Thursday, August 20, 2009

Reintroductions and rescheduling: Lambic by the Glass (4 Sept) and Sandkerwa NA (24 Sept).

Reintroductions and reschedulings are in order.

Since 2004, I’ve tried to set aside one day each year to dispense as many types of bottled Belgian Lambic as can be mustered, priced and poured by the glass, the goal being to make it easier and less expensive for customers to sample the olfactory joys of this style of rare, funky and challenging Belgian ale.

Lambic by the Glass takes place at the Public House, usually no later than July, but for reasons that I’m about to explain, it was not staged last year and will be late in coming this year.Sandkerwa NA is a draft beer showcase that dates to 2007, originating as a late summer excuse to devote a Public House festival to fermented specialties from Germany.

With Oktoberfest remaining a worthy concept, but one that has been done to death, I set my sights on a more esoteric tableau: Namely, the three-hour train ride from Munich to Bamberg, my beloved “Bierstadt” in the epicenter of heavily-breweried Franconia, and Bamberg’s annual August civic celebration that features beers from throughout the region.

This year’s Sandkerwa NA, emulating Bamberg’s street festival, was originally scheduled to begin on August 28, but it will be delayed. The reason for this brings me to the second part of this essay.


As far as I’m concerned, the past year has been a perfect storm of circumstances and ensuing personal annoyance insofar as the timely acquisition of special order kegs is concerned.

I’m thinking here primarily of imports, the sort of items that we’ve always specialized in showcasing at the Public House. American craft beers seem to have taken care of themselves, but our conduit to the importing companies has periodically been strained, making it more difficult for me to schedule traditional events.

In my view, it all started because of an otherwise good development: Virtually every world beer producer of merit has opened a route for export in recent years, bringing an unprecedented number of high-quality beers to American shores.

The trick has been bringing them to New Albany.

As the number of choices has increased, Indiana wholesalers have found it impossible to stock these many items on a daily basis, leading to the institution of wide-ranging special order systems, in effect grafting the varying availability of special order items, some seasonal and many rare, onto a “just when you need it” ordering regime.

Accordingly, gasoline prices suddenly skyrocketed in early 2008, and shipping costs immediately followed suit, naturally causing wholesalers to be very selective about their ordering habits. When shipping rates go up, the truck needs to be filled with full pallets, and until they are, the pallets don’t ship.

“Just when you need it” works wonderfully when it comes to shipping lightweight replacement parts by air freight. It doesn’t work as efficiently when a wholesaler waits for a pallet of expensive kegs and bottles to fill before receiving it. Because of the rarity of the items involved, the importer tends to ship to those who will take them, first-come, first-served. Wait too long, and you risk losing out … and truth be told, I lost a lot of product options in this manner last year.

No finger-pointing; it’s just the way things worked out. There surely were other factors involved, such as tenuous relationships between wholesaler and importer, and also, there was me and my crazy workload. Being stationed in downtown New Albany for more than a year trying to get the Bank Street Brewhouse up and running took me out of the “nagging” loop. Mike’s done great with my beer dossier, but he doesn’t have my connections, and he doesn’t have the clout, at least yet, to pester people in obeying my will.

The upshot: There was no Lambic by the Glass in 2008, and Sandkerwa NA wasn’t stocked as I’d intended. This year, both are going to take place, but at different times than usual. These dates remain tentative, although I’m generally comfortable with them as we await one last shipment.


Lambic by the Glass
Friday, September 4 – one night only
At the Public House, in Prost (rear – the “gallery” area)

In a special twist, perhaps as many as five lambics will be on draft, including a Hanssens “young” Kriek from B. United International, and three Cantillons from Shelton Brothers. These remain on draft until depleted, and on the evening of the 4th, they will be augmented by a representative selection of bottled Lambics from Hanssens, Cantillon, Drie Fonteinen and two we haven’t had before: St. Louis and Girardin. There’ll be cheese and snacks, too, and of course, you can order from the menu.

Sandkerwa NA
Thursday, September 24 until all the kegs are gone
At the Public House, starting in Prost on a Thursday night

Shelton Brothers has brought an incredible, unprecedented shipment of Franconian draft beer into the USA, and selections from it are coming to the Public House, including seldom seen beers from virtually unknown breweries like Fischer (in the town of Greuth), Bayer (Theinheim), Sauer (Rossdorf) and Will (Schederndorf). Most of these are coming in 20-liter kegs designed for gravity pour – a hole in one end and a tap in the other.

As in Sandkerwas past, there’ll also be conventionally dispensed draft beers from Schlenkerla, Mahr’s and Kumbacher.

What I’m hoping to do is line up the gravity-fed kegs and pour several of them at one time beginning on a Thursday night, not a Friday, which might be more conducive to contemplation of these wonders, and with the idea being to drink through as many as possible in one or two days before they go stale.

Thus, Sandkerwa will commence in Prost on Thursday, September 24, perhaps with Bavarian snacks as a bonus if I have time to pull it off. The other kegs of Bavarian beer will continue pouring in their usual places until depleted, as is customary.

This is the new schedule. Wish me luck. See you there.

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