Tuesday, January 29, 2008

NABC open for Super Bowl: Sportstime open from 4:00 p.m.

The nation's annual sporting excuse to venerate noxious television ads, otherwise known as Super Bowl XLII, takes up most of the day on Sunday, February 3, and as in previous years, Sportstime Pizza will be open.

Special "Super Bowl Sunday" operating hours run from 4:00 p.m. until the game's over.

It will be business as usual: Dine in, carry-out, full menu and all the beers.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Well, I said I'd try.

In my opinion, one of the most hackneyed clichés in the seasonal beer style lexicon is this one: “When the ground turns white, the brews go dark. It’s time for malty wintry ales.”

Not to pick on Newsday’s Peter M. Gianotti specifically, of course, but such advice is no more profound than rote warnings to use sunscreen in high summer and refrain from touching your tongues to frozen steel in winter.

A local perspective can improve on a .143 batting average.

Still, I’ll play the game, with a caveat: With the end of January in sight, it’s almost too late to be discussing winter beers. Breweries these days follow the national retailing trend and have their Christmas beers on the shelf before Halloween and sometimes during Oktoberfest, so by now, many already are gone.

As an aside, why do we need Christmas beers in October? The same reason we need Christmas decorations just after Labor Day, which is to say, none.

Why must wintry ales be dark and malty?

The hottest release in cold weather this year is Bell’s Hopslam, a Double IPA that isn’t dark, does have plenty of malt, but is exuberantly hopped.

(end of 195-word limit … next topic?)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A local perspective can improve on a .143 batting average.

On the one hand, I’m appreciative whenever New Albany’s newspaper, the Tribune, chooses to run a story about beer. Just such an article appeared in today’s Sunday edition as part of a “lifestyle” section, and while it isn’t archived at the Tribune’s own site, you can read it here courtesy of the Duluth News Tribune:

Now’s the time to savor winter ales, by Peter M. Gianotti (Newsday).

When the ground turns white, the brews go dark. It’s time for malty wintry ales. There are plenty good choices, most at $12 or less for a six-pack …

On the other hand, while I can’t speak for Duluth, of the seven beers cited in the article, only one can be purchased within the state of Indiana (Flying Dog K-9 Cruiser).

How much use is a 195-word article about “malty wintry ales” from upstate New York, Maine and Pennsylvania when Indiana readers are unable to sample the beers mentioned?

Obviously, I could have written a piece in like fashion. So could Todd Antz from Keg Liquors. Either of us could offer examples of the genre that a reader could actually purchase and taste.

Which is exactly what I’ll do in this space on Monday.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Verily, people are strange.

Here is the transcript of an actual conversation, as overheard last week at the bar.


First guy: Have you been to the Fishery?

Second guy: No. What's it like?

First guy: It's really good. They have great chicken strips and onion rings.

Second guy: What's it called again?

First guy: The Fishery.

Second guy: Don't they serve fish at the Fishery?

First guy: But I don't like fish.


Somehow it reminds me of people who go to a brewpub, survey the fermenters handsomely on display, express admiration for the concept, then order a Miller Lite.

I'm not sure which is more annoying: That someone orders chicken strips at a Fishery, or that they offer them on the menu.

Same goes for Miller Lite and the brewpub.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

PRESS RELEASE: "Let’s go to the hops."

Beercyclists, remember: We hope to be there for the parade before riding to Haarlem. There may be brewery visits on both sides of the hop festival ... and it's Luc's final fest before retirement.


Let’s go to the hops…..triennial hop & beer festival in Poperinge, Belgium.

Already for the 21st time Poperinge, hop metropolis of Belgium, stages its triennial hop festival; hop gardens typify the area since the middle ages and Poperinge still supplies ¾ of the national produce with an acreage of 175 ha and 34 hop growers.

A Hop Museum, completely renewed in 2006, is rightly at its best in Poperinge : the story of the hop plant and its people through the ages and at the pace of the Four Seasons using pictures, audiovisuals, authentic tools, interactive kiosks….

The first hop pageant goes back until 1956 as a kind of harvest fest after the hop picking season but as of 1960 it became a triennial event.

The festival kicks off on Friday September 19th with a twinning beer fest in the 1200 m2 marquee where Bavarian styled music, long rows of tables and benches and 0,5l beer tankards set the pace…one would think he is in Münich !

In that same marquee is the hop queen election on Saturday, September 20th where a number of trios of young girls compete through a series of theoretical and practical tests for the title of hop queen and maids of honour to act as real ambassadresses of their home town for the next 3 years.

Highlight is of course Sunday September 21st.

The Hop Museum is open as of 10 a.m. where you discover the wonderful world of hops. The temporary exhibition gives a survey of half a century of Hop Festival. As hops are mainly used as natural preservative and flavouring in the brewing process the hop tour digests over a local brew in the inner yard of the museum where hop pickers in traditional outfit demonstrate how hops were formerly picked by hand.

At 3 p.m. a whirling and colourful parade winds through the centre with 70 groups, 1200 characters, 15 floats and 7 bands, a truly creative masterpiece with 5 distinct parts : origin of the hop plant, cycle of activities, hop harvest, hop processing and hops triumph in the world.
Immediately after the parade, there is beer galore in the marquee and The Vicious support national stars live on stage in the square such as Geena Lisa, Raf Van Brussel…..

Fireworks at 9 p.m. finish this festive weekend.

