Monday, April 30, 2012

Ruminations, Part 1.

It’s truly bizarre to contemplate that after almost 2,300 posts spread over seven years at this blog, I sometimes feel like absolutely nothing of merit has been passed along from me to you – and the failure is my problem, not yours.

Today is one of those days. What I’m feeling is not self-pity, although it might well be sheer exhaustion. My personal world at home is solid, and my professional world gets steadily better fiscally (for the most part; there certainly are exceptions). I can summon the edge when I need it. In spite of it all, uncertainty is gnawing at me. You wouldn’t know it from reading this blog, because apparently I’ve gotten very functional at being dysfunctional.

Let’s put it this way: Self-censorship is beginning to chafe.

It has been written that the sole purpose in writing is to tell the truth, and yet if I’m to be perfectly truthful with myself, I haven’t always done that here. While I’ve succeeded in avoiding overt falsehood, the simple act of refraining from deception is not quite the same thing as being entirely honest. Omitting items from one’s narrative isn’t the same as telling lies, but the overall effect might be the same.

To cite just one example: Have I been served flawed craft beers?


Have these been brewed locally?

Sometimes, although it has been a while since I experienced one. More often than not, they’ve some from other parts of the country (distance from the source being a determinant of desirability, according to one school of thought, though I digress).

Have I discussed these flaws aloud?

Seldom, perhaps never. Rather, I defer the venom by heaping it on Shock Top or some other ridiculously infantile mockrobrew, and call it even for the day.

In a way, that’s dishonesty, but it’s an accurate expression of staying loyal to the chosen cause amid creeping disillusionment. But the cause is fragmenting, and craft beer is becoming something unrecognizable. I’m trying to discover whether the new boss is going to be the same as the old boss, favorable or unfavorable to my world view.

Lately, I’ve confided to close friends that my overall sense of frustration with the world of good beer and my place in it, both personally and professionally, is escalating. It’s a sure sign of cognitive dissonance that more and more often, I find myself dreading those occasions when I must stand up in front of people and preach the gospel of craft beer. Why am I being bothered?

So, maybe it’s time to work through this, publicly. For me, there’s always been a balance between the “good times” side of better beer and the thoughtful embrace of better beer as a doctrine. For me, blind allegiance to any system of thought is to be avoided, and constant re-examination merited. Shouldn’t this rigor be applied to beer, too, and to my place (and my company’s place) in it?

After all, 30 years later, it’s my damned career. Isn’t it supposed to make sense? Isn’t it supposed to make me happy?

I’m not sure where any of this will lead. Maybe nowhere. But when it comes to me and beer, I’m coming to some juncture where the flanks are under attack, the center is giving ground, and the battlefield is enveloped in the fog of war. There’s too much complexity, too much confusion and too little control. I need to figure out why.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The classic layout of the Hofbrauhaus beer garden in Newport, Kentucky.

Recently we spent a rainy Saturday afternoon in Newport at the Hofbrauhaus. The Schwarzbier and Leberkase were fine, indeed, and there always is food for thought at places like this.

Specifically, because the blustery weather precluded use of the biergarten, it was a rare opportunity to take photos of the layout sans human bodies. The HB's outdoor area contains most of the design elements of a genuine Old World article, down to the benches, tables and pea gravel.

As we inch forward toward initiating the "beer garden" project at Bank Street Brewhouse, there are plenty of ideas in these photos. Whether we can afford to implement them is another matter ...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Take the Keg's word for it.

Description and specs are here.

Whole Foods visiting BSB for Naughty Girl brew day.

Previously we told you that Naughty Girl is coming back.

NABC's 2011 collaboration with De Struise and Louisville Beer Store will be brewed a second time, with a twist: Angela Rees, the beer buyer for Louisville's Whole Foods Market (and a former "Here's to Beer" student of mine), will be bringing a crew of her staff to Bank Street Brewhouse to help NABC on Naughty Girl brew day.

We forecast a Naughty Girl 2012 release circa May 23, and invite readers to stay tuned.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Big wheat ales. Not small ones. And make them German style, please.

I said we'd never do it, but if we did do it, they'd have to be big, not small.

So it is that earlier this week, NABC brewed its first-ever (EVER) German-style wheat ales, and as promised, they're both examples of Weizenbock, broadly speaking. The first Heller (pale) is a version of Maibock with wheat (a previous commercial example is Plank's version), and the second a Doppelbock with wheat (Aventinus).

We're in the process of selecting names. Until then, here are specs.

Heller Weizen Bock

Malt: Weyermann BoHo Pils, Melanoidin, and CaraFoam, Rahr White Wheat
Hops: Hallertau Magnum
Yeast: Andechs Weizen
Color: 6.2 SRM
IBU: 29
OG: 16
ABV: circa 7%


Weizen Doppelbock

Malt: Weyermann BoHo Pils, Melanoidin, and CaraFoam, Rahr White Wheat, Simpson Aromatic and Black
Hops: Hallertau Magnum
Yeast: Andechs Weizen
Color: 17.2 SRM
IBU: 20
OG: 18+
ABV: circa 7.5%

Monday, April 23, 2012

Chef Rick Adams joins New Albany Exchange pub + kitchen.

