Sunday, September 30, 2007

Weekend musing.

My first trip to Europe came in 1985, and for 15 years afterward, the bicycle was conspicuously absent as a preferred mode of transportation while visiting the continent.

This changed in 2000, and since then, it’s hard to imagine being in Europe and not riding a bike for at least some portion of the time. The notions of biking across the countryside and drinking great beer while doing it have become almost inseparable, and it becomes increasingly difficult to consider one without the other.

It’s been a year since the last trip, and it will be a year until the next one. In the interim, much of the beercycling I do will have to be local, and that’s a better prospect than ever before given the proximity of downtown New Albany establishments offering good beer.

The problem with beercycling in this fashion is that I must be forced to take the long ride first, instead of cycling less than a mile from my house and commencing happy hour without the rationale of it being a restorative.

The other problems in 2007 have been the necessity of rotator cuff repair surgery, a very good business year that has required more work hours than expected, a steadily escalating ambition to expand the business, and my continued involvement in civic affairs. My wife Diana has been working and attending graduate school simultaneously, and in some ways, it feels like I’ve been doing the same.

Biking time has lagged accordingly, although I’m still trying to use the bike as a means of commuting whenever possible. But, there’s plenty of time to prepare for the anticipated fall adventure in 2008, when we’ll be attending the triennial hop festival in Poperinge. Belgium. We hope this will be convergence in two columns, by bike and vehicle, and it has already become the most challenging logistical puzzle that I’ve attempted to solve during the course of my travels.

Getting from Budapest to Moscow in 1987 as an independent rail traveler seeking a student-priced ducat was a piece of cake compared to this, but when it comes right down to it, I’m stubborn that way, and it’ll work out in the end.

Once the journey is underway, it will become transformed as it always does, into a time to be remembered and cherished. I’ve been exceedingly fortunate, and tremendous travel memories abound. We need to make some more. I’ll keep you posted.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A toast to the late Michael Jackson nationwide, tomorrow.

Trouble is, we're closed on Sunday.
On the 30th, we're having a company meeting, so we'll offer our toast during the server beer tasting/training segment, and make a donation to the National Parkinson Foundation.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The ad hoc life with computers and beer.

It is a source of great joy that we’ve finally had rain, and that the lunacy of 90+ degrees of temperature and humidity to match (in late September) have passed in the wake of the storms, but there is annoyance to match, because the home computer has ceased functioning, forcing me to come to work to do work.

I’ve gotten into the habit of working at home from roughly 8:00 a.m. to Noon during the week. Seeing as I’ve always been a morning person, it’s the best time for me to write and be creative, and the comfort of the home office – with ready access to the handy Saeco home espresso maker and a stash of cigars for porch reading – is something I look forward to each day.

At work, I must insulate myself from distractions, usually in my office, door shut, and a wall of musical sounds separating me from the bar area, the ringing telephone, and the many other things that intrude on concentration.

Also, there's a fair amount of beer at work ... and it calls my name constantly. You wouldn't believe how much willpower it takes to be in this business.

At any rate, until there is a home-based restoration, forgive a few breaks in posting.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Keg Liquors "Fall Festival Beer Tasting" is tomorrow: Thursday, September 27.

Straight from the Keg Liquors public relations department (T. Antz, proprietor):


Join us September 27th from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. as we hold our Fall Festival Beer Tasting, featuring beers that mark the start of fall. The cold weather will be coming soon (it really will!), and these brews make it a little easier to bear. Here is the lineup:

Left Hand Oktoberfest
Lakefront Oktoberfest
Brooklyn Oktoberfest
Paulaner Oktoberfest
Sprecher Oktoberfest
Harpoon Oktoberfest
Upland Oktoberfest
Spaten Oktoberfest
Flying Dog Dogtoberfest
Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale
Schlafly Pumpkin Ale
Lakefront Pumpkin Lager
New Holland Ichabod
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
Weihenstephaner Festbier
New Holland Oktoberfest
Hofbrau Oktoberfest
BBC Oktoberfest
Browning's Oktoberfest (Growler donated by the brewery)

As usual, we will have a few surprise beers on the tasting as well.

All beers will be $1 off the regular price the day of the tasting. This event is free and open to the public (21 and older of course).

Looking ahead: November 20th is the 3rd Annual Huber Wine Tasting from 5:00 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Featuring wines from nearby Starlight, Indiana, we proudly welcome the Huber Winery back for our 3rd Annual tasting with them. This event will be held on a Tuesday, instead of our regular Thursday, due to Thanksgiving. Pop's Reserve will be sampled at this tasting (it gets released on November 15th). More details on this event are forthcoming.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A very busy October lies ahead.

Silly me. I keep thinking that there’ll be a “quiet” time this year, but the calendar just keeps filling up. There are more than a few beer events, beer and food pairings and all-purpose merriment planned for coming weeks, and here’s the schedule as it appears now.

First up on Monday, October 1, is the Ayinger Oktober-Fest Beer Dinner at Bistro New Albany. Chef Clancy and the Publican will be combining Bavarian cuisine with some of the finest exported examples of Bavarian beer.

