Monday, December 29, 2014

The PC: Passing on collecting.

The PC: Passing on collecting.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

This column was originally published on February 1, 2012, at the web site. 

I used to be a beer collector, but nowadays, I’d rather just drink a few good beers, tell stories, and listen to tales from other beer drinkers.

For me, living the dream means consciously refraining from any more documentation than owning a brewery already makes necessary, and overall, pursuing a drinking life more Homeric than bound by a purportedly encyclopedic iPhone app.

Long before the instantaneous electronic communications helped enable a worldwide culture of beer ratings and trophy lists, there was a more palpably physical element to beer collecting.

Cans and bottles were the readiest targets of the hoarder’s impulse, including mine. You drained, and you kept it. This seemed like a practical strategy, given that there were far fewer types of beer to acquire during the nadir of American beer in the late 1970’s. I was looking ahead to having a house of my own, with a bar, and as many shelves as needed to display my spent vessels of drinking bouts past.

Alas, it didn’t work out that way.

In the run-up to my brilliant and consistently delayed future, the boxes began accumulating beyond any reasonable archival capacity. There weren’t as many U-Store-Its in those primitive times, and much to my shock, those few friends who could afford decent housing were oddly disinterested in roles as museum curators to my stash, as stacked dustily in their basements.

So it was that apart from a handful of sentimental favorites, the bulk of the collection was carted to the landfill, and a second simplified phase began, although a major jolt to my worldview was required to facilitate it.


Once I’d started lugging my backpack through Europe, it took precisely one hike from the train station to the hostel, a mere five uphill kilometers away on the other side of the city, to illustrate that packing light always is the best policy for the budget traveler. Three months or more with a handful of semi-clean personal belongings is not the best time to play pack rat.

Then, a night on the town somewhere in Switzerland established conclusively that food and drink were far cheaper when purchased from a supermarket than a bar or restaurant. Occasional on-premise splurges were permitted and encouraged, so long as farthings allowed, but day-to-day drinking increasingly was shifted to a commons area or a park bench, savoring bottled beers, a section of cheese and a hunk of bread, all purchased at a shop.

I noticed relatively quickly that irrespective of European locale, most bottles of beer came only after paying a deposit, meaning they were meant to be returned for refilling, and this provided my third and final revelation: When the brewery intends to clean a glass bottle for refilling, the previous labels are to be removed eventually, and if a brewery intends for labels to be removed, it does not use strong glue to affix them.

The labels would fall off after a few seconds soaking the empties in a sink. All I had to do was let them dry, place them between the pages of my guidebook, and a brand new collector’s hobby had come into being. Labels were light, easy to harvest, and evidence of wonderful times. With the help of running notations in a spiral-bound notebook, a list was born.


As my travels continued, so did my collecting of beer labels, but as time passed, my mode of travel veered ever more up-market. I had more money to spend, and so more beers were consumed at pubs and taverns, where one’s readily available souvenirs are beer mats/coasters, not labels. For reasons unknown, this shift in travel habits led to an alarming weight gain.

The more experienced I became in a world of beer, and the greater my knowledge of it, the less imperative it became for me to keep detailed lists, and to amass tangible evidence of the beer I’d enjoyed. Most of it tended to be thrown into banker’s boxes anyway, and seldom seen. At some point along the way, I realized that with age came accumulated experience and knowledge, something that isn’t quantifiable with mere slips of colored paper or hundreds of documented beer ratings.

I’ve consumed thousands of different beers in my life, and in some instances, thousands of the same beer. There isn’t a master listing, and undoubtedly the identity of many are lost forever, like that cool draft Helles from the tiny train station buffet in the Bavarian countryside back in the summer of 1985.

But even when you can’t remember their names, it doesn’t mean they didn’t show you a great time -- while it lasted.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

V.I. Lenin, founder of the USSR, attends his first Craft Bottle Share.

The estimable Josh H. recalls me telling him this story while in a state of gravity-borne, drunken disrepair. It is my favorite "old" Soviet Union joke.

It's the Brezhnev era, circa 1970s, and Soviet scientists finally have solved the riddle of death, immediately applying the potion to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin's embalmed corpse.

Lenin springs back to life, dusts off, and looks around the room. Asked by the scientists if they can get him anything, Lenin requests access to his office in the Kremlin and all the back issues of Pravda since he died. Fawningly, the scientists comply, and Lenin shuts himself in the office.

Day after day passes by, and while the scientists are terrified to bother Lenin, they start to worry. Finally they decide to break down the door. Inside Lenin's office they find issues of the newspaper strewn everywhere, but no Lenin.

On the desk he has left a note: "Comrades, it's gone to hell in a handbasket, so I'm off to start the revolution all over again."

By the way, here's an article about how to properly share your bottles.

6 Rules for Attending Your First Bottle Share, by Josh Ruffin (Paste Magazine)

Hey, I see you’re gearing up for your first bottle share! That’s awesome, and you should be excited. You’re going to try some great, rare beers, including some you may never taste again, and get the chance to be a part of a very special, very passionate community.

That said, there are a few ground-rules. So read on, unless you want to become a Don’t Drink Beer meme.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Plymouth pub landlord lays down the law for "once-a-year" Christmas drinkers.

A man very much after my own heart. Initially I passed over this article, until I noticed the reference to Plymouth, where we spent a fair amount of time in 2009 and 2013. That said, I don't recall having a pint at the Stoke Inn. I wish I had done so.

Don't order cranberry juice and hot girls get served first: Pub landlord posts hilarious list of rules for once-a-year Christmas drinkers to abide by in his bar, by Luke Salkeld (Daily Mail)

It's supposed to be the season of goodwill – but it seems no one has told one curmudgeonly landlord who has laid down the law to festive drinkers.

Steve Bowen claims his bar is plagued by Christmas revellers who are clueless about pub etiquette. So in a tongue-in-cheek attempt to remedy the situation, he has drawn up a list of rules directed at the kind of 'awful human beings who buy their beer from supermarkets'.

Hit the link and read the entire piece. I'll feature just two of Bowen's rules.

* Welcome to Western Civilization.

* If an old bloke sat at the bar gets served before you do, and the bartender knows him by name and even seems to know what he's drinking before he orders it - that's Bob. Bob drinks here all the time. Bob drinks here five times a week, every week. Bob's custom pays the bills. Bob and the other Regulars keep the pub open eleven months of the year whilst you're having dinner parties and bulk-buying booze from the supermarket. Yes, they get preferential treatment. Accept it.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Is "craft" beer an urban delusion, too?

Looking back at 2014 and hazarding a rough guess, I probably received "come brew with us" solicitations from economic development officials, representing Indiana towns and cities, at a rate of one or two each month. What all of them have had in common was a certainty that our/your/any brewery would help Anytown turn the corner and anchor a revival.

It may even be true, although the New Albanian Brewing Company wouldn't mean as much operating in Paoli or Vernon (note that neither of them asked). It'd be like Sierra Nevada in Asheville, for chrissakes.

In Louisville, the dining and drinking scene has become bewilderingly profuse, and is amply celebrated by tourism operatives, usually with a bourbon chaser. Even in New Albany, the level of revitalization we've managed has been driven by food and drink, and since my wife and I can walk to them from our house, we seldom eat out in Louisville.

In some way connected to the preceding ruminations, Chakrabortty's column struck a nerve with me.