Chef Adams posted clues at Facebook over the weekend, but I was out of town and neglected to follow up, so here's the good news, as provided by owner Ian Hall. Speaking for everyone at NABC: Welcome to the sunny side, Rick.


I am proud to announce that after 2 months of searching for our new Executive Chef to oversee the kitchen, the New Albany Exchange pub + kitchen is proud to announce that Rick Adams has joined the team. I couldn't be more pleased with the decision and am looking forward to our new Summer menu rolling out in May that will showcase our kitchen's talent.

Chef Rick Adams has developed an unwavering loyal customer base generating succulent dishes using the finest local ingredients. Paying close attention to detail, he is able to constantly produce inventive and artistic cuisine that never fails to please. Most likely because his inspiration comes from the pure enjoyment of the creative process, churning out a menu from scratch has always been his passion.

Continually praised and featured in Louisville Food & Dining Magazine, Chef Rick Adams has received outstanding reviews in several local publication for his work at L&N Wine Bar & Bistro and Captain Quarters Riverside Grille. As one and his many accomplishments, after opening L&N, Chef Rick Adams constructed an innovative menu that established the Wine Bar & Bistro as a four-star restaurant and one of the top five restaurants in Louisville. Chef Rick Adams has also been highlighted on The Secrets of the Louisville Chefs three times, establishing him as an imaginative and inspirational local chef.

For more information on the Exchange please visit us at

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Annual Kentucky Derby poster ... or poseur?

How many furlongs to Leuven?

Truce in our time.

Thanks and much appreciation to Don Rix, president of Big Red Liquors, for being sensible.

I have no knowledge of this incident. But ... It is obvious to me that you would prefer Big Red not carry your products. We will certainly honor that request. Thanks again Roger.

We now return to the regularly scheduled Cold War. While I fairly yearn for normalcy, let the world understand that it takes two to tango.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Big Red's intent to stock NABC is an intolerable provocation.

Earlier, you were given the background:

Nine years later, and absolute power still corrupts Big Red Liquors absolutely.

Talk to NABC that way, and the Curmudgeon will write about it - now, tomorrow, and forever more, until an apology is forthcoming.

Now, for the rest of the story.

Since 2009, when New Albanian Brewing Company first began distributing our beer statewide in Indiana, we have made absolutely no effort to sell anything to Big Red Liquors. Our wholesaler in greater Indiana, Cavalier Distributing, has followed suit -- at our request. From the start, I made it clear that we wanted nothing to do with them.

The reason for this is that NABC has no desire to be partnered, whether directly or ephemerally – neither in a mercantile sense nor metaphorically in any sense – with the very same fascistic organization that massively disrespected us nine years ago, in 2003. In spite of my reputation, I hold few grudges. This is one of them.

Quite simply, I’d rather pour the beer down the drain than sell it to Big Red. I’d rather drink Miller Lite or shop at Wal-Mart than see Big Red sell our beer. You get the idea.

Yes, I understand that some will find it incredible that I’d intentionally deny my own company the opportunity to sell beer through such a large retailer. But to me, it isn’t always about money, and it also isn’t that Bloomington has been denied the chance to buy NABC. In spite of Big Red’s best efforts to corner the Bloomington market and eliminate competition, consumers there have still have some options. They can buy NABC draft at several on-premise locations, and bomber bottles at Bloomingfoods and Sahara Mart, among others.

Earlier this week, Big Red’s beer manager John Glumb – malicious co-author of NABC’s dreadful 2003 experience at Big Red’s Groveling and Supplication Fest – contacted Cavalier to request information about stocking our bomber bottles at Big Red. Obviously, I cannot ask Cavalier to refrain from doing business with Big Red in this instance. To do so might endanger their relationship with Big Red, and it’s not Cavalier’s fight. I’m not even sure my doing so would be legal, although what I’m quite sure of is this: Were I to act in a manner to prevent such transactions, I‘d be resorting to the very same strong-armed, bullying, oblivious tactics that Big Red traditionally has used in pursuit of its monopolistic aims, and since these disgust me, I shan’t.

Rather, I asked Cavalier to convey my concerns to Glumb; this was done, and he predictably responded by giggling at the past, and saying that since he has no reason to apologize to me, he’ll do as he pleases, because after all, what use is it being the 800-lb gorilla in the market if you don’t act like one?

I don’t know about you, but in my world, when someone tells me that he or she hates my guts, chances are quite good that I’ll refrain from relations with them. It’s all I’m asking of Big Red: Either apologize and make peace, or leave NABC the f**k alone. The answer would appear to be a raspberry, and Glumb probably thinks its clever.

And yet I am forever prepared to make peace and move on, and I certainly do not hold a grudge against people currently employed at Big Red, who were not on hand for the debacle of 2003. Perhaps there is a compromise solution: We’ll hold a referendum via secret ballot, and if 51% of Big Red’s employees agree with me that Glumb is a self-serving asshole, I’ll concede the point, dismantle the barricades and sign off on shipments.

In the grand tradition of “regime change now,” I’ve directed a letter to Big Red’s president asking the engorged retailer to cease and desist from purchasing NABC beers – to please just plain leave us alone – until the chief instigator Glumb either apologizes to me or is no longer employed by the company.

Isn’t that reasonable? Isn’t life too short for one to be compelled to fluff people and entities that are revolting to me? Can't they just back off?

