Monday, August 25, 2014

The PC: Anti-local craft beer unconsciousness, revisited.

The PC: Anti-local craft beer unconsciousness, revisited. 

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

The Crescent Hill Craft House has opened on Frankfort Avenue in Louisville, and while I haven't yet had the chance to visit, I already know what I'll be drinking first.

It will be a BBC beer from the St. Matthews location. The exact one doesn't matter. My reasoning is that BBC's owner Pat Hagan is involved in the Craft House as well, and the Craft House pours only local and regional beers. It's an elastic definition, as it should be, and the point remains valid: Pat's kept BBC in the game for 22 years, and I'll drink one of his beers to thank him for it, and to celebrate the all-local concept.

It's been a year and a half since I wrote the following column, and in retrospect, nothing's changed for me. Consider it as one dedicated to the advent of the Craft House, and the hope that the concept embraced by Pat and his partners yields solid returns.


“Art can never take the place of social action … but its task remains forever the same: to change consciousness.”
-- Amos Vogel, from “Film as a Subversive Art”

When will craft beer finally change the consciousness of the American beer-drinking mainstream?”

I’m tempted to answer one question with another: Should mainstream consciousness ever be the desired outcome for craft beer?

But let’s play it straight. Some might say that craft beer consciousness already has arrived. Craft beer’s availability is wider than ever before, and statistically, most Americans live within close proximity to a craft brewer, even if the average measurement is skewed by Michigan as compared to the Deep South.

Slowly, even this imbalance is changing, and craft beer consciousness is penetrating all geographical areas of the country.

More tellingly, America’s copycat megabrewers are quite conscious of craft’s escalating impact. Through imitation and outright, unrepentant piracy – the only recourses for corporate regimes cruelly deprived of the creative gene – mass-market mockrobrews, from Blue Moon and Shock Top to zombie craft beers like those from the late, lamented Goose Island, now are routinely positioned to distract truth seekers. As always, bucket loads of marketing cash are wielded to pull soothing layers of mistruth and gloss over the eyes of the undiscerning.

Overall, my personal view about craft beer’s consciousness is that for all our obvious gains, we’re not quite “there,” at least yet.

Rather, when sociologists and psychologists at last begin studying craft beer drinkers close up and personal, we’ll know that mainstream consciousness has drawn to within a whisker, because there is no more reliable indicator of mass-market impact than the urgent need to understand the behavior of those consumers inhabiting segments poised for profit. That’s how the real money gets made.

While the analysts and shrinks are cogitating, perhaps they can help me with persistent examples of what might be termed cognitive dissonance in craft consciousness.

A prime example includes the inability (read: unwillingness) on the part of credentialed craft beer enthusiasts to tell the difference between craft and crafty as they avert their eyes from the Goose Gambit’s shelf-space-seeking drones, which are intended primarily to shift money to faraway corporate shareholders. It’s the most patently obvious bait-and-switch tactic since door-to-door driveway resealing, and yet it is ignored by many who plainly know better.


While we’re at it, these battered and blotted Rorschach findings also may help explain the most disquieting aspect of craft beer consumer behavior, at least to me: Anti-local craft beer unconsciousness.

It is my aim to re-situate the burgeoning craft beer movement within a context of economic localization, to revert the revolution to its point of origin, and to describe how the very consciousness of buying local is important both in non-beer terms, and in the specific way it impacts the craft beer ethos. Recently I wrote:

Shift happens. It is perhaps the single, fundamental tenet of emerging economic localism, and when it comes time to have a beer, the concept of shift means putting this principle into liquid practice.

Having acknowledged the efficacy of buying local, as measured by factual indices consistently recognizing that localism keeps more money in one’s community, my household is incrementally shifting toward local sources of goods and services, whenever practical.

Shift is a process, not an all-or-nothing crusade. If my shift to locally brewed beer implied being compelled to drink an inferior product, obviously I would think differently. Fortunately, it does not.

And yet for some otherwise knowledgeable practitioners of the craft beer ethos, “local” and “inferior” remain synonymous terms.


It is interesting to consider the contrasting reaction to “buying local” that exists, quite apart from the merits of local beer, when we speak of the retail sector: Hardware, groceries, clothing, floral arrangements and the like. I hear it often:

"But wait: You cannot compel me to spend more money than I wish to spend."

The perception is that buying local always entails higher expense to the consumer. Actually, numerous studies have addressed this perception, and the price differences therein typically are not as profound as imagined, if they even exist at all. Probably what doubters mean to say is that they cannot be compelled to surrender the big box, exurban shopping ease of finding all consumables under one roof – and that’s a different topic, one falling outside my parameters today.

