Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Worlds of Flavor BBQ and Music Fest in downtown New Albany on August 18.

This just in from Mike Kopp of Develop New Albany.

Mike, a realtor, has been an instrumental in getting downtown New Albany revitalization off the ground, and he has been trying to organize a downtown event on Saturday, August 18.

It goes without saying that NABC beers will be available at the licensed establishments listed below, with the exception of Federal Hill, which yet doesn't have a permit. It isn't clear to me yet whether it will be possible to sell beer at the amphitheater, but stay tuned for further information as planning proceeds.


Just a bit of info as to our event for the 18th of August.

August 18th is the first of what we hope will be an annual event: The Worlds of Flavor BBQ and Music Fest.

Bascially, the event will happen like this: Starts at 5 p.m. at the Amphitheater on the riverfront. We will have three bands playing Ragtime, Latin Style (name to be released) and Blues (The Mudcats). We have invited vendors to participate and sell their product in the downtown area while the event is ongoing. We have asked them to have something that says "Worlds of Flavor."

The restaurants are participating in the following way: Speakeasy will have a India Flavored BBQ, Bistro New Albany will have a Cuban Flavor BBQ, Federal Hill will have a special Italian Flavored BBQ, and Connors Place has invited Rib Tip Tony in his courtyard and will offer a Jamaican Jerk Chicken.

Vendor cost is a mere $10 permit with the Health Dept. I have forms and will send .pdfs to those folks with interest.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Brew at the (Louisville) Zoo basics for 2007.

2007 Brew at the Zoo Fact Sheet

Date: August 25, 2007
Time: 4:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Location: The Louisville Zoo Oasis band shell, tent and field.

The event, which has grown each year, brought more than 2,000 guests to the Zoo this past year. For 2007, we are projecting an attendance of 2,500 patrons.

Tickets will be available beginning July 1st. Advance ticket purchase online at www.louisvillezoo.org
Individual $38.00
Designated Driver $28.00

Advance ticket purchase at the Zoo box office
Individual $45.00
Designated Driver $35.00

Day of the Event
Individual $50.00
Designated Driver $40.00

Price includes admission to the Zoo, live music, Official Brew at the Zoo 4 oz. tasting glass and brew and food sampling from participants. (Food service 4pm – 6:30 pm, Beer/wine tasting until 8:30pm)

Event Overview:
There will be different beers for tasting from 20 local & regional breweries. A selection of non-alcoholic products and water will be provided along with a variety of food tasting and wine tasting donated from over 30 local restaurants and vendors.

Live Music:
Two local talents, Stompbox and Two Guys Having Fun, will perform live at the Event. Bring your lawn chairs and picnic blankets to lounge on the lawn and enjoy the tunes.

Parrot Dice Casino and Raffles Baskets:
Do you feel lucky? Cold beer and hot dice are new for this year’s Brew. Gamble with your friends for the benefit of the Zoo. In addition, The Friends of the Zoo will be selling chances to win one of several fantasy raffle packages offered. Each participating brewery/restaurant/vendor contributes items or gift certificates for the raffle basket

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Get thee to the Hofbrauhaus Newport. Seriously.

Few institutions in the world of beer and brewing are as revered as Munich’s Hofbrauhaus.

Few are as misunderstood.

People the world over tend to confuse regional Bavarian culture with that of Germany as a whole, something that never fails to elicit sighs from residents of Bremen, Idar-Oberstein and Hannover. In like fashion, the Hofbrauhaus is erroneously viewed as the exact model of how German beer is made, served and celebrated, but in fact it is uncommon to see such a large-scale beer and food service entity outside of Munich itself, even in the remainder of Bavaria.

Other than a shared fondness for pilsner-style lagers, which is a relatively recent historical development, beer and beer culture vary widely throughout Germany. Munich has no smoked beer; Bamberg does. Cologne and Dusseldorf brew Kolsch and Alt, respectively, and both are top-fermenting, but neither city has a tradition of wheat ales, which are a Bavarian innovation … except for Berliner-style wheat ales, which are something entirely different and come from much further north.

To be sure, Bavaria’s self-promotional savvy conjures imagery of Lederhosen, Bratwurst and “Ein Prosit!”, and as such, it is perhaps appropriate that a pilgrimage to the Hofbrauhaus at its Platzl address has been de rigueur for tourists in Munich ever since the current building was constructed in 1897. Be as curmudgeonly as you please, and yet no one seriously doubts that a visit to the Hofbrauhaus is fun, memorable and infinitely capable of being photographed.

Paris feasts may be moveable, but Hofbrauhaus stories are expandable. Typically soft, clean Bavarian lagers are served in oversized liter mugs, pork in all its conceivable bodily incarnations is expertly prepared, a vast and sprawling acreage of diners and drinkers clink noisy toasts and sing along as they are regaled by tuneful brass bands, and restrooms the size of Rhode Island are patronized constantly and tended by grimly serious cleaning personnel.

While the Hofbrauhaus well represents Bavarian beer, cuisine and communal traditions at an almost lunatic, exaggerated extreme, experiencing these wonders would be nowhere as delightful if their intrinsic worthiness were not so transparently obvious to beginners and veterans alike.

But can that worthiness be transplanted to foreign climes?

In 1999, and with much fanfare, the Hofbrauhaus was cloned and a second location opened in … yes, Dubai, of all places. This was followed by a third site in Newport, Kentucky (across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Ohio) in 2003, and then another in Las Vegas. A fifth Hofbrauhaus is slated to open in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the fall of 2007. More are sure to follow.

I had not had the chance to visit the Hofbrauhaus Newport until last Saturday afternoon, when it was crammed to the rafters with locals and tourists devoting a gorgeous day to enjoying resurgent Newport’s aquarium and surrounding shops and eateries, or, like my party, preparing to walk across the nearby pedestrian and bicycle bridge to watch the Reds play at Great American Ball Park in downtown Cincinnati.

Hofbrauhaus Newport’s web site takes a reasonable approach to expectations in spite of muddling the Bavarian with the German:

The first authentic Hofbräuhaus in America is here. Guests are now able to enjoy many of the traditions from Germany that have made Hofbräuhaus famous.

So it was for us, and we enjoyed the ongoing translation of these venerable traditions into something comprehensible for the masses, and that for the most part has not lost its potency and relevance during the course of the conversion. As one who has been to the Hofbrauhaus Munich and numerous establishments throughout greater Bavaria many times since 1985, the ultimate compliment that I can pay the Hofbrauhaus Newport is that during much of my time there, while devouring a workmanlike facsimile of Leberkase and several (small for varied sampling) mugs of tasty Bavarian style Helles, Dunkles and Export, it was indeed possible to drift off into an incredibly relaxed continental reverie – and accordingly, almost impossible to resist hopping a cab to the nearby Northern Kentucky airport for an immediate flight to the original Munich address to sate the voracious desires thus released.

So, just remember: You’ll enjoy “many” of the traditions, and “much” of it will be authentic, at the Hofbrauhaus Newport, but an exact match it is not (and to its credit, does not claim to be).

Brewing is licensed and supervised by German brewers, and it shows, although the presence of a “light” version reminds you that it’s the Ohio outside and not the Isar. Televisions at Newport make sense; not in the Munich Hofbrauhaus. The Newport menu has numerous reliable Bavarian beer hall options, and the overall effect is quite close to the mark, but to be blunt, Americans simply don’t do pork as pork is done in Bavaria – and burgers aren’t exactly on the Speisekarte at the Platzl location. Finally, Bavarians instinctively understand one crucial truth about beer and the average male: Allow him to drink liters of tasty lager, and he will make frequent trips (somewhere) to return that spent liquid to nature. That’s why the Hofbrau Munich restrooms are so thoughtfully large … and the HB Newport might profit from it.

By and large, these are niggling criticisms, and a trip to the Hofbrauhaus Newport is highly recommended by the Publican.

Riding back to Louisville after the game with a busload of human karaoke machines is much less desired. In Bavaria, they’d have been speaking German, and while still obnoxious, not so painfully fact deprived.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Hide that Cabernet: High octane Busch (no, not "Bush") blather.

Enjoy this clearly rendered, impassioned testimony from former Bulgarian communist leader Todor Zhivkov … no, wait; it’s actually emanating from the personal word processor of Anheuser-Busch’s somewhat boy wonderish August “Four Sticks” Busch, the company’s head honcho, and he who is incessantly promoted by the corporation's Pyongyang-educated shills as a specialist in all aspects of beer.