Nine years later, and absolute power still corrupts Big Red Liquors absolutely.

For unfortunate and disturbing reasons that I'll soon reveal, it is time again to revisit the most renowned grudge match in Indiana craft beer history: NABC vs. Big Red Liquors. It is a long story, indeed; I've never been much for brevity, and longtime readers know it.

This article, originally featured in the FOSSILS homebrewing club's Publicanista! issue #17 in 2003, has not been edited in nine years, with the exception of repairing a broken link (Murray Sperber). I might also note that of the principal players, only I am still on duty at NABC; on Big Red's side, Wade Shanower died in 2011, and John Glumb remains.

Finally, consider this sentence, unchanged after nine years.

Talk to NABC that way, and the Curmudgeon will write about it - now, tomorrow, and forever more, until an apology is forthcoming.

By Monday, I'll be back to tell you why this matters. I may even be back tonight.


Now more than ever, absolute power corrupts Big Red Liquors absolutely.

On the evening of Thursday, April 10, 2003, at the conclusion of the first session of the 10th Annual Big Red Beer Festival in the Bloomington, Indiana convention center, our visiting delegation of the New Albanian Brewing Company was ordered to leave the premises, instructed not to return, and provided with a police escort to reinforce the point.

Not since the Reno Gang’s last stand during the post-Civil War era of regional lawlessness has New Albany produced such a desperate band of hardened brigands - or so our overbearing hosts would have you believe.

Perhaps a Roaring Twenties analogy works better: Just call me the John Dillinger of microbrewing (it would be presumptuous to identify with the likes of “Pretty Boy Floyd.”) Or, more recently, we evoke nostalgic shades of Chicago, the Democratic National Convention, 1968: “The whole world is watching.”

Our walking papers were verbally delivered to us by two members of the Big Red Liquors management team, John Glumb and Wade Shanower, a pair of wholly corporate, well-fed and utterly plain men who differed from the other polo shirts in attendance by the shared habit of spluttering ominously, brilliant white teeth clinched, blue neck veins bulging in a most unhealthy way and misshapen, contorted faces as red as their Big Red Liquors knits.

Setting aside the acrimonious tone of voice by which the charges against us were delivered by these ill-tempered voices of doom and finger-wagging remonstrance, we were able to discern three general themes: We had violated the “one-ounce pour” taboo, incited the crowd to begin chanting scurrilous anti-Miller Lite slogans, and scandalously refused to “respect” the festival and its organizers.

Three strikes, and we were out - gone, removed, our presence no longer tainting the general vicinity, presumably relegated to the woodshed to reflect on our misdeeds.

In truth, we were quite happy to go.

There are dozens of places far closer to home where we might suffer extreme verbal abuse without donating our beer and precious time for the privilege, but being annoyingly principled on those occasions when we’re pushed into it against our collective wills, we feel rather strongly that Big Red’s allegations were the epic stuff of nonsense, and that the mean-spirited tone in which they were delivered was quite unnecessary in an assembly of adults.

Moreover, we assert that our demeanor during the festival’s opening night was very much in keeping with the fundamental nature of the festival as Big Red Liquors has operated it over the past decade, and that this in turn mirrors the reasons why the company has become successful - or, in Big Red’s own words (prominently displayed on the company’s web site): “We’ve got your party.”


Big Red Surveys Its Market - and It Is Good.

To understand the events of April 10, 2003, one must first consider the context of the local business climate in which Big Red Liquors has operated during its 30-year history.

As all Hoosiers know (except, of course, the ones loyal to Purdue University), Bloomington is the consummate Midwestern college town, home of the main campus of Indiana University, without which the Monroe County seat would be indistinguishable from a dozen other cities of similar size in the state that don’t have a student population of some 40,000.

Detailed statistics aren’t at all required to gauge the impact of these students on the community, both economically and in sociological terms.

Strikingly, and appropriately, Bloomington is an oasis of cultural diversity in a corn-fed, lily-white desert, with people from all across the globe attending IU and working for the university. Looking for a Tibetan monastery? Go to Bloomington. Eritrean, Moroccan and Afghani cuisine? Same place. Exotic newspapers with no NASCAR point standings? You get the picture.

Existing alongside this esoteric world tableau are the nativist Indiana rites, ranging from the rocker John Mellencamp’s place of residence to fundamentalist Christian churches to the truest religion of the state, basketball, exemplified by an IU roundball program that ranks as one of the most fabled in America, a veritable monolith supported vociferously by legions of red-clad undergraduates and their brothers, sisters, parents and grandparents who came before them to Bloomington for the quintessential American educational experience.

This begs the question: Exactly what is the quintessential American university-level educational experience? And, what does all this have to do with that other hallowed institution, Big Red Liquors, which for many IU undergraduates has been far better known than the location and contents of their classrooms?

University Undergraduates: Necessary (and Profitable) Evil?

All told, the history of university students as hard-partying Bohemians predates the United States, and probably can be traced back to Charles University in Bohemia (Prague, to be exact), or perhaps to German bastions of higher learning like Heidelberg (remember to visit the student prison) or England’s Oxford and Cambridge.

But how did it come to be that going away to college in America meant diving headfirst into a relentless, bottomless kegger (not to mention a willing coed), wearing togas and Hawaiian shirts, sleeping only occasionally, grudgingly cracking open a book to cram mere moments before the test, and in general, behaving just like the legendary celluloid fraternity in “National Lampoon’s Animal House”?