But when it comes to craft beer, independent small brewers seldom hear objections about price, because craft beer enthusiasts understand that handcrafted products using higher quality ingredients within smaller economies of scale cost more than mass produced ones do. Consequently, a different and less readily explicable form of pushback occurs in the context of local beer and brewing.

How about some locally brewed beer, guys?

“No, because you cannot compel me to drink poorer quality beer. Only the best for me, you know."

This reply never fails to utterly befuddle me.

I’m a trained BJCP beer judge, and after thirty years in the beer business, obviously I’ve been around the block a few times – just ask my liver.

When I attend beer festivals these days, my samples invariably are drawn from “everyday” beers as made by small, local breweries, if only to remind me that seldom are these beers in any way unsuitable. On those rare occasion when there’s a quality problem, I’m constructively honest in identifying it, and if I can do so, in proposing a solution. Without dialogue, there cannot be a community. Without community, very little about craft beer interests me, anyway. Craft beer consciousness isn’t me against the world.

It’s us against the world.

Unfortunately, there exists a minority of self-identified craft beer opinion shapers for whom it’s never quite enough for local beer to be good, solid or sessionable.

What’s more, for them, local beer by definition simply cannot ever be “sexy” enough to justify a variant of beer enthusiasm sated only through insularity, exclusivity and narcissism, and before readers take me to task for erecting a straw man, permit me to add that I’m well aware of what such snobbery entails, because I’ve spent years now slowly recovering from its debilitating influence.

You’re damned right I’ve sinned, but consciousness is subject to evolution, and so is conscience. When I look back at my career in beer, I’m not always happy with my modes of expression, but know this: Narcissism’s not my gig, and never was. Expertise isn’t about keeping; with me, it’s all about teaching, and my record should speak for itself in that regard.

In my opinion, the breezy and frankly disdainful attitude that local beer cannot be good is a form of misplaced elitism and condescending snobbery ultimately injurious to craft beer’s larger interests. Attack mass-market swill at will; it deserves censure, but craft beer cannibalism is another matter entirely.

Beer as we know and love it does not exist in a societal, historical or ethical vacuum. Rather, craft beer consciousness exists within a community, and if we wish our community to grow sustainably, we must share our expertise broadly, not narrowly.

Consequently, I challenge the shadowy sect of narcissistic beer enthusiasts to help spread wisdom, not hoard it; to enhance local brewing and not detract from it; and in summary, to be part of the solution, not a collection of snarky Wonkas in the making. We have enough of that, already.


Nevertheless, at the end of the day, I remain a realist. Nothing I write or say in this column can substantively change attitudes that derive from a wide variety of wants, needs and experiences. Life’s too complicated for simplicity and we’re all different as people, but what I can make absolutely clear is this:

I’ve got the backs of local, independent brewers in this region, and when the smack starts getting talked, I’ll be there to answer it. It’s a matter of deeply held principle.

Consider joining me by waving potential craft beer converts into the tent, not erecting barriers to their enlightenment. In such a fashion, consciousness changes – and grows.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Crescent Hill Craft House opens on Monday, August 25.

Looking for a wonderful draft beer list that refutes the oft-heard lament that one must drink beer from elsewhere, not from around Louisville, because our local beer isn't as interesting?

Pfui. Meet the Crescent Hill Craft House,  opening Monday, August 25. It is located at 2636 Frankfort Avenue in Louisville.

From the Crescent Hill Craft House page at Facebook comes the following overview (and the photo).

Beer: 40 'all-local taps' including BBC, NABC, Country Boy, Flat 12, & all the other locals.

Menu: Busy - everything local, from bologna to fried quail $7-19; coca-cola: $2.25; Weekend brunch 9-2.

Kitchen: "Chef-driven-food" from Chef Tim Smith, formerly with Napa River Grill & 60 West Martini Bar. Served indoors & out.

Meet: Brad Culver, owner/partner/GM, started with BBC "Bluegrass Brewing Company Restaurant & Brew Pub, Brewpub, Brewery" in 2003. Beau Kerley, owner/partner & GM, worked at Dark Star & BBC, the out-of-town investor, and Pat Hagan, owner/partner/founder BBC St. Matthews, and last but not least, Gordon, from BBC 4th St, tending a full bar.

Entertainment: Sports on TV. Piped-in, & occasional live music, small sound system.

Decor: Minimalist, quite bare. New patio out back.

Atmosphere: Rough, unfinished ceiling with bare concrete floor & brick; brutal lighting.

Bicycles: Racks in the back alley, but no entrance/exit.

Opening: Monday August 25.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Pop-up beer garden: ReSurfaced is coming to West Main Street in Louisville.

This posting includes some previously released palaver.

