Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Houndmouth, Boomtown and a crazy day planned for May 25.

On Memorial Day weekend, there'll be a sizeable street party in downtown New Albany on Sunday, May 25. It's being called Boomtown Ball, and it's being viewed as a homecoming of sorts for the band called Houndmouth, to which New Albany has proudly laid claim in an expression of civic pride seldom witnessed hereabouts, apart from when the high school Bulldogs make a basketball tourney run.

Houndmouth will be playing a sold-out show at The Grand on Sunday night. Before that, there'll be a beer garden superimposed on the farmers market at the corner of Market and Bank, running from about 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Production Simple is booking bands to perform on an outdoor stage. The Flea Off market will be spread out within the beer garden, and many downtown shops will be open nearby.

Obviously, my company's direct interest in this event is selling lots of Houndmouth Ale -- inside The Grand on Sunday night, outside during the day, and throughout the week preceding Boomtown, when we'll be trying to have Houndmouth on tap at numerous New Albany establishments.

On the 25th, handling the beer, wine and spirits vending inside the temporary Boomtown area will be a cooperative made up of several local establishments: NABC, Irish Exit, Feast BBQ, JR's/502 Winery, among others. Of course, other downtown hospitality purveyors are located only a short walk away (Mojitos at Habana Blues, anyone?) A percentage of the Boomtown bar's combined business will become seed money for our New Albany Food & Drink Association, a project about to blossom, and one we're all quite excited to see arrive.

It can be hard to explain the Byzantine state licensing required of such events, and I've tried to do so during the course of publicizing Boomtown. It comes down to this: If you're 21 years of age and can prove it, you can drink alcoholic beverages inside the temporary area or outside it ... but you cannot carry them in and out.

Below are links to further information. It should suffice to say that Boomtown will be a big crowd with plenty of music, libations, food and shopping. It's a holiday weekend, and few people will be working on Monday. My advice: pace yourself, and have a designated driver.

March 3

Houndmouth and the Boomtown Ball in downtown New Albany on Sunday, May 25.

March 25

UPDATE: Boomtown Ball and Houndmouth in downtown New Albany on Sunday, May 25.

April 26

Boomtown Ball & Festival details: Of bands, businesses and beers.

April 28

Here is a rough sketch of the Boomtown Ball site plan for May 25, with explanation.

April 29

All about the bands on the outdoor stage at Boomtown Ball on May 25.

Updates on RiverRoots in Madison, Indiana, on May 16 and 17.

Once again, NABC will be vending beer at Madison's RiverRoots music and folk arts festival (May 16 & 17). Details are at NABC's web site; follow the links below. Note that in 2014, there'll be a sprinkling of beer-themed events in Madison during the week prior to the festival, including the pre-party:

BoneYard Grill, NABC & the Tillers: RiverRoots pre-party in Madison on May 15

As for the festival itself, I've grown very fond of it even if we seldom hear any music while working. Don Clapham, Nick Ellis and their better-beer-loving friends in Madison continue to fight the good fight with respect to the Indiana-brewed localism at RiverRoots. After eight years, you'd assume that the folk/craft branding is solid, but of course there always will be those advocating mass-market sponsorship lucre.

Don and Nick always make a patient case, and the sales figures bear them out. In 2014, the Brewers of Indiana Guild is helping sponsor the craft beer tent at RiverRoots, where for two days, a wonderful selection of Indiana-brewed beers from NABC, Upland, Sun King, Power House and Great Crescent will be available to fest goers.

May 16 & 17 is RiverRoots 2014 in Madison IN, with music, folk arts and Indiana craft beer

Monday, April 28, 2014

The PC: Taking my talents to the Right Bank ... my finale at

The column was published at on April 28, 2014. Beginning on May 5, each week's column will appear here.  

But it's all right now
I learned my lesson well
You see ya can't please everyone
So ya got to please yourself


Taking my talents to the Right Bank

“Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
–Ernest Hemingway

You may be familiar with Papa Hemingway. He was a well-known writer in his time, and a lively, brawling personality who enjoyed good food and drink. Papa’s beer ratings weren’t always very objective, as when he expressed the view that Spanish lager was almost the equal of German.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Check out the Irish Rover's seasonal house beers, brewed for the pub by NABC.

Robin Garr reviews the Irish Rover, a fixture on Frankfort Avenue in Louisville:

Irish Rover takes us to the Emerald Isle

if you want warm and welcoming Irish style in Louisville, you can’t improve on the Irish Rover, the amiable eatery that has become an indelible part of the Frankfort Avenue landscape since 1993.

Precisely, although it bears noting that for several months now, in addition to the requisite Guinness, the Rover has been pouring its own house brand, Celtic Craic. It is an export-style stout, heavier than Guinness but not approaching "imperial" strength, and is being brewed exclusively for the Rover by NABC.

As the weather gets warmer, the Rover will transition from their house stout to a golden lager, also brewed by NABC, which tentatively is to be called The Parting Glass. Expect an Irish-style red ale (name TBA) to follow suit in autumn, after which Celtic Craic will rejoin the lineup for winter.

We've really enjoyed working with Michael and Jason on these beers, so if you follow Robin's advice and stop by the Rover, see if one of them is on tap.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

When in Berlin, do as Mikkeller does? Huh?

We may be visiting Berlin during the September holiday in Europe, and accordingly, I conducted a few minutes of web research as to where one might find Berliner Weisse in its purest local form.

Immediately the search engine guided me to a site called Berlin Craft Beer, where I typed "Berliner Weisse" into the search window.

The result? "Nothing Found."

