Saturday, May 31, 2014

Another year, another fresh round of Floyd County Health Department lies.

On the topic of Boomtown last Sunday, which was a fabulous success as a first-year music festival in downtown New Albany, I cannot put it to rest without mentioning the invaluable performance of the Floyd County Health Department.

Last year, the appropriately festooned Red Shi(r)ts specifically informed beer vendors that hand sanitizer and wet wipes were sufficient to pour draft beers, along with a non-statutory-based permit that is 100% bogus according to no less an authority than the Indiana attorney general himself (a ruling the FCHD refuses to heed). Now, the very same bureaucrats say we must have a hot water hand washing station, and in familiarly Orwellian fashion, they state that this was true last year, too -- just like last year, they said they'd always been enforcing fraudulent permits, when a public records request showed they hadn't.

That's why, as an entity, the FCHD is a lying piece of mongrel cur's feces -- and you can tell 'em I said so. Seeking to usurp the natural order of the state's regulatory division of responsibility is one thing; being unable to tell the truth ups the ante.

Last evening at Bicentennial Park, the brew crew assembled an insulated plastic drinking water cooler and a pail, filling the cooler with water from the hot liquor tank. Earlier in the day, our serving partners at Irish Exit had been told that one such station would suffice for the three vendors working under NABC's supplemental catering permit -- this coming after the roly-poly timer-server who visited us at Boomtown insisted that each participant have a station (how many lies does this make?)

Staff awaited the arrival of the inspector, who turned out to be the very same engorged fellow. He mumbled a few things to Irish Exit's workers and ignored NABC entirely, walking away without so much looking at the crucial addition.

Which means he didn't give us the yellow copy of his thumbs-up public health report, like the stack from last year, not a single one of which made the slightest mention of a hot water hand washing station.

I want my damned yellow sheet. Paper trails are important for bureaucrats, but they're even more important for potential lawsuits. You don't think I've forgotten the e coli references on the department's web site, have you?

The Diary of Our Own Jimmy Bracken: No beer houses in sight, but we remain dauntless.

New Albany probably wouldn't considered the ideal "craft" beer market, although proximity to Louisville certainly figures into any such reckoning.

On Sunday, May 25, we sold 17 kegs of NABC beer at Boomtown, and probably 4 or 5 more at Bank Street Brewhouse. The Grand went through 9 during the Houndmouth show. That's somewhere around 30 kegs in a day, albeit a quite special day.

The thing that struck me about Boomtown is this: In the main, it was not a "beer geek" kind of crowd. They were there for the music, and maybe for the Flea Off market stalls. They had a choice; our compatriots at Irish Exit were selling Lite and Pabst. And yet we did very well indeed.

Midweek, with Boomtown in the rear view mirror until next year, I learned that a second Greater Kentucky wholesale beer distributor was not interested in our products. I don't contest the reasoning, i.e., they have a full and cluttered "book" comprised of numerous beers from numerous breweries, many of them located hundreds of miles away. Left unspoken (though patently obvious) is the point that after all, this is what the consumer base wants.

One of the consumer bases, at least.

In short, it's the consumer base NOT represented at Boomtown, where there were few self-identified beer geeks to be found, and yet the better beer flowed freely.

To reiterate, I don't contest the wholesaler's reasoning. I merely point to a disconnect, one that I've no clue how to remedy. In Indiana, we can self-distribute. In Kentucky, we are obliged to use an intermediary, of which there are relatively few, numerically, and this is is frustrating but fine -- for so long as one of them agrees to partner with us.

When they don't, it's just plain frustrating.

The most bizarre part of all this is geographical. We cannot get beer to Lexington, Kentucky, because we can't find a wholesaler. But wholesalers in Texas, Missouri and Massachusetts have expressed interest. When you'd like to be local/regional but cannot, owing to the leaden weight of the three-tier distribution system, then do you shrug and join the parade by shipping far, far away?

I posted the following on Facebook, and for the record, repeat it here. I can't say there are answers these days, only questions. The bizarre part of all this is that

Several of you have asked; here's the answer: NABC would love to be selling beer in Kentucky outside Jefferson County, but we can't seem to find a wholesaler. The first one died. We divorced the second one. Recent matchmaking has been rebuffed. I'm considering a Kickstarter bid to relocate NABC a couple thousand miles away, thus making us sexy and fashionable for local markets here; but of course that's impractical. In the end, all we have is great beer. I'm quite happy with that. Thanks to those of you who both get it, and GET it.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Offensive to the senses, but too legit to quit.

Every once in a while, a customer will make a comment to the effect that "this place smells awful." It boggles my mind; after all, I've relied on my nose to lead me to breweries on more than one occasion, pre-iPhone. I'm guessing that the law in question originally derived more from Indiana's fabled prohibitionistic instinct than actual odor, and reflected a pattern of harassment not unlike that practiced by the Floyd County Health Department of today.

Sobering discovery: Most Indy microbreweries in violation, by John Tuohy, The Indianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS – They’re a “nuisance,” on par with slaughterhouses, tanneries, glue factories, bone factories or tallow chandleries.

They’re as “offensive to the senses” as a starch factory, foundry or fertilizer plant.

They need to be a safe distance from populated areas, hospitals, children and parks.

What is this public health scourge?


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Fest of Ale in SoIn.

This week's edition of SoIn includes a diagram of this year's Fest of Ale grounds and a preview of the annual Keg Liquors celebration for the benefit of the Crusade for Children. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Cooking classes and much food, close to us at BSB.

The cooking classes mentioned in the press release for "Class with Chef" will take place at Destinations Booksellers, just a few blocks east of Bank Street Brewhouse.

Class with Chef: The official press release.

Coincidentally, Randy and Ann are rethinking their bookstore space in much the same way as NABC is rethinking its Bank Street Brewhouse layout. They are looking to meld books, learning and instruction into a third space.

We're eliminating the expense of a restaurant, and focusing on brewing and using beer as the accompaniment in common with a diverse range of events and happenings.

By the way, downtown New Albany is a food court, and we have beers of proven merit to accompany nearby cuisine. Bring food with you, as discussed here:

My new favorite downtown New Albany dish is ...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Watch as "craft" defines itself out of existence.

There are a number of solid nuggets for thought in this article, most of which point to an inevitable day of reckoning when the word "craft" has become meaningless.

When will we get to that point? I'd say it occurred two or three years ago. Sometimes it takes a while for us to catch up.

As Craft Beer Starts Gushing, Its Essence Gets Watered Down, by Alastair Bland (NPR)

There was once a time when it was easy to throw around the term "craft beer" and know exactly what you were talking about. For decades, craft was the way to differentiate small, independently owned breweries – and the beer they make – from the brewing giants like Coors, Budweiser and Pabst Blue Ribbon.

But the line separating craft brewers from large multinational companies is growing blurrier. Small breweries are transforming into big ones, while big breweries are masquerading as small brands, selling "crafty" knockoff beers in an attempt to lure customers from the craft beer market.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The PC: Post-Boomtown reflections.

The PC: Post-Boomtown reflections.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

The state of Indiana’s laws governing temporary alcoholic beverage serving permits are not overly complicated, unless one takes enduring human nature into consideration.

Then it gets weird.

For instance, there is the concept of enclosing such temporary events, typically through the use of portable fencing, and providing attendees with delineated points of entry and exit. It is what we had to do in order to stage the Boomtown Ball on May 25 – not what we’d have preferred to do, but what the law requires us to do.

Whomever pulls the temporary alcoholic beverage sales permit is obliged to enforce the rules, or risk fines -- or even losing the yearly permit upon which daily business depends.

As such, I understand that you’d like to carry your beer from the enclosure and wander the streets outside. Unfortunately, we cannot allow you to do that. Alcoholic beverages sold within the enclosure are supposed to remain there and not be carried out. Similarly, alcoholic beverages purchased outside the enclosure are not supposed to be brought inside.

