Monday, March 30, 2015

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

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

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

You won’t need to look far amid my scribblings to locate frequent praise for the Indiana “craft” brewing scene. I’m proud of my state when it comes to better beer.

In five years since 2010, we’ve come close to tripling the number of Hoosier breweries, and while it seems a new establishment opens in Indianapolis every week, smaller communities from Aurora to Martinsville to Needmore are being represented, too. It’s overdue, and welcomed.

This Wednesday, I’ll make the drive up I-65 to Indianapolis for a regular board meeting of the Brewers of Indiana Guild (BIG). It isn’t an ordinary week in the state capital. For one, college basketball’s Final Four will be staged there beginning on Saturday, with all attendant sports-driven hoopla. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that just last week, my state made international headlines with a controversial new law, overwhelmingly approved by both legislative bodies and promptly signed by Governor Mike Pence. Because of SB/HB 101, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), there are mounting calls to boycott Indiana.

Some, including Keith Olbermann, Charles Barkley and Dave Zirin, have gone so far as to urge the NCAA, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, to move the Final Four elsewhere in protest. This is unlikely, but the NCAA has indicated its displeasure, meaning Indiana might be denied future athletic spectacles. That’s bad for all our bottom lines, beer or not.


This is nothing more than a beer column, and it would be impossible to include a detailed explication of the issues surrounding the RFRA firestorm. Quoted below is a letter written in February by 30 legal scholars to Rep. Ed DeLaney of the Indiana House of Representatives, but before lifting a key passage, first permit me to state clearly that speaking personally, not as a BIG board member, a brewery owner, a militant atheist or a serial admirer of Noel Gallagher, but as a simple human being, I strongly oppose RFRA, and I am utterly revolted by what it stands for.

It is bad law, a regrettable over-reach (the GOP enjoys a super majority in Indiana state government), a human rights disaster, and a body blow to the state's business climate -- all of these being purely negative aspects, and yet the saddest part of it might be the grubby, small-minded pettiness of the politics involved, and how, with a stroke of his gilded crayon, Pence has deposited this bundle of divisive bile at all our front doors, to foul all our communities.

The scholars say:

In our expert opinion, the clear evidence suggests otherwise and unmistakably demonstrates that the broad language of the proposed state RFRA will more likely create confusion, conflict, and a wave of litigation that will threaten the clarity of religious liberty rights in Indiana while undermining the state’s ability to enforce other compelling interests. This confusion and conflict will increasingly take the form of private actors, such as employers, landlords, small business owners, or corporations, taking the law into their own hands and acting in ways that violate generally applicable laws on the grounds that they have a religious justification for doing so. Members of the public will then be asked to bear the cost of their employer’s, their landlord’s, their local shopkeeper’s, or a police officer’s private religious beliefs. As we have learned on the federal level, RFRAs do not “open a door” to conversation, but rather invite new conflict that takes the form of litigation. This collision of public rights and individual religious beliefs will produce a flood of litigation, whereby Indiana courts will be asked to rebalance what has been a workable and respectful harmony of rights and responsibilities in a pluralistic society.

In layman’s terms, the RFRA likely will facilitate discrimination, especially against the LGBT community, and precisely from those unreconstructed bigots in the retail and service sector of the economy who stand to create the greatest visibility for their prejudices.

That’s bad for all of us in Indiana, beer or otherwise.


As a leftist of long standing, a supreme irony of my tenure as a director on the Brewers of Indiana Guild board is that much of the success of our legislative lobbying effort in recent years, from Sunday carry-out growler sales to artisan distilling, can be attributed to Republican support in the legislature. After all, Democrats barely exist any longer.

What this means is that often I must excuse myself, visit the nearest restroom, splash cold water on my face, look into the mirror, remind myself that I’m an adult capable of being a pragmatist and embracing the art of compromise – then rejoin the meeting at hand and keep my big mouth shut.

Later, back home, there’ll be time for a shower. Or six.

All of Indiana’s Republican senators voted in favor of RFRA. All but five of my state’s Republican representatives did the same, although among this group was Rep. Ed Clere, from my New Albany district, who also broke from the GOP during last year’s ugly same-sex marriage votes. I thank him.

Clere has been a solid friend to Indiana breweries during his time in the House, and so have several other Republican representatives and senators, although unlike Clere, they all voted in favor of a bill that now, even as I write, is producing a backlash that runs entirely counter to BIG’s stated mission to grow and nurture Indiana beer.

In fact, RFRA is managing to unite folks all across the country – against my state.

We’re being looked upon as a ludicrous banana republic (at best) or an embryonic one-party fascist state (at worst), and either way, we’ve become a target for derision and economic sanctions not unlike those imposed on South Africa during apartheid.

Except those sanctions were a good idea, but damn it, these – they’re directed against me and mine! Thanks, Pence.

Intellectually, I completely understand the impulse to boycott Indiana, and indeed, I am hard-pressed to dispute the rationale, even though I’ve spent my entire adult life, something like 35 years, differing loudly and publicly from the right-wing political and religious ideology spurring abominations like RFRA.

Consequently, is this what it felt like during the run-up to the American Civil War, to be a Unionist isolated in East Tennessee … or a Copperhead in Central Indiana?

Even then we had issues. Splash some more water, maybe have a beer. Deep breaths all around.


So ... there’s a BIG board meeting on Wednesday, and it should be interesting to see what happens. Will we adapt a public position against RFRA? I believe we should. At the barest of minimums, a positive statement should be issued, stressing that Indiana breweries serve everyone – of course, so long as you’re 21 years old and not intoxicated.

I believe we should commend Rep. Clere, while letting our other purported “friends” in the legislature know, in no uncertain terms, that when it comes to a “substantial burden” in the voguish parlance of this bill’s language, we’re the actual businesses who’ll be feeling that substantive weight. Now, in addition to the chore of convincing drinkers to give Indiana beer a try, we also have to persuade them NOT to boycott our products. Thanks again, Pence.

Speaking for myself, I don’t feel like backing down and accepting bigotry and intolerance. I’ve lived in Indiana my whole life, and it’s my state, too. I’ll do what I can, and keep you posted.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The first wave of metro Louisville beer festivals is coming.

Seeing as I'm on leave of absence, maybe attending one or two of these as a civilian isn't entirely out of the question. I'm not sure I'd know how to act.

Spring brings sunshine, flowers, baseball — and beer festivals, by Kevin Gibson (Insider Louisville)

Louisville has become quite the hot spot for local beer festivals, and this spring is looking like a good one, with some returning favorites bearing happy new wrinkles and a new entry making its debut into the lexicon to coincide with Derby.

It’s still a bit early, but we figure it’s never too early to welcome spring’s sudsy bounty. Get your calendars (and your livers) ready.

Click through to review:

  • Craft Beer Extravaganza for Thunder Over Louisville
  • Derby City BrewFest
  • Highlands Beer Festival
  • Bardstown Bound Beer Tour
  • Keg Liquors Fest of Ale

Friday, March 27, 2015

ADI's Annual Spirits Conference and Vendor Expo returns to Kentuckiana.

Flashback to April, 2012 ...

Sticking a toe in the (distilled) water at the ADI annual conference.

Lew Bryson's in town for the American Distilling Institute's annual conference. The ADI gig runs through Wednesday at Huber's Orchard, Winery, Vineyards and Starlight Distillery, and ironically, after Lew returns home, NABC will be having much fun with Session Beer Day on Saturday, April 7.

My friend Jared Austin from The Big Easy came up to attend the conference, and as Lew explains in this posting at Seen Through A Glass, we three coincided at Bank Street Brewhouse on a beautiful Sunday afternoon: Run-up to ADI: Mecklenburg Gardens, and Louisville beers.

It's April again, and they're back.


