Sunday, August 27, 2006

We'll be back after this brief hiatus ...

The Curmudgeon is on a beercycling holiday until mid-September. It’s possible that there will be periodic postings during this time, but more than likely not.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you on or around the 20th.

(Photo credit ... Bob Reed must have been taking the picture, but it was Tim Eads's camera. We were in Poperinge for the final leg of our 2004 Tour de Trappiste -- in route to Westvletern -- and were being filmed by a Belgian television crew)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Stylish NABC 16-oz and 20-oz pint glasses debut -- and you can buy one (or more).

The long-awaited NABC signature glassware line finally has materialized (thanks, Judy).

Pictured at right is the 16-oz “mixer” pint, as captured at the Bistro New Albany and filled with NABC Croupier. We also have 20-oz English imperial pint glasses (not pictured).

Both boast the NABC logo in white on the front, with the phrase, “Brewing with a human face” in white on the opposite side.

They can be purchased (empty) at Rich O’s Public House and Sportstime Pizza for $5 each, or $17.50 for four. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 24, 2006

End of an era: Keg box swap.

I’ve been given the go-ahead to purchase a new keg box for the bar at Rich O’s.

It will replace the very first pre-owned keg box we ever bought (“used” is an understatement) in 1992 for $300. The keg box housed Guinness, the first draft beer at Rich O’s, which was later joined by Carlsberg (soon usurped by Pilsner Urquell) and a “middle tap” that rotated. The first “middle tap” was Oldenberg Outrageous Bock, followed by (literally) a hundred others.

Sierra Nevada Porter was pouring from the “middle tap” when the beer writer Michael Jackson visited Rich O's in 1994.

Some time in the late 1990’s, the compressor died and was replaced, and my friend Kevin put a rectangle of sheet metal on the floor to augment the encroaching rust. Unfortunately, and surreptitiously, around this same time a leak developed in the drip tray, and several years of beer slowly leaking into the insulation exacerbated the aging process and has made necessary the box’s removal.

We think that the our heirloom keg box will remain functional if used only occasionally, and so we’re moving it into the back of the Prost special events room to be deployed when helpful to serve gatherings, parties and receptions.

The new keg box likely will have space for three full-size kegs, but it is my intention to outfit it with five spouts instead of three, so that during festivals, the steadily proliferating sixth-barrel keg size will permit us to have extra taps (two will fit in the space taken up by a customary American half-barrel keg). When the new box installed, we’ll have increased to 35 total taps.

Special thanks to handyman and NABC employee Troy Banaski, who came in very early last Saturday and artfully undid the work originally performed by the inimitable Barrie Ottersbach, who built a bar to last, and firmly embedded the keg box inside it in the process.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

On hating megabreweries and the trade rags that glorify them.

Recently I had the ill fortune to receive in the mail one of those incredibly annoying “beer market” magazines, in which people like SAB-Miller’s international division chief prattles through endless paragraphs about “positioning” Italy’s dreadfully boring Peroni beer alongside other fashionable signature Italian brands like Gucci and Versace (like I know anything about fashion), but of course never delves into how much like every other international golden lager it really is -- how utterly forgettable, but "placed" on the menu at every Italian restaurant in the world, as though it has something to offer Italian cuisine.

There also was an in-depth analysis of the top 25 imported beers, and scanning the list, roughly half were Mexican, with perhaps two in all that I would drink before dedicating the contents of the cans to pet shampoo or drain cleaner -- but whaddaya get at every taqueria ...

Somewhere in the text of one of the articles was a grudging acknowledgement of heightened microbrew and craft beer sales, but in the main, most of it was cheerleading for multinationals, and the accompanying inbred Philistinism that makes it so difficult to locate a higher-up in the benumbed land of industrial brewing who knows or cares a jot about beer apart from extraneous factors attached to it.

Damn it, I want to taste smoked beer with enchiladas, and IPA with antipasto. Is it too much to ask?

End of rant.

Is it vacation yet?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Fifteen years is enough.

I’m retiring my favorite beer glass.

It was purchased off the shelf at the Prior department store in Kosice, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia) in September, 1991, and taken to my room at the “hospital hotel,” where I resided during my months teaching English. Fortunately, an enterprising privatized neighborhood grocery was within easy walking distance, and I carried returnable bottles of Czech and Slovak lager back to the pad on a daily basis.

The mug got a workout and survived the journey home in 1992, taking up service as the preferred receptacle of choice within the walls of the five houses I’ve lived since, and throughout the lifespan of my business.

