Wednesday, May 31, 2006

“What a maroon,” commented expert prosecution witness B. Bunny.

How many ways are there to say, “loser?”

Kentuckian battles Caesars over his gambling losses Suit claims casino let him bet drunk, by Grace Schneider (short shelf life for Courier-Journal links).

A developer from Corbin, Ky., who said he has lost at least $500,000 over the years at the Caesars Indiana casino has gone to court to prevent the riverboat from getting even more of his money.

His claim: That he was drunk when he accepted $75,000 in credit from the casino and then lost it all in a single night.

"They kept serving me till I was totally intoxicated," Jimmy L. Vance said in an interview. "In fact, I don't remember losing all the money."

Oddly, although the article discusses the nuances of Indiana’s bureaucratic regulation of gaming – by the way, does anyone heading off to a casino ever say, “I’m off to game for a while”? – it does not mention that serving an intoxicated customer is against Alcohol & Tobacco Commission rules in Indiana.

If Vance doesn’t succeed in convincing the court that Caesar’s is to blame for his bad “gaming” habit, then perhaps he can go after the individual bartender who is responsible for his equally atrocious drinking habit.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Passage to Rogue (Part 5): A Visit to the Grail, with Refreshments.

At some point during the long Rogue Public House session on Wednesday, Graham and I decided to stow our gear upstairs before proceeding with the random Rogue sampling.

Not unexpectedly, it was a splendid room – a suite, in fact – with separate bedrooms, a kitchenette, washer and dryer and bottles of Rogue stocked in the fridge in lieu of the usual continental breakfast.

There was a veranda overlooking the joyfully productive fishery plant situated between our room and Yaquina Bay … and bottles of Rogue stocked in the fridge.

I’d known from the beginning that a certain measure of hospitality would be coming my way owing to the many years of doing business with Rogue, but what we learned from arriving unannounced a day early was that certifiably, all men and women in Rogue Nation really are created equal.

No one at the bar knew who I was or why we were visiting, beyond our expressed desire to sample Rogues from the source and the fact that we’d be taking a brewery tour the following day.

When we returned to the bar for dinner on Wednesday night, the new faces of the night staff greeted us warmly, and another shift of bar denizens made friendly conversation.

When Jim Cline, Rogue’s General Manager, belatedly learned that we’d come into town a day early, he was chagrined at having no opportunity to set us up, but he needn’t have worried. As a pub owner, I can only hope that visitors in a similar case would receive as nice a treatment as we did throughout the afternoon and evening on Wednesday. It simply was magical.

The regular clientele’s loyalty to Rogue as a brewer is exceeded by the pride they feel toward Rogue as a neighbor. It is a remarkable phenomenon, even a partnership, and it goes further than the mere recognition of excellence with respect to the brewery’s unquestionably fine beers.

The joy carried over into Thursday. Graham and I had a free morning and early afternoon to explore the historic waterfront prior to our scheduled tour, and we put the time to good use.

A casual promenade took us into the labyrinth of commercial boat docks for a perusal of the many faceted craft -- an alien world to me, but Graham’s been around enough seafarers to provide rudimentary commentary, so I came away from the walk feeling like something had been learned.

Appropriately, a light lunch – halibut tacos, garlic-laden cream soup with Dungeness crab – was taken at the Local Ocean restaurant and fish market, domain of Bruce, the former Rogue Public House chef who we’d met the previous day, where the cases of freshly harvested fish noted the time and date, specific boat and method of catching. Uninformed choice definitely is not an option.

In early afternoon, we drove across the beautiful arched Yaquina Bay Bridge, parked by the brewery, and commenced an inspection of the pleasure craft docked in the adjacent marina. When it was time, the brewery’s own rustic bar beckoned, Jim Cline was summoned, and after pleasantries were exchanged and introductions made – and a couple of pints drained and reinforcements provided for the visit – our glimpse into the working life of the brewery began.

From one to the next, brewery tours anywhere in the world are much alike. The size of the equipment may radically differ, and technological bells and whistles vary, but the fundamental process is the same. The larger the brewery, the more likely it is that the highlight of the tour for the general public will be the massive, whirling excess of the bottling line, or, as with a true giant like Anheuser-Busch, a glimpse into horse stables or other ephemera unrelated to beer.

Just as the majority of the beer drinking public doesn’t particularly care about the beer it drinks (as much of it as possible following the tour, at least if permitted to do so), little time is expended in consideration of the intangibles, and yet these more esoteric considerations are at the very heart of properly understanding and appreciating the differences between brewing companies.

Ask not always how, but why, a brewery performs the way it does. Is the product an extension of the people working at a brewery, or is it the result of a marketing study? Where’s the passion? What’s the mission?

One very prominent reason for my many years of Rogue appreciation is the brewery’s attention to details of philosophy and purpose. It is a company, and the object is to make money, and yet Rogue has always aimed for a higher plane of existence and clearly elucidates the principles that underscore the brewery’s mission:

IV. We hold that beer is not an abstraction but a concrete reality, which occurred in the past, occurs in this living present and will occur in the future.

XIV. Small scale brewing means the salvation of beer.

16 f. Small breweries have not forgotten that brewing is about the beer and not just selling it to people who can’t appreciate it. Their efforts must never be forgotten and must ever be honored!

Regard this manifesto as fluffy web site filler at your peril. During our two days in Newport, we didn’t meet a single Rogue employee who we could not imagine speaking words like these, and doing so from their hearts. Oregon is filled with people who came to the state from other places and did so because they have a bit of the rogue in ‘em. It’s only natural that people come to Rogue for the same reason.

Graham put it more succinctly: “There’s a sense of mischief here.”

It hardly needs to be added that Jim proved to be the consummate host, and although it wasn’t in the cards to meet the brewmaster, John Maier – another legendary figure in American microbrewing, who was elsewhere during our walkabout – it was enough to have trod the hallowed slippery concrete floors, donned safety glasses, and smelled the essences of beery wonderment as they made their own passage from field to glass.

Another session at the Public House ensued, with Jim joining us for a round before returning home to recuperate from 10 days on the road, and another epic, regionally-styled meal was consumed. The conversation was stimulating, and the Rogue ales (and the occasional lager) went down rich, smooth and flavorful.

Worth a 3,000-mile drive? You bet.

By bicycle … well, I’ll have to think that one over.


Here’s a somewhat complete list of Rogues consumed during the two nights spent at the Public House and the brief time at brewery’s tap room. To read more about the styles, visit Rogue’s comprehensive web site listing.

Brutal Bitter
Uber Pilsner
Smoke Ale
Chipotle Ale
Mogul Madness Ale
St. Rogue Red
XS Imperial Stout
Honey Cream Ale
American Amber Ale
Love & Hoppiness
Santa’s Private Reserve
Mocha Porter
XS Old Crustacean
Younger’s YSB Special Bitter
Frosty Frog (Issaquah brewhouse)


Previous parts in the series:

A Passage to Rogue (Part 1): Through the Desert and into the Trees.