Upon closer examination, it appears this site caters to the New Orthodoxy, i.e., the notion of sought-after, boutique beers on all sides of every ocean, representing styles that formerly were localized, now international (IPA, et al), and which anyone who knows anything wants, right now.

That's all well and good. There's plenty of valuable information at this site. But I'm not sure it tells me very much about the sole beer style, at least to my knowledge, which was conceived in Berlin and is about Berlin. I'm not flying to Chicago, after all.

There'll be two, maybe three days for us there. The places I go, and the beers I drink, probably will not be those found at a designer beer bar catering to cross-national importer-exporter portfolios. I've nothing against these portfolios; it just isn't why I'd go to the trouble and expense of visiting Berlin. rather, I'm more interested in knowing what makes Berlin, Berlin.

I find it amusing that my stating this preference, I'm now once again in the position of being a revolutionary. Thank heavens for this planet's cyclical nature. If anyone reading can offer advice as to where I might experience Berliner Weisse to best effect, in Berlin, please shoot me a mail or comment. Thanks in advance.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Slugger Field embarrassment proceeds apace as even Forecastle makes room for better beer.

This is America, after all, and no idea has merit apart from comparative pricing.

That said, now that Forecastle has decided to "get it," the deteriorating situation for better beer at Louisville Slugger Field looks even worse -- if that's possible.

Kentucky Landing gets an unqualified thumbs up for me, if for no other reason than the prospect of plastic cups of draft Bo & Luke in the summer sun.

Forecastle to offer local food and drink at fest, by Kevin Gibson (Insider Louisville)

 ... New to Forecastle this year is Kentucky Landing, an area that will highlight beer, food, art and more — all from the Bluegrass.

Breweries will include the aforementioned Against the Grain, Bluegrass Brewing Co., Falls City Beer, all from Louisville, as well as Lexington’s Kentucky Ale and West Sixth Brewing Co. Old 502 Winery will serve up Louisville-made wines.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Back to the basics.

Doctor, it hurts when I do this.


(excellent advice ... thanks)

ON THE AVENUES: The pea outside the pod.

... So, it is now 2014. At this point in time, in my chosen profession of all things beer, I'm in roughly the same position as Willie and Waylon were in 1973. I'm out of synch with the new normal, and as good as outlaw, if not an outright crank.

I find that it suits my inner Socrates somewhat gloriously.

Photo credit

It gets even worse for better beer at Louisville Slugger Field.

No sense in writing a dissertation.

Can expectations of Bats management and Centerplate possibly dip any lower? Our correspondent JZ went to a game a couple of days ago, and reports:

"It's getting worse, if that is possible. Even though tonight was the first game of a home stand, a visit to the 'craft' beer stand in the 3rd inning revealed no BBC (and thus the Sam Adams was the only choice)."

The previous dire preview: The Louisville Bats and Centerplate present: The Sahara of Slugger Field, 2014 version.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Diary of Our Own Jimmy Bracken: As the complaint department, I specialize in satisfied customers.

It was an exhausting day; more so than usual lately. In addition to the expected daily sapping of my inner core, there were a couple of surprises.

These thoughts may seem disjointed at first, but bear with me. My day, today, has me thinking about harmony. It's so elusive.

But why?

Of course, I cannot guarantee inner harmony, either for myself or those nearest to me, whether family or in the workplace. There's a lot more to it than my own selfish wish that the world make sense every now and then.

Dynamics are funny. The way I feel about it is that my own team can be fractious and dysfunctional (after all, I was an A's fan way back when, in the 1970s), but when it comes down to it, there needs to be unity when it matters. On occasion, things happen that merit a response, and any team manager who does not have his players'/employees' backs probably will not be successful in the end.

This is why in a benign and grandfatherly way, dear reader, I'd like your as indulgence to mark some turf. I own a business, and I have employees. As hard as they try, I know there'll come a time when they make mistakes. Experience also has indicated to me that at times, they'll have not made mistakes, and require a vigorous defense when improperly accused.

Hell, the same might even apply to me on widely scattered occasions. Fortunately, I'm not wrong very often.

Either way -- and this is the point -- I genuinely expect and respectfully request that (a) comments and thoughts about these employee issues will come to me, first, before being aired publicly elsewhere, and (b) that comments and thoughts ostensibly about my employees that actually are about ME and not about them will be handled in like fashion ... by coming to me. Not unlike Shaq, I'm the Big Aristotle. We can reason together.

Thank you very much.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The PC: Moss the Boss, his Dazzling, and what they taught me about “craft.”

(Published at on April 21, 2014)


Moss the Boss, his Dazzling, and what they taught me about “craft.”

In my view, the “craft” modifier for better beer has outlived its usefulness, at least without earnest industry-wide introspection as to what the practice of “craft” might actually mean if/when practiced.

Until then, I’ll begin with an anecdote. If my luck holds, I may end with it.

In October of 1995, when the Public House was only three years old, I departed the comfortable confines for a ten-day beer tour of European beer destinations, including Dusseldorf, Cologne and Belgium. There also was a brief two-day side trip by train to Copenhagen to visit my friends there. Accompanying me was David Pierce, John Dennis and Ron Downer.

Much beer was consumed.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Diary of Our Own Jimmy Bracken: In which I reply to a disappointed customer.

My diary entries are designed to accommodate venting without excessive rhetorical polish. They may or may not go on to become columns. I've written the following in one sitting, without editing. It is appearing here, rather than at the NABC web site, because it's my personal reaction, and not official company policy. Read on. I've previously written about this here.

I’m no stranger to controversy, and I’ve seldom ducked a rhetorical scrap. Ask me a question, and I’ll do my best to answer it, as honestly as can be mustered. On rare occasions, the discussion must be private, but in general, public forums suit me.