Behind the restaurant boom: the urban delusion consuming our cities, by Aditya Chakrabortty (The Guardian)

... Part of how this country responds to the loss of its manufacturing base and a banking meltdown appears to be that it gets into eating. London is going through a restaurant boom. According to the website Hot Dinners, the number of restaurants born in central London has surged every year since 2011. In 2013, 196 new places opened; this year it’s 240.

This notion migrates from the capital to the hinterlands, where smaller cities are routinely starved by the politicians in London.

Meanwhile, town halls parched for investment scrabble after restaurateurs and their cash. “Every council has its own approach to regeneration, and food is a cornerstone of our strategy,” says Andrew Sissons, regeneration guru for Hackney, in east London. Coventry is turning an old shopping centre into a restaurant quarter. To lure big-name chefs, Gloucester is waving financial incentives. And samey food festivals are rolled out everywhere – so one can hike from Llangollen to Broadstairs and never go short of craft beer or organic double-chocolate-chip brownies.

It's because foodies and the creative class are synonymous.

Tastier eateries ... reflect the influence on our city authorities of Richard Florida and Ed Glaeser. Read these American urban theorists, and there is an image of the ideal postmodern city as a menagerie of apartment-dwelling “creative” freelancers who roam from start-up to eatery, clutching only a MacBook and a flat white ... it's the corollary of the delusion that what replaces old industry is a new knowledge economy – if only city leaders knew how to kindle one.

But the theorem of a dining-driven "knowledge" economy is far more tenuous in the countryside, so something familiar happens.

... when you put most of the politicians, media, and big-boy jobs in all-powerful, recession-proof London: sharp economic inequality produces gastronomic inequality, too ... London has more restaurants per head than anywhere else in the UK – 50% more than the national average, and almost twice as many per head as the East or West Midlands. 

Competing for London's cache and cash merely reinforces a loss of historic identity.

When provincial cities were sites of production, they had distinct economies and identities: Cottonopolis Manchester; Worstedopolis Bradford; Brummagen Birmingham ... now that they compete to be centres of consumption, the pecking order is sharper and harder. 

So, who is seated at all those new restaurant tables in London?

And what if you come to London, where rents are a rip-off, first-time buying is unimaginable, and freelancing in one of those creative industries beloved of Richard Florida means earning sod all? How does a twenty- or thirtysomething in those circumstances take up the lifestyle offered by the capital? By parking any idea of buying a place, starting a family and settling down. “They haven’t the money to grow up, so they go out,” suggests the Manchester University anthropologist Sean Carey. They queue for burgers, eat at concept diners and Instagram the results – perhaps it makes an unliveable settlement bearable for a while.

They INSTAGRAM THE RESULTS. How familiar is that? The author ends here:

A concept’s fine for a night out – but it’s no way to run an economy.

Because brewing very much is about making a product, the analogies between it and Chakrabortty's thoughts are not perfect. However, it's something to strain through the non-egalitarianism that has become so lamentably attached to better beer appreciation in America.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Diary: The Taylor Swift Theory of RateAdvocate.

Okay, so if Taylor Swift "left" Spotify, could a brewery leave RateAdvocate?

You know, revert to incognito mode? When I posed this question on Twitter, my friend RM replied, "I like that idea. Sort of like the EU Right To Be Forgotten."

Here's the Factsheet on the "Right to Be Forgotten Ruling", as well as an excerpt from an article about it at The Guardian.

The top European court has backed the "right to be forgotten" and said Google must delete "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant" data from its results when a member of the public requests it.

Another friend simply answered, "No," but then again, he's a big fan of beer ratings and might be just as jaundiced as me, somewhere across the chasm on the other side of the issue.

Granted, I'm mostly writing smack, so seriously ...

I understand "the right to be forgotten" and RateAdvocate are apples vs. oranges. I suppose the conventional wisdom is that only those breweries (and florists, restaurants, muffler shops and hotels, etc) with "bad" ratings would ever want to disappear from on-line ratings aggregators.

I'm told that NABC has good ratings (I seldom look), so that's not it.

I do know that my own use of non-beer ratings aggregators (florists, et al) generally bears little fruit. One tires of seeing a perfect five-star review posted adjacent to a hideous one-star pan, leading to an existential despair over the unfashionability of objective criteria.

I wouldn't know a Taylor Swift song if it walked up and knocked my pint of session ale onto the floor. Still, when I heard she was leaving Spotify, I mouthed a silent cheer. Maybe the grass is always greener on that ever-elusive "other" side.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Survey of coming breweries includes the latest news on New Albany's Donum Dei.

Donum Dei's new logo.

It's gratifying to have Kevin Gibson on the job as a free lancer, being remunerated (we hope) for the time and shoe leather required to assemble news and information about the local brewing scene. Notice how he manages to describe new businesses without resorting to boilerplate chamber of commerce-speak?

With the exception of Bannerman, I've been keeping up with these projects on a fairly consistent basis, especially Rick Stidham's Akasha. Because I'm based in Hoosierland, the extended excerpt from Kevin's piece details progress toward fruition at Donum Dei, which is located a few hundred yards (as the crow flies) from NABC's original location off Grant Line Road on the North Side of the West Bank.

Five new Louisville breweries to watch out for in 2015, by Kevin Gibson (Insider Louisville)

We’ll take a quick look at five new breweries that are either on track for or are working toward opening in 2015.

Akasha Brewing Company
Beer Engine

Donum Dei Brewery: Over in New Albany, at 3211 Grant Line Road, just a stone’s throw from the original New Albanian Brewing Company location, is another brewery in waiting. Richard Otey is brewing in his new space, which is nearly complete. However, he still is yet to offer a target opening date.

Originally, he told us he had planned to open sometime around Derby 2014; that prognostication later changed to summer, and then to Thanksgiving. Now, early 2015 looks most likely. But Donum Dei already has a batch of its pale ale brewed and ready to drink, as well as an enkle. Up next is wee heavy.

Kegs have been purchased, and the buildout seems mostly complete. Otey is doing most of the buildout himself, using reclaimed materials whenever possible, from rescued wood to 1940s-era mirrors to chairs from an old Wendy’s restaurant.

I stopped by recently, and the place looks within reach of opening. Still, Otey hesitates to throw out a deadline.

“Every time I try to make a deadline,” he told me, “it’s just that — it’s dead.”

He did tell me how he acquired his reclaimed brew kettle, which was purchased from a brewery in Vancouver Wash. — he found it on on a Friday, left in his truck to pick it up on Saturday, and had it back at the brewery by Wednesday. He called it a five-day “turn and burn.”

Otey gave me a sample of the Donum Dei pale ale, his first test batch, that sure tasted better than a test batch — moderately hopped, it was well balanced and right on the money. He also gave me a sample of a roast beef panini that will be representative of the future food menu — another thumbs up. Expect sandwiches, soups, hummus and other such small eats once Donum Dei opens.

When will that be? Hard to say, although he admits February should be doable. Of course, as noted, last February he began construction hoping to open by Derby.

“I didn’t say which year,” he clarified with a smile.

Bannerman Brewing
Old Louisville Brewing Company

Monday, December 22, 2014

The PC: A trick of the Christmas tale (2014).

The PC: A trick of the Christmas tale (2014).

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

This column originally was published in December, 2013, at, and is reprinted here mostly unaltered. I usually watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas at some point during the holiday season, exercising care to stop the showing just before his heart grows three sizes. It's so very depressing ...

It happens each holiday season. During an otherwise random conversation about Trojan Goose, the superiority of two-way street grids or the many edifying reasons why the Confederacy got whipped in the Civil War in spite of the present-day Republican’s wet pipe dreams, eventually someone looks at me with dismay.