A Passage to Rogue (Part 2): Russian River and North Coast Gems.

A Passage to Rogue (Part 3): Floating up, in, over and out to Newport.

A Passage to Rogue (Part 4): Citizens of Rogue Nation.

Monday, May 29, 2006

What is the beer equivalent of a sommelier?

I’ve been asking this question for quite some time, and usually misspelling the French word whenever the topic arises:

som·me·lier n.
A restaurant employee who orders and maintains the wines sold in the restaurant and usually has extensive knowledge about wine and food pairings.

Alix Strauss of the New York Times breaks the story in this article: This Beer's for You. (Or Maybe This One.)

AVIRAM TURGEMAN, dressed in a dark pinstriped suit, was carefully navigating the busy restaurant, a white cloth draped over his left arm and a bottle cradled in the palm of his right hand, its stout neck resting against his arm.

Mr. Turgeman is the beer sommelier at Cafe D'Alsace, a French bistro that opened three months ago on Second Avenue and 88th Street. And he was all seriousness one recent evening as he explained the offerings to the couple seated at the lacquered mahogany table …

… "We don't aim towards pub people," he said. "We're about the beer geeks, people who want to try a new experience."

There may be a legitimate quibble over semantics, in the sense that “sommelier” seems to refer specifically to wine, not beer.

According to, the etymology of “sommelier” is more ambiguous:

French, from Old French, officer in charge of provisions, pack-animal driver, alteration of sommerier, from sommier, beast of burden, from Vulgar Latin.

Obviously, any French officer throughout recorded history who has found himself placed in charge of provisioning troops is stocking wine … hence, the probable development of “sommelier” in the present tense.

This is the part that I’m having a problem embracing:

… "We don't aim towards pub people," he said. "We're about the beer geeks, people who want to try a new experience."

Whether or not there is a word that accurately describes the function of ordering and recommending beer – a “beer sommelier” – how can it be so blithely divorced from the consciousness of “pub people?”

In my experience, that’s where the “geeks” came from in the first place.

Beer knowledge is important, and to disseminate it through the experience and wisdom of a “beer sommelier” is something worthy of praise, but to imbue it with pretentiousness is both unnecessary and potentially self-defeating.

It’s hard enough going out there every day and having to un-do the incessant dumbing down of beer perpetuated by a half-century of megabrewing theory and practice without mimicking the excesses of wine snobbery.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Another Food & Dining Magazine deadline is upon me.

It's been time again to complete my quarterly column for Louisville's Food & Dining Magazine, which is a quality publication with a great subscription deal for those interested in food and drink with a local orientation.

Given the lead time required, what I wrote this weekend will appear in mid-summer, and the topic is the right beer for summertime grilling and cookouts:

Contrary to habit and other flaccid excuses you may have heard, the fresh heartiness of summertime comfort food begs for beer with the backbone to complement anticipated qualities like crisp, seared, smoky, ripe, delicious and humdinger.

In the issue released prior to Derby, a consideration of barrel-aged beer specialties was offered:

It’s a fallacy of palate-diminishing scale to dismiss innovation just because it’s not your father’s growler, for the pertinence of brewing tradition lies in one’s dedication to craft and respect for the art and science, not in slavish adherence to one specific way of doing things.

When appropriate, my articles for Food & Dining are reprinted here in the beer blog. In New Albany, pick up your copy at Destinations Booksellers.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Coming in July: Bastille Day, French cuisine and Bieres de Garde -- all at Bistro New Albany.

In France, Bastille Day is celebrated on July 14. What better approximate time to seize as the handy pretext for a tasting of French Bieres de Garde, something that's been on the back burner for several months?

(Kevin Lowber is pictured aboard a speeding train in 2001, with a French spread of salami, cheese, bread and ale keeping him company)

See: Dreaming about Northern French ales? I am.

The only problem is that the Bastille Day fete cannot be held on the 14th (Friday), but more on that in a moment.

First, the general plan:

The event is being planned in conjunction with the Bistro New Albany, and it will take place at bNA and include a reservation-only, multi-course French-themed meal.

There will be a fixed price (yet to be determined) that includes several bottles of ale at each table, and second helpings available as priced by the bottle. Most of what I have in stock comes in 750 ml bottles.

The bistro's Chef Dave Clancy is mulling menu possibilities, and I'm looking at a stock of Northern French ales that includes St. Sylvestre Gavroche, Thiriez Blonde, Amber and Extra, Jenlain, Cuvee des Jonquilles (Biere de Garde de L’avesnois), La Choullette de Noel and Les Sans Culottes.

I'd like to do it on a Sunday, either the week before Bastille Day (July 9) or the weekend immediately following (July 16). Readers who are FOSSILS club members and plan on making the July excursion to Madison for the Thomas Family Winery visit, please let me know your feelings on the best time -- assuming, of course, that you're interested in attending the French ale dinner.

Finally, it would be nice if the cyclists among us could stage a ride the same day. Resident Rich O's historian Roz Tate suggests we call it the "Tour de Reign of Terror."

Feedback? Post comments, or direct your thoughts to the e-mail address in my profile.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The skinny on Louisville-area homebrewing clubs.

The Louisville Area Grain and Extract Research Society (LAGERS) has almost as difficult an acronym as Fermenters of Special Southern Indiana Libations Society (FOSSILS).

LAGERS (founded in 1989) predates FOSSILS (1990) by a little less than a year. Both are homebrewing clubs, with LAGERS being based in Louisville and FOSSILS in New Albany and Southern Indiana.

Because of the shared interests of members, it comes as no surprise that many people are members of both clubs, and for a number of years, the clubs have shared responsibility for certain events on the yearly calendar.

It’s probably fair to posit that interest in the clubs peaked at some point during the mid-1990’s, and has leveled off since. This is understandable, given that the availability of good beer has expanded so much in the metro Louisville area in recent years, but rest assured that our local homebrewers still are out there, and some of them have developed equipment and methods that rival commercial brewers.

Needless to say, there remains much fine homebrew hereabouts and equally fine people crafting it.

For information on LAGERS, I’d advise contacting the newly elected secretary, Dan Flaherty, who can send you a copy of the newsletter.

FOSSILS can be found here.

(Photo credit: LAGERS club, Bill Krauth)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

From the empire of wet air to the arrogant bastard's lair.

Here’s a story that passed almost unnoticed.

Mitch Steele goes to Stone Brewing.

Long ago and far away – roughly 1996, according to my shaky memory – Anheuser-Busch dipped its bloated toe into mockrobrewing for the first time, releasing a line of beers called American Originals, and expanding its Michelob line to include a wheat beer and a couple others that soon disappeared.

A-B’s uncharacteristic behavior during the midpoint of the Clinton administration naturally was calculated as a response to the exploding microbrewing segment of the market.