It now will occupy display space with another heirloom, the 1/3 liter Plzensky Prazdroj (Pilsner Urquell) glass given to me by a taxi driver in 1987 after we completed a session at the now demolished pivnice across the street from the brewery in Plzen.

That’s another story. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The "Incider" No. 2 ... Rocky Meadow orchard news.

We'll return to Bob Capshew's orchard revival project from time to time as he draws ever closer to delightful fermentables. Here's an update to remind us of how much work it takes before one can relax on the patio with a glass of perry.


The Incider
August 2006, No. 2

Time for another update on the project to restore the Rocky Meadow orchard to productivity:

Like a summer drizzle, the picking has started. A few varieties have reached their respective ripening dates as this newsletter goes out. Many more, including the larger plantings in the orchard will be ready around Labor Day which should turn the harvest into a downpour. The Chojuro pears are now glowing orange globes. The Korean Giants have surpassed all others in size. Two broken Magness (a superior tasting European pear) limbs yielded ½ bushel of pears! So far no sign of codling moth worms!

The last six weeks have been a time of thinning pears for size and limb handling ability. The poison ivy, wild blackberries, honeysuckle, wild roses and grass have been tamed by the mower and string trimmer.

The crop will have a ready-made home this year. Thanks to Brian Kolb, the walk-in cooler is working again! The walk-in allows the pears to be stored at the proper temperature until their final disposition. The finer pears will be stored in two layer boxes with 40 to 60 individual compartments per box. The second quality pears and those damaged in the harvest will be stored until they are ground and pressed.

The hydraulic motor for the press has been mounted onto a steel frame with casters. Maureen has replaced the canvas chute with cordura nylon. Parts have been ordered to complete the wiring according to electrical code. The press will also be available for pressing grapes if anyone needs it.

Labor Day Weekend
Come out and pick some pears! We plan to be at the orchard all weekend. Stop by for a couple of hours, camp out, or whatever suits your schedule. We’ll have the smoker going, maybe some chili, and any additional food will be welcome. Our camper will also be there. If picking is not your style, you can still help with sorting, grading, etc.

Directions – I-64 west, exit Corydon, go left (north) on 135 for 2.8 miles. Turn left on Sival Road then bear right onto Rocky Meadow Road. Turn right and go 0.8 miles past Apple Valley Greenhouse to 360 Northwest (not Northeast).

Homebrewers’ Offer
As a way of thanking all of you that have helped, I am starting a list to sell barrels of pear cider (perry) and possibly apple cider. If you and your friends would like to reserve a 50 gallon barrel, I will provide the juice, barrel, yeast and storage. You will provide some labor to help press and pay $250 per barrel ($1 per 750 ml bottle). We’ll keep your barrel in the insulated walk-in during the winter. In the spring you may bottle or keg the cider as you wish. If you would like to bottle in 750 ml bottles, I have a contact for a group price. Let me know if you are interested. The availability will be based on the harvest and may lead to the purchase of some second grade apples if demand is sufficient.

What a talented and generous group of friends I have to thank – Jim Isbell (pressure washer), Kevin Richards (angle iron), Dennis Stockslager (mechanical work), Rick Buckman (boxes), Joel Halblieb (crates), Jim Frazier (molding), Leah Dienes (graphic art), Buck & Sarah (freezer), Doug (carpentry), John & Marlene and my wife Maureen (office converted to tasting room).

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Cumberland Brews celebrates six years on Monday, August 21.

If you're in or near the Louisville metropolitan area, it might interest you to know that on Monday, August 21, Cumberland Brews will be celebrating its sixth anniversary with a commemorative pint glass promotion that begins at 7:00 p.m.

Owner Mark Allgeier notes that supplies are limited, and that the purchase of one of brewer Matt Gould's fine beers is required. Some hardship! Cumberland Brews is Louisville's smallest brewpub, but possesses character writ very large; if you're a beer lover and live in this area, you have no excuse for not patronizing the establishment when visiting the Highlands (the brewpub is located on the 1500 block of Bardstown Road).

Friday, August 18, 2006

It depends on what "beer" is.

I saw this story several places, but since my family sawbones took note and posted on his NA Health blog, read it there: Miller not beer.

Is it beer according to the popular definition? Sure. Has the popular deifnition been twisted and perverted by decades of megabrewery dumbing down? Of course.

As for me, I don't tough the stuff ... Miller, that is. That should make my physicians happy.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

REWIND: PC '96 - A Day at the Fair.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12:20 Energy subsides.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14:15 First ostrich burger.