It helps to be physically able to reply. I received the following observation via NABC’s web site comment form. Through the wonders of modern technology, these go directly to me, to be rerouted to others in the company as needed.

Needless to say, I’m delighted to explicate at length with Thomas as to his disappointment with Bank Street Brewhouse, but judging from the e-mail, it would seem that he desires his viewpoint to be one direction only, without my having the chance to reply. Let’s merely note that I find this reticence, well, curious given the stridency of his assumptions.

So, let’s just do the whole thing publicly. It’s better that way.


Name: Thomas



Thomas: Very disappointing what has happened at the Bank Street location in the past few months. Yesterday will be my last visit.

Roger: I’m genuinely sorry to hear that.

T: This used to be one of my special gems that I enjoyed taking clients and family to for years because of the uniqueness and quality of the menu. What has happened? It's gone from gastropub to gross to be honest.

R: At its most gastropubish, during the years of Chef Josh’s residency in the kitchen, it was proven that (a) Chef Josh is brilliant; (b) the clientele at the time was not prepared for such brilliance; and (c) the result was an ocean of red ink … and yet, we persisted.

From the very start, we’ve had a small kitchen and a delicate balance between what space and money are required to be a restaurant, and a brewery. In fact, the balance has been so delicate as to have been rarely achieved. Capitalizing a higher end FOH and a production brewery, together at the same time, has proven almost impossible. We’re not made of money. I wish we were, but you go to war with what you have, and what we have hasn’t always been sufficient.

When Chef Josh moved on, it was decided to concentrate more on the items that actually sold – like we’d begin looking at real costs and real sales when making decisions. While risking the continued use of the descriptor “gastropub,” which turns out to be almost as meaningless as the word “craft” when attached to beer, Chef Matt’s first two years showed progress in a bottom-line sense, until late in 2013; during this time, with at least two other establishments in New Albany (Exchange and Café 27) serving a similar menu and capable of capitalizing it WITHOUT also capitalizing a production brewery, we began having problems. More on this below.

T: No local products, nothing unique, nothing special, nothing at all some days because my last few visits, you've been out of half of the menu.

R: Nothing about the past months has hurt me more than to see the “local product” concept slip away from us. It was a cherished part of my original concept. I fought relinquishing it for a long time, until the numbers simply wouldn’t support it any longer. I regret it. But the first obligation we have as a business is to stay alive, not be dead. Nothing else can happen, bad, good or indifferent, when you’re dead. I’m genuinely sorry that it disappoints you, and I understand, because it disappoints me. As for being out of things, this has happened because we’ve been paying closer attention to purchasing and stocking as needed – something elementary, so as to avoid waste. Getting these levels right has proven challenging, especially with business increasing, as it has been.

T: What happened to fresh omelettes and prime rib on Sundays?

We ceased doing them because (a) actual sales did not once approach a point of adequate support for the wonderful presentation, and (b) this had the effect of bleeding money each time we did it. Let me repeat: They lost money. Do you understand that? It supposedly is a major point of capitalism.

T: Where is the fresh food? What makes it special now? Where are the specials? Where are the great burgers?

R: At the beginning, and for a very long time, we tried to lead – when in reality, we didn’t have the resources to do so. We kept at it as long as humanly possible, for almost five years, until it simply could be done no longer. As I’ve noted, if it disappoints you, just imagine how it disappoints me. And yet, we’re still breathing, and still throwing punches. The simple fact is that the menu changes implemented these past few months, while odious and deal-breaking to some (like you), have enabled us to (a) stay alive, (b) do so not only with no loss of traffic, but a slight increase, and (c) do so with food and labor costs that just might enable us breathing space to reformat into something that once again seems “special” to you. And maybe to me, too, but in the interim, I’ll take a reduction in red ink while we think about it.

What makes it special now is that being alive offers a chance to reinvent. If you had any idea how hard it is to reinvent and reformat in mid-air, knowing that debt service already was a bear before, and could become disastrous if you lose altitude … you might then grasp a bit of what we’ve been trying to do, and how damned difficult it has been.

T: With the exception of the beer (which is still the best) I have absolutely no reason to come now. I'm tired of being embarrassed when I take clients, and quite honestly looking at your staff - I think they are embarrassed to be there as well.

R: Thanks for the compliment about the beer. As for your staff critique, sorry, but you can fuck off. You don’t know how they feel, and you needn’t extrapolate your own disappointment (which I do not contest) into the bodies and brains of others.

T: I hope this is temporary and someone wakes up soon and realizes how the changes are making customers like me
feel. Until then, I'll entertain at the Exchange. Sorry for your loss.

R: I’m guessing you’re a business person of some sort, so maybe one more time making this point will do the trick: The awakening already has happened. It occurred when we realized that the gastropubish thing you personally like so much was not working given our situation, when trying to capitalize two expensive propositions at once, and then trying to adapt to a changing local landscape.

But hear this: The fact that the local landscape changed is immense consolation for me, and is a salve for my own disappointment.

We worked and bled for three+ years to make the advent of establishments like The Exchange possible. Without us, and a few other downtown pioneers, there wouldn’t be these other options, where you now take your clients and remind me of it in a comment without a valid return e-mail address. I don't want a medal for it, but it's true. Period.

Make no mistake, I’m happy for you; I love The Exchange and others just as much. I’m happy for me and for us that they’re there. I wish them the best. They all should buy our beer, shouldn’t they – being local, and all that.