To no one’s surprise, the mockrobrews A-B released were technically impeccable, but just as predictably, they utterly lacked those tiny angles and fringe quirks that generally point the way to beery creations that are truly excellent, as opposed to merely proficient.

Well, would you expect any more or any less from a practicing megabrewer?

After all, the conceptual basis of microbrewing couldn’t be further from a multi-national marketing machine’s everyday existence as a supplier of consistent, low-common-denominator commodities to a market uninterested in experimentation.

To be sure, the beer market has changed somewhat in the ten years since A-B’s short-lived American Originals experiment, providing the megabrewer with a second opportunity to siphon business away from genuine craft brewers through the release of a newer generation of mockrobrews like Bare Knuckle Stout and seasonal pumpkin-laced and barrel-aged beers.

At the time, Budweiser was on tap at Sportstime Pizza, and I decided to conduct an experiment in social engineering.

One of the American Originals was the purported recreation of a golden lager called Faust, which was named for a St. Louis restaurateur and brewed for him as a house brand by A-B circa 1900. I bought four kegs of Faust, yanked Budweiser, scattered the P-O-S materials around the pizzeria, and instructed the employees to pitch the new beer as an A-B product just like Budweiser, and furthermore, one that we were prepared to sell at the very same price as Budweiser even though the cost per keg was higher.

Sales of bottled Bud skyrocketed, it took a month to sell two kegs, and by the time the third was ready for tapping, the “sell-by” dates were expired, and the wholesaler bought back the kegs. Brand-loyal Budweiser drinkers wouldn’t touch Faust at the same price point because it wasn’t Budweiser, and although it was a good product, the aficionados hanging out at Rich O’s wouldn’t drink it, either, because it was suspiciously inexpensive and emanated from the hated monolith.

After a year or so, the grand American Originals mockrobrewing experiment sank from sight, although some of the brands lived on as part of the Michelob line of beers, but during the course of investigating it, there began a correspondence that eventually led to something earthshaking: A guest appearance at a FOSSILS club meeting by the Anheuser-Busch brewmaster who had been placed in charge of the mockrobrewing program by virtue of his previous experience in the microbrewing segment.

He brought A-B mockrobrews to Rich O’s for all to taste, unflinchingly endured the inevitable grilling, answered questions about his take on the eternal conflict between art and commerce, and earned respect from those in attendance even if most continued to nurse contempt for his employer.

The brewmaster was Mitch Steele.

Soon afterward, Mitch accepted a different position within the corporate leviathan. At some point, I read that he had moved to A-B’s facility in Merrimack, New Hampshire.

Now he’s back in California, working with Stone Brewing Company – one of the prime exemplars of the methods and attitudes that define craft brewing and set it apart from commodity brewing.

It’s a perfect fit … but it’s a strange, strange world nonetheless.

(Photo credits: Stone Brewing and the Stein Site)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Another good reason to run upriver.

Think about it for a moment.

The first of what is hoped to be many folk music festivals is held at a public riverfront park in the state of Indiana. For many years, a major speedboat race, sponsored in large measure by Anheuser-Busch, has taken place in the same location. Another festival, a massive barbecue cook-off, features three Budweiser beer gardens.

But for the new folk fest, a libations tent is organized, and Budweiser is entirely absent from the scene.

Instead, two local wineries and two Indiana microbreweries constitute the only choices for alcoholic beverages.

Food vendors are similarly chosen to provide diversity, but to omit the restrictive pay-for-play practices of the bigger corporate players.

Indeed, Coca-Cola’s soft drinks may well be the only mass-market product available for consumption.

What’s more, only a handful of the hundreds of customers spread out over two days of music indicate displeasure with this unprecedented arrangement. Rather, most take it in stride, sip gamely at samples, and learn that craft beer isn’t that bad, after all, so long as someone is handy to help guide you through the options.

Of course, the scene I’m referring to in the preceding was observed first-hand at the inaugural Ohio River Valley Folk Festival in Madison, Indiana, which ran on Friday and Saturday, May 19 and 20.

The New Albanian Brewing Company brought two half-barrel kegs each of Elector and ConeSmoker, while our good friends at Upland Brewing (Bloomington) came stocked with ten: Wheat, Valley Weizen, Amber, Pale Ale and Dragonfly IPA.

As it turned out, we needed every last drop.

Between the two brewing companies, a broad and representative selection of American craft beer was on hand, with our only collective regret being that neither brewery had porter ready for dispensing.

Fortunately, one of Upland’s Indiana wholesalers is North Vernon Beverage Co., Inc., and a refrigerated trailer with draft equipment was available for our pouring and storage use. Having the trailer meant not having to use cold plates, reduced the mess from spillage and melting ice, and made for a far more efficient experience.

Fest goers were required to purchase dollar increment tickets for use as currency. Both breweries were charging $3.00 for a 12-oz pour, and both of us sold out completely, NABC at 9:00 p.m. on Saturday and Upland at about 10:00. Given that the organizers had no idea how many people would attend, we came very close to meeting demand, and of course we’ll both bring more next year.

The percentage split with the hosts was very fair, and it was well worth the effort expended over two days, and not just because we turned a needed profit. The folk festival itself was marvelous, with top-flight acts – Roger McGuinn, Tommy Makem and Todd Snider among them – and suitably relaxed riverside ambience. Only a brief rain shower Friday night intruded, and it was over quickly. Saturday was a letter-perfect weather day, and the crowds were out in force to enjoy it.

Verily, the people in Madison know how to throw a party, and everyone we met was delightful. If they’ll have us again next year, we’re there.

(Note: Jim Bell was in attendance and took many more photos than I had time for, and if possible, some of these will be published at a later date. B & W photo credit here)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Rich O's Public House cracks the Top 20 in Beer Advocate rankings.

(crossposted at NA Confidential)

Last week was American Craft Beer Week, and although I knew about it, the days passed by without acknowledgment.

Perhaps this is because every working day is “craft beer day” for me, and the official observances seem almost redundant, although it is understood that the broad idea is to use American Craft Beer Week as a pretext to educate the consumer and to celebrate the diversity of grassroots American beer culture.

At any rate, the popular web site Beer Advocate released a list in conjunction with American Craft Beer Week:

The Top 50 Places to Have a Beer in America

Here are the top ranked Places to Have a Pint in America based on BeerFly reviews by site users.

Rich O’s Public House not only made the list, but we are pegged at #19, and that’s a high honor, indeed.

# 17 = Russian River Brewing Company (Santa Rosa, CA)
# 18 = Monk's Cafe (Philadelphia, PA)
# 19 = Rich O's Public House (New Albany, IN)
# 20 = Southampton Publick House (Southampton, NY)
# 21 = Hopleaf Bar (Chicago, IL)

When we began our good beer program in 1992, the emphasis was on imported beers, but as the years have passed, the balance has shifted in favor of American microbrews. Naturally, this reflects the growth of the segment, which in turn indicates a greater willingness on the part of Americans to step outside of the Bud and try new things.

