Friday, August 31, 2007

Grieving the Beer Hunter's passing: Michael Jackson, the Red Room and Louisville.

Michael Jackson unexpectedly visited Rich O’s Public House in November, 1994, a tad more than two years after it first opened, and if I hadn’t been drinking much of the same day as an obviously weary Beer Hunter made pre-arranged appearances at Bluegrass Brewing Company and the now defunct Silo, I surely would have been too nervous to properly function in the role of host.

I’ll never know why he consented to accompany twenty-plus awed, fledgling and inebriated beer enthusiasts on yet another beer journey, this one at 9:00 p.m. after a long day’s work, from Louisville, Kentucky, across the Ohio River, to an embarrassingly unfinished space in a strip mall that, at the time, could offer only three beers on tap.

Moreover, knowing that most of our regular pub customers would be with us that day following Jackson around Louisville, we’d closed the pub tight, and with the motorcade from the Silo approaching, came dashing inside to turn on the lights, sweep up and make the barroom look somewhat presentable. Once seated, and following hours of one-ounce samples and a furious scribbling of notes, Jackson ordered a full 20-oz Imperial pint of Sierra Nevada Porter, and when he left an hour and a half later, wryly observed, “"I've been to many pubs in America, and I've never seen one quite like this."

It took a while, but eventually I understood what he meant.

----

It is impossible to overstate the influence that Michael Jackson had on thousands upon thousands of beer drinkers, who found in his elegant and precise prose a purposeful rationale for their pursuit of the perfect pint.

I'm prime among them.

Analogies with other cultural pursuits are difficult and fleeting, but they're most apt when made in literature, with the temptation being to describe Jackson as comparable to William Shakespeare in terms of reach and pervasiveness.

To me, far more flattering is the positing of Jackson as the beer world’s successor to the 18th-century English essayist Samuel Johnson. After all, Johnson established an expository norm for non-fiction and wrote a dictionary of the English language, and a century and a half later, Jackson synthesized Johnson’s style and words to write the language and vocabulary of beer.

We’ll be speaking and writing the fruits of Johnson’s and Jackson’s life work for quite some time to come.

As Lew Bryson perceptively notes in an appreciation elsewhere, it is Jackson's association of beer with place that survives as the finest representation of the beer writer's particular genius. 20th-century industrial complexes may have stolen beer from its traditional point of localized orientation, but Jackson stole it back, first a little, and then a lot.

He generally refrained from writing about technical brewing details, possessing instead a superhuman ability to filter hyperbole of the sort favored by marketers, and viscerally connect beer to its own "terroir" in terms of physical geography, human culture and social conditions. Jackson did so factually, wittily, often majestically, and always with supreme lyricism.

He was a damned fine writer, and the father of us all.

----

Five years after the nocturnal November visit, I found myself at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, a few samples under my belt, standing somewhere on the mezzanine, leaning against a vacant table and chatting with the beer writer and editor Stan Hieronymus. After a few minutes, Stan asked me if I had brought a book to be signed. With my face registering obvious cluelessness, Stan motioned behind me – and there was Michael Jackson, settling in for another afternoon with his reading public.

Surprisingly, I was at the head of a gradually lengthening line of people forming behind me, and entirely without a Michael Jackson book for autographing, but I had a GABF program tucked under my arm, and it was duly presented to Jackson as I reintroduced myself and asked if he remembered the late evening at Rich O’s.

Jackson smiled and said yes, and then added that the FOSSILS newsletters we had since been mailing to him in London were entertaining. “You’re quite the polemicist,” said Jackson.

You’d better believe I was blushing, but before there was much time to consider a coherent response, Jackson pushed away the program and said, “Have I told you why your Red Room made such an impression on me?”

No, he had not, and this remark seemed odd at the time it was offered. In 1994, the Red Room had only just come into being. Then, as now, it is a small seating area at the pub, with one wall painted red and a massive three-part Soviet-era poster of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin on the wall, since augmented with other examples of Communist paraphernalia.

It surprised me that Jackson even noticed the Red Room during his brief visit, and of course there had been no other times when he might have explained what it meant to him, so I answered as directly as I could.

“No.”

Jackson promptly put down his pen and began telling the story.

It began in 1945 with his earliest childhood memory at the age of three: The long delayed, post-war British election campaign that ended in sweeping victory for Labor and the fall of Winston Churchill. Jackson’s father, whom he referred to as the family’s political agitator, was working one important day, so his mother – normally apolitical – took young Michael to a gala rally for their constituency’s Labor candidate, who in fact was red-letter Socialist (unfortunately, I’ve forgotten the politician’s his name).

Jackson said that he never forgot the rally’s numerous red buntings and campaign banners, and a week later, the Socialist/Labor candidate handily won the seat and began a long and distinguished career in Parliament, so long in fact that after the adult Jackson graduated from university and embarked upon his own career in journalism in the mid-1960s, the very same politician was still holding the seat won in 1945. Jackson was assigned by his newspaper to interview the aging MP.

During the interview, Jackson learned that the politician had actually lived in American prior to the second war, and had worked for …

“The leftist Louisville newspaper,” Jackson said, “what is the name of your leftist Louisville newspaper?”

By now I was kneeling, and starting to become uncomfortably cognizant of perhaps 75 people queued behind me, and what’s more, I was unable to think of any newspaper in Louisville that would fit the description offered by Jackson, who tried his best to joggle my memory.

“The newspaper’s owners were wealthy liberals,” he said, “and they’ve since sold the paper to a media company.”

I blurted, “The Binghams? The Courier-Journal?” and Jackson almost came up out of his chair.

“Yes! The Courier-Journal, and the Binghams – that’s it. That’s where he worked.”

As it transpired, the member of parliament – the man whose campaign rally had been burned into Jackson’s memory by virtue of the color red, who had worked for the Louisville Courier-Journal, and who had spoken of Louisville when interviewed by Jackson so many years before – was the cognitive impetus for Jackson’s reaction when he walked into our pub in 1994.

Finally, it all made sense: Red Room, geography, colors, politics and beer, all combining to make more than a few other beer lovers impatiently wait their turn while the dots were meticulously connected for me by the world’s greatest beer writer. It is something that I’ll remember until the day that I join Jackson at the celestial tap room's bar, when I’ll ask him the one question that most needs answering:

What was the journalist/politician’s name?

I briefly spoke with Jackson a third time at another GABF, and then a fourth at a British ale tasting in Indianapolis in 2001, and that was all. Now he’s dead, and the return visit to Rich O’s that I always thought would be made some day isn’t to be.

To remember Michael Jackson, I can do no better than appropriate Edwin Stanton’s words at the passing of Abraham Lincoln: Now he belongs to the ages.

He was, indeed, the father of us all.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Beer hunter Michael Jackson has died; worldwide good beer community mourns today.

It always was my hope that there'd be a second visit to the Public House by beer writer Michael Jackson. Sadly, it isn't to be.

Joyfully, his role in teaching us about beer will be celebrated for as long as there is a craft brewing business.

As always, ironies abound. I'd just finished posting about essential beer books, smiled inwardly at my memories of meeting Jackson at Rich O's and later in Denver, and then I checked my e-mail, only to learn that Jackson died last evening.

There'll be eulogies by the thousands, written and spoken by people in good beer circles who recognize the almost unfathomable extent of Jackson's contribution to the success we enjoy today. The hyperbole is deserved, because he made us all.