Book your “Day at the Hopfest” now through the Tourist Board for a mere 45 Euros pp. including: entrance to the Hop Museum and the parade, lunch, reserved seat on the stand, explanatory brochure and 0,5l tankard in the marquee.

Tourist Office Poperinge
phone ++ 32 (0)57 34 66 76
fax ++ 32 (0)57 33 57 03

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Southern Foodways Alliance oral history project includes the Publican's testimony about the late Max Allen.

Earlier in January I received an e-mail from a researcher named Amy Evans, who is an oral historian for the Southern Foodways Alliance (Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi).

She had uncovered an old 2005 posting during the course of Internet searching:

Remembering Max Allen.

It turns out that Amy is doing research on "old line bartenders and the bar tradition in Louisville," and accordingly, she stopped by to interview me last Friday.

I was delighted to help "preserve" Max for posterity.

For a closer look at what Amy does as an oral historian, see what she compiled in 2005 about bartenders in New Orleans.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Mailbag: A couple of questions are answered.

Regular reader Brad had a couple of questions following Friday's "Operation Progressive Pint: Current progress", and for various reasons I didn’t get the usual e-mail notification and missed them until today.

Here are Brad’s questions and my answers.

Does this (brewery expansion downtown) mean that the NABC may soon be selling kegs to the general public, or that kegs may be available to the general public through some distribution channel?

We’re able to do dock sales on a limited basis now, although we’re constrained by beer supply and periodic cooperage shortages. I suspect that the planned facility will be able to offer more consistency in the way of keg sales to the public. Otherwise, it is our hope that we’ll be shipping kegs to places like Indianapolis, Bloomington and Louisville.

Also, are there any plans (even sort of "Pie in the Sky" ideas) to expand the brewpub business of NABC/Rich O's? While I don't mind waiting 30 minutes (or more) for great pizza and incredible beer, I'm sure I could justify the trip from Louisville more often if 1/4 of my stay wasn't spent standing around.

Although it’s always been a challenge to deal with Fridays and Saturdays, the past year saw a big surge in business every night, and we weren’t prepared for it.

There has been a longtime conundrum with respect to seating, and the easiest way to explain it is that we’ve continued to add seating capacity with the same size kitchen, which was designed for about a third of the people who now are prepared to order food at 7:00 p.m. on Friday. Obviously, the kitchen must eventually be expanded, but to do that means we lose seats, probably on the Rich O’s side.

We could begin semi-regular seating in the Prost banquet room area, but not until the kitchen expands. So, currently we’re working on a plan to change the way we use Prost. As it turns out, Prost really hasn’t been big enough to do regular functions like receptions, and our catering options have been both difficult to prepare and generally supplanted by a preference for pizza. Prost sits empty when we need to use it.

For the short term, and while retaining the option of using Prost as an events area for art shows, FOSSILS meetings and preferred seating during beer festivals, our plan is to establish Prost as a non-smoking bar and waiting area of sorts while we work on a permanent remake. This at least would give people a non-smoking area to wait for a table, and perhaps light appetizers could be offered. There'll be a flat-screen television so that sporting events become an option on that side of the building.

(Note: I always said no televisions in Rich O's proper. Prost is different.)

Hopefully this will give us time to figure out a plan for kitchen expansion, which hasn’t yet been done.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Operation Progressive Pint: Current progress.

It’s hardly a secret that we’ve been exploring options to expand the brewing side of the business. The existing pub, pizzeria and brewery have been going full tilt, and we’re running out of tricks to squeeze more people (and autos) into the available space.

Consequently, future growth will have to occur elsewhere, and I’m an advocate of a revitalizing downtown in New Albany. If any of this information comes as a surprise to you, consider reading a previous posting at the Curmudgeon’s blog:

"If Your Mother Says She Loves You, Check It Out."

Our strange internal company machinery is starting to clunk into something approximating a road gear, so I thought it might be time for an update.

There is a vacant building in downtown New Albany, and we’re about to begin serious negotiations with the owner pertaining to a remodel-to-spec, lease-to-own arrangement.

Roughly two-thirds of the 1960’s era industrial footprint would be home to a 15-barrel brewhouse (yet to be acquired) primarily intended to brew NABC brands for distribution off the premises. The remainder would be a taproom with a limited menu of snacks presumably modeled after the bill or fare at Belgian beer cafes.

We believe that it will be a difficult year for craft brewing given shortages in raw materials, but that this might actually enhance options if we’re in a position to be opportunistic with respect to equipment. In the meantime, the tap room could be up and running later this year with the beer we’re already brewing at the current home of NABC, where eventually the old brewhouse might become exclusively devoted to Belgians or another specific genre.

Yes, there’s much speculation and conjecture in all this, but progress is being made. The three owners are on board, along with the brewery team, and we’ve selected our friend John Campbell, late of BBC (Main & Clay), Schlafly and the Red geranium in New Harmony, to serve as de facto project manager. John is fond of telling people who ask that while the owners have a leisurely timetable, he expects to be up and running by Labor Day.

The business plan is being written, various action plans commenced, and the coming months -- not to mention the disposition of area bankers -- will tell the tale.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Behold: The plastic one-way keg.

Does anyone know the best strategy for recycling one of these Australian-patented single journey kegs?

Posted by Picasa

I tried sitting them outside the door in the hope that one of our city's drug-addled thieves might mistake it for something of value.

Alas, no takers.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Yes, I get feisty on occasion.

Consider this just such an occasion.