14:26 Back to work.

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

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

14:53 Seventeen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pizzeria and pub door art.

Local sign painter Mike McKinley created these transfers for the entry doors to Sportstime Pizza and Rich O’s Public House.

Over time – as reflected by the wording on the doorways – it is our intention to redirect the identity of the company toward New Albanian Brewing Company, with an on-site pizzeria and pub, even if we have no desire to completely retire the “Sportstime” and “Rich O’s” identities.

That re-branding will be a very long time in coming, so feel free to call us whatever you wish, for as long as you wish.

The 20th anniversary of Sportstime Pizza will be in the summer of 2007, which also will mark my 15th year as a part of the business. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Our correspondent writes: "My first Miller High Life."

This is far too funny to let pass, but since I haven't asked permission to reprint it, names are being omitted to protect the identities of the writer and his buddy.

At any rate, my friend is now two steps ahead of me. I can't imagine attending a demolition derby or drinking a Miller High Life.


Hi all,

So there I was at Brews Cafe drinking IPA and bullshitting with the manager. Well he asked if Iwanted to go paint a car up for the Demolition Derby. I thought ... hmmm geeee I can go to the hotel and watch TV or go paint up car and hang out. Well off we go to go paint the car for the grand Demolition Derby.

For those of you that don't know, Granville, Ohio is a town of about 4000, very hilly, nice land. The town is in Licking County. So we hopped in a pickup truck (what else) and headed down a bunch of windy roads. We finally arrive to a nice 7 acre parcel. Ahhh and there it was a gutted Escort reading for the big race. There we were and I was handed a can of Miller High Life. I was told about the good white trash times in Licking County. I was ready and willing to pop the top of this can and see for myself.

After seeing the car transformn into a race ready machine, I had another can ... yes two. Then it was time to slime the tires ... I thought to myself "what the fuck is slime the tires". Boy I sure did learn a lot about life in Licking County Ohio.

And while the car was a blast and the countryside scenic, Miller High Life just sucked. Both times. Thank you for letting me voice my confession for my indulgence of this macro-lager.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Bistro New Albany's draft beer selection.

Bistro New Albany's embryonic web site is up: Bistro New Albany.

The food's been good as ever (last Saturday night, the place was packed, but my blackened sirloin was perfectly prepared on the cool side of medium rare, and topped with a delicious heirloom tomato relish), and all ten taps are up and running.

As of this writing, the draft lineup looks something like this:

BBC Alt (or APA)
NABC Bob's Old 15-B
NABC Community Dark
NABC Croupier IPA
NABC Elector
NABC (rotating seasonal; currently Strathpeffer Heather)
Newcastle Brown
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Stella Artois
Upland Wheat

One of our longterm servers at NABC, Richard Atnip, has been pulling duty at the Bistro, and I'm told that he'll soon be assisting the Daves with the beer selection. That's good news.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The ideal restorative.

Thirty miles on the bike this morning, followed by five solid hours cleaning out the garage in anticipation of the annual Curmudgeon's NA Confidential party during New Albany's Harvest Homecoming parade (don't worry, it isn;t until October; I wanted to get a jump on it this year), left me almost too exhausted to drink a beer.

Fortunately one of my two remaining 2002 Cantillon Lou Pepe Gueuze lambics talked me out of it.

As my friend Barrie used to say: OOOHHHH .... Aaaahhhh.

Literally, there'll be none of that in Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria during the forthcoming beercycling trip, but I'll just have to make do.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Brew at the Zoo is Saturday, August 26.

NABC’s brew crew of Jesse Williams and Jared Williamson is representing the company in Madison, Wisconsin at today’s Great Taste of the Midwest, the premier craft beer showcase in our region.

Next up on the summer festival calendar is Brew at the Zoo, at the Louisville Zoo on Saturday, August 26, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Oasis Festival Tent and Field.

Here is the preview, as provided by the Zoo.

Delicious food tastings from area restaurants, live music by Blues Incorporated and Thumper and the Plaid Rabbits, an amazing array of local and regional microbrews, silent auction of animal art from the Zoo’s own resident artists, zany ZooOlympic games and more!

Special ticket required.

Proceeds of this fundraiser benefit the Louisville Zoo. For ticket prices, a list of participating restaurants and breweries and to purchase Tickets Online, click

Tickets include admission to the Zoo, live music and ZooOlympics entertainment, official Brew at the Zoo tasting glass and program, brew and food samplings from local breweries and restaurants.

