Sunday, January 31, 2016

Every 1's a winner on a beautiful winter/spring day in Indianapolis.

Porter, that is.


As it turned out, we never made it to Winterfest yesterday.

D and I drove up to Indianapolis early so we'd have time to explore before going to the State Fairgrounds. She'd never been to the Fountain Square neighborhood, and it's been two years for me, so we parked there and started looking for coffee.

The record will show that it was as gorgeous a spring day as one might imagine occurring on Saturday, January 30.

After lunch at End of the Line, we were browsing shops and happened to overhear two couples talking about going to Winterfest later in the afternoon. One couple had tickets, and the other did not. The ones who didn't have tickets were from out of state. Because the event was a sellout, they were debating creative ways of scoring two additional tickets.

Obviously, they were complete strangers to us, and the back story was unclear from eavesdropping, although my impression was that someone had forgotten to purchase four tickets and bought only two, hence the snafu.

Well, we could fix THAT, couldn't we?

After a brief chat with D, we gave them our tickets with only one small caveat: They were to find Salt Creek Brewery's booth, say hello to Brad, and have a sample or three for me. I hope they did, but it's okay if not.

In my world, all's well that ends well.

After beers at Fountain Square Brewing Company, where we chatted with a few fest-goers from Peoria, we walked the cultural trail pedway along Virginia Avenue to the center and doubled back via the city market, stopping at Chilly Water Brewing for another round. The urban changes along this corridor were utterly fascinating, and it was a gorgeous day on top of it.

I hope those folks (and many others) had a good time at Winterfest. Concurrently, we had much fun just wandering through Indianapolis. Serendipity is a powerful motive force, don't you think?

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Germantown Craft House's buildout: "Upgrading a major eyesore along Goss Avenue."

Photo credit: Broken Sidewalk.


The story behind the first (Crescent Hill) Craft House is here.

The PC: "A True Local Approach ... Kentucky Beer and Food Take Center Stage at Crescent Hill Craft House."


Echoing a link earlier this month about "craft" brewing's record of adaptive reuse in buildings, Branden Klayko offers a detailed explanation of what the Germantown Craft House restaurant and multi-tap will be doing to integrate an otherwise undistinguished 1980s-era cookiecutter suburban structure into the streetscape.

Like I'm fond of saying, brewing's about more than just beer.


Ignoring the street for 30 years, this ’80s building will soon be a beautiful local beer bar on Goss Avenue, by Branden Klayko (Broken Sidewalk)

Besides upgrading a major eyesore along Goss Avenue, the Germantown Craft House renovation shows that it’s possible to adapt anti-urban architecture to respect the street and become an engaging part of the built environment. Where else around town could benefit from such a rehab?

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

"Brewers of Indiana Guild launches official Indiana beer app and “Bicentenni-Ale” program."

I'll allow the press release to speak for itself. Big thanks to the BIG board members and staff who've made these developments possible. By the way, Winterfest is sold out. 

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Brewers of Indiana Guild launches official Indiana beer app and “Bicentenni-Ale” program

Projects coincide with state’s 200th anniversary and growth in brewing industry

INDIANAPOLIS (1/27/2016) – Brewers of Indiana Guild, the non-profit trade association that represents the state’s 120+ breweries, has launched two new initiatives to promote the Hoosier brewing industry.



In an effort to increase the use of Indiana-grown ingredients in its members’ beers, the Guild has created a program called “Bicentenni-Ale”--the name is a nod to Indiana’s 200th anniversary--which is focused on encouraging Indiana brewers to use ingredients sourced from Indiana. The project has been officially endorsed as a Bicentennial Legacy Project by the Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

The Guild is providing member breweries with a list of maltsters, hop growers, and other local ingredients providers and is encouraging brewers and suppliers to connect and collaborate on Indiana-focused beers.

“We’re seeing commercial traffic in local malt and hops that didn’t exist even 5 years ago,” says Jeff Mease, owner of Bloomington Brewing Company (est. 1994) and Chairman of the Guild’s Bicentennial Committee. “Indiana-grown fruits have lots of potential as inputs, too: At BBC we are in our third year of brewing a seasonal Persimmon Ale, and it gets more popular every year.”



The Guild has also released the official Indiana beer app--simply called “Drink Indiana Beer” -- to promote and support Indiana’s beer community. The app, available for both iOS and Android through the App Store and Google Play, respectively, offers turn-by-turn directions to all of Indiana’s breweries, as well as info on events like the 8th Annual Winterfest this Saturday at the State Fairgrounds, which will feature more than 85 Indiana breweries. Brewers of Indiana Guild will also release its first annual Indiana beer guide magazine in May.

“Indiana’s brewing industry has grown rapidly, and it’s our mission to help promote our brewers and give them access to resources to continue to brew and sell great beer,” said Rob Caputo, Executive Director of Brewers of Indiana Guild. “We’re excited about growing and adapting with the industry.”

Indiana’s brewing industry had an economic impact of more than $1 billion in 2014 and employed nearly 8,000 people full-time, according to the national Brewers Association.