Yesterday in Louisville, Mayor Greg Fischer announced a "pop-up plaza and beer garden" coming to West Main Street in Louisville.

The web site is

Mayor Announces Vacant Space on Main St. to be Transformed into Arts, Performance Space

ReSurfaced initiative is a six-week project -- Sept. 19-Oct. 25

LOUISVILLE (Aug. 19, 2014) – A vacant block of West Main Street downtown will be turned into a temporary plaza with art, music, movies and craft beer, Mayor Greg Fischer announced today.

The project, called ReSurfaced, will take place Sept. 19 to Oct. 25 and involve local arts groups and architects, food trucks and local craft beer brewers, transforming 615 W. Main St. into a pop-up plaza and beer garden ...

As usual, a wee bit of local history is in order. Once upon a time in Louisville, there was to have been a 62-story skyscraper to be called the Museum Plaza.

It was not built, and the plan has been officially "dead" for at least three years.

In the run-up to Museum Plaza, several infrastructure improvement projects were completed by the city. One of them was on the 600 block of West Main Street, where four buildings were demolished, but their historic facades buttressed and kept intact. This was slated to be developed as the entrance to Museum Plaza from the Main Street corridor.

The space has remained vacant since 2007. Here is the bird's eye view of the hollow cavity.

This is the space intended to host ReSurfaced, and the beer is to be entirely locally brewed, which is a welcome development. The overall plan was discussed during recent meetings of a special committee to advise Mayor Greg Fisher on what the city might do with respect to supporting local breweries. I was happy to be a part of it. Now we'll see what happens next. ReSurfaced is a great idea, but as I've learned, implementation can be a real bear.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Details coming today: ReSurfaced, a six-week pop-up art space and beer garden.



10 a.m. Tuesday news conference

Louisville Metro sent this bulletin at 08/18/2014 03:07 PM EDT


Mayor Greg Fischer and the non-profit group City Collaborative

Will announce details of ReSurfaced, a six-week pop-up art space and beer garden on Main Street.

10 a.m.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014

615 W. Main Street (behind the facades)
Enter the site from the alley in the back

Chris Poynter, 574-4546 / 396-2015
Phil Miller, 574-1901 / 439-4726

Monday, August 18, 2014

The PC: Slave to words.

The PC: Slave to words.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

Words matter, and so I decided to do some brainstorming.

In the amount of time required to listen to the album The Jazz Age by the Bryan Ferry Orchestra (roughly 35 minutes), I’d do some free association, letters A to Z, and compile a list of words in reply to a simple question: “What does the world of better beer really mean to me?”

My only self-imposed caveat was that these freely-associated words had to be non-specific to beer and brewing. The idea was to chart how better beer affects my brain as a concept, beyond its familiar chemical effects. Here are the results.

Authenticity, anti-fascist, agitprop
Broad-minded, breakthrough, bona fide
Community, cadres, credibility
Diversity, development, dissenter, Dionysian
Education, exercise, egalitarian
Foment, fun, feisty
Genuine, gadfly
Heterodoxy, healthy, heretical
Integrity, insurgency, idiosyncratic
Jamboree, jamming
Knowledge, kinship
Localism, leadership, liberal
Multicultural, mythological, militancy
Non-negotiable, neighborhood
Original, openness
Pride, placemaking, passionate, progressive, polemics
Qualified, quantifiable
Revolt, restoration, reuse
Substantive, subversive
Tactile, transformation, truth, timelessness
Unapologetic, underground
Viva la Revolution, validity, venerable
Walkability, work ethic
Yummy, yearning
Zealotry, zymurgy

Admittedly, there were times when I caught myself daydreaming, even though the music was chosen quite purposefully to be instrumental, without words and distractions. You’ll notice that the letter “x” was a problem, and yes, zymurgy is a beer-specific term. Exceptions, and all that.

Something else is obvious. I’ve consciously avoided attaching the word “craft” to any of it. Slowly and inexorably, I’m engaged in the process of purging this beer descriptor from written and spoken usage. Like so many other useful processes, doing so involves a steady shift, and there’ll be lapses.

It’s clear to me that as the market share of better beer gets ever larger, and efforts to explain what “craft” actually means in terms of process – say, as a maker of handmade furniture might compare and contrast his hand-driven methods to that of a room-sized machine – are downplayed, we’ll increasingly turn to economic descriptors like those of the “buy local” movement. Consciousness about matters like independent ownership will become necessary to help dispel the craftiness of Trojan Goose.

I’ve been saying it for a long time, and generally find myself heckled for it. That’s okay, because at some point, the pendulum will swing back. To indulge in drinking without thinking isn’t drinking at all. It’s just swallowing.

