Sunday, March 31, 2013

Beer from the Golden Gate.

A few weeks ago, an old building in downtown New Albany was being emptied, and an old "Golden Gate" keg was among the flotsam. It bore an Anheuser-Busch engraving, poor thing. In the early days of the Public House two decades ago, these already were becoming rare. As shown in the photo below, there was a separate coupler for the CO2 and draft lines (not visible in my hurried photo) and a bung for filling. The kegs stood upright. CO2 went in the top, and beer came out the bottom. I seem to recall Rogue XS series ales, like the immortal '96 Old Crustacean, as the ones we saw most often in these kegs. Are any still out there?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Cask ales are the indigenous, tasty, beery glories of the British Isles (from 2009).

Yesterday I mentioned the possibility of attending a real ale festival in Plymouth, England this coming July. We last visited Plymouth in 2009, and the experience inspired a column for Food & Dining Magazine (3rd quarter 2009), which is reprinted below.

Please remember the local listings near the end might be somewhat dated by now, although the good news is that in recent months, we finally have the cask-conditioned program up and running at Bank Street Brewhouse, usually with two operational hand pulls. We may be getting close to the point of small R & D brewery batches solely for cask-conditioning.

Also, because it's no longer a daily job for me, I've no clear idea what B. United is doing with its cask program these days.

A final disclaimer: I'm told the Dolphin Inn has undergone a renovation, so I suppose we'll see about that in July. The last time I was there, motor scooters ensued; the story is told here: ON THE AVENUES: Ain't it funny how we all seem to look the same?


Hip Hops: Real English Beer (2009)

At the Dolphin Inn, a delightfully unrefurbished Plymouth harbor pub located a few yards from the very spot where the Mayflower left England for America, thirsty visitors queue to drink draft Bass Pale Ale served in a rigorously traditional and characteristically English manner.

The firkin, a keg of unique and purpose-built design, lies slightly tilted on its side in a cradle at room temperature. A wooden peg (spile) faces skyward, filling a hole that had been punched at tapping. A faucet, tapped into place with a rubber mallet, protrudes horizontally from the firkin. The onrushing ale is borne on a gravity trail, pouring from the opened faucet into a waiting pint glass, cool but not cold, with minimal yet sufficient natural carbonation.

Perhaps the only nod to modernity is the use of stainless steel, rather than wood, to fabricate the firkin. Otherwise, it is likely that Plymouth’s publicans were filling tankards in like fashion almost four hundred years ago as the Pilgrims prepared for their voyage to the New World by loading their own barrels of ale onto the Mayflower.

The Dolphin decants its Bass in this simple, old-fashioned way, unpasteurized, and without the forced-pressure C02 system to which the world has grown accustomed, because the ale itself is naturally carbonated, or cask-conditioned, in the firkin by means of a secondary fermentation.

Although comparatively few English pubs follow the venerable example of the Dolphin’s gravity-pour method, many of them continue to vend one or more cask-conditioned ales with the help of a beer engine, colloquially referred to as a hand pump, or a hand-pull. Their firkins are stored in the coolness of the cellar, where they are tended and prepped for serving. When ready, the ale is pumped by the barman into eager pint glasses.

“Cask-conditioned” ale also is referred to as “real” ale, and those ales conceived, brewed, packaged and served in this natural manner are the indigenous, tasty, beery glories of the British Isles.

Disturbingly, real ale almost became extinct during the 1970’s, primarily because both then and now, conditioning ale in a firkin and serving properly at a pub is thoroughly old-school -- time consuming, labor intensive and absent the sexiness of mass-market commoditization, the dictates of which demand industrially produced, cost-effective “dead” ales and lagers in conventional kegs, bottles and cans.

Thanks in large measure to the advocacy of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), one the modern era’s most principled and effective consumer lobby groups, real ale’s decline has been reversed even though many older brands and breweries have disappeared. A vibrant new generation of smaller brewers committed to cask-conditioning has stepped forward to keep tradition intact, enabling us to consider “living” ale as a symbol of pre- and post-industrial life. It’s the way beer was done for thousands of years, and now, in the new millennium, real ale once again tells the story of slow food, green living and an appreciation of natural virtues in food and drink.

Historically, the stylistic range of England’s brewing output is relatively narrow: Mild, Bitter, IPA, Stout, Porter, Old Ale and Barley Wine still suffice to summarize most of what you’d expect to see at the pub, although these days there are Golden Ales and the occasional seasonal Wheat appearing in summertime. Apart from the rarer Old Ales and Barley Wines, the alcoholic strength of English ale tends to be lower than one might expect, perhaps averaging around 4% abv.