According to Professor Murray Sperber, who in an ironic twist teaches at IU in Bloomington, such a situation developed at the behest of America’s colleges and universities themselves.

With the legendary Hollywood movie itself as an ex post facto demonstrative tool, “Big Time U’s” knowingly have sought to entice students with the recreational lures of top-level party culture (on- or off-campus) and top-flight NCAA athletic programs.

Dr. Sperber identifies this phenomenon as the “Beer and Circus,” which naturally echoes the “bread and circus” of ancient Rome. He believes that it is a ploy designed to distract students from the failure of their chosen institutions to provide a quality undergraduate education in return for the vast sums of money required of otherwise marginally qualified students.

Not coincidentally, Bloomington plays host to a major university that is a perennial Big Ten basketball contender, with a mega-party tradition incorporating events like the Little 500 bicycle race … and the city also is the home turf of Big Red Liquors, stagers of the annual beer festival, with eleven convenient locations to serve the student body.

For Dr. Sperber, a persistent and under-appreciated critic of the role of major college sports in America, a vicious, unholy cycle undermines the quality of higher education. The cycle begins when major universities covet lucrative governmental and corporate funding that derives from success at high-level academic research.

To achieve this success, these universities must employ high-level academicians to do research, but this effectively precludes their involvement in teaching undergraduates, whose presence increasingly demands intensive, remedial resources that are not applicable to the dictates of high-level research programs.

However, the tuition money demanded of undergraduates remains essential to the overall financial structure of the institution, as it can be raised seemingly at will and eagerly paid by those in need of the university diploma that is now absolutely necessary to pursue any significant (read: higher paying) career.

Consequently, undergraduates are shunted into mass lecture halls holding hundreds of students for classes commonly taught by graduate assistants or part-time professors. In short, the undergraduate mob is poorly served in terms of meaningful educational quality, which in more merit-based educational systems the world over might well result in protests and demonstrations on the part of the students.

Beer and Circus.

Not so in America, says Dr. Sperber, because undergraduates here are amply rewarded with distractions, or circuses, most noticeably in the form of big-time athletics, most often football and basketball. Supposedly, athletic success in gridiron combat or during the springtime ritual of March Madness attracts more undergraduate students (and their money) to the university, which is more necessary than ever owing to the inconvenient fact that few athletic programs turn a profit for their schools. No matter; everyone rallies around a winning team, and World Civilization 101 is mercifully forgotten.

The second pivotal distraction, which Dr. Sperber alleges has been implicitly condoned if not explicitly promoted by America’s universities, is beer: Beer by the case, the pitcher, the keg; beer, beer, wonderful beer.

Dr. Sperber points again to the importance of the film “Animal House” in helping to define the university experience as non-stop Bacchanalia symbolized by the totemic, drunken, decidedly non-academic John Belushi strutting his stuff while wearing a sweatshirt reading simply “College.”

What could be more collegiate than clocking out on Thursday, drinking through the weekend, attending the big game against Tech, partying far into Sunday and possibly even Monday, and barely considering one’s ostensible reason for being on campus in the first place until some time Tuesday - at which point the cycle is almost ready to begin anew?

"We’ve Got Your Party,” Redux.

To apply Dr. Sperber’s compelling theory of “Beer and Circus” to his own places of employment and residence - Indiana University and Bloomington - is to begin to understand the convergence between the current socio-political climate in the city and on the campus, and by extension, the inexplicable rage directed at the New Albanian Brewing Company by the two functionaries of Big Red Liquors.

The “Circus”: Much of Dr. Sperber’s time at Indiana University coincided with that of Bob Knight, the school’s famously talented, prodigiously intemperate and unfailingly controversial basketball coach, who presided for decades over a successful program that distracted not only Indiana University’s undergraduates, but also many of the State of Indiana’s less discriminating adults.

The “Beer”: Both Dr. Sperber and Coach Knight resided and worked in Bloomington during the same decades as Mark McAlister, who founded Big Red Liquors in 1973 and built the company into Southern Indiana’s largest retailer of alcoholic beverages. While Big Red Liquors isn’t the only package store operating in Bloomington, it has bought out many other local independent operators, and it holds a market share sufficiently large to approach that of a monopoly.

There is no way of knowing how much of Big Red’s business comes from the student population on Indiana University, although I hasten to emphasize not from directly selling to minors. There is nothing to indicate that Big Red Liquors has been anything other than scrupulous with respect to under-aged sales, nor could it have been otherwise for the company to continue to amass package sales licenses.

At the same time, it is highly unlikely that Big Red Liquors could ever have grown so large without playing a crucial role in supplying “Beer” for the “Circus” on and near the Indiana University campus. In serving this market, either directly or indirectly, Big Red has always had willing assistance from those brewers standing to gain the most from college town monopoly sellers.

As Dr. Sperber reveals in his book, the 1970’s and 1980’s were halcyon days for beer at the ol’ alma mater. America’s megabrewers regularly dispatched special sales representatives to preside over the dispensing of cheap beer to university undergraduates - beer purchased by fraternities and sororities as well as individuals from local retail “partners in profit” like Big Red Liquors.