There are 34 draft spouts at our pub and pizzeria, and a 35th if you count the cask cabinet. Typically, eight of them are given over to the beers we brew ourselves.

Because brewers Jesse Williams and Jared Williamson (with able assistance from Tony Beard) have been working very hard here of late, 12 NABC beers are on tap at this moment, including one firkin. That’s an all-time record.

I’m proud of this fact, and of the guys who’ve made it possible.

There’s a Colonial-style ale (Old Lightning Rod), a pre-Prohibition Pilsner (Kaiser 2nd Reising), and a retro Louisville sour ale (Phoenix Komon).

There are plenty of hops, even with unprecedented outages and shortages that require as many hours foraging as brewing: Hoptimus, Croupier, Elector and even Hoosier Daddy. We continue to counter the public’s default affection for Sierra Nevada Pale Ale with Mt. Lee, which strictly speaking is a “steam” beer, but which has Pale Ale character and has helped to cut Sierra consumption by roughly half since it became a full-time selection.

Jasmine the Mastiff, now being hand-pulled, is a bittersweet and oily gem, and it won’t last long.

The recently depleted Naughty Claus was the biggest selling house beer during Saturnalia, and Bonfire of the Valkyries, its listed counterpart, was smoky, black and delicious when I had a pint on Monday afternoon.

In fact, I’ve sampled all the NABC house beers during the past week, including Old 15-B and Community Dark. Given the problems we’ve been having with raw materials, which may be having an effect here and there, especially with hop character, I can’t find anything “wrong” with any of the NABC beers I’ve tasted, with the exception of a bit of wayward tartness at the front end of Community Dark.

It happens, folks. Get over it. And while you’re at it, how about veering outside the comfort zone now and again?

As I’ve labored mightily to make clear for quite some time, the reason why there aren’t that many places that try to do what we do on a daily basis is that it’s awfully hard to achieve a balance when pouring the best beers available from the entire world outside our doors, while also finding a niche inside the same building for house brewed beers.

But I persist in the view that internal competition is healthy, and furthermore, seeing as we all accept that our customer base is highly educated when it comes to beer, it would be impossible to foist off imperfect specimens for very long.

At the same time – straight up – I’m not sure that some of the pub regulars of long standing ever give the house beers a fair chance, and that’s because habits are a hard thing to break, which is why Sierra Nevada is not on tap this week. Those who walk past the blackboard every damned day without looking to see what’s there, and order Sierra by habit … well, you’re just going to have to forgive me for shaking your tree, because that’s exactly what I propose to do.

After all, I had to shake your tree way back when in order to get you to look past Coors Light, didn’t I?

And while I’m at it: The Phoenix tastes sour because it was made that way … the Kaiser has six-row and corn in it because that’s the way pre-Prohibition lagers were often built … yes, the Hoosier Daddy turned out a bit different this time, and I think it’s better than last time.

There’s always room for improvement in anything one does, and NABC’s house beers are no exception. We understand that, and it is one reason why we drink our own beers most of the time, livers permitting. Of course, being the one in charge, I get my choice of what to drink. The NABC lineup has been so good lately that it has been my go-to choice for leisure time drinking. Rest assured, I wouldn't drink them if I didn't like them.

So ... what am I missing here? I’m a reasonable guy, I love to talk beer, I’m available to talk beer, and I can take constructive criticism with the best of them, but I’m writing today to make a couple of things abundantly clear:

I will go to bat for my team, and when my competitive instincts get aroused, I’ll be an asshole about it.

If the beer doesn’t taste like you remember it tasting, it might just be because you’ve tasted it so rarely.

Maybe drinking the exact same beer every single night isn’t the sort of thing that brought you to this juncture in the first place.

And the big one: Viva la revolucion permanente!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

NABC's third annual batch of Old Lightning Rod is on tap now.

As the date on the graphic to the left attests, NABC unveiled its first version of Poor Richard's "Old Lightning Rod" Ale on January 17, 2006. It was Benjamin Franklin's 300th birthday, and more than 100 breweries nationwide joined the celebration by brewing a colonial-era Old Ale recipe based on an award-winning formulation.

Our third annual glimpse into the flavor profile of the 18th-century has gone on tap a couple of days early, and it may be the best one yet crafted by Jesse and Jared.

Owing primarily to the opportunities to educate, this has become one of my favorite seasonal unveilings. Here's the story of how all this came about, as first told here in January, 2006:


It wasn’t enough that Benjamin Franklin was a writer, inventor, businessman, statesman, patriot and all-purpose wit.

The creative Colonial-era legend somehow found time to drink beer, too.

In his writings, Franklin refers to the consumption of ale and describes various types of the fermented beverage, concluding that it was a healthy drink if consumed in moderation – an observation with which modern medical science concurs.

Even a teetotaler might be curious as to what these ales of old were like and how they were brewed, but unfortunately, substantive information is scant.

When the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, a non-profit group formed to organize the celebration for Franklin’s 300th birthday on January 17, 2006, began looking for an answer to this question, they found it by teaming with the Brewers Association, which commissioned a competition among professional brewers to formulate a Poor Richard’s Ale named for the famous Almanac.

Tony Simmons of Brick Oven Brewing produced the winning recipe, chosen by a panel of experts at the 2005 Great American Beer Festival. According to Simmons, his act of historical recreation was determined by the following factors:

Style ... Based on Franklin’s own writings, other period references and records of available raw materials, it is likely that he often drank tankards of a libation similar to Old Ale (England) or Strong Scotch Ale (Scotland).