To me, the greatest manifestation of craft beer’s increased acceptance is the fact that we now brew our own beers – right here in New Albany.

Our beers are embraced for their own merits -- right here in New Albany.

They’re enjoyed – right here in New Albany -- by a broad cross-section of local beer drinkers, both at our own establishment and at an off-premise venue like the new Bistro New Albany.

At our level, it’s truly "brewing with a human face," and it’s fun to be in a position where art and commerce flow together in such a tuneful manner.

Kindly permit me to offer heartfelt thanks to all my friends and patrons for your support of our business, but more importantly, for your recognition that local businesses are important and worthy of support.

Rest assured, I try to return the favor whenever possible.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

McQuiston’s Malthouse a must stop in Madison.

I’ve heard about it, and managed finally to steal away from the weekend Ohio River Valley Music Festival along the Madison, Indiana riverfront to try it out.

“It” is McQuiston’s Malthouse, where the hard working folks are flying under the regional” good beer” radar. Given that McQuiston’s (pronounced McHouston’s) is a “mom ‘n’ pop” establishment with the young owners pulling most of the evening’s only business hours, there’s not much time for self-promotion.

If you’re approaching Madison’s amazing downtown historic district on State Road 56, the highway becomes Main Street, and McQuiston’s is on the right side just before you reach the center.

605 W. Main Street is an attractively restored old commercial building with an appropriate past. It was constructed more than a decade before the Civil War and originally housed the Crystal Brewery. Scotsman William McQuiston operated the brewery during its short life, and afterwards, many businesses held forth at the address until the current owners opened the Malthouse in 2001.

The interior is open and high-ceilinged, with a design that acknowledges the building’s age but is otherwise contemporary. It’s a non-smoking and kid-friendly eatery with a wall separating the bar area from the family seating. The bar itself is small; perhaps ten stools, with all taps visible and the bottled selection on display.

I counted ten taps (including Sprecher Root Beer) and 24 bottled beers, with American-made microbrews comprising the vast majority of the selections. Drafts I sampled during two separate visits included Boulder Hazed & Infused, Founders Centennial IPA and Two Brothers Domaine Dupage French Country Ale.

After 11 bone-crunching hours serving beer at the folk festival on Saturday, four of us adjourned to McQuiston’s for a long-awaited sit-down meal.

Culinary choices might be described as pub grub meets bistro, and ours ranged from Roasted Vegetable Marinara pasta to a fish sandwich., salads and my 14-oz New York Strip, and while the Two Brothers was perfectly nice with the perfectly cooked beef, I erred in not drinking a bottle of Jolly Pumpkin Oro de Calabaza with it.

Bibulous readers already know Madison as the home of the Thomas Family Winery, and now there’s a good beer outpost to add to the list of reasons for soaking up the civic ambience.

And, yes, I’m trying to crunch the logistics in the hope that NABC can supply McQuiston’s with beer for one of its taps. Seems that would provide an excellent excuse for dropping in more often.

McQuiston’s Malthouse
605 W. Main
Madison, IN 47250
(812) 265-9963

Opens at 4:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.

Friday, May 19, 2006

NABC at Madison's Ohio River Valley Folk Festival tonight and tomorrow.

As reported yesterday in Publicanista!, next up on the spring/summer beer festival circuit is the Ohio River Valley Folk Festival, which will be running tonight and tomorrow (May 19 and 20) up the road from us in historic Madison, Indiana.

Here's a description of the event:

The Ohio River Valley Folk Festival will bring echoes to Madisonians living in the 21st century — echoes of how their ancestors worked, wrote and sang music, fashioned distinctive crafts and prepared foods unique to the people of a river town.

Obviously, this isn't a beer fest in the strictest of senses. NABC will be part of a lineup of libation vendors assembled by our longtime friend Steve Thomas of Madison's Thomas Family Winery, one that includes our brethren from Upland Brewing Co. in Bloomington. If you attend, you'll pay an entrance fee for the music, and purchase dollar increments tickets for use at the food and drink stands.

I'll be working the folk festival with the help of frequent Rich O's customers and FOSSILS members Jim and Debbie Frazier, with Dennis Stockslager providing crucial logistical support, i.e., he hauled the kegs to Madison for us.

Since Upland's bringing their whole line of styles, NABC will be free to work the niche side of the street with ConeSmoker and Elector as our only two selections. As always, the idea isn't to appease the masses, but to locate the eccentrics hovering around the periphery and to provide them with something different and memorable.

I'll be seeing some of you tonight and tomorrow.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Bell’s Wheat Project intro/closeout at Rich O's.

Not everything I set out to do comes to fruition.

As a case in point, consider last fall's "wheat project" from Bell's Brewery (formerly Kalamazoo Brewing). I bought a case of each, stacked them in the corner, and forgot all about it until recently, when items were being gathered for the bottled beer clearance last weekend.

Some of the five Bell's wheat ales were sold, and others remain, so beginning tonight, they'll be marked down ($2 each) and available chilled for on-premise consumption.

Here are the descriptions, as provided by the brewery.


1. Bell’s Wheat Project (2005) is an experimental foray into the development of complex flavors in beer.

The Project comprises five new ales, four in series and one specialty strong product. The first four, Wheat 2, Wheat 4, Wheat 6 and Wheat eight are all made using 55% Wheat (either wholly or mostly malted) and 45% Barley malt.

The barley malt makeup is exactly the same in each of the four and consists of three different malts.

The total amount of grain in each of the four is also exactly the same, so each of them should have a virtually identical original gravity. The type and amount of hops in each of the four is exactly the same. And the processing through the brewhouse and fermentation is also exactly the same. The changing factors between the ales are the composition of the 55% of wheat used and the type and number of yeast strains used. In Wheat 2 the 55% of wheat is made up of two different kinds of wheat malt, and this ale is made with two different yeasts. Wheat 4 is made with four different wheats and four yeasts. Wheat six and eight made with six and eight wheats and yeasts respectively.

The final product, Bell’s Wheat Love Ale, is made with the eight yeasts of Wheat eight and is a strong, but relatively light colored, “wheatwine.”

2. Basic Content List for the Wheat Series

Wheat Two

Wheats: White, Dark

Yeast: Bell’s house ale strain, WLP410 Belgian Wit II

Wheat Four

Wheats: White, Victory, Toasted sprouts, Torrefied

Yeast: WLP550 Belgian, WLP570 Golden, Wheat Two blend

Wheat Six

Wheats: White, Dark, Toasted sprouts, Torrefied, Red, Caramel

Yeast: WLP500 Trappist, WLP530 Abbey, Wheat Four blend

Wheat Eight

Wheats: White, Dark, Victory, Toasted sprouts, Torrefied, Red, Caramel, Chocolate

Yeast: WLP4000 Belgian Wit I, WLP565 Saison, Wheat Six blend

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

What is DaveFest 2006? Here's your answer.