Which brings me to the point of the exercise: I didn’t get into better beer merely to swallow or “drink” reservoirs of it, although doing so might be a collateral result of proximity for three decades. Rather, I got into it so as to change the world, or as much of the world as I could reach.

Grasp is another matter.


Perhaps appropriately, the book currently occupying space atop my nightstand is wonderful: Thinking the Twentieth Century: Intellectuals and Politics in the Twentieth Century, by Tony Judt and Timothy Snyder. In The Guardian, reviewer Neal Ascherson sets the scene.

In this marvelous book, two explorers set out on a journey from which only one of them will return. Their unknown land is that often fearsome continent we call the 20th century. Their route is through their own minds and memories. Both travelers are professional historians still tormented by their own unanswered questions. They needed to talk to one another, and the time was short.

Tony Judt, author of Postwar, found that he was suffering from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), an incurable degenerative disease. His friend Timothy Snyder, a younger American historian, offered to help Judt create his final work. It takes the form of a series of conversations, recorded and then transcribed for Judt's approval over the best part of two years. Judt died in August 2010, a few weeks after dictating a long "afterword", which is as lucid as anything he had written. He was 62 years old.

I’m only hallway through it, but already the two historians have discussed a panoply of ideas, some still an active part of the political lexicon (Zionism, the Jewish experience), while others (Marxist theory) currently are situated just offstage, perhaps to return some day. George Orwell, Arthur Koestler and Stefan Zweig are among the writers popping up in these chats, along with Communism, Nazism, Fascism, Stalinism, Reaganism and Thatcherism.

While reading this book, I’ve experienced much familiarity with the historical contexts, personages and schools of thought therein, but at times it has been necessary to reach for the iPhone and research who a Romanian poet or English trade unionist actually was. Overall, it has been exhilarating, serving as a timely reintroduction to ideas and the life of the mind, these being what inspired me to study philosophy and history at college in the first place.

In turn, it’s probably why I can’t keep various hop varieties straight in my mind, and couldn’t remember a fermentation temperature if you held a Lite to my temple. Science doesn’t scratch the itch. The idea of better beer is what matters to me – the history, theory, sociology, geography and culture of it. If you want to watch yeast mate under a microscopic eye, marvelous. I’d rather draw political insights from Woody Guthrie or find ways of connecting urban revitalization to the ready availability of Porter.

The most important word of all just might be the first one that popped into my head, with an assist from my former co-worker Joe. It’s authenticity, and as ideas go, it’s one of the best. It is my goal to combine authenticity with fun, polemics and localism, and see where they lead in my better beer life these coming months.

As for the Bryan Ferry album, I still go with “Avalon”. It’s the island from Arthurian legend, named for the apple trees located there – and cider’s always a pragmatic second choice to beer.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

About that wasteland of craft-drinking promiscuity.

I would like to be the first to thank Summit Brewing's Mark Stutrud for coining a phrase that's destined to make me smile more often than a well-turned Ordinary Bitter.

America Now Has Over 3,000 Craft Breweries—and That's Not Necessarily Great for Beer Drinkers, by Joshua M. Bernstein (BON APPÉTIT)

... Endless choice is not always the be-all and end-all. “The promiscuous drinkers are never satisfied,” says Summit’s Stutrud.

Let's consult the dictionary -- not the primary definition of promiscuous, which is outdated and derogatory, but the second line down.



demonstrating or implying an undiscriminating or unselective approach; indiscriminate or casual.

"the city fathers were promiscuous with their honors"

synonyms: indiscriminate, undiscriminating, unselective, random, haphazard, irresponsible, unthinking, unconsidered

RateAdvocate reviewers nationwide may now angrily reply as one:


Here's another excerpt.

... On a recent summer morning, you could plop beside Dogfish Head president Sam Calagione and discuss craft beer’s coming bottleneck.

“We’re heading into an incredibly competitive era of craft brewing,” he says. “There’s a bloodbath coming.”

It seems plausible to me that the growth rate of "craft" beer can be maintained, as better beer continually erodes the American monolith of swill. But there really isn't a metric for predicting which among the 3,000+ stand to enjoy the benefits of growth. I'm no mathematician, but it also seems plausible that there could be an increase in overall "craft" beer sales even if 20% of the breweries ceased functioning -- if the ones closing were small breweries.

Sierra Appalachia's volume alone would make up for how many failed nanos?

That's why the coming bloodbath is worrisome to me.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

These requests from abroad, volume three: "I am writing to ask if you could help me to increase my collection."

(Other instances of voyeurism are here and here)

If you own a brewery or work for one, you may have fielded e-mail inquiries from overseas asking for beer labels, crown caps and the like, as destined to become cherished keepsakes of private collectors who've heard of your beer, even in far-off Belarus or the Kalahari.

