Sunday, February 28, 2016

Diary: Saturday's notes of brown, whiskey infusions, escargot and peanut butter pie.

Saturday was warm and sunny, and we were getting ready to go on a walk in New Albany when our Dayton friends texted and said they'd be at Against the Grain at eleven. We shrugged, jumped in the car and beat them there.

They had other visitors with them, all headed eventually to NABC for Gravity Head. Most of them ordered samplers, and I was struck by the number of small glasses on the table (above). It looked almost like a scene from Gravity Head.

I had a 4:00 p.m. appointment with Stephen Dennison at his place of work, Bistro 1860 on Mellwood Avenue. We parked the car there and went for a walk up Frankfort Avenue, returning in time to meet Stephen. To make a long story short, I'm doing a short piece for Food & Dining Magazine about Ballotin chocolate-flavored whiskey, and Stephen agreed to devise a few cocktails, in addition to allowing me to sample the four types with his commentary as accompaniment.


When conversation turned to a better martini, the evening began slipping away from me. I'm mighty glad Diana was there to be the designated driver. Serendipity shifted into gear; eventually two couples we hadn't seen in ages arrived, and the relaxed socialization time at the bar embraced appetizers, white wine and conversation. At 7:300 p.m., Diana walked me to Sweet Surrender for fresh air and dessert. I needed the stroll.

Both Friday and Saturday were fantastic. I had resolved not to attend Gravity Head this year, far less so from pique at the slowness of my ongoing negotiation with partners; rather, it struck me as better to stay away from it and let staff do what I know they can. By all accounts they rocked it, as usual. I'm delighted to have had a hand in creating something like Gravity Head, and the hand-off is complete. What happens in the future is up to them. So it goes.

At the same time, two days' worth of distractions were nice, and there were friends, food, drinks and fun. I needed it. There are many miles ahead, with frequent detours for rancor and lawyers. But I'll not be forgetting the finer things in life.

Thanks to everyone who indulged me these past two days.


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Diary: A lovely Friday morning jaywalking in Louisville, with coffee, a bagel and beers.

For the first time since 1999, there was no Gravity Head for me, but our friends from Dayton OH were coming down for it, as is their habit. It was decided to meet them for lunch, and because my wife works in downtown Louisville just a few blocks from Over the 9, the Falls City/Old 502 gastropub was our choice.

It occurred to me that if I rode with Diana to work, there'd be time for me to walk around downtown, drink coffee and people watch. Once upon a time, I worked for a company called UMI-Data Courier in a building on 5th Street (now demolished, as was the adjacent Standard Gravure). That was 28 years ago, and yes, the area has changed -- often for the better.

In 1988, a brand new retail development called Theater Square was underway where 4th Street meets Broadway. There was a deli there, and it sold inexpensive Carlsberg in bottles. On occasion, a liquid lunch was merited, until management quashed it.

Later, Bluegrass Brewing had a restaurant in the same spot. Now both Theater Square and the BBC are gone as Kindred constructs a building on the site, although I'm told that BBC will reopen after completion. Let's hope so. It was nice to have a few BBCs before walking a block to the Louisville Palace performance venue for shows.

On Friday, I began with coffee, and lots of it. Heine Brothers (above) has a shop on 4th Street. So does Nancy's Bagels (below) on the south side of 4th Street Live opposite the defunct Theater Square.

The garlic bagel with lox spread from Nancy's was heavenly. I had a double espresso at each, and then another at Sunergos down the way on 5th.

At some point during the morning, enjoying a pleasant caffeine buzz, I remembered that recently, Louisville mayor Greg Fischer decided to crack down on jaywalkers as a response to the fact that so many speeding drivers regularly strike (and usually kill) pedestrians.

It gripes my cookies, because jaywalking is an entirely artificial construction meant to buttress autocentrism.

Philosophically, the problem with jaywalking laws is that they treat pedestrians as a menace to cars, instead of vice versa. The laws first emerged in the United States in the early 20th century, when automobiles first began competing for space with pushcart vendors and playing children. As University of Virginia historian Peter Norton has documented, carmakers prevailed by winning legal restrictions on pedestrian movement — and promoting the very term “jaywalking,” which originally meant something like “the clueless wandering of hapless rubes.”

Accordingly, I decided to devote my Friday morning to jaywalking as much as possible. I stopped counting at 13 times, two of them in full view of the police. I was not cited. Wonder why?

Perhaps I'm not black enough, or street-person enough. Either way, Fischer remains an empty suit, and civil disobedience was making me seriously thirsty. It was eleven a.m., and I was waiting outside the door at Gordon Biersch when the key could be heard making its turn.

The drinking day promptly began with a lovely Marzen. It was hard to leave that stool.

By the time I arrived at Over the 9 just before noon, I'd walked five miles. Our friends arrived. We caught up with life and dined on fish and chips. I had a Black IPA and a Smoked Baltic Porter, and thanks to the friendly people there, an advance sample of one of the new bottled releases coming on Tuesday, March 1. But I won't ruin the surprise.

I'll have to make time for more mornings like this one. It was good practice for Session Beer Day.

Come drink beer with me on Session Beer Day, April 7, 2016.

I'm toying with the idea of starting before lunch and traversing downtown Louisville on foot, much like Leopold Bloom in James Joyce's Ulysses -- walking from brewery to brewery, and having a session beer at each. Most usually have at least once 4.5% choice available on draft.

I'm doing pints, and won't be driving. If I could manage this without a single "Session IPA," it would suit me just fine.

The brewery list, traveling roughly west to east, would be Falls City, Gordon Biersch, BBC 3rd Street, Against the Grain, Goodwood and Akasha. Others might be too far away to walk, but perhaps they could sell kegs to Akasha for duty on the guest taps.

I know: It's a work day, and so is Friday. However, if you're interested in joining me, let me know. I just may see you on Session Beer Day, 2016.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

"Your Gravity Head 2016 Opening Lineup."

Force of habit, folks: The full list is here. The event page at Fb is here. I've seen no mention of a fan vote for 2016, and so I'm guessing it was discontinued.

At NA Confidential, my ON THE AVENUES column this week is about Gravity Head 2016: Gravity Head again, because times change, and possessive pronouns change with them.

"Your Gravity Head 2016 Opening Lineup."

Stone Brewing Company:

IRS (2013)
Old Guardian (2013)
W00T Stout (2015)
Mutt Brown
Espresso IRS (2013)
Xocoveza *NITRO* (2015)
Barrel Aged Brown Ale w/ Sour Cherries
Red Wine Barrel Aged Quadrotriticale


North Coast Old Stock (2013)
Great Divide Chocolate Yeti (2014)
Dogfish 120 Minute
Rogue XS Old Crustacean (2013)

Indiana legislative update.

The Indy Star's Amy Haneline has the lowdown on alcoholic beverage bills in the Indiana legislature, including artisan distilling Sunday sales, growler refills for cider and mead (the "New Day Law") and increased three-way permits for Hamilton and Boone counties.

The first two are "fixes," thus preferred by legislators during the short session. The latter is the latest manifestation of sheer tomfoolery, insofar as three-ways are subject to outmoded quotas, the beer/wine permits are "plentiful."

Increased alcohol permits, Sunday sales for artisan distilleries passes Senate committee

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

What's on draft in my head at the Expendables Bar & Grill.

Totnes UK, 2013.

People keep asking me if I intend to get back into the pub game. It seems unlikely, though one shouldn’t ever say never.

An old friend of mine is a chef, and recently he decided to step away for a bit. I was joking with him: “You do the food, I’ll do the beer, we’ll use someone else’s money to get started, and it’ll be called Expendables Bar and Grill.”