Indeed, the English on-premise brewing ethos checks in at reasonable session strengths. In practice, probably 75% of the cask-conditioned ale pouring at any given time in England is Bitter, which is subdivided into designations that again pertain primarily to alcoholic strength: Ordinary, Best, Extra Special and the like. Alcoholic strength and rates of taxation are intertwined; consequently, expect to pay steadily more for a pint of ale as it escalates in alcoholic content.

At their finest, balance is the watchword for all English real ales, especially those quaffable Bitters, and cask-conditioning is more than a way of drinking. It’s a way of thinking. Flavors are subtle and even simplistic, yet unmistakably rendered. The malt character is rich and sweetish, with a touch of fruitiness. The classic English hop varieties are elegant, packing less of a bitter punch than their American cousins. The overall package is thirst quenching or contemplative, depending on one’s mood.

From start to finish, real ale requires effort and thought, especially for the publican charged with its care. Whether dispensed by gravity feed or hand pump, the clock begins ticking when the firkin’s seals are breached. Oxygen, the prime enemy of freshness, enters the firkin to occupy the head space as its volume is depleted. The carbonation recedes with time, and the ale becomes entirely flat. Oxidization produces unpleasantness, and the ale goes “off.”

There are two ways to avoid this outcome.

One is to drain the vessel promptly, with it being widely held that once tapped, a firkin has two days before deterioration makes the contents undrinkable. For a pub doing a good trade, this certainly is achievable.

But if the firkins turn over too slowly, or if the publican desires a degree of certainty to assist in what can be a coin toss, there is another way: A gadget called a cask breather, which is a nipple inserted into the spile hole and attached to a tank of CO2. As the ale is pumped out, small bursts of CO2 are drawn inside the firkin – not enough to push the liquid as in conventional kegs, but merely to occupy the head space and keep the liquid fresh.

CAMRA opposes cask breathers on traditionalist grounds. However, if the firkins can’t be turned over with predictable speed, it makes more sense to use a breather.

Cask-conditioned ales and the English pub are synonymous, and most readers of this publication are American, prompting the obvious question: How can one experience the joys of real ale in the States?

Some genuine English-brewed, cask-conditioned ales make their way to the United States in firkins, primarily through the good offices of the B. United International importing house’s cask ale program. I’ve sold firkins from B. United for many years and have had few problems, although there are two potential drawbacks.

First, by tradition, most English cask-conditioned ale is low gravity and low alcohol, which renders it fragile for shipping long distances. Consequently, B. United’s cask ale program is seasonal, with firkins sent stateside only during cold weather months.

Second, transport costs translate into steep prices, and while this may be the norm for all imports, it simply doesn’t always make sense to sell a pint of 3.7% ale, however wonderful, at twice the price of other drafts. Remember also that the more slowly a firkin moves, the greater chance of spoilage, and the greater need for a cask breather.

To experience the characteristics of English-brewed, cask-conditioned ale, it follows that the most dependable introductory option is to shop for English-brewed, bottle-conditioned ale, often from the same breweries. It’s the same concept in single-serving size. As with the firkins, a bit of finishing sugar goes into the bottles, and a mild secondary fermentation provides the necessary carbonation.

When scanning store shelves or beer menus, know that familiar brewery names include Fuller’s (specifically, its 1845 brand), O’Hanlon’s, Cropton, Coniston, and Young’s. Generally, English these ales are exported in 16.9 oz bottles, and will bear “bottle-conditioned” in plain sight on the label.

Nowadays in America, the freshest and best real ale emulates the English tradition, in that it is local or regional in origin, and hasn’t traveled very far before tapping. Look to the ranks of America’s burgeoning craft brewers, and find out whether the nearest brewery offers cask-conditioned ale. An increasing number of brewpubs have a beer engine and are eager to promote real ale and to educate the drinking public about its virtues, and more microbreweries than ever before are supplying real ale to pubs and restaurants that have hand-pull capability.

In the metro Louisville area, cask-conditioned ale can be found at these brewpubs: Bluegrass Brewing Company (St. Matthews only), Cumberland Brews, and New Albanian Brewing Company (both locations). Beer bars that serve cask-conditioned ale include the O’Shea’s family of pubs (O’Shea’s, Flanagan’s and Brendan’s) and the The Pub at Fourth Street Live. Not all of these establishments are able to keep real ale flowing at all times, so before dropping in, don’t forget to phone to see what’s on the hand-pull.