I'll have more to write when there's time; the show truly must go on, and we have a Bamberg-centric draft beer event kicking off on Friday. If not for Jackson, would I have visited Bamberg when I did? Would I have chosen to make good beer my life's work?

The weekend's beers are going to have his imprint, and I'm having the first one now.

All About Beer is the first place to turn for an appreciation. There'll be others, and I'll collect them at another time.

A few good beer books.

A reader asks:

I'm thinking about getting into home brewing, and I'd like to just become more knowledgeable about beer and the craft beer industry in general. Do you know of any good books to read on one or all three subjects (home brewing, the industry, and beer overall)? A cursory search in Amazon yielded plenty of results, but I figured you might have a good suggestion or two.

Following are quick, off-the-cuff suggestions designed much like a personal “Top Five.” The list is not intended to be comprehensive, and reader additions are appreciated. Perhaps we can come up with a worthy “Top Ten.”

I may not think much of Charlie Papazian when it comes to his beer industry dabbling outside homebrewing, but when it comes to homebrewing, his New Complete Joy of Home Brewing probably remains the best place to start for aspiring homebrewers.

The classic “great beer” texts by Michael Jackson are still out there, and worth it for the always elegant writing, although the information is dated in older editions. Go to his Beer Hunter website and read the many archived columns there, then look around for used copies of the warhorses from the 1980’s.

Garrett Oliver's The Brewmaster's Table is a recent essential volume. The subtitle says it all: “Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food.” However, it’s also a wonderful overview of beer styles.

Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World, by Christopher Mark O’Brien. Need I say more?

For insight into the microbrewing business, I like Sam Calagione’s Brewing Up a Business: Adventures in Entrepreneurship from the Founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. He has another book called
Extreme Brewing: An Enthusiast's Guide to Brewing Craft Beer at Home, but I haven’t yet read it.

Readers?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I’m batting somewhere under .250 as Sandkerwa NA approaches on Friday, August 31.

Let’s have fun mixing baseball and German beer metaphors, okay? First, a reminder: Sandkerwa NA, an homage to Bamberg’s beers, begins Friday, August 31.

Next, the box score:

Base hit: Most of the beers from Bamberg and environs are in stock.

Strikeout: I’ve not been able to get the glassware I wanted.

Groundout: I didn’t allow enough time to get the food I wanted.

Pop-up: Three of the beers originally ordered didn’t make the trip, though in fairness I knew this some time back.


Compounding the annoyance in terms of logistics are the many (ten) leftover kegs from the Greg Koch/Stone visit (don’t worry; they’ll keep for a while) and yet another dozen kegs that are the result of my ordering too much beer when business finally began to slow down during the past week. These are clogging the walk-ins, making set-up for Sandkerwa into a more difficult jigsaw puzzle than even most Gravity Heads.

After careful consideration, my verdict is to simplify.

I’ve calculated the pricing across the board rather than by individual brand, so nine of the fourteen imported German beers slated for Sandkerwa will be sold in our usual Imperial pint glasses, but at the ½ liter price (a savings of about 10%) – and the price will be the same for all nine. The four wheat ales will be a bit less expensive and will be served when possible in wheat ale glasses. The Kulmbacher Eisbock will be priced by the 10 ounce pour.

There’ll be a simple one-page, two-sided program. No frills ... this year.

Just wait 'til next year.

Here are the beers:

20-oz Imperial; $5.75
Aecht Schlenkerla Helles (Bamberg)
Aecht Schlenkerla Marzen (Bamberg)
Aecht Schlenkerla Urbock (Bamberg)
Bayerischer Bahnhof Heizer Schwarzbier (Leipzig)
Klosterbrauerei Ettal Dunkel (Ettal)
Mahr's Hell (Bamberg)
Mahr's Pilsner (Bamberg)
Mahr's der Weisse Bock (Bamberg)
Spezial Rauchbier (Bamberg)

½ liter; $5.00
Aecht Schlenkerla Weizen (Bamberg)
Bayerischer Bahnhof Gose (Leipzig)
Kapuziner Weissbier (Kulmbach)
Schneider Wiesen Edel Weiss (Kelheim)

10-oz; $3.00
Kulmbacher Eisbock (Kulmbach)

Mahr's Ungespundet, Mahr's Weisse Lager (both from Bamberg) and St. Georgenbrau Kellerbier (Buttenheim) were unavailable.

As always, two other permanent guests of German extraction will be pouring in the usual manner during Sandkerwa NA: Pilsner Urquell (Plzen, Czech Republic) and Spaten Premium Lager (Munich).

Finally, we'll also be debuting a New Albanian Brewing Company beer in honor of the occasion: Happy Helmut, named for a merry trinket salesman with whom I once drank numerous half-liters of Spezial in Bamberg. There's a percentage of smoked malt from Bamberg's Weyermann malting house, and some rye in the grist. California Common yeast is used, and Tony's working on the artwork. Diring tastings last week, Happy Helmut was (happily) revealed to be soft and suitably Franconian, with the smokiness and rye qualities both muted, and a noble hop firmness. At less than 5% abv, it's a fine quaffer.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Talking to an animal at Brew at the Zoo.

Photo courtesy of Ed Needham's friend Uwe, as snapped at Saturday's Brew at the Zoo. As Ed notes, the captioning possibilities are endless:

"Now that the animals are talking to me, I think it's time to slow down a bit on the beer."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sure. Fill out an application. I'll hire you."


Thanks for the photo, Uwe and Ed. It has made my day.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A-B: From pet shampoo to skin care, and no good beer in between.

Back in the mid-1990’s, when Anheuser-Busch resolved to violently poach Budweiser Budvar from the citizenry of the Czech Republic as a means of “resolving” the century-old trademark dispute between the American industrial alcopop monolith and the traditional Czech craft beer maker, several enterprising journalists traveled into Bohemia with units of American Budweiser in tow.

Impromptu taste tests were organized with local beer drinkers, and unsuprisingly, the verdict was rather abysmal for the brewing philistines from St. Louis. I’ll always remember one man’s response when asked to pass judgment on Budweiser:

Not fit for humans to drink, but ideal as pet shampoo.

How incredibly appropriate that the bloated megabrewery – it’s impossible to make these things up – now will be delving into cosmetics.

Anheuser-Busch launches skin balancing water worldwide, by Simon Pitman (Beverage Daily; 21/08/2007).

Global drinks company Anheuser-Busch has launched a new line of bottled water that will be marketed as an integral part of any skin care regime in a bid to make a side-step into the ever-growing skin care market.

It's always been anything but the beer for A-B, so what's next?

Embalming fluid?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Brew at the Zoo wrap-up for 2007: Inclement weather early, sticky beer drinking late.

The 4th annual Brew at the (Louisville) Zoo was yesterday, and while the overall event went smoothly, it wasn’t without an element of adventure.

I was standing in the conventionally anchored beer and food tent, i.e., not the main one that rests atop a concrete slab, at about 4:10 p.m. when the anticipated thunderstorm stuck and a wind gust reminded me of the Keg Liquors festival earlier this year.

During that occasion, many people were hanging onto Todd’s small tents to keep them from doing an Oz, and yesterday, for a brief moment, I thought it was happening again. The tent started to rise, and the support poles were askew, but there was no liftoff even if the cups, plates, buns and signage flying through the air was vaguely reminiscent of Dorothy’s dream sequence.

Unfortunately, the storm brought precious little relief from the heat, and an hour later, we’d returned to full bake mode. Despite the weather, most of the paying customers I met seemed pleased with the beer and food choices on offer.