Stringing green plastic event fencing around the perimeter of Boomtown and posting policemen at the entrances to monitor containers were two essential components necessary for us to be issued a license, and to operate the event in a way suiting the Alcohol & Tobacco Commission.

Another was the inner fencing around the bar area. This was to delineate the actual serving area as an over-21-only place, as opposed to the all-ages space (everything else within the perimeter fencing). These measures satisfied the state, but not all of those in attendance.

For instance, there was the woman who walked up to a section of fencing we’d just repaired, and began tearing it apart to create her own exit.

“Excuse me, but that’s not an exit. It’s a fence.”

“But it isn’t clearly marked.”

Note that the state of Indiana does not yet require us to post signs stating the obvious, as in “THIS IS A FENCE.” To be sure, as a lifelong malcontent, I’ve often had the same reaction to fencing as the woman. But one looks at reality differently when his name’s on the festival permit.

A different lesson was grasped on the other side of the compound, where families were seated at tables adjacent to the mandated fencing. A feet away, there was a green, grassy, open area owned by St. Marks church. After Sunday, I know that in such situations children cannot be deterred from destroying fencing to go play in the grass, pushing the fence upward on the crawl while adults mashed it down in pursuit of their wayward kids.

Overall, the first-ever Boomtown festival went quite well, even if my own stress levels did not subside until the closing bell and final teardown. Being obliged to enforce rules that ordinary blokes are unaware exist (and why would they be aware?) is a challenge, but I suppose we all need to be good at something. We’ll do a better job of it next year, if there is a next year.

Until then, while the grass may truly be greener on the other side of the fence, would you consider using the actual exit portals to access it? And no, you can’t take the beer with you.


It has been two weeks since NABC’s Bank Street Brewhouse relinquished its food service and began a new life as brewery taproom, and while I’ll miss the Asian chicken wings, early returns are quite encouraging. It may prove to be the best decision we ever made.

We’ve been selling house-brewed beer, both on premise and for carryout, at a steady clip. The Big Four Burger mobile stand will set up shop outside on Fridays through August 22, concurrent with the Bicentennial Park concert series, and as word gets around, we’re seeing customers starting to bring their own food from nearby eateries.

On Sunday night, after the Boomtown festival shut down and the Houndmouth show commenced at The Grand, four of us ordered carry-out from Dragon King’s Daughter (literally, a stone’s throw from BSB) and spread it atop a metal table on the front veranda at the brewhouse. Progressive pints arrived as accompaniment. Sashimi flatbread and fried calamari proved to be quite well matched with cask-conditioned Beak’s Best Bitter.

The central point is that now, with the kitchen shuttered (albeit fully licensed, just in case), numerous ideas and opportunities are open to us. We can judge these many options by how they contribute to making Bank Street Brewhouse a place where various things happen, as enhanced by great beer, and as opposed to being a restaurant where only some things can happen.

It isn’t only what we can plan for the space as owners and managers, but what our customers bring to it in terms of utility. It’s now a placemaking project as much as anything, and that’s exciting.

About the only thing customers cannot bring to BSB is their own alcohol. It’s those pesky state regulations again.

I know there’ll be many “former” customers, primarily those who came to Bank Street Brewhouse for the food, and many of whom didn’t once drink a beer. I only hope that they have fond memories.

However, as much as we threw ourselves into the food component for five years, and hated to see it go away, the numbers don’t lie even if the health department routinely does. At inception, BSB was intended to be all about the beer. Now, it truly is all about the beer, come what may.

Thanks to all those who have taken the time to offer ideas and encouragement. More than ever, ideas matter, and yours are important to us.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Boomtown: Festival merriment in downtown New Albany today.

It seems as though I've been preparing for today since February.

Wait ... I actually have been.

Like most such complex undertakings, the Boomtown Ball simultaneously has functioned as longed-for occurrence and 800-lb gorilla. One thing I can state with certainty: New Albany never has seen anything quite like it.

There'll be a big fenced expanse centered on the farmers market, containing a temporary stage with music from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., the Flea Off Market, some local vendors, and the Boomtown Tavern. Outside the enclosure, which must exist according to Indiana state alcohol laws, are New Albany's retail shops, eateries and watering holes, many of them observing special Sunday hours today. Later, around 9:00 p.m., local favorites Houndmouth play a homecoming show at The Grand (it sold out in three days). The Grand purchased ten kegs of Houndmouth for this performance.

Fingers crossed. Let's do this.

Boomtown Ball today, Houndmouth tonight ... and Flea Off, bands, beer and things.

"Big Four Burgers joins forces with NABC for Friday evening food at Bank Street Brewhouse."

The owner of Big Four Burgers + Beer in Jeffersonville is Matt McMahan, who operates Irish Exit in New Albany. He already had a food trailer under construction before the recent kitchen suspension at Bank Street Brewhouse, and the timing's perfect for both of us. The obvious next step is to cover Saturday during summer by a similar arrangement with food vendors. The BSB kitchen remains operational, and is licensed, so options exist there, too.

During the two weeks that have followed perestroika at BSB, feedback has been interestingly generational. Generally speaking, the younger generation seems happier with the notion of kaleidoscopic and variable food options, and my own cohort a tad grumpier. I'm viewing the situation as one in which a tremendous number of options to use the BSB space now have come into being, as opposed to a previous state of being in which almost every decision we made had to be taken against a backdrop of what was best for the kitchen. Had we been making money hand over fist ... but I digress.

Let's see how this burger, beer and music idea works out, beginning May 30, then go from there. The details are here: Big Four Burgers joins forces with NABC for Friday evening food at Bank Street Brewhouse

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Diary of Our Own Jimmy Bracken: "Oh, Mr. Putty tat. Don't you wike me anymore?"

I harbor no illusions when it comes to the give-and-take of discourse. If you hold strong views and have the ability to state them coherently, there'll be disagreements, and you'll make enemies. It's all part of the game. At times, the other guy musters the better argument, and that's just fine.

Then there are those "WTF" times when you're advised to smile and walk away, because the primary thrust of the argument being directed against you is that you're literate.

Don't hold your breath expecting me to apologize for being literate. It won't happen.

Yesterday was one such time for shrugging. To make a long story very short, a frequent critic returned to one of his favorite subjective themes: NABC brews sub-standard and boring beers. His objective evidence? That'd be the fact that ... that ... well, that in his opinion they're sub-standard and boring.

I can't speak to the absence of objectivity now choking beer enthusiasm like so many invasive weeds. We've somehow raised an entire generation that wishes to pose as a priestly caste, although without the first notion of objectivity apart from that of Kolsch being "bad" only because it isn't IPA. The noteworthy aspect of yesterday's discussion was that it was about localism in beer, digressing relatively quickly owing to the usual beer narcissist's knee-jerk objection: BUT YOU CAN'T FORCE ME TO DRINK BAD BEER.

Wouldn't think of it, although it depends on what the meaning of "geek" is. Let's move on to the keynote speaker. He wrote:

I wish NABC would be a force in the local beer community, but it just seems to fall to memory of what it was. Instead of competing with a force such as AtG, it seems Roger just wants to complain about the people in long drawn out sentences as if they are the problem and not what is going into the bottles.

It's an utterly fascinating sentence, this: "Instead of competing with a force such as AtG."

We need to be a force, and they need to be a force. Of course, force isn't defined. As I've noted previously, reducing the better beer world to the rote screenplay of a WWE bout is indicative of something, and perhaps many things ... though not better beer.

It seems to me that we're in the business of competing for consumers, not against each other, and the wonderful thing about consumers is that they come in all sizes, shapes, colors and levels of interest. Accordingly, there are markets for beer of a similarly diverse range in terms of variety.

It's why I like session beers, and why we at NABC are tying to keep four of them tap all of the time. We do it because people are drinking them, and as capitalists, we then are compelled to make more. That's really the purpose of the exercise.