MARCH 30 – APRIL 2, 2015

I probably won't get a chance to go, but really need to try some of that Starlight Distillery Gin.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

At NABC's Bank Street Brewhouse: Session Head on the 29th, and EFC is running full bore.

Just because I'm on a leave of absence doesn't mean I can't disseminate information. Session Head's almost here ...

NABC’s 4th annual Session Head begins Sunday, March 29 at Bank Street Brewhouse

For the fourth “small” year, NABC is delighted to help raise session beer consciousness with Session Head. While April 7 remains the actual nationwide date for observation of Session Beer Day, NABC will mark the occasion on Sunday, March 29 at Bank Street Brewhouse so that a very special guest can join us for the fun.

It’s close friend and former NABC employee Richard Atnip, who will be in attendance on the 29th along with four session-strength beers brewed by his current employer, New Holland Brewing Company of Holland, Michigan.

 ... and Earth Friends Cafe is rounding into its full program. BSB is open longer hours, meaning more chances to drink good beer with excellent food.

Earth Friends Cafe now open at Bank Street Brewhouse, hours and menu here

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Even worse to me is the passing of Levitation Ale.

What's there to be added?

If being "rated" highly can't save an iconic brand, then what's left?

I'll have a pint of session-strength bitter, please.


 ... Ultimately we, the craft beer people, should accept the blame for her demise. It has been proven that many of us are fickle, polygamous creatures not wed to particular craft beer brands. While nothing is inherently wrong with this sentiment, next time you visit your local beer store simply consider the implications of your choices. Then imagine a world without Dogfish 60 Minute, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, North Coast Old Rasputin or any of the classic craft beers that are truly exceptional. Are these beers still relevant? I think so. I also think it’s important to show respect to these icons by occasionally picking up a six-pack or bomber, and sharing it with friends. Not only will you get to enjoy an amazing, classic beer, you might also be saving a life.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

"Does craft beer have a sexism problem?"

I tend to agree, and have said so in the past.

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.”

Eventually we did, and a committee has been formed within the Brewers of Indiana Guild to gather information and work toward recognizing such. It isn't fast enough for some, and not even for me, but we all must start somewhere.

The following article by Josh Noel is ironic in a very specific New Albanian sense. as just this year a downtown "Hot Stone Spa" finally closed after three years and numerous complaints, with its landlord, a Republican council person, insisting all along that he had no idea about matters such as human trafficking and the sex trade at spas. Only when he resolved to run for mayor did the eviction occur.

ON THE AVENUES: Got spa? Time for CM Zurschmiede to reel in the years.

Happy endings, indeed. The newspaper makes it almost impossible to read, but ...

Does craft beer have a sexism problem? Binny's rejects Happy Ending, by Josh Noel (Chicago Tribune)

Atlanta's SweetWater Brewing Co. began distributing beer in Chicago this week, but its most notable beer at the moment might be the one that's missing.

The Binny's Beverage Depot in Lincoln Park has declined to stock SweetWater's Happy Ending imperial stout due to what the store's beer manager called the "sexist, borderline racist" artwork on the bottle.

Happy Ending (a reference to male sexual climax, presumably after a massage) features images on its bottle that include a box of tissues, the face of a man achieving what looks to be the pinnacle of pleasure and the silhouette of a geisha. It all added up to a bit more than the store's beer manager, Adam Vavrick, was comfortable putting on shelves.

"This label is about a female Asian sex worker manually masturbating a man to orgasm and cleaning up the ejaculate with tissues," Vavrick said. "Why is that appropriate on a beer label?"

Monday, March 23, 2015

The PC: The Doppelbock Viscosity Tour of 1995, revisited.

The PC: The Doppelbock Viscosity Tour of 1995, revisited.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

Yesterday it suddenly dawned on me that a liquid anniversary was at hand. It’s been 20 years, almost to the day, since the Doppelbock Viscosity Tour began.

By then, I’d traveled enough times in Europe to feel comfortable doing the planning for a small group and acting as the tour leader, and of course the beer bug had bitten. The fax machine at work was put into overdrive, and an itinerary took shape. My own departure date was a few days in advance of the others, to allow time to fly into Berlin, hop a train, and visit my friend Suzanne at the boarding school where she taught.

In Prague, I was joined by Rick Lang, Barrie Ottersbach, Rick Buckman, David Pierce, Bob Reed and George Schroeder. This merry band of fine fellows visited Prague, Bamberg and Munich for a total of ten days. Our Danish pal Kim Wiesener joined us for the Prague portion. Later in 1995, I wrote about it as part of an article entitled “Several Thousand Delta Frequent Flier Miles Later,” which also included stories from the two other European holidays I was fortunate to take that year.

With a couple of minor adjustments for clarity, here is the essay. There are equal measures of joy and sadness as I read through the account. While much remains intact after two decades, some establishments and people (Mathäser Bierstadt, Fra Wolff) are long gone.

I raise a glass to them. Brief acquaintances, perhaps, but you helped make me what I am today. Thanks.


Now for the truth ...

Thursday evening, March 30, 1995. Seven residents of the Louisville metropolitan area are seated at a table deep within a huge building somewhere overseas.

They are drinking. Drinking beer. It is the seventh day of the 1995 Doppelbock Viscosity Tour, and things are about to get ugly.

Then, without warning, it happens.

"Meinen Damen und Herren -- Ladies and Gentlemen -- we have a very special request for Biggus Dickus of Kentucky."

Oom-pah players in authentic Bavarian attire pick up their instruments and follow the practiced hand of the bandleader, and soon the oversized main hall of the Mathäser Bierstadt (a.k.a. Beer City) in Munich is filled with an uncharacteristic, yet oddly pleasing sound.

A neo-Tijuana brass riff rockets through the cigarette smoke.

"Love is a burning thing ..."

I choke on my Triumphator Doppelbock and look across the massive wooden table at Barrie Ottersbach, who looks back at me and gleefully croons "fur is a burning thing."

The music continues.

"I fell into a burning ring of fire ..."

" ... burning ring of dung," echoes a delirious Ottersbach.

Biggus looks pleased, and he should be. Three empty liter masses are in front of him, and his tape player is rolling.

It is Big Dick’s (a.k.a. Rick Lang’s) first trip to Europe, and I had drawn the lucky raffle ticket entitling me to be his chaperone. Never did I imagine that it would entitle me to a rendition of Johnny Cash performed by the Tuba-Teutonic Waltz Kings.

Sometimes, things just don’t work out like you’d planned.

Prague, Woodrow Wilson Station, March 24.

The train from Germany had come and gone, and contrary to plan, it had not disgorged six eager tourists from America looking to drink the fascinating city of Prague dry of Pilsner Urquell.

It could mean only one thing. My friends had missed their rail connection, and now they were doomed to flounder around Frankfurt and drink that city’s odious Binding Pils while dodging the Polizei cars speeding past them on the way to apprehend the drug dealers who congregate in the parks barely a beer-cap finger-flip away from the towering, atypical skyscrapers of Germany's banking capital and prime transport hub.

Hardly. Indeed, the first train had left Frankfurt without them, owing to the unexplained lateness of the US Air flight from Pittsburgh, but the group made the next train, and Danish FOSSIL Kim Wiesener and I were again at the platform to meet it.

It was a momentous occasion as Biggus Dickus, Barrie Ottersbach, George Schroeder, David Pierce, Rick Buckman and Bob Reed emerged from the rail car, heavily laden with baggage and the vast debris of the nonstop, seven-hour party that had broken out on the train.

Pierce was incoherent, mumbling something like "Lolita, Lolita ..."

Ominously, Ottersbach waved an enormous pepper-coated salami that nearly impaled him when he tripped over a carelessly discarded bottle of beer. A money clip tumbled from Dave's pocket and was effortlessly scooped up by the slick-fielding Lang. Rick Buckman attempted to shake my hand but couldn't without first putting one of the beers into a coat pocket. Within seconds, Kim and I understood that all of them were helplessly swizzled.

