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.

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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.

Me?

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
502-589-8935

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.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Scoreboard daze of old.

Joe mans the counter during the Reagan Administration.

These reflections originally were published six years ago as one of my newspaper columns. The essay has been updated a couple of times, and this reprint is prompted primarily by archaeology ... or, the constant excavations of my muddled cranium as I struggle to recall the details of my 1985 travels in Europe, which occurred during the same period of liquor store employment described here.

There is another reason: Belatedly remembering Ralph.

---

The Potable Curmudgeon: Scoreboard daze of old.

There used to be a package liquor store called Scoreboard Liquors on West Spring Street in downtown New Albany. I worked there part-time from 1982 through 1988, when the store moved to a different location, a couple of miles uptown. In fact, I continued to work at Scoreboard after the move, but to tell the truth, it was never the same as at the downtown location.

Scoreboard’s downtown building directly faced the federal courthouse, and it was within spitting distance of numerous bankers, lawyers, title abstractors and others performing their hoary time-honored roles amid the daily antics of a county seat in seemingly terminal decline. For a lad from Georgetown, working the package liquor trade in the core of the historic business district was both a kick and an education.

Surely the 1940’s-era structure was the ugliest in all of downtown. Frumpily tacked onto its backside was the infamous (trust me) Cadillac Lanes bowling alley, run by a fractious family of immigrants from Pittsburgh eligible for reality television long before the genre was invented. In olden times, the cobbled together retail space out front had hosted an upscale automobile dealership.

Needless to say, those days were long gone, even then.

The barren north side of Cadillac Lanes faced a gravel parking lot separating it from Elm Street, and it became known among liquor store employees, in purely figurative terms, that to be taken “out behind the bowling alley” meant to be stood against the otherwise useless concrete block wall and shot for crimes against humanity. In retrospect, this reference seems tactless, but it was used quite often, especially in conjunction with obnoxious, drunken customers – particularly those employed by the Coyle auto dealership down the street.

I worked two or three nights a week, Saturday afternoons and the occasional day shift. The job was good, my pay was hard cash, and included as part of the deal were discounts on merchandise (where most of my paycheck naturally landed). My early travels were plotted from behind the store’s worn Formica counter, using paper, pens and actual books.

Nowadays, whenever I spot a package store clerk with eyes glued to an iPhone or laptop, I think back to my entertainment options on slow business nights: A miniscule black and white television set with rabbit ears, from which many a McNeil-Lehrer News Hour was observed. I probably should have been sweeping or stocking, anyway.

Package stores of Scoreboard’s socioeconomic ilk still are a trip, and an ongoing psychological experiment. During my long-ago tenure, insights into the human condition were plentiful, and sometimes fairly hard to stomach.

At least the owners indulged my interest in imported beers (craft beer had not yet come into existence), and they allowed me to purchase and stock options beyond the norm. I was given one walk-in door and a shelf outside it for warm bottles. We did a fairly good trade in imports, given their obscurity and the fact that whenever I wasn’t on site to explain what they were, consumer requests generally were greeted with a sneer by Duck, the manager.

“Huh? I don’t drink that shit.”

My favorite Duck story (his real name was Lloyd) was the time when he was standing behind the counter, peacefully smoking a cigarette, when a complete stranger walked in. The man gestured toward the door to the rear office, and asked, “Do you mind if I go back there and change my pants?”

YouTube obviously didn’t exist back then, but Candid Camera did, and Duck's immediate, unprintable reply to the unknown man’s request would have played well in syndication, with Allen Funt joyfully suffering the brunt of bleeped-out epithets as the would-be wardrobe shifter was physically chased from the premises.

After a few years, business downtown began declining, and the owners had few good options when the lease expired in 1988. Scoreboard’s relocation took place the same summer. I took a week off from my “real” job in Louisville to help move the store to affordable digs at the traffic-challenged corner of East Spring & Beharell.

Few tears were shed by New Albany’s historic preservationists when the downtown building was hastily demolished to make way for a vacant lot, and a few years later, the construction of Chase Bank, which still stands there today. The store itself changed ownership, and eventually was shuttered.

Three decades later, I think back to the downtown liquor store stalwarts, and sadly, quite a few of them have died, including Jim, the principal owner. More recently, Mamie and the School Marm both passed away. There was Norman and James Not Jim, the Canadian Club lady with all the books, the Upholsterer, and certainly numerous others. Their faces pass through my dreams on occasion, as though it had come time for a final round before closing.

Among the departed was Gin Lady, originally known to us as Mother Gargle, who usually walked to the liquor store from the East Bloc-designed senior citizen housing tower one hundred yards away. As the day progressed and she stopped for the second or often third time, her red-dyed hair would become more and more unmanageable and frizzy. By late afternoon, her mop would be standing straight up, antenna-like, as though she’d jammed a finger into the power grid.

You see, the Seagram’s was never for her. It was for her gentleman friend, who perpetually called on her, but was never seen then or any other time. Neither was Gin Lady after the store moved across town.

Chemical Man was so dubbed for the spectacular lack of nutrients in his bloodstream, and my rigid certainty that the only thing keeping him alive was infusions of formaldehyde, Kessler whiskey and Sterling beer.

Early on, when I hadn’t come to understand the nuances of alcoholism, I asked Chemical Man why he bought three half-pints of Kessler at points throughout the day rather than a liter of whiskey first thing in the morning, which would be cheaper.

He sputtered indignantly that my college education had taught me absolutely nothing, because any fool knows that if you start the day with a big bottle, you’ll just go and drink it before lunch – and then what?

Later, Chemical Man grew too weak to carry the daily case of Sterling to his house, which fronted the side street fifty yards from the store’s front door. I’d carry it over and put it on the porch for him. A year or so later, his obituary was in the newspaper. I’d have bet money that he was in his 70s, but he was only 59 at the time of his death.

Of all the people I met at Scoreboard, Snake was tops. For decades he kept a series of decrepit pick-up trucks alive just long enough to run a regular route through New Albany, collecting cardboard and taking it to Riverside Recycling for a few bucks, which went into the jar and paid for season tickets to Louisville Redbirds games.

Snake’s life wasn’t easy, but it could have been worse, and he generally kept a cheerful demeanor in the face of the curve balls thrown at him by fate. For example, the nickname came from a tattoo on his right arm, the one that ended just below the elbow, the rest having been removed after an accident decades earlier.

He had a recurring, acrimonious relationship with the New Albany Tribune, our local newspaper of record, and often vowed that if his wife died before him, he’d call to cancel the newspaper first -- and only then ring the funeral home.

Snake worked hard as a bartender, and drank just as hard as a customer until swearing off the bottle in the early 1960’s. He never drank a drop again, ever. When the bartending jobs at New Albany’s neighborhood taverns dried up, Snake turned to cardboard full time, and occasionally filled a shift at the liquor store.