Malt … “Low” (pale malt, similar to today’s Maris Otter or English floor malt) and “High” (darker malt, perhaps approximating a combination of what we now call Biscuit, Special Roast and Black) malts probably were used.

Adjuncts … During the Colonial era, imported malt was expensive and local barley crops were unpredictable, so the use of cracked maize and molasses in brewing was common.

Hops … Hop production in America did not begin in earnest until after Franklin’s passing, making it likely that traditional East Kent Goldings imported from England were the hops of choice.

Yeast … Not until the mid-19th century did modern scientific techniques unravel the mysteries of yeast, so it’s impossible to know very much about 18th-century yeast management. Simmons suggests that contemporary English or Scottish strains of yeast (low to moderate attenuation) will suffice to replicate Colonial fermentations.

The Brewers Association asked member breweries nationwide to join in the celebration of Benjamin Franklin’s 300th birthday by brewing a special batch of Poor Richard’s Ale and having it ready for serving on January 17, 2006.

The New Albanian Brewing Company's brewers, Jesse Williams and Jared Williamson, followed the broad contours of Simmons's recipe, adding a few touches of their own like extra finishing hops and oak chips to add wooden barrel-conditioned character. They also suggested an alternative name, "Old Lightning Rod," which we've duly incorporated to identify the finished product.

The finished product is malty and on the sweet side, both expected owing to low hopping and the use of molasses and corn as sources of fermentable sugars. We detect vanilla and banana notes alongside the unmistakable molasses component.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

BBC - Shelbyville Road location to reopen Monday following renovations.

A few of Bluegrass Brewing Company's daytime refugees came to the Public House last week to await the conclusion of BBC's remodeling. Here's the lowdown, as submitted by Becca MacGilvray and pasted from the Louisville Restaurants Forum. New Albanian foodies should note that Dave Clancy, formerly of Bistro New Albany, has been at BBC in an informal kitchen consultative mode in the run-up to the new menu mentioned by Becca.


BBC St. Matthews will have its Grand Re-Opening on Monday January 14th. We have been closed for a week but for many of our regular customers, it has seemed much longer!

We welcome you all to a new and improved BBC. We will be rolling out a new menu on Monday as well. The new menu will include some old favorites: Brewhouse Nachos, Shepherd's Pie and our much requested beer mustard. The menu will also have a Hot Bacon and Spinach Salad, a Portabello Burger, a Chicken Parmesan Sandwich and Fried Polenta.

I would like to personally invite all of you forumites to come and enjoy our new BBC and let me know about your experience, from the service to the food. The more knowledge we have about each individual experience, the better equiped we are to provide a wonderful dining and drinking experience. So please come and join us this month as we celebrate a new era for BBC.


Becca then was asked to comment on the changes to BBC's interior.


Of course I can leak a few details for you!

There is a huge projection tv in the dining room by the stage. The main bar has some new construction behind the bar. As a bartender, I am thrilled about those renovations. The changes behind the bar are hard to describe but the look is wonderful. I can't wait until I get to work back there on Tuesday!

Um, the floors have been redone, everything has been repainted and lots of new decor has been added to spruce of the place. I went in today and was incredibly excited about how it looked. I've worked there for so long that it is very much my home away from home. I feel kind of like the folks on Extreme Home Makeover. Okay, its not that extreme but it is very exciting. I guess the overwhelming feeling going in was clean and spacious and very inviting!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Something about "lawnmower beer" from the summer of 2007.

(Originally published in Food & Dining magazine in 2007)

Night was a wonderful time in Brooklyn in the 1930s. Air conditioning was unknown except in movie houses, and so was television. There was nothing to keep one in the house. Furthermore, few people owned automobiles, so there was nothing to carry one away. That left the streets and the stoops. The very fullness served as an inhibition to crime.
--Isaac Asimov

What sort of beer might the denizens of Asimov’s nostalgic borough have been drinking on the stoop during a hot summer’s night? Probably Schaefer or Rheingold, both local lagers at the time, or maybe even Ballantine Ale, which as a top-fermented beer would have been far rarer.

There is no surviving evidence that either Belgian-style Wit or Bavarian Hefe-Weizen were being recommended by newspaper columnists as ideal seasonal ales suitable for varying the routine, although there may well have been immigrants who recalled these styles from their childhoods abroad.

Today many of us are aware of expanded beer choices, but sadly there remain links between 1930’s-era fans hopping from a street car to queue for Ebbets Field bleacher seats and their grandchildren in 2007, multi-taskers buying advance tickets by cell phone off the Internet and arriving for the big game at Dodger Stadium in a fully-equipped SUV. Most beer drinkers still are brand-loyal, mechanically opting for the same mass-market golden lager beer that they always drink, rain or shine, heat or cold, indoor or outdoor.


The ubiquity of air conditioning quite honestly leaves me perplexed as I consider the genre of “lawnmower beer,” a stylistic umbrella term that playfully implies a brew suitable for the climactic extremes of summertime – lighter in body, milder in flavor, lower in alcohol, and more quaffable overall – while not specifying style.

Lest the disclaimer police intervene, “lawnmower beer” is not intended as the subliminal suggestion to drink gallons of it while actively engaged in the task of cutting grass, even if the padded seat situated atop the whirling blades of vegetation suppression comes equipped with a handy cup holder, designer huggies and perhaps even a dorm fridge in the sidecar.

