Thursday, September 29, 2016

Floyd County Brewing Company is an indie alternative during Harvest Homecoming.

Floyd County Brewing Company‎ is promoting TASTE-IN in the Biergarten, an event running on Friday and Saturday, October 7 and 8.

It coincides with Harvest Homecoming booth days in downtown, which close streets and alter normal indie business routines from October 6 through 9.

Very excited to announce the first annual TASTE-IN festival. Come hang out in the Biergarten and enjoy 16 Indiana Craft Beers from 11 Indiana Breweries. There will be delicious food available and fantastic live music both Fri (Robert Rolfe Fedderson) and Sat (The Pirtles).

FCBC also has an alternative (and constructive) take on New Albany's purely unofficial "beer (swill) walk" during Harvest Homecoming.

Sounds like good advice any day of the week.

Harvest Homecoming festival has finally arrived, and the harvest craft beer crawl is what kicks it off. Join the community by walking through downtown New Albany, seeing the Renaissance that's happening while imbibing on the delicious craft beer we offer.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

North Korea's first beer festival proves the superiority of Socialist beer rating schemes.

Or some such. I'm sure RateAdvocate is right on it.

For a brief period in 1989, I was slated for attendance at the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students in Pyongyang. Eventually my credentials were revoked by the American governing body of Young Communists (sic), which I concede was fitting and proper considering I'd never been a member of their organization.

Of course, this is irrefutable evidence that I'm not a Commie, but this is another story for another time. Perhaps my next brewery project should be called Fellow Traveler, with a graphic depicting Robert E. Lee's horse.

Ironically, later in 1989 in Copenhagen I was able to taste a North Korean bottled beer brought out of the country by a Danish friend's relative, who if memory serves worked for Aeroflot.

The beer tasted like the drippings of a rusty drainpipe atop a chicken coop, filtered with moldy cleaning rags. Other than that, it was fine. Now there is Taedonggang beer, and by all appearances it's a considerable improvement.

In 2008, the New York Times explained the brewery's origins. It originally was used to make the Ushers brand of ale in England. Now the brewery produces lager beer in North Korea, and perhaps there is some confusion among coverage providers, as when the Guardian writer uses the word "ale" to describe "lager" flavor characteristics:

"With an alcohol content of 5% and a taste resembling British ale."

No matter. If anyone snags some, can you bring me a bottle? Thanks in advance.

Photo credit: The Guardian.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Alltech recalls two of its ales, and the Pour Fool speaks of pumpkins.

Just the facts ... and I'm sparing readers my take on all things pumpkin, which pertains to one of the two beers being recalled, and although the Pour Fool doesn't hesitate to provide his point of view, which isn't what you might think.

The Pumpkin Beer Thing: A Short View

I could list a slew of pumpkin ales that don’t commit that most common mistake of Pie In A Glass but I’m not going to.

Now, the Alltech Bourbon Barrel Ale recall -- that's a shame.

Check your fridge: This Kentucky brewer is recalling two ales, at Business First Louisville

Alltech Inc. has recalled two of its ales because of problems with flavor and color.

The Herald-Leader reports that there are no health are safety problems with the two brews, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale and Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale. A spokeswoman for the Nicholasville-based company told the Herald Leader that "these particular batches did not meet our stringent quality standards for flavor and color."


Monday, September 26, 2016

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

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

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

Let the record show that in 2016, our Kentuckiana (Indyucky?) weather became tolerable again by Monday, the 26th of September.

The air conditioning had run constantly from the beginning of June, and it was a pleasure to switch it off. There were no 100-degree days I can recall, although temps topped 90 for a record number of days. We also had frequent rain, contributing to a steaminess more commonly associated with Florida.

Taken together, these atmospheric variables wreaked havoc on our five tomato plants, which grew like weeds but only began yielding fruit in early September.

The point to all this is that having endured three and a half months of pain, autumn conditions arrived overnight, and with them the impulse to drink an Oktoberfest (or Märzen) beer.

Naturally, by this point they’d been on store shelves for weeks, as had a profusion of pumpkin-influenced marketing exercises. Well, to each his own. I’m no fan of pumpkin-anything, even when it isn’t used as pretext to flavor beers with baking spices best left in their jars, and yet if I were to crave one, 90-degree weather isn’t the time for it.

To be honest, I’ve nothing profound to add to the seasonal beer timing debate, by now a staple of poorly written click bait portals. Rather, my aim is to remark upon how wonderful it can be to enjoy seasonal beers in their appropriate season, especially when they’re well-crafted lagers.

Oktoberfest always was misleading to American ears, this being a “German” concept confined largely to Bavaria and its capital, Munich, and beginning in September, not October.

Back in the 1980s, when we first began receiving shipments of Oktoberfest beer from Bavarian breweries, these tended to be malty brown-shaded lagers. Subsequently they seemed to lighten in color, while remaining malt forward, impeccably balanced and of slightly higher alcoholic strength than the norm.

I couldn’t ever separate them from two primary influences.

The first was Michael “The Beer Hunter” Jackson’s descriptions of Oktoberfest as festival and seasonal beer, and the second was finally being there in Munich in 1989 to witness one and drink the other.

Kindly indulge a look back.


In September of 1989, after an eventful summer spent chasing history in the East Bloc, the leaves were beginning to turn in Copenhagen when it was time for the rail journey to Munich. I’d never been to Oktoberfest, and meant to redress this oversight.

We stocked up on beer, salami, beer, cheese, beer, bread and more beer before boarding for the overnight journey to the Bavarian capital, where reservations had been made at an inexpensive “pension” (small family-run guesthouse) near the Hauptbahnhof, or central train station.

Upon arrival, it was still morning. We hurried down the platform to the famous Imbiss at the foot of Gleis (track) 16. The Imbiss is long gone, victim of extensive remodeling, modernization and gentrification, and it wasn’t all that much even in its heyday, but during the 1980’s this simple, functional train station concession stand was a genuine Munich destination for budget travelers the world over.

There were two long windows with outside counter space, plentiful tile and stainless steel, wonderful beer taps, kitchen equipment for preparing basic snacks and several customarily greasy, though by necessity efficient, employees in blue smocks.

In front of the Imbiss were a handful of tables that resembled smaller, elongated versions of the telephone wire spools that used to litter backyards in the Georgetown of my youth. Standing at the tables in morning, evening and night were locals, tourists, commuters, vagrants and assorted hangers-on, the majority of them savoring the Imbiss’s only true specialties: Cool Hacker-Pschorr golden lager at a reasonable price and a portion of Leberkäse, a high-quality form of all-meat bologna cut from a warm deli-sized square loaf, weighed and priced, and served with a crusty roll and plenty of mustard.

The Imbiss at Gleis 16 never disappointed, and with breakfast under our belts, it was time to claim the room and prepare for the main event: Oktoberfest, 1989. A few hours, unburdened of luggage, with Deutschmarks in hand and harboring a powerful thirst, a vast fairgrounds lay before me. It was crowded with carnival rides, arcades, food vendors of every stripe and giant prefabricated beer halls.

There was at least one Oktoberfest beer hall for each of Munich's six major breweries, all having every appearance of being permanent structures, and yet they would be completely dismantled and stored away at the end of the two-week festival.

Thousands of people of all colors, creeds and nationalities were spread out before me, reveling in Bavaria’s most notorious celebration of beer as a beverage, as a foodstuff and as a way of daily life. My favorites were the natives dressed in folkloric Dirndls and Lederhosen. Later I learned that Oktoberfest is far more localized during the afternoon, yielding to foreign visitors by night.

I'd come to the grounds by way of the U-Bahn (subway), where scores of policemen assisted in the packing and unpacking of underground trains at a station built overly large for peak usage during Oktoberfest’s annual run.

