Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A hand-pulled pint at McNeill's Brewery in Brattleboro, Vermont.

Borrowed from Trip Advisor

I'm recapping our summer vacation, and the beer story goes here at PC, with further narrative at NAC:

Eastern USA Road Trip 2016, Day 2: Across Ohio and New York to Brattleboro, Vermont.

On Day Two, we drove from Cleveland to Brattleboro, Vermont, proceeding directly to our Airbnb lodgings. Once the flag had been planted, it was time to get our bearings and go downtown, perhaps a half-mile away, which brought us to McNeill's Brewery.

I've no idea what has happened at McNeill's since 2005, when the following article appeared, although a more recent on-line account suggests that little has changed apart from the plug being pulled from a second brewing facility owing to the owner's bout of bad health.

After reading Crouch's wonderful character study, it's perfectly clear to me why I liked this place so much.

Alternately brash, arrogant, kindly, brusque, and passionate, Ray McNeill, the owner of McNeill's Brewery, is an intriguing mix of personalities, by Andy Crouch (BeerScribe)

... When he opened McNeill's Brewery in a rundown building in downtown Brattleboro, a structure that once served as a police station, a town office hall and a jail, McNeill had a vision. "I was trying to create a sort of social meeting house for the town. You know that stupid television show 'Cheers'? That actually happens here. That's what this bar is like." The bar's insular atmosphere can prove challenging for outsiders. "Some of them get it right away and some of them don't," says McNeill. "Some people from out of town just figure it out right away. I've seen people from out of town, within twenty minutes, were on a first name basis with another half dozen people. If some people live in some real cloistered suburban place, they're probably not going to figure it out. But a lot of them do. If people don't know who I am, I certainly try and encourage that. If I see someone from out of town, I try and start a conversation with them right away. I go a little bit out of my way to do that."

Even before reading the preceding, I wrote a review of McNeill's on Facebook.

We stopped in McNeill's during the afternoon while visiting Brattleboro, and again the following day, and enjoyed it. Someone else said McNeill's is a dive bar with great beer, and to me, this is both accurate and commendable, because increasingly, pretentiousness kills the joy of "craft" beer. I had excellent cask pours, including a yummy Old Ale. The bartender was great; she treated us like family and offered spot-on advice about other dining and drinking options. Loved it for what it is.

My instincts are still fairly sharp, after all. One of the bartender's most enthused recommendations was Turquoise Grill, an intimate Turkish spot. My Lamb Köfte was outstanding.

One Brattleboro brewery down ... two to go.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Helluva beer selection at Cleveland's Progressive Field; the price is high, but I can live with that.

As detailed at NA Confidential, we saw an Indians game while overnighting in Cleveland. The home side beat the Twins, and I enjoyed a humongous Italian-style sandwich, courtesy of the Fat Head's concession stand.

Eastern USA Road Trip 2016, Day 1: MLB, Minnesota Twins at Cleveland Indians.

When my cell phone died, I lost the few photos I took of the park, including the inspiring tableau of the Great Lakes Brewing Beer Garden just yards away from our seats on the third base side (opposite Fat Head's, with the Brew Kettle nearby).

The good news: Lots and lots of American-style "craft" beers ... and GLBC's beer garden is open until the end of the game, thanks to some sort of special license.

The bad news: $12.00 for approximate 19-oz pours, across the board. Domestic is $10 for the same size.

Still, I attended a competitive ballgame and drank Session IPA, Oktoberfest and Porter. A wad of cash was dropped ... but we all know about stadium pricing. It's an occupational hazard.

Thumbs up to the food and drink at Progressive Field. Ironically, our last road trip ballgame was in Minneapolis in 2014, and Target Field was favorable for better beer, too.

Just don't get me started about the perennially blundering Louisville Bats. A better nickname would be Swillocrats.


Monday, August 29, 2016

AFTER THE FIRE: In the Red Room, we’re all left – right?

AFTER THE FIRE: In the Red Room, we’re all left – right?

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

Have you ever had the feeling you’re being watched?

The sensation isn’t irrational, and it’s not paranoia. Rather, it’s the sneaking suspicion that you’re being toyed with, prompted, or set up.

Suddenly you’re confronted with a situation so weirdly surreal that surely a hidden camera is aimed your way, primed to capture your dumbfounded, flailing reaction for speedy editing into a YouTube video, to be greeted virally by the guffaws of the uneducated, addled masses.

My former manager at Scoreboard Liquors must have felt this way on the infamous day thirty-odd years ago when a complete stranger strolled in, pointed at the door to the rear office, and asked, “Do you mind if I go back there and change my pants?”

YouTube obviously didn’t exist back then, but Candid Camera did. The late Lloyd “Duck” Cunningham’s unprintable reply to the man’s request would have played well in syndication, with Allen Funt joyfully suffering the brunt of bleeped-out epithets.

It brings to mind the time when my inbox disgorged a Yelp review notification. An customer identified only as Manny was deeply troubled.

A little while ago I noticed there was a room that had pictures of several mass murdering, genocidal, tyrannical dictators on the walls. As a customer what meaning should I take from that? In my opinion it seems to show support from the owner of New Albania of these tyrants?

I enjoy the pizza at NABC but I don’t enjoy the thought of supporting someone that idolized people like the pictures and posters you seem to proudly display. Maybe I misunderstand their meaning.

My initial reaction was confusion. Manny filed his one-star review under NABC Bank Street Brewhouse, although the alleged "shrine" prompting his consternation has existed for two decades not downtown, but at NABC’s Pizzeria & Public House.

Next came annoyance. Murderers, tyrants and dictators on the wall, in the Red Room?

If so, who had possessed the nerve to pull down my Commie regalia and replace it with fascist iconography – Franco, Mussolini, Idi Amin and Dick Cheney?

Of course, I soon realized he was referring to the usual Red Room stalwarts like Lenin, Che and Gus Hall. Fair enough, I thought. The political spectrum for crimes against humanity has a tendency to mutate, depending on where one is standing at the time.

Here was my reply.

It isn’t necessarily a misunderstanding on your part, but what I can tell you with certainty is there’s no idolatry on mine.

I remain a leftist, broadly speaking, having traveled in the East Bloc and USSR as a young man in the 1980s, but while I found these countries fascinating from a number of standpoints, they were not places I ever wished to live.

Your question is asked every now and then, and my answer always has been the same: The Red Room means whatever the observer wishes for it to mean: Kitschy poster art emporium, spoils of Cold War victory or a shrine of reverence.

However, the primary intent for me is for it to serve as a talking point to help keep a piece of still-recent history living, in the sense that with each passing year, fewer (mostly younger) customers have any clue what the era was about.

The verdict of history is fairly clear when it comes to the legacy of Stalin and Mao, and I have confidence that most interested parties will reach that conclusion, as you and I already have. But first they must be interested in history and motivated to investigate it. In my view, the Red Room periodically serves that purpose.

As for what I was thinking more than 20 years ago with regard to this tiny bejeweled dining space, my prime consideration at the time was to have a place to display the many propaganda pieces I’d hauled home from travels abroad.

One thing led to another, and there it was. The Red Room came together non-metaphorically. I’m the first to admit there is as little to idolize on Stalin’s part as Hitler’s, but to repeat, the point lies elsewhere.

Decades have passed and the older generations have departed. Precious little discussion takes place about the “-isms” dominating the entirety of the 20th century … and sorry, yonder Teahadists, but petulant ranting about Communism and Obamacare amid voluminous ricocheting spittle does not suffice as earnestness.

It remains that to forget history is to risk repeating it, as either Santayana or Carlos Santana once remarked. I’m in favor of reminders. If you ask me, local school children should visit the Red Room on their field trips.

The Red Room’s “meaning”?

It prompted a question from Manny about the Red Room’s meaning, simple as that, even if the real estate in question now lies outside my immediate bailiwick. May these historical inquiry instigators survive the business buy-out – if the blessed cha-ching ever occurs in my lifetime.

Ironically, my single favorite example of work- and history-related consumer behavior occurred not in the comfortable confines of the Red Room, but at Bank Street Brewhouse, not long after it opened in 2009.