After that appropriate autumn kick-off, New Albany’s annual Harvest Homecoming festival will be dominating downtown from the October 6 parade day through October 13. NABC beers will be available downtown at our three primary accounts during booth days (October 11, 12 and 13), and we’re planning on releasing a few bits of NABC’s reserve stock for special promotions at Bistro New Albany, Connor’s Place and Speakeasy Jazz during these three days. Stay tuned for information on what, when and where.

During the same weekend, several Louisville area brewers and brewery owners will be in Denver, Colorado, for the Great American Beer Festival. Bring back some medals, guys.

Lupulin Land Harvest Hopcoming and the next New Albanian Art Show converge on Friday, October 19 (the art show begins a day earlier), and on the 20th, there’s a possibility that I may be working with Tommie Mudd at Caffe Classico on a “stouts of fall” appetizer and ale pairing. That same day, Mike Stephens at Youngstown Cigar Shop & Island CafĂ© (Jeffersonville) is holding a “Stogies and Stouts” party from noon to 5:00 p.m. Mike's shop is located behind Mai's Thai in the Youngstown Shopping Center on 10th Street.

Tired yet?

Finally, to close the month with a jolt before Halloween, there’ll be our first ever beer dinner at Prost, NABC’s banquet and special events wing: Culinary Costume of American Artisan Ales, to be held on Monday, October 29. It’s a cooperative venture between NABC and two aspiring young culinary artists, Andy and Josh, although it should be noted that they’re doing most of the heavy lifting. Pricing and details have yet to be determined.

Write ‘em down. My liver’s on full alert.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Calendar check: Culinary Costume of American Artisan Ales at NABC on Monday, October 29.

To close October with pre-Halloween festivities, there’ll be our first ever beer dinner at Prost, NABC’s banquet and special events wing.

It is the Culinary Costume of American Artisan Ales, to be held on Monday, October 29. The dinner and beer pairing is a cooperative venture between NABC and two aspiring young culinary artists, Andy and Josh, although it should be noted that they’re doing most of the heavy lifting. Pricing and details have yet to be determined.

Andy provides this preview, with a disclaimer: “Cheese and the dessert aren’t quite finished, but we should have this done during the next week.”

Seared Diver Scallop, Orange Ginger Broth
-Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca

Heirloom Pumpkin Soup, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Apple
-Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale

Muscovy Duck Breast, Carrot Mousse, Carmelized Onion Duck Confit Bread Pudding, Duck Stock Reduction
-NABC Thunderfoot

(The Publican says: “We’re shopping for microbrewed Flanders Red/Brown/Sour as a palate refreshing beer choice.”)

Capriole Juliana (?)
-Ommegang Ommegeddon

Capriole Mont St. Francis (?)
-NABC Hoptimus

Carmelized Pear, Vanilla Ice Cream
-Allagash Curieux

(Parting glass)
-NABC Malcolm's Old Setters Ale

Andy again: “We are going to add a small garnish to each cheese and the dessert ... we know the flavors we want to use we just don't know exactly how we are presenting it yet (tart, pie, etc).”

Mark your calendars. This one is going to be special.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Lupulin Land 2007 preview: We're less than a month away.

(Work has been wreaking havoc with my normal writing schedule. I'm thrwing this out now, and will come back to correct the various bad links later when there's time. Your patience is appreciated; sometimes, one must take care of salaried business first ... RAB)

For the sixth time, we’ll be exceeding OSHA’s legal mandated limits on permissible IBU’s per square foot of floor space when Lupulin Land Harvest Hopcoming 2007 begins on Friday, October 19.

As during previous celebrations of the “magic cone,” Lupulin Land 2007 will offer a fine opportunity for Kentuckiana’s hopheads to unite over a pint or two of America’s hoppiest beer.

As an added attraction, this year the latest incarnation of the New Albanian Art Show will be taking place in Prost at the same time as Lupulin Land (Oct. 18, 19 & 20). op Art, anyone?

Furthermore, Lupulin Land begins a week later than usual in 2007 so as not to interfere with “Booth Days” at New Albany’s annual downtown festival, Harvest Homecoming (October 11 through 14). Originally, it was the express aim to run the harvest hopcoming alongside the civic homecoming as an hopternative to the lack of beer choice downtown, but the presence of three NABC draft accounts within the historic business district has changed the variable.

By popular demand, Randall the Enamel Animal, the continuous dry-hopping machine invented by those twisted people at Dogfish Head, will be brought back for a third appearance at Lupulin Land. We haven’t decided what beers Randall will be modifying.

Roughly 14-16 of the following will be on tap when the fest opens, in addition to the everyday beers. Louisville area breweries will be represented by cask-conditioned ales on our hand pump, which will run continuously until depleted. Look for more information on these firkins as we get closer to the starting date.

Those marked * are first-time drafts.