The time is fast approaching for DaveFest 2006, and understandably, many people are asking me: “Uh, exactly what is DaveFest 2006?”

It’s a question worth considering, because DaveFest 2006 represents a whole new draft beer festival concept for us.

Currently at Rich O’s and Sportstime, we stage three draft beer festivals during the course of the year. Gravity Head is devoted to high-octane “gravity” beers, Lupulin Land to lupulin-laden hoppy beers, Saturnalia to diverse and “festive” cold-weather seasonal beers in the period just before Christmas.

With DaveFest 2006, we inaugurate the first “consumer’s choice” draft beer festival, one that seeks to answer the question: “What would your ideal draft lineup look like?”

This fun idea arose from a conversation between loyal customer Dave Siltz and myself, and here are the rough guidelines (in Dave’s own words):

The rules are these:

Six taps will be provided for beers of my choosing, but I should specify at least ten beers so that alternates are available if any of my main selections cannot be procured.

I need to choose beers that Roger can actually get, so no Alaskan Amber and no Alaskan Smoked Porter or anything else that he can't get in a keg.

Some beers are always on anyway, like Guinness, so I needn't bother specifying them.

I immediately thought it would be a fine thing to try and do, perhaps even more so because Dave’s taste preferences run across the board and embrace stylistic territories that aren’t always represented in our yearly promotions, i.e., he’s neither a “gravity” nor a “hop” head.

Here is the combined list he submitted, including alternates.

Delirium Tremens
Rogue Smoke
Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier
Rogue Chocolate Stout
Arcadia Scotch Ale
Goose Island Honkers Ale
Mestreechs Aajt
De Dolle Dulle Teve (Mad Bitch)
Bell's Kalamazoo Stout
Avery Old Jubilation
Two Brothers Domain DuPage French Style Country Ale
Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale
Newcastle Brown Ale

Note: Dave assumed I wouldn’t tap a keg of Newcastle Brown for the occasion, but he’s wrong. I will. What the hell.

Of these, I think only three or four will not be available (Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale, De Dolle Dulle Teve (Mad Bitch), Arcadia Scotch Ale and Avery Old Jubilation).

My aim is to have all the ones that can be procured on tap at the same time on Friday, June 2.

Perhaps in the future, we might entertain submissions from other customers in a yet to be determined sweepstakes format, with the grand prize being his or her own draft beer festival. First, we’ll see how this one goes.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

UPDATED: Third annual "Lambic by the Glass" coming on June 24, and here's the revised scoop.

I've studied the calendar, and it looks like Saturday, June 24 will be this year's date for staging our third annual “Lambic by the Glass” tasting.

While this particular paean to Belgian brewing tradition isn’t everyone’s cup of joe, those who are hip to lambic definitely will want to be in attendance.

Here are projected changes to the event this year.

The lambic tasting will be held in our Prost special events room adjoining Rich O’s, and will be either on Friday or Saturday, but not both. This makes it easier to open only those bottles needed for the tasting, and removes the risk of wasting (shudder) good lambic.

There’ll actually be one draft lambic: Cantillon Gueuze.

There will be Belgian-themed food involved with the tasting this year – but don’t ask me for details just yet. I know what I’d like to do, but whether it is practical has yet to be calculated.

I’ll be there the entire time to pour and disseminate information. Last year, I scheduled myself to be four places in two days, and I promise this won’t happen again in 2006.

Here's a page of fine photos that amply summarize the lambic experience as displayed at the Cantillon brewery in Brussels: Lambic Brewery Day (source of the above photo).

Here’s the text of the preview that appeared last year at the Potable Curmudgeon beer blog.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 15, 2006

Beer event recap: FOSSILS Breweriana Sale (Saturday, May 13).

The annual FOSSILS Breweriana Sale took place this past Saturday.

Club members Ed and Kira Tash did most of the organizational work, as they have for the past four breweriana sales, which prior to this year were held on Sunday because there wasn’t enough space in the NABC building to run a sale and conduct regular business hours at the same time.

The continuing evolution of Prost, our special events area adjacent to Rich O’s, has enabled us to transfer the breweriana event to ample floor space on Saturday in the hope of tapping into the usual daily pub traffic.

This year’s results were rather mixed, though not unpromising.

It was a good business day for the pub, and my ballyhooed close-out bottled beer “yard sale” was a boming success, but there wasn’t much sales action for the breweriana vendors.

The conclusion? We almost certainly started too early in the day (11:00 a.m.), perhaps under the lingering but errant notion that breweriana sales share a customer demographic with conventional yard sales, which start quite early in the morning during the warm months of the year and attract veritable squadrons of bargain hunters who wander off to other pursuits following lunch.

We need to research the breweriana buff demographic a bit more closely, but our current hunch is that a later start (circa 2:00 p.m.) might better attract the attention of the larger afternoon and early evening pub trade.

A final thought: While many of us know what breweriana is – antique bottles, signs, mirrors, glassware, trays, clocks, lamps, and books with a beer theme – perhaps future toutings of the sale should provide alternative descriptions like “beer souvenirs” or “beer collectibles.”

Go to the NABA web site (among others) for more details, and look for the FOSSILS Breweriana Sale again in 2007. We intend to keep tweaking until we get it right.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

This just in: Jared reports on yesterday's Microfest in St. Louis.

Earlier this week in NABC's newsletter, I noted that the NABC brew crew -- Jesse Williams and Jared Williamson -- would be representing the company at yesterday's 11th Annual St. Louis (Missouri) Microfest.

Here's Jared's glowing report from the front:

hey roger,

all is well here, we were the hit of the festival yesterday, once the people tried us they just hung out all day. we went through 1/2 bbl of hoptimus, and a 1/4 bbl each of h-daddy, smoker, and thunder. we sold out of facist shirts in under 2hrs and could have sold 30+ more; people were taking pictures of the artwork, asking for hoptimus shirts, asking for online merch retail (this we should do). it was like christmas morning for beer lover in saint louis when they found us, and the word of mouth alone inside the festival was sending everyone to us. the only problem was that in the best of voting, hoptimus and thunderfoot had so many fans that they offset each other in the voting (not really a problem but you get the idea). probably 20+ people are planning trips to come see us in new albany. all in all well worth the trip, many, many converts to our revolution.

oh yes, hoosier means white trash in missouri-


I'm delighted that our brewers had such a wonderful time, and the reception accorded our beers illustrates yet again that perhaps precisely because passion and authenticity are increasingly rare commodities, they're seriously undervalued, and aficionados search hungrily for them as a result. To have made this point in the city where Anheuser-Busch made "lowest common denominator" an American housegold name is even more gratifying.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Tony scores again with ConeSmoker, St. Radegund's artwork.

NABC's artist in residence, Tony Beard, continues to amaze.

Here's his rendition of ConeSmoker, which recently returned to the draft lineup.

There are two remaining firkins of the fast moving St. Radegund's Bitter, which will appear on the Rich O's handpull soon, and the brew crew will be doing another batch in the next few days. Here's Tony's view of the dragonslaying saint:

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Think outside those national boundaries!