In 2001, Snake’s truck died for the final time, and since cardboard wasn’t paying squat, anyway, it was time for him to get out of it. He’d already decided that ballgames were too expensive and the club’s management too arrogant. A couple years later he stopped by my pub to chat, and it was the last time I ever saw him, for he died shortly thereafter on the day before my birthday.

There were others dear to me, like Gene, Tom and Louie, and I miss them all – the people, the store, and the time – but I miss Snake the most. Rest in peace, my friend. If you could see what’s become of the local newspaper these days, you just might reconsider that vow of sobriety.

We often had too much time on our hands.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

On civility and whether it exists any longer, whether or not I have the patience for it.

I remember it like it was yesterday, that time at the Public House back in the early 1990s. We had not been open for long. A couple of fellows came in, and one of them started dispensing racist "humor."

Now, I'm a free speecher by disposition, but there are times when enough's enough, and the dispenser of alleged humor found himself leaving the building before he finished his second beer.

I relate this story only because there are times in this uncivil age when I'm glad I'm not behind the bar any longer.

I'd risk throwing out my back.

Monday, November 23, 2015

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

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

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

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

In reliving the past, I’m increasingly aware of how much of it has been lost. This chronicle has obvious gaps, and it’s nobody’s fault but mine. I began the 1985 trip with the best of intentions and kept track of daily events for a while, but these notes began dwindling after the first few weeks, and then disappeared entirely.

Was I lazy, or overly confident about my powers of recollection? Either way, waiting decades to tap them wasn’t the best idea. In retrospect, it would have required a far better writer – not to mention a more rounded and experienced human being – to do justice to what were daily sensations of wonderment and awe.

In the end, what is truly worth remembering about Europe Chapter One is that in the most scrupulously literal of senses, everything about it was an incessant sensory overload. Days were a daze of emotions, amid throngs of people, with a constant accompaniment of languages, cultures and currencies, and an ever-changing kaleidoscope of sights.

No one could absorb all of it.

Each stop on my travel itinerary looked, sounded and smelled different from the last, perhaps never more so than when pole-vaulting by overnight train from the haphazard French-Flemish urban tableau of Brussels to Copenhagen’s orderly northern waterside serenity.

This journey poses another subtle challenge in the retelling. What were my impressions of Copenhagen the first time I went there, before all the other times?

I never thought there’d even be subsequent travels, but they happened, and during these trips Copenhagen became a place I went often. By the early 1990s, it probably would have been easier for me to find my way around Copenhagen than Louisville. This said, here are my first impressions of Denmark’s capital city during two fast-paced days in July of 1985.

Bricks
Sea
Carlsberg beer
Girls
Bicycles
Girls on bicycles
Efficiency
Tuborg beer
Friendliness
Hot dogs
More bricks, more beer, more bikes

Detailed observations were to follow, but make no mistake: Copenhagen was love at first sight.

---

When boarding the train in Brussels, it never once occurred to me that Copenhagen is located on an island, Zealand. To this very day, Zealand is the only part of Denmark I’ve ever visited.

When the train halted around 6:00 a.m. in Puttgarden, Germany, and the conductors began rousing passengers, I groggily started to grab my bag.

“Not necessary,” I was informed in English. In fact, the entire train was about to roll onto a ferry boat with its own tracks built into the hold. Passengers were required to exit the rail cars and walk upstairs, where they could have coffee, beer and breakfast while viewing the 12-mile crossing to Rødby in Denmark.

Following border pleasantries there, we reached Copenhagen in about an hour. As usual, my first order of budget travel business was housekeeping, which began at the train station’s change counter, where a few traveler’s checks from the rapidly depleting stack were swapped for Danish Kroner.

Moments later, some of the Kroner were dropped at a kiosk to purchase coffee and a pastry. It was not a “Danish” as such, although this familiar baked goodie genuinely originated in Denmark before being brought to America.

Next, it was off to a newsstand to buy a strip ticket good on public transportation, followed by a bus ride to an ice skating rink.

Huh? Anyone who ever watched me trying to skate in any fashion should be doing a ferocious double take right about now.

The skating rink beckoned because a man’s got to sleep somewhere, preferably cheaply.

I’ve never been a camping enthusiast, much preferring the view of the campground from the pub’s rear patio, and so with this bargain-basement option eliminated in 1985, bricks and mortar accommodations for quasi-youthful budget travelers were a bottom-line priority.

These came in a variety of forms, ranging from permanent year-round hostels affiliated with the International Youth Hostel Federation (the card was always on standby in my pouch) to others operated independently to varying standards of cleanliness and efficiency (most were quite good and had fewer rules).

In summer, there were seasonal lodgings, generally located in university dorms, and logically coinciding with academic breaks.

Still other creative ways could be found to house peak season tourists existing on the cheap, hence the ice skating rink in Copenhagen, which bore the name Sleep In. Of course, the ice was removed, and the expanse of the floor divided into multi-person pods with bunk beds.

There was a luggage check prior to the official late afternoon opening time. I registered, dropped off my bag and started wandering. It was a sunny summer Sunday, ideal for aimlessness.

The bus took me back into the center of town, and my orientation stroll began at the Rådhuspladsen (City Hall Square), all crimson-bricked and bedecked with advertising signs. From here, the Strøget pedestrian shopping street extended for almost a mile to Kongens Nytorv (King’s New Square), the gateway to Nyhavn (New Harbor).

Just understand that by Danish standards, “new” indicates a construction date in the late 1600s.

A narrow man-made inlet designed for small wooden ships, Nyhavn had long since ceased being a commercial harbor. Rather, quaintly lined on both sides by brightly colored old commercial buildings and residences, it had been improved, though perhaps not yet fully gentrified. Most of the buildings had been scrubbed, restored and painted, including one where Hans Christian Andersen once lived.

There were many taverns, some reputed to be off-color, and quite a few people lined the former docks. Many of them were drinking Carlsberg and Tuborg from bottles, while taking great care not to break them – as would have been the societal fear back home.

As I was soon to learn, there were no open container laws in Copenhagen, and drinking in the street was permissible. Canned beer was rare, and the bottles were returnable, with deposits sufficiently hefty at about 20% of the purchase price to encourage care in handling.

---

It was time for a snack, and perched on a sidewalk by a corner of Kongens Nytorv was a pølsevogn, or hot dog stand. This was no mere weenie wagon, but a mobile kitchen – almost a food truck.

As a devotee of the novel “A Confederacy of Dunces,” I imagined the Danish words translating as Paradise Vending, or at the very least, “mogul of meat.” Then again, Nyhavn wasn’t New Orleans, and no pirates were visible.

I subsequently became quite fond of the long and thin red-skinned wieners called rødpølser, and a pølsevogn always seemed to be somewhere near. You might even carry a beer around, and walk to one of them. Such remarkable, civilized institutions in a beer-drinking town. Would a sane person willingly return to Bud Lights and White Castle?