One way to look at this might be that given AtG's customary single (and invariably solid) session beer, we've already "competed" with them and won. Personally, it's nonsense and I don't agree -- because there isn't any competition, between us. We do different things in route to a common purpose. What interests NABC at present is widening the scope of better beer, not just for the self-possessed cognoscenti, but for ordinary people who develop an interest in better beer and are ignored by the likes of my correspondent.

I could go on, but it's futile. Maybe if there is time, I can log in at and hammer the bejesus out of his.

Friday, May 23, 2014

"I think we are one of the best breweries in the world."

I love a good shtick.

The Back & Forth W/ SAM CRUZ (

Against The Grain Is One Of The Booming Drink And Grub Joints Here In Louisville. How Did It All Come To Fruition?

“Honestly, I think it’s our commitment to quality and improvement. For so long, Louisville has had a handful of places that were the ‘it’ spots and I think many of them got too comfortable with the position. So when we (and we certainly aren’t alone) came into the picture, folks were chomping at the bit to get a higher quality product and experience. Which leads me to another point. We have such an amazing city with all the potential and abilities of other cities. So it only seemed fitting that we could do things as good (if not better) as some of the other ‘rock-star’ breweries in the U.S.A. That said, we can also be proud of it. Maybe it’s a bit presumptuous, but I don’t give a fuck. I think we are one of the best breweries in the world, and definitely the best in KY. I’d put our beer on the table next to anything on the globe. I guess it’s ‘that’ that propels us forward.”

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pete Coors 2: "We bought a craft brewery in Georgia" and can Keystone it as we please.

The Denver Post's Jeremy Meyers does a truly masterful job in helping swill scion Pete Coors portray himself as a doddering incompetent, as in the previous excerpt.

However, in the passage below, Coors makes quite plain certain truths about the nature and reality of craft: Once his "crafty" DNA (even HE knows the difference) is spattered on 'em, they're damaged goods, in spite of what shoe-gazing beer narcissists insist as they suckle at the Bourbon County teat.

Read as Coors speaks of craft beer acquisitions as though they were baseball trading cards, and imagine him confiding in his fellow monopolists during the annual sex on the beach beer baron confab that if Terrapin doesn't work out, he'll just toss it on the remainders table.

Pete Coors is a windbag and a has-been. I'm not sure what it says about you if you give him (or AB-InBev) your money.

But he appreciates it, thank you very much.

Pete Coors, big beer industry continues to grapple with craft beers, by Jeremy Meyer (Denver Post)

 ... (Pete) Coors said to continue to be fresh, the company is looking at developing more new beers, looking at the possibility of acquiring more breweries and even pushing its new cider brands. He mentioned the 2009 purchase of Terrapin Beer Co. in Georgia as one experiment.

“We know a lot about brewing crafty beers and we are looking at new things all the time,” he said, adding that Colorado Native and Batch 19 have been popular additions. “We have a whole portfolio. Anheuser-Busch has a huge portfolio. They have acquired Goose Island and others. We bought a craft brewery in Georgia, Terrapin. We are a minority interest, which isn’t working out the best. So we are learning about that. And we have a growing cider brand.”

Pete Coors 1: We have an "algorithm and an app" to verify our rotary dial of a light beer.

Nothing the scion of swill says in this passage applies exclusively to the "premium light" brands of watery alco-pop his companies and his brethren produce.

Pete Coors 2: "We bought a craft brewery in Georgia" and can Keystone it as we please.

Given that bar owners worth their salt are replacing crap with craft on tap, and relegating "premium light" to bottles and cans in the back bar cooler (seems like a "fact" to me), as a response to palpable demand, Pete's "research" comes off somewhat tainted. Bar owners can switch brand loyal customers to bottles and cans because brand loyal customers are neutered drones, locked into a dreary towpath, and unwilling to change.

But even if we accept the Coors flailing as legitimate in the context of dinosaur death throes, keeping a customer in his seat an extra 18 minutes (not 17, and not 19) might just as likely be achieved by combining the best of both virtues; keep a genuine session beer on tap, one that is lower in ABV and milder, yet flavorful, fills that stool for another pint and resists the Silver Bullet's fundamental vapidity ... at a higher return, no less.

Pete Coors can blow it out his reactionary ass. The sooner the dinosaurs are extinct, the better.

Pete Coors, big beer industry continues to grapple with craft beers, by Jeremy Meyer (Denver Post)

... “Basically the biggest trouble we have is on-premise sales,” he said. “We have a lot of bar owners who are enamored with craft beers. They are beginning to take off the premium light handles and putting bottles behind the bar instead and replacing the handles with craft beer handles. We lose 50 percent of our volume when that happens.”

The company is trying to compel bar owners to keep their beers on tap by impressing them with facts.

“We have done research that shows it’s not in the economic benefit for a bar to do that,” he said. “Having a premium light brand, whether it’s Coors, Miller or Bud on tap actually improves the economics of their business. People stay in their seats an average of 18 minutes longer when they have a light premium beer on tap. That means they are spending more money, leaving bigger tips. We have a little algorithm and an app that we give to our distributors to evaluate and analyze these businesses and bars.”

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sustainability: "It's about the soil."

Lately, and for obvious reasons, I've been fond of saying that the first ironclad rule of sustainability is survival. Without respiration, the remainder is rhetoric.

Then there's crop rotation.

What Farm-to-Table Got Wrong, by Dan Barber (New York Times)

... Today, almost 80 percent of Americans say sustainability is a priority when purchasing food. The promise of this kind of majority is that eating local can reshape landscapes and drive lasting change.

Except it hasn’t.

One section is of specific interest to beer fans.

... It’s one thing for chefs to advocate cooking with the whole farm; it’s another thing to make these uncelebrated crops staples in ordinary kitchens. Bridging that divide will require a new network of regional processors and distributors.

Take beer, for example. The explosion in local microbreweries has meant a demand for local barley malt. A new malting facility near Klaas’s farm recently opened in response. He now earns 30 percent more selling barley for malt than he did selling it for animal feed. For other farmers, it’s a convincing incentive to diversify their grain crops.

It isn't for nothing that we refer to food chains, and in the case of barley (and hops), local supplies count for little absent the means to malt and process them. While it's true that many readers already know this, remember that others don't. It can make for interesting barside conversation.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The PC: The uses of the past.

The PC: The uses of the past.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

For those just tuning in, this column used to appear at, but henceforth will be published here each Monday. Previous columns at are archived there.


In the late 1980s, reports began filtering into Southern Indiana alleging the existence of an institution known as the brewpub.

It sounded crazy enough, and what’s more, the deliverers of this news tended to have a wild-eyed, messianic appearance; they’d seen the future, and it was a place that made beer of its own and served it to you right there, on site, as you sat and stared at a television screen just like at any other bar.

In other words, the way it had been done for thousands of years before being confined to factories.

At the time, my exposure to better beer while living stateside had come exclusively from the import aisle, although the time was fast approaching when I’d be called upon to give a helping hand to friendly local homebrewers by diligently drinking the remnants of their previous batch -- seated in a camp chair, cigar in jaw, watching as they labored to render the next one.

That’s what I call voyeurism, of a heightened, refined sort.

Thus it transpired that in 1992, just a few months before turning 32 years of age, I’d never had the pleasure of setting foot in an American brewpub. Not a single one.

To be sure, I’d visited European breweries both large (Carlsberg, Heineken) and small (U Fleku, Spezial), but upon returning home to metropolitan Louisville, our somewhat barren local beerscape remained, awash with dreadful low-calorie swill manufactured elsewhere in a factory.

Unknown to me, change was about to come. Serendipity always reigns supreme in our lives, and as the leaves reappeared during that spring of 1992, there was a turning point.

In May, I went to Chicago to take the State Department’s Foreign Service exam. Failing that (literally), there was time to navigate the CTA transport grid and visit the original, independent Goose Island brewpub, which deeply impressed me. Perhaps enjoying my first ever American brewpub experience at Goose Island is directly linked to my supreme and abiding disdain of what Trojan Goose has become since selling out to the beer assassins at AB-InBev.