There was a piece in a recent Louisville Magazine that unwittingly summarized my frustration with the "food and beer" status quo.

As a sidebar to an analysis of Louisville-area Asian dining options, writer Mary Welp correctly noted that conventional wisdom precludes the effective pairing of wine with such fare, and that beer is considered a superior accompaniment.

Unfortunately, given this promising beginning, she proceeded to describe the ways that native Asian megabrews pair with regional food … and, not unexpectedly, all three of the beers she mentioned are mass-produced golden lagers.

What was that about conventional wisdom?

Here’s genuine wisdom: Just because a country produces a beer doesn’t mean that it’s the best choice to pair with that country’s native cuisine.

Yes, she did manage to cite Belgium’s Duvel as an alternative choice and wrote highly of it, but as much as I like it The Devil, you’ll not find flavor parameters in it that are appreciably different from the golden lager norm.

Instead, why not pair Chinese and Japanese food with hoppy ales, strong stouts or German wheat beers? That would be thinking outside the box, although diverse choices like these aren’t what you’ll usually find stocked at ethnic eateries with alcohol licenses.

Nothing against the writer, whom I haven’t met, but am I the only one interested in pairing great food with equally great beer, irrespective of the beer’s national origin?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I'm goin' in ... time to prepare for the breweriana sale at Rich O's this Saturday, May 13.

Today's the day to begin digging in earnest as I try to assemble and price the bottled beer selection that will be offered to the speculative of mind (and wallet) this Saturday during the FOSSILS club's annual breweriana sale.

Previously, we've tried to establish this event on Sunday, with mixed results, but with the advent of the Prost special events room, it's now possible to run the breweriana sale on a normal business day, with more space for vendors and more options for consumers, i.e., you can order from the regular food menu and enjoy a session like always, and also pick up a trinket or three.

On Saturday, May 13, the sale will run from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in our Prost special events room. As in the past, items up for grabs will include pre-prohibition to contemporary breweriana from local breweries and international -- such as antique bottles, signs, mirrors, glassware, trays, clocks, lamps, books, and much more. Dealer space might still be available; it costs $15.00. Contact Kira Tash for information.

As a grand bonus, because of the change to Saturday, I'm now free to conduct my (generally) annual garage sale and inventory reduction extravaganza, featuring a crazy quilt of bottled beer choices -- old, new, borrowed, blue, etc. -- alongside the breweriana merchandise, and it's all perfectly legal to carry them out and home.

I'll have quite a few very cheap coin-flippers, some vintage ale keepers priced fairly, and an assortment of rarities. There'll be some glassware, too. Proceeds are earmarked for a new keg box for the Rich O's bar area.

And don't forget the FOSSILS meeting, which starts after the sale ends.

(Photo credit: American Breweriana Association)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Eileen Martin heading to Bloomington and a job at Upland.

(Apologies for the tardy posting, but between INSIGHT BROADBUNGLE and BLOGGER, this hasn't been a good day to reside in cyberspace.)

I was told recently that everyone's favorite brewster, Eileen Martin (pictured in the cellar of a Czech brewery in 2004), had accepted a position in Bloomington at Upland, and here's official confirmation from that it's true.


Hi all,

Sorry it's such short notice, but things have been happening very fast!

I have accepted a cellarman's position at
Upland Brewing Co. in Bloomington, IN and start on Monday May 15. Dale will be a couple of weeks behind me and I'll be back on the weekends at least till the end of May. We have both decided that it's time to move on and leave this town behind.

We will be at Cumberland Brews tonight (Tuesday) from 6:00 - ? and at the BBC Tap Room (Main and Clay) tomorrow (Wednesday) night at the same time if anyone would like to come by and say goodbye before we leave. If time permits and we are able to find a place while we are in Bloomington on Thursday, we may go to Rich O's Friday night. Please feel free to forward this information on to anyone you think might want it.


I regret Eileen's departure from Louisville, but road trips to Bloomington just got a lot more fun.

Best wishes from all of us at NABC!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Preview of the Mother's Day feast at Bistro New Albany.

Bistro New Albany has completed its first week in business. Several readers have already made the trip to the corner of Bank and Market and provided positive reports about the food and drink, and no person I’ve yet spoken to has failed to express approval of bNA’s outdoor seating area.

Chef Dave Clancy forwarded this fixed-price offering for Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 14. Note that the repast is by reservation only and will be conducted in two seatings at 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Also, there will be a vegetarian (and perhaps vegan) option available – probably a grilled vegetable platter with sauteed spinach.


Bistro New Albany: Mother’s Day Four-Course Menu -- May 14, 2006.

(Soup and Salad)

Soup du jour -Tomato Basil with creme fraiche

House Salad- Mixed local greens topped with sweet tomatoes, peppers, onions, feta cheese and croutons with your choice of ranch, Caesar, blue cheese, 1000 island, balsamic vinaigrette, or walnut raspberry vinaigrette.

(Choose One Entree)

Stuffed pork loin roullade - Rolled pork loin, slow roasted, and stuffed with capers and spinach, served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables.

Oven roasted half-chicken - Brined half chicken, roasted with fresh rosemary, bay leaves, and lemon, served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables.

Filet Mignon Bordelaise - Hand carved filet mignon with a savory bordelaise sauce, served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables.


Peach crisp ala mode - Homemade peach crisp with French vanilla ice cream.

By Reservation only; $16.95 per person (does not include gratuity).

bistro New Albany, 148 East Market Street, New Albany, Indiana

Phone: (812) 949-5227

Fax: (812) 949-5228


Me? I'm looking at BBC APA as an apertif, the pork loin roullade with NABC ConeSmoker, and a Bob's Old 15-B Porter with the peach crisp.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Corporate bored rooms of the swillocracy.

For most of the year, the Curmudgeon avoids television, but the NBA playoffs are an exception.

In practical terms, this means that most of the time, I can avoid the more egregious marketing excesses of America’s bloated megabrewers. Time spent at my own pub, and at Louisville-area brewpubs, is time spent away from the influence of Bud, Miller and Coors.

We know that although the biggest brewery players continue to dominate the market, their sales are stagnant. After two weeks of watching their television advertisements, it’s easy to see that they’re as bereft of new sales ideas as they are of barley, hops and balls.

Perhaps that’s the inevitable outcome of decades spent devaluing the essence of the product – beer – and exalting the mechanism – marketing. Smoke and mirrors go only so far, even when it comes to liquid urine.

Miller is preparing to tout its eternally insipid Lite with a campaign that exalts rules of living for men, and features a motley collection of hack celebrities swilling alcoholic soda pop straight from the bottle.

When not engaged in displays of overt cultural imperialism (simply google A-B and soccer’s World Cup to see what I mean), Anheuser-Busch persists with its time-honored “how stupid can we make our customers look ” strategy with blurbs showing Cedric the Entertainer practicing bigamy for the sake of Dud Light, and a human daredevil undertaking impossible stunts – but not the most daunting task of all: Finding merit in A-B’s bland swill.