One of our servers was asked by a well-dressed while male customer to explain Roger’s political beliefs. The visitor had noticed the red stars and leftist imagery on the shiny new brewing tanks visible just past the dining room window.

Our man on the floor, who’d studied some history and political science in college, made a game effort to interpret these complex threads of geopolitics, economics and the art of brewing, and to phrase them in snappy sentences reproducible on bumper stickers suitable for a Lexus, and yet the customer remained unimpressed, writing this on his charge card receipt:

“Tell your Commie boss to share the wealth.”

In order to accentuate his displeasure with my cheeky political proclivities, this rather boorish scion of an identifiably Falangist regional family left the gratuity column empty, thus idiotically stiffing the server while doing me no harm whatever.

Classy, eh?

Not only that, but he was mistaken; in fact, I still share the wealth every day – in terms of knowledge, as teachers are wont to do, because I’ve always been more a teacher than a businessman.

In 2009, my advice to our server was this:

“If it ever happens again, tell him you don’t care what sort of ‘-ist’ Roger is, just as long as he keeps signing my paycheck.”

Seven years later, permit me to consciously refrain from associating the Republican Party’s nominee for president with any of these memories.

After all, The Donald would be just as clueless as Manny and the Stiffer when it comes to the history in the Red Room.


August 22: AFTER THE FIRE: Drink, smoke and enjoy.

August 15: AFTER THE FIRE: Listening to "Dixieland" jazz, and thinking about drinking a beer.

August 8: AFTER THE FIRE: A pre-digital Bohemian vignette, 1989.

August 1: AFTER THE FIRE: The devil made me drink it.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Give AB InBev the finger and read this article about antitrust and the importance of supply chains.

Beer is not mentioned in this article, but if you're reading it while drinking a Goose Island product, you're probably better off heading back to Thrillist.

What Role for Antitrust in the Era of Rising Inequality? The Importance of Power in Supply Chains, by Marshall Steinbaum (Pro-Market)

Concentration of power in supply chains is a prime mechanism by which dominant companies consolidate power and profits.

The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 was passed almost unanimously and with one goal in mind: to keep the cartels that dominated the nation’s railroad network from shaking down yeoman farmers. If they wanted to sell their goods, farmers had to pay the railroads’ exorbitant prices for freight, and any time demand increased, the railroads increased their prices and so captured the entire windfall. The Sherman Act, along with later U.S. antitrust legislation, aimed to diffuse market power in supply chains. The premise of the act was that individual small-scale producers should be allowed to make a living without paying powerful gatekeepers for the privilege.

For the most part, that has not been the standard applied by regulators and courts in enforcing antitrust law over the last four decades. Instead, they have looked almost exclusively at consumer welfare rather than the relative power of different suppliers to set prices and other trading terms. And policymakers and experts have tended to assume that large suppliers serve consumers’ interest by competing out inefficient producers—meaning that concentrating power in supply chains is, at least most of the time, beneficial to the public. That intellectual trend is reflected in the prioritization of different types of cases by the antitrust enforcement agencies, and also in the judiciary with the Supreme Court’s move to consider vertical price-fixing cases under the Rule of Reason following the 2007 Leegin case.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Foodies, pretentiousness and "a pox on your loft."

Yes, the mag's mentioned.

Wait -- you don't think a few of Powell's razor-sharp observations (well, only two or three dozen of them) are applicable to "craft" beer?

Substitute the words "beer snob" for "foodie," and have a deep think.

Curb Your Foodieism: How pretentiousness undercuts Louisville’s food scene, by Michael C. Powell (LEO Weekly)

... Additionally vexing, many people who fall somewhere on the spectrum of the creative class often toss around this term carte blanche, even though there’s nothing particularly creative about being a foodie. You’re not creating something — that’s what the chef just did, even though “foodie” is a badge worn proudly with at least a modicum of self-congratulatory importance by the same folks. Identifying as a “foodie” does not define anything about an individual, save for one simple fact — it is a public proclamation that a certain amount of disposable income is available for you to eat at trendy restaurants at will. And that, friends, is an odd thing to brag about in the same sentence as your preferred sports franchise, unless actively posturing a sense of exclusivity based on your means is worthy of note. In which case, nuts to you. A pox on your loft.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Beer archaeology: "The beginnings of civilization were spurred on by fermented beverages."

Photo credit: The Smithsonian.

Many of us have been exposed to ancient narratives like this, but it's vitally important to stress the intertwined history of beverage alcohol and humankind.

I always began my beer tastings with a few riffs on the fact that fermentation is a natural process. Fundamentalists like to pretend otherwise.

I always try to ignore fundamentalists.

Beer Archaeologist: How Alcohol Shaped Our Civilization, by Paul Ratner (Big Think)

Patrick McGovern, a biomolecular archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania, has one of the coolest jobs in the world. Some have called him “the Indiana Jones of Alcohol” or “the beer archaeologist”. What he does is recreate the world's oldest drinks by finding and utilizing organic material at archaeological sites. A world authority on ancient alcoholic beverages, he’s found humanity’s oldest drinks and re-made some of them, like a beer from the legendary King Midas's court and a 9000-year-old Chinese rice and honey drink from the Neolithic period.

In a recent interview with National Geographic, McGovern shared his insights on the importance of alcohol in creating our civilization ...


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

BIG: "As the industry grows and technology changes, guilds can have a stronger voice than ever."

Admittedly, I haven't been playing very close attention, but The Brewer Magazine ... based at 719 E Kentucky Street in Louisville? The articles seem solid. Can someone bring me up to date?

Meanwhile, it's gratifying to see some good ink for the Brewers of Indiana Guild.

Guilds Find Ways to Connect Breweries with Consumers & Each Other, by By Jon Sicotte (The Brewer Magazine)

A state guild can be key in connecting fellow brewers to other brewers, and state breweries to the consuming public.

Finding new and exciting ways to do that has been on the mind of the Brewers of Indiana Guild, which has seen the number of breweries in the state nearly double in the last two-plus years. That means needed communication and more resources for not just educating the public on craft beer in the Hoosier state, but also educating and introducing the various breweries to each other. That partnership can lead to strong communal ties and a bigger voice in unison when needed.

“As the industry grows and technology changes, guilds can have a stronger voice than ever,” said Brewers of Indiana Guild Communication Director Tristan Schmid.


Monday, August 22, 2016

AFTER THE FIRE: Drink, smoke and enjoy.

AFTER THE FIRE: Drink, smoke and enjoy.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

This column dates to October, 2012. It was originally published at, and has not appeared in its entirety here at the blog.

I must note with sadness that Billow is no longer with us. However, The Office Cigar Shop and Lounge in Floyds Knobs and Riverside Cigar Shop/Match Cigar Bar in Jeffersonville have expanded local options exponentially.

It also should be said that a return to temperate weather would be much appreciated.


Tolerable front porch weather resumed in September this year, and temperate temps lasted well into October. Suddenly, as though gripped by an obscure internalized auto-pilot, I found myself queuing at various local cigar purveyors, and layering my humidor.

New Albany is fortunate in this regard. There’s Kaiser Tobacco, which has operated on Pearl Street for more than 175 years, and also Billow, celebrating a year in business on Market Street.

Billow’s strategic location is especially pleasing to the senses when those days when the planets are aligned. Just next to it is the Quills coffee shop, and across the street Habana Blues, a Cuban restaurant. Aromas of cigars, coffees, teas and spicy roasted meats can be pervasive in that area, reminding us of how very important our retained impressions of smell can be, combining with sights and sounds to conjure wonderful memories.

And then there’s beer.


In 1995, on a sunny fall afternoon in Antwerp, Belgium, we’d started drinking early at the Elfde Gebod (Eleventh Commandment) café, where religious statuary both sacred and profane lines the walls. The eccentric tableau is just creepy enough to be inspirational, so for those seeking a view of “Jesus with the head of a dog” while sipping Westmalle Tripel, the Elfde Gebod is just your kind of place.