Tickets also available for sale at Louisville Zoo Box Office during
regular hours or at BBC Beer Company, 636 E. Main Street, Louisville (through August 25).

Enjoy the finest brews from Bell’s Brewery, BBC Beer Company, Bluegrass Brewing Company, Broad Ripple Brewery, Browning’s Brewery, Cumberland Brews, Hofbrauhaus Newport, Lexington Brewing Company, The New Albanian Brewing Company, and Upland Brewing Company.

Tastings by BBC on 4th Street, Beef O’Brady’s, Bill’s Famous Cheese Spread, Bluegrass Brewing Company, Browning’s Brewery, Buckhead Mountain Grill, California Pizza Kitchen, Chardeau’s Classic Catering, Coca-Cola, Coolbaker’s, Come Back Inn, Great Harvest Bread Company, Hard Rock Café, Irish Rover, Java Brewing Company, Jockamo’s Pizza Pub, Maker’s Mark Bourbon House & Lounge, Monkey Wrench, O’Connell’s Irish Pub, The Oakroom at the Seelbach, Snappy Tomato Pizza, Sodexho, Texas Roadhouse, Whole Foods Market, Wild Oats Natural Marketplace, Yang Kee Noodle and Za’s Pizza Pub.

Additional support by River City Decorative Concrete.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Stockholm rumination.

I’ve told you before about the day in 1983 when my life changed forever.

A few months later, I visited the public library for a completely unrelated reason, and walking down the aisle, happened to pass the travel section. The first title that caught my eye was “Europe on $25 a Day,” by Arthur Frommer.

This prompted a double take. Was it a misprint? A scam? Could it really be true? Skeptical but suddenly curious, I checked out the book and took it home, poured a beer, and started reading.

Cue the orchestral swell and unleash the starburst.

For most twenty-something males, it would have required the woman of their dreams running bikini-clad across a beach during a rainstorm to elicit such a response as Frommer’s book did from me, for in it, there were clear and solidly reasoned tips for how to do Europe right … and for longer than a week.

More than two decades later, much about a trip to Europe has changed, and I needn’t enumerate the list of ATM availability, cell phone usage and flights price lower than trains to make the point that one must always be sufficiently nimble to adapt to altered circumstances.

At the same time, the fundamental things still apply, and in spite of being far more financially secure now than in those far-off days of youth, I still can’t bring myself to follow the tips generally provided in the typical “travel” section of the Sunday New York Times.

A case in point: “Going to Stockholm," by Denny Lee (Sunday, August 6, 2006; may require registration).

There’s a template of sorts for articles like this, and accordingly, Lee provides the accustomed overview of the target destination before proceeding to tips on hotels, eateries and activities.

For a place to sleep, he offers the Grand Hotel ($514 per room, per night) before descending to a lesser priced luxury choice at around $200). Two “intriguing” budget hotels are mentioned in passing, but without quoted prices.

For the “hottest” dining in town at present, Lee directs the reader to a $100-plus meal for two, “wine excluded.” Budget travelers are introduced to Stockholm’s hot dog stands for hangover-reduction meals running closer to $10 a plate.

So far, nothing about Lee’s article is unexpected, given the free-lancer’s understandable aim to write in accordance with the NYT’s target readership in mind. That he mentions “budget” options at all is somewhat miraculous.

However, the Curmudgeon takes issue with this comment:

One place to avoid is Kvarnen (Tjarhovsgatan 4, 46-8-64-03-80;, a wood-paneled beer hall that charges a ridiculous coat check fee (15 kronor), even during the summer.

Having been to Stockholm only twice, I can’t speak for the ambience in the Kvarnen, and it may well be a place to avoid for reasons of smoke, perfume or stale beer. The web site shows nine beers on tap, most of them imported, with prices in the $8 (a glass) range that are entirely typical for Scandinavia, where cheap beer is hard to find outside of crates of supermarket-vended bottles.

But wine up north is expensive, too, given that none of it is made in Sweden, and consequently all of it must be imported. Even with generous EU wine subsidies, you might as well double the price of the $100 meal to include a decent bottle of wine – and if you’re prepared to pay that much, why not spend it on indigenous Swedish-made beer and spirits?

Furthermore, as odd as it may be to charge 15 kronor for a coat check, such a practice obviously is intended as a cover charge, in this case a cover charge totaling $2, which the author – who began by recommending a $514 hotel room – inexplicably finds outrageous.