“Roger, you’re such a Grinch.”

My response never varies: “Thank you very much.”

The roots of my longstanding Yuletide antipathy might be traced to Freudian conceits, Jungian counter-thrusts, references to childhood toilet training habits or the sheer pervasiveness of psychological repression stemming from residency in a fascist state, but in truth, it’s far simpler.

It goes back to that original, defining moment in every American boy’s life – not when it becomes clear that he’ll die some day without the saving grace of being able to hit a curveball, but the sudden, gut-wrenching discovery that in spite of the shameless propaganda fed to us by adults, who’d assured us that excruciating behavioral self-regulation would be rewarded by a gaudily costumed fat man parking his tricked-out sleigh on the roof and descending the chimney, that nope, in the end, it was nothing more than a transparent ruse.

Then it hits you: Santa Claus doesn’t really exist at all.

Our house didn’t even have a chimney, and you’d think this would have made me suspicious, but I was oblivious. When the shameful day of infamy arrived and my chum chided me -- “c’mon, don’t tell me you still believe in Santa?” -- I did much more than merely shake Santa’s grip, cold turkey, right there on the spot.

I irrevocably disavowed the whole contrived Christmas spectacle, because even at such a tender age, I could see the dominoes falling as the previously sacrosanct Santa myth vaporized in plain sight. If the grownups could mislead us about Santa, where would it end? They might also be fibbing about those other edicts demanding compliance and conformity, from the civic foundational edifices of religion, patriotism and obedience to the logic of the crosswalk.

The worst of it was sitting alone in my room, cross-legged on the cold tile floor, and experiencing the devastating frustration of knowing that I was far too young to properly drink my way through the rampant disappointment.

Santa’s unused cookies and milk were the best I could do, and then, as now, I detest milk.


In 1991, at 31, I spent Christmas in the city of Kosice -- today located in sovereign Slovakia, which then comprised the easternmost lands of Czechoslovakia. It was the mid-point of a six-month stint teaching conversational English to doctors and nurses at the city’s main hospital, an experience made possible by the Cold War’s end. Upon returning stateside in 1992, there was a brief break, and then I went into the food and drink business, where I’ve been ever since.

Grinch or not, the approach of the holiday season in Kosice proved fascinating. With no Thanksgiving to serve as mile marker, few signs were evident that that Christmas was coming until the eve of St. Nicholas Day (December 6), when children scrubbed and polished their shoes, placing them on windowsills to be filled with candy and chocolate. Presumably, bad children would receive a bundle of twigs bound together for swatting their butts … as it should be.

In Communist times, the regime attempted to persuade the populace that a chap named Grandfather Frost brought these goodies, presumably on behalf of the benevolent leadership. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, back came Christmas trees and caroling in the streets, and while these were familiar to me, decorations didn't even begin to appear until the first part of December. I remarked to my uncomprehending students that they should contrive a holiday like Halloween to mark the true beginning of the shopping season.

Shopping season? It was quite ephemeral. Surely it’s different in 2014, but in 1991, only a few understated window displays were to be seen in shops, and high ¬pressure, guilt laced sales tactics were nowhere to be found. However, one necessary seasonal item became ubiquitous during the week preceding Christmas.

This was carp, raised and fattened in farm ponds, not river bottoms, and brought to market in street-side barrels and oversized plastic tubs. Some buyers brought their own buckets to take the living fish home for a few days of further bathtub cleansing. Others had their purchase killed, weighed and wrapped on the spot.

Carp is the traditional Slovak meal for Christmas, accompanied by an array of special side dishes, and perhaps some steaming sauerkraut soup. There always was plenty of bottled lager, but the Christmas Eve toast in 1991 was chased with homemade peach brandy from a student’s village nearby: “To peace, health and a good harvest.”


Two or three lifetimes later, there was a second chance to be in Europe for Christmas. I hope it doesn’t prove to be the last.

In 2009, we stayed in a rental apartment in Bamberg, Germany, a mere stone's throw from the Fässla and Spezial breweries. With the requisite open-air Christmas market, mulled wine and naturalistic decorations, Franconia’s version of the Yuletide season was obvious without being garish. The Grinch in me was shaken, if as yet unbowed.

On Christmas morning, we strolled through the Altstadt’s deserted streets and climbed Altenburg hill to the medieval castle, affording a sweeping view of the valley and Bamberg's dizzying number of church spires. Most businesses were closed, but pleasingly, some food and drink purveyors were open in a city blessedly free of the archaic blue laws still existing in Indiana, which prevent alcohol from being served on Dec. 25 – a purely Christian holiday.

Clouds rolled overhead, and it was a bracing and exhilarating walk. Descending the commanding heights back to our riverside starting point, we passed the city museum in the old town hall astride the Regnitz and saw that the doors were open. Inside was a fine collection of 18th century Porcelain from Meissen, and one of 38 nativity scenes on display in and around Bamberg during the holiday season.

A reconnaissance of Ludwigstrasse's expanse revealed that Bamberg's Chinese restaurant owners are not as ambitious as metro Louisville's, with all three closed for the day. However, at the train station, the bakery and small grocery both were open, and I bought a handful of half-liter Schlenkerla Märzen lagers to accompany the evening's home cooked vegetable soup.

With no close friends in Bamberg, we kept ourselves company, having procured groceries and libations in advance. With bottles of Fässla in support, Christmas evening selections on the telly revealed a diverse Euro holiday tableau.

There was a Basque celebration from Bilbao, with crazy costumes, quasi-operatic tunes and the inexplicable, pre-historic language spoken by the world's first cod fishermen. The whole time, I kept expecting a Muse concert to break out.

We watched a performance in Salzburg of Mozart's "The Magic Flute”; snippets of a schlocky Bavarian idyll, rather like the Osmonds meeting Lawrence Welk in lederhösen and dirndls; and then a Berlin performance by Max Raab and the Hotel Palast Orchestra, a stagey society presence reminiscent of Joel Grey’s role in "Cabaret."

Finally came "City Lights," the not-so-silent masterpiece by Charlie Chaplin, without dialogue but featuring a musical soundtrack as a concession to new 1931 technology. The Little Tramp falls for a blind flower girl ... and meets a drunken millionaire along the way.

On the 26th, Café Abseits beckoned again, with a fine draft list of regional, seasonal Bockbier. Later, at Spezial, delightful Ochsenbrust in horseradish sauce with a dumpling was accompanied by several of the brewpub’s quintessential smoked lagers.

I don’t “do” Christmas. Occasionally, there are exceptions.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

More about frozen weenies and powdered milk.

Earlier this year after our provisional food menu went viral, I exchanged e-mails with Melinda Haring, the Activism Manager at the Institute for Justice. The IJ is a legitimate entity, and was featured a few days ago as part of an article in the New York Times about city-mandated tourist guide licenses in Savannah, Georgia.

A few days ago, the IJ picked up our statutory compliance menu in a web site posting:

If Bank Street Brewhouse’s sleek exterior and silver siding in New Albany, Ind., doesn’t catch your eye, its unusual menu might. Loaded with sarcasm and bite, the menu offers “Chef Campbell’s Soup of the Day,” helpfully “served in a bowl. Your choice of whichever can is on the top of the stack.” 

Alternatively, a hungry diner can sample a hotdog, “microwaved to perfection, including both weenie and bun, sans condiments.” But people don’t go to Bank Street Brewhouse for anything other than beer, making the state’s law requiring any establishment with an alcoholic beverage sales permit to maintain a restaurant on its premises burdensome and out of touch with consumers.