Louisville area cask-conditioned ales:
Bluegrass Brewing Company (Main & Clay) TBA
Browning's Brewery She-Devil India Pale Ale
Cumberland Brews (TBA)
New Albanian Brewing Company TBA

*Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen-Weisse
Coniston Bluebird Bitter
*Geants Saison Voisin
Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted
Houblon Chouffe
Poperings Hommel
Urthel Hop-It
*Wintercoat Double Hop

*Boulder Cold Hop
Clipper City Loose Cannon Hop 3
Founders Reds Rye
Founders Centennial IPA
Great Divide Hercules Double IPA
*Mad Anthony IPA
NABC Elsa von Horizon Imperial Pilsner
Rogue JLS Hop Heaven 2007
Rogue JLS Glen 2007
Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale
Stone 10th Anniversary Ale
Stone Ruination IPA
Two Brothers Cane & Ebel
Two Brothers Hop Juice

Everyday Hops
Alpha King
Arrogant Bastard
Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
NABC Croupier IPA
NABC Elector
NABC Hoptimus
Pilsner Urquell
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Update: Ayinger Oktoberfest beer dinner at Bistro New Albany on Monday, October 1.

A visit to the Bavarian village of Aying, a 40-minute suburban rail trip south of Munich, is delightful any time of the year, but never more so than in autumn.

With the harvest winding down, there is ample leisure time to kick at Aying’s cobblestones amid rustling leaves and a slightly chilly breeze presaging the arrival of winter, before pausing to admire the charming silhouette of the onion-domed church in the square.

From that spot, it’s only a few yards to the Ayinger brewery’s prominent hostelry and blessed brewery tap for a half-liter of Oktoberfest lager ... and if you’re as lucky as I was the last time we occupied a table there, you may find yourself devouring an elk steak from the presiding Inselkammer family’s private hunting preserve.

In fact, when I escorted a group to Aying in September of 2004, the Inselkammers personally greeted us upon our return from the late afternoon brewery tour and stayed close by until we were seated and enjoying the amazing dinner.

The brewery that occupies such an important place in this bucolic setting is thoroughly modern in terms of production technique and marketing savvy, and yet scrupulously traditional when it comes to the makeup of the beer in your glass. It’s a graceful balancing act that seems almost effortless in its efficiency.

However, make no mistake about it: It’s hard work, and the Inselkammers’ business model is just as impressive as its beer. The family has invested upward of 13 million Euros since the mid 1980’s, first constructing a new distribution and packaging center, then adding a state-of-the-art, extremely green, fully computerized brewery, and finally completely renovating their hotel and restaurant.

Ayinger’s beers, which still taste as though they were crafted by lederhosen-clad villagers in the Alps foothills, are aggressively exported around the world, and are routinely rated in the upper reaches whenever the Bavarian brewing art is quantified.

As such, they’re a perfect accompaniment to our forthcoming Ayinger Oktoberfest beer dinner at Bistro New Albany, which will commence at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, October 1.

My affection for Ayinger’s excellent line of Bavarian beers has prompted me to pair them with another stellar menu concocted by Chef Dave Clancy, owner of Bistro New Albany. There’ll be fewer beers than offered during previous beer dinners, but larger portions, as befits generally lower alcohol contents and the expansiveness of traditional German drinking and dining.

Pray to your particular Gods for crisp fall weather and a chance to dine outdoors.

Here is the menu and the pairings. Chef Clancy has hinted at an additional “surprise” appetizer, and the price per person (excluding gratuity) will be $45.

-Opening toast: Here’s to us …
Ayinger’s Oktober-Fest Marzen, a tawny golden/amber autumn seasonal lager, will be on tap throughout the evening, and we’ll begin the meal with an Oktoberfest toast in a complimentary Ayinger signature glass.

-Gurkensalat (cucumber salad)
-Brau-Weisse … traditional unfiltered golden wheat ale

-Gulaschsuppe (goulash soup)
-Jahrhundert-Bier … golden “export” style lager

-Sauerbraten with Kartoffelpuffer (brined and roasted beef with potato cakes)
-Altbairisch Dunkel … “Old Bavarian” dark lager

-Schwarzwalderkirschtorte (black forest cake)
-Celebrator Doppelbock … rich, dark Double Bock

Contact Bistro New Albany at 812-949-5227 for reservations and further details.

Photo credit: Ayinger's web site

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hoosier beer tasting tonight at Charlestown Pizza Company.

For readers in the Louisville metro area ...

Starting at 6:00 p.m. this evening, there'll be a tasting of Hoosier beers at the Charlestown Pizza Company.

CPC is owned and operated by Shawn and Tajana Vest, longtime NABC associates, who now are spreading the gospel 25 minutes up the road in Charlestown. Tonight there'll be a couple of NABC beers on tap, asnd (I believe) other Hoosier brews provided by World Class Beverages.

I'll be there circa 7:00 p.m., and hope to see a few old friends and meet a few new ones.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"US barley acreage has declined to record low levels."

The information that follows has been copied from the Brewers Association Forum Vol. 13-0912, and should be of interest to all readers.

Yesterday we took a glance at sobering news for the hopheads among us.

Today I’m posting a second excerpt from the Forum, this one on the topic of barley malt pricing and availability.