By July of 1992, I’d made the decision to get into the food and drink business at the Public House formerly known as Rich O’s. Later that autumn the Silo, Louisville’s first brewery of the modern era, opened with David Pierce in the brewhouse. The Silo brewed its own beer and served it to us along with food.

Finally, we had brewpub, and had come full circle.


A new era abruptly exploded, and with it came many more opportunities to visit brewpubs and microbreweries. I didn’t always travel in America, but when I did, I’d look for the places making beer on site.

Here is a list of 15 American breweries I visited during the 1990s

Baltimore Brewing in Baltimore, Maryland
Tucker Brewing in Salem, Indiana
Silo Brewery in Louisville
Pipkin Brewing in Louisville
Oldenberg Grill in Louisville
Oldenberg Brewing in Ft Mitchell, Kentucky
Silver Creek Brewing Corporation in Sellersburg, Indiana
Main Street Brewing in Cincinnati, Ohio
Barrel House Brewing in Cincinnati, Ohio
BrewWorks at the Party Source in Covington, Kentucky
Circle V Brewing in Indianapolis, Indiana
Crooked River Brewing in Cleveland, Ohio
Diamondback Brewing in Cleveland, Ohio
Champion Brewing in Denver, Colorado
Dixon’s Downtown Grill in Denver, Colorado

As you may have gleaned, what these 15 businesses have in common is that they are deceased, and if there is any one integral component of a sustainability doctrine, it is the necessity of the individual, business or ecosystem being animate, as opposed to dead. No pulse, no sustainability.

There were quite a few good beers brewed at these establishments, and also some stinkers. Some of them brewed for production and distribution, while others were oriented for on-site consumption. In my mind, each contributed something memorable to the narrative, and deserves to be remembered.

Ultimately, the reasons for them ceasing to exist lie outside the scope of today’s rumination, although we can reasonably surmise that these factors mirror those of other, non-brewing businesses: Variable leases, poor locations, business plans that went sour when the coin landed tails and not heads, or maybe plain bad luck. The slimmer the margin, the less margin for error.

And so on.


It doesn’t require Sigmund Freud’s couch to deduce that given recent developments in my own business, where we’ve suspended the food program at Bank Street Brewhouse to concentrate on our beer, thoughts like these would come to mind.

Except that it goes beyond this, I think.

Having witnessed one boom ‘n’ bust cycle, perhaps I’ve developed a sensitivity to the possibility of a second one amid the current, applauded expansion of brewing. I desperately want it to work out like Great Flood’s opening, not Mobreki’s closing; the latter was a brewing operation in Madison, Indiana that never really got off the ground, suffered from quality issues, and folded this past winter (Mobreki’s equipment has landed in Jeffersonville at Red Yeti, which opens today with guest beers; best of luck to them).

I’d like to think that we, as the brewing community, might avoid the mistakes of a previous generation. However, as a longtime student of history, ignorance of past lessons isn’t a good place to begin when seeking to avoid repeat performances.

It has been 10 to 15 years since most of the breweries listed above closed, and we can learn a lot from their experience. Unfortunately, institutional memory is slim in the current milieu of self-absorption, masquerading as beer appreciation. As a result, certain virtues often are viewed as clichés, but they shouldn’t be.

Quality is chief among them, because a reputation for quality is something one earns, over time. When quality is involved, you don’t mind history repeating itself. It isn’t always flashy. Rather, quality is about hard work – over and over again.

To me, the sought-after ideal of quality in “craft,” a word most of us use without ever contemplating its meaning, is an ethos manifested locally and independently. At RiverRoots this past weekend, I thought about it often while examining pottery and other handmade items, and listening to a fellow play the dulcimer.

It occurred to me that condemning the dulcimer’s construction because one doesn’t like the music it creates is misplaced, especially coming from someone styling himself a music enthusiast. In like fashion, last week an on-line commentator maligned the quality of my product line because all 30 beers we brew in a year aren’t IPAs.

I’m forced to conclude that he’s tone deaf.

What can we do about that, anyway?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Good times at the BoneYard Grill in Madison, Indiana.

Madison, Indiana, population roughly 12,000, is a split personality kind of place.

Downtown is built horizontally on flatlands by the Ohio River, surrounded by hills. Although you can see newer homes atop some of these hills, the effect is that of a hidden gem, and it feels like an open air museum.

In 2006, the majority of Madison's downtown area was designated the largest contiguous National Historic Landmark in the United States—133 blocks of the downtown area is known as the Madison Historic Landmark District.

Conversely, past the hills where the uplands begin -- the hilltops -- there's a whole other Madison. It's the newer part along the highway, built out during the past three or four decades, where the chain stores and big boxes are. The historic downtown is invisible from here, apart from wayfinding signage directing visitors to it.

My business in Madison tends to take me into the heart of downtown, where civic fests like this weekend's RiverRoots are held, and where the Thomas Family Winery is located. I seldom wander up onto the hilltop, but yesterday there was a RiverRoots pre-party at an establishment called BoneYard Grill, located on Clifty Drive (State Road 62). Blake and I were promoting NABC beers, and The Tillers were playing music.

Just as people used to say when visiting the Pizzeria & Public House for the first time, BoneYard's location is decidedly nondescript, in a commercial, slightly-bigger-than-strip-mall building. But inside is a pleasing, family-friendly sports bar atmosphere.

I was impressed with the joint, which is a ground floor indie operation.

The specialty of the house are chicken wings, grilled and not fried. BoneYard has creative sauce options for the wings. Later in the evening, I order jalapeno poppers, assuming them to be the sports bar standard, deep-fried artery busters, but BoneYard's version used fresh peppers, cream cheese and a sprinkling of bacon; tasty, and not entirely unhealthy.

BoneYard has a bottled beer list with a few choice imports and American craft beers, and last night, two Indiana beers were on tap: Barley Island Sheet Metal and Quaff On (formerly Big Woods) Hare Trigger IPA. I had one of each. Staff was energetic and helpful. Overall, it was a wonderful time.

I don't issue recommendations without genuinely believing in what's I'm writing, and even then, I don't always get around to remembering. This time, I wanted to make sure I gave BoneYard a tip of the cap, both because of the quality of my experience, and the fact that it's good for me to be displaced from my preferred comfort zones and explore other neighborhoods. In the future, I'll still revisit my downtown Madison haunts, including the aforementioned Thomas Winery, Red Pepper Deli; Madison Coffee & Tea and 605 Grill.

But now I have a place to go up on the hilltop.

Beer festivals proliferate as event season launches in earnest, with trenchant and curmudgeonly commentary.

Today and tomorrow is RiverRoots in Madison, and NABC's annual gig pouring better beer for great music.

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

NABC will be on hand to share beer vending duties with craft-brewing Hoosier friends: Upland Brewing Company (Bloomington IN), who’ve been there with us from the beginning; Great Crescent Brewing from Aurora; Indianapolis stalwart Sun King; and Power House out of Columbus.

Meanwhile, Steve Coomes previews the Highlands Beer Festival (Saturday, May 17) and Keg Liquors' Fest of Ale (Saturday, May 31), in which we learn that the coming of Deschutes to metro Louisville has trumped the coming of various other saviors. Before I climax, myself, and speaking of the forthcoming Fest of Ale, NABC will debut our Session Station there.

This Sunday (May 18) is the the Louisville Independent Business Alliance's 6th Annual Buy Local Fair in Louisville. It's always a fine event, supporting independent local businesses.

Next Sunday (May 25; Memorial Day weekend) is the Boomtown Ball and Festival in downtown New Albany. The event is previewed in SoIn, a food and entertainment supplement thus far not sequestered behind pay walls.

It bears noting that while neither the city of New Albany nor local media has seen fit to mention the fact, a consortium of downtown food and drink operators will be running the adult beverage area for Boomtown, including Feast BBQ, Irish Exit, JR's Pub, 502 Winery and NABC. It's unclear to me how our participation can be deemed so important to the success of the day that we've been entirely omitted from the vast majority of advance publicity, but then again, I'm not the mayor -- at least yet.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Thinking about the new world order at Bank Street Brewhouse.