I eventually would, though not just yet.

Temporarily fortified like the fictional Ignatius, I walked back down the Strøget in the opposite direction and kept going toward the train station, ultimately landing at Tivoli Gardens.

Opened in 1843, and one of the oldest “theme” amusements parks in the world, Tivoli was among the inspirations for Disneyland. A vaguely Oriental motif formed the setting for rides (including a huge wooden rollercoaster), games, concerts and various party tricks. Admission was inexpensive, but food and drinks quite pricey. Consequently, people-watching (read: “How could there be this many beautiful women in one place?”) sufficed for me.

By now it was early evening, and time for the day’s solid meal. Heeding the advice of Arthur “$25 A Day” Frommer, I found the Vista Self Service Restaurant at Vesterbrogade 40 opposite the train station, mounted the stairs to the second floor, and experienced throwback dining. The author’s description is classic.

The Vista serves the largest food portions I have ever seen in preparing this book. On a recent summer evening there … a trio of British rock-and-roll types ordered one plate of fried potatoes with fried eggs on top (22 kroner), picked up the unlimited servings of fresh Danish bread that the Vista offers free, split the mound (it looked a foot high) among them, and still weren’t able to finish their meal … be prepared, of course, to encounter large, lively crowds – including every itinerant hippie and aspiring Rolling Stone from across the continent, who seem drawn to the Vista by some ultrasonic homing device, and whose presence adds to the fun.

Aspiring Rolling Stone?

In 1985?

Frommer’s reference may have been dated, but his assessment of the Vista was accurate. It pleases me to report that because trenchermen are born, not made, I finished my $3 plate of potatoes and eggs easily – and did it again the following evening.

Vesterbrogade was a key street. It linked the Rådhuspladsen to Tivoli and the central station’s transit hub, but it was important for another reason, because it led the way west through the Vesterbro neighborhood to a must-see shrine: Carlsberg.

Brewery tours resumed on Monday, and I intended to be there for one of them.

(to be continued)

---

Previously:

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, November 22, 2015

Beer, farthings and that little-known third category.


During the recently concluded mayoral campaign, the reigning Democrats treated me as a non-person. They wouldn't even concede that I was a candidate.

This struck me as Orwellian, and it might be a trend ...

ON THE AVENUES: Beer, farthings and that little-known third category.

... Throughout the year, I’ve said that I’ll be selling my share of ownership in NABC to my business partners. This statement of general intent remains accurate.

However, it should surprise no one that the process for doing so always stood to be prolonged, and it is quite likely to take a while. There are nuts, bolts and legalities to be sifted through. Disentangling may well become a full-time job, and unfortunately, this position is pro bono – at least until it isn’t ...

Saturday, November 21, 2015

We make our beers and then they make us.

There's something about this article that pertains to Rate Advocate, but I can't put my finger on it.

Wait -- that's not accurate. It's that I don't care. Then again, I've been drinking beer.

Twitter is teetering because it has turned into one big pyramid scheme, by Andrew Smith (The Guardian)

Social media’s struggles sum up a modern malaise: the inability to recognise value beyond market-driven metrics

 ... Twitter’s problem is the same as everyone else’s, in that worth, value, status in its realm are measured in numbers, specifically numbers of followers. In order to get followers, users can a) be celebrities or b) be super-entertaining. Or, given the inconvenience of those paths to popularity, two more common routes are c) seeking out and following people who will automatically follow you back and unfailingly following all who follow you and d) buying software that accomplishes the same thing in seconds.

So you’re being followed by 2,000 or 20,000 people – now what? Experience teaches me that genuinely tending to the tweets of more than 200 people becomes impractical (and unenjoyable) unless you treat it as part of your profession. What this implies is a law of diminishing returns, with everyone sending out tweets few people have the time or energy to read or act upon. Essentially, Twitter, like the economy it is part of, is eating itself: it has become a social pyramid scheme whose enormous strengths are undermined by its own – our own – market-derived metrics, which tell us nothing about the quality of the experience. Indeed, in what terms do we value Twitter as an entity? Number of users. Stock price. The spiralling presence of marketers on Twitter is a symptom, not a cause, of its problems: an expression of the flawed global logic at its heart ...

Friday, November 20, 2015

Saturnalia MMXV at the Pizzeria & Public House, beginning on Friday, November 27.


It looks like Eric Gray has the beer lineup locked down for Saturnalia MMXV, and I'd expect no less. He's been doing the procurement for more than five years, ever since I shifted focus and began spending all of my time at Bank Street Brewhouse. When it comes to the guest lineup at the Pizzeria & Public House, it hasn't been about me for a while, and Eric deserves the credit.

When Tony Beard's stellar poster appeared on Facebook, I received a message from regular reader S, who asked if there'll be a .pdf-format program for this year's Saturnalia.

I don't have an answer for this question. It would appear that one element of my transition toward civilian status has been the removal of administrator privileges at Fb and the web site, and so I don't know what's being planned.

However, although the beers won't be the same as in 2015, you can read about the background of Saturnalia at the 2014 program link, which remains active.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Cooking with beer: Eastern European Sauerkraut, Bean and Mushroom Soup.

Eastern European Sauerkraut, Bean and Mushroom Soup

4 – 6 “medium” servings

I’ve adapted this Polish/Slavic/Hungarian amalgam for a cold day from The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors: Recipes You Should Have Gotten from Your Grandmother, by the late Jeff “Frugal Gourmet” Smith. It’s easy to make and requires only 20 or so minutes of prep time. I like it meatless, though carnivores might choose to accompany with Kielbasa.

Ingredient list

Olive oil or other cooking oil

2 medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped
4 fat cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

24 ounces of beer … my preference for this recipe is Rauchbier, but Doppelbock works just fine and a malty Brown Ale would suffice in a pinch. The picture perfect choice is Schlenkerla Urbock, but save it to drink with the finished product. If you use Rauchbier, omit the smoked paprika – or not. Of course, feel free to get creative.

28 ounces vegetable broth

(Note: The object is to have a combination of beer and stock totaling around 50 ounces).

2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika (sweet)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (see beer note above)
¼ teaspoon Hungarian paprika (hot)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

32 ounce bag sauerkraut from the refrigerator aisle, rinsed
8 oz mushrooms from the produce aisle, rinsed
2 cans (circa 16 oz) navy beans, rinsed; add a third can if you’re a bean lover

Directions

Sauté the chopped garlic and onions in oil on medium heat until tender, about five minutes.

Add beer, veggie broth, sauerkraut, paprika, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the temperature and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.

After an hour, add the beans and mushrooms. Bring to a boil, then lower the temperature and simmer for another hour, stirring occasionally.

To serve

Serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream. We accompany the soup with bread and butter: Jewish Rye (light rye with caraway seeds) or Pumpernickel (dark rye, no seeds) are preferred.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Sierra Nevada is one thing, and Ovila's sacred stones something else entirely.