My final bit of advice to those who find themselves smitten with real ale: Save your nickels, dimes and frequent flier miles. The best cask-conditioned ale is local, and in England. Buy CAMRA’s annual “Good Beer Guide,” pack light, and head into the countryside from Heathrow or Gatwick. Order a pint of Bitter and a Ploughman’s Plate … and slow down.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Plymouth cask ale fest on my horizon?

If everything breaks favorably, I'll be visiting the United Kingdom come early July. Of course, England means cask ale, and cask ale means the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) as handy local reference to which ales and pubs are best. Accordingly, I found the Plymouth CAMRA website, and am delighted to learn that their annual Beer Festival is running on July 12 and 13, 2013.

This makes me very happy. All I really want to do on holiday is drink cask ale in the company of steak and kidney pie, Cornish pasties, fish and chips, one good carvery, the occasional Vindaloo, and a custard tart now and again.

Following is a brief digression following my last journey to Devon and Cornwall, in 2009.


In the modern era, beer enthusiasts the world over refer to different fermentation methods, and hence different fundamental types of beer, as ale (top fermented) and lager (bottom fermented). As is the case with two people divided by a common language, colloquial English usage in the UK confuses matters, because there, people say "beer" when they mean "ale," although "lager" remains "lager."

Beyond this, England remains a great place to experience "ale," primarily cask-conditioned "real" ale, so long as the visitor understands that not every pub plays the game the same way. It is absolutely essential to have a copy of "Good Beer Guide," the campaign for Real Ale's annual guidebook to the best pubs that serve the best cask ale. Without it, your beer hunting will be an expensive crap shoot.

After sampling at least 20 different cask-conditioned ales, the majority of them one shading or another of Bitter at around the 4% abv mark, I can say that the great triumph of English brewing methodology is producing richness of malt character in a low gravity quaff. It amazes me. Surely hop character is excellent, if restrained by American micro standards, but it's the malt that always impressed me in the best cask pints.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

What's the big deal? watery parts is watery parts.

(Better late than never)

Item: InBev Sued For Overstating Budweiser Alcohol Content

If suing AB-InBev for misrepresenting alcoholic content requires admitting you've been drinking case after case ofAB-InBev alcoholic soda pop ... well, whatever happened to "wouldn't say swill if you had a mouthful"?

Accusing AB-InBev of watering its beer is like blaming Burger King for minced horse Whoppers: Adulteration is the very nature of the (corporate) beast, and there’s no need for redundancy, because “watered down” is another way of saying flavorless, and flavorlessness is implicit when it comes to mass-market lager, which thrives by offending as few prospective swallowers as possible.

Watering? It hardly matters which stage of the process results in the most dilution of essence, when such conceptual futility is the aim of the exercise from the very start.

I must admit that the lawsuits against AB-InBev are amusing. Watching people confess to buying a six-pack a day of Budweiser for five years, only now suffering from pervasive mental anguish borne of the realization that they never got quite as wasted as they thought, hits almost as close to the mark as eating the Rally's dollar menu every day before suddenly awakening to the verdict of poor health.

Responsibility, anyone?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Monday, March 25, 2013

"Second hand news usually is mistaken."

Obviously, I write quite a lot.

It is a compulsion of sorts, and it always comes in the sincere hope that my words will be read. As David Brinkley once put it, “Everyone is entitled to my opinion.”

Words I write are published alongside my name, because to me, anonymity is tantamount to cowardice. For those like me with strong views, there is an inescapable element of living and dying by the rhetorical sword, and I accept this condition of the engagement.

Give and take is common, but every now and then, a complaint will be registered to the effect that someone, somewhere, has taken offense at words I’ve written. Actually I’m delighted with such feedback, and quite willing to discuss particulars, so long as we’re reasonably clear about parameters.

First, let’s get down to basics.

“Heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend” is an annoyingly Junior High School attribution, and second hand news usually is mistaken. Seeing as I never erase or alter what I’ve written, the offending passage surely remains out there, so don’t put the wrong words in my mouth – I’m capable on occasion of doing precisely that without anyone else’s help. Find the actual words I used, please.

Then, once the offending passage has been located at the source, kindly let me know what it says. Believe it or not, it’s not always easy to remember the content of several hundred thousand words written, numerous Facebook status updates posted and 17,000 tweets tweeted when one drinks beer for a living over a period of 30 or more years.