But BSB could not continue down the same path given our future company needs, once our sacrifice helped clear a path for them, and nor should we, because it’s all just business, isn’t it? We do what we must to stay breathing, just like them, and I suppose, just like you. I accept your critique. Yes, I resent your attitude in light of your not being familiar with life in my shoes. But I congratulate you for coming to downtown New Albany, which is the larger point.

I know what you’re saying comes out of disappointment. If you’re disappointed, just imagine my level of the same. However, I know that what we’re doing is an evolutionary step. Exactly where it goes next, I’m not sure. It goes, and that's the idea. Your ideas, and anyone else’s, are welcomed. Thank you for probably not reading this, Thomas, although I feel much better after writing it.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

This one says it all about localism and better beer.

It's from the Mile High Business Alliance in Denver, and perfectly encapsulates my viewpoint as to the marriage of localism and better beer.

Before I steal this and have Tony rework it, I'll ask permission.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Another enriching beer dinner, this time at MilkWood.

As usual, my sloppy iPhone photo doesn't do it justice. Pictured above is the main course (lamb shoulder) at the MilkWood/NABC beer dinner on Thursday, April 17. In honor of the occasion, I pulled a Dylan Thomas quote; the restaurant is named for his play, “Under Milk Wood.”

"I liked the taste of beer, its live white lather, its brass-bright depths, the sudden world through the wet brown walls of the glass, the tilted rush to the lips and the slow swallowing down to the lapping belly, the salt on the tongue, the foam at the corners."

I can't say enough about the eatery's staff, those who attended, and the meal itself. For those who have yet to check it out, MilkWood is downstairs at Actor's Theater on Main Street in Louisville. It accurately describes itself like this:

Chef Edward Lee's newest venture, MilkWood, is a restaurant celebrating how Southern cuisine and Asian ingredients can be friends.

Go there.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

War is over, if you want it.

There'll come a time when someone will ask me, "But Roger, I thought ... "

You thought right, but you see, the war is over, and when the time comes, I'll explain it. I've had to do it often lately, and that's what happens when you find yourself in the losing locker room. Just remember that the press is entitled to interview the vanquished, too, and until that day arrives, let's turn back the pages to 1898 and Secretary of State John Hay, who wrote these words in reference to the Spanish-American War.

"It has been a splendid little war, begun with the highest motives, carried on with magnificent intelligence and spirit, favored by that Fortune which loves the brave."

Yeah, right, and we know better. Naturally, no war ever is splendid, is it? So, yes; you thought right ... but times and people change. So it goes. You change with them, and move on down the road.

The Diary of Our Own Jimmy Bracken: Wrestling, better beer and the yawnable thumping of chests.

A former professional wrestler by the name of James Hellwig died recently. Apparently he was known by a stage name, as the Ultimate Warrior.

"Stage" name is appropriate, because as Wikipedia points out in the article entitled professional wrestling:

This article is about wrestling as a form of rehearsed entertainment.

Professional wrestling (often shortened pro wrestling, or simply wrestling) is a mode of spectacle which combines athletic and theatrical performance. It takes the form of events, held by touring companies, which mimic a title match combat sport. The unique form of sport portrayed is fundamentally based on classical and "catch" wrestling, with modern additions of striking attacks, strength-based holds and throws, and acrobatic maneuvers; much of these derive from the influence of various international martial arts. An additional aspect of combat with improvised weaponry is sometimes included to varying degrees.

The matches have predetermined outcomes in order to heighten entertainment value, and all combative maneuvers are executed with the full cooperation of those involved and carefully performed in specific manners intended to lessen the chance of actual injury. These facts were once kept highly secretive but are now a widely accepted open secret. By and large, the true nature of the performance is not discussed by the performing company in order to sustain and promote the willing suspension of disbelief for the audience by maintaining an aura of verisimilitude.

For a very long while I've known, and accepted, that when it comes to popular music, I've missed the entire era of rap and hip hop -- comprehensively, from the very start to right about now. There is no antipathy; merely omission, and as a generally intelligent adult, I understand that having no knowledge of this pervasive musical genre means that I'm hopelessly out of a powerful cultural loop, utterly detached from a powerful shaper of those younger than me -- for two decades or more.

It's fairly clear to me that a 35-year-old has been influenced heavily by such music, whether overtly or subliminally, even if I'm oblivious to it.

What I didn't grasp, at least until recently, is how significant the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE), progenitor of the "championship wrestling" of my own youth, has been when it comes to the cultural outlook of a generation now also defining beer geekdom.

I note this for various reasons, chief among them the preening, strutting and exhibitionistic entertainment ethos exemplified by wrestling of this contrived type. Chest-thumping may be the literal, historic contribution of outdated Tarzan movies, but surely this act of masculine boastfulness was perfected by the forever calculating WWF. In the current age of short attention spans of shortened (perhaps obliterated) attention spans, it's the preferred marketing strategy of many breweries.

Better beer and championship wrestling. Maybe there's something to this observation, and maybe not. The connection is not my cup of tea, NABC's Hacksaw Jim Dunkel notwithstanding, but something I've grown accustomed to seeing. I suppose I need to make peace with it; either that, or get riled up, start yelling, and thump my chest. Maybe wield a folding metal chair, or a tire iron.

Seems silly to me.

Halfway to LCBW, all the way with NABC to MilkWood this Thursday.

(Wednesday update: Here's the menu)

For those readers in or near Louisville, I'm told that a complete list of sponsors and events will be in a special section within tomorrow's LEO Weekly. It's also at

I'm not sure whether NABC is listed anywhere, but if not, we will be doing a beer dinner at MilkWood on Thursday, April 17. The menu hasn't gotten to me yet, so what I know is this:

MilkWood Welcomes the New Albanian
Thursday, April 17th, 6:30pm
Four courses paired with five beers, $55
Call 502.584.6455 for reservations

I'll be there with Blake, saying subversive things about beer and enjoying the meal at one of Louisville's finest restaurants.

