Sunday, December 18, 2016

The advent of THE BEER BEAT, and three links to it.

Previously, I explained several reasons why this blog is going on hiatus, indicating that my thoughts on beer will be posted alongside my thoughts on everything else, at NA Confidential. You'll find them there via the all-purpose tag, The Beer Beat.

However, whenever the urge strikes, I'll collect a few of these links here. First, a flashback.

THE BEER BEAT: Addressing diversity in "craft" beer, with Naughty Girl once again on the wrong side of the debate.

Let’s put an old saw to the test: Is it really true that any publicity is good publicity?

Specifically, if a New Albanian Brewing Company beer and beer label, as conceived on my watch in 2011, appears alongside an article by a national recognized blogger in 2016 and then is linked on Facebook by a brewing superstar, that’s wonderful, right?

Next, when good people succeed.

THE BEER BEAT: Localism in action, from Big Woods to Quaff On, now also Hard Times.

I've always like the people at this company, and it's been instructive to watch as they've expanded the business, geographically and in terms of product lines.

Finally, saying what you mean and meaning what you say.

THE BEER BEAT: Words like "local" and "unique," and beers for cold weather.

According to what I'm hearing, Flat12 as currently constituted has no plans to brew in Jeffersonville. Of course, this could change.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Allow me to explain several reasons why this blog is going on hiatus (psst ... go to NA Confidential instead).

Ever since I began the process of disengaging from NABC, which diligent future historians will observe taking place at various intervals in the year 2015 (and which isn't yet concluded), my relationship with beer has been in flux.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's just different.

The world of beer has changed considerably during the past decade, and so have I. So have all of us. At times these days I want to throw Molotov cocktails at what I perceive beer is in the process of becoming, but at other times I love it as much as I always did.

Yeah, it's complicated.

To get to the point, and stated simply, my head currently isn't in alignment with the effort required to maintain two blogs. For whatever reason, NA Confidential -- which I've always referred to as my "public affairs" outlet -- has absorbed most of my time in recent years, with results that better reflect my interests, and that have produced gains in terms of readership.

As my column there Thursday explains, it makes more sense to fold my beer writing into NA Confidential, while keeping The Potable Curmudgeon as an archive (and ready source for cannibalizing past ideas).

All of these considerations also feed into an impending personal reality check. It was planned for me to take a year off to regroup, and the missus has been patient, but now the year is over. The column explains it; just know that easing back into the game via altered circumstances is the path I'll likely be pursuing.

In the meantime, look for beer writing at NAC prefixed by THE BEER BEAT, and remember that everything I've just explained could be obsolete the day after tomorrow. I'm playing things by ear, readying to go to the mattresses, and whichever other tired cliche might be inserted here.

Of course, anyone who might be in the market for an unemployed curmudgeon who can write a bit and probably is otherwise unemployable might be able to delay my entrepreneurial plans. 

To those of you who've been eavesdropping here these many years, I cannot thank you enough. There'll yet be a few things to tidy up here, and I'll get to them soon enough. Cheers!


ON THE AVENUES: It’s never too late to beer all over again.

It isn’t that I’ve fallen out of love with beer. We’re not divorced or anything. A better word is estranged, which implies an alienation of affection, but doesn’t entirely rule out the possibility of reconciliation.

These thoughts occurred to me recently as I was contemplating the future of The Potable Curmudgeon, my beer-themed blog. It dates to 2005, and has enjoyed some fine moments over the years, though recently my commitment to maintaining it has waned.

Slightly less so Roger’s Simple Beer Pleasures, a page at Facebook that I started in late 2015. It is far better suited to the truncated social-media-driven attention spans ruling the planet at present, including my own, at least as it pertains to beer and brewing.

In spite of my efforts, I can’t seem to make The PC blog and Simple Pleasures work in harmony the way NA Confidential’s blog and Fb page do, primarily because my efforts are half-hearted.

There’s the rub.

I care more about what I’m writing at NA Confidential than The Potable Curmudgeon, so I’m willing to make the time at one and not the other. Taking it a step further, this indiscipline owes to my sense of estrangement from the world of beer and brewing. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy writing about beer, thinking about it and even drinking it, just that it isn’t a daily priority at present.

Consequently, I’ll be altering the routine in the weeks to come. The beer writing I undertake will be featured here at NA Confidential, and I’ll allow The Potable Curmudgeon to remain dormant as an archive.

Perhaps Fridays will be NAC’s Beer Day, or some such. Since so much of my beer writing has sought connectivity between beer and other interests in my life, putting them all in one place rather than separating them makes the most sense.

That is, until it doesn’t.

Read the rest here.


Monday, November 28, 2016

AFTER THE FIRE: Hip Hops ... Bourbon-barrel aged Imperial Stouts.

AFTER THE FIRE: Hip Hops ... Bourbon-barrel aged Imperial Stouts.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

I'm always an quarterly issue behind when it comes to reprinting my columns from Food & Dining Magazine. This one is from Fall 2016; Vol. 53 (August/September/October).


Bourbon-barrel-aged Imperial Stouts

You’ll hear one sort of pitch at a sales meeting, and see another thrown during a baseball game, but brewer’s pitch is completely different.

Brewer’s pitch is a resinous substance used to line wooden barrels so liquid doesn’t come into contact with the wood.

That’s because exposure to a wooden barrel affects the flavor of its contents, and generally over the centuries, brewers have preferred their wooden vessels to be neutral. Brewer’s pitch remains a handy means to this end, and anyway, stainless steel long ago supplanted wood for beer’s storage and serving.

But what if beer’s modification is the stated aim of the exercise?

If submerged wood can positively complement the taste of beer, as with white ash chips or oak spirals, and if wooden cooperage harboring funky microorganisms can leverage its own intended outcome (for example, in some styles of sour beer), then barrels formerly harboring spirits offer a wide potential range of flavor and aroma characteristics for beers aged inside them.

Consider an emptied oak Bourbon barrel. It was charred in order to properly host Kentucky’s indigenous corn-based liquor, and after a period of years, the mellow finished whisky was removed for bottling to proof.

However, this once-used barrel retains considerable evidence of Bourbon. Why not repurpose these flavors and aromas by aging beer in it?

It seems a forehead-slapping moment, and yet the genuinely strange thing is how long it took for someone to grasp the possibilities.

Lost Abbey brewmaster Tomme Arthur, no stranger to the nuances of barrel aging, identifies Bourbon Barrel Zero in this 2013 excerpt from All About Beer magazine.

In 1992, Greg Hall from Goose Island Beer Co. in Chicago might very well have become the first American brewer to produce a bourbon-barrel-aged beer when he filled six oak barrels that previously contained Jim Beam. He poured this experiment at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver that fall, inducing rumors, appreciative nods and whispers of something entirely new.

I can second Arthur’s emotion, for at a GABF vintage beer tasting in 1997, the late, great beer writer Fred Eckhardt was seated next to me. When I asked him the beer he considered the festival’s finest ever, he didn’t hesitate: Goose Island Bourbon County Stout.

In our contemporary craft beer era, all manner of spirit-soaked barrels are being merrily procured by enterprising craft brewers as creative mediums for aging and experimentation.

The number of beer styles deemed appropriate for barrel again also has expanded, although certain combinations strain credulity to such an extent that I’m almost afraid to joke about Organic Free Range Mezcal-Barrel-Aged Imperial Kolsch lest it somehow comes to tragi-comic fruition.

No timelessness for the impatient

Such embellishments are hip, and I’m square. 25 years are more than enough to concede the elegant pre-eminence Hall’s foundational Bourbon-barrel-aged Imperial Stout.

Hall sourced oak Bourbon barrels in Kentucky, and he filled them with Imperial Stout, the stout family’s brawniest hitter. This inspired pairing remains the bellwether. Bourbon and Imperial Stout are burnished and challenging, richly assertive and subtly intricate. They bring out the best in each other.

At strengths typically in excess of 10% abv, Imperial Stout’s dense, black, viscous intensity lends itself to a panoply of descriptors, including roastiness, coffee, caramel, smoke, vanilla, sultana, plums, figs, cherries, chocolate, brown sugar, licorice, fruit cake and bubblegum.

A wooden barrel saturated with Bourbon offers similar and complementary flavors and aromas, as well as a pinch of added alcoholic potency. The brewer’s objective is to choreograph these delightful factors by calibrating, aging and blending with ultimate “Bourbon Stout” balance in mind.

Consequently, Bourbon-barrel aging is a thoughtful, time-consuming process. Used barrels must be visually inspected for imperfections, and kept from drying out. While uncut whiskey is an effective disinfectant, it’s better to fill the barrels with beer relatively quickly, lest undesirable microorganisms find a safe haven.

Once filled with beer, the barrels need a place to rest, and you’ll sometimes see stacks of barrels in the brewhouse. Ambient temperatures matter, as well as ready access, because brewers will need to pull samples for taste testing. Often they’ll drill holes in the wood and use stainless steel nails as plugs after regularly scheduled nipping.

Just as most Bourbons are blended to achieve uniformity of character, typically beers from multiple Bourbon barrels are, too. Brewers often blend in a second batch of base beer. Aging and blending take time and money, explaining why Bourbon-barrel-aged Imperial Stouts tend to be limited cool-weather seasonal releases, both rare and expensive.

Save that cigar for the second bottle

Imperial Stout is ideal, but it isn’t the only style of beer suitable for Bourbon-barrel-aging. From the hoppy (Double India Pale Ale, Barley Wine) to the malty (Doppelbock, Belgian Quadrupel), characteristics of Bourbon can meld with those beer styles boasting the heft and complexity to compete.

Balance, smoothness and harmony are the watchwords when seeking worthy Bourbon-barrel-aged beers. Beer and barrel must co-exist as equals, with discernible contributions from each. If they don’t, a glorified boilermaker is the likeliest outcome.

Here’s how not to do it

Head Brewer: “We’re making our Bourbon-barrel-aged beer today.”

Assistant Brewer: “Great. How many fifths of Old Rotgut should I pick up at the package store?”

A small number of Bourbon-barrel-aged beers are available year-round (Goodwood Bourbon Barrel Stout, New Holland Dragon’s Milk). Others are the sporadic targets of fervent cult appeal, like Against the Grain’s Bo and Luke.

Plan now for the approach of winter. On-line ratings aggregators like and are the best sources for building your shopping list. Brewery web sites list seasonal release dates, and it’s always a good idea to befriend the beer buyer at your neighborhood package outlet.

Goose Island Bourbon County Stout endures, more widely available than ever thanks to AB-InBev, the Chicago brewery’s parent. BCS remains an impeccable example of Bourbon-barrel aged Imperial Stout, these days the elder statesman in an extensive, ever-changing yearly barrel-aged program. Even I can remember the annual release date for BCS.

It’s Black Friday, on Thanksgiving weekend.


November 21: AFTER THE FIRE: Hip Hops ... Goodwood Brewing Company: Touched by a Barrel.

October 17: AFTER THE FIRE: These old, old habits die hard.

October 10: AFTER THE FIRE: The Great Taste of the Midwest is the best beer fest of them all.

October 3: AFTER THE FIRE: New Albany’s Harvest Homecoming occupation isn't alleviating my "craft" beer Twitter depression.

September 26: AFTER THE FIRE: The seasonality of Oktoberfest in time, beer and year.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

The mustachioed man on the Birra Moretti label gets a trim.

In the mid-1980s, when I first visited Italy, the country was by no means a beer destination.

However, the scene was changing, even then. Demographics were key, as younger Italians gradually rebelled against the wine-centricity of their elders by embracing beer, which at the time meant the usual vapid international golden lagers like Carlsberg and Heineken.

These days, craft/specialty brewing is firmly established in Italy, though less so in Sicily, where we vacationed during Thanksgiving week. There is a world-class beer bar in Catania, our destination, and I'll describe it when there's time.

Of course, Italy always has had standard golden lagers of its own. In the eighties, I preferred Dreher, but it was less common than Peroni Nastro Azzurro and Birra Moretti. Michael "Beer Hunter" Jackson had a high opinion of Moretti LaRossa, an amber, malty lager somewhat after the fashion of a Vienna. Sadly, I saw none of it in Catania.

In terms of mass-market fashion sensibility, a crucial factor in stylish Italia, Birra Moretti always was the hands-down winner, and so it remains. The brewery, which is located in northeastern Italy near Austria, was purchased by Heineken 20-odd years ago, and its trademark mustachioed man has experienced ... shall we say, evolution?

Interestingly, this man was a real person. Here's the story, circa 1942, as explained at Moretti's web site, and followed by the first-generation visuals.

One day, in 1942, the nephew of Luigi Moretti, the founder of the brewery, going out for lunch saw a pleasant-looking man sitting at a table in the Trattoria Boschetti in Udine. There was something unique in that man.

By 2010, there had been a metamorphosis.

What’s changed? For starters, his Reverse Hitler ‘Stache has grown into a Flanders. Also, his de-aged design has given him the strength to hoist the mug of Moretti with noticeable gusto.

In the 2016 label below, as gracing the bottles I recently drank in Catania, he seems a bit bleached -- and I swear, the mustache keeps getting smaller, although it's probably my imagination.

The bottom line: It's possible I won't drink another Moretti until the next time we visit Italy, but it's strangely comforting to know that this classic imagery persists.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Hip Hops on HopCat: Yes, the current issue of Food and Dining Magazine is on the street.

The latest issue of Food & Dining was released just as we were boarding our flight for Sicily, so I'm a wee bit late in posting this quarter.

Food & Dining -- Winter 2016, Vol. 54 (November/December/January)

I have my usual beer column byline in the current edition. It's about the advent of HopCat Louisville, and to be truthful, I had a blast writing it.

HIP HOPS | HopCat is the craft beer lover’s meow ... with 132 taps, it might be a good idea to bring a sleeping bag.

Printed copies of F & D are available throughout the metro area in bars, restaurants, coffee shops and bookstores -- and they're free of charge.


Monday, November 21, 2016

AFTER THE FIRE: Hip Hops ... Goodwood Brewing Company: Touched by a Barrel.

AFTER THE FIRE: Hip Hops ... Goodwood Brewing Company: Touched by a Barrel.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

I'm always an quarterly issue behind when it comes to reprinting my columns from Food & Dining Magazine. This one is from Summer 2016; Vol. 52 (May/June/July).


Goodwood Brewing Company: Touched by a Barrel

It is a deceptively simple notion to modify the flavor of beer by aging it in Bourbon barrels.

Just as char and time transform simpler corn-based spirits into a sipper’s elixir, so a barrel’s second use with beer can create a characterful hybrid, balancing the chosen base beer with notes of vanilla and spices.

This principle holds true when using barrels previously filled with other liquors or wine, and to a more subtle extent, by exposing beer to various types of wood (most often oak) through chips or spirals.

Currently there are at least 4,200 breweries in America, and many of them have experimented with wood during the aging process. Often these are small batches for limited release, though Alltech’s Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale is a flagship, available year-round.

Then there is Goodwood Brewing Company, where all of its beers are touched by wood and brewed with limestone water.

Goodwood’s identity dates to 2015 and a rebranding of the entity once noted for brewing Bluegrass Brewing Company’s beers under license for packaging and distribution. The brewery’s new name is fully intentional, meant to inform beer lovers of the roles played by wood and water.

“We became Goodwood because we are known throughout the region and industry as experts in barrel aged products,” says Goodwood’s CEO, Ted Mitzlaff.

“Our barrel-aged program quality is second to none.”

Brewmaster Joel Halbleib adds, “Kentucky water is fantastic for many reasons; our yeast is happy about the extra calcium. Louisville has a global reputation not only for our water quality, but the unique and historic way in which we process it.”

Of course, oak barrels and limestone water are not exactly revolutionary concepts in Kentucky. They form the backbone of the state’s geographically determinate libation, and a tradition informing Goodwood’s tagline.

“What’s good for Bourbon is even better for beer.”

In fact, beer and Bourbon are grain-based cousins, beginning life similarly during the mashing stage, then diverging into fermented and distilled forms. Goodwood’s aim of reinserting beer into a Bourbon-based equation may strike some as audacious.

Others will find it a delightfully appropriate adaptive reuse, both for barrels and ideas.

Pretty used bourbon barrels, all in a row

Goodwood occupies an old industrial warehouse at 636 East Main Street in downtown Louisville. Beer has been brewed there since Pipkin Brewing Company opened in 1998, and in fact, Pipkin produced Louisville’s first Bourbon Barrel Stout in 2001.

In 2006, BBC’s began brewing its Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon Stout here. It was a mainstay in markets outside Kentucky, and remains the basis of Goodwood Bourbon Barrel Stout.

Goodwood’s stretch of Main Street used to be lonely unless the Louisville Bats Triple-A baseball club was playing at Louisville Slugger Field, a few hundred yards to the west. These days the area is changing, and fast.

Angel’s Envy distillery will open soon opposite the ball yard, and the burgeoning NuLu district lies a block away to the southeast. A 200-unit upscale apartment complex is rising directly across from Goodwood, and adjacent industrial acreage is for sale, seemingly destined for residential construction.

Inside Goodwood, there is a tap room and production area packed with stainless steel brewing and fermenting vessels. Upstairs is a vast space that might someday host special events.

In the basement, dozens of barrels are lined in repose. The barrels are used only once by Goodwood, and before being filled, must be closely sniffed, inspected and tested for contamination. Beer remains in the barrel for 30 to 90 days, depending on the type.

Beer ages “in” these barrels, as opposed to “on” them. Mitzlaff explains the difference:

“All our beers are aged either ‘in’ or ‘on’ wood. Aging ‘in’ wood refers to barrel aging from 30 to 90 days, depending on the type of beer we are producing. Aged ‘on’ means we are adding wood to the process.”

Goodwood’s aged-in-the-barrel line includes Bourbon Barrel Stout and Bourbon Barrel Ale, as well as Red Wine Barrel Saison and Brandy Barrel Barbarian Honey Ale. Among those aged “on” wood are Louisville Lager (ash), Pale Ale (poplar) and Walnut Brown Ale (walnut). Intriguingly, a seasonal IPA is planned, with an uncommon twist of aging “on” native aromatic cedar.

Wood changes beer; breweries change neighborhoods

The Goodwood line of beers is available in Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio and Virginia, and with other states queued and ready for their share, Mitzlaff has a plan to serve them.

It is called Paristown Pointe, a $28 million project to be located approximately a mile away from Goodwood’s current location on a patch of ground where Barrett Street meets East Broadway.

Paristown Pointe is a certifiably ambitious neighborhood redevelopment proposal involving multiple investors who are seeking to leverage state tourism tax credits to create an arts and culture district.

Plans call for an enlarged Louisville Stoneware factory, a multi-use theater for the Kentucky Center for the Arts, renovated housing, commercial space … and yes, a new Goodwood brewery.

“We’ll have a 70,000-barrel brewery and a significant taproom, beer garden and rooftop bar in Paristown Pointe,” says Mitzlaff. “We’ll continue to operate our existing brewery and taproom.”

Make no mistake: 70,000 barrels is a substantial amount of beer. It represents a potential brewing capacity four times larger than Goodwood has today. In 2014, a craft brewery producing this much beer would have placed 44th in production for the entire country.

Yet such a rate of growth has ample precedent in craft brewing, and Goodwood’s rebranded identity can only be enhanced by participation in what might be a nationally celebrated redevelopment project.

Goodwood’s brewery at Paristown Pointe will concentrate on aged-in-the-barrel beers, and will boast a fully automated brew house as well as both bottling and canning lines. If all goes according to plan, brewing will start in summer, 2017.

Halbleib is bullish about Goodwood’s overall prospects. “Craft beer as an industry has come too far with barrel aging to think of it as a fad,” he concludes. “The sheer variety of brews aged in barrels or on wood these days is mind boggling.”

It is, and it seems only natural that a Kentucky brewery should lead the way by specializing in this emerging art.


October 17: AFTER THE FIRE: These old, old habits die hard.

October 10: AFTER THE FIRE: The Great Taste of the Midwest is the best beer fest of them all.

October 3: AFTER THE FIRE: New Albany’s Harvest Homecoming occupation isn't alleviating my "craft" beer Twitter depression.

September 26: AFTER THE FIRE: The seasonality of Oktoberfest in time, beer and year.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

I'm taking some time off.

At the Public House.

Posting will resume circa November 27.

A few weeks ago, to celebrate the memory of the late Kevin Richards, I vowed to update and republish an account of our first ever beercycling adventure in Belgium and France. 

The year was 2000, and four (later five) of us rode substandard rental bikes around the countryside in pursuit of ale. It was a blast, and set the pace for subsequent trips of ever-escalating complexity.

I began the reboot, and I have not finished it yet. There'll certainly be a conclusion, but not until December, because we'll be out of town over Thanksgiving, and my work time has expired for now.

In retrospect, the twist in the tale that snagged me most was delving into the photographic archives -- a picture is worth a thousand words, and all that rubbish, except it's actually true.

What I didn't take into consideration while trying to organize and scan these non-digital photos was the impact of 16 years of elapsed time. It's absolutely true that Kevin was the major impetus in getting me back in a saddle, circa 1998, but what I've never really considered is the extent to which this corresponded with concurrent and often wrenching changes in my life (and also rewarding).

These may have proceeded by a glacial pace, and yet the movements engendered back then have left me where I am today, in a more peaceful and comfortable place.

I'm still sorting through it. During six or seven years of tumult, biking time was my happiest time. In essence, Kevin genuinely can be said to have assisted me in saving my sanity. For this reason, revisiting the photos proves to be harder than I thought.

I knew I owed the man a debt impossible to repay. Turns out it's even more impossible than I reckoned. Like I said, I'm still sorting through it.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Bourbon's racist history: "It’s simply a warning to be careful which myths we choose to swallow."

Library of Congress.

To view an antebellum image like this is to be reminded that discussions of racist and sexist advertising in "craft" beer are perfectly legitimate, and to be encouraged, lest the Wayback Machine deposits us in unsavory locales.

The recent election outcome isn't to my taste. Let's hope it doesn't take us all the way back to the 1850s, shall we?

Sugarcoating a painful history, by Christine Sismondo (The Globe and Mail)

Marketing-driven nostalgia is bringing people back to American whiskey, whose history, like the country itself, is steeped in anti-black racism

The past decade has been soaked in bourbon, and it’s easy to see why. It tastes like sweet, boozy, butterscotch-ripple ice cream and the price point is decent compared with Scotch.

But the biggest reason for a renewed enthusiasm for the corn-based spirit, however, has been its marketing, which trades on the idea of a hand-crafted product with a long-established heritage ...

 ... The golden age wasn’t particularly golden for those who experienced the lynchings and daily terrorism that was part and parcel of the era being idealized. African-Americans know this, which is why bourbon has never sold terribly well in their communities. Around the turn of the previous century, gin was what they preferred. And ever since African-American soldiers from Jim Crow-era southern states were deployed to fight in Europe in both wars, Cognac has been the most popular liquor among African-Americans who could afford it.


Monday, November 14, 2016

This witty Irishman could eat a horse, and so might I.

Because, if you're a meat eater -- aren't parts just parts? I may be about to find out, so let's return to the topic of carne de cavallo.

I recall the horse butcher across the street from the bullring in Pamplona, and understand very well that the mysterious identity of "indeterminate meat in gray sauce" served at budget eateries in Europe may always have contained bits of protein genetically unrelated to pigs or cows. However, I haven't knowingly consumed horse meat.

Consequently, Catania is the acknowledged capital of horse consumption in Sicily ... and why must turkey always be the slaughter of choice at Thanksgiving?

Red wine or white? Just don't make me drink a Peroni ...

I Could Eat a Horse – Horse Meat in Sicily, by John P. Brady

Via Plebiscito is the home of the horse. It’s also a fine place to go if you want to get a taste of the, at times, shockingly real Sicily. If you are a ferocious carnivore and prefer generous amounts of meat on your plate, then here you will get your satisfaction.

Catania is at least two cities, the first being the clean, elegant and impeccable, via Etnea and its surrounds. The second is an anomaly of sorts – a dangerous, run-down, exciting, noisy but very authentic city. A horse of another colour, if you will.

Via Plebiscito runs from the Pescheria or fish market, behind Piazza Duomo around in a semi circle to near Piazza Stesicoro. It covers a large area of the west of the city where scooters zoom by at high speed and the atmosphere is one of uncertainty. The food prices decrease the further you stray from the centre and here an arancino or a pizza slice can be found for one euro (bargain!).


Sunday, November 13, 2016

An Elector aside, and Bank Street Brewhouse changes its name to NABC Cafe & Brewhouse.

Scroll down and learn how Elector Ale came to be 14 years ago, but first, as you can see above, Bank Street Brewhouse has a new name.

Since the guy who helped found the business and wrote something like 96.7% of the press releases no longer is affiliated with the operation, we might be waiting a bit for an official explanation, though I'm sure it falls under the all-purpose heading of "rebranding."

And, before anyone asks, what I wrote in May remains the case: Here's the latest in the Great NABC Non-Buyout Saga of 2016. The next phase is about to commence' we'll see how that plays out.

On a more sensible note, at least they didn't abandon the august (November?) institution of Elector Day. As before, popularly-priced pints of the elixir were available Tuesday at both locations, BSB (oops, the Cafe) and the original Pizzeria & Public House location on the north side.

While I may no longer be involved in the business, it is a matter of pride that Elector has survived three and a half White House terms, and (hopefully) will persist into a fifth residency.

In fact, I ran into a friend and stopped by the downtown location on election afternoon. Josh Hill seems to have tipped the balance back toward the original maltiness, and it's tasty.

As such, here's a freebie -- written in 2014, updated for now. It's okay; you can pay me later at the usual piece rate.


Elector was born 14 years ago on Election Day, 2002.

Now it is the year 2016, and on November 8, Elector’s birthday will be celebrated at both NABC locations with big cuts in the “poll” tax: $2 Imperial pints of Elector, all day long, and $6.66 growler refills of Elector, all day long.

No longer must we labor under the delusion of an election day prohibition on alcohol sales, so drink early and vote often.

Here is the Elector Story.

Elector’s conceptual roots extend to the beginnings of NABC’s original garage brewery off Grant Line Road — now the Research & Development Brewery.

Elector was the third recipe brewed by NABC’s founding brewer, Michael Borchers, and his assistant, Joey Burns, and was made for the very first time on Election Day, 2002.

Brew day happened to be the mid-term congressional election following the disputed presidential race of 2000, in which Al Gore won the popular vote nationwide, but lost the White House owing to Florida’s uncounted hanging chads and the state’s subsequent votes for George W. Bush in the Electoral College.

Needless to say, as subversive leftists (and craft brewers, who always should be subversive leftists), this political outcome was still somewhat fresh in our minds in 2002 as Michael concocted an initially modest plan to follow Community Dark and Beak’s Best with a traditional English-style seasonal winter warmer.

Brew day was uneventful, but as the fermentation proceeded and time rolled past, it became obvious that the new batch of winter warmer was going to have a deeper burgundy color than planned, and also was considerably hoppier than the intended style should ever be.

Well, there’s nothing wrong with that, as it turned out.

The resulting hybrid was delicious, full-bodied and aggressively hopped, and we concluded that while the intent had been tamer winter warmer, the result was something else – Imperial Red, in our reckoning – and we went forward with the results.

These days, I prefer to call it Elector-Style Ale, such is the beer’s uniqueness. It is a one-off, and stylistically, there is no classification except fine flavor.

Before the finished character of our newly hybridized ale had become apparent, we’d already started the process of hybridizing its name, something that arose out of drunken mischief (imagine that) when after much discussion, Joey suggested Elector in reference to the Electoral College and the way it made the popular vote pointless, and by extension, democracy itself somewhat redundant.

I replied that the “-tor” suffix would suggest Doppelbock in the minds of knowledgeable drinkers, and of course we had no intention of producing a beer remotely close to Doppelbock.

Joey: “Right.”

Roger: “Right.”

Good, then we’re agreed … Elector it would be.

Now it’s fourteen years later, and I feel just as strongly as I did then: An Elector in hand is well worth two Bushes in retirement, any election day, and in fact, any time of the year. Elector’s back story would be sufficient to render it an iconic brand, and Tony Beard’s graphics greatly add to the mystique — but of course, it’s the liquid in the glass that really matters.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Phil Dearner departs Goodwood Brewing Company to join Pabst Brewing Company.

In large measure, Phil Dearner has been the face of Goodwood Brewing to the world at large, and for the former BBC production facility before that. Good luck to him at his new position, though to be perfectly honest, as great of a guy as Phil is, it still isn't enough to convince me to drink Pabst.

Here's what Phil wrote at Facebook:

It is with great sadness and at the same time excitement I announce that I will be moving on from Goodwood Brewing Co. to pursue a great opportunity with Pabst Brewing Co. This decision does not come easily but after speaking with my family and listening to many industry friends that I have the utmost respect for I am convinced this is the right thing for me and my family. I am going to miss the brewing family that I have built for the past 12 years while at BBC/Goodwood Brewing Co. While there are not many left from the beginning, Goodwood is filled with great people. The friendships that I have built are lifelong and I am lucky for each and every one that I have the opportunity work and learn from. I won’t go into specifics with fear that I would leave someone out, but the knowledge I have gained from working with such great people has giving me the confidence to take this next step in my career development.
I will be joining the Pabst Brewing Co. at a high time for them after receiving a gold medal for Pabst Blue Ribbon at GAFB and won 2016 Large Brewery of the Year. PBC has been serving America’s beers since 1844, and I look forward to learning how they have had such great success for so many years. The opportunity to learn from such a long term successful company is what excites me. I know I have many challenges ahead of me and I look forward to them.

I will have the same phone # as always and you can contact me for other contact info though FB if you wish.



Friday, November 11, 2016

Beer and the Christmas Truce, France, 1914.

Photo credit and more.

"The two barrels of beer were drunk, and the German officer was right: if it was possible for a man to have drunk the two barrels himself he would have bursted before he had got drunk. French beer was rotten stuff."

The Christmas Truce of 1914 is the stuff of Great War myth and legend, but it really did happen. What sort of beer was in these barrels?

Beer Makes the Armistice, by Eileen L. Wittig (Foundation for Economic Education)

By now we’ve all heard of the Christmas Truce of 1914, whether because we are cultured and learned citizens, or because we saw Sainsbury’s Christmas commercial a couple years ago. And because we are all cultured and enjoy edifying ourselves, we know the general events that started and continued the truce. (In case you partied so thoroughly you forgot, the reason was that both sides wanted to celebrate Christmas, and they were sick of the trenches. Solid reasons.) But no one talks about the best part of the truce – the beer.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Metaphors and reveries: Corona, Heineken, Donald Trump and carbonated urine.

Photo credit and more at Snopes.

Until now, I hadn't heard this verified story of a wholesaler spreading rumors about the urine content of Corona, although "workers pissing in vats" certainly goes back a long way.

Naturally, I've often accused Corona of being carbonated urine, which was intended metaphorically, of course.

I think.

Meanwhile, metaphor isn't something associated with our President-elect, so there was nothing symbolic about the prices being charged for drinks at Donald Trump's victory party's cash-only bar, though we're left to speculate whether Mexican or Dutch mass-market lager made it onto the "imported" list for eleven bucks.

$7 for a soft drink? This aren't rural American prices at all, but funnier yet is this headline in Fortune:

Maker of Corona Beer Sees Stock Tumble After Trump Victory

I'd mention the prospect of this tumble affecting Ballast Point, but who needs Zombie Craft in the Time of Trump? He doesn't strike me as a Double IPA kind of guy, though especially now, I suppose anything's possible.

Back to the 1980s, and Heineken's dirty pool.

In 1987, Heineken Tried to Convince Beer Drinkers That Corona Was Actually Urine, by Mariana Zapata (Atlas Obscura)

It turns out Heineken is the original mean girl.

Though the brand had only arrived to the United States in 1979, its rise to the top was almost immediate. Its allure as the “California surfer/life by the beach” beer of choice, made it a national favorite. Less than ten years after its arrival, it was second only to Heineken for imported beer popularity.

It seemed like nothing could stop Corona Extra, a product of the Mexican beer company, Grupo Modelo. But then, unexpectedly, stores begun to refuse to sell it, sales plummeted, and the entire country turned against it. The reason? A rumor that urine was one of its components.

Beer distributors whispered that Mexican workers used beer containers destined to be exported to the U.S. as urinals. Supposedly, this was the way the irate workers took vengeance on their northern neighbors and fiercest rivals. Or something to that effect.


Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Mile Wide Brewing Company's batches are under way, so look for beer soon.

Louisville's next brewery to open, Mile Wide Beer Company, reports that its first batches have been brewed and are safely working in their fermenters.

The best qualities of grassroots brewing are exhibited by the first two visible names in the "like" column: Rick of Akasha and Nicholas of Gordon Biersch, cheering a competitor which isn't.

Here is a look at Mile Wide's tap handles.

By the time I get back from Sicily, there should be new beers to sample.

Mile Wide Beer Company at Facebook


Wednesday, November 02, 2016

What the 1977 "Save the Pacers" telethon in Indy has to do with today's Indiana's beer deserts.

The argument is sound, and the reference to the Indiana Pacers warms the heart of this aging fan of the American Basketball Association.

I, too, want to see a quality brewery in Madison and places like it. The solution to the problem of beer deserts ultimately lies with indie entrepreneurs in the state's smaller towns. There is no shortcut; it's happening now, and I hope the trend continues.

Hoosier Hospitality Demands an End to Indiana’s Beer Deserts, by Mark Lasbury (Indiana on Tap)

Walter and I had tickets to see the documentary film, Hoosier Brew: The Past, Present, and Future of Indiana Craft Beer at Flix Brewhouse a few weeks ago night. It was a very nicely conceived and shot film that brought up many topics in Indiana craft beer and introduced the viewer to numerous individuals with expansive craft beer knowledge.

As part of the discussion afterward, film maker Jonathan Hoyt addressed a question about a possible craft beer bubble. Everyone talks about saturating the market and hop crops not being able to expand rapidly enough, but Jonathan was much more upbeat about the situation. He pointed out that while big production breweries may be near saturation (although that may not be true either), there is still room for neighborhood or town-based brewpubs all over the state. You don’t have to make 30,000 barrels of beer a year to be successful at craft brewing; a pub with some good food and three or four finely crafted beers will offer people in small towns a place to gather and commune – just like in the old days.

As the situation stands today, there are swathes of the state that are over 20-25 miles from the closest craft beer brewery or brewpub, areas that I call the beer deserts. Deserts don’t have to be just areas of hot temperatures and sand; any locale that is devoid of some needed resource can be considered a desert ...


Friday, October 28, 2016

4. Belgian Beercycling 2000: A lobster evening at La Cave à Bière, Danes included.

As we rode our bikes down narrow Wallonian country lanes, not far removed from the outskirts of Tournai and our base camp at the Hotel d’Alcantara, a clear and warm summer Saturday afternoon suddenly turned blustery and overcast.

The Cochonette-laced warm fuzzies from a lengthy session at Brasserie à Vapeur on its monthly brewing day dissipated rapidly in the face of a brisk headwind, made more formidable by legs still tired from the previous day’s mountain biking excursion in the woods and fields of the Pays du Collines.

However, the sobering return workout was all for the best, because a taxing celebratory evening still lay ahead.

Awaiting our return at the hotel were the Three Danes of the Apocalypse: Kim Wiesener, Kim Andersen and Allan Gamborg. Coincidentally, they had gathered in Wallonia for the European football (soccer) championships being held in the summer of 2000 at various venues throughout Belgium and the Netherlands, and after being made aware of our beercycling visit, conspired to include us in the itinerary.

These three cosmopolitan natives of Denmark are bosom friends of long standing, each of them multilingual, well-traveled and professionally accomplished in his chosen field. When a football match is taking place, each of them also is prone to reverting with dazzling speed to a childlike state, one understood internationally and intuitively by all sporting males.

Their life stories would fill a volume, and such a biographical rendering lies beyond my immediate task of describing the 2000 beercycling trip, but according to tradition, I’m permitted one digression. Here it is, in one of several versions.

Back in the day …


My friendship with the Danes goes back to 1987, and is inexorably intertwined with that of my illustrious longtime partner in crime, Barrie Ottersbach, who was unable to join us in Tournai in 2000.

That fateful summer of ‘87, an unsuspecting Kim Wiesener was the tour leader for a “youth” travel group visiting the Soviet Union and Poland, and Barrie and I were enthusiastic and only marginally youthful participants (we were 27).

Legend has it that Kim fell under Barrie’s spell (or was it the other way around?) on a hair-raising Aeroflot flight from Copenhagen to Moscow, where I joyously met the group, having arrived in the capital of the evil empire by way of a 36-hour train trip from Hungary during which I was kept company by a bag of fresh cherries, two loaves of bread, a salami from Szeged and two bottles of Bull’s Blood wine.

On the morning following the boozy evening of the group’s belated arrival, all of us were supposed to meet in the hotel lobby before setting out for a bus tour of Moscow. Kim was mildly concerned when Barrie failed to appear for roll call; I reassured him that all was well, and that Barrie was in safe hands, having ventured into the Soviet underworld with “Bill,” the friendly neighborhood black market sales representative who I’d met earlier under similar circumstances.

At that point, and not even a full day into the excursion, Kim understood that it would be a long journey, but he was reassured when Barrie appeared later that afternoon brandishing a softball-sized wad of colorful rubles. For the remainder of our stay in the USSR, Barrie gleefully depleted the ridiculously huge bankroll on lavish restaurant meals, caviar, vodka and champagne; beer was difficult to find, and the rubles worthless elsewhere in the world.

For a brief time, Barrie himself occupied a sales representative position on the fringe of the black market, profitably reselling rubles back into hard currency for those members of our group who were too frightened or squeamish to trade on the streets.

This introductory lesson in entrepreneurial initiative duly completed, we moved on to Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) 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.

Midnight at the Oasis, 1987.

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.

Brief stays in the oppressed Baltic lands of Latvia and Lithuania followed Leningrad, and then Warsaw and Krakow, with too many anecdotal tales to remember, much less relate: Hoisting Nick’s American flag above the hotel in Leningrad, and then watching him trading it to a railway employee for a huge tub of caviar … an elderly fellow tourist mistaking the liquid in our vodka bottle for mineral water and gulping it down on a scorching hot day at the Polish-Soviet border as we waited for the train’s wheel carriages to be changed … building the “Leaning Tower of Pivo” from empty export Carlsberg cans in a Riga hard currency bar … the well-endowed Danish lass Metta’s provocative push-ups at a meet-and-greet with Lithuanian students … wild going-away parties in Warsaw, where Barrie and I drank wine with our leggy blonde Polish tour guide and a few of the group’s stragglers before departing for the city’s cavernous train station and commencing desperate and futile foraging for food and drink prior to the long ride to Prague and our first taste of draft Pilsner Urquell.

Our amazing, hyperkinetic tour leader Kim Wiesener was right in the thick of most of these anecdotes, and at the conclusion of the trip we exchanged addresses with him, promising to keep in touch. In fact, Barrie and Kim agreed to meet later that summer, when Barrie would return to Copenhagen for his flight back to the United States. You can bet that even then, Kim’s wheels were spinning: What could be done to bring Barrie and Big Kim together in Copenhagen?

In the meantime, Barrie and I embarked upon the beer-based itinerary that we had plotted in advance for the remainder of our time in Europe, first traveling from Prague to Munich, where we met Don Barry and Bob Gunn for three epochal days of Bavarian beer hall carousing, then in the company of Bob to Paris and the D-Day beaches. Barrie and I crossed to Ireland aboard the “Guinness ferry”, meeting Tommy Barker, a newspaperman and good friend of Don’s, and later watching U2 perform at the Cork soccer stadium, then experiencing the wonders of Brian and his “High-B” Hibernian Pub, all the while marveling at the classic pleasures of the Irish countryside.

As the revelry continued, I didn’t think there would be enough time for me to accompany Barrie to Denmark and then double back to Brussels and my own return flight, but at a pub somewhere in Ireland, after my tenth pint of Guinness, I changed my mind.

Barrie and I concocted a plan to surprise Kim Wiesener with my delightfully unexpected presence, and we refined the insidious plot over smoked salmon and Bailey’s Irish Cream while aboard the ship back to France. In Paris, we caught an overnight train to Copenhagen, and contrary to so many plans that Barrie and I have made over the years, this one came perfectly to fruition.

Soon after debarking in Copenhagen we were reunited, burrowed safely in Kim’s tiny apartment with chilled Tuborgs in hand and songs in our hearts. Following opening toasts, our devious host divulged his own surprise: An evening with Big Kim had already been arranged. Finally, Ottersbach would meet Andersen, and the world was advised to forget the “Thrilla in Manila”; instead, onlookers were to get ready for the “Battle of the Titans,” to be held in the beer venue called the Elephant & Mouse, or Mouse and Elephant, where we were informed there would be copious quantities of draft Elephant beer, Carlsberg’s fine, sturdy and strong lager.

It was to be our first visit to the M & E, a small and dignified pub near the main square, where the only sign of identification above the front door is a small plaque depicting – what else? – a mouse and an elephant. On the second floor of the pub, a handmade elephant head adorns the wall behind the wall. Draft Elephant Beer pours from the snout; the tusk is the tap handle.*

Big Kim arrived along with Graham, a British friend who, like Kim Wiesener and I, chose to nurse just a couple of half-liter glasses (at $7 a pop, somewhat financially burdensome at the time) while watching the spectacle unfold. As predicted, Big Kim and Barrie proved to be perfectly matched human beings, both with a fondness for alcohol of any sort, hot and spicy food in large quantities, impossibly tall tales and jokes, and endless, infectious tsunamis of irresistible laughter.

Big Kim and Barrie approached the high-gravity Elephant Beer at full throttle, and much merriment ensued. Somewhere around the fourth or fifth one, Barrie stumbled; accounts vary, but we’ll gently infer that some of the Elephant Beer didn’t stay down.

Advantage, Andersen.

After several hours, and with monetary reserves reaching dangerously low levels, we decided to continue drinking at an establishment where Metta (of Lithuanian push-up fame) worked as a bartender. As we stood on the street corner contemplating taxi strategies, Big Kim suddenly broke free of the group and wildly staggered into the middle of the street in an effort to hail a cab to take him home. We quickly subdued him, dodging cars and loading him into our own taxi to proceed to the next planned stop.

With this unforced error of Big Kim’s, Ottersbach had again pulled even.

Now it was a brutal battle of attrition, with the clock ticking and everyone involved drunk and fatigued. Both Barrie and Big Kim made it through big export bottles of Pilsner Urquell at the second bar, after which we returned to Kim Wiesener’s apartment for obligatory nightcaps, the outcome still very much in doubt. Barrie and Big Kim both opened their bottled beers. Barrie finished his, but Big Kim stole away, ostensibly to use the toilet, and was found a short time later sleeping on the host’s bed.

Seemingly, it was a victory for Ottersbach, but as all concerned were physically unable to tally points in their besotted condition, the Battle of the Titans was fittingly declared a draw.

Many years have passed since that epic summer and our first meeting with Kim, Allan and Big Kim. Certainly all of us have changed, but the friendship lives on. We five have met many times, in many places, and too many for me to remember (Allan would love for me to relate the story of the “Danish lunch” at his apartment in 1989, the orange couch and the real meaning of P-F-L, but it will have to wait for another session), but they’ve all been special – as I knew the meeting in Tournai would be, even if Barrie couldn’t be a part of it.


The lady of the Cave.

Big Kim.


From left to right: Bob, Kim A., Roger, Kevin, Kim W., Buddy and Allan.

So it was that the beercyclists returning from the Renaissance brewer’s regularly scheduled seminar met the football-loving Danes at the hotel as scheduled, and we began haggling over the details of the evening’s festivities. The non-negotiable idea, as conveyed to me with much wagging of fingers, was to partake of the scheduled feast of lobster tail and ale at the La Cave à Bière at the precise time of the hour-long break between matches, both of which were far too important for the aficionados to miss.

Barrie’s absence was widely lamented, and each of us resolved to drink one or more beers for him, although we recognized that it would have taken far more than that to keep him going had he actually been present.

We set off on foot to search for a suitable place to watch sports, and a big screen television was duly located in a café just off the main square. There we settled into the Turkey-Portugal match with the help of draft Hoegaarden Wit, which served as a gentle restorative following the biking and imbibing rigors of the day. I stole away and walked down to the riverfront o tell the matron at the La Cave à Bière that we’d be a bit late for dinner owing to the imperative of sports. She rolled her eyes and smiled indulgently: Let boys be boys, and there’d still be enough food and beer left whenever we made it back.

Soon it became apparent that the critical match-up wasn’t taking place on the television screen. Much in the same way that Big Kim’s initial meeting with Barrie resembled a gladiatorial marathon, the merry Dane’s previous experience with Kevin Richards – an all-day beer-drinking session during one of Big Kim’s visits to New Albany – had been both effusive and expansive. Now there was renewal.

Appropriately, upon our arrival at the Cave for what was intended as a brief respite between matches, Kevin began urging Big Kim to join him at the high-gravity end of the Belgian brewing spectrum, and together they began despoiling the café’s excellent selection of Trappist ales: Rochefort, Chimay, Westmalle and Orval. The rest of us gamely followed suit, and to my surprise, as the stock of Trappists began to deplete to the accompaniment of a happily ringing cash register, the second soccer match was largely forgotten.

In short, yet another memorable evening had begun, and in the fashion of such gatherings, all betting ceased, and an internal logic took over. It would have to be respected.

Lobster tails and side orders of potatoes and vegetables soon appeared on the table and were quickly devoured, and the steady stream of Belgian ale, divided among the usual suspects, produced the expected tomfoolery and an escalating series of tales that purported to depict exploits of past drinking bouts. I recall a cell phone appearing, and an attempt to call Barrie. In the general cacophony, it isn’t clear whether the call ever went through, although our absent Musketeer later swore that not only was the call duly received, but that the phone was never properly shut off and he was left with twenty minutes of jocularity recorded on his answering machine for perpetual enjoyment.

The otherwise stern matron of the Cave seemed much amused at our antics and presided over the international gathering with grace, going so far as to pose willingly for a photo with Buddy. I made no attempt to take notes on the beers or to record what I’d sampled, seeing as all were old favorites that had treated me well before, and could be expected to be as forgiving again.

Bob blessed the raucous group numerous times: “Here’s to us … ” Kim, Allan and I recalled our previous 1999 meeting in Moscow, reliving the evening of the metal detector at the brewpub, the private table dancer who wasn’t minding the mint, and shoes filled with Volga mud. Big Kim and Kevin continued knocking them back at a prodigious pace.

At some point much later in the evening, through the haze of three too many Trappists, but after there had been a monetary settlement, I watched as Kevin, Big Kim, Allan and Bob Reed suddenly rose from their seats and filed out with the solemnity of a funeral procession – except it was they who were embalmed. Their destination was unclear. Apparently it was time to go, so Kim Wiesener and I pulled Buddy from the arms of our hostess and the three of us began weaving back to the hotel through darkened, damp streets, kicking at the litter left behind by revelers on a festive summer’s evening.

It was a stone cold sleep. I was curious next morning, so I asked Kevin: When you left the Cave, was it because Allan had called a taxi to take all of you back to the hotel? Kevin scratched his head and confessed to not remembering whether they had been driven or walked. Moments later, I asked Bob the same question, and he couldn’t recall, either. Suspecting it would be useless to ask Big Kim, I received confirmation of the taxi order from a shrugging Allan.

We went our separate ways on Sunday morning after breakfast, the Danes moving out by rental car to attend the next Eurocup match-up, and the bikers heading west by train to Poperinge and the second phase of the journey.

In the next installment, we commence a love affair with the good people of Poperinge.


* Sadly, the pub is no more.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Do you really think Dick Yuengling is the only brewery owner supporting Donald Trump?

Photo credit: What to drink if you're giving up Yuengling.

If you didn't already grasp the political inclinations of brewery owner Dick Yuengling, then I'm sorry. You should consider looking out the window every now and then.

Only recently I wrote about a similar case regionally; because the tweet in question disappeared so quickly, it seemed like small beer, and there wasn't any good reason to shift into outrage. Still, it helps to be realistic, and to understand that the producers of your favorite beer don't necessarily agree with your politics.

AFTER THE FIRE: New Albany’s Harvest Homecoming occupation isn't alleviating my "craft" beer Twitter depression.

... Since the dawn of the brewing revolution, it has been my operating assumption that most of us are leftists. In the 90s, I simply can’t recall meeting very many fascists in the business.

However, as someone told me back in kindergarten, never assume; you make an ass out of "u" and me. Probably my sampling was always too small, and in terms of demographics, it’s unlikely that "craft" beer would be any different in attitudinal composition than the nation as a whole.

Does this mean there should be boycotts falling like rain on a landscape already denuded of common sense? I don't know. America is Jonestown Redux at the present time. Ask me again on November 9, and I might conjure an answer.

Insofar as Yuengling interests me at all, it's because the brewery is family-owned, and far less owing to the flagship beer itself, which strikes me as purely average, though it sometimes is useful during road trips when few better options are available.

Can this election cycle please be over?

Dick Yuengling Supports Trump, and Beer Fans Aren’t Happy About It, by Claire Sasko (Philadelphia Magazine)

After Eric Trump visited America’s oldest brewery, beer fans found out that Yuengling’s owner supports Donald Trump. Now there’s a Yuengling boycott brewing.

First, Eric Trump held a short press conference at the Pottsville company, during which he attempted to convert Yuengling-drinkers to Trump-lovers. According to the Reading Eagle, Trump called the country’s oldest brewery “an amazing American success story” and likened it to many businesses that he said would have the opportunity to thrive under his father, President Trump.

And then 73-year-old company-owner Richard “Dick” Yuengling Jr. told Trump that “our guys are behind your father,” according to the newspaper. “We need him in there.”

It’s not really a surprising response from Dick Yuengling, a known conservative who’s been notoriously tough on union employees and was a delegate for George W. Bush at the 2000 Republican National Convention. In fact, the beer was reportedly banned from the inauguration of Democratic governor Tom Wolf.


3. Belgian Beercycling 2000: Brewing day with Jean-Louis at Brasserie A Vapeur.

(Bear in mind that this account was written in 2001; some facts may no longer be factual.)

Wallonia is the French-speaking half of Belgium. The cultural and linguistic divide between Wallonia and the Dutch-speaking Flanders is deep seated, politically charged, well documented and completely beyond the scope of this account, so I’ll confine my opening comments to observations that are safer and more relevant to beercyclists: Geography.

Landscapes in Wallonia vary. To the south and east, the low, wooded hills known as the Ardennes are darkly mysterious, enduringly scenic and sparsely populated. North of the Ardennes, stretching westward through the Meuse River valley from Liege to Namur, then along the Sambre River to Charleroi and Mons, runs an area similar to what Americans know as a “Rust Belt.”

The industrial revolution on the European continent took root and exploded in these environs during the early 19th century, with an emphasis on coal mining and heavy industries producing steel, glass and cement. As in other regions of the developed world, these old industries have been steadily contracting for decades, and the goal of every fair-sized municipality is to relieve the European Union of wheelbarrows filled with developmental money and to use the largess to create miniature Silicon Valleys behind the slag heaps, brownfields and abandoned factories.