To me, there is something haunting about the foreign requests, which tend to come from Central/Eastern European locales, these being places of longtime personal interest to me historically and geographically. They stoke my inner melancholic, and for the life of me, I don't know why.

Lately, I've been pasting their addresses into Google Map and seeing what their places of residence look like. Here are the most recent ones.

Krzysztof lives in Wrocław, the fourth-largest city in Poland. It appears to be a pleasant, newer housing development outside the city center.

It took some thought and head-scratching to find Roman's and Igor's house in Lviv, Ukraine, which is a place I almost visited once in the mid-1990s until the length of the train ride from Slovakia deterred me. Instead, we went to Hungary and got juiced in Eger.

In their request, the brothers' chosen English transliteration of the Cyrillic came out as Ogienka Street, which would not register as a search. Fortunately, I have a bare-bones familiarity with the Cyrillic alphabet (actual language proficiency is another matter), and eventually got the right letters in a process that can be quite variable: Not Ogienka, but Ohijenka Street.

Is it one of them coming out the door in this 2011 street view?

Let's hope no privacy protocols are being violated by my depicting their buildings, seeing as there's a drone hovering outside my front door even as I type.

It's just that I can't help wondering: What's the rest of the story?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Muzzling myself: "5 Restaurant Chains Banking on Craft Beer."

Maybe so, but seeing as two of the five are brewpub chains, this article isn't exactly telling us what we'd like to know, and what might actually change the game: When will Ruby Tuesday, Olive Garden and other casuals address their sales decline by getting in the game?

Do their cookie-cutter concepts simply not permit experimentation? Is it better MBA strategy just to spin off new concepts?

What do they do with all those unredeemed gift cards in the checkout lane at WalMart?

5 Restaurant Chains Banking on Craft Beer, by Jason Notte (The Street)

... As of February, visits to casual dining establishments including Olive Garden and Ruby Tuesday are at a six-year low.

People ages 18 through 47 have been shunning such establishments in huge numbers and have dragged down their sales every quarter since 2010, but the numbers get a little better once there's some beer involved. We took a look around the restaurant landscape and found five establishments that are making either the brewpub or taproom model work, with craft beer as a whole benefiting from their efforts.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

One night stand: "Hot fried chicken pop-up coming to New Albany."

For the menu, visit the NABC listing:

Danny Joe’s “Nashville Style” Hot Fried Chicken pop-up kitchen comes to Bank Street Brewhouse on Saturday, August 16

Meanwhile, Chef Thomas does publicity, too.
Dish | Hot fried chicken pop-up coming to New Albany, by Dana McMahan (Special to The Courier-Journal)

“Danny Joe’s Hot Chicken Pop-Up at NABC Bank St.” will bring Nashville-style hot fried chicken to New Albany on Saturday from 5 to 10:30 p.m. Dan Thomas is setting up shop at Bank Street Brewhouse, 415 Bank St., for a “one night show” with the Nashville-inspired fare.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The PC: Well, ya gotta start somewhere, part five, and a closing rumination about revolution, orthodoxy and contrarianism.

The PC: Well, ya gotta start somewhere, part five, and a closing rumination about revolution, orthodoxy and contrarianism.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

If you feel like having a beer, and better choices are limited or even non-existent, what do you do?

For quite a few years now, my thoughts on this matter have been simple: Go somewhere else, do something else, or drink something else, even if this means water, coffee, wine, or something even stronger.

Or nothing at all. The older I get, the fewer years remain … and life becomes even shorter for drinking wretched mass market swill.

Sorting through available options resembles a process of triage, and it requires principled thinking. There are considerations of flavor, and these exist alongside equally compelling explorations of origin.

It’s true that I have periodic issues with Samuel Adams, but in a pinch, I’ll drink Boston Lager in an airport. The same goes for Sierra Nevada Pale Ale … for now, but as Sierra Nevada inexorably morphs into Sierra Appalachia, my thoughts might well change.

Those ubiquitous house mockrobrewed atrocities trotted out by the big boys, from Blue Moon to Landshark and back, might as well not exist in my world. I’m far too loving of my greenbacks to sacrifice them on charades, and there is too much preying on the gullible already.

The same reasoning applies to the late Goose Island, as reduced perhaps forever to inert zombie bondage. Goose Island is little more than a Craft Shaped Hologram, and the money spent on it goes straight to Leuven, hence to Chardonnay-sipping shareholders the world over. Sorry, but I cannot support subsidizing leeches.

Leinenkugel? Spare me. Not since the decline of its Indian Head stubbies in the 1980s has this Wisconsin brewery been remotely independent. Neither do I know which offshore corporate bank accounts benefits from abominations like Summer Shandy, nor do I care. It’s all legal documents under a watery bridge at this juncture.