When these decades of complicity in America’s campus party scene led to widespread criticism (described below), and university socio-political climates became too hot for comfort, the megabrewers maintained influence through their ubiquitous advertising budgets, underwriting the billion-dollar televised college sports schedule and maintaining the intimate ties between the circus and its alcoholic fuel.

It’s simply no coincidence that local retailers in university towns, like Big Red Liquors in Bloomington, seized the heaven-sent opportunity to grow wealthy on the broad shoulders of the megabrewers whose products have been advertised nationally and marketed with feverish intensely to students, especially those drinking to the tribal cadence of campus sporting events.

Welcome to the 2003 Big Red Beer Festival …

One can see all of these seemingly disparate threads come together in the Big Red Liquors Beer Festival, the ostensible aim of which is laudable and legitimate: To raise money for the Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs of Bloomington.

However, during its ten-year run, the beer festival has served other less savory purposes alongside that of supporting local charity. One is to gather Big Red Liquors’ suppliers - wholesalers and brewers of megabrews, microbrews and imports - under one tent for a sycophantic show of love for Big Red Liquors.

For a vendor to miss out on this “spontaneous” demonstration of affection, akin to the Communist party congresses of old where the captive nations gathered to express appreciation to Moscow for its benevolence, would be to risk an unfortunate accident, such as loss of shelf space or a refusal by Big Red to buy at previously acceptable levels and margins.

Obviously, to relentlessly pressure suppliers into ensuring healthy profit margins is to enable the retailer to sell vast quantities of inexpensive beer to its target market, which in a university town is not primarily composed of factory workers, suburban housewives or wine snobs.

Many of the same brewers and wholesalers privately express exasperation and annoyance with Big Red Liquors as a business partner, with one word, “arrogant,” being used regularly along with other, less polite turns of phrase.

Unsurprisingly, given the prerequisites of business intercourse, public attribution of these sentiments is rare, but most of us accept the veracity of the old saying in the context of Big Red’s monopoly capitalism: Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

A final purpose for the Big Red Liquors Beer Festival is to provide six hours (over two nights) of drunken revelry for an audience composed primarily of students. For many years I have been told by brewers and wholesalers that the Big Red Liquors Beer Festival is the very last place you’d go to attempt an honest and thoughtful sampling of the world’s great beers.

Big Red’s palpable contempt for those in attendance at its annual beer festival is legendary and much discussed. Identification is checked, money is harvested and the ensuing throngs are handled with all the finesse of a Third World stockyard. Consider this testimonial, as published after this year’s festival on

“They (Big Red) sent people directly from a glass of beer into the parking lot. They didn't recognize the value of letting people have a few minutes to collect themselves before leaving. They relied on police presence to close the place down as fast as possible so they could get home and watch the Daily Show. They actually threatened their patrons while the folks were quietly moving out as rapidly as possible.

“Given this attitude by the organizers and the stereotypical bullying attitude that their paid uniformed force showed, it will be very possible for people to be arrested or assaulted Friday night by employees of Big Red - it could have happened Thursday night. At the very least, expect to be shoved out unceremoniously into the night to fend for yourself. Not a good idea on their part, and not very flattering of the 47 vendors.”

Hey, New Albanian, Don’t Let the Door Hit You.

Given past experiences, why would the 2003 edition of Bloomington’s (in)-famous Big Red Liquors Beer Festival be any different from the ones before it?

First, a long-term socio-political trend has come to fruition, one that first emerged in the 1980’s when M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) came to prominence.

In Indiana, as in many other states, coalitions of religious fanatics, neo-prohibitionists, health fascists and generic do-gooders (among them the Governor’s Commission for a Drug-Free Indiana and the Indiana Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking, to name two) have banded together to challenge the status quo of campus alcohol consumption. These efforts have been dutifully buttressed by media news coverage of topics like binge drinking, fraternity initiation abuses, and underage drinking.

Consequently, throughout the decade of the 1990’s, university administrations began scurrying from the unholy glare of scrutiny, responding with various edicts, pieties and policies designed to curb the availability and use of alcoholic beverages - in effect, seeking to reform if not abolish outright the “Beer” pillar of “Beer and Circus.”

More recently, there arose a second factor specific to Indiana University itself: The announcement by the “Princeton Review” in August, 2002, that based on the results of the publication’s annual survey of American college students, IU was the nation’s top-ranking party school.

That this finding was published only a few months after the school’s basketball team unexpectedly advanced to the final game of the NCAA tournament must have been music to the ears of Dr. Sperber, but it was purely fingernails on the blackboards of IU’s administrators, who had all but declared victory over such unsightly blemishes.

With spotlights again shining in its eyes, the administration of IU responded with outrage, denial and aggression. During the fall semester of 2002, three times as many IU students were arrested by campus police on alcohol charges as during the same time period a year earlier. Fraternity houses were raided, and students provoked into indignation by the extent of the oppression.

It isn’t known whether Indiana University has decreased its undergraduate tuition fees or lessened its class sizes, but quite obviously a full-court press against the malt beverage component of Dr. Sperber’s “Beer and Circus” is taking place in Bloomington.

It Is Said that Only Cockroaches Will Survive a Nuclear Conflagration.

And, through it all, who remains the biggest retailer of beer in Bloomington, eager as ever to sell cases and kegs to all comers with two forms of I.D.?