About Brewers of Indiana Guild: Brewers of Indiana Guild was organized in 2000 to provide a unifying voice for the craft breweries and brewpubs of Indiana. We promote public awareness and appreciation for the award-winning quality and variety of beer produced in Indiana, advocate for favorable regulatory treatment from state and federal agencies, provide support to 120+ breweries throughout the state, and, along with the City of Indianapolis, co-own Tomlinson Tap Room, where you’ll find only Indiana beers all the time. For more information, including links to download the official Drink Indiana Beer app, visit drinkIN.beer.

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Monday, January 25, 2016

The PC: "A True Local Approach ... Kentucky Beer and Food Take Center Stage at Crescent Hill Craft House."

The PC: "A True Local Approach ... Kentucky Beer and Food Take Center Stage at Crescent Hill Craft House."

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

Please excuse me for tardiness. As regular readers know, I write a quarterly beer column for Food & Dining Magazine (Louisville Edition). The magazine is free of charge and can be read at issuu concurrent with the print release, and yet I like to wait a bit before adding the columns to the public record here.

Eight months is more than a bit, so here is something different from the Summer 2015 (Vol. 48; May/June/July) issue, in that my "Hip Hops" column about Crescent Hill Craft House was expanded to feature length. With a second Craft House under construction in Germantown, at least the topic remains somewhat timely.

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A True Local Approach ... Kentucky Beer and Food Take Center Stage at Crescent Hill Craft House.

It remains a golden age for craft beer in America, but while artisanal brewing continues to grow and prosper on Kentucky soil, another satisfying libation retains the bulk of bragging rights in the Commonwealth.

It’s bourbon, and bourbon is ascendant.

With considerable justification, Kentuckians view their native spirit not merely as intoxicating, but representative of a local art form belonging uniquely to them. Strictly speaking, bourbon is a process and not an appellation, and can be produced anywhere in America. However, don’t expect a Kentuckian to accept this fact without an argument – and splashes of branch water are purely optional.

Verily, a bourbon aficionado residing in Kentucky probably is the most rigorous practitioner of localism in all of these United States: A specific distillery’s venerable layout, its historic pot still, a particular limestone water source, gentle aging in oak (from which preferred cooper’s grove?) and the comprehensive guiding intelligence of a wily master distiller, all combining to create a topographic, geographic and mythic elixir like no other.

Yet it is rightly said that bourbon is a form of distilled beer without the hops, and surely craft beer’s explosive Kentucky growth with hops is intriguingly comparable with bourbon’s, but significantly, not always so much in terms of its acceptance as a manifestation of localism.

It is depressingly common for Louisville-area craft beer enthusiasts to openly eschew locally brewed beers, reserving their fevered approbation for new and different beers coming into Kentucky and Indiana from far, far away. As such, localist beer instincts compete with perceptions of “exotic” value, which are as old as humanity itself.

Unfortunately, these perceptions often have little to do with the actual liquid occupying one’s glass.

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When the shipping-borne international spice trade commenced in Europe several hundred years ago, a form of consumer demand was created. A “need” arose to obtain previously unknown spices from overseas, owing not to their supposed usefulness in masking otherwise rancid food, as is often erroneously imagined today, but because the spices themselves were quantifiable and visible measures of social status according to prevailing, evolving and subjective value systems.

In essence, anyone who was anyone just had to have these spices – or risk not being anyone, any longer. Possession was a palpable, tangible symbol of status, and the key to their value was distance: These spices were from somewhere else – exotic, expensive and hard to obtain, and as such, infinitely sexier than piddling local norms, with magical and totemic properties.

No one thought it necessary to bother with explanations as to why the rare spices proffered at the wedding feast mattered. It was understood. Peers compared the quantity of their spice stocks to establish social pecking orders, and any stray servant or cowed peasant in proximity of the scene knew immediately that strength and power were conferred on those who possessed the requisite spicy symbolism … while by contrast, he or she remained a degraded underling.*

Happily, we’re here to consider local beer and not saffron; after all, that stuff’s almost as expensive as trendy finishing hops from New Zealand.

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Present-day metro Louisville boasts numerous bars and restaurants where the distilled variant of localism is stirringly endorsed by means of encyclopedic Kentucky bourbon lists: Haymarket Whiskey Bar, Down One Bourbon Bar, Bourbons Bistro, the Silver Dollar – surely there are barber shops in a Shively strip mall boasting “century” bourbon lineups – but not one metro multi-tap or specialty beer bar of appreciable size has followed suit with similarly exhaustive local craft beer selections.

Until now. At the Crescent Hill Craft House, 40 taps pour locally brewed beers to the exclusion of all others, and as much kitchen fare as possible is sourced from regional farms and suppliers. For good measure, there is a list of 40-plus bourbons.

Co-owner Pat Hagan explains: “We’re going with all Kentucky beers, including Southern Indiana. That’s the way economies should be going, and are. Customers want to support the local area and they want local products, so offering them beer and food from the area makes sense.”

Hagan’s name might be familiar. In terms of Louisville craft brewing, he is an undisputed elder statesman, and his family’s Bluegrass Brewing Company (founded in 1993) now includes three on-premise Louisville locations. There also is a BBC production brewing facility, owned separately but working in concert with the BBC brewpubs.