The article includes this bit of encouragement:

Take action: If you own a brewery in Indiana and want to challenge the state’s absurd requirement that you serve hot soup, hot sandwiches, coffee and milk, and soft drinks, please contact us. We can help!

This is the same offer extended to NABC back in September when the story first broke, and as a director on the board of the Brewers of Indiana Guild, and a team player when it comes to industry solidarity, I took the notion of IJ assistance to BIG's legal counsel and discussed the matter with the board.

The conclusion was that with this food requirement issue being a likely candidate for legislative action this coming spring, there isn't any need to contemplate legal maneuverings until the legislative process has played out. I told Melinda this, and she offered to help in the sense of getting word out, which I interpret the IJ's posting to be.

I encourage any Indiana brewery owners reading these words, who might be tempted to contact Melinda and the IFJ, to at least wait until we see how the legislative agenda is progressing. It's just a few more months of freezer burn and stale instant coffee. However, if legislative relief is not forthcoming, then perhaps we all should band together and see what the IJ can do.

It's simple pragmatism: While the food service requirement is a nagging pain in the butt, there are bigger fish to fry when one considers Indiana brewing's legislative goals overall. Let's just keep it in perspective  ... for now.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

"If there are hoarders, and then there's everybody else, I guess I'm in the plebeian consumer camp."

An oldie but a very, very goodie. Sorry I missed it the first time around, and thanks to A for the link.

We'd been chatting about how different the "craft" world would be if all tastings (and the ratings derived from them) were truly blind -- if all you had was the liquid, sans the pre-knowledge of how rare/special/epochal others already believe it to be.

In a nutshell, hoarding is the physical manifestation of anti-egalitarianism, and as such, it's the hoarder's ignominy, not mine.

Against Hoarding, by Miles Liebtag (Beergraphs)

... There's a decent argument that hoarders drive some business at the retail level -- everyone loves traffic in the door, even if people are only coming in to see what's new or limited that week. Hoarders, however, are by their very nature fickle consumers with little retailer loyalty. They have their local spots like anyone else, of course. But they also spend a lot of time popping into bottle shops and big craft retailers to buy up whatever's being kept behind the counter that week, leaving less of the new hotness for that retailer's regular, loyal customers, the people in the store three or four times a week buying Lagunitas IPA or Left Hand Milk Stout. Most hoarders I know could also give a shit about breweries' bread-and-butter brands, those core beers that allowed the brewery to build a successful business and branch out into more adventurous projects like barrel aging, sours, etc. The intrinsic elitism of hoarding fosters an implicit dismissiveness of everyday beers: core brands are for the punters, the thinking seems to go, and no one gets excited about, say, a classic American stout that's been made consistently for 25 years. Unless you put that shit in a bourbon barrel. Then everyone needs that shit.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Tickets for BIG's 7th annual Winterfest in Indianapolis are on sale now.

Passing this along. I missed the last Winterfest, but will be there in 2015.

Winterfest tickets now on sale

Get 'em now: Early Bird will go quickly!

It's the moment Indiana craft beer fans have been waiting for: Tickets to the 7th Annual Brewers of Indiana Guild Winterfest are now on sale, and as an IN Brew News subscriber, you're the first to know.

Join Brewers of Indiana Guild and 80+ craft breweries–most from Indiana–on January 31, 2015 for the 7th Annual Winterfest, a craft beer celebration at the Indiana State Fairgrounds benefiting Brewers of Indiana Guild, the non-profit trade association that represents all of Indiana's nearly 100 breweries.

We’ll return to the Marsh Blue Ribbon Pavilion, but we’ve doubled the space (while not doubling ticket sales) so there’ll be more room to enjoy more great beer from even more breweries.

Buy Tickets

Volunteer at Winterfest

Interested in volunteering at one of Indiana's best beer fests? There are two shift options: 
  1. Set up: You'll help set up Friday, 1/30, from 10am-5pm (food will be provided) and Saturday, 1/31, from 9am-noon. If you help to set up both days, you will receive 2 Early Bird tickets, one for you and one for a friend. This will be limited to 12 volunteers, so go ahead and sign up to volunteer during the festival, just in case.
  2. At Winterfest: Saturday, 1/31, from 10am-8pm. Food will be provided. You're attending the festival, so you already have Early Bird access.
And yes, there will be a volunteer "you are awesome" party to thank you for all of your hard work! 

Feel free to send this email to your friends, but please make sure they want to work and aren't signing up just to enjoy free beer. It's true that the best volunteers can enjoy beer while working, too.

Apply to volunteer now.

Big thanks to Hoosier Beer Geek for leading our volunteer effort!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Flat12 is embracing the vision and serving intriguing vittles.

Fairly soon, that Ohio River Hoosier Beer Trail we always talk about is going to be feasible. Jeff, New Albany and Corydon, then to the Pour Haus in Tell City once it is brewing. Then, on to the work-in-progress "monastery" brewery in St, Meinrad and nearby Jasper. Finally, the three independent breweries in Evansville.

Flat12's in the news twice. First, the vision thing.


Yes, finally!

Flat 12 Bierwerks has officially, as of Nov. 22, opened its doors to Jeffersonville and rest of Southern Indiana/Louisville. This is a big deal, at least to me, and here’s why you should put your hands in the air ala YMCA fame and be rejoicing with me.

And, some food from Smoking (not Trojan) Goose.

Flat 12 serves intriguing bar fare using mini-kitchen approach, by Kevin Gibson (Insider Louisville)

Knowing how to brew great beer does not necessarily translate to also knowing how to offer great food. Flat 12 Bierwerks, which opened recently at 130 W. Riverside Drive in Jeffersonville, doesn’t serve food at its home brewery in Indianapolis, but it has decided to do so at its new location.

The results are intriguing and surprisingly effective — this isn’t a mail-it-in effort with bag-to-fryer pub fare like mozzarella sticks and chicken cubes. Instead, Flat 12 hired a chef named Elliott Rogers-Cline, who got his culinary degree at Sullivan and now manages a menu based around naan flatbread, hummus, regionally produced meats and a little creativity in making a few ingredients go a long way.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

These requests from abroad, Vol. 10: "My favourite interest is collecting beer items, especially openers."

If you own or work for a brewery, you've probably fielded numerous e-mail inquiries from overseas asking for beer labels, crown caps and the like, as destined to become the cherished keepsakes of private collectors from just about anywhere -- although it seems that most of them live somewhere around eastern and central Europe.

To me, there is something compelling and yet haunting about these foreign requests, places of longtime personal interest to me both historically and geographically. I've been in or near many of them. They speak vividly to my inner melancholic. Lately, I've been pasting their addresses into Google Map and seeing what their places of residence look like.

After all, they can look at my business, and it seems only fair for me to see where they live, so very far away.

Tracking Krystyna from Poland proved a bit of a challenge. Addresses can be confusing when place names for streets, towns and districts overlap. 

I have a lot of it from my country, but I would like to broaden my collection for openers from abroad. I also collect other beer items like: coasters, labels, caps, glasses, beer mugs etc. I will be very grateful for any help with widen my collection. I found your e-mail address in web and I decided to write this request. I hope you understand my passion. I take any item with great gratitude. I wish Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

She lives between the Polish capital of Warsaw and the Baltic, amid vast, flat farmland.

The actual town of Koneck is here.