Still, it does assume proximity to uncomfortable elements and those diverse warm weather outdoor venues for enjoying beer -- ballparks, patios, backyard barbecues and picnics – even if by now far more of my favorite beverage is being consumed inside where it’s cool, rather than outside in the encroaching aftermath of global warming.

Air-conditioned or open-air, when it comes to “lawnmower beer,” the styles preferred by the author more closely resemble the higher octane of liquid poured into the fuel tank as opposed to analogies with refreshing splashes from the garden hose when the clipping’s all through. Fortunately for this edition’s pay packet, there is a case to be made for friendly seasonal beer styles, at least as long as you save the fruit wedges for rum drinks. Please.

Ales made with wheat.

Apart from a few high-gravity specialties, the use of wheat alone almost axiomatically implies a “lawnmower beer.”

If based on the Belgian brewing tradition, wheat ale will be light-bodied, cloudy golden, and spiced with coriander and orange peel. Not unexpectedly, these ingredients yield a citrusy, consummately refreshing character. Common examples include Hoegaarden and Wittekerke, both imports, and Upland Wheat, a superior regional microbrew from Bloomington, Indiana.

German-style wheat ales are cousins to the Belgian, yet very different; generally unfiltered (“Hefe-”), golden but sometimes brown (“Dunkel”), and redolent with distinctive flavors of clove and fruit that derive entirely from the strain of yeast used to ferment them. Having traveled in Bavaria, I tend to stick to the imported Teutonic classics: Franziskaner, Weihenstephaner, Erdinger, Tucher, and my personal favorite, Schneider.

Closer to home, if microbrewed wheat ale is not otherwise tagged as Belgian or German, chances are it is what we now refer to as “American-style” wheat, fermented with ordinary ale yeast not specifically cultured for the nuances that identify continental variants. These wheaties come to your glass as designed, to be light, inoffensive, effervescent and quaffable, and so many competing brands exist – and there is so little difference between the bulk of them – that I’ll mention only one: Bell’s Oberon.

Inevitably, there is a degree of overlap between these categories. For instance, the presence of the “Hefe-” prefix on the label of microbrewed wheat ale emphatically does not guarantee that it was brewed with characteristically toothsome German wheat yeast, although in my view it should. Rather, the word in this context should be taken to imply unfiltered wheat ale brewed with regular ale yeast.

Toward refreshingly hoppy.

During the past quarter century, American microbrewers have established a reputation for improvisational exuberance, and among the very first instances of this willingness to expand boundaries is a style that many “extreme beer” aficionados now regard as quaint and almost dull: American Pale Ale, which adapts English traditions to contemporary, and primarily West Coast, indigenous ingredients. There is a vestige of similarity to the aforementioned Ballantine of old.

Gravities are modest, with alcohol contents rarely approaching 6%. Malt bills are simple, and hardy yeasts perform their conversion miracles quickly, leaving a medium body with a fruity and lightly toasty backbone. Bitterness is restrained, but floral hops like the Cascade variety offer piney, citrusy notes. If you taste grapefruit, it’s purely intentional, and it makes American Pale Ale a reliable thirst quencher on sultry afternoons.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale remains a viable, dependable yardstick, but don’t stop there. Most microbreweries have contestants in a similar vein, including these:

BBC APA … founding brewer David Pierce’s Louisville classic (KY).

Schlafly Dry-Hopped APA … a shade milder than Sierra (MO).

Stone Pale Ale … surprisingly balance from an “extreme” brewer (CA).

Bell’s Pale Ale … not as notorious as Two Hearted (MI).

Rogue Juniper Ale … hopping augmented by juniper berries (OR).

In the name of science alone.

In early June, still resisting the budget-busting “cool” setting on the thermostat, I resolved to conduct an experiment. Proceeding eagerly to the refrigerator science lab, a 9% Ettaler Curator Doppelbock from Bavaria was produced. Would I be able to somehow choke down such a heavy, malty, challenging dark lager in overheated, sticky, pestilential conditions?

Yep. Not a problem at all.

Then again, I pay some other guy to mow the grass – and from the second floor window, he looked positively overheated.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

NABC cask-conditioned firkins aplenty in coming weeks.

It’s January 10th, and this year’s Leap Year/Tenth Anniversary Gravity Head starts on February 29 (that’s only 50 days, folks).

In terms of the regular draft selection, we’ll be using this time to deplete the remaining Saturnalia kegs and a handful of partials left over from the end of 2007.

But the real fun will be coming from the cask ale cabinet. In cooler weather, we can sometimes pour two cask conditioned ales simultaneously, one firkin with the hand pump, and another by gravity feed off the top of the cabinet.

With Jared’s help, here’s a rough plan for the coming weeks. Remember that a firkin is a 10-gallon keg especially designed for conditioning and dispensing cask ales, and a pin is the exactly same, but half the size.

Now pouring: Thornbridge Hall St. Petersburg Imperial Stout … U.K.; 7.7% abv.

After the St. Petersburg is gone, the following cask-conditioned NABC firkins will be poured with the hand pump in the order listed. The date at left indicates when the beer was brewed.

03-08-07 Jasmine the Mastiff
04-05-07 Malcolm's Old Setters Ale
11-10-07 Phoenix Kentucky Komon
12-19-07 Old Lightning Rod (Poor Richard’s Ale) (oaked)
11-20-07 Bonfire of the Valkyries (oaked)
11-10-07 Phoenix Kentucky Komon
12-19-07 Old Lightning Rod (Poor Richard’s Ale) (oaked)

Note also that a cask-conditioned firkin of WinterCoat Vildmose (Denmark) is being shipped to us to replace the standard keg that proved to be unavailable for Saturnalia. It may be inserted into the preceding rotation as circumstances dictate.