We led them into the subway, rode one stop, bolted from the escalator and guided the weaving group of foreigners to the Hotel Opera, which is conveniently located ten minutes by foot to the east of both Wenceslas and Old Town Squares.

After registration and the stowing of packs and suitcases, it was decided to venture off in search of beer, but the pickings were slim in the immediate vicinity of the hotel. We finally spilled into a small pub/restaurant, where draft Gambrinus was available. Contradicting the signs on the wall, the indifferent people on duty let us know that the kitchen was closed. The beer tasted flat and old. We left, but not before learning a lesson as to the way it used to be during Communist times.

The next two days were filled with long walks through the city, rest stops in the many pubs and reflections on the ways that the city has and hasn’t changed since the demise of Communism.

Although the graceful Baroque arches of old Prague are gradually yielding to the golden McDonald's variety, and the facades where rote pronouncements of socialist solidarity once were unfurled now bear the neon language of multinational commerce, most of the classic virtues of the Czech capital remain intact.

Herzlich Wilkommen nach Deutschland.

On the 27th, we left Prague for Germany, stopping along the way to visit the Pilsner Urquell brewery in Plzen.

Urquell, the most famous Czech beer, has been a constant in my travels since 1987, when Barrie Ottersbach and I made our first, unsuccessful visit to the brewery in Plzen. Our 1995 visit enabled Barrie to fulfill his dream of being able to pass through the hallowed Urquell gate, but it also served to illustrate the extent to which things have changed in eight years.

We learned that the renowned wooden fermenters and aging vessels have entirely given way to stainless steel, and that the lagering time has been cut in half, from three months to a month and a half. We saw the way that Pilsner Urquell’s management has adapted to the post-Communist market by emphasizing cleaner, updated labels for the brewery’s line of products, with the result that the archaic "Plzensky Prazdroj” signs once seen everywhere are being supplanted by contemporary ads and promos.

We were surprised at having the opportunity to sample the brewery’s new German-style wheat beer, and pleased at its faithfulness to the Bavarian prototypes. Finally, the group was able to enjoy several after-tour beers in a facility that would have been unimaginable in 1987: A huge, new, German-style beer hall capable of seating 700 people that occupies the site of at least part of an old malting.

Next stop was Bamberg. It snowed, and we walked through the storm to find the taproom of the Mahr’s brewery, where Weizenbock kept us warm. A tour of the Kaiserdom brewery was interesting, but little was learned about smoked lager, which turned out to be an item of little consequence for them.

Rather, we drank smoky treats in abundance at the Spezial brewpub and the restaurant of Schlenkerla, Bamberg’s most justifiably famous Rauchbier. The food at the Maisel Braustubl, our small hotel, was as good as I remembered it, and locals taught us something each evening when we shared tables with them at the pubs.

Too few Americans visit Bamberg, and that’s good.

The tour ended in Munich, home of excess and overkill in almost every aspect of the beer drinking experience, and a place where Barrie Ottersbach feels at home like nowhere else. The Munich portion of the trip featured a brewery tour of Spaten, which in itself was rather ordinary, and yet it ended with a grand lunch at the brewery’s banquet room atop its grain silo, with tremendous views of Munich and as much beer as we cared to drink.

It was a fine day, but the next day was better.

Guido’s Tithe.

Guido was the nicest Italian man we never met in Munich. Although he didn’t know us, he took us on a trip to the countryside, bought beers and food, and even paid for taxi rides.

On our last day in Munich, as David, Rick Buckman and I exited the Pension Hungaria to go into the city center for shopping, we passed a phone booth only yards from our door. Dave glanced in and spotted a billfold, which contained cash (both German and Italian), credit cards and an Italian passport.

Diligently, our local brewer turned in the wallet to our landlady, Frau Wolff ... but not before extracting the standard, universally-recognized fee for getting your things back, 200 Deutschmarks.

We thanked Guido profusely, and after arming ourselves with beers and recruiting Bob Reed, we set off for the 40-minute train ride to Kloster Andechs, a Benedictine monastery and religious complex set on a hill in a beautiful rural area, which in summertime would provide sweeping vistas for those drinking from the vantage point of the beer garden that surrounds the buildings on numerous levels.

The brewing is now done in the village below, but the old brewhouse is visible at one end of the indoor drinking area, which comprises several rooms. We barely found space in one of them -- the place was jam-packed with locals on a Saturday afternoon -- and consumed liter masses of Doppelbock and Hefe-Weizen. Beer as well as food was self-service; the pig’s knuckle that Guido bought me was the approximate size of a basketball, oozing grease and porcine yummies, and defeating my efforts to finish it.

Grazi, Guido.

I’ll never forget you.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Even if you knew about the Troubles, why call it a Car Bomb?

Credit the brewery for a rapid response and a classy donation, and allow me a brief opportunity to bemoan the absence of historical and cultural knowledge in this country. It goes further than a car bomb. I wouldn't think of drinking a Half-and-Half -- my weaning ended more than 30 years ago, thank you -- and I will not even refer to it as a Black and Tan. This is not the dreaded "political correctness." It's just waking up, looking around you, seeing a wider world and learning something. For that matter, why name a cupcake a Car Bomb?

Sermon ended.

'Car Bomb Stout' promotion blows up in brewery's face, by Annabelle Tometich, (The [Fort Myers, Fl] News-Press)

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — What started as a St. Patrick's Day promotion turned into a $2,500 apology Tuesday from a Florida craft brewery.

Fat Point Brewing posted pictures of cupcakes and beer to its Facebook page at 2:05 p.m. ET Monday announcing the release of its Car Bomb Stout, "a milk stout fermented with Jameson Whiskey oak staves and Irish creme flavor," which was to be served with Car Bomb cupcakes in honor of the holiday.

But someone — obviously, not a history major — forgot about The Troubles, the nationalist and religious conflict in Northern Ireland that began in the late 1960s and ended in 1998 with the Belfast Agreement. More than 3,500 people died during the three decades of turmoil that included detonating car bombs.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Earth Friends Cafe and Houndmouth Ale at Bank Street Brewhouse.

Yes, I said there'd be a leave of absence from NABC, but old habits die hard, and the urge to inform still possesses me. Pictured above is a buffalo tempeh wrap and an NABC Houndmouth Ale ... now available at Earth Friends Cafe, which is up and running at Bank Street Brewhouse. I'm not certain what the operating hours are going to be, and for the moment, EFC is starting small and slowly ramping up the menu to match its previous locations prior to returning to New Albany.

March 12: Earth Friends Cafe coming home to Bank Street Brewhouse.

March 20: Spring equinox: Bank Street Brewhouse opens today at noon for beers, Earth Friends and music.

As for the ale, Houndmouth is an American Wheat. It's also a four-piece band from New Albany, with music that defies brief description. There are bits of country, soul, rock and gospel – instrumentally tight, with gorgeous harmonies. NABC collaborated with Houndmouth to create the band’s namesake ale, hoppier than wheat should be, subtle and complex, and session-strength. Let the good times roll, and the circle be unbroken. It's textbook session strength at 4.5% abv, and 29 IBUs.

I had one on Friday, as the pieces at BSB were being fitted back into place.

The band has a new album. Get it. The ale will be on tap through summer at NABC's two locations.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Brewery in a national park: Talk about the ultimate in local and sustainable marketing tie-ins.

Immediately I am transported to Karlovy Vary, late 1980s and early 1990s, and frequent meals of wafers, Pilsner Urquell and Becherovka.

My national park "collecting" phase came around the age of 11 or 12 -- say, 1972. I became obsessed not so much with America's national parks as natural preserves, as with the federal government's way (at the time) of promoting them.