In 2014, after two decades of building and nurturing his own locally popular breweries, Hagan began thinking about what has come of craft brewing’s proliferation in BBC’s wake. A new concept began to take root, and with business partners Brad Culver and Beau Kerley, he bought and remodeled a longstanding bar space located at 2634 Frankfort Avenue – a locale where independent small businesses tend to thrive.

At the Crescent Hill Craft House, amid exposed brick and stripped beams, beers from Against the Grain, Alltech (Kentucky Ale), Apocalypse, Bluegrass Brewing, Country Boy, Cumberland, Eight Ball, Falls City, Flat12, Great Flood, New Albanian and West Sixth are featured, and according to Hagan, their massed presence initially caused confusion.

“The biggest resistance we had, pre-opening, was convincing bar managers, distributors and salesmen that you don’t need Bells and Southern Tier,” he said, nicely name-dropping two out-of-state brewers.

“But breweries in Kentucky make great and diverse beer, so serving just those beers is no downgrade. I think both locals and visitors like to be able to come to one place and see everything that the area has to offer.”

Chef Tim Smith enthusiastically agrees, and has designed the Craft House’s food program to reflect localism from the ground up. Hagan approached Smith in the early stages of the project.

“Pat asked if I could put together a locally sourced menu, and I said sure. He liked it, then wanted to know who could pull it off in the kitchen. I said, well, might as well be me.”

And why not? Smith has been cooking professionally in the Louisville area for as long as Hagan has been brewing beer, putting in stints with the Grisanti family, Napa River Grill and 60 West Martini Bar.

Smith’s first priority at Craft House is local and regional sourcing, whenever possible: Beef from Marksbury Farms and aquaponic greens raised at Groganica Farms; spent grain from the BBC brewhouse in St. Matthews to top his delicious cobblers, and crusty Blue Dog bread baked a few blocks away to produce a beer-friendly bruschetta oozing bacon jam.



Even when a local source isn’t available, menu items are “finished” on site (smoking salmon, curing pork belly) and strategically paired, as with the Sheltowee Farms mushroom risotto accompanying Smith’s pan seared scallops.

Smith gently rejects the notion of any specific style or cuisine as ideally suited to a venue like Craft House. “The idea is good food you can pair with beer in an unpretentious atmosphere,” he said, adding a crucial point: “It always takes a team, and it’s up to the servers to know.”

That’s huge. At Craft House, both the beers and the food constantly change with the season, and so servers are the ultimate frontline aggregators of information. What’s in the “seasonal vegetable medley”? Is that ale hop- or malt-forward? What makes this dish and that beer work together?

In Louisville, the Crescent Hill Craft House is answering these questions. Why not local beer and local food? Why not harness subjective value systems to objective local quality, and celebrate the beers that make us special, as brewed right here, in and near our own neighborhoods?

The philosopher’s advice rings true: “Think globally, drink locally.”

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* For more see “Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants and Intoxicants,” by Wolfgang Schivelbusch.

_

Sunday, January 24, 2016

But it isn't really a "ban" if there are Sunday alternatives (hint: Indiana breweries and wineries).



The effort is underway again this year.


Bill to lift Sunday alcohol sales ban has fewer store rules (Associated Press)

A new proposal to lift Indiana's eight decades-old ban on Sunday carryout alcohol sales would impose fewer new restrictions on grocery stores and pharmacies than a bill that failed in the Legislature last year.

The measure represents a fresh attempt by Indiana House Public Policy Chairman Tom Dermody to end the state's status as having the last such statewide "blue law" in the U.S.


Rep. Dermody, who seems to be bidding for recognition as the Great Alcohol Emancipator (well, it works for me), also has proposed a measure to reverse one of MADD's greatest legislative wins.


Will the institution of Happy Hour return to Hoosier shores?

I was in my early twenties when Indiana banned the promotional practice of happy hours (alcoholic beverage discounts predicated on time of day) and also favoritism in pricing (i.e., ladies night).


Back to Sundays, and a convenient summary of how Hoosiers work around the Sunday ban.


8 ways to get alcohol on Sundays, by Amy Haneline (IndyStar)

A legislative effort in 2015 brought the state closer than it has ever been to lifting the Prohibition-era ban on Sunday alcohol sales for carryout. But sure enough, the liquor stores and big-box couldn't come to a compromise. Luckily, there are plenty of workarounds to getting an adult beverage on Sundays.

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Friday, January 22, 2016

Snow days and those difficult "close/delay" calls.

My neighbor Austin helped out when it snowed earlier this week. He shovels; I drink.

It's snowing in metro Louisville. The accumulation isn't tremendous, just enough to throw into turmoil a vicinity that never has and never will be prepared for it.

I'm no longer in a position to make these "bad weather" calls, and yet I was please to see these words from a restaurant manager on social media earlier today.

If you're a restaurant owner/manager who remained open through this afternoon's weather because "the city needs you," then you need to "get over yourself." I've been on both sides of this decision, but I think this morning is a definite no-brainer.

