Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wednesday Weekly: Ruminations on education.

Last evening, I presented a program entitled "A History of Breweries in New Albany." It was sponsored by the Floyd County Historical Society, and took place at the Calumet Club (1614 E. Spring in NA), a three-story brick structure from the 1920’s that the Bliss family has lovingly restored over a period of years.

The ballroom on the top floor of the Calumet Club is where some day in the future, I would like to stage an entirely unique beer and food festival. Since I’ve yet to determine what this might be, and how it might work, there can be no further details at this time. Just remember: I warned you.

Pending a sharpening of my event-planning faculties (shut up), I can provide advance notice of an NABC gala coming in late January to the current parking lot at Bank Street Brewhouse. We’ll be holding the annual Old Lightning Rod release party a bit later than the usual date of January 16 (Benjamin Franklin’s birthday), and doing it outdoors in the company of Steve Thomas’s legendary olden times, open air roasting of various meats. Think of it as Colonial Carnivores Outdoors.

With the proliferation of ethnic dining flair in downtown New Albany comes exciting new opportunities for beer pairing dinners in conjunction with NABC. There is Italian (La Bocca), Cuban (Habana Blues), Mexican (La Rosita’s) and German (if the Steinert’s kitchen crew is willing – they do schnitzel, you know). We’ll be working on a few ideas along these lines as the winter settles in, and excuses to eat and drink become necessary.

Also, a slate of beer dinners is being planned for Bank Street Brewhouse. Chef Josh Lehman is looking at an evening with locally produced, artisanal cheeses, and also stepping outside the box with Bank Street’s first ever wine dinner, featuring our local winery partners. GM Joe Phillips has a bourbon tasting in the works with the Crossroads Vintners wholesalers. It’s all about the beer, but of course, there are always other angles to explore and cherish.

The “fall semester” of Office Hours with the Publican has been both enjoyable and instructive to date. The general theme has been a gradual trawl through the Beer Judge Certification Program’s style guidelines, with concurrent tastings of examples found on the Public House’s bottled beer list. The final goal is to facilitate the long overdue new list, but as in many journeys, the little insights along the way are proving to be gratifying.

I’ve learned that when it comes to Doppelbock, higher alcoholic strength actually can be a detriment to my enjoyment, as the chewy maltiness lessens with greater attenuation. I now know the exact differences between Cream Ale and Blonde Ale, even if I rarely consume either of them. And so on. Remember that the public is invited to Prost each Monday at 6:30 p.m., and participation costs only $5 most of the time.

My final class of the current “Here’s to Beer” course sponsored by IUS’s division of continuing studies will take place this evening. The next entry-level class will be offered in February, and then in March, I’ll attempt to muddle through my first attempt an advanced level session, for which previous entry level students will be eligible. Honestly, I’ve yet to determine how the advanced course will work, other than more detailed tastings. There may be guest speakers, and we may meet in different places. All options are on the table, and I’ll issue an update at a later date.

My next “Food and Dining” magazine piece is due in a few days, and after the election has passed, I’m due to sit down with interested parties to discuss reviving the concept of the “Mug Shots” column with a different host than LEO. Readers will recall that Wednesday Weekly came about as a way to keep in shape while awaiting another column opportunity. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, because I wouldn’t mind a few more dollars of beer money, just for the fun of it.

Presentations, events, pairings, columns, classes … these, then, constitute my ongoing commitment to education in better beer. I believe it is critical to continue teaching, because beer enthusiasm is a phenomenon that engages the mind as well as the palate. It’s what sets the genre apart from simple alcoholic satisfaction, and serves as metaphor for other worthwhile pursuits.

It is for these reasons that seeing the like-minded in action is a cause for joy. It’s why the Louisville Beer Store is such a great addition to Louisville beer culture, and why the new Eiderdown eatery has such wonderful promise. Principles to preface proliferating options – that’s the educational worldview that might help set metro Louisville apart from other like-sized areas when it comes to the uniqueness of local beer culture. It’s something we should continue defining and expounding.

As we’ve always said at NABC: We’re for it.

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