As for me, sated with preliminary sampling and the unexpected gift of a Havana cigar, things were increasingly mellow as the event progressed. Mrs. Curmudgeon arrived on the scene a little after 7:30 p.m., and we motored to Maido Essential Japanese for a civilized late dinner, which for me included seaweed salad, kimchee pork and “hedonism,” the latter a signature sushi.

BBC (Main & Clay) APA accompanied the Maido feast, and while I’m on the topic, be on the lookout for BBC’s next seasonal, an Oktoberfest that brewmaster David Pierce notes is his first lager in “a long time.” It’s brewed with a Bavarian bock yeast, and while malty, is not overly sweet. For those planning to attend the Curmudgeon’s annual Harvest Homecoming parade party on October 6, plan on seeing the new BBC Oktoberfest on tap alongside Poperings Hommel and Rodenbach Classic.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Why invest in Iron City?

There’s something about this that fails to make sense.

Problems mount for bankrupt brewer (Friday, August 24, 2007; by Len Boselovic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

The proposed saviors of bankrupt Pittsburgh Brewing, who last month were given an additional 45 days to complete their takeover of the troubled Lawrenceville brewer, are confident they'll meet the latest deadline extension.

If the swill segment of the beer market remains static, and the craft segment grows at a pace of 10% a year, is it a good investment to pour millions into a brewery that brews only swill? Just think what could be done with such a sum.

(thanks to Scott for the link)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

UPDATE: Peak Summit beer choices will include BBC.

BBC's John Campbell provides a welcomed update for yesterday's Good news, musicians: Peak Summit is this weekend at New Albany's Rustic Frog, and you get to have NABC.

In addition to the A-B stable of light alcohol soda pops and possible Bud Island and Budhook, there will be BBC available! APA and Dark Star Porter on tap and Nut Brown and Altbier in bottles. Look past the A-B neons and find the BBC banner and taps back by the stage.

The non-swilled music fans can now breathe more easily.

Brew at the Zoo is Saturday -- here are the facts.

Here are the vitals for Saturday's fourth annual Brew at the Zoo, most of them provided by the organizers,a nd with the beer list courtesy of BBC's David Pierce.

I wrote about Brew at the Zoo yesterday in the Louisville Eccentric Observer (LEO): Gulp with the gators, slurp with the sloths.

As a side note to Matt, and as it pertains to our discussion last evening, the titles of my submissions aren't customarily mine to select, although at times I manage to be clever.

As always with the Curmudgeon, it's all about the beer, and there'll be some good ones pouring on Saturday, but at the same time I'll issue a disclaimer: Notions like "Parrot Dice Casino" are herewith disavowed as tacky. You'll find me with the beverages, and I hope to see many of you there.

Date:
August 25, 2007

Time:
4:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Location:
The Louisville Zoo Oasis band shell, tent and field.

Attendance:
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.

Admission:
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 4 :00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m., Beer/wine tasting until 8:30 p.m.)

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.

Breweries/Beers:
Alltech's Lexington Brewing Company
BBC Beer Co. (Clay Street Live Branch)
BBC St. Matthews
Barley Island Brewing Company (Noblesville, IN - new this year)
Bell's Brewery
Browning's Restaurant & Brewery
Brugge Brasserie (Indianapolis - new this year)
Cumberland Brews
Main Street Brewing/Turoni's (Evansville - new this year)
New Albanian Brewing Company
Schlafly Brewing Company
Upland Brewing Company

And a selection of beers poured by the distributor, including Rogue Dead Guy, New Holland Red Tulip, Arcadia IPA, Ommegang Witte, Unibroue Chambly Noire, Avery White Rascal, Boulder Mojo IPA .

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 .

Coming September 12: Grassroots Festival, on the patio at Stratto's (Clarksville).

Here's first notice. More information is forthcoming.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Good news, musicians: Peak Summit is this weekend at New Albany's Rustic Frog, and you get to have NABC.

The Peak Summit Groove & Dance Festival will be running the weekend of August 24, 25 & 26 at the Rustic Frog (located just west of downtown New Albany).

The New Albanian Brewing Company is donating beer for the backstage hospitality area, but the Rustic Frog itself will be controlling beer sales for those in attendance. Given the Frog's business model and the prominent web site decor of a Budweiser frog neon, my guess would be that you can expect to see the Anheuser-Busch stable of alcoholic soda pop in all its varied glory; with luck, perhaps there'll be Goose Island or Redhook as a "micro" alternative.

As a note to readers, the New Albanian Brewing Company can legally self-distribute under Indiana state law, so we can sell beer to concessionaires and licensed establishments within the state. Which is to say, had we been approached to provide the Rustic Frog with beer for Peak Summit, we'd have gladly sold them kegs.

(Shrug)

Self-absorbed Arrogant Bastards aplenty as Stone's Greg Koch visits Rich O's -- and that's the way we like it.

Monday night’s visit by Greg Koch of Stone Brewing is history, and it was such an engrossing and entertaining spectacle that I utterly failed to capture it on film even though my camera was in my pants pocket throughout. Fortunately, others did, and we’ll wait for their photos and post them at a later date.

As expected, the Seven Footer was on hand, and he has provided a fine overview of the proceedings at his blog:

Arrogant Bastard is a Nice Guy.

I heartily concur with this sentiment, as do about a hundred (perhaps more) enthusiasts who gathered for the occasion. Greg responded to the adulation admirably, providing autographs and answering questions with the seasoned nonchalance of a rock star. However, he wasn’t expecting an appearance by the mayor of New Albany, James Garner, who awarded the Stone CEO a classy plaque certifying him as Honorary Riverboat Captain.

As a side note, several door prize winners could not be found, but there should be no worries. I have your e-mail addresses, and will try to contact all of you in the coming days.

Tuesday morning was devoted to cleaning the cold plates and finding a place for the remaining beer. No kegs were blown, but sizeable dents were placed in Stone 10th Anniversary Ale IPA and Double Bastard Ale 2005. 10th Anniversary will return during Lupulin Land Harvest Hop fest in mid-October, while the ’05 Double Bastard is slated to be held until Gravity Head 2008. If all goes according to plan, Double Bastard Ale 2006 will not be seen again until Gravity Head 2009.

India Pale Ale and Smoked Porter are still on tap and will continue pouring, and they’ll be joined at various times in the near future by Old Guardian Barley Wine, Ruination IPA, Imperial Russian Stout and 07.07.07 Vertical Epic Ale.

Of course, Arrogant Bastard Ale is a daily staple at our establishment, and when there’s a chance during the next few weeks, we’ll slip the remaining Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale into its place.

Thanks to all who attended the party, and especially to Reva, Jared and Kate for pouring the beers. Thanks also to Aaron for organizing the visit on Stone’s end. We’re hoping to get Larry Bell down from Michigan for a similar event some time this fall or winter … so stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Perhaps not the best promo for Brew at the Zoo: "Bears eat man at beer festival."

BELGRADE, Serbia (Reuters) -- A 23-year old Serb was found dead and half-eaten in the bear cage of Belgrade Zoo at the weekend during the annual beer festival.

The man was found naked, with his clothes lying intact inside the cage. Two adult bears, Masha and Misha, had dragged the body to their feeding corner and reacted angrily when keepers tried to recover it.

"There's a good chance he was drunk or drugged. Only an idiot would jump into the bear cage," zoo director Vuk Bojovic told Reuters.

Local media reported that police found several mobile phones inside the cage, as well as bricks, stones and beer cans.