The final step is this: I will consider and review anything I’ve written. If it is true, then I’ll stand by it, come what may. If it is false, I’ll also stand by it –
They’re my words, after all – but I’ll admit my error, make my corrections, and take my lumps.

Fair enough? Thank you for reading.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

If this archival film clip of Schlenkerla doesn't make you thirsty, you may be dead.

Tim "Starlight Distribution" Eads mailed this link, as posted at Schlenkerla's Facebook site some time back. I'm sorry I missed it. 

The black and white film clip was shot in 1963, and is entirely in German, but this doesn't matter at all. It's entirely comprehensible. More recent visitors to Bamberg can attest to how little has changed in the physical sense of the historic pub's interiors and conventional tourist views in a finely preserved old town, and yet, 50 years is a very long time. How many of Bamberg's breweries shown in montage have survived? 

In 1963, it was less than 20 years since war's end, and Matthias, today's standard bearer for the Trum family, hadn't been born.

Elegiac times two. I want to go back. When?

Friday, March 22, 2013

New Holland's new Head Pub Brewer is Steve Berthel, formerly of The Livery.

A while back, I noticed that Steve Berthel no longer was brewing at The Livery, so I decided to investigate ... got very busy and kept forgetting ... and now much later, the answer is clear:

New Holland Welcomes New Head Pub Brewer, Steve Berthel!

Better late than never to a story. Given that New Holland is a personal favorite as brewery, business model and place to enjoy life, this is a wonderful combination, indeed. I've met Steve because of Jared Williamson, who bonded with him many years ago, and he's a class act and one helluva brewer. When I finally made it up to Benton Harbor in 2011, Steve couldn't be there, but he left a couple of growlers for me, and cheers to that.

Following are other historical episodes:

It's simple: Steve and Jared brew a collaborative batch, and then I drink beer with them. 

Jared Williamson on "Michigan: Passion, Pints, and Pride." 

Scenes from The Livery's 5th Anniversary Ale brew day (Part One). 

Scenes from The Livery's 5th Anniversary Ale brew day (Part Two). 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Exchange Pub + Kitchen Beer Dinner with Flat12 Bierwerks on Tuesday, April 2.

Hot off the internetz, here's the lowdown on Exchange Pub + Kitchen's beer dinner with Flat12 Bierwerks on April 2.


For Immediate Release

Contact: Ian Hall
Tel: 812.948.6501

The Exchange Pub + Kitchen to host four course Beer Dinner with Flat 12 Bierwerks

New Albany, IN (March 20,2013) If you're a beer enthusiast at any level, you won't want to miss out on this special event at The Exchange Pub + Kitchen in New Albany on Tuesday, April 2nd at 6:30 p.m., when we host a four course beer dinner with our friends from Flat 12 Bierwerks.

Executive Chef Rick Adams will present four courses inspired and paired with beers from Flat 12 Bierwerks. Dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. and a limited number of tickets are available at $60 per guest (not including tax & gratuity). The dinner will be held in the Shrader & Son's room on the second floor of The Exchange pub + kitchen.

Tickets may be purchased at The Exchange Pub + Kitchen, while supplies last. Seating is limited so purchase yours today.

In conjunction with the beer dinner we will be offering features on Flat 12 beers through out the evening in our main dining room and bar.


First Course
Half Cycle Braised Pork Belly
smoked tomato and chili coulis, grateful greens sweet corn shoots
Paired with Half Cycle IPA

Second Course
Seared Halibut
meyer lemon beurre blanc, black currant caviar, chive couscous
Paired with Upside Down Blonde

Third Course
Seared 3D Valley Flat Iron Steak
24 hour amber marinade, kenny's white cheddar weisenberger grits, asparagus and mushroom ragout, amber compound butter
Paired with Hello My Name is Amber Ale

Fourth Course
van pogue tres leches, bourbon barrel vanilla creama anglaise, van pogue whipped cream
Paired with Van Pogue Porter

What: 4 Course Beer Dinner with Flat 12 Bierwerks $60 per guest(not including tax or gratuity)

When: Tuesday April 2, 2013. One seating @ 6:30PM

Where: Shrader and Sons Room @ The Exchange Pub + Kitchen. 118 W. Main St. New Albany, IN 47150.

For more info please call us at 812.948.6501

Here's the 2013 craft beer list for Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

The Louisville Bats are the AAA subsidiary of the major league Cincinnati Reds.

In more ways than one, unfortunately.