We've suspended the food service at BSB and are in the process of rebooting a taproom

Necessity is the mother of something, and so the schedule at Bank Street Brewhouse may undergo alteration. For now, Wednesday and Thursday hours for beers (only) at BSB are 3:00 - 9:00 p.m., with weekend hours yet to be determined.

When we say the food's gone away, it's exactly what we mean. Of course, we'll adhere to the ATC rules for such, and the kitchen remains fully licensed by the health department, pending the latter's periodic policy coin tosses. No food means no brunch on Sunday, and no brunch means no Bloody Mary bar, at least for now.

We're aware of no laws prohibiting carry-in food from other downtown establishments, so bring a deli sandwich or a picnic basket, and have a beer. We've all been doing it for years at small farm wineries, and at beer venues like Capital Brewing in Madison, Wisconsin.

Thanks for all the wonderful comments so far. We achieved aesthetic success; if it just wasn't for those damned, pesky numbers. I understand and share the disappointment expressed by many as news of our change in direction at Bank Street Brewhouse gets around. But for us, it's an exciting opportunity to think outside the boundaries and re-format our beer brands with place and community.

The object in coming weeks will be to create a whole new BSB program from the ground up, organically, and inevitably with a degree of trial and error. It will be confusing, even to us, but it will evolve, and at some point, it will make sense. As it evolves, we'll do our best to keep people informed.

All of us want food to be a part of it, just not food like before, because what we were doing before, while good, was unsustainable. Now, the sky's the limit: Expanded carry-in, or themed catering, or eventually food trucks; maybe even snacks (only) again from our own kitchen, some day. Or meat and cheese trays.

I appreciate the many constructive comments. Keep 'em coming, and thanks. We're open, serving beers, and planning.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

It's time to reinvent, so changes are under way at NABC’s Bank Street Brewhouse.

Just the facts for now.

Here is the press release making the rounds, explaining that Bank Street Brewhouse henceforth will be a taproom and not a restaurant. I have the distinct impression that I'll be answering the phone quite often these next few days, and I'm eager to begin plotting the next course. We'll be leaving some things behind, even as numerous fresh possibilities are opened.

Reinvention is liberating, so stay tuned. See also Steve Coomes's piece at Insider Louisville: Bank Street Brewhouse ends foodservice, will serve beer only after midweek shutdown.


Changes coming at NABC’s Bank Street Brewhouse.

“You could knock me over with a feather, because it turns out that the numbers don’t lie, after all.”
--NABC co-owner Roger A. Baylor

Effective Tuesday, May 13, the New Albanian Brewing Company will indefinitely suspend food service at Bank Street Brewhouse, its downtown New Albany location.

NABC’s brewing operation and our original location at the Pizzeria & Public House are entirely unaffected by these changes.

In the days to follow, we’ll remain open for business (exact schedule TBA) for “beers only” while planning, painting and remodeling, and BSB will continue to regularly function as the brewery’s downtown New Albany taproom – altered yet ongoing.

The future taproom format will include NABC beers served on site, and NABC beer for carry-out in growlers and 22-oz bomber bottles. We’re planning an expanded souvenir shop. There will be enhanced opportunities to use the facility as a venue and host for special events.

There may even be nibbles at some point, and we hope to play an ancillary role in animating food truck culture in New Albany, but we don’t intend to be a restaurant as before.

That phase has passed, for now.

Long live the many fond memories.

We had a great five-year run at BSB, and did our bit to shepherd the process of revitalization in downtown New Albany. We actually accomplished many of our aesthetic and ideological goals, but now we need to indulge in some updating and reinvention of our own, because the targets have moved and the competitive climate always is changing -- as it pertains both to the food and drink scene in downtown New Albany, and the market for better beer at home and in the world outside.

We must change along with the rest, and so we will. We intend to remain part of the downtown fabric, just differently than before. It’s a reinvention, not a departure.

Profuse and sincere thanks to everyone who supported the founding BSB concept, whether employee or customer. We are grateful.

Rock on.

Roger Baylor
Kate Lewison
Amy Baylor

Monday, May 12, 2014

The PC: Welcome to Nail City, Part Two.

The PC: Welcome to Nail City, Part Two.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

For those just tuning in, this column used to appear at, but henceforth will be published here each Monday. Previous columns at are archived there.

Ever wondered where the church pews in the Public House (formerly Rich O's) were procured? Here's the conclusion to the story of an excellent weekend adventure in Wheeling, West Virginia in 2001.

Part One can be read here.

Arts and supposed craft beer.

On Saturday afternoon, driving east on the interstate, we crossed into downtown Wheeling while admiring the city’s graceful, ancient long-span suspension bridge, the world’s oldest, dating from pre-Civil War times.

Stopping briefly to make final arrangements for the truck, I was struck by the surplus of aging and generally derelict red brick warehouses. They’re the sort of building that microbrewery start-ups so eagerly sought in the 1990’s, before that particular industry suffered its first great leveling off.

Downtown, in the vicinity of the approaches to the suspension bridge and the epicenter of attempted tourism, some of the city’s commercial buildings, banks and corporate headquarters of another age had been renovated. One of them, at 1400 Main Street, was the Wheeling Artisan Center.

On the building’s upper floors were housed West Virginia arts and crafts shops, exemplifying the folksy milieu of the south, and obviously a staple attraction for blue hair bus tours and visiting groups, which the local visitor’s bureau in turn routinely directed to River City Ale Works on the first floor, which is where we were seated at the bar, wondering if this was as good as it gets in a place like Wheeling.

Comrade, can I see your ration coupon?

For me to have enjoyed the aforementioned good life, it required a desperate effort to remain upwind from my interrogator. Besides, the conversation seemed to have gone about as far as it could, so I started to turn toward the sanctuary offered by our rental car, but he wasn’t finished with me quite yet.

“Fine, thanks, but Jesus Christ, I don’t want to use the damn coupons – look, I just want to cash these in and get back the money for drinks. Does it say I can do that?”

Pondering the theory and practice of loopholes, I caught the scents of burning leaves and cold river water. Traffic hummed on the adjacent interstate. Elsewhere on Wheeling Island, West Virginia’s state high school football championship game would be starting later in the evening.

Exactly what do people drink at dog tracks, anyway?

Why? Why? Why?

Sitting at the River City Ale Works, it occurred to me that we had been forewarned. Before departing Louisville, I visited Pubcrawler, an ancient Internet database built about the time of the Great Pyramid of Cheops, and searched for brewpubs and beer bars in Wheeling. There were none of the latter, and to put it charitably, the reviews for our choice of brewery (the only one in town) were mixed.

I learned that the original occupant of the space was called Nail City, an establishment billed as West Virginia’s largest brewpub. When asked about this, the bartender informed us that the current River City Ale Works was the only brewpub in West Virginia, making it the largest by default.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t true; there proved to be at least one other brewpub operating in the state at the time, but we had no access to floor space measurements, and it seemed that the first of many Brewpub Warning Flags about to be raised: When you spend valuable moments debating ephemera rather than the merits of the beer on offer, you just might be headed for trouble.

Should we stay or should we go?

Alternatives seemed few in number, other than hitting the road for nearby Pittsburgh, a scant hour up the interstate, but which one of us would stay sober enough to drive?

We elected to stay at Wheeling’s largest and only brewpub, the reward for which was an admittedly fine meal, as well as the efforts of an energetic female bartender who tried her best to be helpful. However, for aficionados of brewpubs, even great food and wonderful hired hands are small consolation when the beer is unimpressive.

Here, then, are a few warning signs to consider during a brewpub visit. They are specific to Wheeling’s River City Ale Works as experienced during our visit so long ago, but equally applicable, in varying forms, to similar establishments.

You become worried when:

1. A brewpub’s dining menu lists at least 75 different meals, but only six house beers are described on the table tents.

2. The six everyday beers listed on the table tents aren’t available.

3. The two beers that are available, neither of which are listed on the table tents, are written on a chalkboard half-obscured by Miller Lite point-of-sale materials.