It's a tidy place lining both sides of the main drag. To the left below are the commercial buildings, including a restaurant/pub (bet there's beer there) and a grocery.

However, the address provided is a few kilometers south of Koneck, within the township. Brzeźno is the name of a town nearby, and presumably, doubles as the street identifier connecting Brzeźno with Koneck. At any rate, it's the house on the right, set mysteriously in the trees, and surrounded by farmland.

This may be the most thought-provoking request to date.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The PC: If you tolerate this, then your children will be next.

The PC: If you tolerate this, then your children will be next.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

There’s such a cynicism about the phrase ‘I laughed all the way to the bank.’ It’s as though money is what you’re doing, rather than playing music. If you’re playing a money game, why not get into banking? -- Artie Shaw (swing era bandleader)

If I were to concede that lately, writing about beer has become a burdensome chore, you might plausibly respond by asking why I keep trying.

It’s a good question.

I suppose writing about beer is a reflex habit borne of many years, one that still scratches an itch even when relief is so maddeningly elusive. Perhaps it’s a reflection of a subconsciously ingrained work ethic, intrinsic stubbornness or simple grim determination; in short, patiently keeping at it until morale improves and the fun returns.

Conversely, given that I still enjoy drinking better beer with interesting people in conducive pub settings, it could be that I’m merely suffering through an artistic slump – seemingly months long at this juncture, but something nonetheless temporary, which will improve with time, focus and maybe, just for once, some luck.

Other factors probably come into play. Seasonal Affective Disorder, to which I’m prone, can shroud the best intentions with the critical mass of 800-lb gorillas. SAD, coupled with the “moral and aesthetic nightmare of Christmas” (which began the day following the July 4th holiday), can produce a scenario in which twenty minutes of dull staring at incoming e-mail is required before finally opening it and clicking onto a spreadsheet for another intimate session with my least favorite objects in the whole wide world: Numbers, and by extension, what they imply.

These numbers are impervious and vicious. They mock and insult me, and I wish I’d never invited them into my life. Their presence reminds me that capitalism is good for quite little apart from the castration of youthful ideals, to the point that even superstitious religious twaddle rings vaguely true: Be careful not to give Satan in a three-piece his opening, lest he step through the cracked rear door and whisper soothingly into your ear:

“Don’t worry about the debt service; you’ll be a star. After all, everyone else is striking it rich in beer – don’t you ever read the Tweets about their fabulous success? You’re next, my boy. By the way … there’s a payment due.”

But my disillusionment goes deeper than my own position of admittedly self-inflicted enslavement to bankers. It extends further than my ongoing annoyance with “beer geeks spend(ing) all their time hunting white whales instead of drinking beer in their back yards,” their historical ignorance, or Trojan Goose’s sad masquerade.

It’s even worse than knowing how few present-day “craft beer” enthusiasts and “craft” brewing entities have so much as heard the phrase Think Globally, Drink Locally, and that’s because they’re not even thinking locally nowadays.

You see, for weeks now, my social media feeds have been filled with news of protests and rallies across the United States.

Is It Bad Enough Yet?, by Mark Bittman (New York Times)

THE police killing unarmed civilians. Horrifying income inequality. Rotting infrastructure and an unsafe “safety net.” An inability to respond to climate, public health and environmental threats. A food system that causes disease. An occasionally dysfunctional and even cruel government. A sizable segment of the population excluded from work and subject to near-random incarceration.

You get it: This is the United States, which, with the incoming Congress, might actually get worse.

This in part explains why we’re seeing spontaneous protests nationwide, protests that, in their scale, racial diversity, anger and largely nonviolent nature, are unusual if not unique. I was in four cities recently — New York, Washington, Berkeley and Oakland — and there were actions every night in each of them. Meanwhile, workers walked off the job in 190 cities on Dec. 4.

The root of the anger is inequality, about which statistics are mind-boggling: From 2009 to 2012 (that’s the most recent data), some 95 percent of new income has gone to the top 1 percent; the Walton family (owners of Walmart) have as much wealth as the bottom 42 percent of the country’s people combined; and “income mobility” now describes how the rich get richer while the poor ... actually get poorer.

In fact, even notoriously apolitical professional athletes have seized the bully pulpit to lend their weight to these protests by wearing shirts reading ''Hands up, don't shoot!” and "I can't breathe!”

What I haven’t seen are “craft” breweries doing anything remotely the same.

What I haven’t seen are “craft” breweries taking an interest in inequality or human rights.

What I haven’t seen are “craft” breweries doing much of anything at all, apart from the usual white whale spotting, chest thumping and lesson ignoring.

And no, producing t-shirts with the slogan "We've Got IPA" doesn't cut it.

Note that this blanket condemnation, of which I’m sure there have been notable exceptions, includes my own “craft” brewery, so don’t assume I’m making an exception for my own inexcusable personal cowardice. I always thought I'd be the pro athlete, bass player or actor wearing the t-shirt nd standing up for the downtrodden, but right now, as a craft brewery owner, I'm being exposed as fraudulent. I've done done nothing, and at this precise moment, I hate myself for it.

Perhaps “craft” beer is sitting on its collective hands because we associate these protests exclusively with African-American concerns (as Bittman clearly shows, while this largely is the case, there is a clear linkage with other significant non-racial economic rationales), and as such, the pathway of institutional, ham-fisted obliviousness leads to another uncomfortable fact, namely “craft” beer’s ongoing rejection of egalitarianism as it translates into a noteworthy absence of people of color, in terms both of brewing companies and their consumers.

Why Aren't There More People Of Color In Craft Brewing?, by Alastair Bland (NPR)

Frederick Douglas Opie, a food historian at Babson College, says that cultures in western and central Africa have "a long history of artisan brewing." People of the region, he says, made beer from sorghum and millet, as well as palm wine — which, he says, was considered by some a luxury product.

"So, why that discontinues in America after the Atlantic slave trade, I don't know," Opie says. Blacks, he notes, often made moonshine liquor and bootleg beer in the 1920s and '30s. But these days, they're all but absent from the craft beer scene. "It could be that beer is like a lot of things in the food industry which, as they grow popular, become very hip, yuppie and white."

It’s hard not to be disgruntled when one considers that his own unfortunate position of perpetual bondage within capitalism in this period of amok, greed-driven excess is precluding action on matters of social justice.

And yet here I am, both self-loathing and self-muzzling.

What if a note-grasping banker got peeved?

After all, as it stands, when he says “jump,” my only question is response is, “Thank you, sir, may I have another?”

Worse yet, entirely apart from the money, or in our case the absence of it, and completely separate from considerations of economic inequality in America, which is an appalling travesty and insult to every ideal we blithely claim to profess, what if my deepest fear of all as a “craft” brewery owner is the risk of alienating a primarily white consumer base by speaking truth to power?

That's a hard one to swallow.

It’s “last call,” at least for now. There’ll be another business day, more months in the unforgiving muck of the capitalist trenches, and numerous additional opportunities to think it through – like I’ve been doing for something like five years, or forty-five.

And yet, if experience has taught me any one valuable truth, it’s that answers come from a process, not an epiphany.

What's the process? How to make “craft” beer part of the solution? I don’t know. Maybe it cannot be, but if not, it may be time for me to consider another career at the tender of age of AARP-eligibility. As Abraham Lincoln was reported to say, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” What he meant was: A soul.

Does "craft" beer have one?

Do I have one?

Friday, December 12, 2014

"History Brewing" in New Albany.