It's another year, and fairly soon we'll know if it will be another sad campaign of craft beer underachievement for Louisville Slugger Field and Centerplate, its concessionaire. As you contemplate the bare minimum beer options perennially offered by the Bats, read about what's available 90 minutes up the road at Great American Ballpark. Take it away, Ian at his BeerQuestABV blog.

Great American Ball Park Craft Beer List.

Last week I talked about how more craft is coming
to the baseball field in Cincinnati, and what
Sportservice, the people who manage the concessions,
are doing to make it more of a focus. This week,
I'll be giving out a list of what's available at
various sections around the park, and also shedding
a light on what influenced the list.

Houndmouth, alternative label and video.

I'm getting into the habit of posting at the revamped NABC web site, and directing traffic from here.

Houndmouth, alternative label and video

You’ve already seen the Houndmouth beer specs.
Now NABC’s graphics department (Tony Beard) is developing a second label design that perhaps better represent the band’s vibe. Currently Houndmouth is on the road down South, and you can keep up with the group via Facebook.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sun King's Clay Robinson: "We want full transparency so consumers know when they’re getting a true craft beer."

Sun King Brewing's co-founder, Clay Robinson, speaks to "craft versus crafty" in an excellent essay at the IndyStar. It reads to me like a state of the union address from the Brewers of Indiana Guild's next president; the annual meeting is in April, and I have to think Clay gets the nod if that's what he wants.

Competition makes Indy's beer better on St. Patrick's Day, by Clay Robinson (at IndyStar)

When I first got into making beer for a living, my reasons were simple: I wanted a job that would accept me as I am (I didn’t want to cut my hair or shave), and I wanted to end each day drinking good beer that I helped create. I didn’t plan to become a brewery owner, and I certainly never thought we would one day be on the radar of companies like Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors.

My partners and I opened Sun King Brewery in 2009. Over the past several years our business has grown beyond our biggest hopes. Meanwhile, the craft brewing industry got big enough that the giant beer conglomerates couldn’t ignore us. In fact, these days, they’re spending a lot of money trying to beat us.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The PC at Louisville Beer: "Killa Stella."

Stella is Belgian for beer just like Foster's is Australian for beer, which is to say, not at all.

stella_artoisIn his autobiographical book, “The Factory of Facts,” the Belgian-American writer Luc Sante recalls the drab post-WW II industrial reality of his childhood home of Verviers, a city in the Wallonian rustbelt. Reading Sante’s reflections on a society stratified by factory life and traumatized by its wartime experiences, my thoughts turned to lager beer, which originated in and around the German lands, to the east of Belgium.
We know that lager developed in lockstep with the industrial revolution throughout Europe, gradually departing from its original, artisanal methods to fatally embrace pure science utterly devoid of a guiding aesthetic, eventually supplanting traditional ale styles – many of which survived only in the countryside in cantankerous places like Sante’s Belgium.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Happy 4th, BSB.

I've been so busy that an important date yesterday was entirely forgotten.

Four years and half my liver ago, on Friday, March 13, 2009, it was the first "official" day of business for Bank Street Brewhouse.

Quite a lot has changed since then. What hasn't is our commitment to cooking, brewing and placemaking downtown.

Thanks to everyone. Year Five has begun. Cheers.

Hofbrauhaus in Newport, March 9.

The food, the Marzen, and David Howard.

I swear it wasn't me. C'mon, 'fess up: Who stickered the handicapped space?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

NABC teams up with the Derby City Rollergirls.

(By Richard Atnip)

In 2013, NABC is a proud sponsor of the Derby City Rollergirls. For the first time since DCRG's inception in 2005, the New Albanian Brewing Company will be featured on draft at every home bout this season.

Bouts begin at 8 p.m. at Champs Rollerdrome, 9851 Lagrange Rd. Louisville, KY. Tickets can be purchased in advance, or at the door the day of the event.

Join NABC and DCRG one Saturday a month through August. It's a winning combination sure to bring a winning season.

April 13
May 11
June 8
July 13
August 10

For more information, visit:

Sun King considers Obamacare.

It's an even-handed assessment of Sun King's thought process, sans the usual hyperbole.