It's tough, especially on Friday, when you know you'll be making bank -- except with snow, it wouldn't be an ordinary Friday, anyway. A couple of points are worth remembering.

First, that there'll probably be better volume for a few days after roads return to normal. People will compensate for interruptions to their routines.

Second, you can't fall into the trap of thinking that one or two abnormal days will make or break you. There are many days in a year. You need to think about the little things you can do during each one of them to improve business.

Forget the exceptions. Concentrate on the rules. I have two growlers in the fridge, anyway -- and a shitload of gin.

_

Thursday, January 21, 2016

NuLu Bock Fest and my theory for the origin of an idea.

Photo credit.

NuLu's having a Bock Fest.

It might help to know that in the Germanic milieu, Bock often is symbolized by a goat, which explains the notion of blessing goats and beer together.

Billy Goat, what? NuLu Bock Fest will feature goat races, beer and more, by Melissa Chipman (Insider Louisville)

On Saturday, March 26, the neighborhood is reviving that tradition during the new NuLu Bock Fest, a beer festival with music and goat races. Apparently bock beer festivals also were a tradition in Louisville that fell by the wayside during Prohibition. Organizers of the festival were able to trace the bock beer fest tradition back to 1858.

Bock beer is a low-hop style of lager originating in Germany.

NuLu being NuLu, media coverage has tended to be breathless, as though it is a solemn contractual obligation to trace all creativity and innovation back to a geographical construct that's barely existed for a decade.

I really hate being a squeaky wheel -- wait, no I don't, so kindly permit me to suggest that the germ of this Bock Fest idea can be attributed to local freelance writer Kevin Gibson's suggestions during Mayor Greg Fischer's local beer study group in the summer of 2014.

Here is a paragraph from the group's final draft in July, 2014.

Reconnect Louisville with its brewing heritage. Many in the city are unaware of the rich history of brewing in Louisville, and the rich heritage in beer culture in general. Louisville was once not just a thriving brewing hub, but also filled with lush, German beer gardens and beer celebrations that can and should be revisited today to help promote local brewing culture.

I attended the meetings. At the time, Kevin was pushing his book Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft, and I distinctly recall him mentioning "heritage," "German" and "Bock" multiple times. Oktoberfest was in the conversation, too.

Make no mistake: I'm a Bock kind of guy, and once a beer list for this fest is released, I'll pass it along in this forum. I'll almost surely attend.

However, in the short history of NuLu Bock Fest, I've not seen Kevin's name listed. Intellectual property rights matter tome, and perhaps this is just an oversight. Maybe at least they'll buy him a beer, or something.

Here's a review I wrote on Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft.


ON THE AVENUES: Louisville Beer, then and now ... and cheers to Rotary.


The strength of Kevin Gibson’s narrative lies in his ability to convey the way it felt to drink beer in Louisville at various times in the past. Details valued today mattered less back then. Being a beer drinker in Louisville in the year 1890 was not about checking-in, or chasing, trading and hoarding.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Local + good cause = Tailspin Ale Fest (Feb. 20), so let Connecticut host its own damn gig.


The photo above was taken at the first Tailspin on February 22, 2014. The late Jimmy Mann's t-shirt attests to an unseasonably warm day.

Watch video of the Tailspin Ale Fest, yesterday at Bowman Field in Louisville.


Last year, we'd had snow three times by February and it was more wintry, although no one noticed, and Tailspin got even bigger.

Kevin Gibson previews the 2016 installment of Louisville's only beer festival held at an airport, and in doing so, he should be forewarned, because from sheer joy I might plant a wet one on his cheek next time we run into each other, congratulating him for emphasizing Tailspin's charitable component and "local flavor," then upping the ante by telling the truth about for-profit beer fests like the coming weekend's Louisville On Tap.


Tailspin Ale Fest turns 3 with more beer and more charity, by Kevin Gibson (Insider Louisville)

 ... one of the key focuses of (Tailspin) continues to be on maintaining its local flavor. For instance, the first Tailspin featured seven Kentucky breweries. This year, there will be up to 20. Throw in local food trucks and other vendors, and a whole lot of local artisans and businesses are benefiting, in addition to the charity.

Other Louisville beer festivals operate similarly, from the Fest of Ale to Highlands Beer Festival to Brew at the Zoo. By contrast, a number of people likely will attend Louisville On Tap this Saturday. While there will surely be plenty of beer to sample, this festival is one of more than 80 “On Tap” events produced by a Connecticut-based company called Townsquare Media, which primarily owns radio stations in mid-market cities and does live events.

There is no charity beneficiary; profits go to the parent company, so in essence, it is an out-of-town cash grab.


Preach it, Brother Gibson. We don't need no stinkin' Townsquare Media carpetbaggers 'round here. If anything, Tailspin founders Tisha Gainey and Trevor Cravens are overly diplomatic with regard to the outsiders.

As for Louisville On Tap, the Tailspin folks hold no ill will, but it bears noting that a festival like that one is aimed at a different demographic. In other words, it might not be as desirable for the hardcore beer lover.

“It’s kind of a beginner’s beer festival,” Gainey said, echoing a promotional video on the America On Tap website.

“They get to an audience we’re probably not reaching,” Cravens agreed ...

You've probably already guessed my question: If there is merit to the position that a "beginner's" festival is needed, then why defer to a Connecticut media conglomerate? Let's do that one, too.

Just thinking out loud. Of greater importance is attending Tailspin.

Wonder if I could get a media pass and pay? After all, it's for a good cause.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

"When it comes to drunk driving, America may have a bigger driving problem than a drinking problem."

It's a clever argument, and there's a lot of truth to it, though for anyone growing up in a sparsely populated rural area (like me), the annoyance of being forced to drive long distances to drinking spots, then be concerned about the risks of driving back home while soused, is something that became evident for the first time during the Carter Administration.

Yes, one might remain sober long enough to transport alcoholic beverages to the country manor house, except that bedroom drinking in your pajamas rarely is conducive to being rejected by women and tangled up in barroom brawls, both of which are simply critical when it comes to learning how to interact with people as opposed to their television sets.

Beginning in 1985, urban experiences in Europe changed me forever, and I no longer wished to drive a car in association with my alcohol habit. The imperative became getting situated in a real urban neighborhood, and turning me loose to walk and bike to the pub. In fact, both houses I've played a role in purchasing since 1994 came about because they were in proximity to business and beer -- whether working, drinking or both.

Placement wasn't dumb luck. It was pure intent. As luck would have it, now that I live a few blocks away from numerous bars and restaurants in downtown New Albany, most of my reduced drinking is done at home ... with my wife, who hasn't yet rejected me.

Anything's possible, even reasonable zoning.

MOTHERS AGAINST DRUNK DRIVING SHOULD ALSO BE AGAINST ZONING, by Joshua McCarty at Strong Towns.

WHY DO BARS HAVE PARKING LOTS IF WE AREN'T SUPPOSED TO DRIVE HOME?

When it comes to drunk driving, America may have a bigger driving problem than a drinking problem. Sometimes I tell people that I became a planner in order to ensure everyone can safely imbibe and safely get home. When you step back and think about it though, how well do we really consider our development decisions regarding drinking establishments? I contend that the way typical code treats drinking establishments is indicative of the kind of misguided positivism that is pervasive in modern planning. The kind of prescriptive guidance that can specify how many trees you need in a parking lot but completely misses the simple practical relationship between how people use the site and their ability to stay safe. Modernist standardization erases the creativity and common sense that come from small scale solutions.

I have never understood how a zoning code could, in good faith, permit a drinking establishment that could only possibly be reached by car ...

Monday, January 18, 2016

Sadly, Three Pints Brewing Company has closed.



I wrote these words when Cutters Brewing Company ceased operations last March.


In any quasi-free market (whatever that means), there'll always be an attrition rate, and for a wide and staggering number of reasons ... I'm intimately familiar with this reality: "A tightrope of location, distribution, marketing and operations must be walked." You say that production scale and distribution will be the answer? Maybe it will, but .... the death of a brewery is a death in the family.


These sentiments come back to me as Tom Hynes of Three Pints offers this classy send-off, which I reprint here in its entirety, drawing from it one crucial point:

"For breweries where distribution is a key part of their business model, the increased competition has been tough."

Ominous.

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Three Pints Brewing Co. - Martinsville

January 18th, 2016

It with with much sadness that I announce the closure of Three Pints Brewing Company, effective immediately.

It has been a great run, starting in 2010 when we opened the brewpub in Plainfield, to the opening of our production brewery in Martinsville in 2014. As you know, the craft brewing industry has boomed during this time, with many new breweries opening and many exceptional beers being brewed, especially in Indiana. This is great news for all of us craft beer lovers! In general it is also great news for our industry, as it has raised the public's awareness of craft beer, chipping away at the mega-brewery market share. But for breweries where distribution is a key part of their business model, the increased competition has been tough.

Although this is a sad day, I have a lot to be thankful for.

First and foremost I want to thank all of the incredibleThree Pints fans in Plainfield, Martinsville, and across the state who supported us, inspired us, and most of all, became lifelong friends. I am honored and humbled by your tireless advocacy, and will treasure the many memories. THANK YOU!

I also want to thank the city and the people of Martinsville for the warmest welcome and continued support a business could ever ask for. I've made plenty of mistakes in this business, but choosing Martinsville when we expanded was not one of them.

Finally, I want to thank all of the wonderful, hardworking, and loyal employees I've had the privilege to work with over these years. I will miss your daily humor and companionship.

It's been a fun and rewarding ride, and I truly feel blessed to have been part of Indiana's craft beer community. Drink Indiana!

Cheers,
Tom Hynes
Owner, Head Brewer
Three Pints Brewing, Co.

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

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

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

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

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The longest journey is the journey inward.
-- Dag Hammarskjöld

Growing up in rural Indiana, the only reason I knew Dag Hammarskjöld was seeing his face on a postage stamp.

At far too young an age, I was a stamp collector, certain that one of those cloth grab bags stuffed with bulk cancelled stamps for a buck ninety eight might improbably yield an upside down airplane worth thousands of dollars.