The newspaper of record for New Albany (NABC's home town) and Jeffersonville (where Red Yeti and Flat12 new taproom are located) is called the News and Tribune. It is a branch of the CNHI national tree.

Recently, the newspaper's weekly entertainment supplement considered the renovation of one of two buildings located just a couple blocks from my house, these being the last remnants of the 19th-century brewery (Market Street, sometimes called Buchheit) once working there. Ironically, I'd only recently written about the same topic at my other blog, and had been shown the interior of the featured house when the owners first began work in 2012 or thereabouts.

Revisiting the rise and fall of New Albany's 19th-century Market Street Brewery.

The SoIn article can be viewed here.

The N & T's reporter Daniel Suddeath also asked three questions of me, via e-mail. The questions and answers are reprinted below.

As for the house ... damn, I have to admit to WANTING it badly.


I will make a general comment and then answer the questions.

When I graduated from IU Southeast in 1982, there were fewer than one hundred breweries in the whole country. Beer as we know it came to America with European immigrants, but Prohibition killed small scale, local brewing, and the ensuing consolidation and commoditization of beer and brewing resulted in a vast shrinkage of stylistic choice.

In short, most of the remaining breweries produced German-style golden lager, differing primarily by the name printed on the label. By the 1970s, Americans who had traveled or been posted to the military overseas began asking why beers like they drank there couldn’t be gotten here.

First, imports addressed this need, but it was only a matter of time until someone revived small-scale “artisan” brewing. It really was artisanal then, because equipment had to be improvised, and homebrewers basically learned on the job. It started in places like California, the Pacific Northwest and Colorado (to an extent in New England) and moved around the country from those places. Nowadays the shorthand is “craft,” which can be misleading, because while in some respects it refers to ownership and production volume, the term has been adopted to refer to the type of beers being brewed.

1. There seems to be a renewed interest in brewing. What do you credit this to? Is it a good or bad thing for the industry?

The renewal probably owes to the good things about America as a melting pot – greater awareness of other places and other ways, more people traveling, better education, more discretionary income, greater interest in food and drink, and the like. Currently there is a tremendous boom in brewing, even given the previous rate of increase in breweries and volumes of production. It’s both a good and bad thing. In theory, with BudMillerCoors still controlling 85% to 90% of the market in a place like Indiana, the sky is the limit in terms of taking customers away from them. But the three tier system (having to go through middlemen) can be a pain, and a lot of breweries go into business with a debt service predicated on outside distribution, when this is becoming the hardest variable to control. The result probably will not be a bubble bursting, but there’s bound to be some dips and retrenching at some point. Now more than ever, a strong on-premise component is critical. Your own bricks and mortar is the only place you can control the variables.

2. You specialize in craft beers. What inspired you to go that route with your brewing operation?

Bizarrely, we’re the 13th oldest brewery in Indiana (started 2002). The other 87 or so have come into business since then. We’re all craft by the definitions of independent ownership and production size (largest are Three Floyds, Sun King and Upland, none yet above 40,000 barrels), and I’d guess we all brew what people think of as craft, which basically means NOT golden lagers of varying strengths – although some craft brewers dabble in those, too. Most craft brewers were inspired to go the non-golden lager route by the plain fact that those were readily available, anyway, and what we wanted to do was brew the styles that couldn’t be found, whether stouts or saisons or steam beers.

3. From what you've learned through your profession, what were breweries like 50, 75 and even 125 years ago? What was the beer like? Would it have been comparable to anything today? Stronger?

I’ve read that the breweries themselves often were family affairs, with the owner’s house on the grounds, and communal meals for employees, perhaps even rooms for them. Most of what they brewed didn’t go outside the city limits, but that changed as transportation got better. As for the beers, there is general agreement that from the end of Prohibition through WWII and until the craft movement began, American beer generally became weaker and more adulterated with adjuncts (corn and rice), which lighten the flavor and body, and are less expensive than barley malt. We brew a few throwback beers throughout the year, and people assume they’ll be stronger and heavier, but here’s the thing: In olden times, with fewer scientific controls, brewing was a hard discipline in which to exercise consistency. The more malt sugar, the higher the alcohol content, but not if the yeast is shaky and unable to do the job. So, the answer is contradictory. As now, there were beers designed to be strong, others brewed to be weaker (tax rates were a factor because they were based on the grain that went into the batch, not the alcohol content at the end), and others that would have been variable though not necessarily by design. Even recreating the older recipes, it’s hard to judge, because a century’s worth of genetic engineering has changed the malt, hops and yeast. To make this point clear, do any of us really know what chicken tastes like if everything tastes like chicken? A whole fryer 125 years ago probably tasted very different.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

These requests from abroad, Vol. 9: "I am a big collector of beermats, coasters and other promotional items of beer brands."

If you own or work for a brewery, you've probably fielded numerous e-mail inquiries from overseas asking for beer labels, crown caps and the like, as destined to become the cherished keepsakes of private collectors from the foothills of the Alps to the South Sea islands.

To me, there is something compelling and yet haunting about these foreign requests, which tend most often to come from Central/Eastern European locales, places of longtime personal interest to me historically and geographically. They speak vividly to my inner melancholic. Lately, I've been pasting their addresses into Google Map and seeing what their places of residence look like.

After all, they can look at my business, and it seems only fair for me to see where they live, so very far away.

Now, for something completely different, we have Frans. His request is the first we've received from the Netherlands in a very long time. He's from Zwolle (population 125,000), the capital of Overijssel province. 

First, see where the water used to be ... and still is.

According to Wikipedia, "In World War II, Zwolle was single-handedly liberated from the Germans by Canadian soldier Léo Major. He was made an honorary citizen of Zwolle in 2005 and a street is named for him."

This is it: Leo Majorlaan. Look at those tidy bike paths on both sides. Sighhh ...

In addition, note that "Citizens of Zwolle are colloquially known as Blauwvingers (Bluefingers)."

Frans says:

I live in the Netherlands and I am a big collector of beer mats, coasters and other promotional items of beer brands.

I hear you, buddy. Let's forget the small potatoes.

Would you like to trade homes?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

These requests from abroad, Vol. 8: "I am sure that they will take a worthy place in a collection."

If you own a brewery or work for one, you've probably fielded numerous e-mail inquiries from overseas asking for beer labels, crown caps and the like, as destined to become the cherished keepsakes of private collectors from Catalonia to Ruritania, who've somehow heard about your brewing expertise.

To me, there is something compelling and yet haunting about these foreign requests, which tend most often to come from Central/Eastern European locales, places of longtime personal interest to me historically and geographically. They speak vividly to my inner melancholic.

Lately, I've been pasting their addresses into Google Map and seeing what their places of residence look like. After all, they can look at my business, and it seems only fair for me to see where they live, so very far away.

Александр lives in Bryansk in eastern Russia, a city of 415,000 inhabitants near the border with Belarus. Its original 11th-century name referred to "dense woodlands," which no longer exist. 

To get an impression of the huge distances as one moves eastward from "western" Europe into Russia, it is 1,268 miles driving distance from Bryansk to Bamberg (Germany), though only 238 miles from Bryansk to Moscow, the Russian capital. Here is Bryansk in winter.

Александр (okay, let's transliterate from the Cyrillic: Alexander) resides in what I'd imagine is a fairly typical neighborhood. His is the building in the middle, showing us its less attractive side.

He has a specific request.

The main emphasis is placed on crowncups. I am engaged in it since 2001. we have a very difficult to find your products. It would be very desirable to fill up the collection with your copies. I am sure that they will take a worthy place in a collection.