Emerging into the cool dampness, I plunged into the throng and was carried through the Midway by the crowd, past bumper car arenas and target-shooting booths that wouldn’t be out of place at an American state fair, and toward beer halls that assuredly would.

Soon the mass of people parted in near Biblical fashion to reveal the majesty of the Paulaner hall. Gaping at the vision before me, I went off-tackle and bulled ahead. From fifty yards away, the interior was visible through several sets of opened double doors; trancelike, my eyes focused on the octagonal bandstand in the center, where an oom-pah orchestra twice the size of any I'd seen before held forth to the undisguised delight of hundreds of glass-wielding drinkers.

The temporary structure seemed to shake and roll, and to no surprise: Half the people inside were dancing and singing atop the heavy wooden tables, tables that surely had been constructed with precisely that sort of punishment in mind. Obviously, considerations of decorum -- those restraints on behavior customarily observed by society -- had been forgotten, to the obvious edification of all those present.

I stopped at one of the outer doors. Just yards away, absurdly long rows of whole chickens were being roasted on spits. Signs decreed the price of the liter-sized Masses to be six Deutschmarks, 75 pfennigs - or was it 7.10? Either way, think of it as $8.50 for 33.8 ounces.

Just like in the photos, matronly waitresses toting anywhere from two to ten of the deliciously full Masses rushed past. Pretzels the size of large plates were being eaten.

Still standing at the door, I beheld this veritable city of beer, and as I started to enter, a greenish-hued man staggered past me and began vomiting violently next to a steel support beam.

Finally, it seemed that I'd found home.

Im Himmel gibt es kein bier! Darum trinken wir es hier!


Consequently, and unsurprisingly, these sources and sensations have combined to produce an inner barometer.

To see an Oktoberfest beer on sale in mid-August is an optical illusion to me. If I buy one, it is destined to remain in my cupboard until the Ohio Valley adapts to Bavarian climatic norms. If this occurs in mid-September, that’s fine. If it doesn’t happen until October, even better.

And if I might be in Munich some sweet day to once again experience the real thing … but maybe not. Nothing can match the memory of the first time. Better to board a train for the countryside, find a weekend harvest celebration in a small town, and do it together one more time.


September 19: AFTER THE FIRE: This week in solipsistic beer narcissism (2014).

September 12: AFTER THE FIRE: England, or one man's heightened cholesterol panic is another man's nostalgic repast (2013).

September 5: AFTER THE FIRE: Beer stories and bedtime for gonzo (2013).

August 29: AFTER THE FIRE: In the Red Room, we’re all left – right?


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Biers on Parade returns to the Farmers Market on Harvest Homecoming Parade Day (Saturday, October 1).

On Saturday, October 1, 2016, NARBA Presents:

Biers on Parade

A pop-up at the New Albany Farmers Market

Local beer and food at the Farmers Market (City Square), at the corner of Market and Bank in downtown New Albany, 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 1.

The New Albany Restaurant & Bar Association (NARBA) once again is partnering with the New Albany’s Farmers Market and Harvest Homecoming to stage Biers on Parade, a family-friendly food and drink showcase at the Farmers Market pavilion at the corner of Market and Bank Streets on Saturday, October 1.

Biers on Parade coincides with the Harvest Homecoming Parade through downtown New Albany. The Farmers Market will operate from 8:00 a.m. to around 1:00 p.m. on October 1, then Biers on Parade will set up shop. Food, beer, wine and non-alcoholic drinks will be available from 2:00 p.m. through 6:00 p.m.

Biers on Parade offers beer brewed by all three of our city’s breweries: New Albanian Brewing Company, Donum Dei Brewery and Floyd County Brewing Company.

There’ll also be food prepared by Taco Steve, Chef Walker BBQ, Mama’s Kitchen and Boston Joe’s Lobster Rolls, as well as wine from River City Winery.

Proceeds benefit NARBA and Harvest Homecoming’s selected charities. NARBA is applying for non-profit status as a 501(c)6 professional trade group:

The New Albany Restaurant & Bar Association (NARBA) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit trade organization serving the independent restaurant, bar and on-premise food and drink industry in New Albany, Indiana. NARBA serves as the unified voice of its members on government and public relations issues. It also provides programs that offer educational and operational benefits for members. NARBA represents New Albany’s best known and most vibrant local independent business segment, and is dedicated to the advancement and preservation of New Albany as an urban community.

Harvest Homecoming’s booth days in downtown New Albany begin on Thursday, October 6 and run through Sunday, October 9. For more information:

Oct. 1: Biers on Parade at New Albany City Square
Oct. 1: Harvest Homecoming Parade
Oct. 6 – Oct. 9: Harvest Homecoming Booth Days


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Remembering Mamut, a badass Bratislava beer hall that is no more.

Halušky with bryndza cheese, kapustnica soup and Zlatý Bažant dark beer.

For reasons unknown, a 1991 travel vignette from Bratislava came to mind earlier today.

In the fall of 1991, I was living and teaching conversational English at the university hospital in Košice, a city in the easternmost region of what is now independent Slovakia, but at the time remained part of a unified Czechoslovakia.

My "boss" was the hospital administrator, Dr. Roland. He asked me if I'd like to accompany him to Bratislava, the Slovak capital, for his governmental meeting. While he was busy with the bureaucracy, I could walk around the city and be a tourist, then meet them (we had a driver, thankfully) back at the ministry, after which we could eat and drink at a beer hall he was certain I'd want to experience.

It was a grueling drive through mountainous terrain, somewhere between four and five hours each way. In 1991, Bratislava did not strike me as a tourist haven, but then again, most of the cities in the former Soviet Bloc were just beginning to recover from decades of neglect.

However, Dr. Roland was absolutely right, and the beer hall was well worth it. It was called Mamut (mammoth), and in a rare instance of clever Communist adaptive reuse, it occupied the former municipal malting house, Stará Sladovňa.

My memories are faint, and yet Mamut made a deep impression. It was big, reputedly the largest in the Bloc, surely capable of holding crowds comparable to those in more famous Munich establishments -- perhaps 1,500 - 2,000. It was stately and quiet on the day of our visit.

Mamut had at least two floors, maybe three, and what made it truly unique is that by the standards of the time in this part of Europe, there really was a choice of beers.

In my recollection, there were at least two serving stations per floor, each pouring beers from different breweries. Velkopopovický Kozel was there, and Zlatý Bažant -- and even Budvar.

It was kid-in-the-confectionery time for me, sampling as many of the 40-cent pints as possible and throwing back a plate of bryndzové halušky before commencing the long drive back home, during which I slept a lot.

(By the way, bryndzové halušky is a plate of pea-sized potato dumplings topped with sheep cheese and bacon. Someone needs to add it to their menu here in New Albany, as better beer food has yet to be invented).

The feel was so old-fashioned and venerable that I was shocked to learn Mamut had been a beer hall for less than twenty years.

Unfortunately, Mamut did not remain a beer hall. In 1997, I returned to Bratislava for a follow-up for a follow-up, and in all my travels I've never felt such disappointment upon seeing that the building had been split up -- partitioned, subdivided -- into a garish casino, eateries, and maybe a pub or two.

Probably mafia money; modernity won, and all Mamut's charm was lost.

Happily, Bratislava appears to be the sort of place I'd like to return and give another chance. Twenty years is a long time. A train from Vienna to Bratislava takes only an hour, and then another back to Košice, a place I truly loved.

Best Bars Bratislava

Soon, I hope.

After all, with each passing day, there is less time ahead than behind me.


Friday, September 23, 2016

"Hoosier Brew is about capturing the heart and soul of Indiana's craft beer industry."

They're filmmakers partnering with the Brewers of Indiana Guild. The web site is here.