Didn’t he invent the aluminum alloy used in the company’s cans? Maybe, maybe not, but as this paragraph clearly illustrates, he sure knows how to talk pretty about beer.

"The positive outlook is based on the favourable pricing environment, our broadened US beer portfolio to access high-margin growth opportunities, successful productivity improvement initiatives that are mitigating cost pressures and enhanced earnings contributions from our international beer segment."

Gee. If that's not love, I don't know what is.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Sergio's World Beers an unlikely Shelbyville mecca ... but it is.

Staffer Ben Adkins of the Sentinel-News, a newspaper published in Shelby County, Kentucky, is hereby accorded the honor of being the first media representative to break the news about Sergio’s to the extended Louisville metropolitan area.

In December, 2006, Adkins offered the scoop:

Sergio's, Shelbyville's newest eatery, is multiculturalism defined.

Flags from nearly 100 nations are draped along the walls of the restaurant, while nearly as many license plates from every state in America, every Canadian province and other far-reaching corners of the world serve as a border near the ceiling.

"We're going to do international food -- things that you can't really find around here," said owner Sergio Ribenboim.

So far, not exactly earthshaking. After all, isolated rural towns now have Mexican taquerias, and from the food and dining standpoint, multiculturalism has been shown to sell even if it is served up watered down. There’ll be more about “water” in a moment, but first we’ll scroll further into the Sentinel-News piece for the most intriguing bit:

A bar is also being built, which will feature around 100 beers from Belgium, Belize and other countries worldwide.

"Every country that there's beer available from, I'm going to have," Ribenboim said.

Strong words like those typically come from people who enjoy being challenged, especially when it comes to beer, because America’s hoary and monopolistic three-tier system of beer distribution works to ensure that those residing in the hinterlands enjoy far less choice than city dwellers.

Knowing that, it should come as no surprise that the current state of affairs at Sergio’s hasn’t quite developed in the way the owner foretold.

Now his bottled beer list now runs to the vicinity of 350, there are also eight other beers on tap, and despite the necessary evil of mass-market swill (order a “water,” and you’ll be served Miller Lite), the selection is strong, particularly the Belgian contingent – hands down the best in the region.

I began hearing about Sergio’s in May, with the conduit for information being a loyal customer with dual citizenship, i.e., he belongs in the “Norm!” class both in Sergio’s and the Rich O’s/NABC Public House. Although our paths hadn’t crossed, Sergio had made the drive to New Albany on numerous occasions since being introduced by his brother, until finally we met at the end of June.

Two days ago, my exuberantly beer-friendly frequent collaborator Graham took the wheel and we traveled east on I-64, eventually exiting near Shelbyville and backtracking on U.S. 60 to the Kentucky beer shrine, which occupies a building that formerly housed a sports bar.

Verily, our visit to Sergio’s, while brief, proved as joyful and entertaining as any beer trek I’ve previously undertaken, but it is no exaggeration to add that it was one filled with more eccentricities and conundrums than all but a select few episodes in the expansive pantheon of my fermented memories.

As was the case in times of old, when much of the allure of Rich O’s was its entirely unexpected location in New Albany, the story of Sergio’s is inseparable from its relative isolation well outside the city limits of Louisville.

While the Sergio’s bottle club, which rewards customers for trying the many beers on the list, is topped by the impossible well-traveled and multi-lingual owner himself (after all, he says, all new beers coming across the threshold must be sampled with an eye toward suitability), the second ranking position is occupied by none other than Ronnie the Redneck – a real person who formerly requested light beer and a salt shaker, and now has consumed 290 different beers from across the planet.

The food menu is voluminous and truly international, and we were barely seated in the cluttered bar area when a friendly helper brought homemade salsa and chips, but the real specialty of the house is a fine and messy Philly cheese steak.

Prices throughout are reasonable, and the atmosphere at Sergio’s is decidedly casual. In the end, what makes it click is that there is nothing whatsoever pretentious about the experience (understand that I’ve always known how I can be in such situations), and the only thing gentrified about it is the quality of the beer list.

Sergio’s 12-year-old son runs the web sites when he isn’t exploring the world, running his own business or collecting cars (no, real autos, but Sergio can explain it to you):


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

My heart's not racing. Got IPA?

In today’s Louisville Courier-Journal:

Molly Malone's to open pub in Covington, by Ryan Clark.

I still adore Irish pubs, but it’s important for me to make a point.

While there was a time when Irish pubs provided a veritable oasis of choice in beer wastelands from Louisville to Bucharest, it no longer makes much sense to exalt the creation of another Irish pub in America when good beer options (i.e., microbrews) are so widely available.

Just my two cents.

Monday, July 23, 2007

NABC's beers (and artwork) were big hits at the Indiana Microbrewers Festival last weekend.

I’m still clearing my head after Saturday’s power-packed Indiana Microbrewers Festival, so heartfelt thanks to the Indiana Beer website for linking to the entertaining reviews offered at the Hoosier Beer Geek blog, which I’ve (embarrassingly and belatedly) added to the list of links here at Potable Curmudgeon.

But first, from the thread about the event at Beer Advocate:

Indiana Microbrew Festival and rick flair and awards

Most excellent use of a bourbon barrel goes to Larry bell and his jolly gang ...

Another one that you pray for brewery only bottles was the barrel aged cherry stout from bells... that too gets a rick flair woooo...the double cream/expedition blend was awesome

just behind the bells ba cherry was the thunderfoot, not to be forgotten or diminished... that was a standup beer by a sit down brewery...


Shifting back to Hoosier Beer Geek, which boasts a team of five beer lovers, here are the NABC name checks, with other useful information about the festival also included.

Kelly selected the three best places for great brewery swag at the Festival.

3) Bell's Brewery - free stickers and buttons!
Yesterbeer - awesome t-shirt designs from brewers of yore.
New Albanian - the New Albanian designs were OUTSTANDING... worth a road trip alone.


Along with many others, Jason loved the Bell's Bourbon Barrel Double Cream Stout/Expedition Stout Blend, and went on to say:

There were many other new-to-me beers that I enjoyed as well, including New Albaniam's Hoptimus, Schmaltz He'Brew's Lennys RIPA, Founders Space Mountain Brown Ale, and Three Floyd's Dark Lord Russian Stout.


Chris picked three favorite beers:

3. "Angry Mellon" from Brugge - I think Jim gives you the real name, but it was tough enough for me to remember the top secret code name.

2. "Hoptimus" by New Albanian - I rated this #1 at Brew-Ha-Ha, and if not for Nick Floyds 4pm tapping special, it would have been #1 again. This is just a damn fine beer. I was even going to buy a t-shirt (but for some reason unbeknownst to me, breweries don't make t-shirts that accommodate beer bellies!).

1. "Dark Lord" from Three Floyds - First, thanks to part-owner Mike DeWeese for your part in our ability to quickly sample Dark Lord. Very appropriate to try this dastardly offering on the day of that the last stand of the dark Lord Voldemort hits bookshelves. If this is what evil tastes like, screw The Force - sign me up Lord Vader!


Jim’s “best of” list was a bit more expansive:

We saw a few football-beer drinkers in need of some beer education (said one woman after tasting Three Floyds' Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout: "Ew! That's gross!"). We picked up some very cool stuff (for me, a New Albanian t-shirt). We hung out with the crazy folks from the Good Beer Show. And, we tasted lots and lots of beer.

5. Diamond Kings of Heaven -
Brugge Brasserie.

Thunderfoot Cherry Imperial Stout - New Albanian Brewing Company. One of several excellent imperial stouts that we sampled on the day. Dark brown, small tan head, rich coffee-cherry flavor. I'm not a fan of fruity beers, but this beer had just a tiny hint of cherry, which made for pleasant drinking. New Albanian is quickly becoming one of my favorite Indiana breweries. Their Hoptimus could easily have ended up in my top 5, but I decided to leave it out since I made it my top choice for the Brew-Ha-Ha.

He'Brew Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A. - Shmaltz Brewing Company.

Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout - Three Floyds Brewing Company.