Photo credit: Atlas Obscura.


In 2010, when Sierra Nevada first began brewing its Ovila line of Trappist-influenced, Abbey-style ales, the nature of its collaboration with a monastery in Vina, California was unique.

Our Ovila Abbey Ales series is a collaboration with the monks of the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina, CA. Each beer is a modern twist on a traditional Belgian-style abbey ale—monastic inspiration and American innovation. These rotating Ovila Abbey Ales highlight, when possible, local ingredients grown and harvested by the monks on their nearly 600-acre working farm. We hope you enjoy these one-of-a-kind collaboration ales.

I remember our regional sales rep at the time whispering to me that although it wasn't common knowledge, Sierra Nevada was using Westmalle Trappist yeast. This may or may not have been true, but it made for excellent titillation, and after all, New Clairvaux is of the Cistercians.

What's more, the Ovila ales have been consistently tasty. However, you'll note that they were not named after the California monastery itself, but tagged with a name derived from a project of the Abbey of New Clairvaux called Sacred Stones, which originally was cited as the beneficiary of the abbey's collaborative sales share.

Sacred Stones involves the reassembly of the Chapter House, a building that should be standing amid what's left of the Santa María de Óvila monastery in Spain, if not for the intervention of a yellow journalist's cash four score and four years ago.

 ... American publisher William Randolph Hearst bought parts of the monastery in 1931 with the intention of using its stones in the construction of a grand and fanciful castle at Wyntoon, California, but after some 10,000 stones were removed and shipped, they were abandoned in San Francisco for decades. These stones are now in various locations around California: the old church portal has been reassembled at the University of San Francisco, and the chapter house is being reassembled by Trappist monks at the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina, California.

As it turns out, in the early 1900s, robber barons bought dozens of centuries-old European buildings and brought them to America.

 ... (William Randolph) Hearst also had a specific goal in mind for Santa Maria de Óvila. It would be part of a 61-bedroom “medieval castle” in the California wilderness, called Wyntoon Castle. Hearst was less interested in historical preservation, and his design included a swimming pool constructed from Santa Maria de Óvila’s 150-foot-long chapel with a diving board installed on the site of the former altar. The choir at the north end of the church would serve as a women’s dressing room, and the chapel's apse would be scattered with two or three feet of sand, creating a “beach” for sunbathing. After a series of exchanges with (art dealer Arthur) Byne, Hearst approved the purchase of the entire monastery.

The article at Atlas Obscura is lengthy and fascinating. Santa Maria de Óvila wasn't the only medieval building to be purchased (we might as well say "stolen") in such a manner, and taken as a whole, these various motifs (medieval buildings in Miami, Abbey Ale in California, a replacement monastery in Spain) put one hell of a spin on notions of localism as it is practiced from afar.

In Vina, at a monastery that exudes austerity and age, traces of 2015 slip through. The monks, concerned about the challenges of recruiting young men to the brotherhood, have taken to Instagram (@monksofvina) where they update their followers on paintings in progress, their 3:30 a.m. prayer meetings, and the status of the harvest. Common hashtags include #monks, #cistercian, #monastic, and #monkslife.

Are they drinking low-gravity "abbey" ales for lunch?

Rick Otey is making a fine Session Abbey at Donum Dei in New Albany, although there's nothing medieval about my town except for the way it tends to think.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Allan visits his local beer pusher in Moscow -- and the beer is local.


My friend Allan is a Dane who has lived in Moscow for at least 17 years. He's one of the Three Danes of the Apocalypse, and formerly was Keeper of the Orange Couch.

We first met in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in 1987, over booze.

We moved on to Leningrad by overnight express train just in time for an impromptu Fourth of July celebration. Kim, Barrie and I gathered on the grassy, mosquito-infested bank of an urban canal, a scene made complete when a bottle of the finest Russian vodka materialized from Kim’s backpack. Illuminated by the White Night, we were introduced for the first time to Allan, who was passing through the city with a tour group of his own.

Ominously, as the bottle was passed around, its contents ingested and people slowly got to know each other, Kim and Allan began speaking in hushed tones about Denmark’s answer to Barrie: Kim Andersen, hereafter to be known as Big Kim. Their descriptions of Big Kim were offered to us in impeccable English, although occasionally they would lapse into Danish or even Russian in search of the proper words to explain this larger-than-life phenomenon.

Barrie and I visited Allan in Moscow in 1999, and "craft" beer existed, kinda sorta; it's a story I've told before, and will repeat some day. The following is a recent note from Allan and a few photos. They illustrate the growth of "craft beer" in Russia.

It sure wasn't this way in 1987.

---

Rog,

Just visited my local beer pusher at the local market. He now has more than 50 Russian brews on sale, all from microbreweries. Some are in bottles, some are tapped into one liter brown plastic bottles. Many are nasty, some are quite good. See low quality photos attached.

On the last photos, the three I bought this time.

I think it is time for you to come to Russia, and take a one week beer excursion around the country. I will join you. Would be fun and educating.

Hope you are all well there.

Best,

Allan







Monday, November 16, 2015

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

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

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

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

With our pilgrimage to the D-Day beaches complete, it was a Thursday morning in Bayeux. Things were about to get hectic.

My provisional itinerary for the remainder of July called for a sweeping rail movement northward, traveling from Bayeux via Paris toward Copenhagen, Denmark, with a probable stop in between. A week-long sampling of Scandinavia would follow, with the ultimate destination of Helsinki, Finland, just before month’s end.

In fact, Helsinki represented the summer’s only truly fixed and immutable date, because it was to be the meeting point for my prepaid group motorcoach trip to Leningrad, USSR – now (and formerly) St. Petersburg, Russia.

In the end, after diverting from Copenhagen through Norway (Oslo-Bergen-Oslo), crossing Sweden to Stockholm, and hopping an overnight Silja Line ferry to Finland, this final peripatetic first-time tourist’s jaunt during Euro ’85 covered roughly 2,700 miles over 12 days, half of them spent sleeping on a train or boat.

First, with my 25th birthday approaching in only two weeks, Amsterdam seemed the logical place to begin the end stage party, though not for the commonly assumed reason. I’d never been more than a casual pot smoker, and had sworn off weed entirely two years before the trip owing to an adverse reaction caused by an especially potent tray of brownies, but perhaps a brief loophole might yet be found.

Like, “Resolutions not measurable outside North America,” or some such evasion.

As you might guess, the prime lure of Amsterdam was beer. I stocked several famous Dutch golden-colored lagers at Scoreboard Liquors, my part-time place of employment and the import brew capital of Floyd County, including Heineken (“greenies” as well as the export-strength dark version), Grolsch in swing-cap bottles, and a personal favorite, Royal Brand.