As noted yesterday, none of this is designed to inspire panic or perpetuate doomsday scenarios. Rather, it's useful to nurse the occasional dose of realism about where the beer in the glass comes from, and what it takes to make it.

Chase it with a good beer, and keep your fingers crossed. The planet’s reliance on water is well documented, but so far, I can find no alarming prognostications about yeast shortages.


From: Mike Davis
Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - 4:26 PM
Subject: Re: 2007: Revenge of the Commodities

Paul Gatza called me recently and I reviewed the many factors that are impacting the supply of malting barley. The world markets are interconnected, so what happens in any major supply area, such as the US, impacts the entire chain. The American Malting Barley Association (AMBA), which is comprised of US malting & brewing companies, works with and knows the US situation, so I will primarily comment on that.

US barley acreage has declined to record low levels, and one reason, as pointed out by Jeremy, is likely the high demand/return for corn for ethanol, which encourages growers to plant corn instead of malting barley. With the barley breeding programs in the US that we collaborate with and support, we stress the need to develop the highest yielding malting varieties so that they will be grown for both feed, fuel, and malting. However, it is difficult to combine all the quality characters our industry demands with high yield, and our industry is slow to change over to new, higher yielding varieties.

Developing high yielding varieties for feed/fuel is easier and quicker and this is the competition we must strive to overcome.

Currently, all malting varieties in the US are spring varieties, but we have winter malting lines in development and testing that can out yield spring varieties up to 25 percent and require one less watering, a big advantage in the West where water is scarce. These winter malting barley varieties, if successful, may be able to pick up acreage that is currently planted to winter wheat in the West.

Another major factor is that federal support to growers, as determined by the Farm Bill, has favored the planting of other crops, such as soybeans, over barley, by providing higher support levels to growers. We are working hard in collaboration with the National Barley Growers Association (NBGA) for more favorable provisions in the 2007 Farm Bill, which will be effective for five years, starting with the 2008 crop. We are pleased that the BA signed on to the joint letter to Congress spearheaded by the Beer Institute, at our urging, encouraging Congress to support the joint AMBA/NBGA Farm Bill positions. The House has passed a version of the Farm Bill that is more favorable to barley and we're now working on the Senate.

Once that is passed, we'll need grass roots support (contacting your members of Congress) to help ensure that the most favorable provisions are retained in House/Senate Conference when the final bill is developed.

Working with the Institute of Barley and Malt Sciences at North Dakota State University, growers in the 3 major US barley producing states were surveyed recently as to why they grow or no longer grow malting barley. Of course, economic return is the most important factor - they will plant crops that give them the highest return, and we must face reality, that there is a lot of competition. Other factors come into play, and we are trying to address those (e.g. developing best management practices to growers to increase their chances of success).

Mike Davis, President
American Malting Barley Association, Inc.

Monday, September 17, 2007

"The hop world is upside down. In the future we see the possibility of brewers shutting down for lack of hops."

The information that follows has been copied from the Brewers Association Forum Vol. 13-0911, and should be of interest to all readers, but especially the hopheads among us.

Tomorrow I’ll post another excerpt from the Forum, this one on the topic of barley malt pricing and availability.

Need I remind anyone about rising fuel prices?

None of this is designed to inspire panic or perpetuate doomsday scenarios. There are plenty of those to be found on the front page of today's newspaper. Rather, it's useful to nurse the occasional dose of realism about where the beer in the glass comes from, and what it takes to make it.

Chase it with a good beer, and keep your fingers crossed.


From: David Edgar
Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - 3:12 PM
Subject: Re: Dramatic Price Increases in Ingredients

Hop Supply and Early 2007 Crop Update

Here are some comments from Ralph Olson's talk two weeks ago during Hopunion's annual Hops & Brew School seminars in Yakima (also used as the basis for a Hop Update presentation I gave last Saturday to the MBAA District New England in Portland, ME). Ralph is very busy at the moment between receiving hops, buying hops and quoting different brewers for contracts, so he asked me to send this post.

"The hop world is upside down. In the future we see the possibility of brewers shutting down for lack of hops."

For US hops 2007 is looking like an average crop, but not a bumper crop.

Slovenia (grower of Styrians) lost at least 1/3 and possibly as much as 1/2 of their crop to a hailstorm.

The Czech crop is down 25% this year. Estimated alphas on Czech Saaz from the 2007 crop are 2.7 - 2.9.

The German crop is average at best with earlier aroma hops coming in below normal (such as Hallertau Mittelfruh).

New Zealand and Australia crops this year (which arrived in the US in June and July) were normal.

England is almost out of the hop business. Their acreage of 2,400 in 2006 (down from 17,000 in 1976) represents 2 percent of the worldwide acreage.

World acreage:
1986: 215,600
1992: 236,000
2006: 123,000

Ralph's best guess is that in 1992 the acreage should have been between 160,000 - 170,000 if it was to match world demand/usage at that time. The 1990s' excess hop crop ended up being processed into pellets and extracts, building up substantial excess inventory. Excess production that was 2, 3 and 5 years old was selling on the open market and as a result brought prices down. Hop prices had dropped so low in recent years that in many cases they were lower than what it costs to grow them. For example: prices got as low as $1.70/lb. for pellets of Cascade.