Make no mistake: “Someone else’s money” is the single most important part of the equation.

But just like anyone, I daydream.

What if I could get back to the beginning, have another place, and just fill six taps? Few bells, limited whistles; none of the constant rotation and chest-thumping, but bread and butter for people who like it that way.

Working under the assumption that I'd buy beer, drink beer and sell what’s left – it worked that way during the formative period of the Public House – what would I put on draft as my ideal lineup?

Today’s answer is three lagers, three ales. Tomorrow's could be different.

Except for the IPA, they all fall in the range of 5% abv, which is a tad high to suit my session beer fixation, except one thing already is certain: I’ll be drinking a lot of that 4% Bitter.

Ideally, there’d be an Indiana brewery on hand to brew some of these to spec. I know one that needs the work …

Here the are:


Kellerbier ... an earthy, golden lager like St. Georgenbrau in Buttenheim.

Rauchbier ... more in keeping with Spezial than Schlenkerla, but let’s not be picky. Either model works.

Schwarzbier … it needn’t be stronger than 4.5%


Ordinary Bitter or Best Bitter … surely someone close to New Albany can make a reasonably authentic English interpretation, right?

Dry Stout … Guinness still appeals to me, though I’ll need a clever escape clause for my “death to multinationals” mantra.

IPA … something like Daredevil Lift Off IPA works just fine, and so would West Sixth IPA. I like them both quite a lot.

What about Belgians? Well, most of the ones I like are better served from bottles, anyway, as are higher gravity beers, so that’s how we’ll treat those. A few classics go a long way. Seeing as my wife likes Hefeweizen, and I won’t be home as much, one of them makes the cut, too.

I have other draft lineup fantasies, like the one with a brewpub-scale brewery producing only historic American styles:

Pre-Prohibition Pilsner
Colonial Dark Ale (or Porter, with molasses)
Kentucky Komon
American Pale Ale
Cream Ale
Bock (in springtime)

If you have a pot of money somewhere and would like to fund a start-up within walking distance of my house, let me know … and I’ll give Chef Joe a call.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The PC: Beef Steak and Porter always made good belly mortar, but did America’s “top” steakhouses get the memo?

The PC: Beef Steak and Porter always made good belly mortar, but did America’s “top” steakhouses get the memo?

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

Once upon a time during a previous life, so long ago that Michael Jordan still played for Da Bulls, I had dinner at Louisville’s branch of Ruth’s Chris Steak House.

The restaurant was (and is) perched on the 16th floor of the Kaden Tower, with a spectacular view of the Watterson Expressway and adjoining suburbs, complete with a hazy filter of exhaust fumes as a soothing background for selfies, which of course didn’t even exist at the time.

It was a fine evening, and while I’ve long since forgotten what I ate and drank that night, there remains one serviceable memory of the occasion: Looking around the dining room and seeing lots of customers in the process of cheerfully dropping C-notes for an appetizer, entrée and dessert, then washing down these fruits of their expense accounts with $5 Miller Lites – often straight from the bottle.

In short, nauseating and revolting, although I’m prepared to concede something important, for the fact that I even noticed this scene probably says a lot more about me and the gnawing of my own resident demons than Ruth’s Chris Steak House or its habitués.

After all, I’m neither a frequent consumer of steaks nor a regular patron of those restaurants specializing in them. It alarms me that so far in 2016, I’ve eaten four hamburgers, which probably equals my total from all of last year.

For me, beef should be safe, legal … and rare.

Accordingly, earlier this month, for the first time in a year, we enjoyed an excellent night out with friends at Z’s Oyster Bar and Steakhouse in downtown Louisville.


It should surprise no one to learn that such an evening constituted a major splurge, but even if we were wealthy, it isn’t something we’d do regularly.

If for no other reason, my gout medicine soon would be overwhelmed by the blood, shellfish and Port.

Z’s is pricey, and very good. A half-dozen tasty West Coast oysters at a place like Z’s cost more than the entrée at most of my usual haunts, and three hours later, after an entire bottle of Malbec, half of an unfortunate heifer and a glass or two of Graham’s Six Grapes for dessert, with various other nibbles scattered throughout, I was heavier around the waist and lighter in the wallet.

So, for comic relief, here is the Z’s beer list.

Amstel Light 5.95
Buckler 4.5
Bud Light 4.5
Budweiser 4.5
Coors Light 4.5
Corona Extra 5.95
Heineken 5.95
Hoegaarden 6.95
Goodwood American Pale Ale 6.95
Goodwood Bourbon Barrel Stout 8.75
Kentucky Ale 5.95
Kentucky Ale Bourbon Barrel 8.75
Michelob Ultra 5.95
Miller Lite 4.5
Sierra Nevada IPA 6.95 (presumably Torpedo)
Stella Artois 6.5

In truth, it’s a slightly better selection than I would have imagined. Nine golden lagers in varying shades of quantifiably insipid, but two barrel-aged beers and two hops-forward options. To be sure, congratulations are due them for featuring four local beers. All in all, the list could be worse.

It also could be far, far better.

(A disclaimer: In no way is any of this to be construed as a complaint about Z’s. Everything about my experiences there – food, service and atmosphere – have been uniformly excellent. My head-scratching extends beyond a single eatery, to the realm of universals.)

Why is it that the model of “steakhouse” in the context of Z’s, Ruth’s Chris and so many others invariably – inevitably, infuriatingly – shortchanges beer options, which nowadays are plentiful and stylistically varied, but also would immeasurably enhance the overall experience for those so inclined?

Perhaps it’s because there is no documentary evidence to suggest that the customer base of such a steakhouse desires beer choice. Moreover, the profit margin on wine and liquor surely dwarfs the return on beer, so only a few popular lagers are kept around for the die-hards, and that’s that.

I’ve long since learned to mournfully adapt. Precisely because my operating assumption is that steakhouses customarily downplay beer, I harbor absolutely no expectations once I’ve resolved to dine at one of them.

Instead, I generally drink wine, all the while imagining what certain styles of beers would taste like paired with interesting menu items.

Admittedly my sampling is small, and exceptions surely plentiful. Just last week, Brooklyn and The Butcher opened in New Albany, and while the “see cow, eat cow” cognoscenti can debate whether it should be compared with the preceding and other similar establishments, the short beer list at Brooklyn already is certifiably better than the one at Z’s.

Consequently, in the future when a splurge is merited, I know where I’ll be walking.

In the interim, I’m left to ponder examples of how it might be done better, and that’s easy. In my tortured, beer-forward universe, there already exists a model for how this might work.

It’s called Belgium – the country and its beers.


Specifically, the Café de la Paix on the main square in Poperinge, which I cite here because only a year and a half ago, we ate there. The same is true of the dining room at the Hotel Palace, a scant 200 yards away, but we didn’t make it to the Palace in 2014. Needless to say, there is a corresponding example in every town of size in the country, at large.

Café de la Paix is a full service restaurant, offering an excellent wine list and a full bar in addition to a lengthy beer sheet. Is it the exact equal of Z’s or Ruth’s Chris? I doubt it, but to reiterate, the point is to illustrate how beer and steak go together.

Here is what I had for dinner.

Opener: Escargot with Rodenbach Grand Cru. The oyster-like texture of snails, slathered in garlic and butter, with a classically sour, wood-aged red ale to cut through the richness.

Main Course: Steak (medium rare) with Béarnaise sauce, green salad, frites and De Dolle Oerbier; the latter is malty, fruity and complex, and elegantly fills the slot red wine might otherwise occupy.

Closer: Rochfort 10, and a stolen bit of a fellow diner’s tart. Still one of the top Trappists on the planet, and a dark, rich dessert in a bottle.

Total cost: Somewhere around $50.

Fifty bucks, forty Euros; they’d buy plenty of groceries here or in Europe – and this is utterly irrelevant. It was a special occasion, and cause for celebration. Add my wife’s meal and drinks, recall that the gratuity is included, and know that this wonderful, beer-friendly meal was one-third the cost of our recent Z’s feast … and not only that, outside it was Belgium, not Louisville.

Priceless, wouldn’t you say?


Last week: The PC: Swill in youthful times of penury and need.

When the Euro '85 series returns: Leningrad USSR. 


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Newspaper recognizes local "suds-selling savants." Next, it's a pink slip for headline writers.

Previously my reaction to RateBeer's annual list was dissected, though this feature in the local newspaper's entertainment insert focuses more on Keg Liquors.

It's worth a read, but the headline ... peee-you.

The full article can be read at issuu:

Crafting a Culture: Local suds-selling savants recognized statewide, by Matt Koesters (News and Tribune)

Don't forget that the 2016 Keg Liquors Fest of Ale will move to the waterfront in New Albany.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Keg Liquors Fest of Ale will move to New Albany's Riverfront Amphitheater in 2016; the 11th annual edition slated for June 4.

(cross-posted from NA Confidential)

Saturday, June 4th remains the date for the 11th Annual Keg Liquors Fest of Ale, but the 2016 edition of the festival will be held at the Riverfront Amphitheater in New Albany.

Here's the press release from Todd Antz.


Fest of Ale on the move.

New Albany, Ind. (February 2016) – After 10 successful years in Clarksville, the Keg Liquors Fest of Ale is changing venues. The 11th Annual Fest of Ale will be held on June 4th, 2016 at the New Albany Riverfront Amphitheater.

“Moving the event was a tough decision, but we felt that we had outgrown the space we were using at St. Anthony’s,” said Todd Antz, owner of Keg Liquors. “St. Anthony’s has been very generous with their facilities and support over the years, and we could not have grown the event to the size it is today without their help.

"We felt that the event was becoming a bit too taxing for their neighbors and parishioners, and that it was best for both parties if we moved on. We’ve always had a great relationship with St. Anthony’s and look forward to working with them in any future opportunities that may come up. I can’t thank everyone at St. Anthony’s enough for their support over the last 7 years of hosting our charity event. We could not have done this without them.”

The New Albany Riverfront Amphitheater, located below East Main Street at the foot of Pearl Street, is home each spring and summer to numerous free concerts, productions, festivals and other events.

The move to the Riverfront Amphitheater will allow the Fest of Ale to expand in size, provide more parking, as well as having access to all of the great restaurants and businesses in downtown New Albany.

“The Fest of Ale has always been a grassroots festival that promotes independent breweries and businesses, so moving the event to an area that has reinvigorated itself with all of the great shops and restaurants made perfect sense to us,” continued Antz. “The City of New Albany was very excited to help us with the event, and we look forward to working with them to make this the best Fest of Ale ever.”

Tickets for the 2016 Fest of Ale will go on sale at the beginning of April.

Keg Liquors
Keeping Kentuckiana Beer'd since 1976

617 E. Lewis and Clark Parkway
Clarksville, IN 47129

4304 Charlestown Road
New Albany, IN 47150


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

There's Greg Koch of Stone, telling it like it is ... again.

If I'm a crank ...

Craft Beer is dead. Long live Indie Beer. It's about "supporting local small business rather than a global entity."

 ... best tell it to Greg Koch, too.

Stone Brewing just says no to 'Big Beer', by Greg Koch (San Diego Union Tribune)

... Truth is, we live in a complex world. As consumers, it’s exhausting to know which brands are truly independent, authentic; did or didn’t sell out. When a craft brewer sells out to Big Beer, not only are they handing over control of their company’s future (irrespective of the requisite “We’re Not Changing Anything” press release), their brand is transformed overnight from being a positive force for growing the craft segment into a tool fighting against the brewers who choose to remain solely dedicated to the craft category.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Craft Beer is dead. Long live Indie Beer. It's about "supporting local small business rather than a global entity."

To me, "craft" beer's conceptual basis always has been, and should remain, localism.

The inevitable rejoinder: "You're not using local ingredients, therefore you're not local." However, just as there are many styles of beer, there are differing ways of principled thinking.

The finished value of any product can be the result of individualized local creativity rather than widespread, industrialized production; accordingly, a substantial local component is present even if local hops are not. After all, beer doesn't often brew itself.

This isn't the most important point, because an independently-owned local brewery is an independently-owned local business, and the positive economic factors for independent local businesses in their communities are one and the same.

Sorry, but if you're buying Goose Island at Wal-Mart, you might be missing the point in multiple areas. Let's work to make shift happen -- indie breweries, indie middlemen.

Often I've pointed to organizations like AMIBA and BALLE, and asked skeptics to visit their web sites and consider the information therein. My impression is this seldom happens, probably because it takes less time to post a selfie with Bourbon County than read a few pages of economic facts.

Bizarrely, unfamiliarity with the economic realities of independent local business might be expected of consumers in general, but often it's something not understood by folks who own their own small businesses. Must we cut our own throats?

Meanwhile, I like this vibe coming out of San Diego. May it take root, and convince readers to go back to first principles.

Craft is dead. Now we drink Indie Beer: As Big Beer creeps into town, locals want to change the lingo, by Ian Anderson (San Diego Reader)

The term Craft Beer may be in need of a makeover. The Union-Tribune reported this week that Bend, Oregon's 10 Barrel Brewing Co. has proposed a 10,000-square-foot brewpub in East Village. In response, local beer industry podcasters have doubled down on a push to describe independently owned breweries as Indie Beer companies, rather than craft.

A couple of individuals have tried to coin the term Indie Beer before, but they had different reasons.

Not because 10 Barrel hails from Oregon but because in 2014 the company was purchased by AB InBev, the conglomerate responsible for one-third of the planet's beer supply, including core brands Budweiser, Corona, and Stella Artois. It owns 10 Barrel brewpubs in Oregon and Idaho and recently announced plans for one in Denver.

The podcasters' believe consumers who patronize 10 Barrel brewpubs mistakenly believe they are supporting small business rather than a global entity ...


Monday, February 15, 2016

The PC: Swill in youthful times of penury and need.

The PC: Swill in youthful times of penury and need.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

The last time I drank a Little Kings Cream Ale, it tasted awful.

The exact year escapes me, but it was during the period when the ill-fated entity known as Snyder International owned and brewed Little Kings in Frederick, Maryland, having reduced it and other beer brands, both old and new, to lowly chattel, suitable only for manipulation by enriched computer geeks wearing mittens, posturing at chess with only half the pieces on their playing board.

Who did this temporary zillionaire think he was, Carlos Brito?

In the year 2000 or thereabouts, Little Kings tasted nothing like I remembered, back in high school, when those slim 7-oz bottles in eight-count containers were a highly valued weekend anesthetic, preferably ice-cold, a merciful two swallows and gone, with the empties destined for tossing at road signs and mailboxes.

Yes, of course our behavior was regrettable, and yet when you’re drinking and driving three or more years before legal age, often in a car not registered in your own name, environmental responsibility ranks fairly low in the pecking order. Green wasn’t a social imperative, at least yet. Rather, it was the color of the bottles being drained.

Accordingly, to me they were “greenies,” having merged this term from two separate sources: Jim Bouton’s baseball expose Ball Four, where it referred to rampant amphetamines, and also the way Jimmy Buffet described his doses of Caribbean-inspired Heineken, without once mentioning trash disposal by boat.