By the same token, every now and then I’ll drink a Pilsner Urquell or a Guinness, and my doing so strikes some as hypocritical. It isn’t, because the self-awareness of shift precludes it. First and foremost, thinking and drinking locally (regionally, nationally, in ever-widening circles of consciousness from “often” to “much more rarely”) involve shift. “Perfection” is a stupid and non-existent term meant for marring the verbiage on restaurant menus.

Yes, Pilsner Urquell, Guinness and a few other beers worth considering are entirely owned by multi-national conglomerates, from which I shift my interest and cash as often as possible, but the difference to me is that these brands are not incessantly framed to deceive in the fashion of AB-InBev’s Trojan Goose, which is a shelf-space-monopolizing chess piece in a game I don’t care to play.


Long ago in the 1990s, when I first composed the essay that has provided the inspiration for these past five updates, it was my observation that mass market swill continued to exercise a hold on me many years past the point where I knew far better, and that this grip did not strictly owe to considerations of cost.

Rather, it was something almost cultural, which required a process not unlike active daily therapy to properly expunge. A few passages are worth revisiting.

You can’t know what you’re missing if you haven’t been exposed to it, and when you have, familiar habits and conveniences don’t change easily. It takes an act of calculated volition to escape the subtle noose of conformity that American consumer culture imperceptibly tightens with every ubiquitous ploy in its considerable arsenal, with every billboard, television advertisement and sponsorship agreement that assaults our senses in a typical day. To begin escaping it, you have to be willing to question beliefs that seem all the more sacrosanct owing to the almost religious conviction with which they are advanced.

You must try to cease thinking in terms of packaging and presentation, and begin thinking in terms of essences and ultimates, to abandon the orthodoxy that more for less is always better, and to recognize that enlightenment is far preferable to ignorance even when broader understanding brings with it "unpatriotic" and "antisocial" perceptions and connotations on the part of your peers.

These many years later, the last part remains most difficult, except that now, while having no interest whatever in returning to the intellectually bankrupt ethos of mass market swill, I’m finding myself equally at odds with it and with the “craft” worldview succeeding it, the latter being a book I’ve helped write.

Alas, once a contrarian, always a contrarian. I wondered what would happen in my cranium when revolution mutated into orthodoxy, and now I have the privilege of finding out.

For my money, the sociology of human beings making alcoholic beverages and drinking them, both privately and publicly, is the most complex, intimate and fascinating of all such systems that seek to explain our behavior in the context of interaction with others. All the elements are there: Religiosity, education, science, individual and group psychology … on and on, with all aspects of the human experience, the bodies and the blood, capable of being poured into a glass and consumed. The power and intensity of the metaphor is enhanced by knowledge, and this alters your relationship with the people who are taking part, and with the elixir in the glass.

Not bad. In the original, I was riffing on St. Augustine of Hippo, hence the atypical (for me) religious ale-legory.

Of course, one tinkers with these fragile relationships at his own peril; once released, the genie might be reluctant to crawl meekly back into the bottle, and so it has been with me. It takes a certain hardness of heart to realize that your beliefs are beyond compromise, even if the result is a schism with the past. I’ve come a long way toward achieving my goal of being a better beer drinker than all the rest of them – not in terms of volume, but in terms of understanding. If celebrating this accomplishment means sharing with them the detestable liquid that started us all down this path, and partaking of the liquid they still venerate, as though nothing has changed in twenty years of incessant, clamorous change, then I’ll have to regrettably pass, and urge them to come to me on my terms … or not at all.

“Detestable” aptly covers swill, though not the far better beer I still choose to the exclusion of watery alcohol-delivery devices. It’s the wrong word to describe where I am now, given that “better” beer is precisely that. Where does it go from here? I can’t predict, but I’m fairly serene in the plan I’m devising for myself and my business.

I’m not going anywhere … at least physically, and this fifth segment is the last in the series.

Next week, it’s on to something else.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

What the wineries can do, and the breweries cannot.

At the New Albany Farmers Market on Saturday morning, both the Indian Creek Winery and Best Vineyards were on hand. Both are small, local farm wineries. They seemed to be doing a brisk trade.

In Indiana, wineries set up and conduct their trade at farmers markets, and what they're doing is both legal and generally lauded. Meanwhile, small breweries are not permitted to follow suit. Presumably, this discrepancy owes to a lingering suspicion on the part of undereducated legislators that while wineries make a product suitable for civilization, breweries corrode civilization with malt liquor and keg stands.

Note that the state representative for NABC's legislative district is Ed Clere, who labors mightily to change the discriminatory law governing breweries at the farmers market. He is to be applauded for this, and there'll be another spin of the wheel next spring.

