.5% abv

Note: There is an unexpected, unlisted "gravity" replacement ready to take the place of Gales Christmas Ale on the hand pump after depletion. It is Burton Bridge Thomas Sykes Ale, a 10% “winter ale” recently arrived from B. United International via Cavalier (Indiana).

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Picking raspberries.

Two days ago, it was the turn of Founders Blushing Monk Belgian Razz (9.5% abv) to take its place in the Gravity Head line.

Before we go any further, be aware that fruit beers generally do not rank in the upper echelons of the Curmudgeon’s pantheon of preferred beer styles. All too often, these are “dumb” beers that aim for the starter denominator, and are ridiculously sweet.

Of course, there are exceptions.

A real, traditional Belgian lambic from a brewery like Drie Fonteinen and Cantillon can be counted on to exhibit unalloyed fruit character when using raspberries or cherries and marrying the tartness of the genuine article with the funk and horsehair blanket so beloved of the world’s most elemental beer style.

And what of the Founders entry? The beer pours an unmistakable purplish-red, with a nice white collar. The raspberry flavor is sweet in front, then yields to a tartness (not sourness!) reminiscent of lambic but without the horsehair blanket element. Several drinkers have suggested that the tartness produces flavors not unlike cranberry.

Not bad for hangover ale, one to be sipped as the bacon and eggs are cooked and your eyes focus unsteadily on the morning newspaper. Even with the bolstering effect of the higher alcohol content, it’s hard to imagine drinking more than one … but Founders scores again, and I’ve yet to have a bad beer from the pride of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

If Blushing Monk represents a larger, less sweet version of the familiar Lindemans Framboise (5% abv), which leaves its Rich O’s tap slot to the tune of 20 liters every 10 or so days, year-round, then the ultimate in the super-sizing of raspberry-infused ale certainly must be Dogfish Head Fort (18% abv).

That’s not a misprint. Leave it to Dogfish Head to fashion an inventive, powerhouse raspberry ale that redefines the genre at an alcohol content of fruit schnapps, and to make so little of it (and at such a high price) that I hesitated to take a 750 ml bottle home.

Instead, I shared it with the Friday afternoon bar crowd. Fort pours a natural, amber hue with raspberry in the nose and far to the front in the mouth, but it is very quickly submerged in alcohol, finishing pleasingly dry and not unlike a brandy or complex liqueur.

It’s easy to imagine Fort being deployed as an aperitif, with ample fruit to tingle the taste buds, yet without stupid sweetness or an artificial taste in any way. It also strikes me as a good candidate for cellaring -- if you can find it.

Friday, March 10, 2006

NABC Elector Ale and author/lawyer/activist Gloria Allred at the Culbertson West.

See if you can spot the part of this photo that is profoundly tacky, out of place, and just plain wrong.

If you answered "that blue phallic swill symbol on the left," you're correct!

NABC helped to sponsor last evening's chat and book signing with Gloria Allred, which took place at the Culbertson West in downtown New Albany.

Our Elector Ale ("It makes democracy pointless") supplanted Amber Bock in the nicely appointed Culbertson Club bar for the evening, and was well received by a large crowd in attendance. I'm proud that NABC was represented, and thanks go to Carl and Steve (owners of Third Century Services) for having us.

For more information on the event, go to NA Confidential:

The week that was.

UPDATED: Gloria Allred's "Fight Back and Win," at Culbertson West this Thursday, March 9.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Indiana legislative update: Wine shipments.

There’s a legislative update of the wine shipping bill posted at the Indiana Law Blog:

Ind. Law - More on: Wine shipping resolution not dead?

As an incentive to remain engaged in the legislature’s consideration of this matter, ILB quotes a chilling passage from a story in the Madison Courier:

The “poison pill provision” says that if an exception to the three-tier system is deemed unconstitutional or invalid, then the state will limit rather than expand exceptions to the method. Simply put, if the state determines a winery or brewery is not following the three-tier system, then it will enhance the three-tier-system, and make regulations barring wineries from selling their products without the use of a wholesaler. The provision also could apply to wine tasting rooms in wineries.