Later that afternoon, my pot of North Sea mussels steamed in dry white wine was superb. Endless, graceful “bollekes” of locally brewed De Koninck amber ale were equally fabulous, and there remains a sneaking suspicion that we found Rodenbach on tap somewhere at a bar upstairs on the other side of the cathedral.

Belgium’s diamond capital is a city filled with food, drink and nightlife, and the specific reason why the memory of this particular day returned to me recently was a cigar, cradled in my hand, burning ever so slowly, emitting puffy smoke rings – the fruition of a long, patient process of growth, cultivation, harvesting, curing, hand rolling, packing and distribution.

It took me back to the conclusion of our Antwerp session so very long ago, because we ended the long day’s session at the famous beer bar called the Kulminator, where Dirk was featuring ten-year-old vintage dark ale called Breughel, brewed by a long defunct brewery (since then, it has been revived), as salvaged from a forgotten stash hidden in a friend’s garage.

Miraculously, the process of aging had been quite friendly to the Breughel. Oxidization offered a velvety patina of sherry-like nuttiness to concentrated fruitiness, on the order of plums, pecans and toffee. I drank one, ordered another, and lit an authentic Havana: The Romeo y Julieta Churchill, purchased a few days earlier at a tobacconist’s in Brussels.

At the time, I was quite sure it was the best cigar I’d ever smoked. Finely conditioned, properly humidified and boasting a clean draw and steady, stately, dead-even ash, it was full-bodied and unapologetic in flavor, and the sensory qualities of the tobacco were simply overwhelming. Not only that, I had a complex, nuanced beer to go along with the cigar. The match of power vs. power seemed ideal.

At the same time, as one who regularly enjoys good beer with good cigars, I must confess that at some level, doing so is counter-intuitive. Puffing on a cigar changes the way a beer tastes. Conversely, drinking a beer also changes the way a cigar tastes. Can partaking of beer and cigars together change the way both taste, but in a positive way, one modifying pleasurable aspects of each and yielding a harmonious, hedonistic whole?

I think so.

When given the chance to nip at a beer I haven’t previously tasted, my general inclination is to avoid cigar smoke; after all, the first Breughel in Antwerp went down before the cigar came out. This is a personal preference, and simple enough to keep straight. The point to me is that because quality beer and cigars both appeal to me, I’m likely to continue making simultaneous use of them, and with a wee bit of forethought, the experience can be enhanced.


On the cigar side, the logical place to assess the range of pairing choices is the wrapper, which contributes much to the flavor profile and offers visual clues. Wrappers range from lighter to darker shades, with subtle, spicy notes common in the light wrappers and cocoa or chocolate hints noticeable as the color nears black.

Albeit imperfectly, these wrapper shades correspond to beer colors as a preliminary basis for pairing.

The base malt of beer is golden, with hues added through the use of specialty malts, which also provide flavors ranging from roast to espresso to wood smoke. Color alone doesn’t always indicate the strength and character of a beer, and it should be obvious that the lightest styles of beer won’t always pair well with tobacco even if the cigar is innately mild.

For instance, a golden-colored beer might be light and delicately hopped (Kolsch), medium-bodied, estery and phenolic (German Hefeweizen) or strong and malty sweet (Maibock). With a yellowish-brown Claro wrapper, Kolsch’s subtlety would be missed, and the assertive Maibock might overwhelm it. Among these three beer styles, a reasonable starting point might be Hefeweizen; a touch of clove and fruit for complementing the Claro’s spiciness.

Aggressively hoppy beers, including American Pale Ales and English ESBs, excel in the middle of the wrapper color range, especially Colorado (brown). Hops also can complement a cedar-like flavor component in cigars (sometimes gleaned from their modes of storage), but hoppy beers lacking a firm malt component, like an everyday Pilsner, often lack the heft to compete.

The greater the coffee, cocoa and chocolate content of the wrapper (Maduro and Oscuro), the less utility of either hops or spices, and far better the match with beers offering similarly dark character: Stouts, Porters, Belgian Dubbels, and any number of unclassifiable stronger, dark and blacker specialty brews.

As suggested long ago by my old friend Paul Mick, the residual sugar found in many bigger, darker beers serves as a leveling agent in the struggle for balance with fuller-bodied cigars. In a primal and purely axiomatic sense, the pinnacle of full-on-full pairings could well be oily, black Maduro cigars alongside bourbon-barrel-aged Imperial Stouts.

Of course, these musings will be familiar to cigar smokers with a taste for Port, and those already enamored of the wider world of whiskies. Kentucky’s legendary bourbon whisky pairs well with cigars because both possess woody flavors. The alcohol in the bourbon cleanses the palate; and the corn mash sweetness of the whisky balances the absence of sweetness in the tobacco. Or so it seems to me.

Indeed, the utility of experimentation never diminishes. So, what is your own strategy for beer and cigars?


August 15: AFTER THE FIRE: Listening to "Dixieland" jazz, and thinking about drinking a beer.

August 8: AFTER THE FIRE: A pre-digital Bohemian vignette, 1989.

August 1: AFTER THE FIRE: The devil made me drink it.

July 28 (at NA Confidential): ON THE AVENUES: An imaginary exercise tentatively called The Curmudgeon Free House.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Arts Council's "Bourbon, Beer and Barbecue" fundraiser is August 26.

Neither the poster nor the press release mentions specific "local" beer and bourbon, but the "local" chain newspaper comes to the rescue with this:

Beer will be available from Donum Dei Brewery and the New Albany Brewhouse, Jim Beam bourbon and wine from French Lick Winery.

Um, that's New Albanian Brewing Company, but otherwise, it's good to know all the facts. Following is the press release.


Bourbon, Beer and Barbeque
Artist Showcase and Fundraiser
August 26, 2016
6:00 - 10:00 pm
Pepin Mansion, 1003 East Main Street
New Albany, Indiana
Tickets $40.00

The Arts Council of Southern Indiana is pleased to announce our annual fundraising event: Bourbon, Beer and Barbeque, Jazz and Blues Artist Showcase.

Musical entertainment and local art provide the backdrop for this memorable evening. This event is an opportunity for the ACSI to recognize arts supporters and gives artists the opportunity to practice their craft and display their work to a supportive audience.

This event is presented by The Arts Council of Southern Indiana and hosted by the Pepin Mansion.

All proceeds benefit educational programing, exhibits and art events at the Pat Harrison Arts Center.

Special Musical Guests:
Jamey Aebersold Jazz Quartet
Waitin' For Dave,
The Phoenix Collective - Fire Performers

Shawn's Southern BBQ
Capriole Chesse
Smiles Cakes
Café 157
Aladdin's Cafe

ACSI Cocktail
Local Beer and Bourbon

Featuring Artists:
Andie Davis, Jeff Reinhardt, Wini Harrison,
Dawn Johnston, Roxy Lentz, Lyn Oaks,
Cody Presley, Kim Raber

Tickets are $40.00 and can be purchased:
phone at 812-949-4238, online,
or Arts Council, 820 East Market Street, New Albany, IN 47150.

For more Information please contact Julie Schweitzer:
812-949-4238 or

Friday, August 19, 2016

No hype, just the "Death of a Brewery Salesman."

"My friend once showed me how he explains the three tier system of alcohol to lay people. He picked up his glass and moved it from in front of his right hand to in front of his left hand and then stuck out his other hand and said 'That'll be 30%, please.' There is often a feeling among brewery people that distributor people would be just as happy delivering turkey basters."

I wasn't ever the primary sales rep at my (former) brewery, but even in an ancillary capacity, I experienced enough of it to feel this guy's pain.

Unfortunately, there probably isn't a solution. Let's hope the colleges and universities continue to produce cannon fodder; meanwhile, I intend to curl up with a growler from the brewery down the way.