Among the many “old budget traveler’s tales” oft heard at home and abroad were wide-eyed accounts of voluminous generosity at the conclusion of the Heineken brewery tour, and I needed to find out for myself. Besides, there were rumors of extraneous culture in Amsterdam, capable of altering minds without the ingestion of substances – art, music, street life and Indonesian food.

It was decided. My mind was made up. The Netherlands it would be, and so my next two nights were spent in … Brussels.

---

The contingent was down to five at breakfast; someone whose name I cannot recall had left to go somewhere I can’t remember. I was drinking his share of the coffee as Bruce made an announcement: Earlier in the summer while in Greece, prior to running across Fred for shared leering at the nude beach, he’d struck up an acquaintance with a Belgian photographer living in Brussels.

The latter had extended an offer of lodging, and Bruce had called and left a message. Who wanted to go to Brussels?

I got numerical over the last croissant. While the six-mattress attic room rate had been affordable, options like “cheaper” or “totally free” were even more attractive – and saving lodging costs for two nights would buffer the budget in expensive Scandinavia. Bleary eyes were rubbed.

Did they even have beer in Brussels?

(That’s right: I’d read about Belgian ales in Michael “The Beer Hunter” Jackson’s books, but because almost none of these delicacies made it anywhere close to metro Louisville during the early 1980s, my radar screen was blank. I simply didn’t get it – yet.)

Within minutes, all five of us had decided to go to Brussels. Since the others were not rapid morning movers, there was enough time for me to view Bayeux’s famous medieval tapestry and have a glance at the wonderful cathedral before boarding the train to Paris just after lunch.

Although memories are foggy, we clearly would have arrived in Paris at the Gare St. Lazare, and taken the Metro to Gare du Nord. One way or another, by late afternoon we were in Brussels, where Bruce made another phone call to his contact, who profusely apologized because he could not accommodate us until the following day. Somehow we found a room for five at a cheap hotel, probably because Bruce knew enough basic French to be fearless in the inquiry.

I remember nothing about the evening. It’s funny how that works, and doesn’t.

---

Perhaps even funnier: On Friday night, I slept in the bathtub, though without soapy water. It was the last reasonably flat space after the others chose their spots. Bedding selections occurred after we’d pooled our resources to buy a massive amount of carry-out Chinese food and inexpensive French wine, and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

It’s embarrassing, isn’t it? My trip to Brussels was unintentional, but I might have made better of it than General Tso and cheap Bordeaux. I wasn’t drinking Lambic, and I wasn’t eating mussels, either. Did I at least have the presence of mind to purchase pommes frites lathered with mayo from a greasy street kiosk? Let’s hope. The historical record is mute on this point.

After a day and a half in Brussels, I still knew little about the Belgians apart from their cafes on the Grand Place, but on Saturday our host was free, and finally it all came together. In the morning we equipped ourselves with transit passes and started roaming.

There had been time on Friday to fulfill Bruce’s goal of seeing the Iguanodon dinosaur skeletons at the Museum of Natural Sciences, so on Saturday we began at the house of Baron Victor Horta, one of the most acclaimed Art Nouveau architects, of whom our photographer hotelier was a huge fan. His commentary was priceless.

Next came the Parc du Cinquantenaire, or park of the 50th anniversary, built in 1880 and home to the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History. Here came another encounter with the Habsburg dynasty, for the ill-fated Maximillian, brother of Franz Joseph and for a short time the puppet emperor of Mexico, was married to a Belgian, Carlota. She was the daughter of Belgium’s King Leopold I (and sister of Leopold II, noted exploiter of the Congo).

Maximillian became involved in Mexico through the scheming of France’s Napoleon III, and when the latter’s support dissipated, the unlucky Austrian was captured and executed in 1867 by annoyed Mexicans led by Benito Juarez, who were uninterested in being ruled by European stooges, however progressively well-intentioned.

The point to this digression is that Maximillian possessed a contingent of Belgian troops, and because of this, a display case in the military museum was devoted to the episode, including a macabre photograph of the deceased in his temporary coffin. To this very day, it’s the photograph that I remember most vividly.

Thanks to a complete stranger’s hospitality, it turned out that Brussels was all right, after all. During journeys to come, there’d be great times for me in Belgium, but I had an early evening train to catch, and a couchette for sleeping in route to Copenhagen.

I said goodbye to my new friends. Somewhere out there in Canada, Florida and Belgium, I hope they’re well, and remember those days when we laughed together back in 1985.

---

Previously:

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, November 15, 2015

Happy 25th birthday to Broad Ripple Brewpub.

Tristan and Lord Hill at the party, courtesy of Tristan's Fb page.

The anniversary party was yesterday, and unfortunately I missed it, but this excellent essay by the Brewers of Indiana Guild's communications director (who as we can see needs to write more often) provides the rundown on why Broad Ripple Brewpub matters so much to so many of us.

(Take note -- only 75 days until the 8th Annual Brewers of Indiana Guild Winterfest)

My first visit wasn't until the late 1990s. The first ale I had there was the ESB, and to this day, I'll always drink at least one of them when visiting. A flagship is a flagship, after all. I can taste it now.

Best wishes to John Hill and the hundreds of others at BRB who've made beers and memories over a quarter-century.


BROAD RIPPLE BREWPUB CELEBRATES 25 YEARS OF CRAFT BEER AND COMMUNITY, by Tristan Schmid

Broad Ripple Brewpub–Indiana’s first brewpub and oldest operating craft brewery–celebrates 25 years of craft beer and community at their anniversary party.

As Brewers of Indiana Guild‘s Communications Director, I typically don’t write in first person when I post about our beer festivals, Tomlinson Tap Room, and our other efforts to support Indiana’s brewers and rapidly growing craft brewing industry.

But for me and many others, Broad Ripple Brewpub is particularly special.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Today in word play: "The Norwegian Blue" beer, parrot and requiem.


No, it isn't a remembrance of the slowest-selling Sun King keg we ever poured at the Public House, which may explain the brewery never repeating it.

Personally, I liked Sun King Norwegian Blue, an eau de Pine Sol variety of Pale Ale. Seriously. I actually did.

Rather, this is the tale of an Indianapolis beer blog and Monty Python's famous parrot sketch, so first, something you may not have known about the departed Norwegian Blue bird in the British comedy troupe's greatest hits repertoire.

Norwegian Blue parrot really DID exist - but now they are all 'stiff, bereft of life and ex-parrots', by Andrew Levy (Daily Mail)

... Adding to the absurdity was the fact that parrots - being tropical birds - don't come from Scandinavia.

Or do they? For now, in a development putting the sketch in a completely different light, it turns out that the Norwegian Blue did exist.

Dr David Waterhouse, a fossil expert and Python fan, has found that parrots not only lived in Scandinavia 55million years ago, but probably evolved there before spreading into the southern hemisphere.