If the provision passes, small wineries would be affected because wine tasting rooms would not fall within the parameters of the three-tier system.

According to Linda Jackson, a publicist for Indiana wineries, the “poison pill provision” would kill small Indiana wineries.

And if that were the case, would our small breweries be far behind?

Curmudgeon says: The three-tier system itself is unconstitutional, and it seems shameful to buttress the indefensible by running small business out of existence.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Blessed Beer: BBC Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout launch.

Good beer and good marketing? It isn't impossible, and as a case in point, read about BBC's bourbon barrel ceremonials ... starting tomorrow afternoon. Here's the press release:


On Thursday March 9th BBC Beer Company will launch its Jefferson's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout. The launch is in conjunction with the Baxter Avenue/Highlands St Patrick's Parade on March 11.

On the 9th of March 2006 at 5:30 pm, the BBC Taproom Brewery, located at 636 E Main Street in downtown Louisville, will hold “church” with Fr. Joe Fowler, who will bless the inaugural batch of the stout.

The blessing of the brew is to wish well to the brewery and all who imbibe, taste and enjoy this wonderful creation of man. In attendance will be BBC staff and friends, McLain & Kyne Distillery, and the Ancient Order of the Hibernians, who will be dressed in traditional attire.

After the blessing ceremony, the first keg will be taken from the brewery by a horse drawn carriage to O'Shea's Irish Pub located at 956 Baxter Avenue for the taping of the first keg. A red carpet welcome will await the precious cargo of the keg with a grand Irish entrance. An Irish band will play Gaelic music as thirsty patrons cheer the carriage’s arrival. The tapping of the blessed beer is scheduled to take place at 6:30 pm. There will be an Irish song performed by Shaun McKiernen, president of the Hibernians, Irish toasts and songs delivered throughout the evening as the keg is consumed.


Sounds like fun, and not to pick nits with my friends at BBC, but given the Irish imagery behind the festivities, shouldn't the stout have been aged in a Middleton or Jameson barrel?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The lure of Franconia is strong even when the Schlenkerla's not smoked.

Franconian beers aren’t always as squeaky clean and technically flawless as similar styles brewed elsewhere in Bavaria. This is not intended as an insult, and it is not to imply that they are deficient or flawed.

Rather, it is to suggest that they bear the delightfully quirky imprint of their geographical origins.

In a region where the countryside is never far away from the heart of the largest city, and a hundred breweries, most of them small, operate within a morning’s leisurely drive of Bamberg, the aromas and flavors experienced in a half-liter of solid Franconian lager can be redolent of all things pre-industrial – woodsy and full, smoky and firm, hoppy and dry, sometimes crisp like the lazy autumn evenings imbibing outdoors, and other times mellow and cool as the summer mornings right after opening time when the town elders gather at the Stammtisch to begin another day’s session.

Tonight I sampled a rarity on American shores: Schlenkerla Helles Lagerbier, the justly renowned Bamberg brewery’s golden lager that is brewed without any of its signature beechwood smoked malt used in the grist.

Previously, Schlenkerla Helles Lagerbier has been available only in the Trum family’s venerable tavern in the epicenter of Bamberg’s Altstadt, but recently the B. United importing firm began bringing limited amounts into the States (kudos for the freshness of my bottle).

Even without smoked malt, and evidently by a process resembling zymurgic osmosis, the Helles Lagerbier boasts a trace of smoky character in the nose and the palate.

To imagine what this is like, imagine standing with a group of cigar aficionados for five minutes, the leaving the room, and still noticing the faintest sheen of the Dominican Republic’s finest on your clothes afterward.

It’s there, and it contributes a noticeable edge to a typically malty and full-bodied golden lager beer that is balanced by lovely noble hops. To swallow it is to notice and savor the tinge of smoky character that so massively defines Schlenkerla’s better known Marzen and Urbock, which remain my preference, and which render me helpless when in Bamberg.