Apart from panning for philatelical gold, it remained that geography and history were personal fascinations. Stories about other places thrilled me, and imagining where those stamps had been provided hours of amusement.

Hammarskjöld, a Swedish diplomat, was the second General Secretary of the United Nations. He died in an African plane crash in 1961, subsequently to be honored by commemorative stamps issued by dozens of countries, which in turn helped fill those cloth sacks, though how the stamps left their envelopes and came to be packed this way always mystified me.

We must concede that stamps were not how most Hoosiers learned about Sweden.

Rather, for predominantly clueless, corn-fed Midwestern American heterosexual males like me, coming of age during the decade of the 1970s, the most gripping (pun fully intended) stereotype imaginable was the Highly Sexed Swedish Blonde.

After all, at the dawn of the VHS generation, there wasn’t anything overtly Scandinavian about those pornographic videos branded as Swedish Erotica apart from naughty connotations preexisting in the minds of buyers.

And don’t ask me how I know this.

In like fashion, it is no coincidence that the only memorable aspect of otherwise seriously wretched Old Milwaukee beer was the label’s exploitative Swedish Bikini Team advertisements, which came along a bit later, in the early 1990s.

In 1985 during my very first afternoon in Stockholm, I was wandering aimlessly near the perimeters of an island – something that isn’t hard to do, given that quite a few of them combine to make up the city proper – when it occurred to me to descend from street level to water’s edge for a postcard photo of the Gamla Stan (old town), visible across the way.

Exuding cherubic innocence, with Pentax K-1000 in hand and exuding strictly touristic intent, I turned a corner and promptly stumbled across two archetypal young Swedish blondes, lying atop the pebbles on puffy blankets, blissfully absorbing the bright July sunshine.

Need you even ask? Of course they were topless.

Struck dumb, I made gurgling sounds to myself and bolted; nothing voyeuristic at all, ladies -- please excuse me, as I have a streetcar to catch, all the better to flee the scene in even greater haste, my beet-red complexion providing illumination well beyond the sun’s wattage, without so much as a “hello,” “goodbye,” or “can you direct me to the nearest G-rated meatball cart?”

In retrospect, I’m not sure they even noticed me. Welcome to my life as a young adult.

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We try our best to be cultured, but it always comes back to sex and money.


At first glance, the many Eriks, Lars, Karls, Marias, Annas and Margaretas of this land might seem calm, cool and aloof. Also, as an outsider, you might feel they live in a country full of contradictions. Sweden is a country with a very high standard of living that happily mixes high-tech capitalism and a socialistic type of welfare program. It is a neutral country with compulsory military service and strongly promotes world peace, yet, at the same time, it is number one in the world when it comes to per capita arms exports and is on the top five list for per capita donation of economic aid to the developing world. Further contradiction is evidence by the fact that the Swede Alfred Nobel first invented dynamite and other useful devices for warfare, then instigated the world’s most prestigious award for promoting peace. A more recent contradiction involves prostitution. Specifically, it is not a crime to SELL sex in Sweden, but it is illegal to BUY sex.
-- Elisabet Olesiny, Adventure Guide to Sweden (2005)


To me, Sweden still seems an enigmatic place – a fusion of opposites, simultaneously conservative and left-wing, well-scrubbed and smug, experimental and open-minded, yet beset with repressions and neuroses of the sort exhibited in otherwise impenetrable Ingmar Bergman films.

My presence in Sweden in 1985 was far too brief to register much of note about national characteristics, or to retain more than a smidgen of what I witnessed -- blonde sunbathers happily excepted, because some things truly are indelible.

Unfortunately, I was zombie. Indomitable youthful enthusiasm had at long last yielded to exhaustion.
Think about it: I’d taken three very long overnight train rides in seven days. Arrival in Stockholm was on the 26th, only a week since leaving Brussels. As the kilometers mounted, the constant soundtrack in my head switched from pop melodies to monochromatic drumming in the incessant rhythmic cadence of a clickety-clack track.

Constant motion had a deleterious effect on personal hygiene. While I bathed almost every day, my clothes hadn’t seen a washing machine since Ireland, and were filthy, especially the jeans.

True to the budget traveler’s ethos, bathroom sinks, cold water and Woolite sufficed for long periods of time; still, at some point a laundry expedition was needed. I’d resolved to make Stockholm the place, damn the expense, and on Saturday, I did.

Wearing as few slightly dirty clothes as possible, I took the remainder in a garbage bag to a laundromat, paid the lady to have them washed and dried, went for a walk, and returned to comparative spiffiness. It was a profound relief.

Concurrently, three days and two nights in Sweden stood to strain the budget, and splurges for food and drink were out of the question. Forethought was key, and the plan came together admirably, with an early morning arrival on Friday in Stockholm, the purchase of a three-day transit pass, and a room at the Columbus Hostel, located to the south of the city’s historic center.

Here is what little I remember about Stockholm.