My fondest memory of Stockholm in 1985 is roaming the city’s many islands during the late July warmth, and noting how very different the more comprehensive sunbathing habits are there compared with the modesty demanded of the Bible Belt.

The city quite possibly isn’t the best place to drink inexpensive beer, but voyeurism remains a very affordable pleasure, I hope.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

FOSSILS elections approaching ... legacies up for grabs.

I'm turning over today's space to Beth Howard, whose piece in the current FOSSILS homebrewing and beer appreciation club newsletter strikes a responsive chord in me.

But first ...

While in Orlando, Tom Moench and I reminisced about the halcyon days of the early- to mid-1990's, when the craft beer revolution was exploding -- and heading toward its inevitable implosion, a dialectically necessary culling of weak links that has left us with a far stronger beer culture than before.

The gist of our discussion was that my own radicalism (somewhat surprisingly, people actually remember it) is somewhat muted of late, a product perhaps of growing old, of feeling more secure, of being in a better place in terms of success in building a culture of good beer locally -- for any number of reasons, really, and maybe none at all. I suppose the passing of time is funny that way.

When monolithic entities like Anheuser-Busch realize that they cannot create craft beer from scratch and must instead buy the existing brands that have earned it, it's a back-handed concession that such companies have no role to play in the legacy of beer as it was meant to be.

Beth's article isn't about these sort of "macro" legacies, but about our own local "micro" legacies and the importance of preserving them. Consider joining FOSSILS. Admittedly, my personal involvement has waned somewhat, and yet this doesn't mean my commitment to the group is gone. The club will be 16 years old in September, and now's as good a time as any for a second wind.


FOSSILS Officers: The Power & The Prestige ... An Editorial-ish Challenge from Beth Howard.

Yes, it’s true…power and prestige are just two of the reasons you should consider serving your club as a FOSSILS officer. Other reasons vary per individual, but suggested motivating factors also include beer, getting to stand on tables at meetings to make announcements, being in charge of petty cash, having people get pissed at you when you do or say something they don’t like, wielding the femur of power like a warrior (especially when people get pissed at you when you do or say something they don’t like), making the decisions on dates/times/locations/beer menu at club events, being hoarse on Monday mornings after yelling over the crowd at FOSSILS meetings on Sunday nights, being part of the rich and vibrant beer culture of our community and, of course, the beer.

Keep these opportunities in mind as we head toward September when FOSSILS will open the floor for club officer nominations. As of right now, there will be vacancies for three FOSSILS offices: President, Vice-President and Secretary. Denny Stapp has expressed his interest in continuing as club Treasurer.

But there is another reason to consider becoming a FOSSILS officer – legacy. Indulge me for a moment, please, while I elaborate.

I wasn’t there, but I think it’s safe to say the early days of FOSSILS (circa 1990) were quite different than the club we know today. At that time, most club members were Rich O’s regulars and most Rich O’s customers were FOSSILS members. Club communications were probably a bit more straightforward – you’d just lean over to the table next to you to chat with the other club members there about the next FOSSILS meeting or matter of business.

Newer FOSSILS probably don’t realize that the club’s newsletter, Walking the Dog, used to be produced in-house at Rich O’s. Roger served as editor-in-chief, primary contributing writer, and wrangler of contributing writers as well as doing the layout and production on the newsletter … not to mention the photocopying, stapling and stamp licking involved with distribution. And he accomplished this while managing a business, mind you. Pretty damn phenomenal, especially considering the quality content of Walking the Dog.

This was well before the days of e-mail, e-newsletters and blogs so the editorial content of The Dog reflected a distinctive attitude for the club and thereby served an integral role in FOSSILS culture. It contained not only club news and events, but served as a forum for beer and non-beer related opinions on a local, national and international level, included witty fiction, chronicled beer travel adventures of club members and even book and music reviews on occasion. Some people joined FOSSILS just so they could receive a copy of this much-anticipated newsletter in their mailbox each month.

Roger resigned as editor of the club newsletter in 2004 after nearly 15 years at the helm. Today, several members collaborate to research, write and publish The Dog electronically and post it each month at The Dog is primarily and unabashedly operational in nature – assuring that club activities, events and news are distributed to members in a timely manner. It’s how we stay in touch with FOSSILS-centric info, which works well because now we have, among other things, Pulicanista! for Rich O’s/Sportsime/NABC news and can log on to Roger’s NA Confidential or Potable Curmudgeon blogs to get our fix of Roger-isms and his take on the planet.