And I’ll be there again in late August.

Meanwhile, if you’re game for a sample of Helles Lagerbier, it’s in stock at Rich O’s. Do it on a clear palate, and then gravitate back toward gravity.

Also coming soon is a keg of Schlenkerla’s annual Fastenbier, which is only served at the Bamberg tavern between Ash Wednesday and Easter. It is made with half unsmoked two-row barley and half-house beechwood smoked malt -- still perhaps a bit smokier than Spezial's everyday beer, but gentler than Schlenkerla Marzen.

Gravity Head’s currently crowding the draft lines, but I anticipate gaps by the end of March, so the guesstimate is Fastenbier around April 1.

More on Schlenkerla can be found here.

Photo credits

Top: Tac Milne enjoying Brotzeit and Bier somewhere in the Franconian countryside, September 2004 (taken by Karen Bujak).

Bottom: Matthias Trum, the author, Kim Andersen and Craig Somers at Schlenkerla's brewhouse in July, 2003 (taken by Pavel Borovich).

Monday, March 06, 2006

Browning’s Imperial Stout firkin suffers fatal blowout.

Of the bung, that is.

On Saturday night, brewmaster Brian Reymiller of Browning’s Restaurant and Brewery brought a firkin of his Imperial Stout to the NABC brewery walk-in for a period of stillage prior to being tapped later this week.

At some point over the weekend, internal pressure blew the bung, depositing the fruits of Brian’s efforts in a gooey black stream that occupied much of our assistant brewer Jared’s (and the mop bucket's) Monday.

I hated having to make the sad phone call to Brian today to let him know that none of the elixir could be saved.

Such are the vagaries of living, cask-conditioned ale. Since it was the only firkin of Imperial Stout that Brian had to offer, there’ll be none at Gravity Head 2006. However, we plan to get together for firkins in the future.

Ironically, there’s an unlisted replacement ready to take the Imperial Stout firkin’s place on the hand pump after the Gale’s Christmas Ale 2005 is depleted: Burton Bridge Thomas Sykes Ale, a 10% “winter ale” recently arrived from B. United International via Cavalier (Indiana), and in the company of a non-gravity firkin of Wye Valley Victory Ale (more information forthcoming).

Meanwhile, Bell’s Batch 7000 gave up its last precious ounces on Saturday, and I suspect the JW Lees Vintage Harvest Ale (Sherry cask) will have done the same by Tuesday morning. Great Divide Hercules Double IPA replaces the Bell’s, and Gravity Head rolls on into its second full week -- with a Belgian wave massing on the horizon.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Saturday Gravity Head update.

Great Divide Yeti replaces Oaked Yeti.

Apologies for not having more time to write, but life and work once again have intervened.

I'll probably take off Sunday, and post again Monday morning.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Late Friday Gravity Head update.

Gone: Samichlaus 2001 and Founders Devil Dancer Triple IPA 2004.

On: Kulmbacher Reichelbrau Eisbock and JW Lees Moonraker.

It was a nice evening tonight, and not too crowded; great to see Ron Downer and the Tennessee Two, who'll be back tomorrow.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Gravity Head 2006 update: 6 down, 48 to go.

Listed below are the Gravity Head groupings as of Wednesday afternoon, March 1.

Of the 54 beers scheduled to appear between opening day and the conclusion of this eighth edition of the festival, six have departed. 18 currently are on tap, including the hand pull. Others are stacked and ready to make their appearance, while some remain in transit.

On Friday, March 3, the second of two JW Lees Vintage Harvest Ale pins will be pouring, but there has been a change.

Owing to a shipping error, the most recent vintage of Lagavulin Scotch aged ale remains in a New Jersey warehouse. We received instead a Sherry aged specimen, which we're happy to drink now, leaving the previously announced pin for aging until next year's festival.