(Thanks to Frank for the link: http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/europe/08/20/bear.death.reut/index.html?iref=mpstoryview)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Tonight: Stone Brewing co-founder and CEO Greg Koch (and his beers) at Rich O's.

From the Stone Brewing website's calendar of events:

arrogantbastard.com

Greg Koch's Midwest Tour Continues At Rich O's

Monday, August 20th --- 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm

Rich O's Public House at the New Albanian Brewing Co. has been supporting Stone Brewing for years. Now it is time for Stone to show our appreciation...and how are we going to do that? With an amazing lineup of Stone Special Releases and a visit from Stone CEO Greg Koch, of course!
Join Greg, Aaron, and the gang at Rich O's on Monday the 20th for an array of Stone beers the likes of which has never been seen in the Hoosier State.

[Warning: You may want to sit down before reading further!].

07.07.07 Vertical Epic Ale, Arrogant Bastard Ale, Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale, Double Bastard Ale 2005, Double Bastard Ale 2006, Imperial Russian Stout, India Pale Ale, Old Guardian Barley Wine, Ruination IPA, Smoked Porter, Stone 10th Anniversary Ale IPA

Needless to say...pencil this one on your calendar, grab a designated driver, and get ready for a night you'll never forget ... or maybe you just might!

Rich O's / New Albanian Brewing Co., 3312 Plaza Drive, New Albany, IN, 812.949.2804

Misleading, don't you think?

Czech legend has it that the finest hops are picked by female virgins, so this announcement prompted considerable expectation and a bit of lewdness, but alas, it was all about brides, and didn’t have anything at all to do with a “hop tasting.”

A boy can dream. Do the virgin hop pickers wear white?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

SWIRCA fest in Evansville, August 18.

Another summer Saturday, another beer festival -- this time on behalf of the Southwestern Regional Council on Aging (SWIRCA). There wasn't NABC staff to make the trip to Evansville, so we entrusted the taps and briefcase to Jim and Debbie Frazier, who reported that a good time was had, and submitted a few photos.

As is our custom, we sent NABC's big boys: Thunderfoot, Hoptimus and Croupier.

Tisha from World Class Beverages was on hand to push her excellent craft and import portfolio.

As was Bloomington's Upland Brewing, somewhere beneath Elmer's beard.

Many thanks to Jim and Debbie for carrying the baton. There'll be beer in it for you ...


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Friday, August 17, 2007

Merriment at the Seven Footer's blog.

It is my habit to work at home during the morning, and then proceed to the pub some time around lunch for required on-site activities like ordering beer, stacking beer and drinking beer.

One afternoon a few months ago, I emerged distractedly from my office, walked around the corner of the bar, and found myself “mano y mano” -- beer gut to beer gut – with a giant. Looking to the sky to make eye contact is something I’m seldom required to do, although 6' 4" is of course tiny by today's professional basketball standards (crazily, Golden State's star guard, Baron Davis, is my height, and approximately 15 times quicker). Still, my daily encounters don't usually include bumping into people who are scraping their heads against the drop ceiling.

The legitimate seven-footer in question turned out to be Matt Simons, who became our source for vital information about the amazing Sergio's in Shelbyville, Kentucky.

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

A short time back, Matt undertook a blog of his own, and he has been sending me links to some great stories there.

PC readers might wish to join in the fun: Thinking Is Hard.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sandkerwa NA, an homage to Bamberg’s beers, begins Friday, August 31.

Bamberg, a beautiful city of 70,000 people located in the countryside of the northern German region known as Franconia, has long been recognized as the epicenter of traditional German brewing and beer culture. Ten breweries operate within the city limits, and as many as 150 others are to be found within the outward radius of a good day’s bicycle ride on immaculately marked and maintained bike routes. The majority of Franconia’s 300 breweries are family owned and operated.

For a half-century, SANDKERWA (SAND-kehr-wa) has been Bamberg’s end-of-summer street festival, one that originated as a church-related commemoration in the historic city’s oldest central district. For six days each year in late August, the Altstadt’s narrow lanes are filled with food, beer and people in a hearty celebration that brings Munich’s better known Oktoberfest to mind, but exists on a less crowded, decentralized and more enjoyable human scale.

Sandkerwa is an idea worth emulating, and Bamberg a state of mind worth honoring, so given that I’ve been looking for a reason to stage a German-themed draft beer fest, prepare for the inaugural edition of Sandkerwa NA, which kicks off at Rich O’s and Sportstime on Friday, August 31.

Expect a dozen or so beers from Bamberg and environs on tap at the same time, perhaps even more, combining to represent as many traditional Franconian styles of beer as possible (with a few Greater Bavarian and non-regional ringers tapped to provide representative examples of unobtainable styles).

Kindly note that contrary to what you may have heard, not all of these delectable beers are smoked!

In Bamberg itself, only the renowned Schlenkerla and the tiny Spezial include Rauchbier in their daily range, as do a few breweries outside Bamberg, but by no means are smoked beers the norm in Franconia at large. Here are the beers that I’m hoping will be on hand, beginning with the core selection from Bamberg:

Aecht Schlenkerla Helles
Aecht Schlenkerla Marzen
Aecht Schlenkerla Urbock
Aecht Schlenkerla Weizen
Mahr's Hell
Mahr's Pilsner
Mahr's Weisse
Mahr's der Weisse Bock
Spezial Rauchbier

Bayerischer Bahnhof Gose (Leipzig)
Bayerischer Bahnhof Heizer Schwarzbier (Leipzig)
Klosterbrauerei Ettal Dunkel (Ettal)
Kulmbacher Eisbock (Kulmbach)
Schneider Wiesen Edel Weiss (Kelheim)

And, of course, Pilsner Urquell (Plzen, Czech Republic) and Spaten Premium Lager (Munich) will both be on tap during Sandkerwa NA.

Regrettably, and as so often occurs, both Mahr's Ungespundet Lager (Bamberg) and St. Georgenbrau Kellerbier (Buttenheim) are unavailable at this time. This is particularly frustrating given that these are the only two examples of the style even possible to acquire, but I'll persist, and maybe they'll be available later in the fall.

Finally, we'll also be debuting a New Albanian Brewing Company beer in honor of the occasion: Happy Helmut, named for a merry trinket salesman with whom I once drank numerous half-liters of Spezial in Bamberg. There's a percentage of smoked malt from Bamberg's Weyermann malting house, and some rye in the grist. California Common yeast is used, and Tony's working on the artwork.

As always is the case with our draft extravaganzas, the Sandkerwa NA beers will continue pouring until they are depleted. By mid-September, a new wave of Oktoberfest brands from Germany and American craft breweries will begin flowing, and after New Albany’s annual Harvest Homecoming has concluded, we’ll commence Lupulin Land, NABC’s annual hop festival, on October 19.

A final note: It is my aim to launch Sandkerwa NA for the sake of the classic beer alone, and without the capability of providing Bamberg-style cuisine as a delicious match. The summer proved to be too busy to do more than draw up a future outline and order kegs, and yet I believe that starting small, while expedient, is also the correct approach. In 2008, it is my hope to add a full-blown German meal to the program, and perhaps music as well.

In 2007, savor the wonderful beers, and in 2008, we’ll broaden the experience.

It's on! Meet Greg Koch at Stone Brewing Night: Monday, August 20, at the Public House.

As previously announced, Greg Koch – CEO & co-founder of Stone Brewing Company – will be the guest of honor for a meet ‘n’ greet at Rich O’s Public House on August 20. The approximate timing of the event will be 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., but the Prost special events wing will be open from 5:00 p.m.