I'd only like to know when my turn in front of the camera comes ...

Hoosier Brew is about capturing the heart and soul of Indiana's craft beer industry. Over the past 15 years Hoosier beer has become some of the most respected and admired beer in the world. Our goal with Hoosier Brew is to explore the culture, community, and industry that has grown over the last 25 years, and find out what makes Hoosier beer unique.

In partnership with the Brewers Guild of Indiana, we will travel the state and speak with brewers, patrons, enthusiasts, legislators, and anyone else who loves craft beer in order to find out just what makes Hoosier beer some of the best and highly sought after beer in the world.

Our goal is to discover just what makes Indiana beer and the culture that surrounds it unique in the world of craft beer.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

In case you were wondering: The story of Pogue's Run (the stream, not the beer).

You learn something every day.

While I'd assumed there was an Indianapolis watercourse to inspire the name for Flat12 Pogue's Run Porter (couldn't the brewery name be mentioned in the article?), I had no idea it ran underground.

You Can Follow a Hidden Stream Beneath Indianapolis—If You Know Where to Look, by Sarah Laskow (Atlas Obscura)

Pogue's Run makes an appearance in the best-selling novel 'Underground Airlines.'

 ... Indianapolis, Winters found, was “not the kind of city that has a lot of big, built up myths.” The White River does not define the city in the way that the Charles River defines Boston, or the Potomac defines D.C., he says. But Pogue’s Run, in its obscurity and weirdness, has in the past decade or so become a piece of history that people want to preserve and hold onto. There’s now a Pogue’s Run Grocer, a co-operatively run store, and a Pogue’s Run porter, made by a local brewery.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

All about LIBA's Louisville Brewfest, returning Friday to Louisville Slugger Field.

Look at it as your sole chance each year to drink a range of local beers inside Louisville Slugger Field.

Thank you, AB-InBev and Bats management. May I have another Bud Light Lime?

Louisville Brewfest 2016 to feature plenty of regional breweries, ‘Beer-oes’ beers, by Kevin Gibson (Insider Louisville)

The Louisville Independent Business Alliance has to be happy with the way the city’s – and the state of Kentucky’s – brewing industry is growing. Now in its eight year, LIBA’s annual Louisville Brewfest, set for Friday, Sept. 23, is growing right along with the number of breweries.

This year, the festival will feature 20 different local and regional breweries; last year, Monnik Beer Co. made its first appearance, while this year those who haven’t yet made it to the recently opened Old Louisville Brewery and 3rd Turn Brewing will get a chance to taste a couple of their beers.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

New Albany Indie Fest 2016 will be held on September 24 at the 400 block of Bank Street, and at NABC Bank Street Brewhouse.


A change in location for New Albany Indie Fest 2016.

New Albany Indie Fest announces a change in location for 2016. The previously announced date and overall program are not affected by the site change.

Saturday, September 24, starting at 12 noon.

However, Indie Fest will be held on the 400 block of Bank Street between Spring and Elm.

Music will be staged at NABC’s Bank Street Brewhouse (415 Bank Street), whom we thank for stepping in at short notice.

Sativa Gumbo remains the Indie Fest headliner, and the remainder of the musical lineup is the same as previously announced.

Thanks for your consideration, and we’ll see you on Saturday.

New Albany Indie Fest on Facebook:

New Albany Indie Fest Contact:
Marcey Wisman-Bennett 812.207.7415

New Albany Indie Fest is a 501c3 non-profit organization.

For the updated press release including the performance schedule, go here:

IMPORTANT: New Albany Indie Fest 2016 will be held on September 24 at the 400 block of Bank Street, and at NABC Bank Street Brewhouse. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

AFTER THE FIRE: This week in solipsistic beer narcissism (2014).

AFTER THE FIRE: This week in solipsistic beer narcissism (2014).

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

Originally published in 2014, and with a strange sort of resonance as the most insufferable political campaign in American history limps to the finish line.


Are you fed up with words you don’t understand?

Tired of scrolling down to your favorite contrarian beer columnist, then coming to a screeching halt when he uses words like “local multiplier effect” and “egalitarianism” in the very same sentence?

Hi, Roger A. Baylor here with an amazing new product – you’ve got to see it to believe it – called the Dictionary, and it’s a do-it-yourself confusion remover with professional results … guaranteed!

Just pick the word you want to define, match it to the alphabetical listing in the Dictionary, and read the answer.

It’s that easy.

And, because it’s wireless, there are no plugs, cords, batteries, tools or wiring to worry about.

With the amazing Dictionary, you can even learn how to pronounce the word!

The Dictionary contains all the words that you’ll ever encounter in this or any other column, and yet it’s small enough to put one in every room where you might find yourself reading the newspaper. Place one next to the toilet so you don’t have to go back downstairs to the den. Keep another on the porch for smoke breaks. The amazing dictionary fits in the glove box, in your purse or on top of the coffee table.

The Dictionary’s powerful information technology lets you define old words and learn new ones. It cuts through those multi-syllable, compound nightmares with ease, and talk about shock-absorbency … Watch while I shield my head with the Dictionary as my assistant attempts to beat my brain senseless with a RateAdvocate beer review.

See? Even after continuous pounding, my synapses are still transmitting neuron signals … and my session ale remains delicious.

That’s the power and protection of the Dictionary, folks.

Call now and you’ll get the Dictionary for only $19.99. You’ll also receive my handy Sticky Notepad and Self-Sharpening Pencil, absolutely free. Just copy the problem word from my column and stick it to the Dictionary until you feel like looking it up.

Yes, you’ll get the Dictionary, the Sticky Notepad and the Self-Sharpening Pencil, all for only $19.99. But if you call right now, I’ll double this entire offer. Just pay shipping, and you’ll get two Dictionaries, two Sticky Notepads and two Self-Sharpening Pencils. But you can only get this special two-for-one offer by calling now …


Way back in 2010, when 10 Barrel Brewing was but a gleam in Carlos Brito’s numbers-crunching testes, President Barack Obama returned to a theme often broached during his historic campaign for the White House. It happened during the 2010 State of the Union address.

“The best anti-poverty program around is a world class education.”

No, not the Indiana wholesaler.

Naturally, the precise components of a “world class education” are open to interpretation, discussion and debate between open-minded citizens, assuming you can find any of them in these idiotically polarized times, but the overall sentiment that education is a corrective to impoverishment has been proven to be truthful again and again.

I submit that the word “impoverishment” has more than one meaning as used in this context. We’d be correct in the assumption that there are clear and compelling correlations between education and the eradication of material impoverishment.

However, we might also consider impoverishment in creative, artistic and cultural contexts, and how one’s attitude toward the general topic of knowledge, pertaining to its veracity as an end onto itself as well as the tangible benefits gained from expansive education as opposed to a confining illiteracy, shapes what we know and the uses to which we put our knowledge.

According to the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, who drank wine: “With regard to excellence, it is not enough to know, but we must try to have and use it."

What I think he meant is that possessing something of supposed value for the sole purpose of the object’s ability to reflect its “value” back on the holder somewhat misses the point. The true value is derived from the object being used wisely, and a well-rounded education supplies the means to make this determination.

Given the perpetual linkages between education and personal advancement, why is it that people choose to devalue the notion of education, eschewing the why, how and wherefore, and substituting in their place a solipsistic, narcissism-driven, knee-jerk, me-first hedonism?

Perhaps it’s the logical outcome of our American strains of materialism and consumerism. When it comes to pulse-quickening snobbery, exclusionary avarice and frenzied hoarding, the very last thought surfacing in one’s fevered, acquisitive brain is the possibility that all is not what it seems.