4. The two house beers are competent, if unspectacular, but they’re served ice-cold in frozen glasses.

5. For every glass of house beer the bartender pours, another glass goes cascading down the drains as foam is “poured off.”

6. The bartender explains that the reason for the discrepancy between the six beers listed on the table tents and the chalkboard’s two like this: “Well, we didn’t brew for a while, but now we’re brewing again.”

7. You ask why this is the case, and she replies, “Because the brewery was broke.”

8. The brewpub offers “happy hour” pricing, but a large and readily visible sign reminds customers that the special prices do not apply to the two house-brewed beers that are available.

(The preceding bears repeating: A brewpub offers “happy hour” pricing for mass- market swill, not its own beer)

9. You look around the bar, and no one else is drinking the house beer. You conclude that you must be strange for insisting to do so, speculating that your interest in beer is greater than that of the management, and wondering why such a place even bothers maintaining a brewery when so little is done to nurture and support it.

The overwhelming evidence available to us was that it might be a long time before craft beer became a priority in Wheeling, notwithstanding the freedom once enjoyed by the city’s residents to “extol the merits of John Barleycorn."

Eyes affixed to the plunging neckline of our bartender, we asked for directions to the best package liquor store with the widest selection in the city.

“That’d be Cut Rate over on Wheeling Island. We all go there. Go across the suspension bridge, fourth stop sign, turn right … “

Beer and circus.

Like the set pieces at Madame Tussaud’s, the tableau outside the liquor store was frozen in time. Present were Syd, Tom and me, each with paper sacks of cold beer in hand, and the sun setting to the west, behind our hotel in Ohio. Standing before us was a man with a sheet of paper. His pal’s arm was extended in an almost Biblical offering of refreshment. Just off stage, silently, drearily, there reposed a woman.

In the fading light, the fine print on the coupons was way too small, and my patience far too gone, for me to bother trying to read it.

“It doesn’t say you can’t,” I offered. “So go for it.”

Gratefully reassured, the man thanked me a final time and accepted the bottle of malt liquor. The three forlorn bearers of dog track “drink” tickets shuffled off toward their ultimate redemption, to the greyhounds, to the southernmost extremity of Wheeling Island.

Come to think of it, the woman hadn’t said a word the whole time … and all because I could read.


Editor’s note.

For abundant historical information on Wheeling, as well as numerous photographs both old and new, go to the Ohio County Public Library’s web site, and don’t forget that the preceding account dates from 2001. The River City Ale Works remains in business, but ceased brewing quite some time ago. There may be better beer hotspots all over the city now … and the same guy may still be redeeming coupons at the dog track.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Diary of Our Own Jimmy Bracken: All your beers suck ... well, no, just that one beer. Same difference.

My diary entries are purposely published without buffing and polishing, rather in the format of a notebook of ideas. Maybe they'll be cleaned up later; maybe not)

At the outset, please note that what I’ll be discussing in this diary entry is a habit of thought, which to me isn’t a sensible habit.

To repeat, I am about to disagree with a way of thinking, which to me isn’t logical. I am not “calling out” an individual. For this reason, I have changed the individual’s identity.

I’m taking great pains to explain my motives because in this day and age, it has become increasingly difficult to debate a topic coherently without personalities coming into play.

The exchange in question occurred on social media, where I observed quite simply that NABC’s director of brewing operations was giving a tour of our downtown brewery to members of the local homebrewing club.

Soon there was a reply. “Mr. Wood” wrote:

When they make a beer that is worth drinking let me know. ....... cause I'm disappointed everytime I go. I've tried numerous times and it's ridiculous how inconsistent it is

I can’t explain why an innocuous photo prompted the critique, but that’s who we are now, as a people, and it’s beyond my control. However, marshalling an argument is something that remains important, hence my critique of this critique.

Note that Mr. Wood begins with a universal statement of reality, which if more capably written might read like this: “NABC beers are not worth drinking because they disappoint me with inconsistency every time I go there and drink them.”

It’s a broad and sweeping claim, one that does not concede exceptions, although it is implied that Mr. Wood drinks the inconsistent NABC beers on draft in our own two establishments rather than in bottles (“everytime I go”). In short, NABC’s beers are being comprehensively damned.

Rather than sob into my hankie, I chose to ask questions.

I'll be sure to do that, but can you be a bit more specific? Which beers are at fault, and when/where did you have them? Thanks.

Mr. Wood replied.

Elector has been inconsistent in my opinion for years, I grew up here and moved back here from13 years in indy and I really want to like the beers here but I can't. I like the pickmans pale and single hop series but everything else has tasted watered down in my opinion

Now we can infer a bit more. Mr. Wood’s tastes tend toward hops, and his disappointment seems to center on Elector to the exclusion of others. I continued to probe with questions.

I appreciate the answer. It's always helpful to move from general to specific. If we're to be judged by the original brewery in the growth stage, it's one thing, but a beer like Elector has been dialed in for a while now. What about Community Dark, or Bonfire or Black & Blue Grass? A better question is this: What do you mean by "watered down"?

Mr. Wood responded.

Community dark is the exception, it's great. Elector was a red hoppy beer and I liKed it but it has no hop aroma or taste from what I've had lately, wecompare it too a green flash hop head red and it's no comparison. I can't comment on black and bluegrass as I have not had it. I appreciate you commenting back I root for you guys but am not exciTed go try beers lately

I see. Compared to one other randomly chosen commercial beer, Elector has no hop aroma or taste, and thus is “watered down.” It’s a shaky definition, and not really what I asked for, but it will have to do.

Mr. Wood then quickly added that because of a customer complaint posted the night before, he’d decided not to keep his inconsistently rendered beer money in Indiana, and had gone to Louisville to drink on Saturday night. I thanked him for the give and take, and went to bed.


NABC brews 25+ different beers during the course of a year. In his opening statement, Mr. Wood suggests that inconsistency is a hallmark of the brewery, across this wide expanse of differing styles – some of which aren’t even hoppy because THEY’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE, which is something one can glean from a brief survey of the very concept of style, and something that Mr. Wood himself belatedly concedes with his comment about Community Dark, an English-style Mild.

It would seem, then, that Elector’s current state is the only real point to Mr. Wood’s comment, and that he does not often drink NABC’s other styles, probably because as a hophead, his flavor profile is more narrowly defined, and they’re not what he prefers.

No problem. Fair enough. There is nothing wrong with this view. To each his own. We’re entitled to our own opinions … although not to our own facts.

But here’s the issue, at least to me: Mr. Wood begins the chat by broadly maligning the whole range of NABC’s beers, many of which he seemingly would not customarily drink owing to personal taste.

As such, how can judgment be passed on beers that never touch one’s lips? Furthermore, when questioned, is transpires that Elector obviously is the very specific point apart from Mr. Wood's broad and generalized opening statement.

So, Mr. Wood, why not instead begin with the defensible specific (“I think Elector is inconsistent”), and not the indefensible generality (“NABC does not brew consistent beer”)?

At least an exchange of views is possible as to the first assertion, while the second is nonsensical unless the speaker has repeatedly tried them all, because without repeatedly trying them all, he'd have no way of establishing criteria for consistency vs. inconsistency.

Has our Elector evolved? Yes, of course, but it has been what it is for a very long time now.

Is it to be compared with Green Flash This or That? I’d think not, but if it were to be compared, and came out poorly in a BLIND taste test, I’d accept the verdict. Elector tastes fine to me, and continues to sell well.

Finally, as for the meaning of “watered down,” wouldn’t this concept pertain more to the absence of malt character than hops? Nuance fades, and we're left with hop juice.

I suppose that efficient argumentation is a lost art. At the same time, the very nature of social media isn’t about sensible argumentation or coherent logic.

In fact, it’s ridiculous how inconsistent it is.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

News of Trojan Goose Island Beer Bridge just reached the subway.