Unfortunately, NABC's crown caps are entirely generic, and would be of little use. As always, I wish Alexander the very best in his foraging, in spite of my inability to be of assistance.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

These requests from abroad, Vol. 7: "I wish you happiness and good luck!"

If you own a brewery or work for one, you've probably fielded numerous e-mail inquiries from overseas asking for beer labels, crown caps and the like, as destined to become the cherished keepsakes of private collectors who've somehow heard about your brewing expertise, even in far-off Plovdiv or Lhasa.

To me, there is something compelling and yet haunting about these foreign requests, which tend most often to come from Central/Eastern European locales, places of longtime personal interest to me historically and geographically. They speak vividly to my inner melancholic.

Lately, I've been pasting their addresses into Google Map and seeing what their places of residence look like. After all, they can look at my business, and it seems only fair for me to see where they live, so very far away.

Vladimir lives on Zadniprovska Ulitsa (street) in Zaporizhia, Ukraine. Glancing at a map, the city appears to be safely removed from the current fighting to the east between Ukraine and Russia.

Google has yet to add a street view of his place of residence, but it's fairly easy to visualize the old-school apartment block from the closest aerial view. I'd guesstimate the immediate post-war era of construction.

Zaporizhia originated as an 18th-century Russian garrison settlement during the reign of Catherine the Great. The city is situated on the steppe (a grassland ecoregion) and straddles the Dnieper River, which is the key to its historical growth.

Following the Civil War and advent of the Soviet Union, Zaporizhia was targeted for industrialization. A "hero" hydroelectric project dammed the Dnieper, a steel mill and aluminum plant were built, "surplus" labor from the countryside was brought (willingly or otherwise) to work, and a new city was built. These days, the population is 770,000.

To his credit, Vladimir has done his homework.

I am labels collector and I would be most grateful if in 2015 year you will send me for my collection some your labels like Naughty Girl Blonde India Pale Ale, Solidarity Baltic Porter, 15B.

Maybe I will.

Monday, December 08, 2014

The PC: After Max Allen, the deluge.

The PC: After Max Allen, the deluge.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

We're drinking my friend to the end of a brief episode
So make it one for my baby
And one more for the road
-- "One for My Baby” (Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen)

Max Allen’s name used to come up frequently during barside conversations at the Public House, and far more often than you’d think. Now he’s been dead for almost fifteen years, and only the older regulars ever would have had the pleasure of meeting him.

But I can be a stubborn cuss when called upon to plant my heels in the primordial muck of Falls of the Ohio flood plain, and so it strikes me as vital that Max’s memory lives on. Now more than ever, I’ll propose to continue writing and talking about him -- just so everyone else doesn’t forget.


For much of his working life, Maxwell E. Allen, Jr., was a professional bartender. He was best known for his quarter-century stint at the legendary Hasenour’s Restaurant at Barret & Oak in Louisville, which was followed by several years – a “coda” of sorts -- at the Seelbach Hotel downtown, where his father had tended bar many years before.

It is much the understatement to refer to Max as a “people person,” because he was as jovial and friendly a man as you’d ever be likely to meet, and he was seldom seen in public without a broad smile on his face. He was a walking repository of jokes and stories, and unafraid to use them.

I met Max in the early 1980s. He came into Scoreboard Liquors one night and was studying the whiskeys very intently. When he asked me how much I knew about them, I conceded my ignorance as the nominal beer guy who still was learning the ropes. This delighted him. Henceforth, Max was the teacher, and I was the pupil, which probably was his intention from the start, seeing as he seldom if ever made a purchase.

For many years, even though he wasn’t a beer drinker, Max maintained a membership in the Fermenters of Special Southern Indiana Libations Society (FOSSILS), our local homebrewing and beer appreciation club. He didn’t attend very many FOSSILS meetings owing to his work schedule, but one he did is fondly remembered.

In 1994, the late Virgil Hosier, a former employee of Ackerman’s, New Albany’s last operational brewery (closed in 1937), came to a FOSSILS meeting to talk about his job on the bottling line. Max had the foresight to bring a cassette tape recorder, and the recording of Virgil’s talk later was transcribed in Conrad Selle’s and Peter Guetig’s “Louisville Breweries” book (an updated version of the book only recently has been released), where it survives for posterity – thanks to Max.

It is entirely appropriate that this memorable contribution to FOSSILS lore pertained to history, for Max was a diligent member of Louisville’s Filson Club, a collector of books about beverage alcohol in general and Kentucky bourbon in particular, and a walking encyclopedia of local legend and lore.


After a long and gradual decline, Hasenour’s went out of business, and Max moved to the Seelbach for the final chapter in his professional life. In the twilight of his career, there seems to have been a dawning awareness on the part of observers, including many in the Louisville media, that he represented something that was fast disappearing: Skill and excellence in the traditional art of bartending, practiced by a true craftsman for whom bartending was not a temporary stop on the way to something better, but a respectable lifetime pursuit in and of itself.

Today’s professional mixologists are an amazing breed, and positively molecular in their approach. I mean no disrespect to them with my comparisons, and obviously, any references to “classicism” suggest an inescapable chronology, which is to say that Max certifiably was an old timer in his approach. In his later years, he was featured in more than one Louisville Courier-Journal article on drinks, and for the very good reason that he knew the liquors and the recipes, and he did them right.*

Max was frozen in time. He did not indulge in the briefly embarrassing historical epoch of Tom Cruise-inspired, Globetrotter-style “extreme” routines of bottle spinning and juggling. Rather, the fundamental things applied, and significantly, not only with the theory and practice of cocktails.

A bar tended by Max was kept clean and stocked -- not just with alcohols and mixers, but with any item that he felt his customers might need: A needle and thread, toiletries, shoe polish, spare neckties and road maps. He viewed himself as a concierge, whether within the confines of his workplace or pertaining to the city at large.

After all, we speak of the final period before the advent of smart phones and personal electronic devices, and accordingly, Max did not rely upon cheap, abundant electricity; his index card file was literal and analog, upon which were written the names of customers, their references, spouses, children, birthdays and anniversaries. If you came to Hasenour’s once a year for Derby, he knew who you were and what you liked.

In every sense of the phrase, Max was a pro’s pro, and he remained one as the bar business inevitably began to reflect the assembly-line prerequisites of our modern consumer economy, eschewing its slower-paced, traditional role as restful sanctuary for an increasingly frenetic place in the cookie-cutter service sector.

And so it was that Max Allen was the friendly, efficient, helpful face behind the bar, but not just any bar. His milieu was the imperial “high street” American bar of the post-war zenith, an era now gone forever, and with it Max and so many others of his generation.

Rest in Peace, my friend. You’d be having so much fun in this new, bourbon-driven age … without so much as an iPhone in sight.


* In 2008, Max and other Louisville bartenders of his generation were the subject of an oral history project conducted by Southern Foodways, to which I contributed remembrances.

Photo credit: Courier-Journal

This may be the only honest piece of "beer writing" I've read in 2014.

This may be the only honest piece of "beer writing" I've read in 2014 ... and that includes my own scribbling. Writing well is very, very hard, and the best way to approach it is to tell the truth and write what you know. Sometimes, what you know is awfully hard to write with honesty.

The King has left the building, by John King (at

No teaser. Just hit the link and read it.

Thanks, John. I didn't know ... and it's fairly miraculous that you held out this long.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

These requests from abroad, Vol. 6: "I wish you prosperity and development!"