1. Bourbon Barrel Double Cream/Expedition Stout Blend - Bell's Brewery.

A quick note to Indianapolis area readers: NABC actually brought a shade more beer to each of the past two festivals (Brew-Ha-Ha and the Indiana Microbrewers Festival) than in 2006, when supplies were sufficient, but in both cases this year, increased attendance and word-of-mouth popularity caused us to deplete far too early. Apologies; we're among the smaller breweries at these events, and we always try to bring as much as we can spare, but sometimes it isn't enough. We're trying to adjust and pack enough to go around in 2008. As always, thanks for the wonderful reception ... and see you all next year.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

12th Annual Indiana Microbrewers Festival goes nutzoid.

Acknowledging an apparent reputation as an “enigma” (thanks JH), Saturday was my first full-day at the Indiana Microbrewers Festival since 2003, and besides that, it was the rarest of summer days in these overheated times, with temperatures barely nudging 80 degrees and very low humidity. Perhaps the confluence of these unexpected events conspired to boost overall festival attendance to the amazing figure of 30% or even more over last year’s total of 2,300, to something well above 3,000.

Or, it may have been the palate-provoking presence of so much fine beer, excepting of course the vile mockrobrews dutifully flogged by Anheuser-Busch’s dubious contingent. Why are they invited, anyway? They’ve nothing whatsoever to contribute to the revolution. In fact, they’re why we need a revolution. All politics, I guess, and if Tip O’Neill was right and all politics is local, then it’s another reason to boot the Buddies.

Cases of insipid canned Bare Knuckle Stout aside, yesterday’s bone-crushing turnout offered yet another example of how craft beer’s explosion in popularity and acceptance shows no signs of abating. These are the best of times, even if big ticket events like the Indiana Microbrewers Festival allow less opportunity for education than most of us would prefer. Education’s important, but there’s much to be said for bacchanalian revelry, too.

For the second straight appearance in Indianapolis, NABC brought as much or more beer as last time, and once again we were depleted long before the festival’s close. Yesterday we made it a full two hours; previously in June at the Phoenix Theater’s Brew-Ha-Ha, it took only an hour to exhaust supplies. What can I say? We’re a small brewery with minimal capacity … so come early and often.

As for the fest’s bounty, favorites are too numerous to mention, and there is no way to do more than skim the surface. A bottled ten-year-old Big Boris Barley Wine from Lafayette Brewing tops my list, followed closely by Brugge Brasserie’s Diamond Kings of Heaven and Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout. It smacks of favoritism, but I firmly believe that NABC’s Hoptimus and Thunderfoot also both deserve consideration when it comes to the upper echelon of Indiana-made microbrews. In concluding, know that of many beers nipped and a few guzzled, there were none I wouldn’t drink again.

After a brief break for recuperation, there are two events remaining on NABC’s summer road show calendar: The massive Great Great Taste of the Midwest in Madison, Wisconsin on August 11, followed by Louisville’s biggest craft beer event, Brew at the (Louisville) Zoo on August 25 (both Saturdays). There is an outside chance that we’ll be able to staff the August 18 Southern Indiana Brewery and Winery Festival in Evansville, but no promises – yet.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Temptations on Frankfort Avenue and in Madison, Indiana.

It’s damned hard to be seated an arm’s length away from a pint of good ale and be listening to classic Irish music without immediately abandoning the day’s well-intentioned plans in favor of a lengthy, and often moveable, session.

This has happened to me twice in the past week, and both times I was somehow able to pull back from the brink and becoming submerged beneath a self-imposed fog of “craic.”

The first challenge came at the Irish Rover during lunch on Wednesday. The original Dubliners were on the CD player when my friend Roz and I entered. Matt Gould’s Cumberland Brews Cream Ale was pouring, and the fish cakes were suitably aquatic, although the huge mound of potatoes was left intact in favor of another pint. We stopped there and went to our respective homes to sort through bags of goodies from Lotsa Pasta. The decision to depart wasn’t an easy one, but discretion outranks spoiled refrigerator case chorizo on most steamy Ohio Valley afternoons.

Last night was the second hurdle, with Mrs. Curmudgeon accompanying me to Madison, Indiana, for two Friday family reunion events separated by three hours of down time, which we chose to spend at the Thomas Family Winery. The music greeted us just before Steve did:

From Bantry Bay up to Derry QuayAnd from Galway to Dublin townNo maid I've seen like the sweet colleenThat I met in the County Down.

A two-glass wine interlude followed, punctuated by conversation with a few of the regulars and a delectable sample of Greek-style barbecued lamb. Too soon thereafter it came time to make the short hop to Clifty Falls and the next activity, so I purchased a bottle of Pinot Grigio to take to the family’s “happy hour,” where it was quickly devoured.

There was no music at the gathering. Had there been, I’d have wanted to stay longer.


Unfortunately, there is bad news for beer lovers in the lovely but underserved city of Madison. McQuiston’s Malthouse has closed, and the fine restored building is for sale.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Brewers Association, other industry groups addressing keg theft.

I'm not in the habit of cutting and pasting, but the dispatch below from Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, is of topical interest.

It pertains to recent grievous losses of kegs at all levels of the beer business. Of course, we know that the current price of items like kegs is governed by increased demand for metals of all alloys and stripes, especially in exploding economies like China's, and that fact in turn has sent demand for scrap metal soaring.

RealBeer.com recently had this to say on the keg theft problem:

The brewing industry is pushing for legislation that would require scrapmetal recyclers to ask for identification and proof of ownership fromwould-be sellers of stolen kegs. The Beer Institute noticed the problem inthe past few years as it saw more brewers reporting missing kegs, resultingin loss of up to $50 million a year, said Jeff Becker, president of the BeerInstitute. "It really got people's attention because that's a significantflow of our kegs that we'll never see again," Becker said. "We know some of it's very innocent but some of it's not."


Speaking only for myself, I appreciate that the BA has been working with scrap metal dealers and recyclers, who've been abetting this thievery for far too long.


From: Paul Gatza
Sent: Thursday, July 19, 2007 8:29 AM
Subject: Keg Deposit Posts

Hi All,

We have had to reject several Brewers Association Forum posts in the last few weeks that have commented on or asked questions on altering keg deposit prices as a means of addressing the larger issue of keg loss. Deposit pricing is not a topic available for discussion, as any collective attempt to alter pricing, whether it be for beer or for keg deposits would be an anti-competitive activity aimed at fixing prices. I know that this subject is one of great frustration for many of you. There are a great many activities that are appropriate for a trade association, such as surveying and disseminating the results, and promoting a particular industry. This topic is one where we must tread very carefully, so that the trade association is in compliance with law.

That said, there are some activities related to keg deposits that we are working on. The Brewers Association technical committee has approved that the Brewers Association work with Beer Institute and ISRI (scrap dealers association) on a publicity campaign targeted at scrap dealers including trade publication advertisement and posters made available to scrap dealers stating that kegs are stolen property if they are not delivered by a company representative of the company whose name is on the keg. As long as we do not suggest specific keg deposit pricing, there is the possibility to pursue something such as development of sample state legislation. There may be a role for the PR and marketing committee on a proactive public awareness campaign. There has been some activity on stolen metal and keg deposits in several states this year.

Thanks. I'll keep you posted on further developments.

Paul Gatza, Director
Brewers Association
Boulder, Colorado

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Harlow Carlee Rose Williams.

Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Williams announce the advent of a bouncing baby brewster, with the arrival yesterday morning of Harlow Carlee Rose Williams. The most recent resident of New Albany clocked in at 7 lbs., 15 ozs. and 20 inches. Her father, of course, is NABC's brewer of record. Best of luck to the newborn and her proud parents!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

12th annual Indiana Microbrewers Festival is this Saturday.

The 12th annual Indiana Microbrewers Festival is on Saturday at Opti Park (820 E. 66th St.) in Indianapolis. The festival runs from 3:00 p.m. to - 7:00 p.m.

The 2007 festival program can be viewed here. NABC will be taking Hoptimus and Thunderfoot as listed, but I'm not entirely sure that we have any Elsa Von Horizon remaining. This may necessitate a substitution.

Remember that if you're coming from the Louisville area and aren't interested in driving, Rick and Jeff Tours offers a superlative package for the day:

Rick and Jeff Tours: Buses to the Indiana Microbrewers Festival and Cubs vs. Reds in Cincy.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Mathaser, Munich and the summer of '87 with the lads.