Coors mines similar terrain with its patronizing beer can liner ads, and abets the offense with the company’s ongoing fixation with temperature as sole determining factor of beer quality – typified by the clueless “Love Train” block party freeze-out.

In fact, the megabrewers’s current television advertising spots are so abysmal that they make the ubiquitous fast food and automotive envy blurbs seem Shakespearean by comparison.

Not really. Anyone for real beer? Real food?

Real anything?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

News from the Brewers of Indiana Guild.

The Brewers of Indiana Guild has hired Bob Ostrander, originator of the Indiana Beer web site and tireless statewide beer advocate, as its new Marketing Director.

The first tangible result of this very good decision is an updated Guild web site:

Brewers of Indiana Guild.

In a flash, the Guild’s site has been transformed into a comprehensive primer on beer and brewing in Indiana. Kudos to Bob for a job well done.

Take note of the date – July 29 – for this year’s 11th Annual Indiana Microbrewers Festival in Indianapolis. Not only is this an above average beer fest, but it also affords the opportunity to visit Broad Ripple Brewing Company and Brugge Brasserie, which are both within stumbling distance of the festival site at Opti Park.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Reuters: “Hungary workers get shock at bottom of rum barrel.”

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungarian builders who drank their way to the bottom of a huge barrel of rum while renovating a house got a nasty surprise when a pickled corpse tumbled out of the empty barrel, a police magazine website reported.

Given that local homebrewers once concocted a version of “cock ale” (using macerated fowl, for those with naughty minds), a rum-based “cocktail” of similar design isn’t that surprising, is it?

Insert Hannibal the Cannibal joke here.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Passage to Rogue (Part 4): Citizens of Rogue Nation.

Newport is the now the home of Rogue Ales, the legendary craft brewing company, and a pilgrimage point for those who embrace the tasty ideology of Rogue Nation – but it wasn’t always so.

The brewery actually began its working life in 1988 in Ashland, Oregon, an inland town close by the namesake Rogue River and the Pacific Crest hiking trail. A second location was established in Newport the following year, with a brewing system setting up in what are now seating and gaming areas in the Public House below “Rogue’s House of Bed and Beer” (not bed & breakfast) in a building located on the city’s historic Yaquina Bay front.

With an eye toward expansion, Rogue purchased a cavernous building across the bay from the Public House in 1991, one originally used as a boat storage and repair facility. The brewing system was upgraded to 15-barrel capacity and moved from one side of the bay to the other.

Then came a setback in the form of a catastrophic flood that destroyed the original Ashland brewpub in 1997, shifting emphasis to the two company sites in Newport. In 1998, Rogue scavenged a 50-barrel brew house from a defunct fellow player, and has since added sparkling new double-sized fermenting vessels to it, marking the first time the brewery has opted for “new” rather than “gently used” equipment.

In like fashion, the Rogue Nation has progressed in recent years from a beer drinker’s manifesto-driven state of mind to a burgeoning reality-based collection of unpretentious and high quality brewing and pub outposts in Astoria, Eugene and Portland (Oregon), Issaquah (Washington) and San Francisco (California).

Corporate offices and a second pub/restaurant, Brewers by the Bay, have been built inside the production brewery’s building on the south side of Yaquina Bay, the exterior of which is being overhauled in 2006. A distillery with equipment manufactured by Louisville’s Vendome Copper & Brass Works is being installed across the parking area as Rogue diversifies into rum (currently produced at Rogue’s Portland pub location) and soon gin (to be flavored with spruce and West Coast botanicals) and vodka (“Marion” blackberries, anyone?)

Where to begin?

How about at the source?


Membership in Rogue Nation has its privileges, as Graham and I learned within an hour of taking our seats at the Rogue Public House bar on Wednesday, April 12. Early afternoon hours always seem best for visiting fine pubs, as the lunch crowds have abated and the regulars started to trickle through the portals for quiet libations and conversation.

So it was as we sat and ordered a first round from the two-dozen house brews on tap (and a few more well chosen guest selections). Almost immediately we were engrossed in discussion with a handful of patrons, all of whom are locals with a strong loyalty toward Rogue and a welcoming attitude toward strangers seeking the grail.

One of them was Bruce, a former Public House chef, who was introduced to us as the go-to seafood guru in Newport, with an establishment called Local Ocean just down the street from our grateful barstools.

We promised Bruce that we’d come see him on Thursday, and another beer lover seated nearby asked if we were card-carrying members of Rogue Nation, and as we were not, he told us with a laugh not to worry – Ed would be there soon enough, and he’d take care of everything.

The first pint had melted away, and a second was being poured. We may have driven almost three thousand miles to savor the fruits of Rogues, but as we learned, our story wasn’t at all unusual. It seems that a few years back, three young men on bicycles pulled up to the Public House, dismounted, and began their tour of the taps. Asked by attentive regulars where they had come from, the three responded in unison, “Maryland.”

In fact, they’d cycled from America’s East Coast to Newport, a months-long trek undertaken for no other stated reason than to visit Rogue.

Apprised of the situation by the pub’s amazed customers, Rogue’s management swung immediately into gear and transferred the long-haul Rogue beer cyclists into the guest rooms upstairs for a free stay with beer and food on the brewery’s tab. Sated after a couple of nights, the aficionados rented a van for the drive to Portland, where they bought airline tickets home – their missions (and legends) truly accomplished.


The transformation of Rich O’s Public House from a tiny one-room barbecue place into a serious beer bar began in 1992, and within two years, Rogue was distributing in Indiana through Bloomington’s Best Beers wholesaler.

Even in those early days of rising Hoosier beer consciousness, our hardy band of zealots fully recognized Rogue as both a pioneer of the American craft beer renaissance and the exemplar of an attitude toward beer that we keenly felt but were just learning to articulate.

In the twelve or so years since, I’ve been happily showcasing the brewery’s draft beers, especially the ones not often seen in Indiana. How this came about is something I can’t really recall at this stage.

In practice, it has meant speaking every two months or so to various people at Rogue – most often the brewery’s outgoing, quasi-Falstaffian general manager, Jim Cline – and building orders for a mix-and-match pallet of kegs, often including some selections form the core of draft Rogue beers, but more commonly inquiring as to what might be new, different or experimental within the huge portfolio of styles offered during that time.

And so it has gone throughout that time, with my guess being that Rich O’s has served upwards to fifty different Rogues. Better yet, within the past year Rogue’s vision has expanded to a well-received program called John’s Locker Stock, in which a limited number of pubs nationwide receive monthly allotments of small batch, revival and one-off Rogue beers.

It’s a great idea, and in some respects parallels what we’ve been doing all along. Discerning pubs now have the chance to vend some of the more obscure but always excellent beers brewed at Rogue by John Maier, whose reputation among fellow brewers and aficionados alike makes him among the best known and highly respected craftsmen in the business.