That is way below what it takes for a hop grower to cover his costs.

High-alpha hops and some aroma hops are going overseas - the high rate of the Euro is a factor.

In the spot market for high-alpha hops, growers are not putting a price on them yet. They're waiting to see how high the prices may go.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s the prices were depressed and growers were starting to throw in the towel, to either switch to other crops, or sell out to real estate developers. The ones who stayed in it and managed to survive without going under are pleased to be in this situation now, which is 180 degrees opposite from where it was about 10 years ago.

The demand for Cascades is up 30% this year alone. We are 300-400 acres short on Cascade compared to where we need to be. Cascade acreage was 1,003 in 2001, jumped up to 2,120 in 2003 (because one major brewer announced plans to use it, but then reversed course) and total Cascade acreage is now back near the same 2001-year-level, at 1,116 in 2006.

Prices are the highest they've ever been - and it's beyond comprehension. Cascades were priced at $7/lb. three weeks ago and are currently being quoted at or near $10.00/lb.

Willamettes went from $5.50 to $7.00/lb. and may also get to $10/lb.

It takes three years to get to full production on a new hop field, however, we don't have the number of growers needed to put new acres in (the total of US growers is about 45, down from more than 2000 in 1978. About new 2,000 acres are going in this year; almost all of those are high alpha. The Cascade increase in acreage is 0.

"We are, in my opinion, in trouble."

What's the bottom line? Certain varieties are getting a lot more expensive. A few varieties will run out faster than ever. Brewers have to be willing to try other varieties. Brewmasters, brewery owners, and marketing and sales managers must prepare for the potential need to substitute different hops, to replace varieties that currently give your beers their "signature" flavor. That's what we'll have to get used to, the fact that there may be slight flavor variations over the next several years, as the hop industry works to correct this situation. It's not going to get better soon, but will be likely just as bad, or worse, for the crops from 2008 and 2009, in other words, for beers brewed from now through 2010.

Wish we had better news to report!

David Edgar
Mountain West Brewery Supply, Inc., representing:
* Chrisdec & Rastal
* Hopunion
* White Labs
* Chrislan Ceramics

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Calendar check: Ayinger Oktoberfest beer dinner at Bistro New Albany will be Monday, October 1.

More details will be coming this week, but for now please take note that I’ll be collaborating with Bistro New Albany owner/chef Dave Clancy on a German-themed beer dinner on Monday, October 1 at 6:00 p.m. at BNA.

My beer plan is somewhat different from previous beer dinners at the Bistro. This time around, we hope to be featuring the fine line of beers made by the Ayinger brewery south of Munich.

These include pale and dark wheat ales, Celebrator Doppelbock, Jahrhundert (export lager) and Altbairisch Dunkel (all in bottles), and what I hope will be Oktoberfest Marzen on draft (cross your fingers). We’ll offer larger portions of fewer beers this time around, as befits the hearty Bavarian drinking and dining tradition.

Pray to your particular Gods for crisp fall weather and a chance to dine outdoors.

Here is Chef Clancy’s preliminary menu. An additional appetizer may be added, and we’re hoping to keep the price near the $45 range per person.

-Gurkensalat (cucumber salad)

-Gulaschsuppe (goulash soup)

-Sauerbraten with Kartoffelpuffer (brined and roasted beef with potato cakes)

-Schwarzwalderkirschtorte (black forrest cake)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Upcoming NABC events: Harvest Homecoming and Lupulin Land.

New Albany’s 40th Harvest Homecoming Festival will be held in October of 2007, beginning with a parade on October 6, and traditional food and activity booths filling the city’s reviving downtown streets from the 11th through the 14th.

For the second year, the New Albanian Brewing Company is delighted to have its most popular beers within ready access of the thousands of visitors who’ll be visiting Harvest Homecoming. NABC now has three downtown accounts: Bistro New Albany, Connor’s Place and the Speakeasy.

Both the Bistro and Connor’s have beautiful patios at which to enjoy Elector, Community Dark, Croupier and other NABC favorites during crisp (we hope) autumnal weather. The Speakeasy is New Albany’s first jazz-themed restaurant and bar. All three establishments are housed in restored historic buildings.

To promote our three downtown partners, NABC personnel will be on hand for special tappings throughout Harvest Homecoming. Look for details in the coming weeks.

On October 19, Lupulin Land Harvest Hop Festival kicks off at NABC, Rich O’s Public House and Sportstime Pizza. Lupulin Land is an annual homage to the magic cone, featuring 15-20 hoppy ales and lagers from around the world, all on draft, including NABC’s own Hoptimus, winner of numerous accolades during the recently concluded summer festival season. Lupulin Land continues until the last bitter drop is consumed.

Looking forward to the holiday season, NABC’s annual Saturnalia winter solstice draft beer festival begins on Friday, December 7.

Friday, September 14, 2007

It's time for planning the next three draft festivals.

As Publican and ranking beer chieftain at NABC, my beer acquisitions calendar generally proceeds according to serendipitous whim. I’ll now explain what this implies, but first, here’s a glance at the physical plant and the weekly operating scheme.