Specifically, the US government printing office produced little two-sided foldout pamphlets, perhaps 3" by 5", and I wanted them all. When we'd visit a national park on vacation (my father's dreams were fulfilled by "going West"), I'd grab the pamphlets and explore the visitor's center.

Back home, there were letters to the park headquarters at the federal units we'd never reach, asking them to send information, and those pamphlets. No backcountry hikes for this boy.

A bizarre childhood fetish? Maybe, though in retrospect, it testifies to my literary and historical bents. My dad was the outdoorsman, not me. More than four decades later, the fact that the country's most atypical National Park unit has its own brewery has me excited all over again.

When do we road trip to Arkansas?

A Park with a Brew: Superior Bathhouse Brewery and Distillery, by Leslie Fisher (All About Beer Magazine)

On a breezy Saturday afternoon, a row of faces peers through the oversized windows of the Superior Bathhouse Brewery and Distillery—looking out on the magnolia trees and the passersby as they stroll along “Bathhouse Row” in Hot Springs National Park, AR. It’s a familiar scene in Hot Springs’ history and, yet, a completely new one—for the National Park System and, perhaps, the world.

Housed in a historic bathhouse, the Superior is the nation’s first brewery headquartered in a national park, and owner/brewer Rose Schweikhart believes it is the only brewery to use thermal spring water as its main ingredient.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A "resurgence of construction activity" at the future Floyd County Brewing Company.

It's been a few days since I snapped the photo, but no matter; work is progressing at the future site of Floyd County Brewing Company, somewhat incongruously located in the heart of downtown New Albany on the southwest corner of Main and W. 1st Streets. It's going to be a busy corner, and soon, as the YMCA, Exchange restaurant and Seeds & Greens are mere yards away.

With warm weather comes a resurgence of construction activity. Many wheels turning at the Fed, State & Local levels.

Follow the effort at Twitter.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"But what of the ordinary North Koreans’ drinking habits?"

Somewhere in the lengthy canon of the television series M*A*S*H, Hawkeye Pierce is trying to find the words to describe the foulness of something, and comes up with it being similar to liquid traveling through rusty drain pipes fixed to chicken coops, to be filtered through dirty socks.

Such was the only North Korean beer I ever drank, as presented to me in bottled form circa 1989 by Kim Wiesener, one of my Danish friends, who had a relative working for Aeroflot (Soviet airlines). She brought it to Kim, and he saved it for me. It was very, very bad.

And yet, that very same year, I briefly had a booking to visit Pyongyang. In a mailing, the organization called Volunteers for Peace offered spaces at the International Youth & Student Conference, held in the North Korean capital. I signed on and anted up, only to lose my spot when the youth section of the Communist Party USA demanded accreditation rights, and got them. I wanted to go to Pyongyang, but couldn't make the case that I was a Commie.

So, I went to Moscow instead. Too bad about missing the chance to drink in North Korean beer halls, even if the beer was wretched.

The whole article is worth your time.

Homebrew and house parties: how North Koreans have fun, by Daniel Tudor and James Pearson (The Guardian)

Despite restrictions on money and free time partying is integral to North Korean culture. But how does it compare to cutting loose in the South?

 ... But what of the ordinary North Koreans’ drinking habits? It is impossible for the average North Korean to afford the tequila enjoyed by Kim Jong-un. Most will only have had state-produced drinks like Yangdok-Sul or the famed Taedonggang beer on special occasions , and will probably never have tried any of the powerful fruit-based brews (such as Paektusan Blueberry Wine) that can be bought by foreigners on visits to the country.

Other spirits on sale to tourists include a strong, hangover-inducing pine mushroom soju, and a peculiar alcohol that is apparently made from seal penis ...

... According to one defector, around 80-90% of North Korean men drink every day. There is even a popular song, “Weol, hwa, su, mok, geum, to, il Banju”, which can be translated as “Drink on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday”.

A world away in the capital Pyongyang, the growing elite means that new bars and restaurants are springing up all the time. There are several microbrewery bars that produce their own lagers and ales on site.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Water and sewers. They're rather important for a brewery.

Last week, Cutters Brewing Company closed.

R.I.P., Cutters Brewing Company.

 ... The death of a brewery is a death in the family. Best of luck to the Cutters crew; I hope there'll be positions for you at Indianapolis breweries.

Subsequently, it emerged that sewers may have been at the bottom of it.

Cutters Brewing Company closes, owes $77K in sewage fees by Bennett Haeberle (WISH-TV)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Cutters Brewing Company, which announced online Tuesday that it would cease operations immediately, owes more than $77,000 in sewage fees, I-Team 8 has confirmed.

Cutters, based in Avon, never sought to establish its own sewer line and instead relied upon a neighboring business for water and sewer services, according to Tom Bruns with Aqua Indiana, which serves the Hendricks County Regional Sewer District ...

There are two sides to every story, of course, but there's also a coincidence to this one.

Cranley: Halt brewery crackdown, by Sharon Coolidge and Shauna Steigerwald (

During the last month, the Metropolitan Sewer District started charging breweries extra for their wastewater disposal, but a brewer outcry prompted Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black late Thursday to temporarily suspend the new surcharges program – though there won't be relief for breweries or businesses already inspected for the surcharge.

"We've heard from brewery owners," Black said. "I share their concerns that we do this the right way, not just right away. We'll work together in coming weeks to strike the right balance between enforcing regulations and encouraging business development and job growth."

Water and wastewater. As I've learned these past few years while delving into local political matters, they are topics of vital importance to municipalities. The city of New Albany has been debating sewers and sewage treatment for most of my adult life, and with renewed vigor during the past two decades, following an EPA death sentence.

It just might be a good idea to start budgeting now. My hunch is these matters won't be getting any easier for breweries any time soon.

Monday, March 16, 2015

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

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

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

35 years ago, give or take a few hats filled with hollow, my friend Bob and I were seated on a bench in the public “commons” area of Indiana University Southeast in New Albany.

The topic of our conversation that particular day has long since been forgotten, but to be candid, it easily could have been a discussion of where we'd go for beers after class. After all, while not exactly Animal House, our informally chartered local "fraternity" had a reputation for tippling. We drank; therefore we were.

In fact, I believe it was proudly written into our constitution.

As we sat, comparing notes on who knows what, a female classmate with whom we enjoyed a casual campus acquaintance walked up, sheets of paper in hand.

"You two might be interested in this test," she said, and walked away.

It’s been a long time, and I can’t speak for Bob, but I’ve never forgotten the sensation of thinking I’d done something wrong, almost like being rebuked, even before so much as looking at the words on the page. Maybe it was something in her tone of voice, which was brusque, sad, annoyed and exasperated all at once.

Something like 15 numbered questions were on the sheet, with instructions to reply "yes" or "no," then to flip over the paper to learn the meaning of the results. First puzzled, we promptly saw our fully intended reflection in a mirror of wayward, dissolute youth.

Do you ever drink alone?
Do you ever black out while drinking?
Do you ever drink and drive?

The test’s aim was obvious, but we vowed to be as honest as possible, and began scribbling: Yes, no, yes …

Two or three of the questions could not be answered in black and white; as an example, both of us were uncomfortably between jobs, so missing work because of drinking fell into the "N/A" category – and this wasn’t funny, not at all, because there'd need to be employment fairly soon, or we'd be completely depleted of beer money.

And then what?

When the “exam” was finished, we'd each replied affirmatively to 9 or 10 of the questions. It was time to take our diagnostic medicine. The paper's back side tersely revealed that just one "yes" constituted flagrant problem drinking, two affirmatives pointed to full-blown alcoholism, and three ... well, three was really bad.

Had we selected our tombstones yet?

I'm being slightly facetious, and it was easy enough to dismiss the whole exercise as transparent propaganda.