There will be drawings for several door prizes, including a gift certificate to BadaBoomz Ale House & Grill in Indianapolis and a selection of vintage Stone beers pulled from the Public House vault.

There’ll also be gratis glimpses (with detailed commentary, no doubt) of my old friend and former Rich O’s bartender Buddy Sandbach’s Arrogant Bastard tattoo, which is a conversation starter if ever there was one.

Separated at birth? You be the judge.

As for beer, are you ready for 11 different Stone beers on tap all at once? Currently there are kegs stacked to the ceiling in our cold storage areas, but we believe that when the contents are extracted, the following Stone beers will be pouring … all at the same time, and all of them available in specially priced 10-ounce portions, all night long.

07/07/07 Vertical Epic Ale
Arrogant Bastard Ale
Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale
Double Bastard Ale 2005
Double Bastard Ale 2006
Imperial Russian Stout
India Pale Ale
Old Guardian Barley Wine
Ruination IPA
Smoked Porter
Stone 10th Anniversary Ale IPA

Ironically, as we were discussing the beers available for the event, it was agreed that something on the milder side was needed, but in the end, Stone Pale Ale was unavailable in draft. There’ll be some bottles of it for completists. In the end, Smoked Porter might turn out to be the lightest beer in the bunch.

If you’re looking for reasons why to appreciate Greg Koch’s place in the wonderful world of craft brewing, look no further than this paragraph, which is reprinted from the RateBeer interview linked below:

I run into many people who use the "It’s what I grew up with, that’s why I drink XYZ brand of fizzy yellow beer" excuse. Bullshit. It’s because you got used to a generic taste and have decided not to move on. That’s OK, but the fizzy yellow beer drinker should at least be able to acknowledge their own reality. They don’t want to expand their horizons. There’s a reason why better things in life are referred to as "acquired tastes." you may have to work at developing your palate, but when you get there its nirvana!

That’s a man after the Publican’s own heart. Thanks to Greg Koch, Aaron Tyrell (Stone Brewing’s Midwestern regional rep), Cavalier Distributing (Indianapolis) and the NABC brew crew & Reva for making this happen.

Here are a few informative links:

Stone Brewing Company

Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens

Interview with Greg Koch at RateBeer

Photo credit: http://www.stoneworldbistro.com

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Charlie Papazian? Spare me, will you?

While in Madison, Wisconsin, joyfully prepping for my very first Great Taste of the Midwest craft beer extravaganza, I experienced two separate Charlie Papazian sightings, and as expected, neither time did I feel the adrenaline necessary to rush forward through a mass of humanity to ask the presumed legend for his autograph.

That’s because I don’t necessarily agree with the apparent majority view that exalts Papazian as deserving of cuddly legend status, at least not without a close, dispassionate and contextual examination of his role in the beer and brewing revolution.

I believe that such an examination proves that Papazian whiffed time and again in his most important at-bats, and I’m just a wee bit prickly about it.

The old-timers among you will remember that back in the early to mid-1990s, when craft brewing was young, I was often outspokenly critical of Papazian, documenting my reasons in the pages of “Walking the Dog,” the now defunct print version of the FOSSILS newsletter (it now appears on-line).

In fairness, I always freely credited Papazian with advancing the tenets of homebrewing, and consistently acknowledged that his mantra of, “Relax. Don’t worry. Have a homebrew,” more than aptly held its own as sound advice considering the vagaries of the hobby itself. However, I held that when applied to the larger, evolving and often hostile market that commercial brewers were then entering, such serial passivity was detrimental to the radicalism necessary to successfully pursue our aims.

That a homebrewer like Papazian became a contributing factor in the commercial realm – someone who was looked to for leadership – certainly speaks both to the universal need for a front man in times of crisis as well as to Papazian’s own sizeable ego and ambitions. The burgeoning Colorado-based fiefdom he built and nurtured, from sideline to day job, purported to speak for homebrewer and professional brewer alike, but the maintenance and perpetuation of the fiefdom curiously seemed always to take precedence over Papazian’s willingness to speak out, speak openly and speak forcefully.

Instead of leadership, we were handed appeasement.

We asked Papazian to speak out against megabrewery attack ads deriding craft beer and homebrewing, and there was nothing but silence as the megabreweries responsible for the lamentable condition of the American brewing industry continued to occupy cash-driven pride of place just beyond the Great American Beer Festival entryway and captured yearly style categories expediently invented to give them something to blush about as they wrote the checks … and Papazian cashed them.

How did that help the movement, Charlie?

Most galling of all, in 1994, we asked Papazian to join Britain’s CAMRA and speak out publicly against Anheuser-Busch’s marauding aggression against the Czech Republic’s Budvar brewery, and the response was the same: Stone-deaf obstinance, except this time Papazian found the words – the legal jargon -- to expressly forbid us from quoting his words of refusal to say the truth aloud, and to threaten us with a lawsuit if we did.

Now that’s leadership. Charlie Chaplin's "little tramp" would have been bolder, and might have even put the ball into play.

Through it all, the Papazian cult of personality has continued to grow and prosper, and as it pertains to individual brand building, I’m all for self-aggrandizement, but when it is parlayed from a position of assumed collective authority that seldom has been taken for a spin outside the protection of the master’s Boulder garage, it’s far less impressive to me.

A savvy self-promoter? Of course.

The creative builder of a beery Rocky Mountain empire as a means of career advancement? Absolutely.

Unfortunately, these achievements, while noteworthy, simply do not combine to produce a great leader.

I’ll remember Papazian as an appeaser first, and a merchandiser second, and there is precious little evidence to suggest that I should change my opinion at this late date and elevate “leader” anywhere near either of these judgments.

Happily, craft beer’s multi-directional market explosion has made the notion of monaural industry leadership largely irrelevant, and while we need some of the things that one of many technocrats at the refashioned and improved Brewers Association offers – indeed, my company is a dues-paying member – a decentralized and strengthened craft beer movement no longer needs a “great leader pretend” to practice self-advancement while shirking the duties of the helm.

Quite a few readers, perhaps even most, will disagree, and I fully expect to be taken to task for these words, but so be it. Sometimes matters get personal, and this is one of those times. When I sincerely asked this great leader for help, he ignored me, insulted us, and was a coward when it came to quoting him. It may have been good politics at the time and somehow preserved the privileges of the brewing charlatans in St. Louis, retaining them as valuable sources of cash to mock the movement for better beer that we started precisely because of A-B’s offenses.

However, Papazian’s duck-and-cover did nothing to gain respect from me.

As a rule, I don’t hold grudges.

Papazian is the rare, and perhaps chief, exception to the rule.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Play ball: Madison Mallards take the Louisville Bats to school -- and Bats ingloriously flunk out.

(Crossposted at NA Confidential)

Before I make the mistake of sweeping generalizations, there’s a disclaimer: Chain-infected mass-market monoculture infects the city of Madison, Wisconsin (population 208,000) just as it does the remainder of an increasingly sterile exurban America.

Familiar generic entities like Wal-Mart, McDonald’s and Anheuser-Busch are as entrenched in Wisconsin’s capital city as anywhere, especially in the predictably cookie-cutter outer districts surrounding the historically progressive city center.

But, now for the good news, at least from the point of view of one who vows death to chains.