Halfway to Louisville Craft Beer Week starts Wednesday, by Kevin Gibson (Insider Louisville)

Hard to believe we’re already halfway there. But hey, any excuse to drink a local craft beer is a good excuse. So let Halfway to Louisville Craft Beer Week commence.

Have mercy ... Lew's been waiting for the bus all day.

Not really; just 45 minutes each way.

It isn't for the purpose of name-dropping that I mention drinking a few beers with Lew Bryson yesterday afternoon.

Lew flew into Louisville with a relatively brief window of opportunity for having a drink with me. Early on, he mentioned a bus to Bank Street Brewhouse, and upon learning that BSB is closed on Monday, replied that the same bus serviced the Pizzeria & Public House.

I'm not sure what I thought he meant by bus, but I wasn't interpreting it literally, at least until I drove over to the Pizzeria & Public House to meet him, and learned that Louisville's Transit Authority of River City (TARC) does in fact run buses connecting both our locations, and do so in a roughly timely fashion. Lew got on the bus in front of the 21C Museum Hotel and got off in front of the Grant Line Road Kroger ... drank four pints of beer ... and then reversed the process.

There's something pleasingly sessionable and egalitarian about all this. Now Lew has to work (i.e., drink bourbon) for a few days, but his lesson in public transportation is much appreciated, and I must reluctantly discard my defunct 15-year-old anecdote about taking the 2.5-hour-long, one-way bus -- actually three buses with two separate half-hour layovers -- from Grant Line Road to Bluegrass Brewing Company in St. Matthews.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The PC: My shoes are filled with Volga mud: (3) Beer hunters lurking nearby.

(Published at on April 14, 2014)


My shoes are filled with Volga mud: (3) Beer hunters lurking nearby.

A 1999 travelogue in three parts.

March 31: (1) A tale of a fateful trip.
April 7: (2) The future is the past.
April 14: (3) Beer hunters lurking nearby.

(3) Beer hunters lurking nearby.

I awoke groggy and disoriented. We had retreated indoors quite early the previous evening, aiming to avoid mosquitoes of Biblical proportions, and sat inside talking and drinking Baltika Porter in the odd glow of a never quite black summer’s night.

Allan’s local helper had been commissioned to prepare fish soup for a midday meal to be consumed just prior to making the drive back to Moscow, and this left us with several hours to explore. Allan proposed a drive to a nearby town.

Armed with bootlegged Jackson Browne and Bad Company CD’s procured for next to nothing at the thriving music market back in Moscow, we set out for the scenic trek to Kolyazin, a dusty and isolated nowhere town that has the eternal good fortune to be dusty and isolated less than four hours away from Moscow – this being “good fortune” because a brief look at any reputable map of Russia will reveal there to be hundreds of Kolyazins, most of them located in places that are so lost in the middle of nothingness that they might as well be on another planet.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Louisville Bats and Centerplate present: The Sahara of Slugger Field, 2014 version.

Here comes the first pitch of the 2014 season from Centerplate, and it's ... $6.75 for a draft craft beer at Louisville Slugger Field this year -- well, assuming you can find it. Amazingly, the situation may be worse than it was in 2013.

At a time when the Cincinnati Reds, parent club of the Triple-A Louisville Bats, is generating big-time headlines with a new craft beer concessions destination ...

Cincinnati Reds Go Big With Craft Beer, by Graham Averill (Paste)

Baseball season begins in April and over the last few years, there’s been a trend among major league ball parks to offer craft beer options in addition to the ubiquitous macro beer options. The Cincinnati Reds are taking their love for craft beer to a whole new level. This season, the Great American Ball Park will debut an 85-foot-long craft beer bar, dubbed the Reds Brewery District Bar, that features 60 taps and 23 different craft beers from all over the country.

 ... the Bats and Centerplate offer this delicious list of elementary-school-cafeteria-quality options.

The list does not identify brand names, so we turn to intrepid reader JZ, who gives us the report on the opening night options at the forlorn roasted peanut stand on the concourse by Section 115:

"BBC APA, Sam Adams Lager, Reds' Apple Ale & Leinies' Shandy. 2 out of 4 is not good."


If you're keeping score, that's one locally brewed craft beer (Bluegrass Brewing Company), one nationally distributed lager, and two MillerCoors foo-foo abominations.

As in the past, Louisville's chapter of Craft Beer Nation turns its lonely eyes to Against the Grain, which is the nearest option for good beer outside the turnstiles. Recently, AtG was hinting that it would be involved inside the ballpark this year -- you know, where the games being played actually can be viewed.

Accordingly, and with uncharacteristic excitement for my pay grade of cynicism. I asked AtG today at Twitter for scoop -- and here's a transcript of the conversation, with two random comments contributed by John King.


You guys doing beer inside the ballpark this year?

Looking at those prices, I'd be sneaking a couple cans in. And peanuts.

Yep. Centerplate needs to burnish it's monopoly, and the Bats need to pretend they're responsive

I can't judge, I pay $8 for Old Style to watch my team lose every year in Chicago.

We always have beer at the ball park! ... seriously, not immediately, draft box is still at shop & we don't have product to allocate yet.

It's low on the priority list & we've a lot on our plates at the moment.

Slim hope is better than none at all. Thanks.


There's nothing much to add, is there? Another season at Louisville Slugger Field, and another strikeout for better beer at the ballpark. John's close to the mark; cheering for good beer at a Bats game is rather like rooting for the Cubs. The season ends, and once again, you're disappointed.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Concerto of Quaff: How to connect chicha with the Louisville Orchestra.