Seriously, you mean to tell me that a man or woman living alone, enjoying an alcoholic beverage each evening (but never more than one) was barreling headlong down the road to perdition? Now, a quart of vodka ingested alone – that would be different, wouldn’t it?

Except for me, it wasn’t about the slanted wording of the ambush. Rather, it was unsettling to me because in effect, someone I barely knew was in my yard, on my porch, religious tract in hand, trying to frighten me, or save me, or move me, or wield some other obscure motive, when all I wanted to do was muddle through life until something finally made sense.

This I proceeded to do, and 35 years later, it’s still the way I feel. Deciding what you want to do when you grow up is hard. Having a few beers? That’s easy.

If memory serves, I didn’t see her around school much after that. Maybe we both graduated. Surely we both moved on.


Lots of miles have accumulated since then, and nowadays Bob is a skilled amateur winemaker, and as you know, I (as yet) own a brewery and know a little bit about beer.

At various points during the last 35 years, I'll freely admit to have gone through periods of elevated alcohol consumption, compared with what I’m told is the average, but never once has it become a physical addiction with me. I drink, and then I don't. There are no tremors, crawly spiders or drunken delusions that differ substantively from the ones I assiduously cultivate while perfectly sober.

Since March 1, I've had exactly two beers, both consumed on the same evening with a pleasant dinner of fish and chips. I may drink five beers tomorrow, but more likely none, because I have a head cold, and customarily refrain from drinking when I can neither smell nor taste it. During my last medical checkup, the sawbones declared me healthier than at any point in a decade.

At the same time, I’m not blind to the realities of life.

I have absolutely no doubt that alcohol is sheer and unmitigated poison for some people, and that their only recourse is to stop drinking altogether, lest it kill them. I’ve seen it happen, and mourned at the funerals. But I know just as squarely that for others, this isn't the case at all. They manage low-intensity social consumption just fine, and merely need to be left alone to live their lives free from the interference of do-gooders, well-intentioned or otherwise.

Is it nature or nurture?

Bob and I were raised in what amounted to non-drinking households. Our parents set excellent examples of teetotality, which subsequently, when older, we chose to ignore. His folks abstained entirely, as did my mother, and by the time I was in grade school, my father would nurse a beer or cocktail only on widely scattered occasions. He said drinking made him sleepy, so he refrained.

I was an athlete in high school, and against all odds, hung out with an intelligent, artistic and mostly non-athletic crowd that enjoyed drinking beer and partying, although with rare exceptions, my drinking was confined to the off season, in summer, and never during training. Once the season started, I generally played it straight.

Wait -- are there gasps in the peanut gallery? This must be the magical moment of confession, so yes, that’s right: I drank beer before the legal age. Strange, isn't it? When you're in the beer business, you spend an inordinate amount of time trying to stop this from happening.

Readers can make of this what they will, although to me, it's primarily indicative of a relatively normal Southern Indiana upbringing, which led eventually to the highly sought after 21-year age threshold, when drinking at last became a legal pursuit, then later to a reasonably productive adulthood, much of which has been spent in the business of alcoholic beverages when not engaged in consuming them, thereby destroying the evidence.

You're bound to be asking: What prompted this rant?

It’s simple. Want to critique the business of selling drugs? Then go into pharmaceuticals, or enlist in the DEA. I’m a beer guy … and that’s just plain different.


Recently an area Boy Scout wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper about "the drug problem in our schools and neighborhoods," and the editor duly asked for adults to respond.

A response: Drug problem is complex, by Shea Van Hoy (News and Tribune)

I am a Boy Scout with a troop from Floyds Knobs. I am writing about the drug problem in our schools and neighborhoods.

Too many kids my age can get drugs and sell them. How can this problem be so bad with all the laws and police officers we have? I feel like more resource officers and locker searches may help in our schools. The officers in schools should be more open and visible.

I also think that more drug testing needs to be done on athletes and students. This is how me and a lot of my friends feel.

Do you have the sense that this young man is referring to drugs, drug sales and locker searches in the context of alcoholic beverages? Is he pointing a finger at the dangerous classmate who is bootlegging liquor out of his backpack before geography class?

I don't think so.

The executive director of Our Place Drug and Alcohol Education Services Inc., an agency in New Albany, provided commentary on the scout’s concerns

She warned that it isn't possible for police to "arrest" these sorts of community issues, and correctly noted the civil liberties aspect of drug testing. But as one interested in words and their uses, what followed strikes me as noteworthy.

Substance abuse is an issue that is multifaceted and requires an entire community to work together to address the problem. From parents, to schools, to businesses and community leaders, we all need to be on the same page in order to address the issues surrounding substance abuse.

First, the wording shifts away from “drugs" to "substance abuse." Next, supply, demand and poor parenting.

This starts with parents setting good examples with their own behavior, and not buying into a negative community norms that “all kids use” so it is no big deal, or looking the other way — claiming “not my child.” Worse yet are parents who mistakenly believe if they supply it, kids will stay home and use, believing that this is a safer alternative.

Seems the concepts are being broadened. Are we still talking about drugs – or alcohol? Granted, some parents would supply marijuana or methamphetamines to their children in the hope of keeping them home, but in reality, most of us read alcohol into this example, because we delineate between the illegal-for-all-ages-at-all-times substances and the more socially and culturally malleable alcohol. Kids "who stay home and use" with the cooperation of their parents tend to be drinking, not smoking crack.

It is about business leaders who recognize that sometimes making money is less important than doing the right thing and getting their product sold is less important than the safety of those potentially buying it. If we are concerned about drug and alcohol abuse, then is it OK for stores to sell “moonshine” with cute bows on it next to the candy aisle?

BOOM – there it is. It may have taken a couple hundred words, but now the linkage has become explicit, and heroin officially is conflated with Bud Light. From drugs to substance abuse, and now to "drug and alcohol" abuse.

Did I expect this merging of targets to occur?

Of course I did. However, whenever I see this game of ideological semantics being played, it annoys me. In this specific instance, given what the scout originally asked, his obvious concern pertained to substances other than alcoholic beverages. However, by the time the drug and alcohol educator is finished, we’re back to digging the foundations of Prohibition – and not only for the teens.

We support efforts to reduce social availability of alcohol and we also work in collaboration with Indiana University Southeast to address college-age issues.

And so we come full circle. It’s ironic, isn’t it? I'm the one feeling brusque, sad, annoyed and exasperated all at once.

35 years later, and the two of us remain on opposite sides of the alcohol divide. One went into promotion, and the other prevention. Somehow I expect to see an alcoholism self-test atop the patio furniture tomorrow morning. I'll be sure to file it along with the Watchtowers and candidate spiels.

Nope, sorry. Alcohol and drugs are different. But for the first time in days, a beer sounds really good right about now.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

"Bud Light’s U.S. sales alone would lodge it firmly within the Fortune 500."

I usually ignore click bait, but perspective is a very good practice.

These Are The 20 Most Popular Beers In America Right Now (Food Beast)

Big Beer is a big business in America. Total annual sales stand around $100 billion. Craft Beers, as defined by the Brewer’s Association, are booming, yet still only account for around 15% of the beer sold in America. On a volume basis, craft beer’s share of the market is about half of that, due to its premium pricing. So what’s America drinking? A whole lot of light beer, most of which is made by a handful of monstrous macro brewers. America’s most popular beer is Bud Light – by a couple billion dollars. Yes, Bud Light’s U.S. sales alone would lodge it firmly within the Fortune 500.

Friday, March 13, 2015

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

What a difference a year makes. Above is a photo I took on March 4, 2014. Below is Donum Dei Brewery as it appears now, with opening slated for St. Patrick's Day.

As best I can determine, counting NABC's two brewing sites as one owing to shared ownership, the last time there were two working breweries in Floyd County was 1918, when the advent of Indiana state prohibition closed both Paul Reising and the State Street Brewery (Nirmaier's) to close.