Rock Hudson.
Though hardly Swedish, the film star’s revelation that he had AIDS was a huge international news story. It was announced in America on Thursday, July 25, yet I have no recollection of it until the beginning of the following week, standing at a news stand outside a pizzeria in Finland.

Why the delay? First and foremost, my lack of language skills eliminated most local news sources. Fewer natives spoke English than today, and while many fellow travelers were American, not all of them paid attention to current events. I was dependent on English-language newspapers and publications. They could be found in big cities, not always in smaller ones.

British newspapers were more reliably available than the International Herald Tribune and USA Today’s international edition, but without the critically important baseball standings appearing in the latter. Trumping all these considerations was the plain fact that I couldn’t afford newspapers on a daily basis, and perusing them on the racks at shops depended on the kindness of the attendant on duty.

If memory serves, USA Today bundled Friday, Saturday and Sunday into a weekend edition. The Herald-Tribune combined Saturday and Sunday. Either way, my guess is that Hudson’s revelation missed the weekend editions, which often remained on the racks into the following week.

It’s strange what one remembers, and doesn’t.

Weak beer.
Sweden had a state alcohol monopoly, which in practical terms meant having to go to liquor stores to buy just about any kind of full-strength booze, with the exception of beer brewed to sub-standard strength, somewhere around 3.5% abv.

Naturally, weak (and relatively affordable) beer is better than no beer at all, so I indulged at a supermarket and bought oversized bottles of Beck’s and Budvar (Czech Budweiser), brewed and bottles to spec for the Swedish market.

Uppsala.
Dag Hammarskjöld spent his youth in Uppsala, an historic university city roughly 45 miles from Stockholm. I went there for the express purpose of viewing Viking burial mounds in the oldest part of town (an ancient Swedish religious center) and drinking mead from a horn at Odinsborg, a restaurant adjacent to the mounds.

Mead might well be the oldest of mankind’s fermented beverages. Even before humans learned to farm, honey was a gatherable source of sugar. It was added to water and fermented with wild yeast. Mead was a Norse staple, and big wooden “mead halls” were built to facilitate its consumption.

My recollection is hazy, but the mead served at Odinsborg was striking by its similarity to a malty-sweet beer. I believe this flavor stood out because the only mead I’d sampled previously was produced by the Oliver Winery in Bloomington, Indiana, and it reminded me of the homemade dandelion wine made in Floyds Knobs barns and garages, all the better to intoxicate under-aged drinkers.

Today, I’ve learned that mead can take many forms. At the time, Uppsala’s version was my favorite.

Vasa.
At a museum in Stockholm, I examined the remains of a wooden Swedish warship called the Vasa (or Wasa), which somewhat ingloriously sank less than a mile into its maiden voyage in 1628. It was located in 1961 and brought to the surface remarkably intact, to be housed in successive climate-controlled facilities.

Importantly, this ship is not to be confused with Wasabröd.


The Swedish company Wasabröd is the largest producer in the world of Scandinavian style crisp bread (Swedish: knäckebröd).


By 1987, packages of Wasabröd had become a staple of my mobile food pantry. There are some in my cabinet right now.

On Sunday afternoon, the Silja Line’s ship to Turku, Finland left Stockholm harbor. Deck passage was free with a Eurailpass, and on this boat there was a gratifying bonus: A room just for travelers like me, with lockers, where we could sleep on padded bunks without paying extra for the privilege.

This was so exciting that I joined the queue for the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet, surreptitiously packed my freezer bag full of breakfast goodies, and sent the debit card a bit closer to default. The Åland Islands, a Baltic archipelago between Sweden and Finland were gorgeous in the early evening glow. I’d be greeting Turku fat, sassy, clean and well-rested.

For a change.

---

Previously:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_

Saturday, January 16, 2016

"Craft" beer is good at reusing old buildings, though it might depend on the size of the brewery.

Of course, it's also possible to completely outgrow these older buildings, at which point the traditional industrial park makes better sense because it's built for production of any and all items, and built next to automotive transport arteries.

At this point, our discussion can turn to a completely different model of sustainability, as I remind readers that older production breweries used to be places adjacent to railways, navigable rivers and canals.

But as brewpubs ... yes.

Definitely.

Reason No. 500 why craft beer is great: Reuse of old buildings, by Chris Crowell (Craft Brewing Business)

Sustainability is an integral narrative within the craft beer industry’s story, and many of these initiatives make for great headlines, but one of the most impactful sustainable attributes of the craft brewing industry, often overlooked, is the reuse of real estate and old buildings.

_

Friday, January 15, 2016

"So this page is just for posting pictures?"

There is a Louisville-area Facebook group of "beer snobs," and just prior to New Year's Eve came a post that connects beautifully with my most recent column at Food & Dining Magazine.

The PC: "Who are you going to believe, me or your own two eyes?"

Since the names of those posting are irrelevant, I've retained only the initials (save for my sole comment).

The verdict? Beer porn is a mile wide and a millimeter deep.

It begins with L.