Do you still desire the object once it is revealed that the profit chain leads straight into the Texas-sized mass of plastic in the Pacific Ocean, or to the owners of factory-farmed chickens wallowing in their own feces, or to that bastard Obama’s pocket … or, into the very coffers of ISIS (read: AB-InBev).

Except you really want it, don’t you? You want it right now – and by “it” I refer not to a mass-produced Trojan Goose barrel-aged ale, but to a blissfully unexamined version of capitalist doltishness, wherein there are no reasons whatever for diagnosing the nature of the itch, only interminable scratching.

The writer Aldous Huxley called this phenomenon soma. If you don’t know the source of this reference, perhaps it’s time to read a book.

But I’m nothing if not stubborn. Ideas matter, and yet at present, both the country at large and my own beer and brewing milieu are dismally stupid and mercilessly tacky places. These daily tsunamis of crass materialism and consumerist greed have come to define the American experience, and even when the topic is “craft” beer – perhaps modern America’s signature accomplishment – we have digressed just as quickly into 24-7, must-have shopping zombies, pausing occasionally to thank Jesus for the blessed privilege of possessing our baubles, and ignoring what’s happening in our own back yards because there’s not enough status in mere localism.

It’s the old Chinese proverb – yes, you guessed it, the one printed on plasticized card stock suitable for framing, and available not from the heirs to Billy Mays, but from Wal-Mart via Guangdong Province:

"It’s all about me."

Yes, it is.

And that’s also why YOU don’t interest ME any longer.


What would happen if you combined classic sacred choral music with a thesaurus? You’d have a synonym for a seminal hymnal!

Hi, Roger Baylor here for the Sing ‘o’ Saurus. It’s no ordinary reference book.

Watch this!


September 12: AFTER THE FIRE: England, or one man's heightened cholesterol panic is another man's nostalgic repast (2013).

September 5: AFTER THE FIRE: Beer stories and bedtime for gonzo (2013).

August 29: AFTER THE FIRE: In the Red Room, we’re all left – right?

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


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Match Cigar Bar: "A great place to get a drink and smoke a cigar."

From the Match web site.

There's always a good beer or three on tap, too. The point remains the same, whether its Angel's Envy or Scrimshaw Pilsner: To be indoors in a clean, well-lighted place, with an adult libation and a fine cigar.

Seeing as I've finally started nipping on bourbon after all these years, even better times are right around the corner -- or roughly 7 miles from my house.

Match Cigar Bar – Louisville’s Loss Is Jeffersonville’s Gain, by Michael R. Veach (Bourbon Veach)

Jeffersonville, Indiana offers a Bourbon experience that is not offered in Louisville and that is a chance to enjoy a fine selection of Bourbon whiskeys with a cigar. Louisville has placed a smoking ban across the city that does not allow its citizens to cater to those who enjoy this heavenly combination. Louisville’s loss is Jeffersonville’s gain.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Of yeast and men.

Photo credit.

Same general topic, first from a general interest perspective.

The story of yeast: Domesticated tipple (The Economist)

In a piece of genetic archaeology, researchers discover the origins of a good pint

CATTLE ranchers know that if they want to increase their yields it is best to breed their largest cows with their biggest bulls. The same idea works when trying to improve other livestock, crops and pets. Although less well known, microorganisms can also be bred selectively. Given that yeasts have a long history of being used to ferment food and drink, archaeologists have argued for years that early craftsmen may have selectively bred yeast strains without even realising it.

Now there is evidence to support this idea.

Then, a more detailed approach.

Ale Genomics: How Humans Tamed Beer Yeast, by Ewen Callaway (Nature)

Sequences of nearly 200 beer-making strains reveal yeast in action

Geneticists have traced the history of beer’s most important ingredient: yeast. By sequencing the genomes of nearly 200 modern strains of brewer’s yeast, the research reveals how, over hundreds of years, humans transformed the wild fungus Saccharomyces cerevisiae into a variety of strains tuned for particular tipples.


Friday, September 16, 2016

It's Louisville Craft Beer Week 2016.

For events, go here:

2016 Louisville Craft Beer Week Events #LCBW2016

For the conceptual overview, go here:


The primary goal of Louisville Craft Beer Week (LCBW) is to promote our area’s thriving craft beer culture, enhancing beer knowledge and appreciation by sponsoring a 9-day (two weekend) festival that attracts beer tourism, fosters knowledge of our regional brewing heritage, and serves as a showcase for the Louisville area’s breweries, restaurants, pubs, retailers, and other businesses with ties to the craft beer community.

LCBW runs from September 16-24, 2016 and features a wide variety of events highlighting Kentuckiana’s vibrant craft beer culture. Craft beer lovers will have the opportunity to attend events ranging from beer dinners and food pairing to beer walks, bar promotions, brewery parties and plenty more.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

The deliciousness of Indian food at the molecular level.

It seems impossible, but I tasted Indian food for the first time only in 1989. It was somewhere in Europe; probably Copenhagen, though the memory is fleeting. During the "Public House Era" in the 1990s, a few of the bar flies occasionally organized excursions to Louisville's Hurstbourne area (Shalimar?) I can still taste the lime pickle from Cambridge UK, circa 1998. In the late 2000s, an Indian restaurant lasted for a few months in Clarksville.

My point in this historical digression: Can someone from the Subcontinent come to New Albany? Indian food is the missing link in our restaurant scene.

Soon, please. Thank you.

Scientists have figured out what makes Indian food so delicious, by Roberto A. Ferdman (Washington Post)

Researchers have data crunched 2,500 recipes and found the secret to their success.

Indian food, with its hodgepodge of ingredients and intoxicating aromas, is coveted around the world. The labor-intensive cuisine and its mix of spices is more often than not a revelation for those who sit down to eat it for the first time. Heavy doses of cardamom, cayenne, tamarind and other flavors can overwhelm an unfamiliar palate. Together, they help form the pillars of what tastes so good to so many people.

But behind the appeal of Indian food — what makes it so novel and so delicious — is also a stranger and subtler truth. In a large new analysis of more than 2,000 popular recipes, data scientists have discovered perhaps the key reason why Indian food tastes so unique: It does something radical with flavors, something very different from what we tend to do in the United States and the rest of Western culture. And it does it at the molecular level.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

It reminds me of 10 Barrel: "The AB-InBev “Why Don’t They Like Us” Tour Continues."

I'm coming late to this one, but better late than never.

The AB-InBev “Why Don’t They Like Us” Tour Continues, by Dan (The Full Pint)

 ... In these articles, we’ve learned that the corporate giant is organizing a dog and pony show (why the long face), in which they are prancing out these figureheads to beer bars in what I’d like to call the “Why don’t they like us?” tour. I say the corporate giant is behind this, as I would hope these newly minted millionaires would be satisfied with the business decision they recently made, and didn’t decide to go on this PR tour on their own. I don’t recall Ben & Jerry scrambling for street cred after selling to Unilever. Dr. Dre didn’t go back to Compton and pander to the homies after selling Beats to Apple for a few billion. Frankly, this is downright embarrassing to watch.

That's spot on.

Once you've sold out, at least have the decency to wear a suit and "own" your defection. See the zombie ... be the zombie.

I wrote the following words in November, 2014, and they're worth standing by. Just substitute the latest brewery name to go, and adjust the cited figure from 3,000 to 4,000-plus.

See? It's easy.


Who gives a flying fuck?

10 Barrel's dead as Monty Python's parrot. Find a cheap preacher, pay your respects and bring flowers. Then move on.

10 Barrel's just Zombie "Craft" now.

It's Trojan Ten Barrel.

Don't confuse me with someone who gives a fuck.

You see, back before the beer narcissists were born, we had a revolution to take beer back from the grimy corporatist likes of AB-InBev, which has been, and always will be, the foremost enemy of better beer in this world, as we know it.

Obviously, AB-InBev has the ample resources to buy its way to alleged respectability. Just as obviously, this is the fundamental problem, because money cannot buy authenticity. Even more obviously, drinkers of better beer have hundreds -- nay, thousands -- of legitimate small breweries to choose from, ones that have not been irrevocably bastardized by association (and ownership) with a company that's the closest thing to a Great Beer Satan as we're likely to see in this world ... as we know it.

If you doubt it, do some cursory research on AB-InBev's repellant company history as a symbol of everything wrong with beer and capitalism. It ain't pretty, and I'm sorry if it steps all over your sense of entitlement. Appeasing it does not change the paradigm.

You see, selling one's soul isn't about gray areas. When you sell your soul, you sell your soul. That's what this is about, and whenever possible, in a probably doomed effort to hold onto what tiny bits of soul I may as yet possess, I try not to hand my money over to those who've sold theirs. It's as simple as that. Better beer owes its existence to pride, ideas and principles .. to its very soul.

Sacrifice the soul and you're handing over the revolution to the very same soulless vampires it was fought against in the first place.

It's as simple as that.

10 Barrel's unfortunate demise signals yet again AB-InBev's dull intent to buy what it cannot create. Fortunately, 3,000 other breweries remain that are small, local and real. Pick a few, enjoy their beers, and give your soul some nourishment. Be local. Case closed.

Rest in peace, 10 Barrel Brewing. I'm sure your beers were great, but you're dead now. Who gives a fuck?

Let's have a better beer, shall we?


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Reach out and touch Against the Grain on the occasion of its 5th anniversary party.

Strangely, the e-mail did not generate virtual chicken feathers. Here's the story.


Against the Grain
401 E. Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202

It’s a quinquennial celebration!

Our five-year anniversary is not to be taken lightly as we’ve been planning it all these years! We’ll be opening our time capsule filled with treasure from our first year, along with, music from Tony and the Tan Lines, a giant chiquen piñata, and more oohs and ahhs to party all night long. Everyone who is anyone is going to be there, so you might as well come too.

For more information on our anniversary party or any other happenings at Against the Grain, please reach out!

Katie Molck
Marketing & Media Maven

Monday, September 12, 2016

AFTER THE FIRE: England, or one man's heightened cholesterol panic is another man's nostalgic repast (2013).

AFTER THE FIRE: England, or one man's heightened cholesterol panic is another man's nostalgic repast (2013).

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

As originally published at in December, 2013, and while previously reprinted here at the blog, I've been daydreaming about Real Ale again. Will Brexit have an affect on traditional ale in the UK (or what comes of it)? I've no idea, but let's hope not.


“The secret of a happy life is to know when to stop – and then go that bit further.”
–Inspector Morse, classic British television police crime solver

The very least I could do during two weeks spent in England’s lovely West Country was to ingest my gout medicine each and every morning without fail – preferably washed down with a pint of cask-conditioned Bitter from one of those pubs nearby already dispensing it, but in a pinch, grudgingly conceding the utility of mere water.

Yes, I know: Fish do IT in THAT. The solution? Eat more fish, especially with chips.

Somewhere a health fanatic reads and brays with dismay, but have no fear. It’s only despairing, defeatist clatter of the sort Winston Churchill wouldn’t have countenanced, even after his morning bottle of champagne, and these naysayers are inaudible to me — fully muffled by the cacophonous sizzle of a traditional English breakfast frying atop the stove, even the waxy tomato from Tesco’s, because it is destined for maximum exposure to hot oil just like all the rest.

Queue the Elgar, and consider this partial list of foodstuffs joyfully consumed during my holiday, including both local “English” fare and widely available culinary options borrowed from elsewhere.

Anchovies fillets (fresh)
Baked beans
Bangers and mash
Black pudding (i.e., blood sausage)
Cornish pasties
Crab sandwiches
Egg rolls
Fish pie (not Stargazy pie, alas)
Gajrati (regional vegetarian Indian)
Haddock and chips
Pie, mash, eel and liquor (the latter is gravy)
Pizza (loaded)
Smoked salmon
Spanish tapas
Steak & kidney pie
Thai red curry
Yorkshire pudding

Alas, I digress. It generally is my custom to entertain and inform in purely fermentable measures of prose, and yet on this most recent English holiday in July, 2013, I found it quite unthinkable to separate the culinary from the ale-mentary.

Overall, ways of the new were not my objective, and I did not search for top chefs flashing their own branded apron and sauce wear. Rather, my task was to focus on the glories of the much maligned traditional English table, and to accompany them with the native products of classic ale-making.

Mission accomplished. First, let’s review the liquidity to be found in a reference volume.

Just after purchasing plane tickets, and before any other arrangements had been made, I purchased the essential book for ale hunting in the United Kingdom: “Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Good Beer Guide,” edited by Roger Protz, and fully revised for publication each year.

CAMRA is the beer world’s oldest and most doggedly pervasive consumer protection society, founded in 1973 for the express purposes of espousing and protecting cask-conditioned “real” ale from the intrusions of modern times. What exactly is cask-conditioned “real” ale? CAMRA explains:

Real ale is a natural product brewed using traditional ingredients and left to mature in the cask (container) from which it is served in the pub through a process called secondary fermentation. It is this process which makes real ale unique amongst beers and develops the wonderful tastes and aromas which processed beers can never provide.

Just know that traditional cask-conditioned ale is a living entity. It is pre-industrial, “slow” beer at its finest, predating every advance in ease of packaging, and preceding all processing shortcuts undertaken for the sake of modernity.

Consequently, as a product requiring training, thought and effort to maintain and dispense properly, real ale and the pub where it is consumed are inextricably linked. In America, the “coldest beer in town” merely signposts the triumph of refrigeration. In England, the best pint of real ale within walking distance of a bus stop is stirring testament to the publican’s commitment to craft.

That’s why CAMRA’S beer guide is vital. The organization’s local chapter members serve as diligent boots on the ground, studiously analyzing ales and pubs on a daily basis. Their intelligence gathering is the heart of the book, making it the top source of information for the visitor who cares less about his bed and breakfast than finding pints of fresh ale. Which pubs are tops at tending their firkins? What do they usually pour? Do they serve snacks or meals? Are they hosts for discourse in their community? The book provides these answers, and many more.

My first visit to Devon and Cornwall was in 2009, and four years later, there have been changes in the pub scene. Owing to regulatory, political and societal factors too numerous to recount, pubs in the UK are diminishing in number, and that’s a bad sign. At the same time, there are more breweries now at work than at any point in a half-century.

Dozens of newcomers are brewing classic ale styles — Mild, Bitter, IPA, Stout and Porter – alongside newer variations, and they’re supplying local pubs. There may be fewer venues, but the range of choice probably is greater. Session strengths (below 4.5% abv) remain the norm, and while I might drop names (St. Austell, Skinner’s, Summerskill and Bridgetown), it wouldn’t matter, because none of the beers brewed by these excellent breweries are available anywhere close to Louisville. This is as it should be. They await your arrival, over there.

On a sunny Sunday in July, my wife’s cousin drove us from the city of Plymouth to the Dartmoor National Park. There, surrounded by rolling, sparse uplands and freely roaming sheep, we dined at a venerable establishment called the Dartmoor Inn in Merrivale. I enjoyed roast beef with gravy, cabbage, vegetables and Yorkshire pudding. Two pints of well-tuned local Jail Ale from the Dartmoor Brewery in nearby Princetown completed this time-honored Sunday Roast.

Frankly, I gloried in the ambience: Dark walls, wooden beams, a low-hanging ceiling and a fireplace, with humps, stoops and irregular measurements, and overall, minimal space for a heavyweight like me to navigate. The roasted meal was deliciously overcooked, and the ale’s ideally balanced malt and hops kept my palate sharp amid the meat and butter. It was the embodiment of a lifetime’s fascination with BBC News, “The Last of the Summer Wine” and maritime gin rations.