Inside Indiana Business has more information. Plan to come out next week, check in, and see what Donum Dei has to offer. Opening hours are not posted at the Facebook site, but the grand opening ribbon cutting will be held at 4:00 p.m. on the 17th.

Congratulations to Rick Otey and crew.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

At LouisvilleBeer: "Derby City BrewFest: An 'Uncommon' Beer Festival on Derby Eve."

At, John Wurth has the rundown on a new beer event in Louisville. Bluegrass Brewing Company is the organizer, and the idea originally was kicked around during Mayor Greg Fischer's beer committee meetings in 2014. Local beer writer Kevin Gibson has contributed a lot to the concept of a local celebration of what might (or might not) be our only indigenous beer.

I think it sounds like fun. Following are the basics and information portals.

Derby City BrewFest: An “Uncommon” Beer Festival on Derby Eve

Kentucky-area brewers will revisit the past as part of the Derby Eve Derby City BrewFest on May 1, 2015 as they will be serving up their own versions of Kentucky Common – a beer style that was invented in Louisville in the mid 1800s. The festival will be held outdoors on the plaza in front of the KFC Yum! Center with 15 brewers and over 60 craft beers ...

 ... Other breweries expected to brew variations on Kentucky Common beer include Louisville-based Against the Grain Brewery & Smokehouse, Apocalypse Brew Works, Cumberland Brews, Great Flood Brewing and Falls City; Lexington’s West Sixth Brewing and Country Boy Brewing; and southern Indiana’s New Albanian Brewing Company and Flat 12 Bierwerks ... /derbycitybrewfest
twitter: derbybrewfest

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

So, are there any brewery climate change deniers?

First, look at the second paragraph.

Guinness cannot be part of a "group" of brewers "from across the country" unless Diageo somehow is an American company. But let's not be churlish.

My primary point in posting this link is to wonder whether there'll be a reply from the group of brewers rejecting climate change. Is there such a group? For a long time, I assumed that we as brewers were all left-leaners, as befitting our one-time anti-capitalist revolution. That particular bubble was burst a long time ago.

Does Ted Nugent have a beer yet?

Ted Cruz?

Beer Brewers Unite To Call For Action On Climate Change, by Kate Sheppard (Huffington Post)

WASHINGTON -- A group of 24 brewers from across the country have come together to cut greenhouse gas emissions from their operations and call for strong national action to address climate change.

The breweries, which include Smuttynose Brewing Company, Guinness and Allagash Brewing Company, have signed onto the Climate Declaration organized through the sustainable business group Ceres. The declaration pledges that each company will take its own action to reduce emissions from its business, and will also support political action at the national level.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

R.I.P., Cutters Brewing Company.

Yes, I knew this sad announcement was likely prior to concluding my most recent column with bullishness about Hoosier brewing. The Cutters situation was mentioned in several discussions over the weekend.

In any quasi-free market (whatever that means), there'll always be an attrition rate, and for a wide and staggering number of reasons -- including whichever variant of "democracy" (huh?) is being practiced in your new hometown.

I'm intimately familiar with this reality: "A tightrope of location, distribution, marketing and operations must be walked." You say that production scale and distribution will be the answer? Maybe it will, but be sure to pin down the sewer utility before writing checks.

The death of a brewery is a death in the family. Best of luck to the Cutters crew; I hope there'll be positions for you at Indianapolis breweries.


Cutters Brewing Company LLC

On behalf of the owners and operators of the Cutters Brewing Company, Avon IN, it's with tremendous regret that we must announce that all brewing operations will cease immediately.

We would like to thank the Indiana craft beer community—its fans, festival goers, suppliers and retailers—for their support over the last four years. We were very proud of the southern Indiana heritage and values represented in our brand and our recipes. It was an interesting, challenging and educational ride while it lasted.

Launching a small business demands certain sacrifices. We knew that competing in the exploding craft beer business would not be easy. It not only takes sellable products but a tightrope of location, distribution, marketing and operations must be walked.

We knew we would make our share of missteps and hoped that none of those miscues would be fatal. However, ultimately, it was our inability come to a reasonable resolution with the Avon Sewage Company, whom we believe was simply extorting us for exorbitant sums, that precipitated the decision to close.

While our remaining inventory will likely be in market for a period of time, we will be winding down operations effective immediately, which includes participation in upcoming Indiana craft beer events and the operation of our tasting room.

Thanks again to all who worked hard and supported our efforts, we couldn’t grown from a tiny nano brewery operation to a full-scale production brewery without you!

We remain ardent supporters of the craft beer industry in general. The men and women who make up this calling are by and large a most genuine, selfless, hardworking, inventive and caring group. We were proud to name ourselves among their number.

Monday, March 09, 2015

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

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

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

In language, there are independent, subordinate, matrix, embedded and non-finite clauses. Conversely, Marxists of the Chico variety will tell you there ain’t no Sanity Clause, even if NABC brews a naughty one at Christmas.

And me? I’m please to reveal the existence of a Roger Clause. Problem is, I can’t tell you what it means (those pesky non-disclosures), so instead, I’ll write about my weekend.

On March 6, 7 and 8, the Brewers of Indiana Guild (BIG) held its inaugural Indiana Craft Brewers Conference (ICBC) at the Fourwinds Resort & Marina on Lake Monroe, near Bloomington, Indiana.

There was far too much ice on the lake for boating, but by Sunday afternoon, a hint of spring was in the air, and with it the promise of the Guild’s 5th Annual Bloomington Craft Beer Festival, to be held at the atmospheric Woolery Mill on April 11.

That’s a relatively tasteful sales pitch, as befits my position on the guild’s festival committee.

The ICBC began last Friday evening with a beery reception at Upland Brewing Company’s production facility, before returning to the President’s Suite to a broad smorgasbord of Hoosier-brewed ales and lagers in all sizes of bottle, can and growler, as donated by attending breweries. Surely area recycling revenues rose precipitously on Monday.

The merriment resumed Saturday over a solid breakfast of eggs, bacon, biscuits ‘n’ gravy and coffee, with author Doug “Indiana, One Pint at a Time” Wissing’s thoughtful overview of the history of Hoosier brewing, from the arrival of immigrants in the 19th-century to the brewery surge of the present day. When Doug finished, a day-long slate of speakers and seminars began.

There were two venues. One featured primarily technical, brewer-oriented presentations: Ron Smith on Quality and Flavor; brewer-helmed hop and yeast panels; workplace safety; water with author John Palmer; and tips on starting a lab.

In the other area, discussions focused on the management side: Hiring the right fit; restaurant management (great job, Mike Fox); copyright and trademark law; ATC Beer Law 101; Greg Kitzmiller’s spot-on marketing musings; and branding with social media, courtesy of the Guild’s own communications director, Tristan Schmid.

Apologies for leaving a few presenters out, so please trust me: The great material just kept flowing, all day long. I gravitated more toward the management and marketing talks, but what I caught of the technical side was uniformly excellent, too.

Throughout this time, some of the guild’s allied trade members were on hand to network and display their wares, including Country Malt Group, Keg Craft, Prestige Glassware and Mossberg Beverage Marketing, to name a few.


The conference was sold out, and probably 200 attendees were on hand for Saturday's lunch, when beer writer Stan Hieronymus provided a stirring “general session” address on a topic close to my heart: “Is Local the New IPA? … And Other Thoughts About Beer Fashion.” Stan offered a slew of worthwhile takeaways, but I’ll restrict the rehash to two of them.

First, in response to the oft-heard rejoinder that beer can’t truly be local until all the ingredients are grown nearby, Stan strongly differed: “Beer becomes beer in your brewery,” he said.