That’d be Big Red Liquors, who in April of 2003 staged its tenth annual beer festival but the first since the post-“Princeton Review” glare of searchlights began to re-examine Dr. Sperber’s perennially unsettling “Beer and Circus” equation.

Into this festival strolled the New Albanian Brewing Company’s four representatives, largely unaware that were about to become sacrificial lambs for a Big Red Liquors management team eager to prove that it was in control of the situation, but unwilling to approach the “offenders” like adults, preferring instead to rant, rave and posture not unlike that ridiculous high school principal who used to scream at you to grow up and be mature - come to think about it, not unlike Animal House’s own self-serving Dean Wormer.

It isn’t hard to feel at least some empathy for a business that has achieved its present level of success by exploiting a captive marketplace, “Beer and Circus,” that is coming under increasing attack from elements of society who if give free rein would re-institute Prohibition and put Big Red Liquors completely out of business. I feel for Big Red in this broadest of senses.

There is far less empathy to be felt for Big Red Liquors insofar as it has sought (and largely succeeded) to monopolize the Bloomington retail market and to exploit beer wholesalers and brewers accordingly, particularly those smaller players who cannot afford to play the game in the manner of Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors.

There is no empathy whatsoever for those staffers of Big Red Liquors whose human relations skills apparently were gleaned from a close study of the deposed and detested totalitarian regimes of Pol Pot and Nicolae Ceausescu, irrespective of the stress and strain accompanying a beer festival in troubled times.

Did Big Red’s John Glumb warn NABC not to fill glasses beyond the one-ounce limit?

Yes, but twice, not a preposterous six times as he now claims.

Were we the only ones warned?


Were we the only ones ejected for the offense?


Did the people crowded in front of the NABC table begin chanting “F**k Miller Lite?”

Yes, and we certainly encouraged this truly spontaneous statement of principle, confident that wars are fought to protect freedom of expression, and that truth is never libelous.

Do Glumb and his boss, Wade Shanower, believe in these same tenets?

Apparently not, but you’ll have to ask them, because we tried and were promptly silenced - which in and of itself eloquently provides their answer.

Did we disrespect Big Red Liquors and the “meaning” of its annual beer festival?

As I’ve tried to make clear, this depends on which of the festival’s several meanings is intended. NABC has no qualms with the company’s or the festival’s charitable aims. As for licking the boots and certain anatomical regions of monopoly capitalists? There’s nothing about such a servile exercise that’s worthy of respect, so in this sense we provided none.

However, respect runs both ways.

Did Big Red’s John Glumb and Wade Shanower shower us with rudeness, condescension, dismissiveness and contempt?

Yes. Their attitude is simply impossible to fathom. Talk to your customers that way, and you have no customers. Talk to your suppliers that way, and they grin and bear it because they have to so as to secure a piece of the monopolistic pie.
Talk to NABC that way, and the Curmudgeon will write about it - now, tomorrow, and forever more, until an apology is forthcoming.

Given Big Red’s breathtaking arrogance (that word again!), we can expect the apology to accompany word that the last American college student has gone on the wagon, the NCAA has been dismantled, and Anheuser-Busch has conceded use of the name Budweiser to the Czech brewer from whom A-B stole it.

I’m not holding my breath.

As for the outcome of the evening and our ejection from the 2003 Big Red Beer Festival, we take pride, because the buffoonish venality of Big Red Liquors brought welcomed notoriety to the New Albanian Brewing Company, which dominated the proceedings during its sole evening of participation and received numerous compliments from the friendly crowd.

The city of Bloomington remains cosmopolitan and lively, a bastion of cool in the midst of Indiana’s numbing conformity and conservatism.

But Bloomington’s premier package liquor and beer monopoly, and at least two of its less-than-distinguished standard-bearers, wears far fewer clothes than commonly imagined.

Regime change now!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A naughty surprise.

After much discussion, we've made a bit of a change in the bomber release rotation.

April: Black & Blue Grass will be released as scheduled in a week or two.

May: We're pushing Le Diable back (to where isn't entirely clear), and instead are planning on a big Bank Street batch of Naughty Naughty Girl India Blonde Ale in May, with bottles and kegs to follow.

Naughty Girl is NABC's collaboration with De Struise and Louisville Beer Store, and according to unscientific polling informally conducted since the first bomber crop went out in 2011, it is the most requested "to come back."

Well, it will be coming back. Stay tuned for more information.

Indiana Daily Student reports: "Rep. Young pushes for brewery bill to help local beer makers."

It's good to know that Rep. Todd Young patronizes Big Woods. He seems fluent about the local brewing scene. I've relayed word to him that I'm happy to give a Bank Street Brewhouse brewery tour, at his convenience.

Rep. Young pushes for brewery bill to help local beer makers, by Charles Scudder (Indiana Daily Student)

With Little 500 upon us, it’s as good a time as any to take a look at the state of America’s most popular beverage. The craft beer industry is booming nationwide, especially in the Hoosier state.

Rep. Todd Young, R–9th District, is cosponsoring H.R. 1236, the Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act, which would help local brewers. The Indiana Daily Student talked to Young about the bill and beer in southern Indiana.

Last evening's Harvest/NABC beer dinner was a pure treat.

Harvest Restaurant and NABC: A collaborative beer dinner on Tuesday, April 17.