These are holy days in the pantheon of the Curmudgeon’s beer travels, for it was on July 16, 17 and 18, 1987, that I was joined in Munich by Bob Gunn, Barrie Ottersbach and my cousin Don Barry for three nights of Bavarian bacchanalia.

The stories have been suitably embellished over the decades. There was my episode of disgruntlement at having to leave a beer hall at an hour I considered to be far too early, and a stern worker’s gentle suggestion to take the argument elsewhere. There was Don’s rising from the bench to tell us that he’d had enough and was returning to his hotel … except that his lips never moved and no sound was emitted in spite of his recollections of prime oratory. There were liter steins of beer, various and sundry sausages, Deutschmarks and Pfennigs, aspects of unfathomable etiquette that became second nature before the last glass was poured, and a constant flow of conversation, information and education.

To me, it remains remarkable that we coordinated our arrivals so well. While making plans to meet friends in Munich in order to partake of the city’s bountiful beer and pig flesh wasn’t such an unprecedented feat, and we’ve managed to do it many times since, considering the circumstances at the time and our relative inexperience traveling, the manner by which our scheme came to fruition still elicits a smile.

Knowing that we all would be in Europe during the summer of 1987, detailed planning began over the Christmas holidays in 1986. Barrie and I had booked a two-week tour of the Soviet Union and proposed to approach Munich by rail from Prague. Bob, who was on his first trip to the continent, and Don, who had been many times, had devised detailed itineraries, and both would be arriving in Munich on the same day, but from different directions. As was his habit, Don booked a single room at a favorite haunt, while the rest of us made reservations together in a triple at another hotel somewhat near the Munich train station.

We knew what day to be there and where we’d be staying, and yet in those far-off and primitive times, lacking e-mail and mobile phones, and with each member of the quartet having been traveling for quite some time before the projected Munich gathering, a considerable element of uncertainty was palpable. In essence, could we remain sufficiently sober, avoid unexpected transportation delays, and show up on time, and where we were supposed to be?

Happily, it went off without a hitch. Barrie and I arrived at the Hauptbahnhof and found Don idling with beer in hand at the fabled Track 16 Imbiss, and after enjoying a few Pschorrbraus and portions of Leberkase, we ran into Bob at the hotel.

Admittedly, iad I known then what I know now, we’d have avoided Munich entirely and gone instead to Bamberg, but given our remedial state of beer knowledge, it’s likely that the choice of Munich was all for the best. We might not have fully grasped Rauchbier and Kellerbier.

The city’s brewery consolidations had already started to diminish historical distinctions, although international corporate investors had yet to appear as they have in recent years. The future could be glimpsed, but at the same time old ways seemed to persist, and these traditions can be pleasing so long as it is remembered that much of what Americans know about Germany actually pertains to Bavaria, and much of what they know about Bavaria actually applies to Munich alone.

For example, “beer halls” in the sense of the Hofbrauhaus do not exist in matching scale outside the city. In 1987, a beer hall larger than the Hofbrauhaus was our home away from home for two glorious evenings: Mathaser Bierstadt, which was tied to Lowenbrau. It was cavernous, filled with nooks and byways and various banquet rooms and snugs, and decidedly grittier than the Hofbrauhaus – no less attractive for tourists, but rowdy and with an earthier composition of native barfly.

These many years later, what I’ve taken away from three Munich nights in July isn’t capable of being detailed. That I experienced it with wide eyes and a sense of wonderment cannot be doubted. For a beer- and history-loving Hoosier just shy of his 27th birthday, roaming Europe for the second time, Munich was the epitome. It was Disneyland with ubiquitous mugs of foamy lager and all the sauerkraut and potatoes one cared to eat.

Unfortunately, the Mathaser perished, and the site is now an ultra-modern cinema and entertainment complex. The last time I was there was in 1995, and even then the beer hall seemed exhausted. Dubbed American movies probably are showing now, and outside, you’ll see imported Miller and Corona throughout the city. The old brands aren’t the same, at least to me. Oktoberfests have become golden, and all beer tastes steadily colder on each trip. There is a Hofbrauhaus franchise in Newport, Kentucky.

Fond memories, indeed, and now increasingly balanced by melancholy.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Mark your calendars: Stone Brewing CEO Greg Koch to visit the Public House on Monday, August 20.

Anyone up for a dram of Stone’s 10th Anniversary Ale on draft?

I had the pleasure of speaking today with Aaron Tyrell, Stone Brewing’s Midwestern regional rep, who confirmed that Stone founder and CEO Greg Koch – a craft brewing legend – will be the guest of honor at a special Stone Brewing Company night at Rich O’s Public House on Monday, August 20.

Planning is ongoing, but the main festivities probably will run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. There’ll be a great Stone draft lineup for the occasion, prizes and giveaways, a chance to chat with Greg Koch, and a gratis glimpse (with detailed commentary, no doubt) of my old friend and former Rich O’s bartender Buddy Sandbach’s Arrogant Bastard tattoo.

Stay tuned. Here are a few links:

Stone Brewing Company

Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens

Interview with Greg Koch at RateBeer

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Mug Shots: Beer for Bastille Day.

Usually I don't reprint the "Mug Shots" pieces that appear in the Louisville Eccentric Observer (LEO), although I link to them periodically.

There'll be an exception today owing to extenuating circumstances.

First, the subject matter is appropriate for Sunday's much anticipated Bastille Day Biere de Garde Dinner at Bistro New Albany. Second, owing to an unfortunate mix-up, the publication dates for the two most recent "Mug Shots" became reversed. The Biere de Garde story below was to have appeared yesterday, and the lambic article on June 27. Here's how they actually appeared:

Mug Shots: Retro lambic
(July 11, 2007)

Mug Shots: Beer for Bastille Day
(June 27, 2007)

That's fine; accidents happen. Now, to France ...


Beer for Bastille Day

From the time just after 9-11, when it became the stated policy of every illiterate bumpkin in the American hinterlands to demean all things French without understanding any of them, I’ve resolved to buy and drink beer from France as often as possible.

Contrary to what you may have heard, this political statement requires no sacrifice whatsoever, because no other brewing nation in Europe is as underrated as France – and we’re not speaking here of Alsace’s producers of German-tinged Euro-lager like Kronenbourg. Rather, France’s prime brewing region lies to the north of Paris, alongside Belgium.

It is indicative of the imprecision with which beer styles are codified that aficionados tend to group the ales of Northern France into a catch-all category, Bieres de Garde (or, “beers that have been kept”). As with the Saison style of French-speaking Belgium, these originally were individualistic farmhouse ales brewed in cooler weather, bottled, and stored for later use. This period of aging rounded the edges and contributed a cellar character to ales that were little known outside the region until relatively recently.

In general terms, today’s Bieres de Garde have in common glorious layers of rich malt complexity, with hop-accented offerings tasty, but less common. They can be golden, amber or brown, with the latter being particular good alongside dinner.

While the bulk of received wisdom pertaining to food and drink concentrates on the oenophile’s vision of the correct jug of wine for a particular loaf of bread, France’s Bieres de Garde are an ideal accompaniment to the finest multi-course meal – or to a wheel of stinky cheese, rough country pate and a crusty baguette.

Be adventurous and look for 750 ml bottles, some corked and other crown capped, of Jenlain, Trois Monts, La Choulette, St. Amand and Castelain.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Update: Beer hunting by motor coach in the Pacific Northwest, May, 2008.

After mulling on the topic for some months and inviting suggestions, planning has started in earnest for the May, 2008 group excursion to the Pacific Northwest. As with the initial period of research for previous excursions to Europe (there have been five since 1998), goals continue to shift as information is processed, but the broad strategy remains the same.

I've been in contact with an Oregon travel company as well as the travel planning division of the Portland tourist bureau, and the people I've spoken with in both places have expressed enthusiasm at the beer emphasis of the trip.

Recalling that it is perfectly acceptable to make your own flying arrangements subject to advance notice, the group will depart Louisville on a still yet to be determined date in May (following the Kentucky Derby, which runs on Saturday, May 3, 2008) and will fly to Portland, Oregon, where a chartered motor coach will be waiting. Roughly ten days of regional tourism will follow, with a heavy accent on indigenous microbrewing culture.