Appearing Friday: JW Lees Vintage Harvest Ale, (Sherry barrel aged; 2005; pin), 11.5% abv.


Bell’s Batch 7000, 12% abv

Dark Horse Sapient Trip, 8.6% abv

De Ranke Guldenberg, 8.5% abv

EKU 28, 11% abv

Flying Dog Horn Dog Barley Wine, 10.5% abv

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

Founders Dirty Bastard, 8.3% abv

Gale’s Christmas Ale, (2005) (cask-conditioned firkin; hand pulled)

Great Divide Hibernation Ale, 8.1% abv

Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout, 9.5% abv

NABC Thunderfoot Imperial Stout, 10% abv

North Coast PranQster, 7.6% abv

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

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

Samichlaus Bier (2001) 14% abv

Stone Double Bastard Ale, 10% abv

't Smisje Kerst, 11% abv

Unibroue Maudite, 8% abv



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

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

Founders Blushing Monk Belgian Razz, 9.5% abv

Great Divide Hercules Double IPA, 9.1% abv

Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout, 9.5% abv

Great Divide Old Ruffian Barley Wine, 10.2% abv

Ringneck Brewing Old 21 Imperial IPA, 8.5% abv

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

Rogue XS Imperial Stout, 11% abv

Rogue XS I2PA, 9.5% abv

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

Two Brothers Bare Tree Weiss Wine, 10.2% 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

Urthel Samaranth Quadrium, 11.5% abv


Kulmbacher Reichelbrau Eisbock, 9.2% abv

Weihenstephaner Korbinian Doppelbock, 7.4% abv


Christoffel Winter Bock, 7.2% abv


Gale’s Prize Old Ale (2004), 9% abv

JW Lees Moonraker, 7.5% abv


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

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

Chouffe La Gnomette, 9% abv ... ETA March 16

Rocky River Neptune's Nemesis, 8% abv ETA circa March 11

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


Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter, 9.5% abv

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

NABC Stumble Bus, (2005) circa 10% abv

New Holland Dragon’s Milk, 10.5% abv

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

Urthel Hop-It Belgian IPA, 9.5% abv

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A Southampton Saison that aged very well.

I’d been chided recently by the wonderful individual who gifted me some time back with a 750 ml bottle of Southampton Publick House’s (Long Island NY) Saison to the effect that it might already have passed its prime.

Hmm, I thought, how long could it have been, anyway? I took it home, and forgot about it again – until two nights ago, when I noticed the “2003” date and resolved to pop the cork before it was too late.

It’s true that most of what I’ve read and heard about Belgian Saison “farmhouse” ales indicates they generally were intended for aging, and were brewed in cool weather for keeping until summer, when hotter temperatures made beer making difficult.

But two and a half years? Was I right or wrong in keeping Southampton’s renowned Saison for so long?

Judging from the quality of the ale I drank, it was a good decision.

There was a healthy “pop” at the cork’s removal. Pale golden in color, the liquid was almost completely clear, with a good dusting of sediment in the bottom of the champagne bottle. The nose was fresh, grassy and hoppy.

There was medium body and firm, but hardly heavy, mouth feel. I was surprised to find that the dry-hopped character still was pronounced, vying for attention with the lemony malt and a refreshing dollop of acidity. Esters of spice and pepper peeked through. Delicious.

I began dreaming of pungent country cheeses and crusty bread. Upon examination, it was revealed that the kitchen cabinet held Saltines and sardines, so I elected to drink the remainder unaccompanied, and fantasized about Hainaut province bike routes.

In short, it was as accomplished as its reputation suggests, and a superb example of the Belgian farmhouse style, but brewed right here in America.

To my knowledge, Southampton Publick House beers are unavailable in Indiana and Kentucky, but if you’re in New York … don’t hesitate. The brewery is innovative, has scored numerous times in Great American Beer Festival competitions, and has as good a microbrewing pedigree as there is.

I wonder what else I've hidden that might be worth drinking?

(Photo credit: