Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Banned in South Boston? It's the inimitable Brad Hawkins of Salt Creek Brewery.

I spend so very much time trying to put my feelings about AB InBev into words ... and Brad just cuts straight to the chase.

Well played, sir. Well played.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Top 15 posts at Potable Curmudgeon for 2015.

At #1: Seems like one hundred years ago, doesn't it?

The Potable Curmudgeon's top 15 posts for 2015 are listed here, beginning with The First Ten, followed by the The Top Five.

These rankings are determined by numbers of unique hits, as reported by Blogger. Most of the top posts pertain to local or regional stories, and this pleases me. It comes as little surprise that readership declined during the period of my absence, while I was campaigning for mayor of New Albany. Numbers began rising again in November and December.

On January 1, The Potable Curmudgeon begins its 12th year. As always, thanks for reading.



233 (tie) ... 03/30/2015

The PC: Our bedfellows are becoming stranger with each passing legislative session.

233 (tie) ... 06/09/2015

Floyd County Brewing Company (in New Albany) is getting closer to opening.

237 (tie) ... 06/06/2015

Dry-hopped Clausthaler, or Hopster from Shelton Brothers?

237 (tie) ... 03/16/2015

The PC: As I’ve been saying since 1980, alcohol is a different matter entirely.

240 ... 07/23/2015

Roger Baylor's $21 at 55 Birthday Party Fundraiser on Monday, August 3.

294 ... 02/26/2015

Media notice: Roger A. Baylor will take a leave of absence from NABC to run for mayor of New Albany.

314 ... 08/14/2015

My column in the latest Food & Dining Magazine is about Gordon Biersch.

330 ... 07/16/2015

Josh Hill departs Floyd County Brewing Company.

382 ... 01/02/2015

Indiana does Platonic Sandwich Dialogues: Is a hot dog a sandwich? Is pizza? Are tacos?

417 ... 10/17/2015

November 7 is Bluegrass Brewing Company's 22nd anniversary party.

427 ... 03/13/2015

Donum Dei's grand opening is on St. Patrick's Day -- Tuesday, March 17.

446 ... 01/17/2015

These requests from abroad, Vol. 11: "I love beer for the fact that with every breath of the world is getting better."



509 ... 03/09/2015

The PC: All about localism at the 2015 Indiana Craft Brewers Conference.

650 ... 02/02/2015

The PC: Budweiser explains the Doctrine of Trojan Geese Transubstantiation.

708 ... 12/27/2015

The whoredom of "craft": Breckenridge's Todd Usry on authenticity, first in February, then in December.

944 ... 01/01/2015

"Craft Brewers Are Running Out Of Names," clever or otherwise.

1,609 ... 01/19/2015

The PC: Ripped straight from the pages of an Onion satire: “13 white males not really so eager to discuss issues like racism and sexism.”

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The whoredom of "craft": Breckenridge's Todd Usry on authenticity, first in February, then in December.

Back on February 15, Todd Usry of Colorado's Breckenridge Brewery boldly drew a line in the sand.

Could a Colorado craft brewery sell out to big beer?, by Eric Gorski (The Denver Post)

... Todd Usry, the brewmaster and general manager of Denver-based Breckenridge Brewery, which fits the production volume and brewpub profile for acquisition, said the company has not been approached to sell out and has no intentions to do so.

“The big thing to me is, the craft beer industry was built on individuals and their stories,” Usry said.

When craft breweries sell out, “I think there is some serious authenticity that is lost, and that the brand loses,” he said. “We’re not corporate. We are entrepreneurial and individual.”

Usry, like others, is concerned about the business ramifications of big-beer buyouts. “It’s going to be harder and harder to get our voices heard at the wholesale level,” he said. “It’s hard enough for craft beer in general to get meetings with big chain buyers. Now, AB can go in and pitch Elysian.”

Ten months later, with Breckenridge Brewery's decapitated head rolling past Usry's formerly principled stance, who better to read the rote statement of capitulation -- of solemn concurrence with the agenda of his brewery's corporate executioners -- than Usry himself?

Today’s announcement of our acquisition by Anheuser-Busch’s craft and import division may come as a surprise to many of you. We want to share with you how we came to this decision, what it means to Breckenridge Brewery and to those who’ve supported us for so long.

We’ve been in this creative and dynamic industry for over 25 years, loving everything about it. That won’t change. The passion for quality and culture that got us where we are today isn’t going anywhere. We’re proud of the fact that you can find our beers in 35 states; we’ve worked hard to get our beers to as many of you as possible throughout the years. The High End, Anheuser-Busch’s craft and import division, shares the same excitement for our category and commitment to quality. We will join a group of established and innovative craft brewers as part of The High End, and we look forward to what opportunities these relationships will bring to us.

Our brewpub in Breckenridge, our Littleton brewery and its Farm House restaurant are all part of this new entity. Other properties under the Breckenridge-Wynkoop umbrella will continue to be owned and operated by B-W and are not part of this arrangement.

Of course, the same great team who helped build Breckenridge Brewery won’t be going anywhere. We are excited about the opportunity this partnership brings to all of us. We’ll continue to own decisions about the beers we create and the ingredients in them. What people relate to in this industry is authenticity. If there were plans to come in and change our employees, our culture, and our recipes, well, that would completely undermine the reason for the partnership at all. What this new partnership does offer us is access to resources that will help us continue to innovate and bring our beer to more people.

We ultimately owe our success to you, our followers and supporters. I hope you will give us the chance to prove to you over time that we will continue to be Breckenridge Brewery.


J. Todd Usry

President, Breckenridge Brewery

This is AB-InBev's authenticity.

They're the "High End."


You're bought, paid, humiliated, and your own authenticity sucked from your veins and spat on the floor while you watch. Even if your life's work stands to be unaltered in any way, it remains that it now will be deployed by de facto terrorists as a marketplace weapon aimed at the heads of all those authentic folks of whom you were one, for so very long ...until you weren't any longer.

AB-InBev? It won't hesitate to pull the trigger, will it? Todd Usry and his partners aren't the first, and they won't be the last, but let's be honest.

Craft is dead and buried, not so much because AB-InBev is buying, but because craft is selling ... out.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Smoking Bishop isn't beer, but it sounds yummy.

Get your Smoking Bishop recipe right here. 

File under Quintessentially English: Spiced and warm alcoholic drinks known as "ecclesiastics."

However, lest we forget, the story of Port in this context isn't merely about finding other sources of wine to replace unavailable French Bordeaux.

It's what had to be done to stabilize the Portuguese wine. Distillate (aguardente) was added to wine to arrest fermentation, adding residual sweetness and potency, and creating a transportable alcoholic beverage with added shelf life -- and in certain instances, the ability to be aged.

This is a fine article nonetheless. Thanks to the missus for pitching it, and follow the link under the photo above for a recipe. It sounds perfect for a Feast of Fools libation.

Smoking Bishop: A Boozy Christmas Drink Brimming With English History, by Anne Bramley (NPR)

In Charles Dickens' famous tale A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge's spectral-induced transformation leaves him with a longing for an old-fashioned Christmas drink.

"I'll raise your salary and endeavor to assist your struggling family," Scrooge promises his much-abused employee, Bob Cratchit, "and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of Smoking Bishop, Bob!"

But there's a whole lot more than just goodwill toward men brimming from a cup of this rich holiday quaff of orange- and clove-spiked mulled port. It's a drink chock-full of English history and what it meant to be a patriotic, Protestant Victorian of the merchant class.

Friday, December 25, 2015

More than Boxing Day at the Irish Rover: Nollaig na mBan (Women’s Christmas) is coming on January 6.

On December 26, the Irish Rover celebrates Boxing Day.

It's been a few years for us, and we'll probably be in attendance. If you're unfamiliar with my advocacy of all things Irish Rover, then be educated. It's a little piece of Irish territory appended to River City, almost entirely eliminating the shtick expected of the institution of "Irish pub in America" in favor of honesty.

I love the Irish Rover, even as I lament the fact that none of downtown New Albany's new wave of restaurants have honored the occasion of Boxing Day -- even my own. I advocated such at Bank Street Brewhouse during the original kitchen's run, but never found acceptance for the notion.

Black pudding and Guinness at 10:00 a.m.? Sign me up. Meanwhile, the Irish Rover is pioneering yet another wonderful idea, described here.

Nollaig na mBan (Women’s Christmas) – January 6th

Whew…You made Christmas happen for friends and family, and now it’s time for your own celebration! The Irish Rover revives a long-standing tradition of Nollaig nban — or Women’s Christmas — with a party just for you. Live Irish music by female musicians, drink specials, and a special beer made by female brewer Leah Dienes of Apocalypse Brewery!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Support your independent local brewer, and tell AB-InBev to go Busch itself.

As far as I'm concerned, AB-InBev is a terrorist organization.

Like most terrorist organizations, the key to defeating them is withholding money from them. In terms of my personal spending habits, I regard this as the most important shift of all. There is nothing the zombie (former) craft brewers can brew -- no Goose, Breckenridge or Elysian -- that's good enough for me to give the corporate overlord blood money to use against us.

As AB-InBev carpet-bombs craft with money derived from swillmongering, it's time for clarity of vision and purpose.

Consequently, the three most important breweries in the world are those located closest to me, in my city of residence: Donum Dei, Floyd County Brewing and NABC.

Next: All the other breweries in the Louisville metropolitan area.

Next: The breweries in Indiana and Kentucky. It goes from there, according to who is independent and best exemplifies the founding ideals of better beer. Dozens of breweries, hundreds of beers. It's enough for me.

The craft beer revolution was, and remains, local and regional in orientation. It spreads outward only after insuring the health and well being of genuine local options.

At this precise moment, as I try to negotiate an exit from brewery ownership, it remains imperative for me to continue helping in any way I can to keep grassroots brewing vibrant and to improve its quality, where it is being done closest to me and with greatest impact on my daily existence.

I cherish the idea of the money I send on beer going into the pockets of grassroots entrepreneurs, and not the slimeball likes of Carlos Brito. Dollars spent locally circulate locally, and remain in the local economy longer. I'll continue to shift my spending in this manner even when I'm not an "owner," and revert to a mere baseline consumer.

Because principle is important, and ideas count.

Because fighting for what matters, does matter. Less narcissism, more commitment to fundamentals.

Fluff the corporate shareholders if you wish. I prefer spitting in their eyes.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 26 … The Hansa brewery tour, and a farewell to Norway.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 26 … The Hansa brewery tour, and a farewell to Norway.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

(Twenty-sixth in a series chronicling my travel year 1985)

The cheap plastic travel alarm was jarring in its morning report.

Say what?

Was I still in Norway, and had I consumed half an ocean’s bounty of seafood the night before, prior to falling asleep on a bench during an early evening piano recital?

There were groggy grunts of affirmation on both counts, and the fleeting recognition that this uncomfortable sensation might well be attributed to my first-ever hangover from food, as opposed to drink. It was morning on Thursday, and time to pack. Roughly seven hours remained of my brief stay in Bergen.

The train back to Oslo (and then a switch to Stockholm via couchette) would be leaving at 3:30 p.m., but there was a key item of unfinished beer business yet to be addressed. Owing to my debilitating telephonophobia (yes -- a real word), it was a final act I’d be forced to bluff at the last possible moment.


It seems the pattern of a lifetime already was being cemented at the tender age of 24. Then again, my circuitous, unannounced arrival in Pecetto earlier that summer had worked out, hadn’t it?

Maybe this one would click, too. It was time to give the wheel another big heave, and hope for the best. If not, I’d just hang out in Bergen’s harbor fish market and dream of forks, knives and repeat aquatic performances.


In 1985, my only tenuous connection to the business of beer was a part-time job at New Albany’s long defunct Scoreboard Liquors.

Luckily, the store’s owners were trying their best to listen and learn, and fascinated by the higher mark-ups of “premium” products, they cautiously indulged my comparatively superior knowledge of the imported beer category by allowing me to purchase and stock some of them.

In my defense, it’s easy to know a lot when no one else knows anything, and so the legendary “import door” in the walk-in cooler came to be. It was my first claim to local beer fame.

At the time, the only Norwegian beers available in Indiana were Ringnes and Aaas, but at some point in 1984 another mysterious contestant arrived. It was Hansa, as brewed in a place called Bergen, its cartons festooned with postcard images of sails and gabled mountainous fjord-driven beauty.

As a European history buff, I knew the name Hansa derived from the Hanseatic League.

The Hanseatic League was a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and their market towns. It dominated Baltic maritime trade (c. 1400-1800) along the coast of Northern Europe. It stretched from the Baltic to the North Sea and inland during the Late Middle Ages and early modern period (c. 13th to 17th centuries). The League was created to protect economic interests and diplomatic privileges in the cities and countries and along the trade routes the merchants visited.

In truth, Hansa was considerably more prosaic than the confederation, and merely another in a series of inoffensive golden lagers. Appropriately (given its name) it traveled long seaborne distances aboard vast container ships, as intended to quench a weird and steadily growing American thirst for something different from the norm, even if only slightly.

Yet Hansa tasted fresher somehow, and it struck me as being above average in quality. I added it to the list, and naturally proceeded to buy and consume most of it myself.

(There was an employee discount, but even so, at regular intervals I paid them for the privilege of working there.)

At some forgotten juncture, geography finally clicked. I’d be touring Europe, and probably visiting Norway, and if I made it, there’d be the famous train ride to Bergen … so, why not pretend to be someone important, let the brewery know how much I enjoyed its beer, and request a personally guided tour?

Seeing as I’d printed snazzy business cards, identifying me as a “beverage counselor” at Scoreboard Liquors in New Albany, Indiana, one of these need only be dropped into the envelope, and snail mail to “Hansa Brewery, Bergen, Norway” was dispatched.

To my utter astonishment, a few weeks later I received a polite reply from a man in Hansa’s export department. He thanked us for carrying the brewery’s beer, and asked me to call him upon my arrival in Bergen.

This was sufficiently encouraging for me to let matters slide without a second thought. See “pattern of a lifetime,” above.

Months subsequently passed. The travel adventure began. I carried the confirmation letter thousands of miles across the sea and through Europe. At any of my stops, I could have mailed him a postcard, but never found the time.

Conversely, I might ask the nice people at my accommodation in Bergen to use their phone and call for an appointment with (Knut? Thor? Lars?). This didn’t happen, either.

Given my proclivities for procrastination, there was no choice save for looking at a map, walking a mile past the train station to the upscale area known as Kalfaret, which was nestled just below Mount Fløyen, then finding the Hansa brewery complex, showing my weather-beaten letter to the amused non-English speakers at the guard shack, and waiting to see what would happen next.

Soon a casually dressed man emerged, looked at the letter, grimaced, and told me in perfect English that my export department contact was out of town on holiday. He expressed puzzlement that his colleague would arrange to meet me, then leave town.

Embarrassed, candor was my only recourse, so I apologized and conceded having never actually spoken with him.

Lacking legitimate credentials or very much else in the way of a clue, and looking pathetic in the process, it would have been immediately obvious to this man that I was “nobody” in the beer business, and yet (Gunnar? Rolf? Leif?) was remarkably gracious. He could spare an hour or so to show me the brewery, after which I could drink a couple of beers.

By the time I left Hansa, it had been closer to two hours, and I’ve always deeply appreciated his equanimity and sense of humor. Whomever you are, and wherever you are today … thank you. I’ll never forget your kindness.


Hansa was founded in the 1890s, and it had the cobbled-together appearance I would come to associate with breweries of its approximate age. Successive reorganizations and additions produced layers of industrial history, those typically favoring the cameras of visitors over employees trying to work efficiently.

In fact, Hansa’s first century was drawing quite rapidly to a close, and not just chronologically. Soon after my Bergen stay, production moved to a new facility located in a nearby industrial park. In 1997, Hansa merged with Borg, another Norwegian brewery, in a bid to stave off absorption by the voracious multinationals scouring the post-Communist world for booty.

The strategy seems to have succeeded, perhaps because the Norwegian beer market is so small. In 2015, the rump of the old brewery houses a new-generation Hansa Borg brewpub, company museum and headquarters. Much of the old brewery grounds appears to have been redeveloped into blocks of flats and light retail.

This beer-meets-economics neighborhood transformation was destined to be encountered time and time again in my subsequent travels. Older breweries operating on tracts of inner-city urban real estate would become too valuable to continue using for fermenters as opposed to people. They’d sell the property to developers for a big return, and move brewing plants to more sparsely populated areas – or sadly, cease brewing altogether.

The most memorable part of the Hansa tour came during a walk outside the brewery. In the garden stood what appeared to be a log cabin. In fact, it was a farmhouse brewery, relocated from the countryside to the brewery’s backyard.

My guide made the point that Norway’s original beers came from outside cities, where farm owners were required by law to provide a stipulated amount of homebrew to their laborers, under penalty of fines and imprisonment.

This isn’t as unlikely as it sounds. We know that brewing and agriculture are historically intertwined, and in fact, certain strains of Norwegian farmhouse brewing yeast are considered utterly unique. Today, at least one can be purchased from White Labs for home or commercial use. Of course, I knew nothing of this in 1985, although the notion of beer functioning as pay packet oddly mirrored my own package store experience.

The bottled golden lagers I drank afterwards were crisp, clean and gratis. In effect, my final view of Bergen that afternoon immediately prior to boarding the train back across the mountains was something I’d missed upon arrival: Hansa’s huge “Welcome to Bergen” sign on the station wall, facing the platforms.

I was leaving Bergen, and everything had fallen into place. The last bits of my Norwegian currency bought a valedictory sandwich, and I began thinking about Stockholm, where I arrived early Friday morning.

(to be continued amid mead in Sweden)



The PC: Euro ’85, Part 25 … Frantic pickled Norway.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 24 … An aspiring “beer hunter” amid Carlsberg’s considerable charms.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 23 … A fleeting first glimpse of Copenhagen.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 22 … It's how the tulips were relegated.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 21 … A long day in Normandy, though not "The Longest Day."

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 20 … War stories, from neutral Ireland to Omaha Beach.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 19 … Sligo, Knocknarea, Guinness and Freddie.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 18 … Irish history with a musical chaser.

The PC: Euro '85, Part 17 ... A first glimpse of Ireland.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 16 … Lizard King in the City of Light.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 15 … The traveler at 55, and a strange interlude.

The PC: We pause Euro '85 to remember the Mathäser Bierstadt in Munich.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 14 … Beers and breakfast in Munich.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 13 … Tears of overdue joy at Salzburg's Augustiner.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 12 … Stefan Zweig and his world of yesterday.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 11: My Franz Ferdinand obsession takes root.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 10: Habsburgs, history and sausages in Vienna.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 9 … Milan, Venice and a farewell to Northern Italy.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 8 … Pecetto idyll, with a Parisian chaser.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 7 … An eventful detour to Pecetto.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 6 … When in Rome, critical mass.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 5 … From Istanbul to Rome, with Greece in between.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 4 … With Hassan in Pithion.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 3 … Growing up in Greece.

The PC: Euro '85, Part 2 ... Hitting the ground crawling in Luxembourg.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 1 … Where it all began.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

More than 80 Indiana breweries are booked for Winterfest 2016.

The guild is approaching 80% member participation, which is wonderful. Who needs beer from outside the state of Indiana with a choice like this?

8th Annual Winterfest web site

Winterfest takes place on Saturday, January 30, 2016 (2 p.m. Early Bird and 3 p.m. General Admission; last pour at 6:45 p.m.) at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, 1202 E 38th St., Indianapolis, IN 46205.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Nope, still no "cold" beer from grocery and convenience stores in Indiana.

We needn't be legal scholars to focus on just these words: "Immediately consumable cold beer." One sense there might be a revolution in the offing if Bud Light Lime could be consumed at a warm temperature.

Maybe as a toddy.

Grocery, convenience stores can't sell cold beer, appeals court says, by Kristine Guerra (Indy Star)

... "Indiana explains that the goal of this regulatory scheme is to curb underage beer consumption by limiting the sale of immediately consumable cold beer," the opinion says.

In other court news, "Monarch Beverage Co., the state's largest wholesaler of beer and wine, lost a legal battle to allow it to distribute both beer and liquor."

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Let the taps speak, because the blue law's gone, and Indiana's dry Christmas Day is no more.

Unrelated to the topic at hand, but cool.

Readers, hear my confession: I completely missed it. Totally; 100%. I did not know the law had been changed.

It's about time, isn't it?

Maybe the Freedom from Religion Foundation intervened. After all, the prohibition of alcohol sales on Christmas Day was a blatant imposition of selective religious blue law on what should be secular tippling.

Indiana may be a basket case, but at least this one's finally right.

Hoosiers can buy alcohol on Christmas for the first time since Prohibition (Fox59)

The Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission (ATC) announced today you can buy alcohol on Christmas.

Although many businesses are closed on Christmas, restaurants, bars, liquor stores and grocery stores that are open will be allowed to sell alcohol to you.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 25 … Frantic pickled Norway.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 25 … Frantic pickled Norway.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

(Twenty-fifth in a series chronicling my travel year 1985)

In retrospect, it was an insanely hectic itinerary.

• Monday 22 July: Depart Copenhagen (evening); overnight train to Oslo
• Tuesday 23 July: Arrive in Oslo, morning; a whole day in the city
• Wednesday 24 July: Early morning train (6.5 hours) from Oslo to Bergen; evening in Bergen
• Thursday 25 July: Bergen to Oslo (afternoon/evening train), then an overnight train to Stockholm
• Friday 26 July: Arrive in Stockholm, morning; check into a hostel that doesn’t open until 16.00; wander the streets in delirium

The budget was tightening, my time was dwindling, and pricey Scandinavia always was destined to be whirlwind, by design – just the opposite of my foundational budget travel ethos of avoiding the “it’s now Tuesday – must be Sweden” approach.

Youthful reserves of adrenaline were a boon, though only to an extent. It was exhausting, and yet more than a few indelible memories were produced amid the daily servitude to train schedules.

Norway has proven to be a one-off experience for me. Of the 13 countries where my passport was stamped in 1985, only three have not been the subject of return visits: Greece, Turkey … and Norway.

There isn’t any particular reason for the omission. Norway’s spic-and-span urban areas and spectacular mountains, fjords and forests were highly refreshing in spite of the high prices and the absence of Viking blood running through my veins. The return trip has just been delayed 30 years, that’s all.

My first Norwegian epiphany was fast in coming. Immediately after exiting the train in Oslo and changing money, hunger pangs erupted. There was a restaurant in the station, and a placard advising an all-you-can eat breakfast buffet for the equivalent of $8 – a bit of a splurge, although rendered far more practical by my handy plastic freezer bag, ready to be surreptitiously filled with meats and cheeses to last the whole day through.

While industriously filling my plate (and bag) for the second or maybe third time, I saw the ceramic pots. Innocently imagining they were filled with jams or jellies, I scooped out a spoonful of … rectangular silvery-gray pungent vinegary fish parts.

Inadvertently, I had been introduced to pickled herring, a delicacy that somehow had eluded me in Copenhagen. Now it was time to put up or shut up, because what possible use would be served by traveling all the way from Hoosierland to Norway and refusing to taste the difference?

Already during my travels there had been several graphic examples of the sort of American I was bound and determined never to be, like the sad-eyed Texan in Salzburg who refused to drink the amazing beer at the Augustiner beer garden because it wasn’t Miller Lite (just let that sink in), and the young couple bitterly complaining about the high price of Big Macs at the downtown Copenhagen McDonald’s.

In vain, I tried to tell them about the huge, tasty and affordable portions at the Vista Self-Service Restaurant, but they simply wouldn’t listen. Their terror was as obvious as my confusion: Why travel at all, people?

So, with every corn-fed Indiana olfactory receptor sounding a red alert – “BEWARE, Midwesterner: Ocean products not fully processed into paste to make Filet O’Fish sandwiches do not compute … WARNING!” – I duly piled the pickled herring onto flat, dense and nutty rye bread.

And ... that’s right. Hooked at first bite.

The delicious piquant flavor remained ingrained in my tongue for two whole years, until my belated arrival in Amsterdam and an encounter with raw herring filets and chopped onion, followed by smoked mussels in Yugoslavia, then pickled herring in a variety of sauces back in Copenhagen … and so very much more.


The helpful attendant at the train station tourist desk said that Oslo’s hostels were filled, and the room I booked at a pension cost a staggering $17, but at least there was plenty of salami stowed in the freezer bag, so an active tourist’s day began with a harbor walkabout, followed by a visit to the Kon-Tiki museum.

Norwegians refer to Oslo being situated at the north end of a fjord, although in geological terms, the water doesn't match the term, because a fjord is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created by glacial erosion. Oslo is has none of these, and we might call it a very elongated bay, without the adjacent sheer precipices, though possessing rolling hills and a promontory or three. Either way, it;s a scenic place for a capital city.

Thirty years of North Sea oil wealth undoubtedly has altered Oslo’s skyline for the newer, taller and glassier. My dated recollection is of unusually quiet streets on yet another gorgeous sunny summer's day, and overall, a laid back but efficient ambiance.

Appropriately, legendary Norwegian ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl (1914-2002) was the son of a master brewer. He became famous in 1947 for sailing a raft (the Kon-Tiki) from Peru to Polynesia, testing his hypothesis that ancient peoples could travel long distances across the ocean using the materials and technology they had at hand.

From Heyerdahl’s museum, I strolled to the area around the National Theater, where an electric railway with quaint wooden cars (at least at the time) trundled through the suburbs to the north, eventually entering the woods and depositing me perhaps five miles outside Oslo at the Tryvannstårnet, or Tryvanns Tower.

An elevator ride to the top of this tower enabled a truly stupendous view of Oslo and environs. In 2015, the population of metropolitan Oslo nears one million, and it’s reasonable to assume it was 15% less than that total in 1985, but still, the entire populated area appeared to be completely swallowed up by green forest and blue water when viewed from the top of the Tryvannstårnet. The wilderness appeared to begin just past the last street sign.

By now it was late afternoon, and so after the trip back into the center, I scraped together a few Kroner for two bottles of standard Ringnes lager at a state-owned retail shop, packing them to Frogner Park for an al fresco dinner of breakfast leftovers amid Gustav Vigeland’s vast “sculpture arrangement.”

More than 200 statues in bronze and granite seek to illustrate the vicissitudes of the human condition, its agonies and triumphs. The key piece is the 46-ft tall Monolith, depicting more than a hundred writhing, striving and climbing humans figures evidently grasping for salvation.

Vigeland was a controversial figure. He unashamedly leaned fascist, and died in 1943 during Germany’s wartime occupation of Norway, years that have given us the word “quisling” as a synonym for a traitorous collaborator, but also a time when the national resistance was determined and bloody.

In retrospect, the sculptures surely do have an early 20th-century totalitarian stylistic bent, although it’s awfully hard to find fault with the one, my favorite, where a man appears to be kicking babies out of his way like so many errant soccer balls.


Wednesday began quite early. My Eurailpass landed a seat on the train from Oslo to Bergen for a rail trip that was the primary reason for my decision to visit Norway – and I’m no choo choo buff.

The 308-mile Oslo-Bergen rail line’s construction began in 1875 and took 34 years to complete. It remains an engineering marvel, and one of the world’s most beautiful train rides.

Imagine the construction difficulties inherent to mountainous terrain, then add the length and severity of the Norwegian winter. There are 182 tunnels of varying length, and countless snow fences and sheds. At its highest point, the train is 4,000 feet above fjord level – and at places, the water can be seen, dizzyingly straight down, just outside the window.

The terminus is Bergen, a centuries-old port city squeezed into flat ground between mountains by a fjord – in short, stereotypically Norwegian. The train station is less than a mile from the Bryggen, Bergen’s old harbor quarter and a UNESCO world heritage site, where fish markets punctuate the air and cruise ships depart for epic coastline jaunts.