Consider this short list of possibilities:

Portland, Oregon
Hood River valley and Mt. Hood
Astoria, Oregon
Rogue Nation (i.e., the home of Rogue Ales) in Newport, Oregon
Crater Lake National Park
Seattle, Washington
A Mariners game at Safeco Field in Seattle, with microbrews and sushi (Ichi Roll!)
Olympic peninsula
Mount Rainier

Note that there would not be time for all of these, but that there would be one or more breweries and brewpubs in or near most of them. I’d like to have a nice balance between bigger and smaller cities, moving around and staying put, and organizing brewery tours while allowing for ample free time in the places we visit for non-yeast-culture activities like museum visits, walking and enjoying the scenery.

As much as I’d like to include Northern California, and after long deliberation, it is almost certainly out of the itinerary picture. One look at a map will tell you why. The prime beer-related places (North Coast in Ft. Bragg, Anderson Valley) are much closer to the Bay Area than Portland. It would require devoting premium time to commuting, and in the end, the numerous breweries and wineries in that part of California deserve their own journey at some point in the future. Too much time on a motorcoach is something we’d like to avoid. There is too much fresh air, not to mention fresh beer, waiting.

As of this time, I’m interested in knowing who may be “in” for this May trip in 2008. There are no financial obligations. Write to the e-mail address in my blog profile, or leave word at the pub. Also, suggestions continue to be appreciated.If you're new to this, know that my aim after organizing and arranging the trip is to pay my own way with a percentage of the proceeds above raw cost, which is all safely above board and conducted through my side venture, Potable Curmudgeon, Inc.

References from past travelers are available upon request. I hope to see many readers next year.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Velocity's Bar Hopper finds Cumberland Brews to her liking, and I agree.

Last week’s Velocity contained yet another article about a local brewpub that was written knowingly by a writer, Joanna Richards, who obviously “gets it,” a facet of the publication’s beer coverage that, shall we gently note, hasn’t always been in evidence.

Velocity Bar Hopper visits Cumberland Brews

With great beer, a cozy atmosphere and food I'd eat even if I weren't drinking, Cumberland Brews is one of my favorite hangouts in town.

The place seems designed to facilitate intelligent conversation in rooms that feel like inviting dens with rich colors, low lighting and solid wooden furniture -- it's a country inn for Bardstown Road wanderers.

Kudos to the Allgeier family and brewer Matt Gould for helping to establish Cumberland Brews as a Louisville institution.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Belgian beercycling 2000: Belgian beercycling 2000: The final beercycle ride, and postscripts.

Kevin Richards, Bob Reed, Buddy Sandbach, Kevin Lowber and Roger Baylor somehow survived the rampant hospitality at Huyghe, maker of Delirium Tremens, and on Friday set off on a final ride before the 2000 beercycling trip drew to a close.

Belgian beercycling 2000: Brugge and the DTs.

Belgian beercycling 2000: A pause for perspective before the tour concludes.

Belgian beercycling 2000: Poperinge and Cassel.

Belgian beercycling 2000: An evening at Cave a Biere, Danes included.

Belgian beercycling 2000: Brewing day with Jean-Louis at Brasserie A Vapeur.

Belgian beercycling 2000: Tournai warm-up, Cave a Bieres and Pays du Collines.

Belgian beercycling 2000: From Brussels to the Tournai base camp in less than 15 drinks.

Belgian beercycling 2000: A prologue.


It was the year 2000, the anticipated Euro currency conversion was around the corner but had yet to occur, and for a final day of rental beercycling on a sunny Friday in Brugge, we chose to spend a few spare guilders in the Netherlands.

At first glance, it may seem that the Netherlands is too far away form the Belgium to make for a comfortable day trip, and in fact much of it is, but a non-contiguous slice of Dutch territory lies on the south side of the waterway known as the Westerschelde, or the mouth of the Schelde River as it leaves Antwerp for the ocean. This bit of the Netherlands is easily accessible by bicycle paths aimed east and north from Brugge, passing through the popular tourist village of Damme, along idyllic tree lined canals and through manure-caked working farms reminiscent of Breughel paintings.

Certainly it was the easiest of the trip’s rides, both because we’d developed legs (and posteriors) strong enough to navigate for longer periods of time, and owing to the perfectly flat nature of the terrain in the northernmost extent of Flanders. Hills and grades are almost non-existent, and the route is strewn with signs and so impeccably marked that we briefly became lost, anyway, perhaps stemming from the biggest impediment to progress during the ride: Too much DT on the Huyghe brewery tour the previous day, and too many post-tour restoratives at the famed t’Brugs Beertje specialty beer café upon our Thursday evening return to Brugge.

At a particularly confusing crossroads, a tractor-borne native pointed straight, and within minutes we were standing outside a café in the Dutch town of Sluis, and I was extracting a handful of colorful leftover guilders from a previous visit to the Netherlands in 1998 in preparation for the best we could do under the circumstances, a round of Heinekens and nibbles for all.

Since the food included herring, my day was complete.

After lunch, the ride continued to the northwest. For all of us, it was a first opportunity to experience the fabled infrastructure available to cyclists in the Netherlands. Paved paths follow alongside all roads, and clearly delineated lanes guide cyclists through urban areas. Sometimes there are intersections for cyclists that shadow the automotive ones yards away, and complete with their own sets of stop lights.

Soon we were back in Belgium, skirting just south of Knokke-Heist on the coast, and coming to the second objective: The sea and a convenient beach at Zeebrugge for a few minutes of sand and sea spray before turning due south along an industrialized canal for the ride back into Brugge and a second consecutive evening at the Beertje.

There would be a third, at the end of the full Saturday remaining to us, but the shared consensus was that the first-time visitors in the group were intent on sightseeing and shopping in the lovely if tourist-laden city of Brugge, so the rental bikes were returned and the cycling segment of the 2000 beercycling fact-finding mission concluded.

Except for Kevin Lowber, who had met us in Poperinge, the group had put in roughly 125 miles altogether, with perhaps half of that coming in two rides (Cassel and Sluis) near the end. In the touring years to come, there would be times when several of us approached 100 miles in a day, fully laden, but given our neophyte status in 2000, the inconsistent architecture of the rental bikes and the demands of food and drink, there was much to celebrate.

The journey was winding down. On Sunday morning, Kevin Richards, Buddy Sandbach and I boarded a train in Brugge and set out for Leuven, an old university city on the eastern side of Brussels that lies near the national airport where Kevin and Buddy would be departing Belgium for America on Monday morning. We’d booked a room in Leuven with the prospect of arriving and hopefully having enough time to attend a performance by the rock band Pearl Jam at the Werchter pop/rock festival taking place nearby, but Eddie Vedder’s group had canceled owing to tragic occurrences at another fest in Roskilde, Denmark a few days previous. Instead of concert-going, it looked instead to be a relaxed, “free” last day.

The commute from Brugge to Leuven hardly would have been noteworthy had not Buddy’s eyes (and wallet) been somewhat bigger than his luggage. He spent the afternoon and evening in Brugge frantically scrounging rare Belgian ales from various sales outlets, and broke away resolutely early from the closing ceremonies at Beertje to return to the hotel and find some way of packing them all.

There we revelers found him well after midnight, with bottles, toiletries and underwear heaped down the side of corridor, agonizing over the proper way to insure the safety of his souvenirs while flying home. Luckily, he managed to succeed in this aim, removing only a handful of bottles for ballast-lightening consumption in the process. Less fortunately, there were too few hours for sleeping, and as he realized come morning, a stupendous weight gain in baggage. It should suffice to say that splurging on a cab ride to the train station was much appreciated.

Still, even spared the burden of a cross-town walk, Buddy had three separate pieces of quite heavy luggage, and upon exiting the train in Leuven, he was not happy to discover that the station there is of archaic design, requiring the ascent of numerous steps to reach a passageway crossing over the tracks, not beneath them as is the case most of the time. With the assistance of two passers-by who evidently took pity at Buddy’s plight (or were eager to move him out of the way so they’d reach their train on time), he made it up, down, and over, collapsing into a waiting taxi for the ride to the hotel. Checked in, and with his larder thus preserved, he fell into a deep, evening long sleep.

Unable to wake him, Kevin and I explored Leuven, visited its brewpub, noted the presence of the industrial Stella Artois beer factory, mounted a hill for a look at the chateau originally belonging to Leuven’s local aristocrats, and eventually settled into handy café chairs to recap the first beercycling trip with a few final rounds of Belgian ale.