In short, the value is in the finished product, as guided by the intelligence of a practiced hand. Expanding this point, he urged brewers to stay involved with genuinely local efforts to grow hops, barley, fruits and vegetable that are used to brew or flavor beer.

Then, in what surely was the day’s high point for me, Stan directly connected localism in beer with broader notions of placemaking: “Breweries need to become community leaders.”

While he stopped short of endorsing my New Albany mayoral campaign, I had a nice feeling of vindication. If anything, localism in beer is becoming even more important as we move ahead.

Today there are more than 100 breweries in Indiana. In 2010, when Doug Wissing’s book was published, there were 36. Most Hoosier breweries are small, and in the overall scheme of world commerce, they’re likely to remain small. While theoretically possible for them to get products aboard those 18-wheelers passing each other on the interstate, somewhere during a starry Kansas night, it is perhaps improbable that more than a handful of such business models can thrive by doing so.

More likely, they’ll need to be as locally attuned as possible in order to survive, whether as community placemakers, tourist destinations, package “factory” outlets, food truck magnets or shadow city councils. They’ll need to find what’s special about their places, reinforce it with their beer, and vice versa ... and repeat the process, over and over again.


Saturday evening, busses shuttled back and forth to Bloomington to facilitate pub crawling. On Sunday, the best attended annual meeting I can recall was held, and board elections were conducted. I was elected to a fourth two-year term as a director on the board. Thanks for the thumbs up, folks.

Obviously, if elected mayor of New Albany, I’ll be compelled to resign my guild directorship, but that’s a juncture for the future. Right now, at this moment, I’m very proud of what BIG has accomplished, and happy to have contributed in some small way to our gradual maturation as an entity.

Naturally, this shouldn’t be taken as a declaration of victory, or as a personal climb-down following my well-documented tantrums in January on the topic of sexism. As guild president Greg Emig said on Sunday, there remains much to be done, and always room to improve. We get it.

(In case you’re wondering: The board remains populated by white males of a certain age, now at 15 directors in number, rather than 13, although the median age seems to have dropped a bit.)

Know that for so long as I’m a director, I’ll do what I can to support the guild’s daily efforts, and also to raise consciousness along the way, because I truly believe the more we are aware of issues like diversity, and the greater our understanding that what sometimes may seem irrelevant to us as individuals is keenly significant to others -- to our customers, after all – the better we’ll be as a brewers guild, and a brewing community.

Having said this, let me make it crystal clear that I’ve never excused myself from the process of change and growth, and have not ever doubted the sincerity or good will of my colleagues. They’re damned fine people, and we’re all getting there as a team.

It’s a cliché, but it really does take time. I may be a curmudgeon at heart, but I’m bullish about Indiana beer.

You should be, too.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

At "2015 Kentucky Beer Release Schedules."

John Wurth's collection of valuable information about local beer and brewing is incomplete only because some breweries have not responded to his solicitations. C'mon, guys and gals ... free promotional value here.

Hit the main link, enjoy, and hope for added content soon.

2015 Kentucky Beer Release Schedules at Louisville Beer Dot Com

Against the Grain
Alltech / Kentucky Ale
Apocalypse Brew Works
New Albanian

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Gibson: With House Bill 168, "Kentucky finally rights a wrong."

I'll be the first to admit that last year, when AB-InBev first proposed buying the Owensboro wholesaler, it was a muddled story. Kevin Gibson and I spoke about it, and it was probably the least enlightened I've ever been on a topic this important.

It seemed inordinately complex at first, but in the end, it was very simple. After all, if the three-tier system in America is axiomatic, with exceptions in some states granted only to small producers, then playing fields need to be level. Once the legislature's powers-that-be indicated that small brewery self-distribution was off the table, then this was the next best outcome.

There may yet be lawsuits, and it's a bit ominous to me that Kentucky brewers were compelled to differ with Ohio's Rhinegeist (a fellow traveler by any measure) in order to pursue their own best interests.

So it goes. The legislative process is like that. Meanwhile, Kevin's analysis at Insider Louisville is straight to the point.

Opinion: In approval of ‘Beer Bill,’ Kentucky finally rights a wrong

... All the controversy and scuttlebutt the past few weeks over House Bill 168, aka the “Beer Bill,” bordered on ridiculous. I found myself confused over the entire issue, because, to me, it came down to one simple question: Do we have a three-tier system of alcohol distribution, or don’t we?

If we do, then the obvious action was to block A-B InBev (or any brewery) from being able to distribute its own products in Kentucky. That’s why there is a separation between supplier, distributor and retailer in the first place (thanks, Prohibition). If we don’t have a three-tier system, well, then it’s open season — all Kentucky breweries should be empowered to sell and distribute their products as they see fit. But a long-existing loophole enabled out-of-state brewers to distribute in Kentucky while in-state breweries could not.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Pop open a Trojan Goose and enjoy this explanation of why you shouldn't.

Get ready for an uncommonly good explanation of the American brewing marketplace, a link forwarded me by my friend Jerry Ramsey. Here are a few passages and my thoughts.

For America's craft beer revolution, brewing battle has come to a head: The independent beer movement has exploded, threatening Big Beer and posing new dilemmas for craft brewers, by Michael Pizzi (Al Jazeera America)

... “It’s not just a matter of craft brewers banding together with our fists in the air against Big Beer anymore,” said (Chris) Gallant, Bronx Brewery’s general manager. “The biggest challenge is that there are just so many of us.”

What does this have to do with our monolithic "friends" at the Big Two?

The “Big Two” conglomerates — Anheuser-Busch Inbev and SABMiller — recognize the small beer movement is growing into a legitimate threat ... (and) pitched battles are brewing between Big Beer and small beer lobbies over distribution and franchising laws that determine access to markets. In Congress, dueling bills have been proposed to reduce the steep excise tax on beer in the United States, one of which offers a graduated tax schedule that would benefit small breweries. With their deep pockets and army of lobbying firms, Big Beer might just have its way.

With friends like them, who needs Islamic terrorism, except that "traditional low-cost American beers like Budweiser, Coors and Miller are simply going out of style." If you're a multinational monopolist, what's the response to an aesthetic precluded you by virtue of DNA?

“At Anheuser-Busch, you see a future where if you don’t act now to restructure the marketplace, your present product selection is going to confine you to a much smaller business down the road,” said Barry Lynn, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation who has done extensive research on the beer market.

So restructuring the marketplace is what Big Beer has begun to do, experts say. Contrary to its recent anti-craft messaging, Anheuser-Busch has actually begun to buy out independent breweries, starting with the 2011 purchase of Goose Island in Chicago. It has since bought out Blue Point, 10 Barrel, and, last year, Elysian in Washington (which, ironically, produces the Pumpkin Peach Ale that Budweiser mocked in its Super Bowl ad). The company has not commented whether the buying spree will continue, including in an email to Al Jazeera, but its strategy so far seems to involve subsidizing and selling its craft offerings cheaper than its competitors, proliferating them across its massive, coordinated distribution networks.

Lynn said he didn't think the plan was to profit off these beers directly. “What they want to be able to do is offer wholesalers or retailers a full array of products, to say ‘you don’t need to go anywhere else, we’ve got your craft covered.’”

Yes, that's right: Colonize taps and shelf space, lock them down by whatever means is workable, and keep small brewers from coming through the door. It's what AB-InBev does with zombie crafts like Trojan Goose Island -- and yet many of you still feed money to the monolith.


Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, which represents the craft beer industry, said the Big Two can, by way of co-opted distributors, offer preferential treatment — prices and promotional displays, for example — to bars and stores who choose not to carry independent brews. Now that craft is in their repertoire, Gatza said, “you’ll see it more and more at bars, where Anheuser-Busch is dominating the facility and all the beers on tap are produced or owned by them."

And where have we heard this before? Right across the river, in fact, where the money you feed the monolith via Trojan Goose is used against the interests of your local brewer.