The city of Mons (a battleground in World War I) is the capital of Hainaut province, the westernmost in Wallonia. Beginning in Mons, and continuing westward to Tournai, the terrain begins to flatten into what eventually becomes the Flanders plain stretching to the Atlantic. The industrial zone remains evident along the Sambre River and then the Escaut (in Flemish, the Scheldt), but it is intermixed with landscape of a more pastoral character.

The towns and villages reflect these differing influences. There are tidy modern cottages and the homes of people who commute to work in the larger towns. Next to them, one might see the manure-caked tractor of a family still engaged in farming. Crops in Hainaut include wheat, oats, sugar beets, chicory – and yes, barley. A simple bike ride through the countryside yields abundant olfactory evidence of hogs and cattle.

Even in the tiniest settlements, there usually can be seen sturdy, drafty brick buildings and rust-stained ground. Back in the day these were workshops and factories, the smaller satellites of the industrial complexes concentrated elsewhere. Many of these relics now are dilapidated, while others have been reclaimed and are used as auto body shops, storage facilities, art studios, or for whatever modern purpose that they can be adapted and renovated to serve.

Although it is certain all these archaic red brick buildings have historical stories to tell, it’s just as unlikely that one would find any of them, apart from farming structures, still being used for the purpose originally intended. Even if this would be the case, it’s a considerable stretch to fantasize the work still being performed in the way it was in olden times.

Yet this is the case at the Brasserie à Vapeur, a brewery housed in a utilitarian relic of the 19th century located in the sleepy village of Pipaix. It's a thoroughly “retro” operation helmed since 1984 by the the indefatigable Jean-Louis Dits.

Brewing at this location began in 1795, and all the heat and power for the brewing operation is generated by steam, this being the result of an extensive “modernization” -- undertaken in 1895!

Upon closer examination, the boiler is of recent vintage, and there are stainless steel fermenters (open fermentation having been abandoned several years ago). Various spare and replacement parts also are of newer vintage, but in amazing measure the brewery operates as it would have when Queen Victoria reigned and Louisville had a major league baseball team.

I’d seen the Vapeur (“steam”) brewery previously in 1998 during the first homemade group tour of Belgium, but in 2000 our biking group had a timely opportunity not possible two years before: We would be able to visit Vapeur during the actual brewing process, which takes place only once each month and is open to the public.

Riding bikes to the Vapeur brewing day? Priceless.

Saturday morning in Tournai was cool and cloudy. It had spit rain intermittently during the night as we crawled from café to couscouserie and back to café, absorbing ales great and small. Heavier rain wasn't expected on Saturday, but it mattered little to us, as there were far too many activities planned for the day. If we became wet, so be it.

The morning’s ride began absent precipitation along the bank of the Escaut in the center of Tournai, taking us quickly across the river and to the outskirts, where an access road to the highway ran east toward Leuze. Although heavily traveled, the bike lane provided suitable buffering from the roar of passing traffic. Pedaling through a succession of villages clustered around the old highway, it was noted that the scene was similar to that glimpsed along roads anywhere: Gas stations, video stores, cafes, and dozens of ordinary people tending to weekend chores.

Upon spotting a sign that pointed the way toward Pipaix, we exited south onto a smaller, less noisy highway and entered a verdant countryside filled with fields, farms, villages, rows of trees ... and breweries.

In fact, our quartet of amateurs was cycling into a veritable Golden Triangle of artisan Belgian brewing, because nearby in this portion of rural Hainaut province, almost within walking distance of each other, are three world-class breweries: Vapeur, our archaic destination for the day; Dubuisson, home of the heavenly 12% Bush Beer (known as Scaldis in America); and Dupont, preserver of the tradition of Saison, or Belgian farmhouse ale.

Dubuisson dates from 1769, and the eighth generation of its founding family runs the business today. In addition to brewing, the company is a beer wholesaler, and it exports Bush/Scaldis throughout the world. Since the 2000 trip, a sleek new tasting café has risen on the site, testament to the family’s faith in the future of quality ale.

In like fashion, Dupont began its working life in 1850 as the Brasserie Rimaux, which was taken over by the current owning family in 1920. The family now brews, malts barley, bakes bread, makes cheese, and does a little farming on the side. Dupont was a Belgian pioneer in brewing organic beer, and in contract brewing for other companies in the country. The brewery’s ales, which like Dubuisson’s are aggressively exported, include Saison Dupont (I), Moinette (II), and the delicious seasonal Avec les Bons Voeux (III).

Where else in Belgium can be found three breweries of such high quality, located so close together? We’d have liked to make a pilgrimage to each of them; however, because of the novelty of Vapeur’s brewing day, it would be the sole destination, with the others reserved for subsequent journeys.

After a hard left off the main road, perhaps two kilometers and a few puzzled moments trying to locate the village of Pipaix, the unprecedented and grudging step of asking a village passer-by to point the way to Vapeur was undertaken. He shrugged and pointed. It was the building just behind us, perhaps twenty yards away.

Embarrassment ensued. Couldn’t we smell the mash?

Bikes were abandoned and we followed our noses into the brewery, where Jean-Louis Dits, his assistant and Jean-Louis’s wife were hard at work before a handful of interested onlookers.

By almost any standard of measurement, Jean-Louis is a Renaissance man whose talents extend beyond brewing renowned ales like Cochonne, Saison Pipaix and Folie. He is an educator, a naturalist, a museum curator, a cheese maker and a bread baker.

To visit Vapeur on the monthly brewing day is to attend an eclectic seminar about all things germane to Pipaix, one taught by a passionate, patient, bilingual instructor. You will learn about the medicinal lichen that once was an ingredient in Vapeur’s beer, but that has been degraded by air pollution.

You will learn of the many breweries that once operated in the area, and how so few remain today.

You will learn about the power of the steam and the system of pulleys and shifting drive belts, and just when stirring of the mash grinds to a halt and it’s time to let nature work, the lecture abruptly ceases, the bell figuratively rings, and recess begins – thankfully, without any need for dodge ball.

At Vapeur on brewing day, resting the mash is rushing the growler. Everyone is guided across the courtyard to the tasting room, where ample pitchers of draft house brews are passed along the wooden tables and a contagious communal appreciation envelops the surroundings.

Jean-Louis noted that lunch would be served for those willing to ante a small fee. In these simpler pre-Euro times of 2000, roughly $12.00 sufficed for the museum admission, the many “recess” beers and the meal. He described lunch as a simple plate of bread and locally made cheeses.

It turned out to be anything but simple: Two enormous platters laden with cheeses – hard and soft, white and yellow, stinky and mild, some incorporating locally grown herbs, and taken together, all quite overwhelming to the already besieged senses. Crusty crumbs and cultured shards flew, pitchers of Cochonne continued to appear with breathtaking speed, and we began to fear the ride back to Tournai.

As trained professionals, we persevered, toasted, drank, and ate more cheese than any human should attempt. Back in the brewery, it was approaching the time for the boil (the wort is pumped upstairs to the brew kettle), but we concluded with much sadness that because of the evening festivities planned in Tournai, it was time for us to bid “adieu” to Jean-Louis and his grand, archival Vapeur brewery. He graciously consented to a photo-op in the courtyard, which for some reason turned out somewhat blurry to the camera lens, and we were off to retrace the path.

It never rained … but the deluge was only just beginning.


Next: Returning to Tournai, we discover Danes waiting in ambush at the Hotel d’Alcantara, proceed to La Cave à Bièreand lose contact with Mission Control.