This is a joke, right? But we're six weeks past April Fool's Day, aren't we?

As always, we're reminded of how very grateful AB InBev's worldwide shareholders are in the wake of amnesia.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Shock and awe: "Blind taste test: Indiana's best beers might surprise."

Love it.

Just plain love it.

Oaken Barrel is one of the oldest breweries in the state of Indiana, and because of its proximity in Greenwood, south of Indianapolis on the way home, I manage to stop in a couple times a year. Everything about Oaken Barrel is first-rate, and yet any poll of expert "beer geek" opinion as to the relative merits of Indiana beer probably would exclude it.

That's because Oaken Barrel isn't chic and fashionable. It's beers aren't rated highly enough at RateAdvocate. The beers aren't shipped halfway across the country by a boutique wholesaler.

And yet, when a true blind taste test of hoppier pale ales and IPAs is organized by the Indy Star's Neal Taflinger, Oaken Barrel's dowdy, available-for-years Gnaw Bone Pale Ale is the winner.

Louisvillians, note that by "true," I mean just that.

Unless institutional bias, pre-conceived notions and built-in prejudices are stripped away, the taste test is not really blind.

I'm happy that Oaken Barrel (and the venerable Mad Anthony) get recognition normally withheld from them by the usual trend-chasing arbiters. It's also confirmation that a newbie like Daredevil can hit the quality mark right out of the box ... and that all of this goodness can be affirmed in a remotely objective measure. Imagine that.

Blind taste test: Indiana's best beers might surprise

... I know which beers get the most buzz, but brand loyalty has as much to do with sense memory, marketing and peer behavior as the product itself. I wanted to know how casual craft beer drinkers would rate Hoosier Pale Ales and India Pale Ales (IPA) in a blind tasting.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

German Cafe has moved from Paoli to French Lick.

To be truthful, I wish they'd moved here to New Albany. The posting was at the Louisville Restaurants Forum.

We just learned that the German Cafe, formerly of Paoli, In, has moved to French Lick. Same family is running the business and operating the kitchen.

A subsequent comment verified this information and reported that a visit to the new location had been quite enjoyable. It's great to hear this. I've likened German Cafe to that restaurant near the center of every German town of similar size, with fine traditional food and beer, and acting as a community hub.

Back in May of 2012, my friend Shane Campbell wrote a review of German Cafe, as it was then, in Paoli, and much of what Shane wrote will be applicable to the new location in French Lick.

Review: The German Cafe.

I've eaten at Erika's and the Gasthaus in Louisville. I've sought out German restaurants in areas with large German communities in Wisconsin, Texas, and even Jasper, Indiana. I've even had a few meals in Germany. While I can't ever remember having any bad meals at a German restaurant, I certainly know that I've never had a better one than I had in the German Cafe in Paoli that Saturday.

Here's the listing at French Lick's tourism site:

German Café
Address: 452 South Maple Street, French Lick
Phone: 812-936-1111
Journey through the fine cuisines of Germany. All dinners are made fresh and cooked to order. Daily lunch and dinner specials including vegetarian dishes. Extensive German beer and wine selection. Relax and enjoy an authentic German dining experience. Guten Appetit! Private parties and groups welcome.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Children in pubs ... and beer gardens.

My travels have taken me to Central Europe more often than England, and more often than not, there is a fairly clear delineation between "family friendly" and "boozer." Certainly most beer gardens one visits in a place like Bavaria includes the equivalent of a children's playground.

On children in pubs, Katharine Whitehorn (Guardian/Observer)

Historically pubs wouldn't allow children on the premises; now they have family-friendly menus and positively welcome toddlers.

Note that we speak not of 21-year-olds behaving like children. My point simply is that maturity applies to adults as well as children, in the sense of positive reinforcement. If the atmosphere is good, with beer, food, music and fun, why wouldn't we want kids to learn about it, sans the prohibitionist idiocy that inevitably colors any such discussion in the United States?

In 1985, the Augustiner in Salzburg was my first genuine German-style beer garden experience. Although I didn't mention younger children specifically in my recollection, they certainly were there, too, carving up sausages and acting as part of the scene. Why not?

But it was out in the leafy beer garden that I fell in love with a way of life, one experienced for the very first time. At midday, hundreds of beer lovers were seated at tables, shaded by towering chestnut trees, surrounded by stone walls and stucco, virtually all of them drinking malty Marzen-style lager brewed and aged only yards away.
It was entirely self-service, or so I remember. You went back inside for sausages, salads and loaves of crusty bread, and then joined the line for beer. A cashier took Austrian schillings, as plastic was not negotiable and Euros didn’t exist, and handed back a receipt. Upon choosing a liter (33.8 ounces) ceramic mug from the freshly washed public stack, you ritualistically rinsed it in a fountain of cold water, handed it and the receipt over to aproned men who were pouring the deep golden beer from a tap embedded in a wooden barrel, and prepared for nirvana.

Teens drank alongside elderly men. There were playing cards, songs for singing, chicken bones and carts filled with emptied mugs. Strangers shared tables and bought rounds. Worldwide languages were spoken. I ate, drank, used the WC, drank some more, and returned the following two nights to do it again, each time walking 25 minutes back to my lodging, feeling perfectly safe and wishing we could do the same back home.

Monday, May 05, 2014

The PC: Welcome to Nail City, Part One.

For those just tuning in, this column used to appear at, but henceforth will be published here each Monday. Previous columns at are archived there.


Ever wondered where the church pews in the Public House (formerly Rich O's) were procured?

Here's the story of an excellent weekend adventure in Wheeling, West Virginia in 2001. It is by no means intended as a complete portrait of Wheeling today, almost 13 years later, but merely a snippet from the past.

Welcome to Nail City.

Heavily laden with provisions, Syd and I exited the package store, where we had been directed to shop because it had the “best” selection in town.

It certainly wasn’t the best section of town, and when a raggedly dressed man approached us, a number of potential shakedown scenarios, none of them particularly savory, flashed through my mind.

“Excuse me, sir … ”

The possibilities loomed like the dreaded sub-sections on an income tax return. Did I have spare change? A cigarette, perhaps? Would I care to purchase a pharmaceutical from his vast selection, to self-medicate? Or was he a representative of Watchtowers-R-Us?

What’s the frequency, Kenneth?

“We Feature Gallo, Bartles & Jaymes, and Other Fine Wines.”

Fine wines? It must be true; hell, it was right there in the yellow pages for Wheeling, West Virginia, which was another five minutes east from our vantage point at a motel near St. Clairesville, Ohio. It was a late autumn weekend, deer season, and as soon as we were 50 miles east of Columbus, the interstate became littered with road kill and filled almost bumper to bumper with pickup trucks hauling uncovered carcasses.

Venison is fine by me, but I’m not a hunter, and although cigars are an important part of my life, this was no pilgrimage to the former home of Marsh-Wheeling (ironically, they’re now made in Indiana).

We had one, and only one, reason to drive from Louisville to Wheeling: The business of beer, or to be more specific, the business of capitalizing on the misfortune of certain elderly residents of the city.

Apparently, some of these old folks had died, even as others became too infirm to climb the double staircases leading to the second-floor sanctuary of their Pentecostal church. The church had relocated to smaller, street-level quarters elsewhere in Wheeling, and a local used furniture dealer was conducting a sale of fixtures prior to the building being put on the block.

Among the items to be sold were the church’s venerable oak pews, some six feet and other nine feet long, which were estimated by our intermediary to be more than 60 years old. Our mission in Wheeling was to relieve the congregation of a baker’s dozen of these pews, and make them holier.

On Sunday morning, we were slated to meet the broker at the church, load the liberated pews into a Ryder rental truck, and haul them back to New Albany for use in the Public House – another charismatic place where the patrons speak in tongues and gargle snake oil.

However, all this had yet to happen. It wasn’t even 1:00 p.m. on Saturday. We’d checked into our hotel and were searching the phonebook, not quite in the mood for fine wines, but wondering what the local beer scene was like in Wheeling.