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

To me, there is something compelling and yet haunting about these foreign requests, which tend most often to come from Central/Eastern European locales, places of longtime personal interest to me historically and geographically. They speak to my inner melancholic.

Lately, I've been pasting their addresses into Google Map and seeing what their places of residence look like. After all, they can look at my business, and it seems only fair for me to see where they live, so very far away. In this spirit of introductions, meet Pavel from St. Petersburg, Russia

"Good day! Ladies and gentlemen, may I ask you a favor? I am interested in beer coasters/beer mats from around the world."

The last time I visited St. Petersburg, it was called Leningrad, and that was in 1987. Two years before, in 1985, my introduction to the Russian capital of old ... a real-life figment of Peter the Great's imagination ... came aboard a bus from Helsinki with a group of youthful tourists just like me, and it seems so much like a dream now. It was still the USSR, fully Communist, and Mikhail Gorbachev had been the head cheese for only a few scant months.

Leningrad was a big city even then, and the industrial suburbs coming in seemed endless, but in the historic city center, near the Winter Palace and other historic sites lifted directly from all the damn books I read in college, seemingly in preparation for those three slim days on the ground, it was so quiet you could hear a crown cap drop. Nevski Prospekt, the main shopping street, seemed perpetually deserted apart from the street cars, which cost the equivalent of about five cents to ride.

Forlorn vending machines dispensed still or fizzy water into communal glasses -- not paper, not plastic, but glass; two or three might be lined up atop the contraption, with a "sanitizer" function that occasionally worked. I celebrated my 25th birthday at a Central Asian joint, in the company of an entertaining Aussie named Mark, who regaled me with tales of the Smiths.

Leningrad was punished severely at the hands of the invading Germans during World War II (the Great Patriotic War, in regional usage). There was a 900-day-long siege, and the city bent but didn't break. A half-million people died, most of them civilians, and among the sites my tour group visited was the Piskariovskoye Memorial Cemetery. At the time, it was a favored pilgrimage spot for newlyweds. Sure enough, upon arrival, we saw a bride and groom posing for photos with the cemetery as backdrop. Somewhere I have a slide to prove it.

My point in recounting all this is that in all likelihood, Pavel hadn't yet been born when I was there. His apartment block on Turistskaya, which appears quite new, looks to be roughly 8-10 miles away from where I spent most of my time 29 years ago, which is labeled "Tsentralny" on the map above.

At least he has a nice shopping mall right across the street.

I wonder if there is beer for sale there?

Friday, December 05, 2014

The Brewers of Indiana Guild and Sunday sales in Indiana.

This issue is destined to be a prominent feature of the forthcoming 2015 Indiana legislative session.

"Package store owners want to keep the cork in Sunday sales in Indiana."

There are 98 breweries currently operating in Indiana, and the Brewers of Indiana Guild works on their behalf. Accordingly, it's important to remember the guild's official position with regard to the expansion of Sunday sales.

You've probably seen Sunday alcohol sales in the news and may have even been asked about the issue by your patrons and others. Brewers of Indiana Guild stands neutral on Sunday sales and any other issue that is not part of our legislative agenda.

Brewery owners and representatives, please be aware simply that one's personal opinion always should be kept separate from collective policy. Indiana's small breweries and wineries already possess the right to sell their products for carry-out on Sunday. Beyond that, we don't have a dog in this fight.

Disagree? That's quite possible, and if so, please consider getting involved with the guild. The guild's legislative positions are derived from the viewpoints of membership. If we don't know your viewpoint, we cannot discuss it. We cannot learn from it.

I've been a director on the board of the guild since at least 2009; quite frankly, I cannot remember exactly, although I'm up for re-election in 2015. Simply stated, the legislative agenda is of critical importance, and we've gotten quite a lot done in recent years. Apart from that, all the other things we try to get done definitely impact all of the state's brewers. The guild is imperfect, but it can be a valuable tool.

And tools don't matter much unless they're used. Drop me a line and I'll let you know what's happening.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

All about the Flat12 Bierwerks Jeffersonville grand opening party on Sat., December 6.

I'll probably be drinking the Gose ...

Here's the straight dope on Saturday's festivities.


Saturday, December 6, 2014
Grand Opening Celebration
Flat12 Bierwerks
130 W. Riverside Drive
Jeffersonville, IN 47130
Time: 11:00am - 10:00pm / Free / 21+

Live Music
1-3pm  Bridge 19 (Youtube)
4-6pm  Juggernaut Jug Band (Youtube)
7-9pm  Black Birds of Paradise (stream music)

Rum Dog 
Big Black Dog Aged in rum barrels

FBA (Triton Brewing Company collaboration )
Roggen/Dunkel hybrid aged in bourbon barrels

Rye Farmageddon
Rye barrel black rye saison

Very Owd Gordo
Olde Ale aged in 2nd use 23 year Pappy Van Winkle barrels

Rum Gordo
Olde Ale aged in rum barrels

Blanton Big Black Dog
Big Black Dog aged in Blanton's bourbon barrels

Rum Nun
Nunmoere Black ABA aged in rum barrels

Barrel Retaliation
Massive Retaliation American Stout aged in bourbon barrels

Against The Grain Cutty Can't Hang
Belgian Table Beer

Country Boy Ghost Gose
German Style Gose

New Albanian Naughty Claus
Spiced Winter Warmer

Flat12 Bierwerks Arrives In Jeffersonville, Indiana

Grand Opening Celebration December 6

Flat12 Bierwerks has been hitting taps and shelves all over the Louisville area, and the fast-growing, Indianapolis-based craft brewery opened their second location November 22 in downtown Jeffersonville.

The December 6th Grand Opening Celebration held at the new riverside venue will include live music, selections from local food vendors, samples from the new Flat12 menu, and of course, pints of the new lineup of core beers plus an array of specialty beers. The event is 21+, open to the public, and FREE. Pints, growler fills, and food will be available for purchase.

About The Jeffersonville Flat12 Taproom
Situated in scenic downtown Jeffersonville just blocks away from the Big Four Bridge, the rustic, yet polished taproom features a bar with 32 taps, ample table seating, large-screen televisions for sporting events, and a spacious deck overlooking the Ohio River, outfitted with heaters and sidewalls for year-round use. With up-cycled keg pendant lights and reclaimed wooden walls offering a warm rustic feel, and contemporary touches giving it an industrial edge, the overall atmosphere is laid-back and inviting! “We saw the excitement building in Jeffersonville and we’re happy to be the newest member of the growing Kentuckiana community,” said Sean O’Connor, co-founder and president of Flat12. 

The house beer list will feature current Flat12 favorites, unique brews such as Spirit Mover Saison, Joe Brahma Coffee Brown Ale, Kattenstoet Belgian Pale, as well as taproom-only offerings. "We wanted to make the Jeffersonville location truly unique by offering an exclusive lineup of beers. Look for a host of one-off beers on the rotating taps that will only be available at the Jeff taproom," said Rob Caputo, Director of Brewery Operations at Flat12. 

About Flat12 Bierwerks
Established in 2010, Flat12 Bierwerks is a regional brewer of uncommonly distinct craft beer and an active participant in supporting community organizations that foster their shared values. The brewery distributes across  Indiana, the Greater Cincinnati area, Louisville, and eastern and central Tennessee. The Jeffersonville taproom will be the second location for the brewery.

The regular taproom hours are Wednesdays and Thursdays 3:00 pm to 9:00 pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 12:00 pm to 10:00 pm and Sunday 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm.

Press photos here. More on Flat12 at