These NABC pins will be tapped on Fridays (dates TBA), and poured by gravity feed:

03-12-07 Jasmine the Mastiff … Scotch barrel aged
07-18-07 Community Dark… Scotch barrel aged
08-20-07 Flat Tyre … Port barrel aged
12-10-07 Bob's Old 15-B … Port barrel aged

As with the Vildmose, we’re expecting a belated Saturnalia shipment to include Uerige Sticke, also a gravity pour pin, which will be inserted into the preceding rotation when it finally arrives.

The following cask-conditioned ales have been ordered for pouring during Gravity Head 2008:

Hand pull: Burton Bridge Tom Sykes Old Ale (UK)
Hand pull: Wintercoat Cockney Imperial Stout (Denmark)

Gravity pour: JW Lees Vintage Harvest Ale (Calvados barrel aged; 2007)

For more information on cask-conditioned ale: Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA)Warm, Flat and Boring -- the Truth About Cask Ale, from Rate Beer.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

"The Worst Art Show Ever" at NABC, January 25 & 26.

(Copied from the New Albanian Art MySpace site)


Posted & Hosted By: New Albanian Art

Friday Jan 25, 2008 at 1:00 PM

New Albanian Brewing Company
3312 Plaza Drive
New Albany, Indiana
47150 United States

View Map

The Worst Art Show EVER!!

Art of all kinds to enjoy and criticize!

The idea behind this show is giving a chance for people to show off their work yet again at the NABC. However, the artists are also encouraged to show their least favorite piece of art. Who knows? They might hate their work and you might actually love it. Weirder things have happened.

So come on out and enjoy the art, music, and beer!

It may be the worst art show that you have ever been to ... and there is only one way to find out!

Music- as of right now:

Stephen Powell
Jared Williamson
Daniel Brown
Tara Kimes

There may be a few other performance artists at this show but it's a bit to early to tell. I will keep you posted as things change.

Kevin Dennis

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Son of "At least it wasn't served with a tomato wedge."

Oddities have a way of coming back around, and so it was that when one of our regular customers forwarded me a link about Chelada, Anheuser-Busch’s latest in a series of atrocities, I experienced an overwhelming feeling of déjà vu.

Indeed, we have all been here before … in this case, on July 13, 2005.


At least it wasn't served with a tomato wedge.

There was an auction yesterday to settle accounts at Kelly’s Lounge, once a fixture on wide, wide Dixie Highway in Shively.

The auctioneer’s circular didn’t explain the reasons for the bar’s demise, and it can’t be said to matter much to me either way, since I hadn’t been there in almost a quarter century, but the one time I did drop into Kelly’s to have a beer while waiting for a friend, something happened that I’ll always remember.

A man slid onto the barstool next to mine and ordered “the usual,” which was a pitcher of Miller Lite, a frosted glass … and a quart of tomato juice.

He proceeded to mix the light beer and tomato juice half and half until the can was empty and the pitcher was dry, except for the small portion he poured into my glass when I expressed amazement at something I’d never seen done before.

A Miller Lite with flavor, or carbonated tomato juice?

What did the tomato juice ever do to deserve such a fate?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Gravity Head 2008 update.

(updated February 7)

It’s time to take stock, queue the taxicabs and offer another updated preview.

On February 29, 2008, we kick off Gravity Head 2008. It’s the tenth anniversary Gravity Head, and it’s a Leap Year starting date. If there’s a full moon rising on that date, I’m not certain our liability insurance will remain in force, so let's hope not.

To the best of my knowledge, all the following kegs are confirmed, with most already in-house, and a scant few resting at one or another wholesaler. I’ll periodically update and republish the list as we get closer to the show.

* first time ever on draft

De Dolle Dulle Teve (“Mad Bitch”) 10% abv
De Dolle Stille Nacht 12% abv
*De Glazen Toren Canaster Winter Scotch 9.5% abv
*De Glazen Toren Cuvee Angelique 8% abv
Delirium Noel 10% abv
*Dupont Moinette Brune 8.5% abv
*Dupont Moinette Blonde 8.5% abv
Kasteel Rouge 8% abv
Regenboog Guido 8% abv
*Regenboog 't Smisje Catherine The Great Imperial Stout 10% abv
*Regenboog 't Smisje Harvest Ale ('t Smisje Kerst aged in a JW Lees Calvados wooden pin) 12% abv
*Podge Belgian Imperial Stout 10.5% abv

EKU 28 11% abv
Ettaler Curator Doppelbock 9% abv

Koningshoeven La Trappe Quadrupel 10% abv

*Ola Dubh - Old Engine Oil Special Reserve, conditioned in Highland Park 30 Year Old Scotch Barrels 8% abv (Mid-March delivery projected)
Burton Bridge Tom Sykes Old Ale (cask-conditioned)
Gales Prize Old Ale (1998) 9% abv
JW Lees Vintage Harvest Ale (Calvados barrel aged) 11.5% abv