Just as with our communication styles and methods, change is inevitable for FOSSILS as a club. Organizational dynamics, especially in social clubs, indicate patterns of involvement and disenchantment … ardent support and apathy … floundering membership numbers and robust membership growth. Membership numbers indicate that FOSSILS is indeed growing – perhaps not always in the direction the founding members expected it to but also perhaps also in ways they could never have imagined.

Our club’s growing pains have been evident over the past few years as FOSSILS hit the 15-year mark with club leaders having to address unusual, unexpected and sometimes unwarranted obstacles in keeping the club alive. If you’ve not thanked them for their tenacity, their ingenuity and the countless hours of behind-the-scenes work and worry that kept the FOSSILS engine running relatively smoothly, you should. You should maybe even buy them a beer next time you see them. They’ve taken a lot a grief along with sharing a lot of laughs and a sense of accomplishment…and without them, FOSSILS could have quite possibly seen extinction several years ago.

We’re fortunate that several founding members are still active and engaged in club activities. Come to think of it, maybe we should all buy them a beer or two next time we see them, too. And while other FOSSILS founders and original members may not be as close at hand as they once were or may have drifted away, their legacy of a launching and championing a revolution in the name of good beer remains with us as the FOSSILS members of today.

Thanks to current FOSSILS leadership, we have our land legs back as a club with solid footing from financial, operational and communications standpoints.

Now it’s time for us to turn up the volume on that revolutionary spirit, circa FOSSILS 2006. Are you up for the challenge as President, Vice President or Secretary of FOSSILS?

Rumor has it that some are. We’ll find out for sure on September 10.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Egg on Harvard Medical's face.

The New Albany Tribune publishes a weekly syndicated medical focus page from the Harvard Medical School, and today’s entry was titled, “"Gender inequality in the effects of alcohol."

Here is the link to the same story, but from a different newspaper. Unfortunately, the on-line version has been edited to exclude this passage:

Dark beers contain more alcohol than light beers.

Not necessarily!

Why expend two thousand words in the name of science if a simple fact like this can’t be gotten right?

A Polish “Mocne” (malt liquor) is golden, and contains 8% alcohol, as do most Belgian "tripels."

An English mild or Irish draft stout is dark, and contains 5% or less.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Does the Harvard Medical Faculty believe that bock beer comes from the once-yearly cleaning of the brewing system?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Czech beer in the New York Times.

How pleasingly timely, considering I’ll be there in a little more than three weeks.

The Ultimate Beer Run in the Czech Republic, by Evan Rail (New York Times; link probably requires registration).

Here’s an excerpt.

Going to the source is an emerging pastime for beer lovers. The wine trails of Napa, Bordeaux and Piedmont need no introduction. The same, however, cannot be said for the beer trails of Bohemia and Moravia. And yet, in recent years, amateur beer hunters have begun carving their own paths through these ancient Czech kingdoms, tapping into the same passion for local hops and barley that drives oenophiles to cross the globe for zinfandel and nebbiolo.

Wine snobs might call this overreaching, but great beer is inextricably tied to its environment in much the same way that a great Burgundy displays a characteristic terroir. Real Pilsner, for example, is made with the low-sulfite, low-carbonate water of the Czech city of Pilsen, its original home. Many have tried, but it’s nearly impossible to make a good Pilsner elsewhere without doctoring the water, and even then, it will never taste the same.

Around Europe, a handful of beer trails have already emerged, like the lambic breweries of the Senne Valley in Belgium, the seven Trappist monastery breweries of Belgium and the Netherlands, and the dozen or so Kölsch beer makers of Cologne.

There’s a certain irritation inherent in the recognition that the mainstream media seems unable to “get beer right” unless it can be explained using “wine geek” concepts, hence the examples of “terroir” “wine trails,” but so be it.

Fortunately, brewer and writer Garrett Oliver helps to provide much needed context as the author first predictably journeys to Pilsner Urquell and Budvar, but then also finds a gem of a tiny brewpub in a mountain meadow and visits another in Prague.

In the end, it’s a fairly good article, and worth a read. I’d add that all involved, from the author through Oliver, overstate the case when it comes to the traditional expertise of Czech brewing. For every independent brewery, there are a half-dozen of more (including SAB Miller’s Pilsner Urquell) owned by foreign investors, and the post-Communist transition from old-fashioned methods like open primary fermentation, in favor of using stainless steel, has produced technically superior beer that seldom tastes as authentic as it formerly did.

Although that won’t stop me from drinking it when I’m there … Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Beer list: Jack Fry’s Restaurant.