Last evening's beer dinner was very, very good. I'm not just saying this because it was NABC. We got the beer pairings right, the food was magnificent, there were 40+ in attendance, and the kitchen and serving staffs rocked the house. It truly is wonderful when a plan comes together. Thanks again to everyone at Harvest for a transcendent evening.

Also, note this: Owing to the beer dinner's circumstance, Harvest is presently the only place in the world (including our own two establishments) to have NABC Black & Blue Grass on tap. Bottles and draft will be out soon, elsewhere, but for now, only Harvest has it. Black & Blue Grass is a food-friendly Saison with black pepper and lemongrass spicing, and blue agave sugar. For a preview, head over to Harvest.

Monday, April 16, 2012

NABC's thunderous business hours this Saturday, April 21.

NABC will be on hand with Elector and Bob's Old 15-B for the 5th Annual Craft Beer Extravaganza for Thunder Over Louisville, presented by Buckhead Mountain Grill and Rocky's Sub Pub under the big top on the northern shore of the Ohio.

Meanwhile, NABC's on-premise locations will be keeping the following hours:

Bank Street Brewhouse: Normal business hours (11:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m.)

Pizzeria & Public House: The Pizzeria will observe regular hours (11:00 a.m. - midnight), but the Public House will open at 5:00 p.m.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My new column at "How many furlongs to Leuven?"

It's a major rewrite of something I posted here previously, and I trust, a good deal more confrontational than the first time.

Let’s face it: Subway’s new Italian sandwich collection is more authentically local (in a vaguely tri-colored Neopolitan, fake Gucci, prosciutto gangsta sense of genuine) than Churchill Downs’ fiscal embrace of AB-InBev’s “classic Belgian lager."

How many furlongs to Leuven?

I freely admit to getting no kick out of juleps. Horse pimps don’t thrill me at all, and the fireworks during Flatulence Over Louisville are an excellent annual pretext to skip town for somewhere that’s both quiet and civilized by comparison, and which has craft beer readily available to wash away the bad taste of the air show’s martial glorification of pure garishness.
Nowadays the year-round availability of locally-brewed beer in Louisville is something we take for granted, but unfortunately, the Kentucky Derby isn’t really about anything other than thoroughbred horses, gamblers and maybe the Ohio River filled with bourbon – as long as you keep that accursed mint out of it, and take it neat, the way your personal deity intended.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Lew Bryson's ADI conference coverage.

My reasons for attending the American Distilling Institute's annual conference (April 1 - 4, 2012) included the gathering's close proximity to home, a visit by a friend, a desire to take a few days off work, and a measure of simple curiosity about craft distilling. I found it fascinating, although in truth, much of what intrigued me was less about pure distilling theory and practice than those areas of distillation that overlap with beer and brewing.

Most obviously, before alcohol can be concentrated by distillation, it must be fermented from a mash, and this is the point of considerable convergence.

Consequently, a high point for me was a panel discussion featuring three brewers who also distill, and without going into great detail, each of them offered thoughts on certain "traditional" distilling practices (mashing, fermentation) from the perspective of the contemporary generation of craft brewers, and how old-timey distillers could learn from New Age brewers. I'm sure these thoughts would constitute heresy in some quarters, and as such, I was thrilled to hear them. Throughout human history, heresy has been the most useful precondition for revolution. I might become a spirits drinker yet.

As previously noted here, writer Lew Bryson was in town for the conference, and spirits are his game as much as beer. For far better ADI confab coverage than I can muster, following are links to Lew's thoughts at John Hansell's Whisky Advocate Blog.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Harvest Restaurant and NABC: A collaborative beer dinner on Tuesday, April 17.

A poster and two menus later, and it should be clear that Harvest Restaurant and New Albanian Brewing Company are teaming for a beer dinner. It's Tuesday, April 17 at 6:30 p.m., and you can call 502-384-9090 for reservations. For further information about Harvest, visit the restaurant's web site, and know that in addition to the listings above, we'll be offering opening and parting glasses. I'm hoping to make one of them a true sneak preview of NABC Black & Blue Grass, which is being bottled earlier the same day.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Session Head today, with Struise's Single Black as a final addition.

One extra Session Head beer has been added (at the Pizzeria & Public House only), courtesy of Tim Eads at Starlight Distribution:

It's Struise Black Damnation VII: Single Black, a Stout coming in at only 2.0% abv.

Single Black is part of the "Black Damnation" project, using Black Albert (Russian Imperial Stout) as the jumping off point for a series of different recipes. Most of the ones released to date have been appropriate for Gravity Head in terns of their alcohol content, and Single Black is by far the "smallest" of them. It's a reminder of the brewing tradition of second, and sometimes third runnings of the same mash.

For the other beers being tapped today, go here.

The plan for Easter Sunday Brunch at Bank Street Brewhouse.

Here's the Easter Sunday Brunch (April 8) plan for Bank Street Brewhouse, courtesy of GM Mark Prince:

Chef Matt Weirich will personally be running a Build-Your-Own-Omelet station with fresh ingredients and cheeses.

There'll be slow-cooked Prime Rib, as well as the regular Brewhouse Brunch menu and the Bloody Mary Bar.