Obamacare Case Study: A Microbrewery Asks Premiums or Penalties? Clay Robinson, owner of Sun King Brewing, says his company is weighing both options as they prepare for Obamacare, by Adam Bluestein (

... By January 2014, Robinson expects Sun King will have 60 full-time-equivalent employees, meaning the company could face (non­deductible) penalties of about $60,000 if it fails to provide health insurance. Benefits experts have advised Sun King that annual premiums will probably run about $5,000 per employee, with the total annual bill for coverage coming in from $150,000 to $200,000, depending on how many people enroll. "That's enough for a couple of tanks to make a lot more beer," says Robinson. Although he and his partners generally view the Affordable Care Act as a catalyst for adding a benefit they believe in, they will carefully weigh all options--including boosting wages to help workers buy their own insurance through the SHOP exchange--before coming to a final decision this fall.

Big Red Liquors pursues its monopoly in Indianapolis. Someone fetch me my musket.

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

Here's to you, Glum John. Another year has almost passed, so make it ten.

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

Just last year, the cold war came close to flaring. Seems Glum John forgot his place.

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

But hostilities were averted.

Truce in our time.

Now the fascistic monopolists are at it again, this time seeking a stranglehold on the Indianapolis market. Time for another Lincoln Brigade.

Big Red acquires United Package Liquors, by Scott Olson (Indianapolis Business Journal)

Bloomington-based Big Red Liquors is expanding into Indianapolis by acquiring the assets of United Package Liquors Inc. and taking over operations of the chain’s 24 local stores.

Terms of the transaction, announced Monday afternoon, were not disclosed.

Under the agreement, the United Package stores will operate under the banner of Big Red. Big Red will sign long-term leases for all locations with Indianapolis-based LOR Corp, a local real estate development firm that owns the United Package chain.

Big Red, founded in 1972, already owns and operates 25 stores in south-central Indiana, including 13 in Bloomington, and plans to open three additional locations this year in the Indianapolis area, the company said.

The BBQ Battle at Majid's was a victory.

Last Wednesday, March 6, the Curmudgeons attended an event at Majid's called the BBQ Battle. It was the brainchild of Stephen Dennison, whose multi-faceted skills at food and drink render him a concierge of hospitality.

BBQ Battle

Five Courses, Five Chefs
One Winner

Five Charities
For Dinner

The concept developed during discussions at the Louisville Restaurants Forum, with the idea being a contest among five chefs to concoct dishes with the common denominator of including something smoked. Before the dinner, Stephen listed the chefs and their chosen causes.

Mark Ford- Dare to Care. As a chef, he is passionate about the hungry in our community.

Anthony Lamas- Kosair Childrens Hospital. As a father, he champions the little ones in our lives.

Matt Durham- TBA

Stephen Dennison- APRON. Because we all walk together.

Brendan Mullaney- Red Cross. He believes in their cause for the greater global good.

After operating costs, the winner will receive 60% of the funds. The runners up will receive 10% each.

Stephen did the drink pairings, which were excellent. Following is Stephen's summary at the Forum. The Pastrami with Black & Blue Grass was my highest score, but then again, perhaps I was biased.

First, I should say that of all the events I've done over the years- this one is my sentimental favorite.

Once up, it ran like a dream- behind the scenes, the teams were teamworking amongst themselves, chattering like old friends, tasting each others food with nods of approval, etc. Silky smooth, as it should be.

At the tables, it was no different. You know you've thrown a good party if you approach the tables and there is laughter and an air of ease. People were having a good time. I really liked that aspect of having the chefs dine with the guests.

At the end, Chef Ford and Louisville Country Club took the prize. It was tight in the scoring- real tight.

First Course
Brendan Mullaney, Seafood Connection
Smoked Salmon Tacos
Berlucci Sparkling Rose, Italy

Second Course
Anthony Lamas, Seviche
The Progressive Greyhound (turns sour to sweet over time)

Third Course
Alicia Minteer, Personal Chef
Smoked Brisket Chimichurri
Castillo de Almansa, Garnacha Tintorera, Spain

Fourth Course
Stephen Dennison, Majid's
Cole Slaw- Napa Cabbage Wrap: Shrimp, Roasted Orange Pepper Aioli, Hot-Smoked Caviar
On the Boulevard (Lynn House's drink- bourbon, aperol, creme de cassis, lemon)

Fifth Course
Mark Ford, Louisville Country Club
Smoked Pastrami (I did taste this one and it was butter!)
NABC Black and Blue Grass

The kegger to end all keggers.

Our first 2013 nominee for "Idea of the Year" is Josh Hambright, deviate-in-residence at Flat12 Bierwerks in Indianapolis, who enrolled at Twitter just to suggest, "My vote for next year's Gravity Head glassware. Gotta keep it classy."
Great idea, Josh. They might be in the dining car on the bullet train to blackout town.