You simply can’t help but notice that in Madison, some of the most abrasive and insulting aspects of suburban and exurban sprawl are at least softened and made more tolerably human by virtue of vigilant planning and aggressive code enforcement. To cite just one example, commercial signage is discrete and typically hugs the ground, and mandated trees and landscaping provide a soothing alternative to the pervasive concrete of the oft-repeated American look-alike tableau.

Furthermore, worker-owned companies (including a prominent taxi service) and cooperatives abound, green consciousness is widespread, bicycles are everywhere, and the Saturday morning farmers market that surrounds the majestic capitol building on all four sides is one of the oldest, largest and best-attended in the country.

We ended our stay with baseball and beer, and found in these bookends of summertime Americana even more evidence that in some locales, things are just better than in others.

The Madison Mallards are the city’s baseball team. It is an amateur team in the short-season Northwoods League, one composed entirely by unpaid collegiate players who are housed with local families and work in the community when they’re not playing ball. On the field, they use wooden bats, not aluminum, in preparation for the future employment a precious few of them will enjoy within the ranks of paid, professional baseball.

The Mallards play at the Duck Pond, a charmingly human-scale park on the north side that holds a bit more than 7,000 people, 210,000 of whom viewed the 32 home games played during the recently concluded 2007 season. We were part of a sell-out crowd on the final game of the season, which doubled as fan appreciation night, and as bearers of $25 tickets, we were admitted to the riotous seating area within the Great Dane Brewing Company’s Duck Blind, in turn entitling us to unlimited ballpark food, draft beer and soft drinks in addition to the game itself.


Note that in a testament to the ready availability of public transport, reasonably priced taxis and bicycles, beer is served until the last out is recorded. Are there no attorneys in Wisconsin?

The Duck Blind is a funky, sprawling wooden warren of picnic tables, bleacher seats and elevated platforms that might have been designed by the Swiss Family Robinson, all nestled in the park’s right-field corner. The all-you-can-eat park/pub grub unfortunately does not include the sushi that can be purchased elsewhere on the grounds, but instead is the sort you’d expect straight from the coals of the backyard grill – burgers, brats and the like.

The open-minded diversity of the beer selection is noteworthy, for while ample quantities of fizzy yellow swill are available for the enjoyment of the unwashed and flavor impaired, the selection is balanced by a half-dozen local microbrews, most of them drawn from the sponsoring Great Dane brewery, but also including two from the German-inspired Capital Brewing in nearby Middleton.

Understand that no one, not even the ever radicalized author, denies that a ballpark is a business proposition even if the team is spared the burden of salaries, and as with other major and minor league venues, including Louisville Slugger Field, the Great Dane Brewing Company must “pay to play” at the Duck Pond’s Duck Blind.

Accordingly, I inquired of a friend in Madison’s beer community about the probable price of sponsorship, and while I’ll not quote it publicly, it should suffice to say that (a) the cost to the brewery is reasonable, (b) the cost is a sum that does not preclude the smallish brewery from making a profit on keg sales, and (c) the cost is part and parcel of an agreement that graciously permits mass-market swill also to be sold alongside local craft beer in an area primarily sponsored by the local craft brewery – something that is seldom the case in reverse, when multinational mega-breweries pay the big bucks for beer placement with the express intent and expectation of excluding competition, enforcing a de facto carbonated dishwater monopoly, and denying any measure of genuine choice for the consumer.

In short – let’s come right out and say it – a Madison Mallards game offers the consumer an experience the polar opposite of that regularly (and tepidly) teed up by the Louisville Bats, who offer a brand of baseball on the field that is at least four levels better than Madison’s, but whose management routinely succumbs to a colorless, chain-think, pocket-stuffing Philistinism that deprives discerning fans of the best aspects of locally-based cultural diversity in beer, in food, and by extension, in life itself.

As I’ve noted so many times before, here and elsewhere, the lowest-common-denominator bottom line practiced by the Bats is hypocrisy of a high and galling order, for it violently contradicts the stated aim of the team in providing Louisville fans with a locally-based baseball and entertainment alternative to the higher-priced major leagues.

On the other hand, Madison’s Mallards obviously get it. Why does Madison’s ball club have a far better grasp of the philosophy involved? Why does it offer a far better overall package than Louisville’s?

Part of the answer involves the presence in Madison of sufficient numbers of progressive, thinking baseball fans who demand a better product, but another crucial aspect of it – not coincidentally, the shading that consistently eludes Louisville’s primeval team management – has to do with Madison’s brain trust being progressive itself, responding not only to the dully predictable profit imperatives of the lowest common denominator in the traditionally underachieving fashion of the Bats, but also actively participating in shaping its market, not just pandering to it.

To me, it’s another manifestation of the Louisville metropolitan area’s congenital refusal to admit that knowledge really matters when it comes to the advancement of the human species … and that will have to await another day’s rumination.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Great Taste views from Madison.

My first Great Taste of the Midwest was everything I'd been told it would be -- and more.

There were 100 breweries present and 5,000 tickets sold. The crowd was extremely knowledgeable, well-behaved and hip. At 2:00 p.m., Jared tapped our "pin" of cask-conditioned Bonfire of the Valkyries, smoked black lager aged in a JW Lees Port barrel.


New Holland probably won the annual outrageousness competition with fellow Michigan brewers Bell's, Dark Horse and Founders. Top hats and Marlene Dietrich torch songs are hard to top. Fortunately, all four breweries deliver the goods in the beer context.


The Real Ale tent featured casks from far and wide.

It was a capacity crowd on an uncommonly hot and humid day, and in the end, it's hard for me to imagine a better gathering. Numerous thumbs up.


Friday, August 10, 2007

Greetings from the People's Republic of Madison.

(Crossposted to NA Confidential. Stay tuned for coverage and photos over the weekend.)

By way of explaining my whereabouts, here's the text of my LEO column this week.

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Mug Shots: Abreast of a great beer fest

I’ve never been to Madison, the capital of Wisconsin, but that will change this weekend when I embark on an overdue visit to a city that has often been accused of being “The People’s Republic of Madison.” That’s encouragement enough to elicit warm and fuzzy pre-trip vibrations from me, but moreover, Saturday also is the occasion for the annual Great Taste of the Midwest beer festival.

The GTMW is the ideal craft brew dictatorship that purges dissent by offering hundreds of microbrewed treats available for scientific 2-ounce sampling, ranging across the spectrum of styles, and with nary an ounce of insipid light mass-market beer in sight.

It’s one of the top three beer celebrations in the great brewing nation that America has somehow become almost in spite of itself, standing alongside the Oregon Brewers Festival (Portland) and the Great American Beer Festival (Denver). Each year, GTMW tickets sell out months in advance, and thousands wait joyfully in line to enter the grounds adjacent to beautiful Lake Olin and revel in flavor, diversity and ingenuity.

More often than not, the breweries proudly displaying their wares at the GTMW have come about as the result of an all-American dream to do it yourself, and to do it better. “We brew beer, we drink beer, and we sell what’s left” is a common motto. I get goose pimples just thinking about it.

Big beer events like Madison’s have spawned a subculture of fest fanatics who attend numerous such tastings. An abnormally large number of these die-hards are attracted to the “extreme” end of the flavor spectrum, with its high-octane styles like Double India Pale Ale, Imperial Stout and Barley Wine — libations of complexity and octane, suitable for all weather conditions, and worth traveling long distances to seek out.

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Debarking in Milwaukee yesterday morning, the temperature was 72 degrees. The first thing I saw upon emerging from the jetway in Madison was the word "Wurst," German for sausage, advertising the presence of a German-themed, well, "Imbiss." Most of the streets have bicycle lanes, and people use them. I saw ordinance enforcement vehicles with OEOs at work in a neighborhood driving through.