It always is advisable to define one's terms, particularly when confronted with the illiteracy prevalent in today's world of declining e-ttention spans, and so when I say to you that I'm a longtime fan of classical music, here's a definition of it.

Classical music is art music produced or rooted in the traditions of Western music (both liturgical and secular). It encompasses a broad period from roughly the 11th century to the present day.[1] The central norms of this tradition became codified between 1550 and 1900, which is known as the common practice period.

And yes, by linking to Wikipedia, I'm in full possession of an ironic sense. Meanwhile, last Friday we attended a performance by the Louisville Orchestra. I wrote about it at NA Confidential.

The Louisville Orchestra plays Robert Schumann, at the Ogle Center last night.

... as the four horn players were brought to the front of the orchestra to perform their part of Schumann's Konzertstück for Four Horns, Bernhardt observed that horn players come equipped with towels and the frequent need to unburden their instruments of condensation in the form of human spittle. The principal horn player agreed and demonstrated the process, removing the u-shaped section, blowing into the mouthpiece, and spraying the ground.

We had a very good view of all this from the second row, and it didn't offend me, as I played trumpet briefly as a child, before learning that one actually was compelled to practice to play successfully. What was truly funny was the horn player's comment, glancing down at the puddle: "Tomorrow morning, this might be New Albanian Hoptimus."

It is the first time Hoptimus has been mistaken for chicha, and gives me a valuable seasonal beer idea. In fact, a Chicha Horn might become the next trendy fermentation vessel.

And what is chicha?

Chicha, in all its incarnations, ranged from the Andes up to what is now the southwestern United States. The Apache made a traditional corn beer, the prohibition of which was one of Geronimo’s reasons for rebelling against the resettlement regime in the 1880s. Recent archaeological evidence suggests that some Pueblo tribes of modern-day New Mexico, long thought to be teetotalers, were making their own fermented corn drink about 800 years ago. So, arguably, chicha is the original American beer.

When the link to my thoughts about the LO's Schumann homage appeared on Facebook and Twitter, page views abruptly spiked, and there was much social media banter by the orchestra's musicians. Several thoughts belatedly occurred to me.

Since we've had a Public House, we've had orchestra members and friends as customers. Some of them I've gotten to know quite well.

I shouldn't be surprised that a horn player would mention Hoptimus. Perhaps because classical music has a reputation as inaccessible to wholly normal folks like me, it might seem odd, but it definitely isn't.

Whenever I've written about the Louisville Orchestra, there have been plenty of readers, and an enjoyable conversation, as during the most recent occasion:

Forget those horns and their spittle! How about VIOLA VENOM?

I can be fairly slow on the draw, but it's finally dawning on me that the these beer loving musicians are being criminally underserved. NABC has its cooperative Houndmouth Ale, and our Black & Blue Grass is loosely tied thematically to bluegrass music. Pop and rock groups have their beers, too, but damn it, why not a classical-themed brew? A seasonal bottle release could be tied to the LO's fundraising efforts, and a portion of proceeds help support the music.

Conceding that I've no idea where these thoughts are headed, if such a beer is practical (surely it will not be chicha, as attractively subversive as the notion strikes me), or if we have the time or capacity to brew it, nonetheless these past few days have been filled with "how stupid can I be" moments. This has been staring me in the face for years.

Classic beer for classical music. It really needs to happen.

Hunter's Double D and Seattle Slew Kabobs, please.

In 1987, May Day fell on a Friday.

I was in Vienna (Austria, not Virginia) for the weekend, walking into the center to watch the annual parade held in honor of the world’s holiday for workers, and punctuating the experience with periodic doses of lager beer.

My exact thoughts cannot be known even now, when they’re occurring, much less 27 years later, but I’m confident that among them on this pleasant spring day in the cradle of the Habsburgs was this: “Hot damn – I’m missing Derby for this!”

In 1987, I’d barely taken note of the encroachment of ATMs on the now lost art of exchanging traveler’s checks, and so I couldn’t have foreseen the advent of Twitter, on which I recently made another installment in a seemingly endless series of disgruntlements, NCAA Meets Derby Festival Edition:

The problem with living here is when they finally stop babbling about college basketball, they begin babbling about the Kentucky Derby.

Armed and ready with an answer was Jerod Clapp of the News and Tribune.

Given my proximity to the Downs, this is my least favorite time of year. Let's brew an anti-commemorative beer. Something sour.

It was sounding more and more like a plan, and what better as bistro accompaniment to soured Derby ale than Secretariat Burgers, perhaps with some jockey-itch sauce on the side. How I detest Horse Pimp Days in these parts!

But Jerod’s final idea was the best of all:

Ya know, it's HST's year in Louisville - "Hunter's Double D." After his essay on the whole thing.

For the unenlightened, my correspondent refers to the founding document in the pantheon of gonzo, Hunter S. Thompson’s “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.” Much to my surprise upon joyfully rereading this fabled piece, it actually is possible to lift on sentence as summary.

So the face I was trying to find in Churchill Downs that weekend was a symbol, in my own mind, of the whole doomed atavistic culture that makes the Kentucky Derby what it is.

It’s hard for me to fathom that in 1987, I was less than two decades removed from Thompson’s visit to Churchill Downs, when I was 10 years old. In three weeks, it will have been 44 years, and while the entire planet has changed its stripes numerous times since 1970, the Kentucky Derby remains just as decadent and depraved, and likely will stay that way.

That’s both timeless and thoroughly idiotic. At least we have better local beer now.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Get thee to Bloomington this Saturday, and avoid Thunder Over Fischerville.