No, the central point of this digression is Hoosier Beer Geek's self-obituary earlier this week.

The Norwegian Blue at Hoosier Beer Geek

 ... We sought to improve the craft beer community. You can argue what impact we had, but the community is better now than when we started in 2006. But it outgrew Hoosier Beer Geek by leaps and bounds. There are numerous other voices and organizations that are better able to connect with the mainstream audience. Hoosier Beer Geek has become stubborn in its old age, unwilling to compromise its integrity. And we no longer have the endurance to remain dependable and enthusiastic in the community.

I'm starting to think that 2015 will be remembered as a "changing of the guard" sort of year. Has my buyout check arrived yet?

Straight up: HBG was richly entertaining and did a lot of good for beer in and around Indianapolis. When working as event coordinators for the Brewers of Indiana Guild, HBG did a lot of good for the rest of us, too.

"Craft" beer has exploded to such a degree that no individual entity, professional or amateur, can claim comprehensive authority. Though not with hostility, better beer has become somewhat Balkanized, and my guess is that it will take as many years to understand this process of profusion as it did to arrive at it.

Meanwhile, farewell HBG.

You mattered, and not everyone can say that.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Celebrate Food & Dining: The magazine's 50th issue is on the street, and my column is inside it.


It's here: The Louisville edition of Food & Dining's 50th issue. It's the Winter 2015 issue (Vol. 59; November/December/January), available at hundreds of locations throughout metropolitan Louisville. You also can read right now at issuuWinter 2015 (Vol. 50).

Food & Dining is a Louisville-based lifestyle publication focused on food & cooking, the enjoyment of wine & spirits, and the experience of dining out in one of the nation’s top restaurant cities.

We have all the sensibilities of a local magazine, but with the design and photography of a national magazine.

We pack the magazine and with gorgeous photography, engaging feature stories, entertaining articles, unique recipes and a restaurant guide that details over 1,000 restaurants.

The quarterly magazine began in 2003, and I started writing beer columns for John Carlos White a few issues into his run. The mag's his baby, and I'm delighted for him. Lots of other folks have played a part in launching and maintaining the publication, so thanks to all of them, too. May there be many more to come.

For the current edition, my "Hip Hops" column is intended as the answer to a question asked me by John: What's changed about beer since Food & Dining debuted in 2003?

No longer is it necessary to live drinking lives of silent enjoyment. We have become broadcasters, style arbiters and photographers, relying on visual cues whenever the thicket of raw information becomes impenetrable.

The craft beer enthusiast is better off than ever before, with a caveat: Aren’t appearances only skin deep?

You can read it here: Who are you going to believe, me or your own two eyes?

May, 2015

I profile the Crescent Hill Craft House in the new issue of Food & Dining Magazine.


August, 2015

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Blinding me with science: Helium beer ... for real.

And it's tasty, though the effect isn't quite as imagined.

I'm a raconteur, not a scientist, but this is an informative and interesting read. Thanks to RC for the link.

Helium Beer, From Prank To Tank, by Craig Bettenhausen (Chemical & Engineering News)

 ... A quick Internet search yields several pages explaining how helium beer is impossible because of the low solubility of helium in water. Indeed, helium’s solubility, 0.0015 g/kg, is roughly three orders of magnitude less than that of carbon dioxide, 1.7 g/kg.

And then the Newscripts gang took pause: A nearby listing on the same data table notes that nitrogen’s solubility is 0.019 g/kg. That’s not as low as helium, but still much lower than carbon dioxide. Yet beers such as Guinness famously use nitrogen in place of carbon dioxide to achieve a creamy mouthfeel and a fine, stable head of foam.

So we decided to make our own helium beer. For real.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Goodwood's launch party for canned Louisville Lager is Wednesday, November 11.

Photo credit: Joel Halbleib.

There is an exhausting back story to the evolution of what is now known as the Goodwood Brewing Company, but this rambunctious tale falls outside the topic at hand.

We begin with the event.

Louisville Lager Can Launch Party

Join us at the taproom November 11, 2015 at 5:00 p.m. for a launch party. Be the first to purchase a Louisville Lager 6 pack of cans, straight from the line! These fresh cans will be on sale for $8 per 6 pack. Along with the purchase you will also receive 20% off all swag!

Goodwood's taproom is located at 636 E. Main Street in Louisville. As for Louisville Lager itself, note the description on the brewery's web site.

Louisville Lager

PUT GOOD WOOD ON IT

Goodwood Louisville Lager is the first and only beer brewed with 100% Kentucky-grown grains. And, in a tip of the cap to our Slugger-making neighbors downtown, white ash – common in baseball bats – is used to enhance brewing. This results in a light-bodied, perfectly balanced lager with a sweet finish delivered by those Kentucky grains.

4.2 ABV/35 IBU

Speaking as an exponent of localism, lager and session strength beers, permit me to liberally praise Goodwood's Louisville Lager. It uses regional barley. It's 4.2% and comes in a can. It tastes wonderful. The price point is reasonable. I'm not sure I can make the can launch party, but I'll be drinking a lot of this one. In fact, I've threatened to rehab my kegerator just so a sixth barrel of Louisville Lager might pour from it.

This said, and also speaking personally, the whole wood/barrel phenomenon is something I find meaningful only in small doses.

Our Philosophy ... Why take the extra time to wood-age beer? Why insist on the same pure, limestone water used to make bourbon? Well, here at Goodwood, we've come to believe that what's good for bourbon is even better for beer. Our extra steps are kind of an homage to this region's distilling legacy and to those old barrels out there that still have so much flavor left to give. Sip one of our freshly nuanced stouts, lagers or ales, and we believe you'll think so, too.

It's an occasional treat for me, nothing more. I appreciate the general idea, and understand why Goodwood has rebranded from top to bottom so as to secure a market niche. It's a power move, and I wish them well. As a professional curmudgeon, the shtick strikes me as just a tad contrived.

BUT THAT'S WHY THERE IS LOUISVILLE LAGER, ash "enhancement" aside. We needn't all adore the same icons.

My preference for the use of wood in beer is when you burn it and smoke the grain. I suggest Smoked Louisville Lager. It would be a very Spezial moment for me, please and thank you.

In closing, back to the taproom and another announcement.

Woodrow On The Radio: Wednesday Mid Week Happy Hour Kick Off

We will also be having our new weekly Wednesday spinning of wax with Woodrow On The Radio. Along with the launch of our Louisville Lager Cans we will be kicking off our "Wednesday Mid Week Happy Hour". Woodrow On The Radio is a personality from WFPK who will be rocking the vinyl for us every Wednesday from 5:00-10:00 p.m. in our newly remodeled taproom.

Goodwood's web site is here.

Monday, November 09, 2015

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

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

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

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

On June 16, 1985, it transpired that six youthful travelers were inserted into speedily improvised dorm space on the toasty top floor of the Family Home hostel in Bayeux, and in spite of a rocky first meeting, they coalesced on French soil, becoming a tightly knit band of brothers.