Death of a Brewery Salesman, by Matthew J. "Heff" Heffernan (DCBeer)

 ... It's a strange dynamic that leads many people to believe that being a beer rep is quite possibly the best job on the planet. That's what the buying public generally sees us doing: drinking beer on an expense account. They don't see us awake until all hours of the night building presentations to show at wholesaler meetings (which are often at 7am the next day). So they think this job is great. They don't see the truly unfortunate amount of time you have to spend analyzing sales data to make any sort of headway at retail, or with your wholesaler partners (about all of whom, I don't think it's any secret to anyone who knows me, I've openly had some very negative things to say about in the past, but we'll get to that in a minute). The public definitely doesn't see the embarrassing and regrettable conversations that sometimes go on out in the market or during a sales call. The horse trading, the sucking up, the falseness, agreeing when you actually disagree, smiling when you actually want to judo chop the person in the neck. These are some things I'm pretty good at. None of them are sexy, but I guess they do separate me from your average homebrewer. Still though, it's the cool shirt that must make them want me there. Or maybe the hope they will receive a cool shirt of their own simply by hosting?


Thursday, August 18, 2016

You can't roller skate in a buffalo herd, and "You Can't 'Open' a Dive Bar."

The great Roger Miller died far too young. Songwriters need time to develop their musical craft, and if you can't roller skate in a buffalo herd, it's equally impossible to charge $8 for a beer in a "dive" bar.

I'm guessing there'll be those who disagree.

You Can't 'Open' a Dive Bar, by Naomi Tomky (City Lab)

Hole-in-the-wall spots need time to evolve.

Dive bars are the antithesis of change. Regular customers expect the same person to serve them the same drink, and that it will taste the same, the bar will smell the same, and that nothing will ever surprise them there. Sarah Jewell, who managed Seattle’s Central Saloon, called many of her regulars “ritualistic.” But whether it’s ritual, habit, or comfort, dive bars are the opposite of trendy, and the opening of a new bar is the opposite of everything for which the dive bar genre stands.

But entrepreneurs rushed to capitalize on that hard-earned vibe and open places that imitate the same spots that have been gentrified out of a neighborhood. (See practically-dive-themed bars like King’s Hardware and Montana in Seattle.) The thing is, you can't rush dive bars. Like antiques—or, more appropriately, whiskey and wine—much of the value of a dive bar comes with the passing of time: butt grooves in banquettes, moisture stains on the bar in the shape of one million pint glasses, and a bartender spewing the kind of surliness that requires decades of practice. Dive bars aren’t opened: they evolve.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Let's flip this over: The Life of the Flagships.

I didn't read Chelsie's piece until after I'd already written these words.

AFTER THE FIRE: Before the deluge, or knowing how this whole beer business started.

... My contrarian instincts tell me that the beer climate is ripe for a modest, thoughtful return to basics, emblemized by a relatively small list of classics on draft, and in bottles and cans, to be accompanied by some good, old-fashioned beer education, which seems to have been tossed aside in the era of mile-wide, inch-deep “craft” fandom.

It would be churlish to differ with Chelsie on stylistic grounds, because all the relevant points are there for consideration.

She is describing reality as it is viewed by the digital white whale chasers, and if the digital white whale chasers view their scene as reality, so it must be -- it says so right here, on the Internet -- except the contrarian in me stubbornly believes that this viewpoint skips past the default setting of a significant chunk of better beer lovers.

Hence my current fascination with piloting the vessel straight back to the future, and establishing a pub beer program that is as stolid and set as the remainder of "craft" beer is flashy and ever-changing. Lots of people are drinking Victory Prima Pils and Saison Dupont. If not, these brands wouldn't be available.

Why not consciously appeal to beer lovers who don't chase the white whale, don't stockpile swap booty, and just wish to enjoy a good beer or three over conversation?

Maybe it's impossible, but maybe it's just being undervalued. Maybe it isn't being tried, though maybe the tried and true is tomorrow's freshest approach.

Death of the Flagships: But Why?, by Chelsie (Stouts and Stilettos)

I must admit. I have had this post swirling around in my head for well over a year now… maybe even longer. I’ve often talked about the downturn of flagship beers in great length to many-a-folks who belly up to the bar with me and on Twitter with fellow craft beer minded individuals. Now it’s time to document it all and get it out to the masses, because it’s a recent phenomena that’s really disheartening to some and to others it’s “goodbye. good riddance!” It’s an emotional parting of something classic and sacred yet on the other hand a parting of something boring and forgettable.


Monday, August 15, 2016

AFTER THE FIRE: Listening to "Dixieland" jazz, and thinking about drinking a beer.

AFTER THE FIRE: Listening to "Dixieland" jazz, and thinking about drinking a beer.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

The book is Lost Chords: White Musicians and Their Contribution to Jazz, 1915-1945, by the late Richard M. Sudhalter. It is a massive and scholarly tome, and allowing time for numerous visits to YouTube in search of cited songs, my progress has been painstakingly slow.

Insofar as there was anyone left alive to care all that much upon the publication of Lost Chords in 1999, the book apparently provoked mild controversy, in that Sudhalter was seen as challenging the orthodoxy that jazz must be viewed almost exclusively as an African-American domain.

However, I don’t believe this criticism of Sudhalter is justified in the main, because he doesn’t seriously question the African-American bona fides. Rather, he offers testimony on behalf of white jazzmen of the pre-WWII period, some of whom were neglected even before seven or more decades elapsed.

Naturally, this assumes a coherent definition of jazz itself. Louis Armstrong may or may not have said, “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know,” but this sentiment bears a large measure of truth. It’s a very big, nebulous tent.

Speaking personally, I’m not overly concerned that Sudhalter’s book will send me spiraling into bigotry. Growing up in the 1960s, my parents exposed me to both types of their favorite music, swing and jazz, and if there were prejudices about music in the Baylor household, it wasn’t racial in the least.

Instead, it was directed against filthy long-haired hippies of any skin color playing that horrendous rock and roll. In due time, I managed to overcome this homefront institutional bias and revel in the electric guitar. In the interim, I was fortunate to be imbued with jazz from both black and white sources: Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton; Bix Beiderbecke and Benny Goodman; and Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck.

Yes, the roots of jazz overwhelmingly lie in the African-American experience, and yes, white musicians are known to have played it, too – and still do. The music long since has become a universal language, capable of being embraced by almost anyone, and may it survive another hundred years in ever widening spirals of diversity.

As this purports to be a column about beer, not books or music, please know that I’m currently in route to the general point, although it must be revealed that books and music are as important to me as beer and baseball. They’re items of long-term personal interest, and as cultural markers in my internal world, they’re seemingly woven together, completely inseparable and mutually reinforcing.

It’s hard to imagine life without them.


In the chapter entitled “Dixieland,” Sudhalter examines a musical genre seemingly defined as much by audience perception as actual notes and sounds. At this late date, the differences may seem academic, but I was deeply affected by the discussion.

It goes something like this: Youthful (read: rebellious) white musicians in 1920s-era Chicago brashly copied what they heard being played by others, both black and white, many of whom came from New Orleans. In the process of creating a “new” amalgam of older forms, they soon experienced a predictable arc: First rejection, then acceptance and a measure of success, before yielding all too soon to typecasting.

Sudhalter holds that black musicians playing music of a similar style were better able to escape a “Dixieland” genre stereotype at least in part because the word originated as dog-whistling marketing code delineating white players from black – and once locked safely into place, predominantly white audiences refused to allow their heroes to evolve.

Why? Sudhalter believes the answer has more to do with rosy audience nostalgia than overt racism.

By the time these jazz players were in their late thirties, white listeners already regarded the music of their youth as akin to “classic jazz,” not unlike today’s “classic rock.” They weren’t interested in hearing new songs or the progressive aural shadings of bebop.

The musicians quickly learned that they could adapt to these expectations and continue to pull gigs, or reject them and be greeted by shrinking pay packets.

They chose to eat.

Specifically, Sudhalter’s description of this phenomenon is as eloquent as any I’ve ever read. He speaks of the 1940s, only 15 years after the Dixieland repertoire (as it were) came into existence.

The listening audience, moreover, was aging; in that generational way peculiar to American fans, it embraced the music more tenaciously, and less for strictly musical reasons than personal and psychological. It symbolized their youth, the well (if selectively remembered) time in their lives when the future seemed limitless, immortality theirs for the asking. Reminded them of a Zeitgeist, vivid and enjoyable, before time and change edged it into memory.

Many years later, Bob Seger stated it more succinctly (and wistfully) in the rock and roll vernacular:

I awoke last night to the sound of thunder
How far off I sat and wondered
Started humming a song from 1962
Ain't it funny how the night moves
When you just don't seem to have as much to lose
Strange how the night moves
With autumn closing in

Play it again, author: “When the future seemed limitless.” That Richard Sudhalter sure knows how to hurt an old fart.


Annoyingly, there is nothing at all inaccurate about the way this ancient Dixieland musical history lesson mirrors existential sub-currents in my own soul, as they pertain to the past and future of better beer and my own place in it … or out of it.

It grates even more because whatever the nature of the topic at hand, I’ve always struggled mightily to avoid nostalgia and live in the present tense, and to remain psychologically (as well as physically) a functional component of the contemporary world as it is.

Unfortunately, those ghosts of mine just won’t let me be.

Thus, comes the time of day when I’m thinking about drinking a beer, and with so many local, regional, national and international choices close at hand – with the abundant fruit of the revolution’s success ripe for plucking right down the street at breweries, restaurants and package stores, even within walking distance in otherwise forgettable places like New Albany – all I can think about are enriching vignettes and tasty beers from my past.

As with last week’s remembrance of 10-degree golden Czech lager from the brewery at Benesov, poured straight from an earthenware pitcher, and consumed in the yard of a Bohemian weekend house in the company of a personable Communist party member and his family.

Like the time in Brighton, listening to the Manic Street Preachers in a pub with the cask-conditioned Brown Porter, then hitting the late night curry house for a bite before stumbling back to the hotel.

Or during most of those glorious times bicycling in Belgium, working up a powerful thirst and slaking it with ales of all strengths and hues in cafés like The Dazzling, ‘t Brugs Beertje or any number of local dives with a Jupiler sign painted on the facade.

Naturally, what these experiences have in common isn’t so much the beers consumed at the time, although they were wonderful, but the timeliness of the situations, yielding to timeless snapshots of suspended moments, when the future seemed limitless and immortality mine for the asking.

Of course, they’re gone; completed, finished and cashed. I might leave tomorrow on a journey to revisit each of these specific locales, and while I’m sure it would be fun, devoting the money and effort to reliving memories would be this fool’s ultimate wasted errand. It cannot be done.

Although agitated in the best of time, I’m no idiot, and I understand that all these previous lives were extinguished milliseconds after they occurred, but in spite of this rational clarity – perhaps because of it – the ghosts flit teasingly about, tempting me, and often I yearn to recapture the feeling of exhilaration and discovery, of being utterly lost in the moment, of refusing to be the omniscient guide, of eschewing the ephemeral cutting edge, and in placing no more significance in the act of drinking a beer than the chain of muscle processes necessary to swallow it.

But it’s so very hard to forget what you’ve learned. A consistent theme of Sudhalter’s is to ignore much (though not all) of the so-called expert musical testimony and judge by the results, because listening to records should be absolutely colorblind. However, complete objectivity is a myth and an over-simplification ... and maybe those olden times weren't quite as carefree as they seemed.

When it comes to beer, I’m happy to have come so far, and wouldn’t trade this accumulated knowledge for anything, even an hour of previously squandered innocence during Reagan’s first term – when there wasn’t as much to lose.

At least I don’t think I’d turn down the trade. Instead, as usual, I'll try to treat the symptoms by throwing the ghosts a few scraps – listening to Keith Moon play drums, reading a chapter of Ball Four, and writing about a beer I drank somewhere in Hungary back in '87.

The ghosts will disappear for a while, but they’re persistent, and after all, we’ve known each other for a very long time. After every such dispersal, I ponder the same basic question: How does one hold onto his own traditions and values in a changing world, without lapsing into nostalgic self-parody?

Beats me. Whatever it is, I'm doing a poor job of it right about now.


August 8: AFTER THE FIRE: A pre-digital Bohemian vignette, 1989.

August 1: AFTER THE FIRE: The devil made me drink it.

July 28 (at NA Confidential): ON THE AVENUES: An imaginary exercise tentatively called The Curmudgeon Free House.

July 25: AFTER THE FIRE: Before the deluge, or knowing how this whole beer business started.

July 18: AFTER THE FIRE: Moss the Boss, his dazzling beer café, and what they taught me about “craft.”


Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Naong Negroni, perhaps? But maybe he prefers a nice Altbier.

This orangutan might prove to be the ideal taster, bartender and bouncer, all rolled into one. It makes me wonder how Naong would fare in a beer tasting, with the major question being horizontal, vertical or kitchen sink?

Accounting for taste: cognitive mixology (The Economist)

What can I get you? Naong, a male orangutan in a Swedish zoo, knows just what he wants. Given apple vinegar and cherry, rhubarb and lemon juice to taste separately, he learned their flavours, showing his preferences when given free choice of which to keep drinking. When he was offered various mixtures, prepared in front of him, he learned how those flavours tasted in combination. Then the real test: he watched novel mixtures being made and was allowed to choose between them ...


Saturday, August 13, 2016

An overview of Barrel Aged Imperial Stout and a profile of Brooklyn and The Butcher headline the current issue of Food and Dining Magazine.

The latest issue of Food & Dining is on the street, as I speak. Click through to the preview and compendium of articles, then follow the links to issuu.

Or, go straight there:

Food & Dining -- Fall 2016, Vol. 53 (August/September/October) 

I have my usual beer column byline in the current edition ...

Hip Hops: Bourbon-barrel-aged Imperial Stout — The complex but agreeable relationship between beer and used Bourbon barrels.

... and there's also a detailed profile by the inimitable Greg Gapsis about Southern Indiana's own Ian Hall and his Brooklyn and The Butcher.

Vision and Experience in a Historical Setting — New Albany restaurateur Ian Hall adds another jewel to his crown with the sharp, elegant restoration of a historic downtown building.

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


Friday, August 12, 2016

Lew Bryson on "craft" beer's serious issues, and the looming shakeout.

Prepare yourself for a hyperbole-free reality check, courtesy of Lew Bryson.

Craft Beer’s Looming Crisis, by Lew Bryson (Daily Beast)

Here's the good news/bad news pivot, one that reinforces the point that brewers with a strong community presence and local roots have an advantage or two, but trust me, you'll want to click through and read the whole essay:

... As consumers become increasingly interested in locally-made products, there has been a rise in beer bought in brewery tasting rooms, which is much more profitable for a brand considering it cuts out several middlemen from the transaction.

So much beer is purchased there, in fact, that some people think category sales are significantly under-reported by retail sales-tracking services like IRI or Nielsen, which rely on register data from large store chains. Industry consultant David “Bump” Williams, who once ran IRI’s beer data division, thinks the amount is significant. He estimates that 20 percent or more of total craft beer sales go unreported. (He also points out that for some small breweries, meaning those that produce less than 20,000 barrels a year, direct sales are the only way their brews are available.) It’s a rapidly growing phenomenon, and one that could very well account for a percentage of the disappearing growth rate.

But even if one figures in direct brewery sales, the recent meteoric rise of craft beers can’t go on forever. If sales of the category continued at 2015’s rate of 12.8 percent, the entire U.S. beer market would be, well, completely craft in 17 years. That’s simply not going to happen.


Tuesday, August 09, 2016

When the Smithsonian posted for a Beer Historian position ...

The Smithsonian's "help wanted" notice hit the airwaves on my birthday (August 3), and with lightning speed in social media posts, e-mails and candy-grams, a couple dozen of my friends very graciously urged me to go for it.

I'm flattered and humbled. Thank you very much for your thoughts.

However, I'm a realist, and all I've ever really wanted to do was make my own home base safe for better beer (and lots of other civic improvements, which I'll spare you in this beery context).

It goes back to that great (and unrealized) idea for Bank Street Brewhouse, the museum that never got off the ground.

ON THE AVENUES: Ice Cold WCTU (A Modest Proposal).

 ... The New Albany WCTU’s zenith was in the early 1900s, during its ultimately successful campaign for statewide and later national Prohibition. Fortunately, Prohibition’s myriad and well-documented failures served to discredit America’s teetotalers far better than my puny words ever could. Today, the craft brewing revolution flourishes in New Albany on the very same spot where beer’s enemies once conspired.