This Saturday is the 4th annual Bloomington Craft Beer Fest. NABC's lineup for the fest, and our events preceding it during Bloomington Craft Beer Week, can be found at the web site:

NABC in Bloomington, April 11 & 12, for Craft Beer Week and the Craft Beer Fest

The fact that Kentucky Derby Festival organizers pushed this year's opening Thunder Over Louisville fireworks show back a week to accommodate Easter weekend poses a problem: What to do? Go to Bloomington for the BIG festival this Saturday, or stay in town for Thunder?

Silly question, actually; it's time now for my annual disclaimer.

I get no kick from juleps, and mere horse pimps don’t thrill me at all, but I get a kick out of being a contrarian Grinch each year during Derby Festival.

The orgasmic fireworks display this Saturday known to me as Flatulence Over Louisville always provides grist for this cynic’s willful disobedience, providing an excellent pretext to skip town for somewhere quiet and civilized by comparison … a place where good beer and victuals are readily available to wash away the bad taste of our yearly glorification of pure, old-fashioned American garishness.

In 2013, the Brewers of Indiana Guild's annual meeting was the pretext to enjoy Indianapolis during Blunder. This year, it's Bloomington, the BIG fest, and some exploration. Even better: In 2014, the guild's meeting takes place on Derby Day itself ... and northward I will go.

Let me know when the smoke clears, okay? I really detest this crap.

Monday, April 07, 2014

A statement on the occasion of Session Beer Day.

It is Session Beer Day. Long live session. We've come a long way to get back to first principles, and that's okay. It may be time for a beer.

There is somewhat of a digression to all of this.

Occasionally a cliché bears passing resemblance to reality, and recalling the eagerness of every politician to stump by heaping effusive praise on the genius of good, old-fashioned American workplace creativity, permit me to note that in spite of all my various and cranky complaints, this characterization is spot-on when it comes to contemporary American brewing.

Seeing as New Albion was born during the nation’s Bicentennial year, we’re now almost 40 years into the American brewing renaissance. There now are more than 2,500 working breweries in the United States, collectively producing thousands of different beers.

If there’s one approximate generalization to be made as to where these breweries have come from, and where they’re going, it probably would be this: The boundaries of previously accepted beer style have been pushed, pushed – and pushed again. Often, they have become unrecognizable.

In today’s brewing circles, creativity and extremism have too often become synonymous, with good and bad implications. On the positive side, “extreme” beers twist and expand style definitions, combining unexpected characteristics and conjuring innovative, over-the-top specialties: Cherrywood-smoked Imperial Saison? India Pale Ale with coffee? Beers aged in every sort of used barrel known to man?

All veritable child’s play, these days.

Conversely, the alcohol contents of such creations can be as extreme as the recipes, and have been known to cause blood alcohol machines to proclaim “tilt” before collapsing in a heap of fractured plastic and rusted metal. That’s why at reputable establishments, you see extreme beers served in small glasses.

It remains that throughout human history, revolution inevitably begets complicated cycles of counter-revolution, reaction and retrenchment, and many beer aficionados are joining me by turning back to what is commonly referred to as “session” beer. But credit must go where credit is due, and the prime mover in session advocacy these past few years is beer writer Lew Bryson, who defines his terms at Session Beer Project:

► 4.5% alcohol by volume or less
► flavorful enough to be interesting
► balanced enough for multiple pints
► conducive to conversation
► reasonably priced

In fact, there is a “back to the future” aspect to the revival of session beers. All the European brewing cultures from which today's brewing have drawn inspiration always featured “smaller” beers for daily consumption. Because virtually all American mass-market lagers eventually devolved to smallness, with flavor a forgotten afterthought, new age brewing arguably found its greatest success in going big, but this doesn’t change the question.

Can a beer be lower in alcohol without sacrificing flavor?

There is little doubt it can be, and metro Louisville breweries tend to have fine examples on tap. At NABC, we try to keep three session-strength ales flowing at our two locations, year-round. One of Against the Grain’s revolving style pours is Session. Apocalypse, the BBCs, Cumberland … all have beers during the year that dip below the mark and retain plenty of flavor.

On the occasion of Session Beer Day, permit me to reiterate: Having been there and done that, the very notion of session beer reanimates the pleasing imagery that drew me to beer in the first place: Pints to return to, with good conversation and perhaps a cigar (mood and weather willing); imbibed in a clean, well-lighted joint or a breezy garden; and not so strong that I lose the power of speech. Localism and session are intertwined, and go together like Best Bitter and bangers & mash.

I’ll always enjoy the higher echelons of alcohol in beer, but for me, they’ve become reserved largely for special occasions – as was the case for centuries. Meanwhile, session beer signifies coming full circle, back to a more relaxed beer-drinking ethos. The vigorous chase is for youth. Craft (and craftiness) are better suited to a more mature perspective.

At least that’s today’s rationalization, and I’m sticking to it.

The PC: My shoes are filled with Volga mud: (2) The future is the past.

(Published at on April 14, 2014)


My shoes are filled with Volga mud: (2) The future is the past.

A 1999 travelogue in three parts.

March 31: (1) A tale of a fateful trip.
April 7: (2) The future is the past.
April 14: (3) Beer hunters lurking nearby.

(2) The future is the past.

It was 1999, and from the beginning of the trip, it seemed a strange and disjointing sensation to be returning at last to a land that had captivated me so intensely earlier in my life.