But what of the calories and cholesterol?

Whenever healthfulness began encroaching, I merely reached for another custard tart, found the closest CAMRA-listed pub, and waited for the feeling to pass.

Brew, Britannia.


September 5: AFTER THE FIRE: Beer stories and bedtime for gonzo (2013).

August 29: AFTER THE FIRE: In the Red Room, we’re all left – right?

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

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


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Read about the advent of Corn King IPA.

Click through for complete details.

Time’s running out to get one of the nation’s most unique beers, by Tristan Schmid (Brewers of Indiana Guild)

Today 3 Floyds bottled a one-of-a-kind IPA that represents one of the most unique ways in the nation to support and enjoy craft beer, and time is running out for you to get it.

This morning, Corn King IPA hit 22 oz. bombers and kegs, destined for the tastebuds of IN Beer Brigade members at release parties around the state in October, the first of which will be held at 18th Street Brewing’s stunning Hammond location on Oct. 3, followed by others to be announced this week.

The only way to get Corn King IPA is by enlisting in the IN Beer Brigade. You can’t buy it at 3 Floyds or anywhere else.
Last month, 3 Floyds and Hoosier breweries from across Northwestern Indiana collaborated on the Corn King IPA brew day, mashing in locally grown corn malted by Sugar Creek Malt Co. of Lebanon, IN to create a highly sippable hoppy beer with crisp citrus notes and a smooth finish.

The 74 IBU, 7.3% ABV beer will pair excellently with a Sunday brunch or a local burger.

Enlist in the base membership level for access to buy pints of the beer at the release parties.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

The great wine fraud? Nothing to see here, beer hoarders -- right?

The stakes may be smaller as they pertain to your White Whale stash of "mine all mine" beers, but it might be time to beware the forgers.

Counterfeit Pliny? Well, all it takes is a Koch brother and a few wheelbarrows of cash.

The great wine fraud, by Ed Cumming (The Guardian)

Rudy Kurniwan amassed a vast fortune trading in rare wines. Trouble is, he was bottling them himself. Ed Cumming reports on a vintage swindle

The world’s biggest wine forger started small. It was the early 2000s, and a young man who went by the name of Rudy Kurniawan began to make a name for himself on the Los Angeles scene. He had swept-back hair and a hearty laugh. More importantly, he had pockets of seemingly infinite depth, so his new friends overlooked his mysterious origins. It was said he came from a wealthy Sino-Indonesian family, living large off handouts. But nobody pressed too hard as long as the dinners – and booze – kept flowing.

Kurniawan also had a palate of rare finesse, better than most at identifying the characteristics of different vintages. Or at least, that’s what the people he fooled said ...


Friday, September 09, 2016

NABC all-female ownership: An admirable goal, but 100% minus 33% does not equal 100%.

It's important for NABC to keep on keeping on, and I appreciate David Kahl's article.

However, there's a small factual problem with one section of it, and it has the effect of ruining the otherwise positive vibe, at least for me.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About New Albanian Brewing Company, by David Kahl (Indiana on Tap)

NABC is 100% owned by women

NABC underwent a change of ownership lately (well, really, a change of shareholdings) when Roger Baylor left the business to run for mayor of New Albany. As he departs, the sister team of Amy Baylor and Kate Lewison assume 100% control of the company. Beer, of course, is gender neutral.

In fact, there has been no change of shareholdings.

As of today, I own 33% of the two NABC incorporations, just as I have from their inception. I've been removed as corporate officer of these entities, but have not yet been remunerated, and until this occurs, it's inaccurate to suggest that the companies are 100% female-owned -- even if I support this ultimate goal, and I do support it.

It's a buy-out ... not a donate-out, and I've contacted Indiana on Tap requesting a correction. To Mr. Kahl, my apologies. I'm sorry you were misled.

By the way, John Mahorney designed the NABC logo. Tony Beard's done it all since then, but John's design has stood the test of time.

For more, go here: The Independent.


Wednesday, September 07, 2016

One vast hospital: Flying Dog's Saw Bones Ginger Table Beer.

It was our first evening in Frederick, Maryland, and we happened upon an old, dignified building with Ralph Steadman's crazed images filling a window display.

Eastern USA Road Trip 2016, Day 9: Antietam and a detour through Civil War medicine.

The building is the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

Follow in the footsteps of soldiers and surgeons to discover the harsh conditions, personal sacrifices, and brilliant innovations of Civil War medicine, innovations that continue to save lives today.

The window display was about a special collaboration beer from Flying Dog, born in Colorado, now a Frederick staple. I'm old enough to remember the Denver facility, as visited during the GABF.

In 1990, George (Stranahan) founded the Flying Dog Brewpub in Aspen, Colorado. From that brewpub to a full-fledged Denver brewery (co-founded by George and his longtime friend and partner, Richard McIntyre) in 1994, and then to our current state-of-the-art brewing facility in Frederick, Maryland, Flying Dog continues to make sense.

The special beer is offbeat even by Flying Dog standards.

Flying Dog is Ready to Release its Civil War-Inspired Beer: Saw Bones, by James Michael Causey (Washingtonian)

Bottles and battles come together with the May 27 release of Saw Bones, a first-time collaboration between two Frederick-based entities: Flying Dog Brewery and the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

It’s a unique pairing, admits David Price, executive director of the museum, whose mission is to research and preserve the legacy of Civil War-era medicine. Price, a consultant on the PBS series Mercy Street about a Civil War hospital in Alexandria, says the beer is part of a wider outreach campaign to make history more exciting–not to mention palatable.

As befits a beer with Ralph Steadman's art on the label, Flying Dog gets sassy with the whole concept.

During the height of the Civil War, our hometown of Frederick was given the nickname “One Vast Hospital.” With Maryland smack dab in the middle of the Union and Confederacy, patients often outnumbered residents. To this day, if you stand on a quiet street after sunset, you can still hear them singing “Hard Tack Come Again No More.”

Despite pioneering a good bit of modern medicine, doctors were dubbed “saw bones.” While the literal sometimes occurred for those on the wrong end of a musket, Saw Bones were also revered for hand-made elixirs in which the cure-all nature of both ginger and lemon were common.

To pay homage to the hard-working people on Mercy Street, we enlisted the National Museum of Civil War Medicine to bring you a new Saw Bones in the form of a Belgian-style table beer with ginger and lemon. Crisp and clean on the palette with bold citrus, spice and malt character, it’s just what the doctor ordered.

So, in the end, we visited the museum and I bought a six-pack. Saw Bones reminds me of NABC's Tafel, and I like it, even with less ginger character than I'd have thought. It's a one-off, and isn't expected to return.


Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Brewer's Alley and Monocacy Brewing in Frederick MD.

Brewer's Alley.

As is our custom, we chose a place to stay for two nights in Frederick, Maryland predominantly on the basis of location. We try to be as near the center of downtown as possible, because walking is good -- especially when you drink.

Eastern USA Road Trip 2016, Day 8: Civil War history in Frederick, Maryland and environs.

Happily, the Brewer's Alley brewpub (established 1996) lay within walking distance of our B & B, as did a couple dozen other eateries and bars. The back story of Brewer's Alley is worth repeating.

The original 217 gallon brewhouse at Brewer’s Alley Restaurant and Brewery introduced craft beer enthusiasts to many varieties of local, independent beer. Since 1996, guests visiting the brewpub in Downtown Frederick took in the sights and smells of our copper-clad brewhouse producing award-winning beer. Due to the ever increasing demand for Brewer’s Alley brands, the original brewhouse was removed from its location at the brewpub in January, 2012.