Vacationing in a blue state paradise? Sweet relief. By the way, are there any Young Republican slumber parties planned back at the Sunny Side?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Calendar check: FOSSILS homebrewing and beer appreciation dates for late summer and autumn 2007.

For the uninitiated, FOSSILS stands for Fermenters of Special Southern Indiana Libations Society. The club was founded in September, 1990, which means its 17th birthday fast approaches. The web site is here, and the schedule for the coming months, authored by President Beth Howard, is reprinted below. If homebrewing interests you, FOSSILS is the place to start, but even if you've no interest in making your own, club activities are a great way to expand knowledge about good beer and an even better way to meet wonderful people.

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Happy Summer, FOSSILS and Friends!
Even though FOSSILS didn't meet officially during July, I have every confidence that the spirit of good beer consumption and homebrewing has been flowing freely and often with us all this summer. It has with the Howards, anyhow. Here's a quick update on a few items of interest and upcoming events that all good beer lovers should know about.

2008 PICNIC DATES SET
Thanks to all taking time to attend last month's Beer Camp/Picnic '07 wrap-up and '08 planning meeting at BBC Taproom. Reservations at Otter Creek Park's Camp Tecumseh (same place as "06 & '07) have been made for Friday, May 30 – Sunday, June 1, 2008. Please note: this is NOT Memorial Day weekend.

A new Picnic Planning Committee has been formed to coordinate logistics and details for the weekend. This will be a HUGE help to officers of each club, especially considering the timing of elections and leadership transition, so a big thank you to those who volunteered to participate. I think we'll make Ed Tash the FOSSILS Beer Camp Director (aka Committee Point Man), so we'll be in good hands! Watch for more details about committee meetings and how you can contribute to the success of another wonderful beer weekend in 2008.

KENTUCKY STATE FAIR HOMEBREW COMPETITION
Entries due: August 11
Judging: August 12
Bob Reed has on his Ky. State Fair Homebrew Superintendent hat this month and tells me that they have received a record number of entries for this year's competition. He reminds FOSSILS and friends that homebrew entries are due at the Kentucky Fair and Expo Center (KFEC) on Saturday, August 11.

Judging will be on Sunday, August 12 at noon in the usual room in the South Hall of KFEC --- there's always a big sign to help find the exact spot. Because of the tremendous number of entries, Bob's estimating there will be 16 – 17 flights to judge, with at least two judges needed in each flight. He's trying to get as much set up in advance, so contact Bob if you'd like to be a judge or a steward by calling him ASAP at (502) 222-7439 or (502) 369-5898.

BEER & SWEAT AUGUST 18
The Bloatarian Brewing League returns the mutha of all homebrew keg competitions, Beer & Sweat, to its roots at The Drawbridge Inn, 2477 Royal Drive, Fort Mitchell, KY, on Saturday, August 18. Although this isn't an "official" FOSSILS road trip, we customarily have a strong contingent making the trip, so carpooling, etc. is entirely possible.

Hotel reservations are STRONGLY suggested, so make your reservations now! Standard rooms (single or double) are $69 per night; standard rooms (triple or quad) are $79 per night. All rooms are subject to occupancy tax, of course. Call (800) 354-9793 and ask for the "Beer and Sweat" room rate.

Entries due via email by midnight, Wednesday, August 8. You must specify the category, subcategory (including name and number/letter) for all entries. Entry fee is $5 for your first beer, $4 for your second beer, $3 for three through ten and any entries over 10 are FREE. Your first entry includes admission for two to the event. Entries can be checked in (and paid for) on Friday 6-8pm and Saturday, 8-12:30pm.

Judges, stewards and volunteers are also needed. Complete details on the Bloatarian Brewing League website: http://www.bloatarian.org/

STONE BREWING CEO TO VISIT PUBLIC HOUSE AUGUST 20
Cool opportunity, kids! Let's make it a FOSSILS Pub Run Night and show our support for one of our favorite breweries.

Courtesy of Roger's Potable Curmudgeon Blog:
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 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.

BREW AT THE ZOO ON TAP AUGUST 25

The fourth annual Brew at the Zoo will be held August 25 from 4 to 9 p.m. at the Louisville Zoo Oasis field. The event, produced by Friends of the Zoo, features a beer tasting from more than 20 local and regional breweries as well as food and wine samples from more than 30 local restaurants and vendors.

Tickets are required and are now available online at www.louisvillezoo.org/events and the Zoo box office through August 24 as well at the door on the day of the event. BE ADVISED --- THIS EVENT GENERALLY SELLS OUT, SO BUY TICKETS NOW!

Price includes admission to the Zoo, live music, brew and food samplings and official tasting glass. Live music at the event will include Stompbox and Two Guys Having Fun. Visitors are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets on which to lounge while enjoying the music.

BREW DAY AT RILEY RIDGE OCTOBER 20
Becky and John Riley have invited FOSSILS and friends for an on-site brewing demo day at Riley Ridge Wine, Beer and Canning Supply Shop on Saturday, October 20. It will be a great day to "convert" some newbies…enjoy the fall weather brewing…and introduce FOSSILS members to their business in Lanesville.

Details forthcoming, estimated starting time is 10:30 a.m., so mark the date and make plans to attend. Riley Ridge will be donating some grain to brewers that day and we need a couple more groups to set up --- let us know if you're interested.

DEADLINE FOR AUGUST NEWSLETTER: 8/20/07
Send your news, information, etc. to http://us.f508.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=fossils.editor@gmail.com for inclusion in the next edition of the Not Dog, estimated publication date 8/25/07.

UPCOMING FOSSILS MEETING SCHEDULE
September 8
6:30 p.m. - Prost! Room at Rich O's Public House
BrewFood Competition
"Made by FOSSILS" Raffle
Officer Nominations

October 13
6:30 p.m. - Prost! Room at Rich O's Public House
Officer Elections

November 10
6:30 p.m. - Prost! Room at Rich O's Public House
Porter Competition

December 8
Time TBD - Prost! Room at Rich O's Pubic House
Holiday Bash

CHEERS!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

BadaBoomz: Great beer choice in downtown Indianapolis.

From the top of the hill on the breezy lawn at White River State Park in Indianapolis, the visitor is exposed to a 360-degree panorama that stunningly illustrates how far Indiana’s state capital and largest city has come since its 1970’s “Indy-A-No-Place” nadir.*

The vista to the north and west yields views of the terminus of the urbanized downtown section of the Central Canal towpath, the IUPUI campus, the NCAA headquarters, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indiana State Museum, Military Park and the Medal of Honor Memorial.

To the west are the Indianapolis Zoo and the main section of White River State Park. Facing south and sweeping east are seen the existing Convention Center and RCA Dome, and the new Colts home at Lucas Oil Stadium, still under construction, and Victory Field baseball park. Just past the complex of state government buildings directly to the east are the downtown skyscrapers (and Conseco Fieldhouse hidden just behind them).

Verily, downtown Indianapolis is booming, but upon closer examination it all can seem disturbingly corporate in nature. The usual food and dining suspects that one would expect to find in the open air food court in the exurbs -- Hard Rock, P.F. Chang’s, Jillian’s, Ruth Chris -- are slick, clustered and ready for charge cards. They don’t appear to be hurting for customers, whether drawn from the ranks of numerous tourists, visiting conventioneers or the Indiana state government employees swarming the streets at lunch and after work.