Actually, what helped achieve harmony among these strangers more than any other single factor was the hostel manager’s grudging acknowledgment that the more mattresses were stuffed into the attic, the fewer francs each occupant would pay. We were unknown to each other, and yet bound by a shared interest in saving money.

It made good fiscal sense. Introductions were made, and we set about getting to know one another.

From the start, two of my new roommates stood out. Fred was a tall and mustachioed Floridian with a gift of gab, and his traveling partner Bruce, who hailed from Canada, was blonde, sparsely bearded, quiet and more analytical.

This is not to say Bruce wasn’t capable of being opinionated, as I learned later when I offhandedly remarked that Keith Moon of The Who was rock’s greatest drummer.

Bruce quickly became red-faced, proceeding not only to make a convincing and fully detailed case that Rush’s Neil Peart was far better as a drummer, but adding that Peart wrote challenging lyrics, and besides that, Canadians in general were key contributors to the history of rock and roll all across the board in spite of what perpetually clueless Yanks AND Brits insisted on thinking.

Canadians were not supposed to be chauvinists, were they? I didn’t think so, either, but here was an example of one. But Bruce was passionate, bright and articulate, and I learned much from him during the coming days -- while choosing my comments very carefully.

As for Fred, he was divorced, a tad embittered yet funny, incurably garrulous, and absolutely delighted to report the intimate details of an amorous conquest experienced while in Greece, where he and Bruce had struck up an acquaintance by means of their shared interest in Hellenic nude beaches, during which Fred had gotten lucky with a fellow American tourist.

She didn’t stick around, but Fred and Bruce had been traveling together ever since. They seemed temperamentally well paired, although Bruce’s eyes often rolled when Fred got rolling. The Floridian was harmless, and in truth, highly entertaining.

As for the other three other loft roommates, their names unfortunately are lost to history. For mysterious and arcane reasons, I’d decided that precious film must not be wasted on ephemeral matters like documenting images of people, as opposed to buildings, so no photos of them exist.

There was a fallback, because throughout the 1985 trip, I diligently recorded the names and addresses of new friends I met in an old-fashioned little blue book.

This blue book returned to Europe with me in 1987 -- only to fall out of my pocket somewhere in Vienna, and be lost forever.

The important point is that I was absorbed into the Bruce/Fred tandem, and we became a triumvirate for two days in Bayeux, and serendipitously, two more in Brussels.

---

The morning after my arrival in Bayeux, all six of us boarded a local bus for the coast.

Fred had concluded that hitchhiking in the vicinity of the D-Day historical sites was the very best way to see them, explaining that Americans would be adored in such a locale (not altogether untrue, by the way) such that we’d have our pick of passing cars.

Obviously, hitching a ride would be unlikely for so large a group. It wasn’t clear if Fred intended to explore the vicinity alone, and I kept my eyes open for bus route signs just in case.

After misty beginnings, a lovely summer’s day emerged. I was keen on the idea of walking the coastline for as much of it as possible. The area proved to be well signposted. We had maps, and there’d always be another bus, right?

My skepticism undoubtedly owed to memories of transport antics in Pecetto and Pithion.

Knowing that that the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944 comprised the biggest amphibious invasion in military history proved to be inadequate preparation for viewing the ocean from the high ground, then trading places at water’s edge to look back inland, and being overwhelmed by what it must have felt like waist-deep in salt water, having nowhere to go except forward.

Most of the invading force came from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, assigned landing beaches code-named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword (from west to east). However, troops also were present from Australia and New Zealand, as well as in small numbers from occupied European countries: Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Greece, Netherlands, Norway and Poland.

There had been a great disinformation campaign on the part of the Allies, one designed to confuse the Germans as to the landing site. It worked to a significant degree, but perhaps the single biggest hindrance to an effective coastal defense stemmed from the larger strategic picture, because German wartime strength was waning.

Guns and ammo were less of an issue. Contrary to popular belief, Germany was able to keep up its war production in material terms in spite of relentless bombing, which Hermann Goering’s Luftwaffe was unable to impede. War production went underground, literally and figuratively, but Allied control of the skies proved vital as the Normandy invasion unfolded.

More importantly, Germany’s two-sided war was in the process of bleeding manpower to the breaking point. By 1944, the Germans were in retreat across the entirety of the Eastern Front, where the Red Army’s seemingly limitless numbers and escalating tactical abilities gained traction in proportion with the increasing exhaustion of the Germans.

Indeed, then as now, Americans need to understand that the outcome of the Great Patriotic War – as WWII was called in the Soviet Union – hinged on horrifically costly combat in the East. Tens of millions died there. US forces bore the brunt in the Pacific, while in Europe, the Soviets punished Adolf Hitler.

Consequently, Germany was weakened, and France’s coastal defenses were only partially completed and inadequately manned. Hitler’s constant military meddling added a further level of dysfunction; the perfectly capable general Erwin Rommel was on the job, and yet the dictator insisted on moving chess pieces from Berlin.

In spite of these many advantages, Operation Overlord was far from a sure thing. The Allies aimed to shift 150,000 soldiers across an unpredictable ocean, albeit over a relatively short distance from England. Even a slight shift in the weather might have wreaked havoc.

Not only were fighting men in route on small transports. Big naval ships had to be positioned for shelling, and parachutists had to be dropped behind enemy lines. There were supplies to be landed, too, primarily by means of an improvisational device called the Mulberry, which was a floating harbor to be assembled where natural contours were lacking.

As almost always is the case in war, it came down to the heroism and tenacity of the foot soldiers. On the Allied side, casualties during the first day alone exceeded 10,000, one of whom was my old friend Barrie’s father, who received a Purple Heart. More than 4,000 of his comrades died.

June 6 ended with five contested, bumpy bridgeheads for the Allies, and yet these lines held and were expanded during the remainder of June. By the end of the month, close to 900,000 troops had poured into this continental foothold.

You know the rest of the story.

---

Our own beach-combing sextet held together for a little while. Looking at the satellite images today, I have little clear idea of where the bus took us. My best guess is Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, located near the Omaha Beach monument and the American cemetery.

I recall a stretch of shoreline displaying wreckage, perhaps of landing craft, although it doesn’t seem possible that we could have started as far to the east as Arromanches, where remnants of Mulberry Harbor can be viewed, and still had time to walk to Pointe du Hoc, a heavily fortified headland between Omaha and Utah beaches.

U.S. Army Rangers famously attacked Pointe du Hoc by climbing the cliffs with ladders, ropes and hooks. The site remains pockmarked with shell craters and the ruins of German defense installations.

Throughout the day, buses occasionally trundled past, and one of us would hop on and wave goodbye. By afternoon, it came down to Bruce, Fred and me, and we began looking for ways to get back to Bayeux.