Keg Parties For Life: Fancy Red SOLO Cup Drinkware (at Geekologie)

This is a series of washable drinkware from Red Cup Living (you know, because SOLO cups are a lifestyle like Netflix) that look like the classic red kegger cups. They're not though, they're sturdier and dishwasher safe and cost $4-$10 per cup.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Old 502 wine tasting at Keg Liquors today.

Here's the Keg Liquors preview hurriedly copied verbatim. I've been to the "under rebranding" 502 twice to taste the wines, and I like what Logan is doing. I'll be out of town today, but if you're in New Albany, check it out.


Old 502 Winery Tasting, Saturday March 9th from 1-4 PM (New Albany Location)

Join us on Saturday, March 9th from 1-4 PM as we welcome our friends from the Old 502 Winery out of Louisville. You might remember them from the the now defunct River Bend Winery. They have taken over the operations with a new owner, new winemaker, and all new wines.

They will be on hand from 1-4 PM at our downtown New Albany location in conjunction with the 2nd Saturday Hop & Shop event (

We will be tasting the following wines from Old 502:

After Choc
Bachs Wine
Bore Dough
Bourbon Barrel Red
Reese Ling
Kentucky Lady

This tasting is free and open to the public (21 and older)

302 Pearl St. Suite B
New Albany, IN 47150

Thanks to everyone for a wonderful Friday.

I'm oddly missing my voice this morning.

Whispering to the missus that my best guess is the throat deserted me after an entire day yelling over a crowd, she said, "And you have to be heard, don't you?"

Absolutely. In fact, I insist on it, so hear this:

Many thanks to Flat12 (two Gravity Head crew visits) and Cavalier Distributing for yesterday's rollicking good time. Additional thanks to Against the Grain for its commendable lunch hour hospitality, and to Adam and Jerry for explaining the salad bar(ity) to an uncomprehending Publican. Still more thanks to all of NABC's staff for coping with the tsunami.

I've learned a few things this Gravity Head, and here's one of them, cryptically: In future years, if ya wanna get featured, ya gotta come represent. 

The Gravity Head lineupdate page is fully updated. You'll see that a fourth corral has been added to hold kegs that were tapped, but then pulled to make room for the featured selections on March 8. They'll see duty again. The only keg from the Flat12 contingent to deplete yesterday was Highway to Hops.

I'm going to Cincinnati for the day. Thanks again to everyone for a great third weekend.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

A digression on Bullitt County wineries.

I'm delighted for Steve Coomes. See what I mean? Remove "Bullitt County" and replace with "Southern Indiana," and it's exactly what this blogging beer guy has been saying for at least five years, maybe more.

To understand why a portion of my craft beer time is spent advocating for local wineries, consider that for me, rooting for the underdog is a genetic necessity.

So is a chronic inability to refrain from informing those possessing misguided views, in the loudest possible terms, that they're off base. In terms of locally made wine, they need to give these wineries a chance. They need only visit the winery, tell winery staff that sweet wines aren't to their taste, and ask for samples of drier wines.

But it's deeper than this with me. I remember when the only good beer we could get came from far away, and how much I wanted it to be from here, instead. Now that the Louisville metro area (and the extended region) has plenty of good beer made close by, there remain substantial numbers of beer drinkers continuing to insist that for a beer to be good, it must come from far, far away.

Bullshit. We make great beer hereabouts, and great wine, too. The very least I expect of alleged experts is to acknowledge it, for the best and simplest reason of all: I'm telling the truth.

Take it away, Steve. Great article, indeed.


Bullitt County winery tour surprises cynic and signals promise for burgeoning industry

The drive up to Brooks Hill Winery is one of the area’s most scenic. Ascending the winding two-lane, rock-walled stretch happens quickly and makes your ears pop. At the top of the knob the view opens; several hundred feet below is the convergence of Bullitt and Jefferson Counties, an impressive vista that’s worth the drive by itself.
The grounds at Brooks Hill Winery.
But you don’t make the drive just for lookin’, you drive about 10 minutes beyond the southern edge of Metro Louisville to taste wine, quality wine made right here in Kentucky.
My guide on this Bullitt County winery tour is Tom Kohler, a full-time CPA, amateur winemaker and studied oenophile who’s nudged me for months to join him on a visit to all four Bullitt County wineries.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

An unprecedented third "troika" weekend of Gravity Head begins on Friday, March 8.