In particular, it seemed quite wrong to be entering Russia by airplane. Before, back in the decidedly dark ages of the 1980s, I’d arrived in the Soviet capital only after long journeys by train, taking me eastward over a period of days through ever more mysterious and primitive concentric circles of the Warsaw Pact. Being able to effortlessly glide into an airport while ensconced in the belly of a Swissair jet seemed positively corrupt and decadent by comparison. The proletariat would harshly judge me.

A decade later, sprawling, brooding Moscow remained the imperial capital of Communism, at least in physical appearance. Seventy years of urban methodology was loosely draped with the familiar veneer of capitalism’s purported victory in the long running saga of the Cold War. Garish neons, intrusive billboards, cellular phones, car alarms — even the occasional coat of paint — all conspired to trick the unthinking visitor into believing that Moscow had become somehow Western.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Amid the KBS auto-erotic narcissism, Dale Moss grasps a good point.

Prior to the e-borne fragmentation of traditional print media in metropolitan Louisville, the Courier-Journal was the newspaper of record for the region. There was an Indiana section, and in it, Dale Moss wrote about a quarter-century's worth of columns before moving on just a couple years ago, as the C-J's death throes disgorged another group of long-serving journalism veterans.

Now he has returned, and can be read at the News and Tribune, the local (CNHI chain) newspaper of Floyd and Clark counties.

MOSS: Some thoughts while dreaming of a nap, by Dale Moss (News and Tribune; beware the paywall guard towers and really mean dogs patrolling them)

... Anyway, as part of my reintroduction to you, after all those years in that other newspaper, here is some else of what I believe:

I believe New Albany’s Roger Baylor, and his soulmates around the world, are to be toasted for convincing we rubes to drink better beer. The good-beer evolution resembles revolution. Just check the beer aisle at mainstream sellers such as a Meijer.

I'm glad Dale mentioned this, not so much because I need to see my name yet again in print (or my company's best selling beer referenced at an orchestral performance), but because I spent much of the past week reading various on-line portals inhabited by real salt-of-the-earth beer narcissists, complaining bitterly because they couldn't get enough Founders KBS to earn their personal geek points and merit the inevitable masturbatory selfie on Instagram.

This new age whimpering self-aggrandizement constitutes devolution, not evolution or revolution. The revolutionary part is as Dale Moss views it: Good beer on the shelf at a chain grocery; good beer at ballgames, and good beer enjoying ready availability in places where you spend the times of your life. That's the point. It's what we've spent 25 years pursuing.

And by good beer, I mean just that: Pale Ale, Porter or maybe even a Pilsner done right.

We continue to grow this thing we call craft beer not by commending narcissists for the forbearance in the face of pitiable discrimination, but by expanding the market penetration of good beer and taking the time to chat with those folks standing outside the tent, and wanting to step inside so long as they're not criticized for failing to discern the faint petunia nose on a soured breakfast stout, bottle conditioned with eau de tangerine, and corked, not capped, with a set of Chinese-made pliers conveniently attached ... only $30, if your local liquor store respects your patronage enough to shun and abuse the others who want it, too.

Thanks, Dale. I needed that. Good points have a way of getting you back on point.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Diary: It makes you about as personable as Ahab, too.

Today's witticism credits go to Todd Antz of Keg Liquors. First, to set the stage, here is the Facebook discussion starter from TS:

I know some of you, like myself, have been "beer geeks" for quite some time. It's been really fun watching the growth and popularity of craft beer rise, but don't you sometime long for those days that you could just go buy ... any super delicious beer right off the shelf without having to "chase" it? I know I do. It honestly has gotten to where it pisses me off and it's sort of taken the fun out of it for me. I rarely do it anymore. I'm not buying KBS this year. I'll have my annual 2 glasses of it at Boombozz on Oaks morning and be done with it (thank you, Michael Beckmann). So, to all of you that want it, you're welcome. There are now a few more bottles out there for you to get. And thanks for letting me rant.

There ensued many comments, quite a few of which predictably skipped over shared concepts of irony to exchange notes on chasing and hoarding rare beers, or better yet, replied that while the ranter's point made perfect sense, of course it doesn't apply to me.

Todd subsequently provided what would be the conversation closer in civilized circles, with this brilliant observation:

Moby Dick should be required reading for anyone interested in craft beers.

It's a measure of my present jaundice that I'm quite sure someone is going to ask the inevitable question: Which brewery does Moby Dick own, and where can we get his beers?

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

"The effort it takes to start a brewery is really hellish."

Hoperatives get my vote for best April Fool's gag this year, even if I'd been tipped off in advance and was looking for it.

Verily, the best such "fool" jokes are the ones that possess enough plausibility to disorient, and considering craft beer's lengthy (and growing) laundry list of excess, a satanist brewing business plan might not even merit a second glance. In a world of beard beers, satire may become an endangered species.

Good one, guys.

Area Satanists Plan Craft Brewery

Beelzebub Brewery
Proposed Branding
Encouraged by the historical success of religious orders brewing beer, a Northern Kentucky Satanist congregation is planning to open a craft brewery to support its outreach missions. The Second Primitive Church of Satan (Reformed) in Campbell County has begun the permitting process with State and Federal officials. Beelzebub Brewing Company expects to release its first beers to the public later this calendar year.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Top Five posts at Potable Curmudgeon for March, 2014.

The Top Five is determined by numbers of unique hits, as reported by Blogger. The list begins with No. 5, and ends with No. 1. Thanks for reading.


Of a few taverns past, and some new ones on the way.


"Playing Nice With Bad Beer"? I'd rather not, although adjuncts aren't necessarily the deal killer.


One fine beer dinner at 610 Magnolia.


Does anyone know anything about Wrecker Brewing Company?


New Albany's Donum Dei Brewery, coming soon to Grant Line Road.