At NABC, Rich O’s Public House and Sportstime Pizza, we have 35 draft spouts on site. One of these is a swan neck attached to the firkin cabinet and is used only sporadically (mostly) in cooler weather, as there is not cooling system within. Another pours Sprecher Root Beer throughout the year. Eight more are dedicated to New Albanian house beers, and nine (sometimes ten) are permanent guest taps that customarily do not rotate.

15 or 16 draft slots are given over to rotating guest beers. These are the seasonal beers, the specialty beers, the crazy one-off limited engagement beers that provide much of the cachet when it comes to the experience we seek offer.

Much of the time, my only guiding principles in selecting the beers that will be pouring from these taps combine equal parts opportunism and personal mood, with a dollop of contrarianism (me?) thrown in for good measure. Yes, during warmer weather I’ll have lighter, fruitier, wheatier beers on tap, but there’ll always be an Imperial Stout or Barley Wine even when the temperature is 103 degrees, and there’ll always be two or three choices that were unplanned but sounded like fun when the time comes to choose from the array offered by our wholesalers.

Some weeks it sounds promising to have multiple offerings of the same style to facilitate comparison, and other times I prefer each tap to be dispensing something different. I don't eat the same food each day, either. The object is choice.

The topic of creative foraging is better left for another time, but suffice to say that there are boldly delineated times each year when the calendar comes out and more forethought is required of me, and we now are approaching the next such period. The dates for the next three draft beer celebrations have been set, and I don’t expect them to change:

October 19: Lupulin Land Harvest Hop Festival 2007
December 7: Saturnalia Winter Solstice Festival MMVII
February 29: Gravity Head 2008 (A Leap Year Volume 10!)

At the present time, preorders for all three are being calculated, and I hope to keep readers updated with the ordering process as it unfolds. In today’s first installment, I’ll share with you an e-mail reply to David Frost, the regional sales guru for the B. United International importing company. It is typical of where things stand each autumn when the selection and stockpiling begin in earnest.



Greetings. Here’s the “key” to what follows:

LL – Lupulin Land hop fest, begins October 19, 2007
SA – Saturnalia Winter Solstice fest, begins December 7, 2007
GH – Gravity Head, begins February 29, 2008

Here’s what we already confirmed, I think:

LL Gaspar 30L
GH Podge Belgian Imperial Stout 30L
GH Dulle Teve 30L (two)
SA Jan de Lichte 30L
LL Wintercoat Double Hop 30L

Here’s what we need more information about (is it on the web site at all? I can’t find any Internet information not written in Italian):

GH (?) Beba Birra Integrale Birra di Natale

Then, from the remaining list:

SA Wintercoat Yule Ale
GH Wintercoat Cockney Imperial Stout

GH Harviestoun Old Engine Oil Special Reserve in Highland Park 30-year casks.

GH De Glazen Toren Angelique 30L (early November)
GH De Glazen Toren Canaster 30L (early December)

SA La Rulles Cuvee Meilleurs Voeux 20L (winter)

SA Brouwerij Strubbe Ichtegem Grand Cru 30L

GH Ettaler Curator Doppelbock 30L

SA Einbecker Urbock Dunkel 30L

GH JWLees Harvest Ale 2006 50L

LL Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted 50L

I suppose now you can tell me what can be here and when; if not in time for the various fests, and then we’ll scratch them if necessary.

Have fun on your various journeys and such.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

The return of Cicero, and the demotion of "beer sommelier" in favor of something more quantifiable.

For the current youthful generation of beer drinkers who, unlike my contemporaries, have the luxury of taking the availability of craft beer for granted, "ancient history" is a phenomenon describing the decades following hard on the heels of World War II, when the number of breweries in America atrophied to fewer than a hundred, and was the concept of “choice” for a beer drinker was being held hostage, seemingly without hope of release, in Mr. Busch’s closet of insipid horrors.

Ideally, ancient history extends considerably further back into the mists of time, with the millennia being peeled back like the layers of an onion (itself used as liniment for the Colosseum’s gladiators) to the classics and one-time staples of the educational curriculum.

Alas, Latin isn’t studied much these days, and the Roman Empire, too, lies largely off the contemporary radar screen except when periodically resurrected as a backdrop to cinematic costume dramas, but once upon a time there was a Roman philosopher and statesman much admired for his abilities to write and speak.

His name was Marcus Tullius Cicero, and along the pathway from Latin to modern Italian, such was the respect accorded Cicero’s depth of learned comprehension and his flights of erudition that a word was created from his name: Cicerone (sis-uh-rohn, as English speakers pronounce it), which might be described simply as a guide for sightseers.

However, there is more to it than that, for not every sightseeing guide can be said to possess the knowledge and fluency of Cicero. Those that do are special, recognized both for their knowledge and their ability to convey it.

I’m delighted to report that the term “cicerone” has been chosen to describe those who currently are rather inelegantly referred to as “beer sommeliers,” a sommelier being a certified and formally trained guide – a cicerone, after a fashion – to wine.