A few years later, drinking my way through coursework at IU Southeast, Little Kings made a strong comeback. We needed draft beer priced right for keggers, and Jeffersonville’s late and lamented Nachand Beverage was there, standing by, with the right answer from a wholesaler that genuinely cared. I miss them.

Little Kings on draft was effective, though it didn’t taste the same as in bottles. Perhaps the barrels weren’t cold enough.

It seems that Little Kings has now returned to Cincinnati as part of the revived Christian Moerlein/Hudepohl/Schoenling brewing effort. Maybe the beer has gotten better again, because I’d like to believe the web site’s claim that the same recipe has been used since the 1950s.

Snyder’s version left a bad taste in my mouth. For that matter, so did Snyder.


These repressed memories came bubbling effervescently to the surface recently when I came back from a meeting in Indianapolis lugging a four-pack of Sun King Sunlight Cream Ale in cans. I find it a fine example of craft brewing as yoked to the imperative of everyday drinking, clean with only a hint of corn, and boasting a comfy 5% abv.

But every time I drink one of them, I’m reminded how different it tastes from what I remember of Little Kings, which I actually liked at the time, as opposed to merely tolerated in route to the goal of inebriation, and as a wrecking ball to social barriers.

It may surprise you to learn that there were others. Indeed, wretched swill was wretched swill, but some swill came perilously close to being drinkable.

During my sophomore and junior years of high school, I actually thought Schlitz tasted good, and this was of inestimable importance, because at first, I didn’t like the taste of beer at all.

Until the decade of the 1960s, Schlitz was a bona fide American classic brand, and an immigrant’s success story. What happened next is a cautionary tale second to none.

Under pressure to keep pace with the emerging multinational behemoths, Schlitz took every available shortcut to cheapen ingredients, step up the corn sugar, industrialize the process – you name the adulteration, and it was enthusiastically embraced.

Welcome to global capitalism: You can eviscerate yourself, or let the friendly shark do it for you.

Schlitz’s missteps culminated with the infamous New Improved Formula marketing debacle, otherwise known as “saving a few bucks has made our beer taste so different that we’ll try to make a virtue out of its degradation,” followed shortly thereafter by another disaster, the recall of a few million bottles of Schlitz compromised because the artificial foam stabilizer had an allergic chemical reaction to another extraneous additive.

At any rate, Schlitz came to taste worse, and anyway, something better had come along: Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull. It numbed the teeth considerably faster.

However, the Bull was no match for Mickey’s Malt Liquor in the wide-mouthed bottles, and to this day, I have no plausible explanation for this fact.

Mickey’s came from whomever was contract brewing Sterling that particular week, and was stupidly inexpensive. Oddly, I never liked Sterling, but Mickey’s didn’t taste like Sterling, though even Sterling itself tasted better in wide-mouthed bottles – when very, very cold.

Notice a trend emerging?

Once in the late 1980s, I told a friend – an import snob like me – about a lovely new beer in town, and went to the kitchen to pour him a glass of it. It was love at first drink, and his guesses of origin ranged from Czechoslovakia to Alsace-Lorraine. The correct answer was Evansville.

He didn’t speak to me for a month afterward.


Then there was Schaefer, a beer dating back to before the war – the American Civil War.

Schaefer was a New York City brewer with a plan to roll-out nationally during the 1970s, building a new brewery in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and quintupling its production to 5,000,000 barrels per year – and still Schaefer lost market share to the Buds and Millers, so in 1981, the towel at last landed, and it was purchased by Stroh’s.

This was the pretext for Stroh’s to make its own great national leap forward, which eventually failed just as spectacularly as Schaefer’s and Old Style’s similar efforts, though in the interim, during the mid-1980s, Schaefer was recalibrated as one of Stroh’s budget brands.

This coincided with my tenure at Scoreboard Liquors, where we sold Schaefer 30-packs for something like $9.00 – cheap, but the necessary bag of ice cost a buck extra.

Perhaps it made sense that Schaefer would appeal to me on price point, since by the mid- to late-1980s, Stroh’s was my “premium” beer of choice. By then the white can had become blue. I didn’t like Stroh’s very much until after returning from my first trip to Europe in 1985, when it seemed that something vague and indefinable about Stroh’s still connected with the continent.

Back home from the journey, and once again employed at the liquor store, one reasonably priced regional beer topped them all: Christian Moerlein, or Hudepohl-Schoenling’s answer to Michelob.

It, too, has returned – and that’s a story for another day.

When the Euro '85 series returns: Leningrad USSR. 


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Intellectual property: RateBeer recognizes NABC's Pizzeria & Public House.

It has been pointed out to me by the estimable Sergio Ribenboim that yet again in 2015, for the roughly the umpteenth time, NABC's Pizzeria & Public House was declared Indiana's best brewpub by the RateBeer aggregator. Out here in limbo, this revelation prompts a curious chain reaction in my noggin.

I've spent the past few years dismissing this result as an anomaly. It's a simple numerically-based observation, not contrarian modesty, for it seems likely that the weight of ratings awarded on the basis of the Public House’s former reputation as a multi-tap/specialty beer bar probably always has tipped the scales in the "brewpub" rankings.

In other words, they were voting for the guest Jolly Pumpkin, and not the house Jaxon.

At the same time, I'd be lying like a Ted Cruz if I were to deny a sense of vindication each year when the rankings are announced, especially now, during a period of (shall we say) business value determination.

First, permit me remind everyone that being the best at anything, for any reason, as decided in any way, certainly involves far more than just one person’s input, so let the wider credit go to everyone who every worked at NABC, and keeps the business viable as time passes.

At the same time, Yankee Stadium was called the "House That Ruth Built" for a very good reason. In the 1920s, when Babe Ruth was confronted with the fact that he'd earned more money than then-president Herbert Hoover, Ruth was unabashed.

"I had a better year than him."

Precisely. He put the Yanks on the map. Given the nature of ratings aggregators, averages and percentages, The Pizzeria & Public House’s continued presence on such a list during a time when so many places in Indiana “do” beer so much better than ever before testifies to longevity, and in turn longevity is inseparable from the founding concepts.

It isn’t braggadocio for me to observe that a fair amount of that longevity and founding concepts originated with me. It was my doing. It meant something then, and it still does now. From Gravity Head through the Red Room … there is certifiable value to intellectual property, isn’t there?

Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.

In 2016, I’m happy to admit that RateBeer’s 2015 inclusion makes me happy. It proves something, whether about value or values -- and whether I like it or not, that's where my head currently is at.


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Peru: "The Rise and Fall of the World's Most Unlikely Pub."

I've been nowhere near Peru, but 25 years ago there was a day-long hike up into the High Tatras on the Slovak-Polish border. Roughly halfway through our 15 miles, my friend Jan and I paused for a lunch of bean soup and beer at a cabin perched on a cliff, with a great view of the abyss. Lager never tasted better. Later we passed a young man headed up the mountain, carrying a huge backpack -- more beans and more beer for the people passing through after us.

No cocaine, though.

The Rise and Fall of the World's Most Unlikely Pub, by Lauren Evans (Atlas Obscura)

 ... Imagine, then, the feeling of alighting upon the pub: It’s the end of your third day of hiking. You’ve just passed the Wiñay Wayna ruins, a marvel of Incan stonework featuring still-intact houses, fountains and cascading verandas, upon which a scattering of llamas nip unperturbed at the grass. Below, the Urubamba River cuts a fine line through the towering slopes of the mountains. The air is thicker here than it was yesterday, when you dragged yourself across the 13,800-foot Dead Woman’s Pass. The hard work has been done, and tomorrow, you’ll rise from your tent at 3 a.m. for the final six-kilometer push into Machu Picchu.

You may not have been expecting a beer, but you’re ready for one.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Collateral damage: Sadly, the era of "One Night with the Publican" guided tasting certificates for charity has ended, at least for now.

I try to limit cross-posting, so permit me to post a link to my NA Confidential blog. Apologies to everyone; simply stated, I hate seeing this come to an end. Still, my hands are effectively tied. Ideas? Send them my way.

Collateral damage: Sadly, the era of "One Night with the Publican" guided tasting certificates for charity has ended, at least for now.

I can't remember when the tradition started of my donation of certificates for private beer tastings to worthy non-profit organizations for their use in fund-raising, typically at silent auctions ... it's February, the usual calls and e-mails are coming through, and I'm obliged to be the bearer of bad tidings. Owing to my estrangement from NABC -- I remain a shareholder, albeit one stripped of corporate offices and with no say or day to day presence -- this charitable component has come to an end. I hate to say no; alas, I cannot say yes.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

All things considered, it is NOT your grandfather's Sterling.

The usual disclaimer applies: One's taste in beer is highly subjective.

This fact duly noted, and as reflected by Sterling's 1970s and 80s incarnations, I formerly found it ... shall we say ... not to my liking. Before I was legal age, my heart would sink when those charged with procuring beer produced a case Sterling.

It's an understatement to suggest that times change, and thankfully so.

I've tasted the most recent version of Sterling, and found it a pleasing, mild Pilsner. That's fair enough, and although I retain suspicion of "heritage" brands, I'm entirely sincere in wishing the current owners of Sterling's identity all the best as they seek to re-establish the brand and open a dispensary and taproom in Louisville.

I'm left to ponder a question that probably can't be answered. What did Sterling taste like in its prime, before being cheapened and profaned in the usual post-war fashion, leaving it a bad taste in the memories of older folks like me?

What would it have been prior to Prohibition? Granted, numerous Pre-Prohibition Pilsners are being brewed these days, but even if one resolved to do the legwork and research, and actually make this style the model for a revival like Sterling's, isn't it true that it wouldn't succeed?

I'd love it, but no one else would. Perhaps my suspicions would be better turned inward.

Sterling Beer owners have confidence in future of ‘heritage’ brand, by Kevin Gibson (Insider Louisville)

Todd Jackson is the first to admit he’s still finding his way in the beer business. After buying the more than century-old Sterling brand with his brother Ken in 2012, he’s had three different brewing partners and a packaging concept that was well received but ill-fated.

But Sterling has high hopes for a bright future. Recently, it was reported that the Sterling owners and its investor group, Louisville Sterling LLC, had a contract to purchase a pair of currently empty buildings in the Highlands at 1300 and 1306 Bardstown Road, with the intent to open a taphouse and brewery operation.

Sterling web site ... can we have another discussion about age verification on beer sites?


Tuesday, February 09, 2016

NABC's Gravity Head 2016: The full lineup is here.

The 18th edition of NABC's annual bacchanal is the first without any involvement on my part, and no, the ballyhooed buyout's not yet final. As previously noted, I've turned my attention to Session.

However, I've never had any doubts that Eric, Aaron, Sarah, Ben (the honor roll goes on and on) are perfectly capable of rocking Gravity Head.

I do NOT know if there are plans to continue the Gravity Head Sunday event at Bank Street Brewhouse, or whether there'll be a fan vote, or if someone will count down the casualties as in the past.

Eric has properly exercised restraint in front-loading the list, as part of a long-term plan we discussed to cut down the number of listed kegs and not run into June any longer. He told me there might be some surprise releases along the way.

There is a Facebook event page with a complete list, but since not everyone does Facebook, I'm repeating it below. First, the introduction, then the list.


Our annual high gravity beer festival returns in 2016 with a myriad selection! Join us in the revelry as we cut a swath through some of the best beers availible.

Opening ceremonies and our tailgate breakfast start at 7am, Friday, Feb. 26th. Opening weekend's featured brewery is the venerable Stone Brewing! Beers can go quickly so plan accordingly.

Check this space for beer line-ups and updates as the great beast lumbers ever closer.

NABC always encourages our guests to be responible with their transportation to and from Gravity Head. Be smart and plan ahead!

Full 2016 Gravity Line-up by style:

14B. Scottish Heavy
Dark Horse Scotty Karate (2013) 9.75%

17B. Old Ale
Bell's Third Coast Old Ale (2014) 10.2%
Founders Curmudgeon 9.8%
North Coast Old Stock Ale (2013) 11.8%

20C. Imperial Stout
Dark Horse Plead the Fifth (2014) 11.0%
Founders Imperial Stout (2012) 10.5%
Smuttynose Imperial Stout (2014) 10.5%
Three Floyds Blot out the Sun (2014) 10.4%
Tin Man Csar 12.0%
Two Brothers Northwind (2014) 9.1%
Upland Teddy Bear Kisses (2014) 10.2%

21B. Specialty IPA
New Albanian Hard Core Gore (2015) 8.5%

22A. Double IPA
Bell's Hopslam 10.0%
Dogfish 120 Minute IPA 18.0%
Founders Devil Dancer 12.0%

22B. American Strong Ale
Stone Double Bastard (2014) 11.0%

22C. American Barleywine
Dogfish Olde School 15.4%
North Coast Class of '88 10.0%
Rogue XS Old Crustacean (2013) 11.5%
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot (2011) 9.6%
Three Floyds/Mikkeller Majsgoop 10.00%

29A. Fruit Beer
Founders Blushing Monk 9.2%

30A. Spiced Beer
Founders Breakfast Stout (2013) 8.3%
Rivertown Death 11.7%

33A. Wood Aged Beer
Bloomington Brewing Barrel - Aged Ol' Floyd's (2014) 8.7%
Founders Backwoods Bastard 11.6%
Founders KBS 11.2%
Great Divide Chocolate Oak - Aged Yeti (2014) 9.5%
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale - (Calavados Cask) (2011) 11.5%
New Albanian Grape Expectations 9.5%
New Albanian Oaktimus 10.7%
New Albanian Oak King 9.3%
New Holland Dragon's Milk (2014) 10.0%
Sun King Barrel Aged Timmie 10.00%
Sun King Whip Fight 9.0%
Upland Barrel Chested Barleywine 9.5%

34C. Experimental Beer
Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break Natale - Pretty Please with a Cherry on Top 11.5%

00. Stone Brewing - Style Unto Itself
Stone 2013 IRS 10.6%
Stone 2013 Old Guardian 11.0%
Stone 2015 Farking Wheaton w00t Stout 13.0%
Stone Mutt Brown 9.0%
Stone 2013 Espresso IRS 11.0%
Stone 2015 Stone Xocovesa Nitro 8.1%
Stone Barrel Aged Brown Ale -
w/Balaton Sour Cherries 8.1%
Stone Stochasticity Project - Quadrotriticale Aged in Red Wine Barrels 9.8%


Monday, February 08, 2016

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 29 … Helsinki beneath my feet, but Leningrad on my mind.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 29 … Helsinki beneath my feet, but Leningrad on my mind.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

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


“We have a long history with Russia — not that peaceful all the time. So everything the Russians are doing, surely the Finns notice and think very carefully about what that might mean,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said in an interview at his coastal residence in this capital city, just a two-hour drive from the Russian border.
-- Washington Post, November 23, 2014

My day with mustamakkara, Amiraali and random hostel Libyans in Tampere was all it took to begin subconsciously sensing a fundamental reality of life in otherwise autonomous Finland during the Cold War, which is to say that even as I remained securely ensconced among the freedom-loving Finns, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Soviet Union.

The dividing line between east and west was a mere two hours by bus from Helsinki, and it was a route I’d soon be traveling to Leningrad (in 2016, St. Petersburg). The closer I got to the USSR, the more the anticipation escalated.

What sort of people would be revealed on the other side? Cold warriors in furry caps? Stone-faced ideologues spouting canned propaganda? Or, plain working folks who wanted the best for their kids, struggling to get by like most of the rest of humanity?

Looking back, questions like these strike me as indicative of a well-honed tendency to over-think almost everything. I might plausibly cop a plea of relative immaturity, being only 24 years of age (with my 25th birthday to be celebrated in Leningrad), and having no experience on the ground in a Communist country.

Moreover, considering what so many of us had been taught at school in America during the Cold War, perhaps it was understandable; knowing better, yet still harboring weird inner misconceptions, half expecting to be confronted with dogma-spouting automatons or space aliens, not living, breathing men, women and children.

The plain fact is that already, at 24, I did know better. In spite of a lifetime of being told to fear the Russian, Soviet and Communist enemy, my conscious intellect was being retrained through the very act of traveling. I would refuse to swallow the bilge, ours or theirs. Had my contrarian tendencies remained latent, I wouldn’t have come to Europe in the first place.

Back at Indiana University Southeast, falling under history’s spell and compiling coursework accordingly, Russia and the Soviet Union became objects of obsessive fascination. Professor Frank Thackeray deserves credit for this, though in a supreme irony, so does my old man.


Roger G. Baylor, USMC, served aboard a Navy ship as a gunner in the Pacific in World War II. He didn’t talk about the details very often. Instead, he practiced something akin to transferal, becoming a self-taught scholar about the war’s European Theater – a place he never went, during the war or after it.

Specific aspects of the conflict in Europe were recurring features of my father’s storytelling, among them the heroism of the Finns in their ultimately fruitless winter war against the Soviets, but moreover, the primacy of the USSR’s role in defeating Hitler. He openly admired the Red Army.

To say the least, this wasn’t the sort of interpretation commonly heard amid backyard barbecues and baseball games in the 1960s. My dad’s friends talked far more about America’s best known victories at places like Iwo Jima and the D-Day beaches, which of course were important and noteworthy, although they tended to be unaware of the massive scale of the slaughter on the Eastern Front.

My father enjoyed reminding them. “20 million dead,” he’d say. “Just think about that for a minute.” Uncomfortable silence would ensue. Was J. Edgar Hoover listening?

One time, I recall speaking up and asking my father whether he thought Stalin’s system was a good one. His quick answer was no, not at all, except that it had little to do with the sacrifices of soldiers who fought and died for their country, just like ours did for the United States.

In retrospect, it might actually be possible to trace my recurring contrarianism to an early, primary source.

All of it aside, maybe I was just nervous. In 1985, it had been only 40 years since the end of the war, which remained a living memory. This was attested by the shape of the continent I was traveling through.

Numerous boundaries owed to post-war geopolitical calculations. There were armed camps, nuclear weapons, buffer states and untold miles of fencing. Not a hot war, but a cold one – and it was easy to feel the chill.

On Thursday, I’d finally get a look behind the curtain. Meanwhile, it was Tuesday, and a short train ride from Tampere to Helsinki for two nights in the capital.


As previously noted, Finland belonged to Sweden for a very long time, with the Russians taking control around 1809. The Finns, Sami and remaining Swedes became subjects of the Tsar. It was at this time that Helsinki’s modern appearance began to take shape.

Even now, when tourists gaze upon the neoclassical buildings at Senate Square, they’re seeing the Tsar’s 19th-century urban imprint, as commissioned of a German architect, who was charged with emulating the appearance of St. Petersburg, 389 kilometers away.

Surely it frustrated the Finns that their historical legacy of occupation included tangible remnants of Russian culture. For instance, certain districts of Helsinki were sufficiently “Russian” in appearance that during the early 1980s, international film directors often shot location footage (Reds, Gorky Park) there rather than the inaccessible USSR.

My own district proved novel. To cut costs, I resolved to sleep in the cheapest possible bunk, which brought me to Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium, originally intended to host the games in 1940. The war intervened, and in 1952 the athletic pageantry finally took place.

On one side of the stadium was a youth hostel, of which my only firm recollection is using the communal fridge to store a forgotten foodstuff, obeying instructions and marking my container, and having it stolen nonetheless.

Hmm. Could this be socialism?

I’d placed my bag in a train station locker before hopping the tram to the hostel to check on availability. With a spot secured, it was back to the center, and a very vivid Helsinki memory: The indoor fish market on the harbor promenade.

I walked through it from one end to the other and was sufficiently enamored to make a return trip, absorbing the shapes, sights and smells of largely unaffordable seafood, apart from a pickled herring sandwich with onion, as purchased from a kiosk.

Talk about coming a long way. My first-ever exposure to pickled herring had been in Oslo only a few days before, followed by a seafood buffet in Bergen and another aboard the Silja Line ship bound for Turku. It’s safe to conclude that the ocean’s rich bounty was making a deep impression on a corn-fed landlubber who couldn’t even swim.

Emerging from the heavenly saltwater grub shed, it was impossible to ignore Helsinki’s red-brick, onion-domed Eastern Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral church atop a hillock overlooking the harbor. Here was the Russian imperial legacy again, writ large, just as surely intended at construction to dominate its surroundings as Stalin’s garish Palace of Culture, smack in the middle of Warsaw.

A very different church, Temppeliaukio, made a puzzling impression at first glance. It is known as the Rock Church, and lends the impression of a defense bunker topped by a saucer.

Overhearing English being spoken in an authoritative tone, I noticed a small tour group and sidled over to them, close enough to follow the narrative as I fiddled with the camera lens.

The basic facts about Temppeliaukio Church: A design competition in the 1950s, construction in the 1960s, and the decision to build down rather than up, excavating stone to create a unique sanctuary.

What stayed with me from the guide’s comments that day was the concept of functionalism in architecture, or the seemingly simple idea that a building’s design should be based on its function.

Specifically, for Finland after independence, functionalist architecture was a tangible way of building “out” as population and cities grew, and building “native” in contrast to using imposed or inherited (read: Russian) forms -- as with those "borrowed" Helsinki film sets. Belatedly, it occurred to me that architecture lived and breathed, and wasn’t restricted to the past.

It strikes me now that in the end, I didn’t give Finland much of a chance in 1985. Part of it can be explained by the lure of Russia. There is also a likelihood that after almost three months of travel, my brain was beginning to adjust to returning stateside. Only a week in Europe remained.

On Wednesday afternoon, my wanderings in Helsinki took me past a pizzeria promising American-style pizza. I was hungry and intrigued, and decided to risk a minor splurge on a small pie accompanied by a draft Sinebrychoff. I’d purchased a newspaper earlier, and sat on the patio.

This travel thing was pretty good. Too bad it had to end.



The PC: Euro ’85, Part 28 … A Finnish detour to Tampere for beer and sausages.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 27 … Stockholm's blonde ambition, with or without mead-balls.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, February 07, 2016

The world's "first porn beer" is a Belgian Tripel.

Doppelbock somehow seems more appropriate ... but for once, I'm at a loss for words. The link is here. Thanks to loyal reader C for the tip.

Is this real?

Saturday, February 06, 2016

More on the former Pyynikki (Amiraali) brewery in Tampere, Finland.

Google's roving camera shows us Koulukatu 11 in Tampere, Finland. The image is from 2011. In a recent installment of my 1985 travelogue, I explained how the brewery formerly functioning at this address drew me to a city I hadn't ever planned on visiting.

THE PC: Euro ’85, Part 28 … A Finnish detour to Tampere for beer and sausages.

... Tampere originally was settled at the narrowest point of land separating two lakes, astride rapids that provided power for mills. By the 19th-century, Tampere was an industrial city (textiles and metallurgy) often compared to Manchester, England, and as we know, factory workers drank lots of beer in those times. In turn, their consumption was good for both brewers and prohibitionists.

The brewery was called Pyynikki, and was owned for six decades by the family of my cousin's Finnish friends. They sold Pyynikki to Sinebrychoff in 1985, and brewing ceased in Tampere in 1992. The buildings have been adaptively reused as apartments.

Bizarrely, a specific label of just one of Pyynikki's line of Amiraali beers still is being brewed -- in Japan. A photo at Goodreads proves it, and below is an older view, when it was being brewed in Finland. To learn more about the connection between Finnish beer and a Japanese admiral, refer back to the above "Euro '85" link.

Information about the long-departed Pyynikki is scarce on-line, but there are some good views for the repurposed buildings here, along with some of the brewery's history: Pyynikki Brewery, by Berlioz-II (Deviant Art).

Click through to see the photos and read the text. I snipped one of the images to show the "ghost sign" that was painted to the upper right above the brewhouse windows.


Friday, February 05, 2016

I've resigned from the Brewers of Indiana Guild's board. Now it's YOUR turn to grab an oar.

Fellows like these have made it worthwhile for me.

It's been real, and I'll miss it, but all guild things eventually must come to an end. In a roundabout way, this week's column at NAC explains my departure from the the Brewers of Indiana Guild's board

There are 120 breweries in Indiana, compared to less than 40 in 2009, when I began my first term as a director. I feel much, much pride in how far we've come during that time, and I remain bullish about Indiana beer in general terms.

At present, there are at least two vacancies on the board, and could be three.

Hoosier brewery owners, heed the call and get involved. Whatever your political perspective, it's impossible not to concede that there is strength in unity, and the guild has gotten things done. The Indiana Craft Brewers Conference is coming in a month, and the annual meeting takes place on Sunday, March 6.

Be there and be heard. That is all.

ON THE AVENUES: Hello, I must be going (at NA Confidential)

Almost every other month for the past seven years, I’ve attended a Wednesday meeting of the directors of the Brewers of Indiana Guild.


Thursday, February 04, 2016

Something was missing when the Austin chef recreated the gate-fold meal from ZZ Top's Tres Hombres.

It was a big deal for me to purchase ZZ Top's album Tres Hombres back in 1973. I was a 7th grader without liquidity, beer or cash, and the money probably came from putting up hay -- or shameless begging. Rock and roll wasn't popular in my house, but the little ol' band from Texas was seismic in my social circle.

The gate-fold photograph of heaping Tex-Mex platters and regional bric-a-brac is justifiably renowned, and from the vantage point of 2016, it is genuinely impossible to overstate how exotic this food appeared to us in 1973. It made you salivate just looking at it, and there was nothing available locally to compare. Hard shell tacos might have been served in the school cafeteria by then, but that's as far as it went in New Albany, at least until the Tumbleweed restaurant opened.

In January this year, the story of an Austin chef's recreation of the Tres Hombres gate-fold spread went viral, and justifiably so. Tom Micklethwait cooked, filmed and ate the same meal, but there was a difference that seems to have escaped the notice of many.

In the video recreation, Micklethwait's bottle of beer has no label. It isn't Southern Select, because Southern Select no longer exists. As aspiring under-aged beer guzzlers back in 1973, we definitely noticed the brand. Some day, we said, we'd go to Texas and find some. I doubt it ever happened.

For a bit about the history of Southern Select and the involvement of Howard Hughes in Texas brewing lore (yes, THAT Howard Hughes), the Bottlecaps blog has the story: THE BEER SERIES: Part Three | Good times on the Gulf.

The best account I've seen of of Micklethwait's feat is at Texas Monthly, because ZZ Top's guitarist tells the story of the original photo shoot.

An Austin Chef Recreated ZZ Top’s “Tres Hombres” Album ... And Billy Gibbons loves it, by Andy Langer (Texas Monthly)

The shot from the gatefold is the final frame Galen was able to snap. At some point, we took a fifteen-minute break. And when we returned we found his German Shepherd laying on his side gasping for breath. He’d jumped up on the table and consumed the entire lot. He got it all.

The video is there, and also at Rolling Stone.


Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Come drink beer with me on Session Beer Day, April 7, 2016.

As noted in January, Lew Bryson has returned to beer and beer blogging. Happily, he's been beating the drum about Session Beer Day, 2016.

Specifically, Lew has issued a challenge to brewers.


... If you're a brewer interested in participating, it's simple. The "session IPA" has taken over the American session beer category, when it was supposed to be a meta-category, a category that would include many different types of beer at 4.5% and less. Session beer awareness is supposed to be about increasing choices for the beer drinker...and we largely got one extra choice out of it.

Snap out of it! Take this opportunity to show off your skills and make a session-strength beer, 4.5% or less (you can do it; you can go lower!), that doesn't rely on shouting hops for all its character. We get it, brewers know how to make a light, wildly hoppy beer: EVERY brewer's doing it.

Be different! On April 7th, show us some real innovation, or some real skills to make a beautiful example of a classic session-strength beer that stands apart from the herd of 'monkey-see, monkey-do' dialed-down IPAs.

I cannot "like" this sentiment often enough. This year's Session Beer Day takes place on Thursday, April 7, and I feel a scheme coming on.

Of course, for several years at NABC, I've tried to coordinate Session Beer Day as the de facto "close" of Gravity Head. Lew was in town once for the occasion. I'm no longer in a position to make NABC's observance happen, and cannot be sure if it will. In fact, I've been shrugging so often lately that I may be compelled to break with practice and visit a chiropractor.

But I've bounced the date off Rick Stidham at Akasha Brewing Company in Louisville, who thinks he might have as many as three session beers pouring. He'd like to do something to mark the occasion. There is no firm plan (yet) apart from holding a ceremony at Akasha later in the afternoon, and yet this should be sufficient to keep the tradition alive.

As for me, I'm toying with the idea of starting before lunch and traversing downtown Louisville on foot, much like Leopold Bloom in James Joyce's Ulysses -- walking from brewery to brewery, and having a session beer at each. Most usually have at least once 4.5% choice available on draft.

I'm doing pints, and won't be driving. If I could manage this without a single "Session IPA," it would suit me just fine.

The brewery list, traveling roughly west to east, would be Falls City, Gordon Biersch, BBC 3rd Street, Against the Grain, Goodwood and Akasha. Others might be too far away to walk, but perhaps they could sell kegs to Akasha for duty on the guest taps.

I know: It's a work day, and so is Friday. However, if you're interested in joining me, let me know. I just may see you on Session Beer Day, 2016.


Monday, February 01, 2016

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 28 … A Finnish detour to Tampere for beer and sausages.

The PC: Euro ’85, Part 28 … A Finnish detour to Tampere for beer and sausages.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

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


"The Fenni live in astonishing barbarism and disgusting misery: no arms, no horses, no household; wild plants for their food, skins for their clothing, the ground for their beds."
Tacitus (c. 55-120) "Germania"

No, Tacitus was not speaking of youthful backpackers in Europe.

You might guess his passage explains why many non-Finnish speakers refer to the Suomalaiset people (as they call themselves) as Finns, and this is partially correct, although the Fenni referenced by the Roman historian probably were the Sami, natives of the Arctic region, later to become known as Lapps, which may be a mild pejorative in the fashion of Canucks, and anyway, there are many more of the Sami in Svenska (Sweden) that Suomi (Finland).

Concurrently, the Finnish language is fiendishly bizarre to non-natives. It is from the Uralic family of languages, entirely removed from Russian or German.

English: My hovercraft is full of eels.
Finnish: Ilmatyynyalukseni on täynnä ankeriaita.

Hence my advice to native English speakers: Please stop and give thanks that so many others on the planet deign to learn our language. For their willingness to absorb English in sufficient measure to help tourists like me (and you), we collectively owe the Finns a beer, a hug, and maybe some mustamakkara.

More about that particular delicacy in a moment.

On July 29, 1985, the overnight ferry from Stockholm docked in Turku, Finland. Immediately upon debarking, I presented my passport to the uniformed man and received yet another national entry stamp, my fourteenth, stamped straight and level, neatly contained within the delineated box. With every degree of latitude traveling north, greater attention was given to orderly detail – or so it seemed.

Another country and the same familiar drill: Lodging, eating, drinking and learning. What did I know about Finland at this early stage of my global awareness?

I knew that Finland’s history as an autonomous nation was relatively brief. For centuries, Finland was dominated by Sweden. Thereafter, it was attached to the pre-Soviet-era Russian empire. Finland only became independent in 1919 following World War I, and then fought twice against the USSR during World War II – retaining its independence, garnering acclaim for sheer tenaciousness, but still losing territory (Karelia) amid the post-war reordering.

A term in foreign relations derived from this state of affairs, post-1945: Finlandization, defined as the process of a stronger country (the USSR) exerting influence against a weaker country (Finland), while allowing the latter to remain (mostly) free.

These things I knew about Finland. I also knew there was …

  • A composer named Sibelius, who spoke powerfully to the Finnish spirit through a piece of nationalistic music known as Finlandia
  • A vodka sold overseas by the same name as the composer
  • An indigenous fermented beverage, Sahti, which often was homebrewed from a variety of grains, spiced with juniper berries, and filtered through twigs
  • A tradition of highly heated bathing, the sauna, involving sweating, swatting and swimming
  • An early 20th-century experience with Prohibition, similar to America’s

It was Monday morning, and it must be the port city of Turku, though only briefly. On Thursday morning, I’d be departing from Helsinki for the weekend bus tour of Leningrad, which from the outset of my European conspiracy had been envisioned as the highest point of what I imagined would be my first and only journey to the continent.

The most logical course would have been taking the short train ride straight to Helsinki, finding a hostel, and relaxing. Instead, I hopped a local train to Tampere (TUM-puh-reh), a mysterious inland city appearing in neither of my two sacred travel texts.


Finland, Finland, Finland,
The country where I want to be,
Pony trekking or camping,
Or just watching TV.
Finland, Finland, Finland,
It’s the country for me.
—Monty Python

Tampere was an option because it offered a final opportunity to take advantage of my cousin Don’s multi-national connections. Among Don’s European friends were Henrik and Eva, natives of Tampere, who had been students of Don’s at the beginning of his academic career. They maintained contact and had met on previous occasions. He let them know that I might be coming to visit, and gave me their street address and phone number.

Intriguingly, Henrik came from a former brewery-owning family. Just months prior to my trip, he and his siblings had finalized a deal to sell Tampere’s Pyynikki Brewery to Sinebrychoff, the largest brewing company in Finland (now owned by Carlsberg).

I’d never in my entire life consumed a Finnish beer, but one of Pyynikki’s brands, Amiraali, was sufficiently well known to have merited inclusion in Michael Jackson’s seminal World Guide to Beer. Amiraali’s unique labeling stratagem was a series of portraits of famous admirals, the majority of them European, but including Japan’s legendary Heihachiro Togo.

Why would a Japanese admiral appear on a Finnish beer label? It might have had something to do with his most famous victim. Togo led the fleet that decisively defeated the Tsar’s navy in 1905 at the Battle of Tsushima during the Russo-Japanese War.

Perhaps one aspect of Finlandization was periodic outbreaks of subtle, passive-aggressive glee -- over a few Amiraali beers. Three decades later, the Amiraali label featuring Togo remains in production -- as brewed under contract in Japan, where it is sold at a memorial to the admiral.

Pyynikki originated in 1897, and later became part of a consortium with eight other local breweries. It rose to become first among erstwhile equals during the stewardship of Henrik’s grandfather (I think) Sulo, who was succeeded by his wife Rosa.

Tampere originally was settled at the narrowest point of land separating two lakes, astride rapids that provided power for mills. By the 19th-century, Tampere was an industrial city (textiles and metallurgy) often compared to Manchester, England, and as we know, factory workers drank lots of beer in those times. In turn, their consumption was good for both brewers and prohibitionists.

By the late 1800s, Tampere’s brewers had switched to lager brewing on the German model. Pyynikki’s brewing plant was located at Koulukatu 11, only a few blocks from the epicenter of industry in the city. Henrik’s family lived close to the brewery. After the family sold to Sinebrychoff, the brewery remained active for less than a decade, eventually being shuttered in the 1990s. Since then, the buildings have been adaptively reused as housing.

I’ve met Henrik and Eva twice since 1985, once in the French Alps, and on a return trip to Tampere in 1999. However, we never got together in 1985, and the blame lies with me. My virulent telephonophobia was a malady borne of crippling shyness, and as in Pecetto and Bergen, it defied my resolve to communicate.

Simply stated, I couldn’t bring myself to call them. Instead, I bought a city map and a bus ticket, and found my way to their home to knock on their door. There was no answer, and this was little surprise; it was late morning, and surely they were at work.

This time there’d be no miracle comeback in the late innings like in Italy and Norway. I punted and made the most of my day in Tampere. Happily, our paths eventually crossed.


Tampere’s youth hostel wasn’t far away, situated in what appeared to be student housing in the university quarter, and tourists weren’t exactly beating down its doors. My belongings duly stowed, I returned downtown and found a restaurant with a handy fixed price lunch special.

The eatery was on the second floor of a 1960s-era retail structure facing one of the main streets, and the rustic wood paneling in the dining room reminded me of Tommy Lancaster’s, an old-school eatery back in New Albany.

Unsurprisingly, the menu was considerably different than Lancaster’s. I chose the mixed sausage platter on the recommendation of an English-speaking waitress, who observed that because we didn’t eat reindeer in America, I should try some in Finland.

The waitress found it difficult to describe one of the other sausages, one colored a deep reddish black and having an odd texture. She translated the word “mustamakkara” as black sausage, and the significance slowly dawned on me – “black” in sausage means “blood.” It was the local specialty, in fact.

There was a pause, but when you’re eating on a budget, parts is parts, calories are calories, and you clean your plate.


A state-run liquor store sat down the street from the restaurant, and it yielded a bottle of Koff and two of Amiraali. One of them was Lord Nelson, and the other wasn’t. Togo was not in stock. The lagers were cool, not cold, and I happily drank them straight from the bottle while seated on a park bench somewhere in downtown Tampere, watching the local people pass by.

For all I knew at the time, two of them might have been Henrik and Eva, returning home from work.

Back at the hostel, I made the acquaintance of my roomies for the evening. In a room with three bunk beds, five of us would be sleeping. My four new friends were traveling together as a group, evidently visiting the university. They were friendly and engaging, but didn’t speak very much English, and judging from appearances and the sound of their language, I guessed them to be Middle Easterners.

The following morning at breakfast their passports came out, and it was revealed that they were Libyans, at the time regarded by Americans as prime exponents of international terrorism, second only to Palestinians.

And I wasn't even carrying a gun.

These Libyan chaps seemed nice enough to me. After coffee, we said our goodbyes and wished each other well. I set off for Tampere’s train station, and Helsinki.



The PC: Euro ’85, Part 27 … Stockholm's blonde ambition, with or without mead-balls.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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