Today, we produce and package Brewer’s Alley beer at an off-site manufacturing brewery called Monocacy Brewing Company, in Frederick, MD. At this location, the brewing staff from Brewer’s Alley brew each batch of our year-round and seasonal beers. In late 2012, our new, custom-built 93 gallon brewhouse was delivered for testing at Monocacy Brewing Company. This system will be installed at Brewer’s Alley Restaurant and Brewery in the near future and will serve as the launchpad for small batch seasonal varieties and new creations.

During our second visit, the server explained more clearly the "shared ownership" connection between Brewer's Alley and Monocacy Brewing, and I was able to sample a few beers from each.

Welcome to Monocacy Brewing Company where our focus is on crafting quality beer. We are proudly brewing our award winning beers in the old Ebert’s Ice Cream plant located in historic Downtown Frederick. At MBC we strive to be a great neighbor and representative of Frederick’s local allure.

Opened in November of 2011, Monocacy Brewing Company crafts unique, full-flavored ales and lagers. Our staff of talented and experienced brewers are committed to promoting the use of fresh, local ingredients and releasing a portfolio of beer styles that appeals to all beer drinkers’ tastes The brewery also functions as a contract bottling facility for Frederick County’s original brewpub, Brewer’s Alley. 

Broadly generalizing, the Brewer's Alley staples are classic food-friendly styles like Nut Brown and Kölsch. 1634 Ale was especially enjoyable; it's one of those fascinating historical throwback recipes with barley, wheat, rye, caraway and molasses.

All of them are accomplished, but special praise to the Hefeweizen. While my judgment is unscientific, I haven't tasted a better Hefeweizen from an American "craft" brewery. It is balanced between fruit and clove, and delicious on a hot, humid day.

Conversely, Monocacy Brewing seems designed to travel the more esoteric end of the spectrum; I liked Riot Rye and Gose of Althea. Before you life an eyebrow, remember that I had two nightly sessions to enjoy all these beers.

After the second of our two visits to Brewer's Alley, I was looking for a nightcap to take home. There's a bottle shop down the street, and there I spotted a tasty regional selection in a 750 ml bottle: Victory Sour Monkey, a "Sour Brett Tripel."

A perfect ending.


Monday, September 05, 2016

AFTER THE FIRE: Beer stories and bedtime for gonzo (2013).

AFTER THE FIRE: Beer stories and bedtime for gonzo (2013).

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

As originally published at on December 30, 2013, and previously not offered in its entirety here at the blog. It's been three years, though it seems like only yesterday.


“All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.”
–Leo Tolstoy

It’s been a long, strange trip, hasn’t it?

The first brewing insurgency of the modern American era began at New Albion Brewing Company, which commenced operations in Sonoma, California, in 1976. Auspiciously, a revolution in beer was spawned in the very same year as America’s Bicentennial celebrated the culmination of a previous uprising.

As a casual student of history, I’m aware that almost inevitably, revolutions consolidate into their own systematized pecking orders, even as they mature and gravitate toward future appointments with reinvention (arguably the best case scenario) or, more often, messy counter-revolutions.

Maybe we’re witnessing one or both of these outcomes just now in the world of beer.

These days, what used to be known as microbrewing bears the designation of craft beer, and in terms of consumer recognition, the siren’s call of mainstream acceptance beckons. If this weren’t the case, there’d be no Blue Moon or Shock Top, those sleek mockrobrews designed and distributed by mass-market brewers for the express purpose of pilfering craft brewing’s vibrant foundational imagery for the benefit of shelf space and engorged multinational shareholders.

Yet in fairness, there’d also not be a Sierra Nevada factory perched incongruously amid the Appalachians, or Lagunitas situated on both the Pacific and Gold Coasts. When it comes to robber baron capitalism, pecking orders frequently can be brutal, and maybe we’re not doing so well with our own institutional imagery if the misty mythology no longer seems worth protecting.

Not everyone sees it this way, and the fact that I persist in doing so clearly marks me as an aging craft beer militant, one whose radical worldview was shaped by an active desire for better beer, close to home, amid a denuded landscape of ridiculously limited choice. There were fewer than 100 breweries in the United States when I attained legal drinking age in 1981; more than 30 years later, the number is 2,500. The beer scene has mutated beyond recognition and comprehension, and the revolutionary cadres have splintered into multiple spheres of specialized interests.

A homebrewing culture analyzes beer by ingredients and methodology, espousing a “brew it yourself” ethos, while traders and swappers revel in the mechanics of the chase, the art of the deal, and the joy of collecting.

There is a priestly ratings caste trumpeting the presumed exactitude and objectivity of language in quantifying beer, and a localist persuasion embracing the personal, grassroots experience of craft beer in the context of places and people.

On widely scattered occasions, albeit rare, these spheres even manage to overlap. Me? I’m an ardent localist, with an asterisk.

For those of us who grew to beer-turity prior to the Internet’s incursions, when social media was a figment of Dick Tracy’s wrist radio – the downtrodden tightly clutching dog-eared books written by the late beer writer Michael Jackson and anointing him as a reliable guide for pursuit of the perfect pint — one of the most important aspects of craft beer is the ability to tell a good story.

Jackson excelled at it. He was a journalist by trade, and relentlessly factual in his approach, yet a sheer delight in storytelling is his primary legacy, especially through a knack for linking good beer with interesting people in specific places. At the end of the day, what else is there?

I found myself reacting to these stories first by repeating them, and later, augmenting them with embellishment from personal experiences, the latter gained initially by traveling, and later by operating my own pub. They became personal gateway beer tales, tied inextricably together, addressing the past and advocating the future.

In 1992, the pub itself represented the logical conclusion to my quest. What we needed in my hometown was a beer culture of its own, one embodying the litany of who, what, where and why. Elements of other beer cultures could be adapted and deployed toward this end, but the objective never was to “be” Bamberg (to cite one example).

Rather, it was to create a milieu that would provide a local experience similar to Bamberg, primarily for those of us living here, and also for those who’d like to come visit. Eventually, we’d have our own brewery, which would be the apogee; locally brewed beer as restorative and springboard.

Central to all of this was, and is, storytelling. Nowadays, quality craft beer storytelling is hardly dead, although I fear it’s gone into some manner of cryogenic hibernation. In the present time, craft beer enthusiasm is expressed with a throwaway brevity, defying any true depth of feeling; miles-wide, inches-deep. Social media affords an abundance of minimal exposure, trivializing and often eliminating context. Beer lovers check in, tweet, post and rate – and yet they hardly ever tell stories.

I find it profoundly sad.

Consider the typically triumphant craft beer photo on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. Usually it’s a hard-to-find beer from a highly rated brewery, the further from home and harder to source, the better. The beer’s “proper” signature glass is strategically situated, half-filled and seductive.

Unfortunately, what’s missing are human beings and an explanation for why any of it matters, and the end result is craft beer objectified, little more than accumulated beer porn to the practicing fetishist, without any need for an accompanying story because fellow beer narcissists are expected to already feel the tumescence of the titillation, and automatically shift into fully salivating Pavlovian mutt at the first glimpse of the visual prompt.

We all do it, even me.

As Billie Holiday sang long ago, “Them that’s got shall have, them that’s not shall lose.” I don’t root for the haves. Underdogs are way more appealing.
I’m tired of losing, not in the superficial sense of final game scores or reds and blacks on a bank balance sheet, but from acquiescing for far too long in a process whereby the collective I’ve spent a quarter-century assembling somehow tosses away the thread of its own narrative.