Gravity Head 2013’s third weekend begins at 11:00 a.m. this Friday morning, March 8, and it’s going to be a troika of epic dimensions.

It’s “Cavalier Distributing & Founders Brewing Night,” but this alone inadequately describes the scene, because most and possibly all of the Gravity Head tap space will be allocated to three breweries. Representatives from each will be on hand. Follow the highlighted links for more detailed descriptions of their beers:

Flat12 Bierwerks (Indianapolis IN)
Founders Brewing Company (Grand Rapids MI)
New Albanian Brewing Company (New Albany IN)

Founders and NABC are distributed in Indiana by Cavalier, while Flat12 is available through World Class Beer.

Here’s the list of 19, which includes two previously unannounced NABC cellar * bonuses:

Flat12 Pinko Russian Imperial Stout
Founders Imperial Stout (2011) 10.5%

Flat12 Highway to Hops 10%
Flat12 Winter Cycle 9.3%
NABC/De Struise/LBS B’Urban Trotter (2011) 9.2%

Founders Curmudgeon Old Ale 9.8%


Founders Breakfast Stout (2011) 8.3%

Flat12 Bourbon Barrel Winter Cycle Double IPA (2012) 9.4%
Flat12 Pinko RIS KGBaylor (Pappy Van Winkle) 11%
Flat12 Pinko RIS Nitro (Pappy Van Winkle) 10.5%
Founders Backwoods Bastard (2012) 10.2%
Founders Bolt Cutter (15th Anniversary) 15%
NABC IX — Ninth Anniversary Ale (2010) Circa 9%
NABC Bourbondaddy (2012) 9.5%

NABC/O'Fallon/Schlafly C2 Collaboration Ale (2010) 10.7%
NABC Stumble Bus (2012) 11.2%
NABC Turbo Hog (2012) 9.5%

Jaxon? Quadrageddon? A pair of Gravity Head surprises from NABC this Friday, March 8.

To add even more heft to Friday’s Third Weekend lineup at Gravity Head 2013, we sent Josh Hill into the cellar to locate kegs we’ve been keeping for a while. He did good. First, a familiar furry face.

Jaxon (2010) ... The one you know.

American Barley Wine
ABV: 11%
IBU: 100
OG: 28 degrees Plato

Drop the leash, already. Jaxon’s been resting since midway through Barack Obama’s first term. Jaxon teasingly asks the question, “With a bark like that, who needs Pat?,” because NABC’s properly pedigreed Barleywine was brewed at Bank Street Brewhouse and aged by David Pierce (creator of the legendary Bearded Pat’s Barley Wine). Only the first runnings were collected from the mash tun, with no sparge, meaning three separate mashes made up this batch.

Malts: Special Pale, Dingeman's Biscuit, Cara 45, Special B

Hops: Centennial, Simcoe, Chinook in two additions;
Cascade in the whirlpool; dry hopped twice with whole cone Cascade

Yeast: House Ale

Josh didn't stop there.

Quadrageddon (2011) ... The one you’ve never seen.

Former NABC brewer Jared Williamson created Quadrageddon in early 2011 with the express purpose of setting the beer aside. Early tastings in 2011 were malty and hot, but after two years of cellaring, it’s winey, tannic and dry with a touch of tartness. In other words, it’s time to see what the world thinks. Jared was kind enough to e-mail an overview.

Malt: 2 row, Castle Biscuit and Special B; perhaps some Castle Aromatic, too.

Hops: A variety; probably around 30 IBU

Yeast: Chouffe

Aged in Cabernet barrels (previously used for the C2 collaboration batch aging) for +/- 10 months.

Finished around 9.2%ABV

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Here's the plan.

As soon as it gets warm, we're going to shine some lights on this side ...

 ... and paint some words on this side.

As soon as it gets warm.

Friday, March 01, 2013

At "Gravity's Rogue."

Back to some first principles.

Rogue-LogoAt New Albanian Brewing Company (NABC)we have a peculiar annual institution known as Gravity Head, and with the 15th version currently underway, I’m reminded of how Gravity Head’s internal alarm clock has a snooze button marked “Time Warp.”
No, this isn’t meant as an indicator of the way hours become minutes as the many strong ales seep into one’s corpuscles, spinning the random cosmic generator wheel and bizarrely conjuring pearls of wisdom previously reserved for holy men and theme park architects.
Rather, it is a consideration of longevity: How many of this year’s participating breweries were operating in 1999, when Gravity Head began?