The room booked for me by the tourist office proved to be conveniently located between station and harbor, right on my path to an early dinner -- and I had to hurry. The highly recommended midday seafood buffet at the Enhjørningen (“Unicorn Restaurant”) ended at 16.00, and this meal was so important that I planned on using my rarely deployed debit card to pay the staggering $16 it would set me back.

I made it on time, and the spread was truly unforgettable, like nothing I’d ever seen: Cod, halibut, salmon, shrimp, crab and herring – fried, baked, broiled, pickled and probably raw – accompanied with exotic sauces, potatoes, berry-laden salads and strange northern vegetables prepared in a myriad of ways, probably 25 dishes in all.

If I’m exaggerating, it isn’t by much. It was an epochal feast.

Afterwards, barely able to move, I walked to the university area in search of a piano recital touted at the tourist office. It was about to begin, although I’d been misled, and it wasn’t free of charge. However, the door and windows were open, and there was a bench nearby.

I breathed easier.

Seafood buffets notwithstanding, it still was possible to listen on a budget.

(to be continued at Bergen's Hansa brewery)



The PC: Euro ’85, Part 24 … An aspiring “beer hunter” amid Carlsberg’s considerable charms.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 23 … A fleeting first glimpse of Copenhagen.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 22 … It's how the tulips were relegated.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 21 … A long day in Normandy, though not "The Longest Day."

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 20 … War stories, from neutral Ireland to Omaha Beach.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 19 … Sligo, Knocknarea, Guinness and Freddie.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 18 … Irish history with a musical chaser.

The PC: Euro '85, Part 17 ... A first glimpse of Ireland.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 16 … Lizard King in the City of Light.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 15 … The traveler at 55, and a strange interlude.

The PC: We pause Euro '85 to remember the Mathäser Bierstadt in Munich.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 14 … Beers and breakfast in Munich.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 13 … Tears of overdue joy at Salzburg's Augustiner.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 12 … Stefan Zweig and his world of yesterday.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 11: My Franz Ferdinand obsession takes root.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 10: Habsburgs, history and sausages in Vienna.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 9 … Milan, Venice and a farewell to Northern Italy.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 8 … Pecetto idyll, with a Parisian chaser.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 7 … An eventful detour to Pecetto.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 6 … When in Rome, critical mass.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 5 … From Istanbul to Rome, with Greece in between.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 4 … With Hassan in Pithion.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 3 … Growing up in Greece.

The PC: Euro '85, Part 2 ... Hitting the ground crawling in Luxembourg.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 1 … Where it all began.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Dropping in on New Albany's Donum Dei Brewery.

This was the beer board at Donum Dei Brewery on Thursday, December 10.

This is the view of Donum Dei's front-of-house on Friday the 11th, with Christmas tree and 70-degree temps.

For the uninitiated, Donum Dei opened on St. Patrick's Day (2015), and is Rick and Kim Otey's labor of love. It is located a few hundred yards away from NABC's original location. If you can find the Lee's Fried Chicken by the railroad track on Grant Line Road, you're almost there; it's in the strip mall off Rolling Creek Drive, behind the El Nopal.

I've had all the beers listed above, most recently the Enkel and Populo. Rick's Enkel is a "single" in the Abbey style, pale, sessionable and delicious. His Populo is what people say they brew but usually don't: A genuine Brown Porter, not to be confused with Robust, and similar to Mild in being dark, light and refreshing all at once.

In case you're wondering, the 812 Nouveau refers to the wet hops of origin from the Eight One Two Farms near Columbus, Indiana.

Final word: Cheap pours all day Tuesday. Shall we refer to it as  the Northside Brewery Corridor?

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Catching up with Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale.

Photo credit: Its own page.

The single most hellish aspect of aging are the times when you think something happened last month, and it turns out to have been five years ago. Consequently, most readers already know the point of today's digression.

First, some personal history.

At some point in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I'd pre-order as many kegs of Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale as North Vernon Beverage could acquire via hook or crook, and we'd pour them at the Public House for weeks on end.

Probably a keg each year was deposited directly into my stomach. It's a wonder we ever made any money. Holiday sentimentality is utterly lacking in my interior world, and yet this annual arrival of Celebration Ale truly came to define the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.

In later years, the world evolved; NABC began its own brewing operation in 2002, and in 2005 came the first Saturnalia festival, as explicitly devoted to "celebrating" winter and holiday seasonal draft beers.

In the years since, I've had my ups and downs with Sierra Nevada itself. To this very day, it still seems to me that an aspect of the company's crucial foundational California mythology was lost forever when it began brewing in North Carolina. However, this is not the point of my digression.

A couple of weeks back we were out shopping for groceries. I needed beer for sauerkraut, bean and mushroom soup, and Bridge Liquors was just around the corner, so we stopped there for a couple of bottles of Paulaner Salvator.

Remember: Never, ever use water in soup.

While browsing Bridge's packed aisles, I saw six-packs of Celebration Ale and couldn't resist the temptation. Having paid very little attention in recent years, what threw me at first glance was the changed label design, which is gorgeous, and the words "Fresh Hop IPA."

The simple fact is that while we always knew Celebration Ale was a hophead's delight, I can't recall many barroom discussions centering on whether it was or wasn't an IPA. We simply accepted it was what it was, and remains: Celebration Ale. It's the same way I feel about NABC's Elector; not this or that, but merely Elector, itself.

Concurrently ... those various annual "Harvest" releases were designed to be Sierra Nevada's showcase for "fresh" hops, weren't they?

Hence, this belated effort to rectify my grasp of semantics, and now it makes sense to me, because ...

The word "IPA" wasn't on the label in 2013, and appeared for the first time in 2014.

The Harvest series is about "wet" or unprocessed hops, while the significance of "fresh" in Celebration Ale, according to wording first deployed in 2010, is that the finishing hops (Cascade and Centennial) are selected, dried and used immediately. These distinctions are explained in detail by Heather Vandenengel at All About Beer:


Celebration Ale, which has been in production since 1981 and in its current form since 1983, is an enigma of a beer. It’s a holiday beer, so consumers might expect it to have the standard spices—nutmeg, cinnamon—but instead will find hop aromas and bitterness akin to an IPA. Since 2010, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. has labeled it as a fresh hop ale, garnering confusion with wet hop ales, which are also often referred to as fresh hop ales.

Finally, at the risk of waxing curmudgeonly, I will never in my life consider Celebration Ale to be an IPA. To me, the attempted specificity mars the legend. It's a one-off, and should remain that way.

Monday, December 07, 2015

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 24 … An aspiring “beer hunter” amid Carlsberg’s considerable charms.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 24 … An aspiring “beer hunter” amid Carlsberg’s considerable charms.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

(Twenty-fourth in a series chronicling my travel year 1985)

In 1985, the performer Michael Jackson’s savvy pop music was ubiquitous throughout Europe – also in America, unoccupied islands off the coast of Antarctica, and the remainder of the planet.

It’s no surprise. After all, Jackson’s “Thriller” album already was timelessly epochal a mere two years after its release, and today, six years after his death, it has sold 65 million copies worldwide.