Recently a diligent patron dropped off a current beer list from Jack Fry’s Restaurant, and as I was looking it over it occurred to me that information like this may be of interest to readers.

Admittedly, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve dined at Jack Fry’s, but the experience has been uniformly excellent during these past visits.

Here’s the history of the restaurant, as described by Louisville restaurant critic Robin Garr at Robin Garr’s Louisville Restaurant Guide:

The original namesake and owner, Jack Fry, started a neighborhood tavern with the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 and ran it as a local institution until the late '70s, whereupon - gentrifying in step with the neighborhood it's in - it went upscale under new management, shedding its stale-beer-and-peanuts ambience in favor of something just as comfy if a bit more dressy.

And suddenly it's been a quarter of a century, and the "new" Jack Fry's has earned a place in Louisville's heart.

That's what I call enduring popularity, and Fry's has earned it the old-fashioned way, by consistently offering excellent fare in a comfortable setting. I rarely leave here after a meal without a happy, satisfied smile.

For the food menu at Jack Fry’s and further information, visit the restaurant’s web site.

Here’s the beer list, with the price following the beer. I’m assuming all these are 12-oz. bottled selections; it’s possible that a mainstream lager is on draft.

BBC Altbier 4
Bitburger Pilsner 4
Pilsner Urquell 4
Hoegaarden 5
Harp Lager 4
Sierra Nevada 4
Anchor Steam 5
Bell’s “Oberon” Summer Ale 5
Samuel Smith “Nut Brown Ale” 7
Rogue “St. Rogue Red Ale” 5
Abita “Turbo Dog” Dark Brown Ale 4
Fuller’s ESB 5
Hennepin “Belgium Style Ale” 6
Orval Trappist Ale 10
Guinness Stout 5

At the bottom, and appropriately, there are insignificant others: Budweiser, Bud Light, Miller Lite and Beck’s NA ($3 each) and Amstel Light ($4).

Jack Fry’s qualifies as “upscale” in the Curmudgeon’s lexicon, and this perhaps explains $10 for an Orval, although it strikes me as gouging to charge $5 for a bottle of Oberon. The remainder seem reasonably priced considering the setting.

As with other restaurants of a similar ctaegory, good beer may not be the reason you choose to go ... but it helps to know that it's there, all the same.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Are oatmeal and pumpkins the "wrong ingredients" in beer?

Don’t let me be misunderstood.

I’m not calling out Food & Dining magazine, which pays me to write beer columns, or Jay Forman, who contributed a humor column to the "Summer, 2006" edition of the consistently excellent magazine.

At the same time, you are advised to bear in mind that neither contrarians nor curmudgeons voluntarily eschew the delicate art of the quibble.

The writer Forman’s column isn’t archived on-line, but it’s a genuinely funny rumination about simplicity of taste versus the multiplicity of choices in food and drink.

The author first suffers an anxiety attack trying to distinguish between the many types of honey on display at a natural foods mega-store, then extends his “when does experimentation and the mixing of genres become too much?” analogy to chocolate bars and beer before tackling perceptions of exhibitionism in fusion cuisine.

On the topic of beer, Forman writes:

All this harkens back to the onset of the microbrew craze in the mid-90s. Back then there was an explosion of new beers, some containing extremely wrong ingredients like oatmeal and pumpkin. I applaud that whole movement … but for every new beer flavor that scored, about 20 or so shanked wide right and tumbled ingloriously into the cheap seats of food history.

Wrong ingredients?

According to whom?

The problem here is that for the sake of an ephemeral chuckle, historical perspective is being sacrificed – and inaccuracies like that tend to bother me. In this instance, we’re left with the impression that the use of oatmeal and pumpkins in beer represents a disturbing New Age bastardization of tradition.

It took me less than five minutes on the Internet to find ample refutation for this thesis.

The colonists used pumpkin not only as a side dish and dessert, but also in soups and even made beer of it.

From Beer Advocate:
For instance, a particular sub-style of the stout genre, which doesn't get the respect it deserves, is the Oatmeal Stout. Its history dates back to the mid- to late 1800s, with the discovery that adding oats to beer made it healthier.

Verily, it would appear that the use of oatmeal and pumpkins in beer did not originate during the Clinton Administration, but rather are indicative of an often utilitarian but admittedly sometimes frivolous creativity that nonetheless has been extant since beer was first brewed in ancient times.

What about other contemporary examples of adding unconventional ingredients to beer?

Coriander and orange peel in Belgian Wit?