Verily, the beercycling cat had been let out of the bag, the touring genie released from the bottle, and a suitable tone set for future adventures. We’d hatched our Belgian scheme while seated at Polly’s Freeze, a local ice cream institution back in Indiana, and now, after achieving the goal, we were able to offer benedictions over Chimay and beefsteak in Leuven.

It only seemed natural to echo Bob Reed’s tip-off toast:

“Here’s to us … may we never quarrel or fuss … but if by chance we should disagree … &*^%$ you, and here’s to me!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Belgian beercycling 2000: Brugge and the DTs.

At the conclusion of the last installment, the biking beer hunters – Kevin Richards, Bob Reed, Buddy Sandbach, Kevin Lowber and Roger Baylor – had completed the second leg of their biking and beer tour of Belgium, Poperinge and environs, and were moving on to Brugge, the final stop.

Belgian beercycling 2000: A pause for perspective before the tour concludes.

Belgian beercycling 2000: Poperinge and Cassel.

Belgian beercycling 2000: An evening at Cave a Biere, Danes included.

Belgian beercycling 2000: Brewing day with Jean-Louis at Brasserie A Vapeur.

Belgian beercycling 2000: Tournai warm-up, Cave a Bieres and Pays du Collines.

Belgian beercycling 2000: From Brussels to the Tournai base camp in less than 15 drinks.

Belgian beercycling 2000: A prologue.


Thursday was a transfer day, and the objective to be pursued – but only after a tasty Hotel Palace buffet breakfast of bread, butter, jam, selected cheeses and meats, and an egg – was to convey the expanded group of five beercyclists by rail from Poperinge to the junction at Kortrijk, then north to Brugge. Departing the historic Belgian hop-growing town of Poperinge wasn’t easy. We took with us a full complement of ideas for future trips, many of which have come quite delightfully to fruition in the years since.

After debarking in Brugge, we executed a forced march to set up headquarters at the Hotel Europ, and then immediately doubled back to the train station for a short train trip to Ghent, specifically to the suburb of Melle, home of the Huyghe brewery. Along the way, there was a reconnoitering of the bicycle rental shop near the main square.

The excursion to Melle meant that biking would have to wait until Friday, as the genial Joe Waizmann, then of the Merchant du Vin importing company, had helpfully arranged for a Thursday afternoon tour of Huyghe, a family-owned brewer of more than a few brands of ale, including Merchant du Vin’s Duinen abbey ales and the more widely known Delirium Tremens family of strong elixirs.

As customary, I’d taken Joe’s information and initiated a dialogue with the target brewery, exchanging a couple of faxes with the Huyghe company’s contact, Alain, and fixing a tour time for 2:00 p.m. on Thursday.

At least that’s what we thought as the train departed Brugge. Unbeknownst to the group, a very long afternoon was only just beginning.

Our train ride from Brugge was brief and uneventful. There was a switch in the Ghent main station, and soon we were stepping off the small commuter platform at Melle, where precious little was observed to be occurring in the immediate vicinity. The town bore the unmistakable appearance of a one-time countryside village that had undergone industrialization in the 19th-century thanks to the proximity of waterways and railroads.

The fax I had received from Alain while still stateside clearly indicated that someone from Huyghe would meet us at the station to provide escort, but no one arrived, and after a half-hour’s wait filled with escalating fears that we’d miss the appointment, we resolved to take control and find the brewery on our own.

This wasn’t very difficult. Older breweries anywhere almost always lie next to the train tracks, and this is the case with Huyghe. Furthermore, the brewery’s street address is Brusselsesteenweg, or the main road in the general direction of Belgium’s capital. This central road could be seen a short block away, and after lining up street numbers, we followed it.

The address being sought was affixed to an older building with no obvious entryway. Newer additions extended around a corner, so we followed the trail and eventually looked up to see a huge pink elephant emblazoned on a wall, and yet still no entrance beckoned. After knocking on several doors, one opened and a young man smilingly pointed us to the rear of the building, where activity was humming. Pallets of kegs and bottles were being shifted by forklifts into waiting trucks and workers were going about their tasks, all alongside the freight rail track that now could be glimpsed running alongside the passenger track and leading directly toward the platform where we’d started.

We wandered into the area and were quickly intercepted by a man in a suit, who directed us through the warehouse to a second-floor office. Ominously, the receptionist was visibly confused at our presence. Phone calls of escalating intensity were made as we stood in a cramped foyer, killing time and ducking passers-by.

It was far past lunch, and I ate a final apple for strength as more time passed. We were given several reassurances that Alain had been paged and was expected at any moment. Finally a young man appeared, introduced himself as Alain, and noted that we had come on the wrong day. I asked him to look at the fax a bit more closely, and he went into his office seemingly unconvinced. When he returned, his face was beet red, and apologizing profusely (and unnecessarily; after all, mistakes happen), he led us into the brewery for the belated tour.

Given the misunderstandings and delays, we expected very little beyond a cursory look at the brewery and perhaps a couple of beers, but in fact a veritable tour de force already was picking up steam. It proved yet again that when beer lovers of like mind get together, anything can happen, and the passion generated by such meetings is unlike anything experienced by the dire corporate bean-counters of the world of swill.

Alain began by explaining that like many Belgian breweries of like size, family-owned Huyghe was stagnating in the 1970’s, producing ordinary pilsners for local consumption, seeing its traditional market for these beers shrink along with the demand for low-gravity table beers, and suffering from increased competition from larger, better heeled breweries. In short, Huyghe faced a questionable future when Alain’s father concluded that something had to be done. His answer to the problem was to specialize, creating ales more in keeping with Belgium’s diverse brewing heritage.

This strategy was bold and somewhat risky given the realities of the day. Belgium’s subsequent rise to international fame for the quality of its beers was foreseen by few, and Alain’s father faced resistance from other family members afraid of change. He responded by shrugging and buying them out, proceeding with the development of the flagship ale that would redeem the brewery’s fortunes: Delirium Tremens, which was given its name after a visitor remarked that he couldn’t drink more than two without risking the “D.T.’s” next morning.

Having perfected the recipe, the next step toward sales success involved coming up with a symbol, and the now-familiar pink elephant logo was drawn by a summer brewery intern for a couple cases of liquid remuneration. A quarter century later, it is one of Belgium’s most immediately recognizable beer labels.

While comparisons with Duvel are inevitable, and other strong golden ales from Belgium (Lucifer, Satan) vie for attention with the consumer, Delirium Tremens remains its own beer. It is decidedly sleek and clean, boasting a deceptive, medium body that allows hints of alcohol to peek through and remind the drinker of its strength. While Delirium Tremens may look like Budweiser, it certainly doesn’t taste like it.

The Delirium Tremens line has been extended to include Nocturnum, a dark version of the flagship brand, and for the very first time in the year 2000, Noel. Huyghe’s yuletide interpretation lies somewhere between the other two. There are no spices. The result is a firm, tawny and accomplished strong ale for winter sipping. As we walked through the brewery, and Alain animatedly explained the family business, he asked if we’d like to try the Noel – as it turned out, straight from the bright tank, as served by Alain himself into fresh DT logo glasses while he tottered on a ladder to reach the valve.

In one of the oldest parts of the original brewhouse, which has been replaced by a more modern facility in the newer wing, Huyghe has installed an excellent beer and brewing exhibit. The mini-museum includes a replica of a traditional Belgian café, complete with archaic cash register and bar games. Nearby are cases displaying glassware and historical advertising placards. After examining these, we gratefully adjourned to the contemporary, half-circle bar for our obligatory post-tour tasting.

At this juncture, with biking far from our minds and beers about to be poured, it’s worth noting that Huyghe is criticized in some quarters for releasing so many beers, which some doubters suspect are the same basic recipe with a different label attached. Alain bristles at this charge, particularly as offered by CAMRA correspondent Tim Webb, author of the massively influential “Good Beer Guide to Belgium,” and forcefully argues that with the exception of a couple of beers bound for export sales bearing export labels, all beers made at Huyghe have distinct recipes.

Perhaps for this reason, and to give us the chance to judge for ourselves, we were given the opportunity to taste seemingly every single brand brewed at Huyghe: St. Idelsbald Blonde, Bruin and Tripel, Campus, Golden Kenia (the pilsner mentioned previously), Vielle Villers Dubbel and Tripel, a few new fruit-flavored ales, and eventually a bottle of Artvelde Grand Cru that had been cellared since 1988.