After hiking inland a short way past neatly groomed fields, gnarly hedgerows and stone walls, we found a small country café at a crossing of two lanes, shaded by a copse of trees near a cluster of farmhouses. A few languid cows observed our arrival from across the narrow road.

The posted bus schedule seemed to indicate a final afternoon pickup for Bayeux. Inconveniently, we would have almost two hours to wait, which in reality would have been more than sufficient time to walk all the way home – except there was inexpensive Kanterbrau golden lager on tap.

Let’s be clear: The beer was underwhelming. Bruce immediately began comparing it unfavorably to Labatt’s, and on a subsequent trip, Barrie dubbed it “Cancerbrau.” Perhaps because we were tired and hungry from having skipped lunch, the beer went straight to our heads, and after the third round, Fred belatedly decided to test his theory and uncork his thumb.

His mangled efforts were futile and hilarious, and even the otherwise humorless café owner laughed when the American he decided to explain his hitchhiking tactics to the bored cattle.

As we waited, a group of bicyclists stopped for a drink. Surely by then I’d seen hundreds of Europeans riding bikes without thinking much about it, and it would be another 15 years before the riding bug finally bit. Still, I can remember drinking my beer at the bar following our day at the D-Day beaches, and thinking how much fun biking appeared to be.

In retrospect, renting a bicycle in Bayeux would have been the best and most practical course, but if I knew then what I know now, the entire trip would have been far different from the one I’ve described.

The bus eventually arrived, and we returned somewhat giddily to Bayeux just in time for the optional evening meal at the Family Home. It was a communal affair at a huge table, accompanied with cheap wine, and utterly delicious.

Tales were spun and schemes were hatched. The next stop would be Brussels, and we decided to travel by rail as a group -- no hitchhiking.

Little did I know that a roomy bathtub awaited.

---

Previously:

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, November 08, 2015

Nipping and nibbling at BBC St. Matthews, Akasha and Over the 9.

Last night we hopped around to three neighborhood joints in Louisville, and it started me thinking about how much easier pub crawling would be if we had adequate public transportation hereabouts. As it stood, Diana did the driving, which was good for me, though not so much for her.

I’d have preferred the subway. Shall we savagely tax cars to build one?

On Saturday, Bluegrass Brewing Company was celebrating its 22nd anniversary in St. Matthews, a locale that began as a rural village crossroads, then served as a staging point of sorts for post-war suburbanization. Now the area is closer to downtown in both distance and urban attitude than the vast sprawling cookie-cutter acreage just beyond it to the east.

There always were taverns nearby, probably more like roadhouse in days of yore, but most of the old-school places like Dutch’s have long since yielded to more moderately upscale ventures like Mellow Mushroom, Boombozz and Drake’s. Real beer abounds, though I still prefer the places where it is brewed.

More than two decades after BBC’s creation, I sat in precisely the same barroom quadrant as on “soft opening” night in 1993. In 2015, my own life couldn’t be any more different, Chef Atkins is long gone, and neither the Pilsner nor duck ravioli are available, although a Helles is in the works, the inimitable Mikki Rice was working the kitchen, and an anniversary evening special of fried oysters, shrimp and grits filled the bill nicely.

Founding brewmaster David Pierce has returned to home base, and his SOB’s ESB is a “revive-ale” based on a recipe by “Bossman Pat” (Hagan) – restrained and delicious at 5.5% abv. The brewery has been serviced and scrubbed, and I’m looking forward to classic album cuts and a few new songs as the months go past. It's like a reunion tour all over again.

Next stop was newborn (we’re counting in weeks, folks) Akasha Brewing Company in Louisville’s NuLu, a district that might be described as an ongoing gentrification start-up generator still in its capitalization phase.

This isn’t the same Akasha Brewing located in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, which is what turned up on Google Maps when plotting a route from BBC, and seemed too far afield for a light evening's drinking.

Akasha lies five miles west of St. Matthews in a downtown Louisville area that remained moribund throughout the period of BBC’s inception and growth. Until ten or so years ago, the stockyards still operated a few hundred yards from Akasha’s front door, and as we know, livestock dung can depress property values.

Akasha is a taproom only, sans kitchen; the wildly popular Feast BBQ is mere steps away, and Grind Burger Kitchen soon will be taking up residence next door. It is striking how taprooms have a purpose and ambiance all their own, existing as multi-purpose gathering spots for transitional beers, carry-out draft and package, or for packing in picnics from nearby eateries and making a night of it.

Taprooms deserve closer study.

There were five house beers on tap at Akasha, along with another six guests. After sampling Oatmeal Stout, Gose and a yummy Smoked Porter, we bought a Belgian-style “house glass” with to-go “howler” (half-growler) of Saison, the character of which took me back to semi-conscious Wallonian bicycle refueling stops during the early Noughties. As if on cue, I began craving mussels.

Our last stop: One block north to Main, two miles west, and a left on 10th Street. It’s a longer story than I have time to tell at present, so the compact version: It’s the Old 502 Winery and new-age version of the century-old Falls City Brewing, sharing bricks and mortar with a brand new eatery and bar called Over the 9.

I like them all. We’d stopped in once before, and while having come to detest the word “gastropub,” it’s probably appropriate for the casual setting. The food’s great; the menu has lots of burgers, bacon and marrow bones, the nachos feature lamb and a dollop of mustard, and the food is accompanied by solid beers and wines. The flagship beers are brewed elsewhere, but there's a full roster of house brews worth trying.

Much has been made of Over the 9’s positioning as “gateway” to the evolving Portland neighborhood. For non-Louisvillian readers, note only that urban planners from the 1950s forward consciously plotted Ninth Street as the downtown racial divide, tossing in working class Portland as part of the social-economic Machiavellian “bargain” of separation.

This has little to do with Over the 9 itself, but the social engineering gambit prefacing it being viewed as “on the other side” may or may not be unraveling as money finally finds its way into undervalued territory. We’ll have to wait and see how things pan out for the people already living west of 10th Street before rendering a verdict.

Meanwhile, last night I enjoyed Over the 9's Grimanti sandwich, which deploys smoky homemade pastrami on ciabatta with a sweet ‘n’ sour slaw of sorts slathered on it. It is a brilliant notion, and brewer Greenwood’s mildly hoppy Harvest Ale was an appropriate match.

The history and etymology of pastrami are fascinating, too. The word itself originates in Turkey and comes to us via Jewish immigrants from Romania. In essence, pastrami began as a way of brining, smoking and steaming less desirable cuts of meat as a means of preservation. Beef’s the usual target flesh. Louisville largely missed out on deli culture, but there’s always time to learn.

One evening, three establishments and a range of neighborhoods and possibilities. It was a welcome break from my recently concluded foray into New Albany politics, which largely served to underscore the need to take frequent breaks from New Albany.

BBC St.Matthews
Akasha Brewing
Over the 9