*Avery Fourteen 9.46% abv
Avery Old Jubilation 8% abv
Avery “The Czar” 11.73% abv
*Avery “The Kaiser” 9.37% abv
BBC (Main & Clay) Bearded Pat's Barley Wine (2006) circa 10% abv
*BBC (Shelbyville Road) Kick in the Baltic Porter 8.5% abv
*BBC (Main & Clay) The Queen's Knickers 8% abv
Bell's Batch 6000 (2004) 10.5% abv
Bell's Expedition Stout 2006 11.5% abv
Bell's Hopslam 10% abv
Bell's Sparkling Ale 9% abv
Boulder Mojo Risin' Double IPA 10% abv
*Brooklyn Brewery Extra Brune 8.5% abv
Brooklyn Brewery Monster Ale 11.8% abv
*Brugge Brasserie Triple de Ripple 11% abv
Clipper City Below Decks Barleywine 11% abv
Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree IPA 13.6% abv
*Dark Horse Scotty Karate Scotch Ale 9.75% abv
Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA 20% abv
*Dogfish Head Fort 18% abv
Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter 9.5% abv
Founders Imperial Stout 10% abv
Great Divide Old Ruffian Barley Wine 10.2% abv
Left Hand Imperial Stout 10.4% abv
NABC Oak Aged V (Fifth Anniversary Ale) 10% abv
NABC Malcolm's Old Setters Ale 10.5% abv
NABC Thunderfoot (2007) 10% abv
New Holland Dragon’s Milk 9% abv
*New Holland Night Tripper 10.8% abv
New Holland Pilgrim's Dole 10% abv
Rogue XS Old Crustacean Barley Wine Vintage TBA 11.3% abv
Rogue John’s Locker Stock Imperial Porter ‘007 7.77% abv
Rogue XS Imperial Stout 11% abv
*Schlafly Imperial Stout 10.5% abv
*Shmaltz He’Brew Jewbelation Eleven 11% abv
Shmaltz He’Brew Genesis 10:10 (2006) 10% abv
Shmaltz He’Brew Bittersweet Lenny's RIPA 10% abv
Stone Double Bastard (2005) 10% abv
Stone Imperial Russian Stout 10.8% abv
Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine (2006) 11.2% abv
*Stone XI – 11th Anniversary Ale 8.7% abv
*Three Floyds Fantabulous Resplendence X Anniversary 10.5% abv
Upland Ard-Ri Imperial Irish-style Red Ale 8.7% abv

Saturday, January 05, 2008

How fast are they moving those beers?

The question to ask whenever you encounter a massive beer list (ours included) is this:

How fast are they moving those beers?

This is even more relevant a question if the bulk of the list is comprised of golden lagers from around the world. The more of those there are, the less chance they'll be fresh.

There is, in fact, a method to my madness when it comes to this. My reason for advocating that a small draft list include only one or two golden lagers is that because they're terrified of experimentation, most golden lager drinkers will happily settle for anything in the same range in the absence of their core brand.

That's why we sell so much Spaten ... and it's always fresh that way. That's why Bud and Miller drinkers end up buying a pint of Spaten, which is offered at full mark-up every day, and never is put on special. And, I have the satisfaction of knowing that while Spaten isn't my personal preference, as a beer it's far better than most golden lagers.

As for the bottles, the trick is to keep an eye on the smaller segment of the list that is made up of beers likely to degrade more quickly (most of the lagers and a handful of ales), while packing the selection with strong ales and lager, and bottle conditioned beers.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Miller High Life: "Sweat-sock juice, burnt popcorn-flavored beer."

Disclaimer: I don't know Anthony Ash, but his letter in this week's Louisville Eccentric Observer (LEO) is both funny and perceptive. As he points out, the intrinsic cluelessness of hip has never been so painfully -- and tastelessly -- obvious.


Champagne of Beers?

I couldn’t help but notice in Sara Havens’ Bar Belle Christmas List (LEO, Dec. 19) an expressed desire for PBR not to be hip. I won’t spend any time defending Pabst — after all, they are still milking that one blue ribbon they won in 1893 at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

However, Sara, I think your comment about PBR is what I would call misdirected animosity.

So let me bring to light the real perpetrator of undeserved hipness and the bane of logic … Miller High Life. I recently returned to the glorious world of fine drinking after a year of liquor hiatus (guys do the dumbest things for a woman), and as I walked into a local watering hole for the first time, what did I see but a sea of bar patrons drinking Miller High Life. I see this phenomenon everywhere I go now.

Did I miss something during my year off? Did Buckaroo Banzai send me beyond the 8th dimension?

After all, the last time I saw someone drinking this sweat-sock juice, burnt popcorn-flavored beer in the past 20 years was my basement-dwelling neighbor who spent his days sniffing glue and watching reruns of “Petticoat Junction.” So I came to the depressing conclusion that somehow, somewhere, someone seriously in need of therapy decided that it is “hip” to drink the Champagne of Beers (giggle), and much like the African Anteater Ritual dance, it is undeserving of its popularity.

Now, somebody get me a Kostritzer before I die.

Anthony Ash, Louisville

Thursday, January 03, 2008

A thread: Can a great restaurant serve mass-market beer?

There's been an interesting thread going at the Louisville Restaurants Forum: Can a great restaurant serve mass-market beer?

Here is one question asked, followed by the answer I provided. It isn't tremendously grammatical, but I was in a hurry.


Can you give me some examples of what would be high quality beers that should be served at a high quality restaurant?

I've thought about this a lot at various times, and the answer tends to change based on recent experiences.

The fundamental thing is to offer a variety of styles, not just a variety of labels/brands. Knowing the difference between styles and labels is the first jumping off point for me.