Only a few of the latter remained, but Alain excitedly opened one for us, and the vintage ale was so delicious that soon Alain was on the phone calling the brewers to come up to the bar and taste it for themselves.

A dense thicket of glasses and empty bottles grew atop the bar, and then Alain proposed a toast, which I must paraphrase owing to my own bibulous role in the proceedings: To all the beer-loving Americans who have done so much to support the Belgian brewing industry, the ones who know quality, who appreciate the best, and who share in the universal love of beer.

It was a classy gesture and a memorable moment. Equally moving was Bob Reed’s impromptu assessment of the Huyghe brewery visit: “A guy can get fucked up in a place like this.”

Indeed, he can. We did. Our visit finally winding down after almost three hours inside the brewery, Alain proposed to drive us to the rail station, which was no more than a quarter-mile away, and seeing as he’d had just as many beers as us, it simply didn’t seem necessary or prudent. We thanked him and gathered our generous gifts -- t-shirts, pink elephant suspenders and DT glasses -- and stumbled into the late Melle afternoon, the sky now clear after rain and mist earlier. Heading down the narrow alley next to the rail line, I imagined food above all else; the weight of the ale was heavy on an empty stomach, and I recalled there being an eatery or two opposite the station.

Suddenly, somewhere to the rear, the approaching hum of a car was heard. I heard Alain’s voice. Screeching to a halt, he emerged with stacks of coasters, which Bob had requested earlier, and in the process, cementing his reputation as the perfect host for one of the best brewery tours I’ve experienced.

Beer was momentarily forgotten as the neighborhood “friterie” came into view. “Friterie” translates into fast food, Belgian style, and you must forget everything you’ve heard about carbonade, mussels and other gems of indigenous beer cuisine. As in so many other locales, Belgian fast food is the domain of the deep fryer, and not just for preparing the country’s famed french fries (parboiled before deep frying, and served with mayonnaise or one of several sauces).

In fact, most anything else that will fit into a Euro-standard fry basket, presumably including salad, tofu or whatever healthy food that might benefit from a high-temperature lard bath, can be found at the Friterie. Famished and intoxicated, behaving not unlike the early morning crowd at White Castle, we crowded into the mom ‘n’ pop operation. The former took the order after our language-challenged group took turns pointing to the object behind the counter, and the latter expertly deep-frying the choice while Mama made change.

Thus we cornered the market on saturated fat, our containers dripping with grease from wonderful artery-busting food, and climbed the steps to the platform to await the train, all the while shoveling with our fingers.

Delirium tremens … I’ll say.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Belgian beercycling 2000: A pause for perspective before the tour concludes.

Belgian beercycling 2000: On beer and bicycles.

Before moving to Brugge and the final stop, we pause for perspective. Here are the previous installments in the series:

Belgian beercycling 2000: Poperinge and Cassel.

Belgian beercycling 2000: An evening at Cave a Biere, Danes included.

Belgian beercycling 2000: Brewing day with Jean-Louis at Brasserie A Vapeur.

Belgian beercycling 2000: Tournai warm-up, Cave a Bieres and Pays du Collines.

Belgian beercycling 2000: From Brussels to the Tournai base camp in less than 15 drinks.

Belgian beercycling 2000: A prologue.


Readers will have noticed by now that the serialized account of Belgian beercycling in the year 2000, which has been running here lately, is rather longer on beer than it is on bicycling. Admittedly, the hop vs. derailleur balance sheet is skewed in favor of the liquid, but because it remains a valid reflection of our priorities at the time, I’m letting it go and recording events as they occurred.

Or, as I recall them occurring.

With time has come the realization that the 2000 beercycling jaunt truly was a significant turning point. I had commenced traveling in Europe back in 1985 at the age of 24, often alone, always by train or bus, and even on foot at times, with the bare minimum of luggage – first a gym bag, and then a convertible interior frame backpack.

In 1998 and 1999 came the first quantum leaps, as dabbling in group beer tourism by motorcoach started up in earnest. Groups held the prospect of continued personal growth by combining a steadily increasing level of expertise on European beer and travel affairs with a concurrent opportunity to use economies of scale to my benefit, i.e., by having the group’s fees help subsidize the organizer for his labors. After all, you’re not off the clock when watching over a group of thirty people drinking beer, even if the work time is occurring in Europe and not New Albany.

Obviously these were more complicated adventures; nonetheless, they could be organized even by the likes of someone like me who really hadn’t been paying all that close attention to the logistics of groups. It portended well, but having succeeded at more lush travel orchestration, my attention was immediately diverted toward the basics. That’s because I had resumed bicycling stateside in 1999 after a two-decade hiatus.

On the 1999 group trip, it was the first time that I’d bothered to notice what so many Europeans had been trying to tell me all those years as they flew past on two wheels: A bicycle provides an unparalleled way to get around, especially in places like the Netherlands and Germany that are custom designed to facilitate non-motorized transport.

Not only that, but it is plain fun.

Accordingly, this notion rapidly grew into an obsession, and under the theory that a trial run would be a good thing, Kevin Richards and I plotted the inaugural 2000 foray around the notion of using towns as bases and renting bicycles for countryside excursions.

There would be no packing and unpacking of bikes from the hard-shell travel cases, no navigating treacherous airline policy inconsistencies, no major mechanical difficulties necessitating spur-of-the-moment repairs without a hub to return to easily, no panniers (i.e., saddlebags) to be loaded and unloaded, and almost none of the hundreds of other aspects of bicycle touring that have been experienced during subsequent rips, when we have moved from place to place entirely on our own bicycles brought from home, and self-sufficient in many ways.

The trial run was another great success, and so if logically follows that the excerpted story that you’ve been reading, originally written for the FOSSILS homebrewing club newsletter in 2001 and heavily revised for republication here, was intended as encouragement for our fledgling beercycling cadre to persevere and further broaden the scope of its recreational beer hunting so as to work toward real touring.

In the years that followed the 2000 ceremonial dipping of toes into the water, there was a second rental beercycling excursion in 2001 to Belgium and Germany (with a long train ride in between), followed by the first touring beercycling event with our own bicycles in 2003, when I biked from Frankfurt to Vienna, and was joined by some of the lads at pre-arranged meeting points along the way. We immediately regrouped for a summertime “Tour de Trappist” cross-country jaunt in 2004, which took the beercyclists to all of Belgium’s brewing monasteries. After an off year in 2005, the gang we came together again in 2006 and rode much of the Prague to Vienna Greenway folliwing a brief introductory respite spent beercycling around Bamberg.

Meanwhile, group trips were not abandoned. Two took place in 2002, and the most recent, the now legendary 2004 German-Czech beer blast, was so incredibly perfect that I’ve taken a few years off from organizing for fear that it might never be matched.

Speaking honestly, the bicycling component has come to exert a stronger gravitational pull on me than the more conventional motorcoach extravaganzas, but my commitment to the latter remains. In 2008, it is my aim to organize one of each, the first in May for the purpose of hunting beer and breweries by motorcoach in the Pacific Northwest, and the second in September by bicycle, using as pretext the triennial hop fest in Poperinge, but with the possibility of synchronized motorized transport if sufficient interest is there.

You’ll read more about these at another time. Until then, thanks to all of those who have accompanied me on these marvelous times. I can only wish that they’ve been as good for you as they have for me.

Next: Beercycling 2000 comes to a "delirious" close in Brugge

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Relative calm before the deluge ... good or bad?

For me, the coming weekend currently is open, and that’s good, because eight out of the following nine are booked with one activity or another, most revolving around beer, beer festivals and beer advocacy.

Before you say it: Yes, I understand that I’m fortunate to have a “dream job” that allows me to drink and talk beer (somewhat) for a living. At the same time, it’s a full contact sport and can be tiring all the same.

In addition, the period that begins today and ends on August 6 is one of uncertainty for NABC and any other Southern Indiana business that relies in any degree on traffic from Louisville, because for the next month the waterfront stretch of I-64 is closed entirely for repairs. No one is quite sure what effect this will have, although my sense is that many of our Louisville customers come to us via I-65, and that the downtown New Albany bar and eateries serving NABC beer will be hurt worse than we will.