This astounding quantity is considerably more than the total number of books sold by Michael Jackson, the beer writer (1942 – 2007), although three million units is no small achievement in itself.

Honestly, Michael Jackson the entertainer's music never did much for me, apart from his “Willard” theme. To this day I refuse to accept “King of Pop” as his honorific. Maybe it applies to Hoboken’s Frank Sinatra or Hound Dog Elvis, but not to the Moonwalker.

Conversely, a compelling case can be made that Michael Jackson the Yorkshireman fully deserves to be remembered as “King of Beer,” far more so than A-B InBev’s classically insipid American Lager.

Jackson’s book “The World Guide to Beer” (1977) almost singlehandedly elevated beer to the status of a topic important enough to discuss in mixed company, although ironically, it probably didn’t achieve critical mass in America until long after the initial publication, when it could be found remaindered on the discount tables of chain bookstores in malls across the country.

That’s where I found “The World Guide to Beer,” and I wasn’t the only one. A whole first generation of “beer geeks” took its cues from Jackson’s classic survey of world beer history.

It was a big, heavy, coffee-table book, and I didn’t haul it to Europe in my gym bag, but it was every bit as important to me in 1985 as budget travel guidebooks like “Let’s Go: Europe” and “Europe on 25 Dollars A Day.”


It’s all about the power of words.

While the canon of pop music has been enriched by the singer Michael Jackson’s output, its everyday vocabulary is not directly referential to his body of work. However, the language of beer indisputably passes directly through Michael Jackson, the writer.

He was among the first to systematically consider and explain beer styles, and to show how aspects of the brewing process, historical practice, geography, chemistry and myriad other human experiences pertained to them, demonstrating that our enjoyment of the genre is enhanced by greater overall knowledge.

All of these facets taken together form a shared language of “beer speak,” and Jackson shaped it in an enduringly readable way, neither dumbing down his material nor assuming the role of lofty pedant. He was an erudite prose stylist in addition to his journalistic skills as a nuts-and-bolts reporter.

The “Beer Hunter” always told wonderful stories, while never forgetting the newspaperman’s facts-first orientation, and I persist in believing that Jackson is best compared to figures like Samuel Johnson and other great essayists of the English tradition.

As such, I feel quite fortunate to have made Jackson’s acquaintance, chatting with him on more than one occasion. In fact, in 1994 he visited my pub and drank a pint, but first he showed me the way to Carlsberg in Copenhagen, where I experienced my first Old World brewery tour.


Much ground would be covered during my second (and final) day in the city, as facilitated by the wonders of the Eurailpass, which was valid on the efficient “S” trains of the city’s suburban rail network.

Early Monday morning, I left the skating rink bunkhouse and took the bus to the central train station, checking my bag at left luggage, and securing an overnight couchette reservation for Oslo, Norway. The train would be departing around 21.00 … or 9:00 p.m. The 24 hour clock was beginning to make sense, though thermometers remained mysterious.

Twelve whole hours lay ahead.

Unencumbered of increasingly dirty clothes, the “S” whisked me through urban Copenhagen, its outskirts and far-flung suburbs for a 45-minute ride to the city of Hillerød, and a pleasant, sunny morning spent traipsing the grounds of the Frederiksborg Castle.

I dimly recall finding a pølservogn in Hillerod. Assuredly, a budget traveler can live on hot dogs alone.

On the way back, there was a stop at Churchillparken, site of an old star-shaped earthen military redoubt and the Museum of Danish Resistance (to Nazi occupation), which I’m saddened to learn suffered a devastating fire from suspected arson in 2013, and currently is being both rebuilt and reconsidered.

Denmark’s experience in WWII falls outside the aim of my narrative, although its surreal nature is worth noting. The Nazis desired a measure of propagandist “ethnic” solidarity with Danes, and occupied Denmark without formal hostilities being declared. The country’s government and institutions functioned somewhat normally until 1943, when the tide of affairs elsewhere made matters more openly confrontational.

Interestingly, the aftermath of the museum’s burning appears to have opened more than a few old wounds. The exhibits were saved, but there is a difference of opinion as to whether they should be re-installed exactly as before, or accompanied with a more contemporary and nuanced examination of Denmark’s wartime status.

As with so many other aspects of my travel narrative, the resistance museum symbolizes differences in consciousness, then and now. Forty years after the war’s end, many people who lived through it were still alive. Now, most aren’t, and the uses of the past change with time, no matter how hard we try to cling to “eternal” and seemingly objective truths.

Just like beer.


By mid-afternoon, I’d finally gravitated back to the Vesterbro neighborhood stretching beyond the Vista restaurant’s front door, stepping off the “S” near Carlsberg’s 19th-century rail yard complex in Valby, the brewery’s gently undulating locale.

This observation alone provided a valuable lesson for future European beer hunting expeditions, because breweries of a certain pre-automotive age almost always are located near railroad tracks or navigable waterways – the interstates of their age.

(At the time of my visit, formerly independent Tuborg still brewed beer at its own historic plant on the other side of town, despite having merged with Carlsberg. Tuborg, which I toured in 1989 prior to its closure, had its very own shipping docks.)

Carlsberg remains an iconic international beer brand, recognizable the world over for the green label and unique script of its flagship, Carlsberg Hof, a mild Pilsner-style golden lager. Significantly, the beer wasn’t always golden. Nor was it always a lager. Carlsberg’s first batches in 1847 were dark-colored ales.

Founder J. C. Jacobsen was the son of a brewer, and his career began at a propitious time, because numerous factors were converging to make possible the seismic transformation of the beer business, from a typically localized and smaller-scale brewing of ales to the eventual global reach of mass-produced golden lagers as brewed at factories just like the one I visited.

Jacobsen had no specialized academic background, but he was industrious and astute. His European contemporaries Gabriel Sedlmayer and Anton Dreher were pioneers of lager brewing, and because they didn't think in proprietary terms, the Dane freely borrowed from their expertise, making frequent journeys south for continuing education.

It is said that Jacobsen transported fragile lager yeast from Munich to Copenhagen, keeping it cool in his stovepipe hat. More importantly, he funded a laboratory and commenced a rigorously scientific approach to brewing, correctly foreseeing the value of a consistent, replicable product in the context of a global economy.

However, neither Jacobsen nor his son and eventual successor Carl were robber baron capitalists. To them, brewing was more about technology than art, but the profits were a different story. Father, son and Carlsberg became models of 19th-century industrialized philanthropy, with the family’s brewing interests bequeathed to a foundation with numerous scientific, cultural and artistic non-profit imperatives.

Much about Carlsberg has changed since my first glimpse of Copenhagen. There have been mergers and acquisitions, and a structural reformatting of the company after the fall of Communism. Large scale brewing has moved to a different location in Jutland, and the “old” brewery in Copenhagen survives as a company headquarters, tourist destination, and historic site, producing specialty “craft” brews. The former acreage of the industrial plant nearby is being redeveloped as a whole new city quarter.

However, Carlsberg still fulfills its philanthropic mandates as a foundation, and I’ll always feel better drinking a multinational Carlsberg than a beer brewed by the likes of AB-InBev. Unlike the Jacobsens, the Busch family legacy is unsightly, indeed.