That’s delicious, and it’s why we need a monument to victory over the prohibitionists.

It's more water under yet another bridge, but the urge remains the same. I want to do things like this here, where I'm from -- teaching about beer, curating a beer museum, or something along these lines, perhaps in conjunction with selling beer, because drinking beer makes learning about beer far easier.

To all of you: I deeply appreciate your interest in my qualifications to work at the Smithsonian. I may be asking for your help to manage some small bit of something similar, here in New Albany.

What Does a Beer Historian Do?, by Susan Evans McClure (Smithsonian)

The American History museum’s latest job opening made headlines. But what does the job actually entail?

 ... Beer history is American history and a new historian joining the Smithsonian Food History team at the National Museum of American History will help the public make sense of the complex history of brewing. As part of the American Brewing History Initiative, a new project at the museum supported by the Brewers Association, the historian will explore how beer and brewing history connect to larger themes in American history, from agriculture to business, from culture to economics. Today, there are over 4,200 breweries in the United States, the most at any time since Prohibition. As American brewing continues to expand and change, and our understanding of beer in American history deepens, the Smithsonian is uniquely positioned to document the stories of American brewers and collect the material culture of the industry and brewing communities for the benefit of scholars, researchers and the public.

But what exactly does a brewing historian do?


Monday, August 08, 2016

AFTER THE FIRE: A pre-digital Bohemian vignette, 1989.

AFTER THE FIRE: A pre-digital Bohemian vignette, 1989.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

For the last five or six years, I’ve had an iPhone. Before this, from around 2002, a simple Nokia cell phone sufficed. During the entirety of this period, never once have I taken my phone with me when traveling abroad.

Rather, as much as possible, we try to stay off the grid when vacationing overseas. Yes, there’s an extremely modern world out there, especially in places like Estonia, which has pole-vaulted from Soviet-era poverty to the front of the hyper-connectivity queue. In a place like Tallinn, it’s very nearly a hardship not to have one’s phone in hand.

However, it makes me all the more determined to pack a tactile guidebook and paper map, and enjoy a merry reversion to prehistory – though not without a digital camera. My skills as a photographer are so greatly stunted that “do overs” are extremely valuable.

When I think back to the decades of the 1980s and my earlier jaunts, images of a lost world predictably crowd into my brain, but what I miss the most was the ability to get lost for months at a time – even in Europe, and without resorting to wilderness travel, for which I’m ill suited.


You can't be serious.


It’s the ability to walk past a pay phone and feel no inclination whatever to connect with anyone. If you were lucky in those days, you’d get a postcard – if I could be bothered to hunt down stamps.

In 1987, Communist Hungary was my home for almost a month. I was to meet my friend Barrie in Moscow for a guided tour, and we’d pre-scheduled a window for me to call him and reconfirm our respective plans. It wasn't clear to me how I'd go about doing it.

The good news: I was in Budapest, the capital.

The bad news: There was no easy way to make an international phone call in Budapest or any other place in Hungary – unless one was staying in a top-dollar hotel, which I emphatically was not.

Even then … well, I heard stories.

Off to the city’s telecommunications center I trudged, because it wasn’t possible for most Hungarians to pick up their home phone and rotary dial the States. The building was big and dingy, and it was like going to a hospital waiting room where no one spoke English, but eventually I was able to reach an understanding, with one critical caveat.

I’d give them Barrie’s phone number and pay ahead for five minutes’ time. When the call actually was being dialed, which might occur 45 minutes or more later, I’d be summoned to a specific numbered booth … with the announcement of the number made in Hungarian over a crackling, muffled loudspeaker.

Szám tizenkilenc készen van.

Luckily, one of the workers made eye contact when the time came, and I had perhaps a minute’s worth of chat with Barrie before the connection fizzled out. It was enough, and I didn’t bother asking for a refund.

Obviously, there were hundreds of lovely and utterly unconnected vignettes amid my European wanderings, when there was time to indulge a genuine feeling of timelessness. One of them came in June of 1989.


Our precise whereabouts in the bucolic Bohemian countryside southeast of Prague were blissfully unknown, but it was a lazy, sunny, aimless lunchtime.

My genial hosts were the aunt and uncle of a dear émigré friend from back home. They both had started the day puttering around their “weekend” house (the Russians would call it a dacha), tending to the garden.

Later, green peppers and onions would be chopped and cooked in a heavy iron skillet with big, fat pork sausages, alongside a salad of shredded cabbage, onions and homemade pickles. There was a football-sized crusty loaf, and plenty of butter.

Uncle Vlasta was the quintessential example of a Czech country boy made good. At the time, he was a proud, unrepentant Communist middle-tier administrator who had adroitly played the hand he was dealt, rising through the ranks to enjoy a solid, respectable and unpretentious life.

In that seemingly placid summer of ’89, there was little reason to believe the domestic scene would ever change. It was entirely unimaginable that a non-violent “Velvet Revolution” freeing Czechoslovakia from its Warsaw Pact orbit – and abruptly rendering Uncle Vlasta prematurely unemployed – would occur at all, much less six months hence.

But it did, although that’s another story.

Uncle Vlasta and his family spent their everyday working weeks residing in an unadorned apartment, albeit one located in a comparatively upscale, 1960’s-era suburb in Prague.

However, their obvious pride and joy was the A-frame weekend house. It had cold running water and a toilet. There was no phone or television. Any excuse to exit the capital city for a few days of peace in the groves and meadows was seized with excitement and vigor, and I was delighted to function as their present-use excuse.

The previous day, we’d taken a day-long, whirlwind tour of Southern Bohemia, Uncle Vlasta’s beloved red Skoda loaded down with supplies. We visited historic towns, sprawling castles and even a hydroelectric dam that he’d helped to construct in the late 1950s as a youthful Community party hopeful.

There were mugs of locally brewed beer, platters of roasted pork, sauerkraut and steamed dumplings, and a steadily encroaching exhaustion. We finally arrived at the family’s weekend house long after dark, and after a few minutes of housekeeping and light snacks, everyone fell fast asleep.

Next morning after breakfast I embarked on my orientation stroll in the nearby woods, returning to find a dirt-smudged and grinning Uncle Vlasta waiting for me. He held up two oversized brown earthenware pitchers and motioned for me to follow him.

We exited the front gate and walked along the rutted road, our ultimate purpose lost to me owing to our language differences.

After a quarter-mile or so, we came to a battered, 1930s-era building clad in chipped stucco, residing in the shade of old, leafy hardwoods. It stood next to the terminus of a single rail line, one that seemed to exist solely for use by the many holiday weekenders in the vicinity.

It became clear that the structure tripled as railway ticket office, grocery store … and pub.


Although diabetic and generally teetotaling, Uncle Vlasta had been dutifully forewarned by his nephew back in New Albany that Roger was an ardent beer lover, and accordingly, throughout my three-week stay, he enthusiastically volunteered to introduce me to various classic pubs for sampling the many brands of golden, hoppy pilsner for which the Czechs remain justly famous.

Soon after my arrival, he taught me a critical phrase in his native language: “Czech beer is better than American beer.” He would drill me on pronunciation just before entering a tavern, and then introduce the visiting foreigner to tavern staff and nearby regulars. I’d smile and utter the words aloud as best I could remember -- and the free beers would begin materializing in front of me.

Uncle Vlasta would shrug, beam with evident satisfaction and drink his apple juice, and while I wasn’t sure whether it was the capitalist novelty of my presence or his “fix-is-in” ruling party credentials that caused such a reaction, I opted to make like the elegant Vltava River and happily drink with the flow.

Consequently, spying the tap inside the rural railway station pub, it made perfect sense to me to have a creamy draft lager and quench my thirst after the morning walk, but as an inexperienced American accustomed to cans and bottles, I still couldn’t quite fathom why we’d lugged the pitchers along.

But Uncle Vlasta chatted with the friendly barman, who began filling them with cool beer for the journey back.