In my world, wineries and breweries are precisely the same, except that one uses grapes and fruit to render adult libations, while the other deploys grain. After all, fermentation is a natural process. The continued existence of one set of rules for small wineries and another for small breweries is plainly ludicrous.

Parity. Why is this such a difficult concept?

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Diary: Take your IPA Day and shove it.

I believe it was on Thursday last week that it was revealed to me. Someone, somewhere had declared it to be IPA Day.

The identity of the governing authority behind such utterances remains unclear, but there it was. I've long been contemptuous of "Hallmark Holidays," wherein PT Barnum is regularly proven right, and consumers will spend money chasing cards and gifts on First Cousin Day, or Deceased Pet Turtle Day, or whatever else has been dreamt up by a marketing firm as an effective means of pinpointing the location of fools, and relieving them of spare cash.

Now, for all my rampant and escalating cynicism, I can't honestly say that IPA Day as a concept is quite this wretched. I like IPAs, albeit it less so than in the past. At the same time, if all beers are IPAs -- as increasingly seems the case -- then we must return to the timeless wisdom of "stamp out and abolish redundancy," because IPA Day becomes the "craft" beer equivalent of Mass Market Lager Day.

I said as much on Twitter, and not content to dip a tepid toe into the Coors Light, went even further: Notions like IPA Day are hokum, to which I am grievously allergic.

Naturally, no more than an hour passed before one of my own employees posted on Facebook about celebrating IPA Day with NABC's Progressive Pints, and immediately I was exposed as some variety of hypocrite, and left to dangle from a gallow's pole of my own construction.

But not really, because pesky concepts like freedom of speech exist, even within  NABC. If you want uniform, monolithic thinking, then go visit RateAdvocate.

In the final consideration, what remains is fairly basic: Hallmark Holidays annoy me tremendously and are likely to continue doing so, and when every beer is an IPA, IPA is meaningless.

This is why I'm here today to announce the Session Gruit IPA Revolution. 

We'll brew a session-strength Pale Ale without hops, substituting a range of botanicals sources primarily in Indochina, hence the acronym. We'll sell a half-pint in a half-empty full sized glass, into which the drinker will add a bottle of Q tonic water ... you know, for bitterness.


Have I won a Pulitzer yet?

The saddest thing of all is that in the time it's taken me to write this diary entry, someone's already pitching the idea to AB InBev.

Maybe Goose Island will do it.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Baseball's craft beer market explodes ... everywhere except Louisville Philistine Field.

On July 27, we attended a Minnesota Twins game at Target Field in downtown Minneapolis. Here I am, enjoying the scene with a can of Summit IPA.

Behind us was a concession stand featuring local and regional beers. Out in right-center field, there was another area with good beers on draft. I bought a Surly. After the game, we walked to Fulton Brewery, which is located roughly two hundred yards from the ballpark.

Meanwhile, Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati continues to attract attention for its Reds Brewery District, and at the Slugger Craft Beer page at Facebook, Joel Z. makes an astute observation.

Too bad that the powers that be at the Bats/Slugger Field are still refusing to follow the example set by their parent club.

Joel, that's because they're incurable, unrepentant Philistines, even if certain local "craft" beer luminaries habitually apologize for them.

Have you ever looked for the word Philistine in the dictionary?

Gary Ulmer's photograph is there.

The Best Beer in Baseball, by Kevin Schaul, Kelyn Soong and Dan Steinberg (Washington Post)

Several years ago, craft beer started taking off at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark. From 2011-2012, sales went up by 20 percent. From 2012-2013, they were up 47 percent.

So when it came time to create a new hangout in a highly trafficked spot on the third-base concourse, the ballpark went all-in on craft-style beers. The new Reds Brewery District – an 84-foot-long bar with more than 50 taps – included more than 20 craft offerings when it opened this spring. There were local beers from Cincinnati brewers like Christian Moerlein, MadTree, Blank Slate, Fifty West, Rhinegeist, Mt. Carmel, and Rivertown. There were national options from well-regarded breweries like Founders, Bell’s, West Sixth and Great Lakes.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

In 2014, we conducted a different, and yet still great, taste of the Midwest.

Usually at this precise moment I'd be at the Great Dane, Vintage Brewing or the Capital Brewing beer garden, getting primed for the Great taste of the Midwest.

However, this being a period of relative transition for NABC since the shuttering of Bank Street Brewhouse's kitchen in May, we'd decided long ago to scale back the crew at GTMW in 2014, all the better to restore full (and expensive) debauchery in 2015.

Tonight like always, the boys and girls are on site in Madison, and I'm not, but oddly, my wife and I just returned from a road trip that included the Wisconsin state capital.