In some states, Big Beer has taken the even more aggressive strategy of buying out wholesale distributors. In doing so, Big Beer is challenging the formalized 3-tier system that has regulated the alcohol market in the U.S since the 1930s — whereby the brewer or distiller, wholesale distributor and retailer are all supposed to be separate entities, or tiers. Established in the aftermath of prohibition, the idea was that an intentionally inefficient system would keep the alcohol industry’s once-formidable political power in check. Decades later, those safeguards against vertical integration helped catalyze the craft revolution.

Small brewers argue that the acquisitions should be illegal nationally (in most states, it already is), pointing out there is no incentive for a distributor owned by Anheuser-Busch to carry anyone else’s brew. The controversy has come to a head most recently in Kentucky, where earlier this month the House approved a bill backed by independent brewers that could require Anheuser-Busch to sell its distributors in the state.

And yet, perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of these David vs. Goliath scenarios comes when Goliath starts crying like a hungry and abandoned baby.

Damon Williams, director of sales and marketing for Anheuser-Busch in Louisville, Kentucky, told Al Jazeera in an email that the bill "has nothing to do with craft beers and everything to do with greedy special interests."

Damon, my man ... takes one to know one, doesn't it?

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Kevin Gibson has lunch at BBC for five bucks and likes it.

It's just a good marketing idea, and the fact of it taking place at a brewery means a self-chosen upcharge, with the addition of a pint, because if you can't drink a beer at lunch, when can you?

Speaking only for myself, of course. There'll be those ordering iced tea or soft drinks, and I suppose this makes sense ... grudgingly.

Kevin Gibson has good things to say about the $5 food options at BBC, but as usual, he spots the hidden value, too.

Discovering the BBC $5 lunch, by Kevin Gibson (LEO Weekly)

... And, of course, if you sit at the bar you can enjoy the fun banter of the ever-present BBC regulars. Pretty much any afternoon you can pull up a stool and get an earful of conversation from these guys, who seem to mostly be retirees from the neighborhood. Can’t really put a price on that experience.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

I did not write this headline. Really.

Yep, it means The Latest and Greatest Beer Round Here, and the actual IL story tells all. Ironically, once upon a time, until 2008 or thereabouts, NABC brewed an ale we called Flat Tyre.

Flat Tyre

Rocky Mountain spring water is highly overrated

Newly minted brown ale unexpectedly gone amber, and an improvisational pun on a popular Colorado craft beer. When Fat Tire began being sold in Indiana, the joke got old, and quickly. Circa 5.5% abv

Boy, did it. The sheer tedium of hyperbole ...

Monday, March 02, 2015

The PC: Reading is good in times of flat tires and gravity sickness.

The PC: Reading is good in times of flat tires and gravity sickness.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

Amid much breathlessness and the tepid detonation of leftover fireworks, we’re told that finally, Fat Tire will be available in Kentucky.

Relax, enthusiasts. The war is won. Lay down all your guns; give them up and then move on. Chuck your growlers. Supermarket ale from elsewhere will save the day, or some such meme in the making.


Okay, okay. I do get it:

New Belgium uses Fat Tire for amber-tinted cash flow so it can make more interesting beers in Colorado, North Carolina, Bogata and Papzaian knows where else, and so we’ll move along and consider some other items of beer news from the remarkably unprincipled times in which we seem to be living.

Better yet, let’s not. I’m having enough trouble with my blood pressure as it stands, and those pesky liver counts probably have risen since Gravity Head began.


Thankfully, music and literature always help calm the savage bile-ridden breast. There’s a pleasant Bartok string quintet playing as I write, and following is an excerpt from Elmer Gantry, the classic satirical novel.

Elmer Gantry, the traveling evangelist who loved whiskey, women and wealth, was conceived by Sinclair Lewis in a best-selling 1927 novel. Lewis went on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, and Gantry went on to lofty-synonym status: Displays of hypocrisy and showmanship will often evoke his name, especially in reference to preachers — and, increasingly so, to politicians.

In this passage, the garrulous charlatan Gantry converses with the humble true believer, Pastor Pengilly – and it happens in Indiana, of all places.


He came with a boom and a flash to the town of Blackfoot Creek, Indiana, and there the local committee permitted the Methodist minister, one Andrew Pengilly, to entertain his renowned brother priest ...

… When he heard that the Reverend Elmer Gantry was coming, Mr. Pengilly murmured to the local committee that it would be a pleasure to put up Mr. Gantry and save him from the scurfy village hotel.

He had read of Mr. Gantry as an impressive orator, a courageous fighter against Sin. Mr. Pengilly sighed. Himself, somehow, he had never been able to find so very much Sin about. His fault. A silly old dreamer. He rejoiced that he, the mousy village curé, was about to have here, glorifying his cottage, a St. Michael in dazzling armor.

After the evening Chautauqua Elmer sat in Mr. Pengilly’s hovel, and he was graciously condescending.

“You say, Brother Pengilly, that you’ve heard of our work at Wellspring? But do we get so near the hearts of the weak and unfortunate as you here? Oh, no; sometimes I think that my first pastorate, in a town smaller than this, was in many ways more blessed than our tremendous to-do in the great city. And what IS accomplished there is no credit to me. I have such splendid, such touchingly loyal assistants — Mr. Webster, the assistant pastor — such a consecrated worker, and yet right on the job — and Mr. Wink, and Miss Weezeger, the deaconess, and DEAR Miss Bundle, the secretary — SUCH a faithful soul, SO industrious. Oh, yes, I am singularly blessed! But, uh, but — Given these people, who really do the work, we’ve been able to put over some pretty good things — with God’s leading. Why, say, we’ve started the only class in show-window dressing in any church in the United States — and I should suppose England and France! We’ve already seen the most wonderful results, not only in raising the salary of several of the fine young men in our church, but in increasing business throughout the city and improving the appearance of show-windows, and you know how much that adds to the beauty of the down-town streets! And the crowds do seem to be increasing steadily. We had over eleven hundred present on my last Sunday evening in Zenith, and that in summer! And during the season we often have nearly eighteen hundred, in an auditorium that’s only supposed to seat sixteen hundred! And with all modesty — it’s not my doing but the methods we’re working up — I think I may say that every man, woman, and child goes away happy and yet with a message to sustain ’em through the week. You see — oh, of course I give ’em the straight old-time gospel in my sermon — I’m not the least bit afraid of talking right up to ’em and reminding them of the awful consequences of sin and ignorance and spiritual sloth. Yes, sir! No blinking the horrors of the old-time proven Hell, not in any church I’M running! But also we make ’em get together, and their pastor is just one of their own chums, and we sing cheerful, comforting songs, and do they like it? Say! It shows up in the collections!”

“Mr. Gantry,” said Andrew Pengilly, “why don’t you believe in God?”


What a paragraph!

Meanwhile, opening weekend for Gravity Head 2015 was a smash, and the Sunday event at Bank Street Brewhouse went very well, too. I can only sincerely thank everyone who came, drank, worked, ate, organized, cleaned and kept the tradition vibrant. Against the Grain’s opening wave was exemplary, and I didn’t recognize Jerry Gnagy when he walked into the room. Well played, sir.

Each year at Gravity Head, NABC saves most of its own gravity-worthy beers to be tapped on the same day as kegs from our friends at Founders and Flat12. We do this on the third weekend of Gravity Head, which in 2015 falls on Friday, March 13.

The day begins at 11:00 a.m. Representatives from all participating breweries will be on hand throughout the day, although NABC cannot take responsibility for declining coherence as the evening progresses (or regresses, as the case usually turns out to be).

Take a gander at the program, and consider stopping by.


Recent PC columns:

The PC: Happy Gravity Head!

The PC: On barrelage, Dean Smith and diversity studies.

The PC: The Weekly Wad was a modest start.

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