Somewhere in the vicinity of our third pint, Ed arrived at the bar. As the overseer of Rogue Nation, it is Ed’s pleasure to identify and initiate new members, and accordingly, a camera appeared, our mugs were captured, and shortly glossy membership cards appeared.

We celebrated – how else? – with another beer.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Recap: Fest of Ale at Keg Liquors on April 29.

Given that global beer trotter Bob Ostrander is back in the country, and that he came down to the Falls Cities for Saturday's Fest of Ale at Fest of Ale 2006 at Keg Liquors in Clarksville, I thought it would be a good idea to wait for his report at Indiana Beer before posting my own.

Basically, Bob takes far better photos than I do. That said, here are two views of the action beneath the tents:

It is fiendishly difficult to inaugurate a tradition, and once such a tradition has been established, people tend to forget the rougher patches at the outset.

Todd probably didn't get the crowd he was hoping, and there may or may not be a dozen reasons for that, but speaking for myself, it was a first-class event from top to bottom. I'm hoping Todd feels good about that even as he dissects the fest before spinning the wheel again next year, as he says he will do.

In my mind, The Keg's Fest of Ale 2006 provided more than "just" a great craft and imported beer selection. It also illustrated the extent to which Todd is serious that his business should be regarded as the go-to package store for good beer in Southern Indiana.

And I really want one of those portable English pubs ...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Election day is dry, but not Elector Night.

In honor of primary election day in Indiana, NABC's Jared Williamson will be tapping a firkin of lovingly tended, cask-conditioned Elector for sale today beginning at 6:00 p.m.

Remember: No alcohol on Election Day until the polls close at 6:00 p.m., which is when Rich O's Public House will be opening for business. Sportstime Pizza will be open from 11:00 a.m. for a depressingly dry lunch. See "
Another NA (non-alcoholic) election day" for further rants from the Curmudgeon.

Monday, May 01, 2006

A Passage to Rogue (Part 3): Floating up, in, over and out to Newport.

By Tuesday, April 11th – our seventh day on the road – Graham and I were safely across the Oregon border in Brookings. The remainder of the day after our morning tour of North Coast Brewing Company in Fort Bragg had gone splendidly, with ample afternoon time spent gaping at coastal redwood groves in their remaining preserved pockets of immensity, fortunately under state and federal jurisdiction, in northernmost California.

From Brookings, Rogue was within easy striking distance further up the gorgeous coast. We had planned all along to relax for a final pre-Rogue night somewhere south of Newport, before arriving in the brewery’s home town early Thursday for the day’s expected tour and related gala festivities, but as Mapmaster Graham studied the mileage on Tuesday night as we dined lazily in the midst of a sizeable contingent of senior citizens who reside year-round in Brookings’s numerous RV parks, the thought began to take shape that it made no sense whatsoever to be so close to the Rogue beer paradise and not to proceed there immediately.

There was one sizeable consideration to be heeded: Would we have a place to lay our weary heads? While Thursday night’s V.I.P. accommodations at “Rogue’s House of Bed and Beer,” i.e., the guest rooms upstairs at the Public House on Newport’s historic bay front, had been reserved for us in advance by the brewery’s legendary General Manager, Jim Cline, he would be out of town until late Wednesday at the earliest and unable to intercede.

Either way, we were headed north.

Wednesday breakfast – for me, a homemade sticky bun and cheese Danish with good, strong espresso – was taken at yet another small and exquisite diner in downtown Brookings.

It’s worth noting that somewhere around Eureka, California, we’d started noticing drive-through espresso kiosks. I had been forewarned about their ubiquity by my wife, a former resident of Seattle, who has long characterized their absence from the Louisville urban scene as a sure sign of decadence and decay.

As usual, she’s right. If a coffee table book depicting drive-through espresso stands hasn’t already been done, be the first – and get caffeinated.

It was another in series of incredible drives past beaches, bluffs, sand dunes and logging operations, the latter becoming increasingly obvious the further north we drove. Clear-cut forest certainly is a depressing sight at first glance, but less so when reassurance is forthcoming in the form of mass tree plantings. The resource is renewable, and trees will grow back. As society grows increasingly paperless, perhaps some of the trees won’t need to be felled again.

We paused for lunch on Wednesday in Florence, fifty miles from Newport, and visited the local tourist information bureau, where Graham inquired of the elderly gentleman on duty as to where we might find the town’s best place to eat.

He responded that it would be impolite to suggest one over another, to which Graham asked, “where are you going today for lunch?” The man pointed to a cafĂ© across the street, and there we adjourned for what proved to be improbably large homemade Malibu Chicken sandwiches. I dug out a phone number for the Rogue general offices and soon was chatting with a helpful representative.

She promised a return call, and within minutes I’d been given a confirmation to use the same two-bedroom suite for both Wednesday and Thursday. We were in! Now, finally, was the time to get excited at the prospect of sampling pints of Rogue’s many classic styles, fresh and at the source, and unimpeded by considerations of drinking and driving.


Prior to the construction of Highway 101 in the 1930’s, water-based communications and transport were speedier than wagons crawling across the forested mountains on mud tracks -- as in the case of the construction of the lighthouse at scenic Heceta Point.

Materials for the lighthouse itself, two large frame houses for the light keepers, and various support structures were shipped in, loaded onto flatboats to shore, pulled up to the promontory and assembled.

So was the very expensive and mechanically ingenious lamp itself, an interconnected network of prisms rotating on a carriage powered by clockworks, in the middle of which was a simple kerosene lamp optically magnified to throw a signal 21 miles out into the ocean.

For reasons unclear to me, this long overdue primer on the theory and practice of the lighthouse made me extremely thirsty. Fortunately, relief was a short time in coming.


Oregon’s stretch of Highway 101 is known as the Oregon Coast Highway, and as it passes through the state on its route from Los Angeles, California to Olympia, Washington, an abundance of graceful, stylish arch bridges carry the roadway over bays and waterways. Most of these bridges were designed by a renowned engineer named Conde McCullough and date from the time of the road’s construction in the 1930’s.

One such span passes long and high over the entrance to Yaquina Bay, marking the Newport harbor, with fishing boats of all sizes and purposes crowded into a commercial marina alongside the city’s original northside bay front and another, a leisure craft docking facility, serenely lying across the water to the south.

Providentially, each side of the bay has its own unique Rogue dispensing station, one within the brewery complex itself, next to the sporting craft southward, and the other our first destination upon arrival: The Rogue Ales Public House, which appropriately faces a fishery building near the area where the working boats congregate.

Graham parked the Crown Vic in the municipal lot next door, and we giddily made our entrance, facing an imposing display of two-dozen Rogues on tap and an early afternoon crowd.

“What’ll you be having?”

A tough question, indeed.

We were about to spend two sessions on separate days and locations attempting to answer it.