It's all quite simple, really. She had an unexpected opportunity to change jobs, and grabbed the advancement, leaving us with a window to load up the car and embark on a Great American Road Trip, just not at the same time as the Great Taste of the Midwest.

We had our own great taste, of Madison, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Duluth and Dubuque. I've backdated daily trip renderings and photos at my other blog, where you can find all the links collected in one place.

All the Northern Road Trip posting links collected in one place.

Over the next few days I'll be backdating postings here, and getting caught up. Kindly bear with me, anc cheers to all who'll be at the nation's best-run and most authentic beer fest this Saturday.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Diary: Inspiration from the Beer Compurgator. Thank you, sir.

The article at Beer Compurgation is the thing, and this one strikes near and dear to my jaundiced, beer-loving heart. It's worth every bit of the time, although American readers need to maintain a sense of context as it pertains to cask ale, CAMRA and the like. That said,

However, a single sentence from Pete Brown's comment also encapsulates the mood I'm trying quite desperately to honor.

But the petty debates only matter if you pay attention to them: the momentum behind beer is now bigger and more powerful than a bunch of bloggers and hopheads can have any control over.

That's right, Pete.

For the past two months, perhaps slightly longer, I've been consciously removing myself from proximity to the pettiness and preening idiocy, and having done so, I feel much relieved about the future of better beer. Granted, as indicated by my choice of words in this paragraph, the recovery is ongoing. I'm a polemicist to the very core of my being, after all.

But it is a recovery, nonetheless. I am, in fact, a "recovering" beer geek/enthusiast/nerd/snob," and it's going to take a while to return to a state of bliss.

I've resolved to reach it. Apologies if I'm occasionally a part of the problem. As ever, I'd rather be part of the solution.

EVERYTHING wrong with Beer at this moment, at Beer Compurgation

Exposed piping. As many mis-matched stools as you can find from your old Science classroom. Religious style beards. And all the pulled pork you'll ever want to eat. We know the formula for opening a "Craft Beer" bar by now and it's tiresome. I miss the pub. I've spoken recently about how much I've enjoyed being in the pub. I like small tap rooms with cosy stools and a fireplace. I like random brass and copper utensils on the walls. I like bar flies that know your name and sit in the same spot with the racing post every day. I like Sky Sports on the television and maybe a pool table around the back. I like inexpensive bar snacks from Big D and Mr. Porky. I just wish this was where I could get a good beer. I've said it before and will say again, when drinking in Leeds I'd rather be sat in the delightful Grove Inn on Back Row than in Tapped Leeds. Yet the remarkable choice of beers always leads me to the grey and soulless new bar. There are no flashing games machines here. There is no memorabilia of bygone days in Yorkshire adorning the walls. There are no locals starting a random conversation with you about the problems Joiners have had in the past six years. There is just beer and I've allowed that to be enough. I've become the embodiment of everything I am criticizing. I like Tapped - and the bar staff have always been delightful here - it just makes me question myself.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

More requests from abroad: "I would like to ask you to send me some beer items."

(The first instance of my overt voyeurism is here)

If you own a brewery or work for one, you probably know the drill.

E-mails constantly arrive from overseas (oddly, with the exception of Nigeria), asking you to send beer labels, crown caps and the like to become the cherished keepsakes of private collectors who've heard of your beer, even in far-off Warsaw or the Amazon Basin.

No SASE, no service; still, there's something that haunts me about the foreign requests, which tend to come from Central/Eastern European locales, these being places of longtime personal interest to me historically and geographically. Lately, I've been pasting their addresses into Google Map and seeing what their places of residence look like. For some reason, I find it a melancholy exercise, and I'm unsure why. My best guess is transferral. Here are the most recent ones.

First, Vlad from Russia. He lives in Novocherkassk, near Rostov-on-Don, near the Sea of Azov. The city is only a few years older than New Albany.

Pavel also lives in Russia. His home in the Moskovsky district of St. Petersburg is well removed from the city center, but the subway runs relatively nearby. It's a typical apartment house, but at least it appears leafy.

I hope no protocols are being violated by my depicting their buildings, seeing as there's a drone hovering outside my front door even as I type. I just can't help wondering: What's the rest of the story?

Saturday, August 02, 2014

GnawBrew apparently was quite good.

Damn it, John -- I hated to miss it. Maybe next year, but not with me camping ... rain or shine.


... Gnawbrew is an event that founder Douglas Talley started 5 years ago in his backyard as a way to gather friends, drink craft beer and play music with his band Gravel Mouth. It has now turned into an event with several bands, lots of breweries, camping, comedy, movies and hundreds of people in attendance. As far as I’m concerned, it's one of the best festivals you could ever attend.