Growlers the old-fashioned way. Some of the liquid didn’t make the trip home. Imagine that.

If only there’d been a selfie.


August 1: AFTER THE FIRE: The devil made me drink it.

July 28 (at NA Confidential): ON THE AVENUES: An imaginary exercise tentatively called The Curmudgeon Free House.

July 25: AFTER THE FIRE: Before the deluge, or knowing how this whole beer business started.

July 18: AFTER THE FIRE: Moss the Boss, his dazzling beer café, and what they taught me about “craft.”

July 11: AFTER THE FIRE: We are dispirited in the post-factual world.


Saturday, August 06, 2016

From Volga Boatman to Moscow Mule in three incredibly short decades.

At the age of 19, give or take a few months, I started hanging out in taverns. At 22, I had a part-time bartending job in one. If I ever get around to writing my autobiography, the K & H Cafe will merit a chapter.

More about my golden era at Lanesville's K & H Cafe can be found here.

One summer while subbing on day shift for Kenny or Straw, I resolved to kill time by cleaning the storage space underneath the bar. Big, big mistake, but somewhere beneath the detritus of the decades there was a hardbound bartending guide with recipes. It appeared to date from the 1960s.

Being interested in all things Russian at the time, my attention was drawn to a recipe for a cocktail called the Volga Boatman, which I'm amazed to find on-line 33 years later.

Being three parts booze to one part orange juice -- it would have been necessary to deploy cherry vodka in the absence of fancy liqueur -- the cocktail equally fascinated my friends, and we went through what might charitably be described as a phase.

The old book from down under the bar also had the story and recipe of the Moscow Mule, but at the K & H in 1983, ginger beer would have been even more rare than Kirschwasser.

Fast forward several lifetimes, and earlier this summer it was suggested to me by John Carlos White, esteemed publisher of Food and Dining Magazine, that Moscow Mules made with Cucumber Vodka are incredible. I foolishly doubted him. I should know better by now. I learned that Cucumber Mules are tastier using alcoholic Ginger Beer. Keg Liquors carries canned Wild Ginger out of Wisconsin, and it works fine.

Here's the Moscow Mule back story, and note that Larry "Silver Dollar" Rice gets some NYT love for his bourbon version of the Mule (below).

At Age 75, the Moscow Mule Gets Its Kick Back, by Robert Simonson (New York Times)

Once a curious footnote, the Moscow Mule, which turns 75 this year, is now one of the most common drinks on the planet. Snobs may sniff at it, but few drinks have so completely benefited from the current cocktail revival.

You're batting, Larry.

Kentucky Mule

Larry Rice’s Louisville bar, the Silver Dollar, is all about whiskey. So its version of the Moscow Mule is bourbon based. Nothing complicated here, just good Kentucky whiskey subbed for the usual vodka. Ginger syrup is used instead of ginger beer, pushing the drink very close to whiskey sour territory, albeit one served under a mound of crushed ice.


Friday, August 05, 2016

THE must-read for 2016, from Lew Bryson: "IPA is a playground; it’s not a prison."

Pete's Landscape of Beers (circa 1990).

Lew's remarkable rumination comes along at just the right time, when my mind is filled with plans and schemes to recapture some of the lost joy by simplifying my approach and maybe ... MAYBE ... getting back to my roots.

The counter-revolution.

At last, maybe it's here.

Enlist me in the Michael "Beer Hunter" Jackson Brigade, please.

WE CHANGED THE WORLD … FOR THIS?, by Lew Bryson (All About Beer Magazine)

... It took 30 years, but we’ve almost come full circle. Back in the ’80s, almost everywhere you went offered you a choice of light lagers, and maybe a Guinness or a Bass, and if you were lucky, a cream ale. Now most of the places I visit offer me a broad choice of IPAs, and maybe a couple of sours or saisons, and a couple of big dark ales. There may be a pilsner, if I’m lucky; it’s probably hopped to the gills.

It’s so boring! We’ve reached the point where brewers are stuffing things into IPAs to make them more interesting: grapefruit, peppers, ginger, lemons, blood oranges, flowers. One brewer had the tongue-in-cheek puckishness to describe his IPA as “beer-flavored.” I can’t decide whether I should salute or punch him in the nose ...


Thursday, August 04, 2016

Death to chains: "MillerCoors Buys Out Oregon Brewery With History of Sexism Scandal."

It probably comes as no surprise that a multinational brewer accustomed to unprincipled pillage would be utterly titillated at the prospect of such a beer.

From January, 2014:

"Mouth Raper," a Horrible Idea for a Beer Name, by Shannon Finnell (Eugene Weekly)

And you thought "Double D Blond" was eyeroll-worthy. Hop Valley got some bad press when Rebecca Rose of Jezebel wrote about a post from Beervana's Jeff Alworth that claimed the real name of Hop Valley's "Mr. IPA" is "Mouth Raper." Alworth cited an alias page from as proof, and a commenter added that she'd looked up the brew on Untapped after seeing it on Twitter as "Mouth Raper," and all the reviews there listed that as its name.

This makes Indiana's legendary Leg Spreader sound positively quaint -- but has MillerCoors made an offer for Route 2 Brews?

MillerCoors Buys Out Oregon Brewery With History of Sexism Scandal, by Martin Cizmar (Willamette Week)

They Now Own a Majority Stake In The Maker of "Mouth Raper"

There have been two very hot topics in the world of craft beer over the past few years.

First, there are the buy-outs.

Today, Oregon had another one. The Brewbound blog reports that a majority stake in Hop Valley has been acquired by MillerCoors for an undisclosed sum. The purchase follows on the heels of 10 Barrel, Ballast Point, Elysian and Lagunitas being bought for massive sums of money. In the case of Ballast Point, a billion dollars.

But unlike those other breweries, there will be no mourning period for Hop Valley. They make very, very average beer with shiny packaging. It's the IPA your mom brings over for dinner because she knows you like hoppy beers and it says "hop" right there on the label.

Nikos Ridge, co-owner of Ninkasi, another Eugene Brewery, did throw a little shade, which will likely be the last you hear of it.

"We are always disappointed when a member of the craft industry becomes part of one of the big two macrobreweries," Ridge told the Register-Guard. "The craft industry was built on being the antithesis of big beer, and has been competing successfully with the global conglomerates for the last 30 years."

But there is a second big issue in play over the past few years: the increasing awareness of sexism in craft beer ...


Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Apparently everyone likes HopCat, and that's just dandy.

You're entitled to my opinion, and in the case of HopCat, I've already inflicted my viewpoint in this June post.

HopCat is coming to Louisville, and it's gonna be yuuuge.

Kevin Gibson asks the important questions and gets the requisite answers. I still think "crack" fries is offensive, and if I venture into HopCat's Louisville hood, I'd rather go to Holy Grale and Cumberland Brews.

But it isn't about me, is it?

Rise of the super bars: Will HopCat affect the craft-beer scene?, by Kevin Gibson (LEO Weekly)

The popularity of craft beer is a trend that continues to skyrocket. At the end of 2015, Kentucky ranked only 38th in the U.S. in number of breweries, but the economic impact of craft beer in the state was $495 million, good for 27th nationwide, according to the Brewers Association.

Louisville has more than a dozen breweries, with more set to open. We also have World of Beer with 50 taps and some 500 bottles, two Craft House locations focusing on regional craft beer, and the well-established Sergio’s World Beers, which carries in the neighborhood of 1,500 bottled and draft beers at any given time.

Craft beer is big business, and big business brings big competition.

Enter HopCat, the growing, Michigan-based chain set to open its latest location, at 1064 Bardstown Road in The Highlands, this Saturday. The restaurant-bar will pour from 132 different taps, with a focus on American craft beer and a few ciders and imports. It advertises itself as having “the state’s largest selection of craft beers on tap.”


Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Holy Grale is one of the best places in America for beer, but we didn't need click bait to know THAT.

I'll indulge this chain of busyness-oriented click bait for only one reason: Holy Grale deserves whatever notice it receives.

Holy Grale is a crown jewel of the Louisville beer scene.