So ... in no particular order of preference …

Lagers (bottom fermented; clean character)

A true Pilsner with hop character, i.e., Pilsner Urquell; fewer micros attempt this, but if we could get Victory's Prima Pils ...

Dark lager with balls, like Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel. Amber and malty Oktoberfests fit here, too, but probably should be seasonal.

Doppelbock: Rich, sweet, malty, meant for meat. You haven’t lived until you’ve enjoyed Bavarian-style pork knuckle with Doppelbock.

Ales (top fermented; far wider potential flavor spectrum)

Belgian-style Wit (white/wheat), and Blue Moon does not count. Hoegaarden remains serviceable. Citrusy; hint of sourness.

German style wheat: Schneider or Weihenstphaner, although I suppose Franziskaner is acceptable even if the character is too mild for me. Cloves, apples and bananas.

Belgian Trappist (Chimay red or blue, et al) ... dark, bottle conditioned, vinous, complex malt.

Assorted Belgians and French Bieres de Garde. Among the former, sour reds (Rodenbach), eclectic Wallonians (La Chouffe, McChouffe) and wondrous Saisons (Dupont the finsets example); the French beers are criminally underrated and simply wonderful with many dishes. Ask Chef Clancy if you don’t believe me. American examples of both Belgian and French styles include Ommegang Hennepin, Jolly Pumpkin’s line and Two Brothers Domaine Dupage (sic).

Imperial Stout. Thick, black, intense, oily, viscous. Many good microbrewed versions. Functions much like Port with assertive cheeses, and modifies sweet desserts.

American-style hop bombs, double IPA, etc. Bitterness for contrast, and can also be quaffed sans food.

Local microbrews. To me, preferably on draft, and maybe rotating. Louisville is blessed with excellent small breweries (and there’s Alltech, and many more in Indiana, as Shawn noted).


Think in terms of style and the possibilities are endless. I didn’t mention everyday dry Stout of the Guinness mold, which remains beautiful with shellfish, and I’m assuming that there always will be a few yellow Eurolagers around for the plain fearful; as I wrote previously, you simply don’t need Budweiser if you have Stella or Spaten.

The point remains that a very good 15-20 beer list can be constructed from what is available locally, and it will cover most of the contingencies. Seasonals can make up the difference.

Earlier someone brought up Maido as an example of a great beer list, and I agree 100%. Using conventional wisdom, you’re washing down diverse sushi and voluminous wasabi with weak golden lager, but chase them with Stone’s hoppy Ruination Ale and it’s a religious experience, indeed.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

From the hand pull: Clipper City Loose Cannon Hop 3 later this evening.

We're back to pick up the pieces after a great holiday season.

As things get back on track, I'll be updating the weekly newsletter posting throughout the day and on Thursday. Currently the draft listings are incomplete, but reasonably accurate: Publicanista! January 3, 2008.

As noted often, cooler weather means we’re back in cask-conditioned “real ale” season. The Jaipur IPA blew on Saturday before New Year's, and because we had an unexpected chance to score a firkin of Clipper City Loose Cannon Hop 3, it's being tapped later today.

After the Hop 3 is gone, we'll turn to the second of two selections from the Thornbridge Hall microbrewery in the UK: St. Petersburg Imperial Stout (7.7% abv). Foraging is underway to determine what will be pouring when the preceding are depleted. I've been told that the WinterCoat Vildmose scheduled as a regular keg during Saturnalia will be coming belatedly as a cask-conditioned firkin, but the ETA is unknown. Look for an NABC selection or two as we explore options.

For more information on cask-conditioned ale:

Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA)

Warm, Flat and Boring -- the Truth About Cask Ale, from Rate Beer.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Here are the contest rules for (Your name here)Fest in May, 2008.

The third installment of (Your name here)Fest, to be held at NABC, Rich O's and Sportstime, will come in late May, 2008.

The first was DaveFest, named for Dave Siltz, which took place in 2006. In 2007, it was SteveFest, in honor of Steve Hall.

The (Your name here)Fest is a consumer’s choice draft beer fest, with the Publican (that’s me) attempting within reason and various distribution constraints to assemble an annual contest winner’s ideal draft lineup.

As in 2007, there’ll be a month-long essay contest to select the 2008 (Your name here)Fest winner. Naturally, contestants must be 21 years of age. The contest begins immediately, and will conclude on February 1, 2008.

(1) Contestants must present their answers to the question, “What would your ideal draft lineup look like?” in the form of an essay explaining why the particular beers are being chosen. Include personal information, reasons why you like them, and so forth.

(2) Eight taps will be provided for beers of the contestant’s choosing. At least 12 beers should be specified so that alternates are available if any of the selections cannot be procured.

(3) “Stump the Publican” is not permitted. I cannot get draft Westvleteren or Alaskan Smoked Porter or Fat Tire. Consider alternates that are stylistically close, even if they’re not the same. Try to keep the choices within the range of drafts and/or breweries that are accessible via draft. I will work with you to hone the lineup.

(4) Beers like Guinness are always on draft, so there’s no reason to include and specify them if they’re favorites. They’re gravy.

(5) The essays will be judged by a three-member panel: Myself, last year’s winner Steve Hall, and Todd Antz of Keg Liquors. A wild card judge may be named later if I deem fit. The panel’s methodology is secret, and its decisions are final.

(6) Our crack team of artists and designers will produce a limited, small-batch version of commemorative t-shirts to be vended to family, friends, co-workers and E-Bay shoppers.

Send the essays to the Curmudgeon’s e-mail, and thanks in advance for participating.