Carlsberg’s most enduring architectural feature is the imposing stone Elephant Gate lying just outside the historic brew house. Generation of multi-lingual brewery tour guides have been drilled to immediately disavow the presence of swastikas carved into the elephants’ pedestals.


“These are ancient symbols of auspiciousness, luck and well-being. The word ‘swastika’ itself is Sanskrit, not German, and these have nothing to do with that other fellow during the war.”

Point taken.

As I came to understand with notches subsequently added to my belt, brewery tours at the Carlsberg level of operation seldom rise above the introductory. I’ve heard and repeated the gospel several thousand times since. Grain is malted and mashed, sugar water created, hops added during the boil, and yeast eating sugar to create alcohol and carbonation. The inevitable conclusion comes while looking over the throbbing, cacophonous bottling line.

Thirsty yet? Well, come right this way.

Of course, a brewery like Carlsberg is able to place these tours in a compelling architectural and historic context. If 19th-century industrial buildings like these did not continue to fascinate modern man, we wouldn’t rush to convert them into condos, and if advertising graphics from the same era didn’t cease to exert feelings of loyalty and cultural identification, we'd have no breweriana collectors.

Unfortunately, the litigiousness of our modern world has gone far toward spoiling the ultimate objective of brewery tours, because who would endure the factory stroll without a prospect of tasting the bounty?

At the end of my first Carlsberg tour, the participants were seated at tables in a room festooned with brewery ads and graphic art. Sample beers in lightly chilled bottles already were lined up and ready on each table, with a few salty snacks and gratis souvenirs – stickers and decals, maybe some paper labels. There was joy and delight all around.

It seemed odd to me at the time that families with young children would be taking the brewery tour, but they were. It was free-wheeling Europe, not puritanical America. There were soft drinks for the kids, and only later did I do the requisite math and learn the solo traveler’s best strategy at such times: Stick close to the families and be smilingly gracious, because when they occupy a table set for six with a single spare seat and invite you to join them, only the adults will be drinking.

And this, of course, means more beer for me.

(to be continued)



The PC: Euro ’85, Part 23 … A fleeting first glimpse of Copenhagen.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 22 … It's how the tulips were relegated.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 21 … A long day in Normandy, though not "The Longest Day."

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 20 … War stories, from neutral Ireland to Omaha Beach.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 19 … Sligo, Knocknarea, Guinness and Freddie.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 18 … Irish history with a musical chaser.

The PC: Euro '85, Part 17 ... A first glimpse of Ireland.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 16 … Lizard King in the City of Light.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 15 … The traveler at 55, and a strange interlude.

The PC: We pause Euro '85 to remember the Mathäser Bierstadt in Munich.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 14 … Beers and breakfast in Munich.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 13 … Tears of overdue joy at Salzburg's Augustiner.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 12 … Stefan Zweig and his world of yesterday.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 11: My Franz Ferdinand obsession takes root.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 10: Habsburgs, history and sausages in Vienna.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 9 … Milan, Venice and a farewell to Northern Italy.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 8 … Pecetto idyll, with a Parisian chaser.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 7 … An eventful detour to Pecetto.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 6 … When in Rome, critical mass.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 5 … From Istanbul to Rome, with Greece in between.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 4 … With Hassan in Pithion.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 3 … Growing up in Greece.

The PC: Euro '85, Part 2 ... Hitting the ground crawling in Luxembourg.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 1 … Where it all began.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

My Wednesday in Indianapolis, with beers by St. Joseph and Sun King.

Last Wednesday was meeting day for the Brewers of Indiana Guild, and as is my habit, I drove up to Indianapolis early. Doing so gives me a chance to walk around for a while downtown, and grab a bite for lunch from the Grecian Garden in the City Market.

They had pastitsio on special, and it was yummy.

The typical Greek version has a bottom layer that is bucatini or other tubular pasta, with cheese and egg as a binder; a middle layer of ground beef, veal or lamb with tomato and cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice; another layer of pasta; and a top layer of sauce, varying from an egg-based custard to a flour-based Béchamel or a Béchamel with cheese (known as Mornay sauce in France). Grated cheese is often sprinkled on top. Pastitsio is a common dish, and is often served as a main course, with a salad.

I parked at Sun King for two reasons. First, it's an invigorating 20-minute walk north on College, across Massachusetts Avenue, to the meeting place at the guild offices on Central Avenue. Also, I needed to buy beer, both to give as presents during the holiday season, and to drink myself.

The mixed 16-count case was purchased and stowed in the trunk, and at the moment I'm drinking one of the Fistful of Hops, a special quarterly IPA release. Although I prefer session-strength beers these days, this one's only 6.4%, which strikes me as ideal for an India Pale Ale.

You can taste the components without suffering palate overload, as with "double" IPAs. Balance is not a dirty word in my world, and Fistful of Hops is a good example of it.

My empty growler from St. Joseph Brewery was packed along for the walk, and after the meeting I stopped in and had it filled with Absolution Ale, an Amber with Cascades hops. It's richly malty, and I'd drink it with an anchovy and black olive pizza in a heartbeat.

A few years ago, we stopped at the Lockerbie Pub while making sales calls, and I remember the huge vacant lot across the street. The former church housing the brewery is on the other side, and now a huge apartment complex is being built between them. The whole area is under perpetual construction. The ideal of a walkable, bikeable urban setting seems possible there.


The St. Joseph beers I've had have been good, and it isn't necessary to sell me on the idea of breweries taking over church buildings. At least they go back on the tax rolls this way.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Craft is dead.

One of them, anyway.

At Igor’s side (The Economist)

Robert Craft, conductor, musicologist and amanuensis of Stravinsky, died on November 10th, aged 92

Each issue of The Economist is post-graduate education. For instance, I love the word amanuensis.

An amanuensis (/əˌmænjuːˈɛnsɪs/) is a person employed to write or type what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another, and also refers to a person who signs a document on behalf of another under the latter's authority.

In Craft's letter to Stravinsky, he uses the word "ensorcelated." Dictionaries agree that it should be spelled ensorcelled or ensorceled, as deriving from the ensorcell/ensorcel: To enchant or bewitch, as a sorcerer would do. However, the Sorcerer's Apprentice is a poem by Goethe set to music by Paul Dukas, not Stravinsky.

A factotum is a jack of all trades -- a person or  employee who performs many different jobs. It's also the name of a novel by Charles Bukowski (and subsequent movie), who once was referred to by Time magazine as "laureate of American lowlife."

Then there's the term dogsbody, which in England is a synonym for lackey or grunt worker.

Finally, adscititious: "Forming an addition or supplement; not integral or intrinsic."

That's all. Nothing about beer, just words today.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Monday, November 30, 2015

The PC: "Gordon Biersch: Still Leading with Lager."

The PC: "Gordon Biersch: Still Leading with Lager."

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

Coming next to the Euro '85 travelogue is the story of my visit to the Carlsberg brewery in Copenhagen, and since Carlsberg plays a central role in the historical development of lager, a brief sidestep seems merited.