We were about to learn that at the time, good beer in Wheeling was about as plentiful as strip clubs (or, for that matter, strip steaks) are in Pyongyang.

Act II, in which the outsider pauses to assist the eager natives.

“Excuse me, please, sir ... but can one of you read?”

The man waved a sheet of paper inches from my skull as I paused to reflect that it had been quite some time since such a question had been asked of me. But what was the catch?

Suspicious yet intrigued, wary but accommodating, I decided to acknowledge that yes, since at least the mid-1960s, during some point in the LBJ administration, I have been able to read – quite well when conscious, actually.

“Thank you, sir,” he said, “because if you can help me read this, maybe I can get this (expletive deleted, but referring to a procreative female dog) to shut up.”

He motioned to an indifferent and perfectly quiet female waiting in the shadows by the pay phone. She rolled her eyes toward the darkening firmament, seemingly less afraid of potential violence from her boyfriend than yet another worthless evening of futility and trash talk.

Seconds later, my friend Tom emerged from the store toting his evening’s refreshment. Right alongside him was my interloper's best buddy, a veritable Sancho Panza, who announced that he had invested in bottled water for himself and a 40-ouncer for my questioner, just as instructed … and here was the small change to prove it.

Examining the man’s sheet of paper, I saw immediately that it was a “VIP Club” circular for the dog track located down the street. He pointed at the bottom of the page, where there were three coupons, each for a complimentary slot machine pull. Visibly triumphant at his good fortune – he’d managed to find someone literate, pliant and reasonably sober this late in the afternoon, obviously a novel concept – he asked if the three coupons could be used, all at once, before midnight that same day.

“Well, it doesn’t say you can’t use them all tonight,” I said, studying the various expiration dates emblazoned on the coupons, “so good luck, and have a good life.”

We needed to start drinking, and badly.

If you will look on the map …

Wheeling is located between Ohio and Pennsylvania in that strange angular panhandle of West Virginia that points northward like a bony, outstretched middle finger. Much of the city lies on the left bank of the Ohio River, but the central district spills over onto an island in the river, where we were directed to buy beer and to counsel colorful locals.

Wooded hills define the physical character of the area. Towns are wedged into the flat bottomlands between the heights. To look at Wheeling on a map is to see an urban area seemingly one mile wide and twelve miles long, poured between the river to the west and a long ridge to the east.

At one time, Wheeling was the “Gateway to the West,” later an industrial powerhouse, producing steel, iron, nails, glass, cigars and even beer, the latter inspiring these words from a history of the area written in 1879:

To historically review the dawn or subsequent development of man's appreciation for ale and beer, would be no sinecure achievement, suffice it to say that since the arrival of the earliest pioneers in this section, brewing, in some shape, has ever held its own. But the nutritious and palatable blending of malt and hops found little difficulty in fascinating the popular taste, even our grand-fathers were free to extol the merits of "John Barleycorn."

Contrary to enduring stereotypes of West Virginia as a hillbilly type of place where squirrel brains and incest stubbornly remain on the collective dinner table, Wheeling has enjoyed a diverse cultural history engendered by the immigrants who came to work in the city’s numerous factories. The last names of three pro sports luminaries born just across the river in the state of Ohio, John Havlicek and brothers Phil and Joe Niekro, attest to this, as does the presence of Catholic, Orthodox and Jewish congregations to spice the backwoods fundamentalist broth.

But the pendulum never stops swinging. It was well into the 20th century before an expedience borne of economic decline compelled local movers and shakers to reconnect with Wheeling’s southern heritage, and with some of the cultural themes that West Virginia’s original secession from secessionist Virginia had been intended to forestall.

It’s been a few years now, but when I was there, the industrial landscape appeared suspiciously Rust Belt and quite northern to me.

Where were we, anyway?

Part Two will appear on Monday, May 12

Sunday, May 04, 2014

News from the annual Brewers of Indiana Guild meeting on Saturday.

The Brewers of Indiana Guild (BIG) held its annual meeting in Indianapolis on Saturday, and I must say that it was one of the most memorable on record, both for the volume of business discussed and my good fortune in being able to score tickets for Game 7 of the Pacers-Hawks playoff series being held just down the street from the Platform (City Market complex).

Thanks to Blake Montgomery for brokering the ducats, and to board members and attendees from other Indiana breweries.

Sticking with the basketball metaphor, BIG has many balls in the air. We're working with Purdue University on a fermentation sciences program, and have met with the state agriculture department about a grassroots explosion in hop- and malt-growing (think of the need for malt and oast houses). There's the state fair, and how beer sampling is to be integrated in the program for the first time since the late 1940s. Future legislative initiatives must be planned.

We also were regaled by representatives from the Indiana Department of Health, who were on hand to inform production breweries with little experience of gentle health department "guidance" that they're on the radar screen, and can expect friendly visits.

Floyd Countians: Load up on the KY Jelly.

I'm on the membership committee, answering to the esteemed Blaine Stuckey of Mad Anthony Brewing Company in Ft. Wayne. Blaine has spent much time working on a proposal, mimicking a program run by the Michigan Brewers Guild, to create an "enthusiast" membership tier, allowing fans of Indiana-brewed beer to "join." This is one way to build a cadre of loyalists among our bread and butter, the consumer.

It is my hope that we'll be able to achieve better communications between breweries, for a number of reasons. Networking is good. Mentoring to develop quality standards is vital. Solidarity for the purpose of legislative progress is essential.

As for internal matters, Clay Robinson of Sun King was re-elected president, and Chris Stanek from Crown remains treasurer. Rob Caputo (Flat12) succeeds Ted Miller as vice president, and Justin Miller (Black Acre) is the new secretary, replacing Jeff "Barley Island" Eaton.

There was a board reshuffle, the results of which I'm not entirely certain, apart from saying that one of my favorite folks in Indiana brewing is part of the board now: Jeff Mease, from Bloomington Brewing Company. Jeff, sorry I had no chance to chat; I was out the door to make the ballgame on time, but it's great to have you around.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

"High energy" is inadequate to describe Sun King's tap room.

Here are nine photos taken during a visit to Sun King's taproom in Indianapolis on Friday afternoon at roughly 1:30 p.m. Note that no food is served, and no full pints are poured. Upon entering, we were carded and issued three paper tickets (for small samples of Sun King's flagships) and three can tops (for small samples of selected seasonals). The exit door appears just past the shop. There is a steady stream of traffic coming in, and just as many going out, heavily laden with growlers, cans, kegs and retail items. After five years, Sun King will get close to 30,000 barrels of beer brewed in 2014.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Let bourbon be bourbon. We'll just brew beer.

Here's the pitch:

Will a barrel shortage hurt small distilleries and breweries? For some, it already has, by Kevin Gibson (Insider Louisville)

As for the longer term consideration of white oak barrels used in distillation, the real question might be this: Production of bourbon is predicated on the single use of a new white oak barrel, after which the used oak barrel enters the secondary marketplace ... but is this cycle environmentally sustainable?

“It’s really tough to see an end in the short term. Everything seems to indicate that bourbon, Scotch and Irish whisky are very bullish. It’s a question of whether logging capacity and cooperage can catch up with demand from the other side.”

Assuming there is enough white oak to go around, and the value of bourbon production dictates supply of the necessary wood according to the purportedly "free" market, then brewers in need of used barrels to inflate the value of their specialty products, as determined by the geek-driven niche market on Rate Advocate, should be able to procure plenty of them. It's probably a non-issue.

Is the future of better beer as a whole dependent on a niche market like this? One certainly hopes not. Sam Cruz provides the correct answer when asked how a barrel shortage might affect Against the Grain.

Asked how (AtG's) brewery expansion would be affected if the barrel shortage worsens, he says, “If something does happen, we would adjust our production plans. We’d make more of something else and make it well.”


What brewers of beer beer must do is brew better beer, perhaps even the sort -- generally, those styles that are non-barrel aged -- capable of being consumed during a baseball game.