Standing at the corner of Washington and Illinois, and looking southeasterly, Rock Bottom pops up in the left eye, and both Alcatraz and Ram in the right. All three are chain brewpubs, and within the past two years Rock Bottom and Ram both have established branches in the teeming northern exurb. In my experience, they’re all above average in terms of overall beer quality, the food I’ve had in each was fine, and I respect them for what they are, usually opting for the rotating seasonals and specialty beers that better reflect the brewmaster’s discretion.

At the same time, I won’t deny that my personal preference for brewpubs in Indianapolis runs to the venerable Broad Ripple Brewing Company and relative newcomer Brugge Brasserie, located two hundred yards apart on the Monon Trail pedway in the Broad Ripple Village area far to the north of downtown Indianapolis, so excuse me if I sidestep for a moment the question of whether chain and independently owned breweries can both dance on the head of the ideological pin by noting that most beer-related itineraries probably are organized around either/or choices pertaining to Broad Ripple vs. the city center, and not both/all at the same time.

Rather, let’s consider the best independently owned establishment at which one can enjoy craft beer in downtown Indianapolis, and certainly one of the finer “hotel bars” anywhere, the newly transformed BadaBoomz Ale House & Grill. Many readers will remember it as Buffalo Wild Wings, then as now located on Maryland Street just around the corner from Conseco Fieldhouse, and with a door leading into the Hampton Inn lobby.

BadaBoomz owner Mike DeWeese has gone private, severing the BW3 connection and completely remodeling the interior and food menu while leaving the sports-oriented televisions intact as well as the forty taps, which continue to pour 95% good beer as they always have.

On the Friday evening of my session, before and after the outdoor Snow Patrol concert at the aforementioned White River State Park lawn, there were around ten Indiana microbrews on tap, two of which found their way to me: Mad Anthony IPA and Mishawaka Four Horsemen Ale. There also was time for a Founders dry-hopped Pale Ale … and then another IPA.

There’s a diverse bottled list as well, and from it I was able to locate a Moretti LaRossa dark lager to please Mrs. Curmudgeon, who also praised her vegetable pizza. From my perspective, an appetizer of jalapeno poppers (rings of peppers breaded and fried, sans cream cheese but with sour cream for dipping) followed by a smoked salmon wrap accented by blue cheese balsamic sauce was ample sustenance, and not overbearing.

BadaBoomz keeps pleasingly late hours. Brief but helpful beer descriptions are provided, and food and beer pairings are noted on the menus. Our server was knowledgeable. The commute from table to elevator to reach our Hampton Inn room was quite short, and in the morning, the Nordstrom department store located a few steps across Meridian has an espresso bar facing the street that opens well in advance of the store. The time-honored St. Elmo Steak House can’t be more than three blocks away.

All the ingredients are in place for a sports or concert road trip. Keep an eye on the schedules, especially for the Pacers; the Colts won the Super Bowl, but Indianapolis’s NBA squad didn’t make the playoffs in a weak conference. Larry Legend should be giving away tickets, so perhaps we should grab a few this winter, book a room at the Hampton Inn, eat a steak at St. Elmo, and then take a seat at BadaBoomz before and after the game.

Now that’s a Curmudgeon’s prime weekend getaway package.

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* The I Choose Indy! blog offers pros and cons of the city’s ascent. This posting has no pictures because yours truly neglected to take his camera.

Friday, August 03, 2007

We had a spare keg, so ...

Indianapolis readers, pay heed. We did not fail to take notice of how much you enjoyed our limited supplies of Hoptimus during the summer festival season.

Hoptimus is coming soon to a local establishment near you. But I'll let them tell you about it when the time comes.

It's only one keg. Maybe more can be brought up later ...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Founders Brewing says it all: "Ignore mainstream."

A few days back, I gave August Busch IV, chief executive "everything" of the monolithic megabrewing assassin Anheuser-Busch, a hard time for prattling on in CEO-speak about his company's sterling performance.

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

I yawned, and two readers differed, which is not a bad thing at all, but permit me to reiterate that while captains of our surging craft beer industry might well be able to speak such an obtuse language and even comprehend some of the impenetrable jargon, it's likely that they don't enjoy doing so any more than Czechs and Hungarians cherished speaking Russian in the company of their Soviet hegemonists circa 1984.

That's because craft brewers have another option: Waxing rhapsodic about the praiseworthy products they've had a hand in creating, and doing so in a way that Bud Light will never hear itself wooed.

Then there's this concise statement of brewing and marketing principle, as provided to the world by the good people at Founders Brewing Company in Michigan. Makes me wish I’d thought of it.

To bring you truly great beer, we have focused our efforts to one simple pursuit ... ignore mainstream.

We brew the beer we want to drink.

In this pursuit we have found lower efficiencies, higher cost, less yields and smaller market share. This may seem like an unsound business model, but in our pursuit for bigger and better beer we have discovered a subculture of microbrewery aficionados. People like you, who enjoy beers that push the envelope of creativity.

Amen, brothers. Anyone up for a Founders night at NABC/Rich O’s/Sportstime?

Hint: Four Sticks isn’t on the invitation list … and no sum of his company’s donations to charity stands to be able to change that fact.

How’s that for a successful “improvement initiative?”

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Night of the living plastic bottled swill Hell … but a good time for the discerning.

Imagine that you’ve paid the very reasonable price of $80 for a chartered bus seat, a ticket in the right field stands to watch the Chicago Cubs vs. the homestanding Cincinnati Reds, a pre-game picnic meal of barbecue and the fixings, and all the craft draft beer you can drink before and after the game.

Imagine that the three craft beers on tap on the bus are BBC APA (Main & Clay), Browning’s She-Devil IPA, and Browning’s Helles, the latter a German-style golden lager perfectly familiar to any person who has ever suckled an ice-cold Bud Light.

Imagine that such an unprecedented deal isn’t quite good enough for you, so you ignore the craft beer you’ve already paid for, pack a cooler with canned and bottled swill, throw back a dozen or more overpriced “waters,” as Sergio would call them, during the ballgame, and at a moment of supreme self-revelation during the journey home, begin belting out an off-key version of the best-forgotten, hoary seventies paean to piddling Parrotland, “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw” – all the while believing that in your choice of beer, music and life, you’re being somehow clever and the life of the party.


I can’t imagine it, although I experienced it on Saturday, July 28.

However, it is my pleasure to report that entirely apart from redneck contingents originating in my (sighhh) home town of New Albany, there is good beer to be found at the Hofbrauhaus Newport, and even at Great American Ball Park itself. Within 100 yards of our seats at the home field of the Reds, I found Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale, BarrelHouse Red Legg and an unidentified Flying Dog, along with a Red Hook IPA -- all ridiculously priced at $7.25 per plastic cup, but at least bearing tangible sign of hops and hope.

Meanwhile, mainstream America supped predictably at the altar of mainstream plastic bottles as the Reds bowed unconvincingly to the Cubs by an 8-1 score before a sellout “home” crowd of 42,500, of whom at least six of ten were Cubs, not Reds, supporters.

That’s surreal, but not as surreal as the bizarro-world spectacle of swill-hounds eschewing all-inclusive craft beer for the nadir of American brewing. Might I have been able to assist by providing salt, limes and other irrelevancies?


Verily, I should be used to it by now, but there are times when New Albany can really get to a guy ... and follow him back and forth during an otherwise marvelous break.

(Originally published at NA Confidential)