(Go here to learn why I-64 should be refashioned, not expanded: 8664 - (Take back the riverfront)

On the other hand, if Hoosiers decide to stay closer to home to avoid the commuting hassles, then we all may do better in the end. Verily, it’s a coin flip at this point.

Let’s take a brief look at the next two main events on the calendar, beginning with Saturday, July 14, when we’ll be celebrating the 20th anniversary of Sportstime Pizza with a party in Prost. There’ll be food and beer specials and music, including the rumored comeback of Roz Tate.

Sportstime Pizza will be 20 years old on July 14, and we're having a party.

Then, thinking ahead another week, if you’ve ever wanted to attend the annual Brewers of Indiana Guild festival at Broad Ripple (Saturday, July 21) but didn’t feel like driving to Indianapolis and back, rejoice, because Professor Gesser is on your side.

Rick and Jeff Tours: Buses to the Indiana Microbrewers Festival and Cubs vs. Reds in Cincy.

This is a great, pain-free deal for gaining access to Indiana’s prime festival, and I hope to see many readers from the Louisville area there.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Beer and wine at Charlestown Pizza Company.

NABC’s longtime employees Shawn Vest and Tajana Johann have taken two big plunges in recent months. First they opened the Charlestown Pizza Company (850 Main Street in Charlestown, Indiana), and then they got married.

For those readers unfamiliar with Southern Indiana, Charlestown is a small town in a rapidly growing area located alongside State Road 62 from Jeffersonville to Madison, which puts it very close to the location of Louisville’s east side bridge, which in turn is beginning construction. When the bridge is finished (admittedly some years hence), the Charlestown area will be among those expected to explode, and mightily. It is already.

Guessing that it’s roughly 15 miles as the crow flies from the New Albanian Brewing Company to the Charlestown Pizza Company, it’s just far enough away to be outside my usual orbit, so I must confess to not having had the chance to visit Shawn’s and TJ’s place personally, although reviews from patrons have been uniformly good.

Given that Shawn put in a stint as beer buyer at the Whole Foods store on Shelbyville Road in Louisville, there was never any doubt that Charlestown Pizza Company would be selling beer, and after a brief wait for licensing to be issued, the permit has been awarded. Eventually, there’ll be NABC beer on draft, but at the present time the selection is limited to a short list of good bottles. The beer and wine lists can be viewed, but I didn’t get a food menu to convert into .pdf:



Hours at CPC are:

Tuesday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Wednesday and Thursday 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Sunday 12 noon – 8 p.m.
(Closed on Monday)

It goes without saying that we offer the best of wishes to Shawn, TJ and their business venture … and we can’t wait to get the NABC flowing at another location in Clark County.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Bluegrass Brewing Company reviewed in Saturday's C-J.

Bluegrass Brewing Company (Shelbyville Road brewpub, not the Main & Clay micro) was reviewed in last Saturday’s Louisville Courier-Journal:

Bluegrass Brewing Company: Beer's world class; food, not so much, by Marty Rosen (Special to The Courier-Journal).

Only two stars? Marty’s thoughts prompted a discussion at the Louisville Restaurants Forum after host Robin Garr differed with the C-J free lancer’s take on BBC:

CJ on BBC: Five yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.

Throughout BBC’s 14-year history, there have been frequent changes in direction in the kitchen, and it seems to this writer that in recent years matters have settled into a comfortable pub grub groove – neither high cuisine nor Rally’s, but somewhere in the middle. Know that I have a deep respect for Marty’s skills and erudition, and note only that what is true in beer judging applies in this instance as well: One rates the beer based on what it is trying to be rather than what you want it to be (or wish it was).

Monday, July 02, 2007

Rick and Jeff Tours: Buses to the Indiana Microbrewers Festival and Cubs vs. Reds in Cincy.

The Curmudgeon happily provides an occasional plug for Rick and Jeff Tours, which stages numerous yearly motor coach journeys. Most of these rolling parties are devoted to sporting events both collegiate and professional, but always with craft beer close at hand.

Here is the itinerary for July, 2007, as provided by Professor Gesser himself:

We have two trips coming up this month. Saturday, July 21st we have a trip to Indianapolis for the 12th Annual Indiana Microbrewers Festival, presented by the Brewers of Indiana Guild, with over 200 beers to sample! Trip is $75, which includes tickets to event, souvenir sample glass, food, entertainment, safe and reliable transportation and refreshments on the bus. The event is from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

On Saturday, July 28th we are doing a Chicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds game in Cincinnati. The trip includes safe and reliable transportation, tickets (lower level right field), tailgate party with catered food and drink, a stop at the world famous
Hofbrauhaus in Newport KY, and of course adult beverages throughout the day. Cost is $80.

Next week we will have our web site updated and start announcing our college football and NFL schedule for the fall.

For contact information, go to the Rick and Jeff Tours website.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

2nd annual Bastille Day Biere de Garde Dinner at Bistro New Albany on Sunday, July 15.

On Sunday, July 15, Bistro New Albany & NABC are co-sponsoring our 2nd annual Bastille Day Biere de Garde dinner, to be held at Bistro New Albany – we hope on the patio; we'll move inside if there's rain or undue heat. Starting time is 6:00 p.m.

Chef Dave Clancy's five-course French menu will include hors-d ‘oeuvres, soup, salad, and entree and dessert, and will be paired with beers selected by the Publican (that's me) from Brasserie Thiriez, Brasserie Duyck (Jenlain) and Brasserie Artisanale La Choulette. As a bonus, we'll have draft vintage French cider from Normandy: Cidre Bouche Brut E. Dupont 2002. Ales will be poured in 4-oz portions, and I’ll have a few comments with each.

The price is $65 per person (service non compris), and reservations can be made by calling Bistro New Albany at 812-949-5227.

You may view the event poster here. The menu, including beer pairings, follows.


Bastille Day aperitif


Hors- d ‘oeuvres

- Canapes de Gravlax que Saler en Duchene avec Crème Fraiche et Ciboulettes (Canapes of Duchene Cured Gravlax with Crème Fraiche and Chives)

- Escargot que pate a frire en Jenlain Ambree avec Citron-Chervil Aioli (Jenlain Ambree Battered and Deep Fried Escargot with Lemon-Chervil Aiolli)

- Bouchees avec Chevre et Lavande (Boucheés with Chevre and Lavender)

Jenlain Ambree (6% abv)
A classic amber Biere de Garde from the Duyck brewery.

Thiriez Blonde (6% abv)
Farmhouse blond brewed in French Flanders, near the Belgian border.


Soup Course

- Vichyssoise avec Celeri et Noix de Grille (Chilled Potato, Leek, and Celery Puree with Toasted Walnuts)

Thiriez Extra (4.5% abv)
Farmhouse bitter with French barley and English hops.

St. Druon de Sebourg Abbey Ale (6% abv)

French barley, wheat and Alsatian hops combine in a tribute to a nearby church named for a “homeless, pious orphan.”


Salad Course

- Salade de Chicoree avec des Poires de Pocher, Roquefort, et Miel-Thym Vinaigrette (Endive Salad with Poached Pears, Roquefort, and Honey-Thyme Vinaigrette)

La Choulette Les Sans Culottes (7% abv)
From the importer’s website: “This, the brewery’s masterpiece, proudly pays homage to Les Sans Culottes – the “trouserless” craftsmen who could not afford uniforms but unflinchingly did the handiwork of the French Revolution. A number of brewers were included in their ranks.”


Entree Course

- Veau de Grillade avec Truffe Parfumer Pomme de Terres Lyonnaise, Asperges, et Sauce a Chasseur de Tomate d’Heritage (Char Broiled Veal Chop with Truffle Scented Lyonnaise Potatoes, Asparagus and Heirloom Tomato Chasseur Sauce)

Cidre Bouche Brut E. Dupont 2002 (5.5% abv)
Classic artisanal cider from Normandy. The Dupont family orchard contains 6,000 trees of typical regional apple varieties, including Saint-Martin, Binet, Noel de champs, Mettais, Frequin and Rouge Duret.


Dessert Course

- Chocolat Noir-Grand Marnier Mousse avec Framboise et Crème (Dark Chocolate-Grand Marnier Mousse with Raspberries and Fresh Cream)

La Choulette Framboise (6% abv)
Fresh raspberry juice is added to the brewery’s Ambree.