There is now a website that fully describes an effort underway to provide structured accreditation: Cicerone Certification Program. Ray Daniels is spearheading the program, and deserves thanks for commencing the quantification of standards and the creation of a job description where none existed. Until now, we may not have known exactly what a cicerone was, but we knew that it was needed. Here is brief outline, as copied from the website:

The Cicerone Certification Program seeks to ensure that consumers receive the best possible beer and enjoy its flavors to the greatest extent possible. To facilitate this, those who sell and serve beer need to acquire knowledge in five areas:

Beer Storage, Sales and Service
Beer Styles and Culture
Beer Tasting and Flavors
Brewing Ingredients and Processes
Pairing Beer with Food

To encourage participation by those with various interests and ambitions, the program offers three levels of certification beginning with the simplest and building to the most complex and demanding:

1. Certified Beer Server
2. Certified Cicerone
3. Master Cicerone

Readers, please take time to visit the CCP web site and take the tour. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, sent them to me or pass them along to Ray.

Previously at the Potable Curmudgeon:

What is the beer equivalent of a sommelier?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Grassroots Festival at Stratto’s is tonight. Hint: There’ll be plenty of microbrews …

There’s a special outdoor beer event taking place tonight, and seeing as the forecast calls for a brilliant autumn evening (is it possible?), readers in the Louisville area should consider coming out.

From 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., the Grassroots Festival will fill tree-canopied patio of Clarksville’s Stratto’s Restaurant, which is housed in the historic, renovated McCullough House on the quiet end of Lewis and Clark Parkway.

Featured will be gourmet brick oven pizza, craft beer and what is being described as rockin’ bluegrass music. For the Curmudgeon, two out of three ain’t bad.

Hope to see you there.

Stratto’s Restaurant, 318 W. Lewis & Clark Parkway, Clarksville, IN 47129 (Ph: 812-945-3496). Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door, and include pizza and unlimited beer samples ($3 pints also will be sold).

Tickets are available at these locations:

Stratto’s Restaurant

Bluegrass Brewing Company/BBC Taproom (Clay and Main, downtown Louisville)

Keg Liquors (Lewis & Clark Parkway, Clarksville)

Cumberland Brews (Bardstown Road, Louisville)

New Albanian Brewing Company (Plaza Drive, New Albany)

Tickets may be purchased by phone only from Stratto’s Restaurant: 812-945-3496


Bluegrass Brewing Company (Clay & Main)

Barley Island Brewing Company

Browning's Restaurant & Brewery

Cumberland Brewery

New Albanian Brewing Company


Kentucky Fried Pickin’

Whistlin’ Rufus

Special thanks to World Class Beverages

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Real planning now underway for PacNW beer and brewery tour, 2008.

My method of trip planning follows a sloppy but reasonably consistent logic.

It begins with hours of informal discussion with friends and cohorts, followed by a vague announcement, and then much fevered activity to actually pull the strands together.

The discussion period has largely passed, although there remains much time to refine the concept, and now we're somewhere just past the vague announcement and entering the active phase of planning for the May (or thereabouts) brewery and incidental culture motor coach tour of the Pacific Northwest in 2008.

Negotiations are ongoing with the travel company that I believe will be the choice to organize this trip with me. I’m also receiving itinerary advice from the Portland tourism bureau, so there’s no shortage of good information.

It is my aim to cap this one at 25 (approximately) people, although it may be possible to squeeze a few more into the group.

Currently the itinerary would include time in Portland and Seattle; a Rogue brewery visit (Newport); touring of the Columbia River gorge; Astoria and perhaps Bend (both in Oregon); a smattering of historical sites, a vineyard; and hopefully a baseball game in Seattle. Naturally, all possible breweries in and near these places will be investigated and many of them toured and visited.

Duration is slated for 10 days, flying from Louisville to Portland and back. Precise air arrangements will come a bit later, after I’ve had the chance to converse with Bliss Travel for ideas. The exact dates may well have to wait until later this fall owing to the contingencies of the baseball schedule for 2008.

I realize that price is a crucial factor, but so far, it isn’t something that can yet be predicted with confidence.

Readers, for now, know that the show is likely to go on. Please let me know immediately if you are interested; you’ll be added to the mailing list, and I’ll continue with the scheming. Use the e-mail address listed at my Blogger profile page.

Brewery and beer suggesions are welcomed, and they'll certainly make me thirsty.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Calendar change: Saturnalia will begin on Friday, December 7.

Just for the record, I'm providing advance notice that Saturnalia, NABC's annual winter solstice draft festival of Christmas and seasonal beers, will begin a week earlier than previously announced. The first wave will be tapped on Friday, December 7, and pouring will continue through December into the first days of January.

More information will follow, but for now, please correct your calendars.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Bourbon-barrel stout for the world: Small scale brewing and beer exports.

It’s a clichĂ© by now to cite the interwoven world economy as rationale for various unprecedented occurrences, and yet consider my reaction two nights ago when I visited the web site of the Birrificio Montegioco in Italy and noted the brewery’s extremely small size.

