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!


Matthew D Dunn said...

For what it's worth I think NABC gives any brewery in Indiana (even that one way up north) a run for their money as best in the state. Tell your guys to keep up the good work and send some beer to Bloomington as soon as possible. What I would give for a fresh draught pint of smoky schwartzbier later this afternoon...

antzman said...

It sounds like the reports I read on the beer websites. Every year you read about Sierra Nevada Celebration not having the same amount of hopiness as the years in the past is the best example (or maybe most recent example) People always claim that the beer does not taste the same, but they never think that their pallates have changed over the years. I remember Sierra Pale Ale tasting like chalk when I first had it, and now I don't think its bitter at all, very mild actually. Your tastes change, and beers will taste different.

Thomas said...

The NABC beers are excellent. Naughty Claus was a great spiced ale, as good, if not better than the Anchor OSA. Honestly though, I wish you guys brewed more Belgian-styled beers. But still, keep up the good work!

The Homeroaster said...

I personally think Hoptimus and Croupier are top notch beers and I will drink them anytime I don't see something fleeting and hard to get on the beer list. I sampled the Kaiser tonight and it was good. The citrusy finish would tire me after a while but for a few beers it rocks.

A Tripel similar to the Oaken Barrel 'Epiphany' from NABC would round out the portfolio. Bring back the Bourbon 15B as a mainstay.

bschoen said...

That NABC brews are somewhat inconsistent shouldn't be a criticism. I personally think that it is the natural outcome when you try to do a lot of different beers. BBC St. Matthews has the same issue, and I frequent both pubs regularly with anticipatory excitement of getting to try fresh beer, that like a homecooked meal will vary a little organically because the cook likes to experiment. Yum.