Following is my Food & Dining Magazine column from the Fall 2015 issue (Vol. 49; August/September/October). You also can read the column at issuu, as formatted for the magazine.

Nicholas Landers brews all the Gordon Biersch beers right here in Louisville, and while he is understandably excited to have the leeway to brew a selection of American and Belgian ales, my focus is the lager side of the Biersch portfolio.


Gordon Biersch: Still Leading with Lager

Brewing comes full circle with locally-crafted beer styles in the Central European tradition

Märzen, known as Oktoberfest in its autumnal guise, is an Old World style of lager beer originating in the German state of Bavaria.

Talk is cheap, so let’s have a sip – strictly for research purposes.

This Märzen is orange-tinged amber, with a rich, malty aroma. There is a toasted, malty sweetness in the mouth, yielding to impeccable balance and dryness in the finish, albeit without discernable hoppiness. The body is medium, and the flavor is clean and crisp, as lager should be, with absolutely none of the fruitiness characteristic to ale.

The elegant Märzen in my glass disappears all too quickly, even as it conjures totemic images of sausages, dirndls, onion-domed churches and festive maypoles.

However, while my brain screams “Munich”, the growler before me calmly reads “Louisville”, as referring to our local 4th Street branch of the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant network.

Here in River City, Märzen is an everyday Gordon Biersch draft, brewed on site by brewer Nicholas Landers, who is a transplanted Cincinnatian who sharpened his skills at Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee after attending Chicago’s Siebel Institute.

Most American brewpubs of a similar capacity (circa 700 barrels per annum) do not specialize in lager styles, which take longer to brew than ale. However, Gordon Biersch, named for founders Dan Gordon and Dean Biersch, has always been something different.

Befitting Dan Gordon’s brewing studies at the prestigious Technical University of Munich, a core of lager styles from the German, Czech and Central European pantheon has comprised Gordon Biersch’s niche since its 1988 inception in Palo Alto, California.

These include Märzen, Export, Pilsner, Dunkel and Maibock, all brewed according the Reinheitsgebot (beer purity law), and all familiar to anyone who has traveled in Bavaria or dined stateside at a good German restaurant like Louisville’s Gasthaus.

In recent times, brewers like Landers at Gordon Biersch’s 34 company-owned locations have considerably more freedom than before to create seasonal and one-off ale styles, providing guests with counterpoint to the lagers and “guest” beers already on tap.

“We’re holding to tradition with our lagers, but being able to do India Pale Ales now is awesome,’’ Landers says, noting that in addition to his house lagers and certain contrarian German ales (Hefeweizen and Kölsch), he’s also been crafting limited editions of Porter, Stout and even a few Belgian styles.

However, here we must pause, because an important question needs to be addressed.

What is the difference between ale and lager?

It’s fundamental, and the legendary Fred Eckhardt, dean of American beer writers, offers a deceptively simple answer.

Ale and lager are both beers; that is, they are fermented from grain. The major difference between these two beer families stems from the temperature at which fermentation is carried out. And the importance of these differences in temperature is that chemical reactions happen more slowly at lower temperatures.

From the very beginning, mankind has harnessed the natural process of fermentation to produce alcoholic beverages, using grains, grapes, fruits, vegetables and honey. Eons of experience abundantly illustrate that when humans mix water, sugar and yeast in stray bowels or pottery, it takes little time before fermentation gets underway.

However, the story of ale and lager is one of contrasting brewing methodologies, and it is a specifically Eurocentric tale, evolving comparatively recently with the march of science.

Beginning in medieval times, brewers in Central Europe learned through trial and error that cooler fermentation temperatures and lengthier aging (the word “lager” in German means “to store”) made for a crisper, cleaner and mellower end product. But why?

They couldn’t possibly know until the invention of the microscope, which provided the means to view the activity of yeast, the living micro-organism that diligently converts sugars into alcohol. Once yeast’s role was unmasked, science started deciphering fermentation’s perennial mysteries, and by the 1830s lager yeast began coming into common use.

Lager brewing’s cooler fermentation temperatures slow chemical reactions, and by doing so, substantially reduce flavor and aroma by-products.

Conversely, at warmer fermentation temperatures, these flavors and aroma by-products are purposefully enhanced, and remain cherished components of ale’s “fruity” charm.

Like the Beatles much later, lager brewing blossomed at just the right time. By the late 19th century, lager was an international sensation, perfectly suited to burgeoning consumer cultures, industrial economies of scale and a zeal for scientific advancement. Lager consciousness swept the world, and ale was pushed into localized (and stubborn) corners like Great Britain and Belgium.

Inevitably, lager became too perfect. Crisp, clean and mellow yielded to cynical mass-market flavorlessness, which inspired the American craft beer backlash of the present era.

In 1988, Dan Gordon saw the issue from a different angle.

To the Bavarian-trained Gordon, lager wasn’t something to be overthrown and excluded. Rather, lager needed reclaiming and rehabilitation. He would emphasize the flavorful origins of classic lager styles, and localize their production as his new company grew.

Consequently, unlike some other national brewery concepts, all Gordon Biersch house beers right here in Louisville, where chain or not, the company helped launch the Kentucky Guild of Brewers, working alongside the state’s independent small brewers.

“At first, some of them probably wondered who we were,” says Landers, “but we’re all brewers, and we all helped get KGB started.”

Jason Smith is Gordon Biersch’s general manager, and when asked to specify the single most important aspect of his work, he does not hesitate.

“Commitment,” Smith replies, and then elaborates.

“Commitment to the Reinheitsgebot in the brewery, and to locally sourcing food in the kitchen. We’re committed to this community, and to helping local charities. Yes, it may be a company checkbook, but we’re local guys.”

Chain skeptics, of whom the author is one, might yet scoff; after all, 4th Street Live lies at Gordon Biersch’s front door. However, the prevailing evidence illustrates that ample localism is being served alongside the beer and food, owing to the daily commitment of the people working for Gordon Biersch.


I’m just sitting here finishing this growler of Märzen, watching the craft beer pendulum swing back and forth.

Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant
Open seven days a week at 11:00 a.m.
400 S. 4th Street
Louisville, KY 40202

Friday, November 27, 2015

Bourbon County Yawn: There is nothing so desirable that you willingly pay your mortal enemy to have it.

Meme courtesy of Dustin Dilbeck.

BREAKING: Worldwide shareholders of AB-InBev sincerely thank Americans for their devotion to Goose Island products.

According to a resident of an Asian tax haven, "With the Bourbon County Stout profits alone, we can keep craft beer off store shelves in a dozen states."

Added a Brazilian gazillionaire, "Let's hope they never learn."

Thursday, November 26, 2015

An evening with The Dunwich.

Assorted olives, cheese, salami, pickled peppers and those elusive caperberries.

Def Leppard's new self-titled album, which is as close as the lads from Sheffield have come to the glory days since ... the glory days.

The locally-brewed beer accompanying this feast is The Dunwich Smoked Porter (circa 7% abv) from NABC, which I'm assuming is still produced by Ben Minton at the original Grant Line R & D brewery. The vagaries of my association with this company notwithstanding, it is a really great beer.

I'd advise you to get some while it's still available.