Louisville beer bar ranked as one of best in U.S. for craft brews at Louisville Business First

Louisville's beer scene just keeps getting better. And now Business Insider has selected a local bar for its roundup of the best places for craft beer in America.

Curious about Business Insider? I was.

The New York Times reported in January 2014 that Business Insider's web traffic was comparable to that of The Wall Street Journal. However, the website has received widespread criticism for blatant clickbait and gets most of its "hits" from websites such as Yahoo News, where its articles are often posted. It has also been criticized for routinely putting publishing speed before fact checking.

It seems that click bait begets click bait. Forget the provocation, but remember to patronize Holy Grale early and often. It's been to damned long for me, and I hereby resolve to haul my posterior over there for a beer in the near future.


Monday, August 01, 2016

AFTER THE FIRE: The devil made me drink it.

AFTER THE FIRE: The devil made me drink it.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

One of my wife’s favorite Mexican dishes is Camarones a la Diabla, or Deviled Shrimp. Seeing as this delicious specialty tends to be among the higher priced entrees at local Mexican restaurants, we resolved last weekend to try cooking it at home.

The results were excellent, and it will get better as we dial in the recipe, which was chosen because it does not include ketchup.

Laugh at your own peril. This familiar condiment also is a key ingredient in the appetizer spare ribs served by your favorite Chinese carry-out shop.

Happily, having recently bought a few assorted six packs in anticipation of entertaining friends, there was a beer already in our fridge that was fully appropriate for pairing with our inaugural batch of Camarones a la Diabla.

And no, it wasn’t ice-cold, carbonated urine like Corona or Modelo Especiale. Can we retire the laziest of all foodie saws, the one holding that Mexican beer and food go together perfectly? So does ice water. We should be saving the corn for our tortillas, and drinking beers that bring character to the table.

Like German-style wheat ale (Hefeweizen), which during our meal was Hacker-Pschorr Weiss. Indeed, it's multinational-owned, and I’d have preferred Schneider Weiss or even Aventinus, but the important thing is shift, and nitpicking German-style wheat ales isn’t the point to this digression.

Rather, it is to make the case (yet again – I’ve made a career out of this) that Hefeweizen is a wonderful accompaniment to many Mexican and other Latin American cuisines, something you’d never know judging from restaurants alone, since most of them venture no further than the usual pale, limp, beer-flavored suspects.

It’s so enduringly tedious, but verily, this pairing problem disappears when you cook dinner at home.

To which I say: “Viva la revolución!”


There was a time when I eschewed Hefeweizen, primarily because whenever I was unable to persuade timid pub customers to move beyond starter wheat ales to a wider range of options, it grated deeply within the cavernous void of my tortured, curmudgeonly soul.

This ideology began eroding when Diana decided that Hefeweizen was one of the few beer styles she genuinely liked. I grudgingly indulged her at first, then one fine day at the German Café in French Lick, she offered me a sip of her Weihenstephaner.

My chagrin was immediate and boundless. I’d simply forgotten how much I liked Hefeweizen, and now it is a beer we can enjoy together.

You’re here to learn from my mistakes, and there’s no denying that German-style wheat ale is a singular classic. Hefeweizen is half (or a bit more) wheat and half (or slightly less) barley, and is fermented with a special ale yeast that imparts fruity flavors and aromas more commonly associated with bananas, apples and cloves.

Significantly, neither fruit nor spice is used in brewing Hefeweizen. It’s all about the behavior of the yeast amid a warm fermentation temperature, and the tasty markers graciously left behind.

In fact, “Hefe” is the German word for yeast, and “Weizen” means wheat. “Weisse,” or white, is often used somewhat interchangeably, as the cloudy appearance of wheat ale once prompted snap descriptions of it as “white.”

This same blurry phenomenon is to be found in Belgium, where “Wit” also denotes whiteness. While brewed with wheat, it bears no further resemblance to the German variety. The Belgians use orange peel and coriander to spice their wheat ale, and these ingredients traditionally have been forbidden by the beer purity laws in Germany, though these bastions may finally be crumbling.

Occasionally, German-style wheat ale can be found in its filtered incarnation (“Kristall”), but this is comparatively rare, and makes little sense in the first place.

Decades into the “craft” beer era, most American-style wheat ales remain resolutely flavorless unless they’re heavily spiced or intentionally hopped-up, as with Three Floyds Gumballhead. These usually are brewed as seasonal summertime thirst quenchers using house ale yeast strains, resulting in clean, competent and thoroughly uninteresting temporary lodgers.

Meanwhile, most authentic Hefeweizens come in shades of gold, although “Dunkel” indicates a variety brewed with darker malts. Schneider Weisse is as dark as Franziskaner’s Dunkel, but the brewery sees no need to tout this on the label, reminding us that beer style categories aren’t always exact.

Traditionally, Hefeweizen was a warm weather libation and generally unavailable year-round, even on its home turf in Bavaria. The style staged a remarkable comeback in the 1970s and 1980s after very nearly becoming extinct. Nowadays, German-style wheat ale can be consumed every day if so desired, throughout Germany and the world.

This brings us back to Mexico.


Mexican restaurants invariably adorn watery lagers with slices of lime, and just as predictably, I toss them in the ashtray, so let’s be clear about the proper use of citrus fruit garnish in beer.

There is no proper use for citrus fruit garnish in beer.


If lemons were intended for use in Hefeweizen, then lemons would grow in Germany. They don’t. Do oranges grow in Belgium? No, and they don’t grow in Colorado, either, so they have no place in a glass of Coors’s mock Belgian Wit ale, Blue Moon.

(Blue Moon is a multinational shelf-space colonist, not indie “craft,” so get over yourself and move on to something better.)

When you place a slice of citrus fruit in a beer, whether it is a competently conceived and brewed German or Belgian wheat ale or the soapy lagers brewed in Mexico, you are mindlessly following the marketing dictates of someone at Great Satan Inc. who’ll you’ll never know, and who makes more money deceiving you than you will earn in your entire life.

This said, I’ve forged a shaky provisional peace with Dos Equis and Negra Modelo in the absence of better choices at most Mexican restaurants, but the fact remains that ethnic eateries in general, from taquerias to sushi bars, and from dim sum emporiums to Indian curry houses, would benefit from stocking just a handful of beer styles invariably capable of transforming the dining experience in a meaningful way that lager simply cannot achieve.

At the very least, bottles of American Pale Ale, German-style Hefeweizen and indigenous Robust Porter would transform ethnic dining in the metro Louisville area. Toss in an IPA, a Belgian Saison or Tripel and a German Gose, and we’re getting somewhere.

At the high end, that’s $300 wholesale for six cases of beer. Margins are solid. It isn’t nuclear physics.

Thinking back to Camarones a la Diabla, the “deviled” sauce had a mild acidic bite from the tomatoes, and plenty of pepper flavor. Overall, the dish was restrained in the Scoville context, which makes sense, because you wouldn’t want to overwhelm the shrimp.

My Hefeweizen’s medium-bodied fruit and esters coated the mouth and complimented the peppers. The effervescence acted as the curtain being raised on the flavor of the shrimp. It was hard to tell whether the clove was coming from the beer or the food, and it didn’t matter. It fit like a glove.

The earliest verified written instance of my disgruntlement with the beer status quo at local international restaurants appeared around 2003. Nothing ever seems to change, though I have a bit more time these days, and have found myself guided back into the home kitchen.

Perhaps at long last I can follow up on the imaginary pairings that haven’t always been possible to test. Most recently, it was Greek Moussaka with a Belgian Abbey Dubbel.

If I get around to doing it, I’ll let you know how this meal turns out.


July 28 (at NA Confidential): ON THE AVENUES: An imaginary exercise tentatively called The Curmudgeon Free House.

July 25: AFTER THE FIRE: Before the deluge, or knowing how this whole beer business started.

July 18: AFTER THE FIRE: Moss the Boss, his dazzling beer café, and what they taught me about “craft.”

July 11: AFTER THE FIRE: We are dispirited in the post-factual world.

July 4: AFTER THE FIRE: Euro ’85, Part 34 … The final chapter, in which lessons are learned and bridges burned.