Rather than gaze longingly upon someone else’s masturbatory beer glass, I’d rather be able to tell the story of why the liquid in the glass is important, assuming it still is – and to be perfectly honest, there are times when I have serious doubts as to whether any meaning remains to be examined, although as a contrarian of long and sincere standing, I’m honor-bound and forever obliged to doubt and re-examine even those precepts nearest and dearest to my heart.

However, what I know beyond a shadow of doubt is that in the year 201417, it is time to tell more stories, not fewer, and to remove craft beer from its selfie-induced vacuum by relating it to the real world outside. Stories build community by reinforcing beer’s local origins, and stories just might be the best way to reach the next 10%, absent the pomp, circumstance and end-zone chest-thumping that has come so infuriatingly to define and bastardize the genre.

In order to complete the journey, perhaps we must come back to town, back to the origins, and back to the notion of there being no such thing as strangers, only those who haven’t yet become friends. Maybe the best way to become friends is to have a chat, not compare soiled raincoats.

Just think about it. Quite possibly, there’s something left to learn.


August 29: AFTER THE FIRE: In the Red Room, we’re all left – right?

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.


A lovely Best Bitter at Northampton Brewery.

Labor Day was Monday, September 5. It also was our third and last day in South Hadley, and a final outing was planned in the city of Northampton.

Eastern USA Road Trip 2016, Day 7: Northampton MA and Labor Day in a Blue State.

It will surprise absolutely no one who knows me that Job One was lunch at a brewery.

The Northampton Brewery was conceived as a community center for great food and drink; where families get together for quality time; good friends hang out and catch up; groups meet for pleasure or business; and individuals come in to meet with regulars, or to play a little solitaire. The Brewery staff loves to meet new people and make everyone feel at home. It has become a favorite meeting place for locals and visiting guests.

In 1987 The Northampton Brewery was the second brewpub to open in the region preceded by the Commonwealth Brewing Company in Boston. Presently the Northampton Brewery is the oldest operating brewpub in New England.

The outdoor patio was packed, so we retreated indoors. My loaded burger and clam chowder were solid, but what impressed me most was a Daniel Shays Best Bitter. So few breweries in my neighborhood (anywhere?) bother any longer with stylistically accurate English-influenced styles. Northampton Brewery's version reminded me a bit of the ESB at Broad Ripple Brewing Company, though milder and at a lower alcohol content ... precisely as it should be.

You should be asking, "But Roger, who is Daniel Shays?" Given that I carry a Che wallet, I'm the perfect choice to Google.

Shays' Rebellion was an armed uprising in Massachusetts (mostly in and around Springfield) during 1786 and 1787. Revolutionary War veteran Daniel Shays led four thousand rebels (called Shaysites) in rising up against perceived economic injustices and suspension of civil rights (including multiple eviction and foreclosure notices) by Massachusetts, and in a later attempt to capture the United States' national weapons arsenal at the U.S. Armory at Springfield. Although Shays' Rebellion met with defeat militarily against a privately raised militia, it prompted numerous national leaders (including George Washington, who came out of retirement to deal with issues raised by Shays' Rebellion) to call for a stronger national government to suppress future rebellions, resulting in the U.S. Constitutional Convention and thereby "altering the course of U.S. history."

Food, drink and service were exemplary. When I expressed interest in buying a t-shirt, the manager set aside what she was doing to sift through the choices and find XXL sizes from which to choose.

All thumbs up. In all likelihood, the future holds more visits to the vicinity as the missus plays enthusiastic aunt to baby Ruby.

Northampton Brewery at Facebook.


Sunday, September 04, 2016

A glorious pushing of buttons: Rauchbier at Fort Hill Brewery in Easthampton MA.

Several years ago, when I was at peak NABC, we were approached by a local businessman who had purchased property in Starlight, very near Huber's Orchard, Vineyards and Winery and their rapidly growing Starlight Distillery.

To make a long story short, his idea was to build a German-influenced brewery up the road from Huber's, under the plausible theory that if hundreds of people are wiling to drive to Huber's for the day, they'd also stop at the brewery -- not only to buy take-away beer, but for the rural ambiance.

Nothing ever came of it, but now I've seen the real-world manifestation of what he envisioned. Clone this, drop it there. First, as noted at NAC ...

Eastern USA Road Trip 2016, Day 6: A trip to Gator's in Rhode Island.

After the excursion to Rhode Island to count coup with clams and beer, Ben drove directly to Fort Hill Brewery outside Easthampton. As the crow flies, the brewery is located only three or four miles from Ben's and Jen's house, but owing to the location of bridges on the Connecticut, it's a big 10-12 mile loop.

No matter, because I wasn't behind the wheel, and the point of the visit can be summarized by a single German compound word: Rauchbier.

Smoked beer.

When Ben first told me there was a brewery just a few miles away from his house that brewed Rauchbier all the year round, I started salivating. It was a gorgeous afternoon, and upon arrival, there was a musical duo playing inside, drinkers with picnic lunches spilling onto the front patio, and a mellow vibe overall.

I sampled a few of the house brews, drank a pint of Rauchbier and bought a case of mixed six packs to take back to Indiana. Every beer I tried was solid, even the spiced Doppelbock, and it strikes me that specializing in German styles is an idea too long ignored according to prevailing craft beer orthodoxy (even if Fort Hill offered Session IPA, too).

A final point of "wow" was on-premise six-pack pricing: $8 for six 12-oz cans. OF SMOKED LAGER ... or Märzen, or Hefeweizen ... and that's a steal given the quality.

At Fort Hill Brewery, we like to stand out. That's why we decided to use different colored tabs on our cans to identify our beers.

Red is for Red Flag
Black is for Rauch
Green is for King Mark
Blue is for Dopplebock


Saturday, September 03, 2016

About the Montague Bookmill, and a few beers in the Massachusetts countryside.

I'm gradually describing (and backdating) the Curmudgeons' eastern road trip, with cultural highlights usually recorded at NAC, and beers here at PC.

Eastern USA Road Trip 2016, Day 5: Ruby welcomes the Confidentials to Massachusetts.

On Saturday morning, we drove from Brattleboro, Vermont to South Hadley, Massachusetts, which didn't take very long, and my wife Diana enjoyed a long-awaited (well, five months) meeting with her niece's baby.

Later that same day, we all piled into one car to visit another niece. The choice of venue was near and dear of the heart of this drinking reader: A bookstore with food, beer and tunes.

It's hard not to like a bookstore with a tag like this: Books you don't need in a place you can't find. Accordingly, the Montague Bookmill is a used bookstore housed in an 1842 grist mill, located along the highway somewhere north of Amherst, Massachusetts.

This article summarizes the attraction.

Montague Bookmill is a hidden gem with books and beer, by Jon Mael (Boston Globe)

Part treehouse, part shopping center, part historical site, and part dining destination. The Montague Mill is impossible to categorize. But it’s entirely cool and timeless. Nice views, used books, and good food don’t go out of style.

The mill serves a diverse clientele including families seeking a fun day out, tourists, and college students longing for a quiet place away from the hustle and bustle of their busy campuses. Five businesses share the space on the banks of the Sawmill River, which flows into the Connecticut River a few miles downstream ...

In addition to the bookstore, there is a casual cafe, slightly upscale restaurant, record store and artists' collective, all situated in the old mill complex.

If memory serves, my beer choice was an IPA and a Porter, both from the region. The names weren't recorded and are lost to posterity. Perhaps I should have posted to untappd.

It was a relaxed and eclectic afternoon, and soon we returned home to dine on a meal of grilled beef, corn and tomatoes, washed down with cans of Hermit Thrush. Here are two photos of the bookstore cribbed from the Internetz:

And another one I took. The afternoon was so laid back that I couldn't be bothered to exercise the camera.

At some point in the evening, the husband of Diana's niece observed that a brewery nearby made a Rauchbier.

Sunday was going to be fun.