Sorry, that pre-hopping practice extends back to the spiced “gruit” ales of the Middle Ages.

Smoked chipotle peppers?

Here’s what Rogue has to say about its delicious Chipotle Ale:

Dedicated to Spanish author Juan de la Cueva, who, in 1575, wrote of a Mexican dish that combined seedless chipotles with beer: Chipotle Ale is based on Rogue's Oregon Golden Ale, but delicately spiced with smoked chipotle chile peppers.

Sounds like a relevant culinary antecedent to me.

Don’t worry; I’m not about to defend the practice of adding bananas, passion fruit and entire sugar plantations to traditional Belgian lambic. In a similar vein, there certainly have been examples of the experimental genre that have failed in the fashion cited by Jay Forman in his article.

Once at the Great American Beer Festival, I tasted a beer called Anthracite Porter. They wouldn’t admit to using real coal in it, although it certainly tasted that way.

However, in the end, the history of fermentation is all about innovation, from well before the time when hops were used to balance the sweet malt, and up to the current age, when coffee, chamomile and cayenne might each be deployed to create new flavor sensations.

Don’t forget the Curmudgeon’s Axiom: It’s a permanent revolution, and it you’ve found the one beer you like … it’s time to start over.

Friday, August 04, 2006

More Orlando adventures in beer with Tom Moench.

As noted previously, the estimable Tom Moench rescued us from an afternoon of Orlando resort hotel boredom (and $6 half-pints of Guinness served in stemware) during the family reunion weekend.

Tom is a sixth-generation Floridian and a former union stagehand who gave it up to do more than complain about the “beer wasteland,” as he pegs the Central Florida area.

In a two-decade stint as regional beer advocate, Tom has brewed at home and commercially, judged small and large competitions, invented useful beery gadgets, and founded Unique Beers, which aims to redress the imbalance between craft beer and dreadful industrial swill of the sort dominating his neck of the woods.

It turns out that Tom and I once met over a decade ago at Rich O’s, version 1.0, and he was a subscriber to the FOSSILS club newsletter during those heady pre-Internet days when we mailed copies all across the country and thought we’d change the world. Actually we succeeded, though not in the way hoped, but that’s another story for another time.

Our first stop in Orlando last Saturday afternoon was Knightly Spirits, where we met the great Jason and gazed upon the lovely Belgians that he has stacked to the ceiling of the shop (see Orlando: One hell of a package store, Jason.)

Next we proceeded to lunch at one of Tom’s star accounts, the unprepossessing but thoroughly savvy 903 Mills Market, a residential neighborhood, street-corner gathering place that’s part funky grocery, part rock solid deli, and with plenty of great beer (much of it from Tom’s wholesale house) happily co-existing with kegs-to-go of Miller Lite.

Alternatives are good. As we sat outside munching and trading war stories, an art exhibit to benefit a local artist preparing to move to Atlanta was being set up.

Here's another account of the eatery.

Tom’s own creation, Orange Blossom Pilsner, is available at 903 Mills Market on draft and in bottles (and many other places, too).

Currently he contract brews this pleasing, 30% honey beer at Frederick Brewing in Maryland. Infinitely preferable to those American mass-market lagers with whom it competes to introduce people to an expanded flavor profile, it made a wonderful hot weather aperitif as we waited for our sandwiches to be prepared. I grabbed a Boulder Mojo IPA from the bottle cooler when my Rodger Dodger (corned beef and roast beef on marbled pumpernickel) arrived.

Next: Wildside Bar & Grill BBQ & Tom’s Pub. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Strathpeffer heather & honey ale now on tap at NABC.

NABC's Strathpeffer Heather, a heather and honey ale named for the town in Scotland where a Pictish eagle is carved into a large stone, is now being poured at the Public House and Pizzeria.

The ale was brewed with 90% Simpson's Golden Promise two-row and heather flower honey, with heather (i.e., a shrubbery) added throughout the brewing and maturation processes. It is golden in color, and circa 8% alcohol by volume.

Artwork is by Tony Beard. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Indiana Microbrewer's Festival recap and interview with Jesse Williams.

The Indiana Microbrewer's Festival was Saturday, July 29, and the folks at Indiana Beer were there to cover it:

adj: 1. Oppressively hot and humid; sultry. 2. A meteorological condition nullifying beer's ability to quench one's thirst

The Good Beer Show also was there, and recorded MP3 interviews during the event.

Listen to NABC's Jesse Williams here (and visit the Good Beer Show for other clips).