We'll be introducing the Bank Street Brewhouse Bourbon Coffee: Starlight Coffee's Brewhouse Blend and your choice of bourbon, with whipped cream and cocoa powder, served in a white and dark chocolate swirled glass.

Brunch hours are as usual, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., with afternoon hours until 6:00 p.m.

The weather outlook is warm, with a high of 70 and no rain.

Needless to say, NABC drafts and carry-out growlers and bombers.

Friday, April 06, 2012

See Chef Matt Weirich on SECRETS of Louisville Chefs LIVE, coming this Sunday afternoon.

The taping took place three weeks ago, and now the show is ready for airing this Sunday (April 8).

It's at 4:30 p.m., "SECRETS of Louisville Chefs LIVE," on Ion-21 Insight; 916-HD Insight; and 21 dish DirecTV.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Session Head preview for Saturday, April 7.

For NABC’s first-ever Session Head this Saturday (known elsewhere as Session Beer Day, but we have our own oddities to perpetuate), we’ll be taking a minimalist approach – with no pun intended.

From Gravity Head to Session Head in six weeks and 3.5% less ABV.

The idea is to inaugurate a tradition, and then see where it goes from here in the years to come. We’ll have three of our own beers on tap at the Pizzeria & Public House and Bank Street Brewhouse:

Community Dark … English Mild, 3.7% abv, year-round
(Extra)Ordinary … English Ordinary Bitter, circa 4% abv, spring seasonal ... regular pour at the Pizzeria & Public House, and cask-conditioned at BSB
Tafel … Belgian Table/Session Ale, 4% abv, year-round

At the Pizzeria & Public House, in addition to the three NABC beers, there’ll be three other American-brewed craft beers sourced just for the occasion, and a fourth from Belgium:

Crown Brewing Brown … English Brown, 4.1% abv
Flat12 - 12 Penny Scottish … Scottish Export, 3.4% abv
Kentucky Ale Light … Kolsch, 4% abv
Struise Black Damnation VII: Single Black ... Stout, 2.0% abv

Of course, Upland Wheat (Belgian Wit; 4.5% abv) and Guinness Draft Stout (Dry Stout; 4.2% abv) are on tap every day at the Pizzeria & Public House, and they fit, too.

The pours will be full Imperial pints (duh), and when the three guests are gone, they're gone. Thanks to Lew Bryson for fighting the session fight.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

"Pint/CounterPint IV – Frosted Mugs" -- at

That's right, dear reader: I'm arguing in favor of frosted mugs.

And that's also right, Adam: Get ready for the Pol Pot essay.

Pint/CounterPint IV – Frosted Mugs

Pint/CounterPint 4:1
Frosted Mugs – PRO
By: Roger Baylor, New Albanian Brewing Company
The rural locale outside New Albany where I grew up wasn’t very far away from civilization, but to travel west bound and down, not very much of note lay between my house and Evansville, except for open roads, fields, woods and the occasional sparse settlement.


Pint/CounterPint 4:2
Frosted Mugs – CON (or “Why Frosted Mugs are Bullshit”)
By: Adam Watson, Against the Grain Brewery
I feel the need to open by thanking my compatriot and pseudonemesis, Roger, here at the outset.  The topic of frosted mugs came up, and I immediately grabbed the “anti” side, leaving him to defend these monstrosities.  While I do love watching him flail with arguments he may not really believe, I imagine a reckoning is imminent.  Don’t be surprised if my next topic ends up being something akin to “I’d Totally Share a Beer with Pol Pot, Who Wasn’t Really Such a Bad Guy After All”.  Fair warning.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Sticking a toe in the (distilled) water at the ADI annual conference.

Lew Bryson's in town for the American Distilling Institute's annual conference. The ADI gig runs through Wednesday at Huber's Orchard, Winery, Vineyards and Starlight Distillery, and ironically, after Lew returns home, NABC will be having much fun with Session Beer Day on Saturday, April 7.

My friend Jared Austin from The Big Easy came up to attend the conference, and as Lew explains in this posting at Seen Through A Glass, we three coincided at Bank Street Brewhouse on a beautiful Sunday afternoon: Run-up to ADI: Mecklenburg Gardens, and Louisville beers.

Lew gave us a ride to the Brown Hotel for ADI registration, and he continues the story at the Whisky Advocate Blog, where this week he'll continue to file reports on the conference. It's always such a pleasure to see Lew, and it was quite the scene outside the English Grill at the Brown, with three big guys drinking and laughing (prior to becoming a quartet when New Holland's Fred Bueltmann sat down on the adjacent upholstery).

NABC's Richard Atnip will be pouring beers for attendees tomorrow (and perhaps lunch on Wednesday) at the Huber Plantation Hall. I'm enjoying a couple of semi-vacation days (daze) and will provide reports if the mood strikes.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

At "Light beer? It’s from right here."

Kindly tolerate this reprise of a fondly remembered column from 2010.

Light beer? It’s from right here.

In 1909, the German-language Louisville Anzeigernewspaper praised Augustus Tusch of neighboring New Albany.
“Herr Tusch is a lager brewer of great repute whose cleanliness and quality is of the highest order, with barrels filled and delivered fresh within the astounding radius of ten blocks from his business address.”
It seems that Tusch was about to release a revolutionary new product. Who was this long forgotten New Albanian, and what was his plan to reorder the brewing universe?