I’ve not bothered to decipher the production from hectoliters to gallons, but no matter; the point is that in Europe at present, impossibly small breweries are mining a lucrative export trade with other European nations, with places like Japan and with the United States, the latter coming in spite of the strength of the Euro and concurrent imbalances in value.

As for the situation in reverse, my peripatetic Danish friend Big Kim wrote last week to report his presence at a good beer bar (in Stockholm, I believe) where several American microbrews from the West Coast were being somewhat joyously sampled. Most were IPAs, which of course casts an interesting twist on the style’s British imperial origins and the unique (at the time) solution of letting the beer grow to maturity during the long period of travel to its destination.

Would it be possible for an American brewery as small as (for instance) Indiana’s Upland Brewing Company to do two-thirds of its business away from its home country (the norm for several small craft brewers in Belgium), as opposed to what I’m guessing would be a current percentage of 95% sales within Indiana?

It depends. The export beer would have to be specifically oriented to tastes of overseas markets. It probably would have to be big in terms of flavor and alcohol content, and specially packaged.

Something like BBC’s Jefferson Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout, shipped in something resembling a whisky bottle, with the word “Kentucky” and the name of the distiller providing the barrels highlighted early and often, and shipped to Japan and an Asian market that is willing to pay top dollar for luxury items.

Even better, the transit time would not affect the quality of the beer. It would enhance it.

If you don’t believe me about the potential of the Japanese market, ring your favorite Commonwealth distiller of bourbon and ask how much of its top-shelf whisky goes to Japan – and don’t be surprised at the answer.

To be sure, continental markets in Europe typically offer much greater resistance to such innovation, and grow more parochial about beer as one proceeds inland, so such an export strategy as that outlined above might work along the coastal periphery: Netherlands, the U.K., Scandinavia and Finland. In those areas, cosmopolitanism in beer is more pronounced.

It’s something worth considering, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Is the planet ready for blueberry barley wine?

From Italy, no less?

Tonight’s exercise in culture shock achieves its sly but soothing surprise by means of offbeat locality and unexpected components. Birra Artigianale Draco comes to us from the prolific importing firm of B. United International via Montegioco, the Italian town where Birrificio Montegioco was founded in 2005.

For those like me who are as yet unaccustomed to seeing Italy as a rising player in good beer, Montegioco is located between Milan (to the north) and Genoa (to the south) in easternmost Piedmont, just on the border with Lombardy. A morning’s drive to the west brings you to the shroud of Turin, while Venetian gondolas ply murky waters a few hours toward Slovenia.

I visited Italy three times during the 1980’s, and never since. My memories are of improbably marvelous red wine plunked from store shelves for a dollar a bottle, and 2/3 liter bottles of low-key golden lager consumed with salami sandwiches on park benches offering the best view of dusky local gals eating ice cream in the shadow of destination cathedrals.

That B. United International is aggressively pioneering the distribution of today's new generation of Italian craft beers can be seen in a portfolio that includes 18 beers brewed by five different breweries: Baladin, Como, Italiano, Montegioco and Troll.

To be sure, Shelton Brothers retains the variable Flanders-style sour red Panil Barriquee, which was one of my favorite new imports two years ago but unfortunately shipped stateside as flat as the Belgian seaside landscape in 2006.

Perhaps the sourish tide will turn with the next batch.

What’s more, these upstart Italian brewers are pushing the stylistic envelope, producing traditional European types like Saison, Pilsner and Bock, but also using cherries, peaches, chestnuts and spices. Alcohol contents range from the middle threes to the 11% listed for Draco, which bears a label depicting a dragon breathing fire into a chalice – or perhaps absorbing flames from it?

Long ago, the world of beer became so unpredictable that locating a mean between low and high expectations is virtually impossible, but in the case of Draco, I’m very pleased with the results.

The nose titillates with rum-like plum, raisin and candy sugar, and to these flavors is added a fruitiness that I’m trusting derives at least in part from he added blueberries, which reminds me of the vague fruitiness of He’Brew Origin Pomegranate Ale. Draco’s overall effect is quintessentially Belgian, and not unlike the fruit juicy punch of Gulden Draak, a perennial best seller at the Public House.

Thinking back to Italy in my twenties, surely I can do without the dreary lagers of youth, but right about now I’d kill for classically aged salami.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Sandkerwa NA at Indiana Beer.

Thanks to Bob Ostrander for his coverage of Sandkerwa NA, currently atop the marquee at Indiana Beer.

We're closed today for the holiday. So far, none of the listed Sandkerwa beers are gone, and I expect most and maybe all to last through the week.

Gotta get back to Bamberg. Soon.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Tony Beard's NABC Happy Helmut label art.

Tony Beard's label art for the newest NABC beer, Happy Helmut, is named for a merry trinket salesman with whom I once drank numerous half-liters of Spezial in Bamberg. There is 25% smoked malt from Bamberg's Weyermann malting house, and 15% rye in the grist. California Common yeast is used. Happy Helmut is happily soft and suitably Franconian, with the smokiness and rye qualities both present though muted, and a noble hop firmness. At 4.5% abv, it's a fine quaffer.