"Hello fellow snobs. I have been a member of this page for about two weeks and I have noticed a lot of people posting pictures of their unusual beers but no reviews or thoughts about them. Please give reviews of them. An honest review. If you like stouts don't downgrade an IPA just because it's not a stout. Give us your opinion on how good of an IPA it is compared to other IPA's. I don't want to run and buy a $10 bottle of beer because it has a nice label. So if we all give reviews of these beers everybody will come out ahead. Thank you."

RS
http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/

L
I know about Beer Advocate. So this page is just for posting pictures?

RS
A bunch of snobs bragging about what they drink.

JC
Or what they possess. Too many posts that do not involve drinking the stuff. Maybe people don't want to say that $15 bottle tastes like the $4 alternative. I usually say a little bit about a beer, but not a full-on BJCP rating.

A
I use this page primarily to see what I'm going to miss by 15 minutes at Liquor Barn.

Roger A. Baylor 
Sight alone is supposed to lead to arousal -- or envy. Can't remember which.

JB
A lot of us use this page to share new arrivals. In many such instances a review isn't possible, since we're posting pics of stuff we just bought. I do agree, however, that if you're gonna post a pic of the bottle and a glass of beer a few words would help.

JP
As a graphic designer, I'll buy anything in a bottle based on visual appeal.

JB
An article in one of the better magazines, don't recall which, actually did a study on that. Their conclusion: buying a beer based only on the label art is no better or worse than any other method of picking out new beers.

A
In all seriousness, I don't have a problem with people posting beer reviews, but I don't read many of them because A) everybody's experience with a beer is going to be different, and B) I honestly don't think I have a sophisticated enough palate.

M
I'm guilty of posting only photos. Most of the time, I'm either in a crowded bar, at a bottle share, at a bottle release party or having a few cold ones with my friends and don't have time to write a full review. Usually the picture alone is enough to get a conversation started. I get PM pretty often because of a pic I have posted. This generally leads to more bottle shares and new friends.

W
Everybody's tastes are different. Beer as with a lot of things like it are mostly a matter of personal opinion, which is why I barely ever even go by reviews myself. That being said, if it's something special and really rad, I usually try to explain how great it is in short phrases.

L
The other day somebody posted a picture of Xocoveza Charred . Cool looking bottle. I didn't know what was so I looked it up. Found out it was a mocha Stout. I hate mocha and would never buy it. So all I am saying is if the poster would say just a few words about what it is it would help everyone out.

_

Thursday, January 14, 2016

"Anatomy of an Oligopoly: the Beer Industry."

It's a commentary that sounds like I should have written it, and I'm slightly annoyed I didn't.


Anatomy of an Oligopoly: the Beer Industry
, by Jeff Nielson (Sprott Money)

Why has the standard of living across most of the Western world fallen by more than half over the past 40+ years? Why is Western unemployment at an all-time high, with more than 100 million permanently unemployed people who are not allowed to work? Why does most brand-name beer taste like swill?

Most readers will see no connection between these questions. Some will see a connection between the first and second, and very few will see a common link between all three. In fact, we can answer all of these questions (at least in part) the same way, and the answer is spelled O-L-I-G-O-P-O-L-Y.

_

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

NABC Old Lightning Rod Days are Sunday, Jan. 17 at Bank Street Brewhouse and Monday, Jan. 18 at the Pizzeria & Public House.


On the one hand, I suppose it isn't my job, strictly speaking, though on the other, serving as propaganda minister for so many years plunges a man into habits of thought that are sometimes difficult to shake.

Lots of you have been asking me about Old Lightning Rod and Gravity Head. NABC made the OLR announcement earlier today, so here is the story and specs.

Usually by now I'd have published a Gravity Head beer "list in progress," but it isn't available to me. Tony Beard has released a tentative art and tag, shown here.

---

NABC Old Lightning Rod Days are Sunday, Jan. 17 at Bank Street Brewhouse and Mon., Jan. 18 at the Pizzeria & Public House.

The legendary Benjamin Franklin was a multi-talented, relentlessly creative Colonial-era renaissance man who also brewed and drank beer. In his writings, Franklin referred to various types of ale, and concluded that its consumption was healthy in moderation – an observation with which modern medical science fully concurs.

What did these ales of old taste like?

In 2006, as part of a nationwide promotion on the occasion of the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, NABC’s brewers at the time, Jesse Williams and Jared Williamson, tweaked a Colonial-era recipe provided to members of the Brewers Association, and the result was our first ever batch of Old Lightning Rod. Ever the diligent beery scientists, we’ve repeated the experiment every year since, and the ale keeps tasting better and better.

In 2016, NABC will observe Old Lightning Rod Day for the eleventh time, beginning on Sunday, January 17 at Bank Street Brewhouse, and carrying over to the Pizzeria & Public House on the following day (Monday, January 18), which appropriately is the occasion for honoring another great American, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Franklin’s actual date of birth was January 17, 1706, making him 310 years young this Sunday … and cheers to that.

These two days will mark the tapping of this year’s batch of Old Lightning Rod, which is a cult favorite but only a small batch, and served only on draft – so get your pints and growlers while it lasts.

Old Lightning Rod

Colonial Dark Ale, brewed by Ben Minton at NABC’s R & D Brewery

ABV: Circa 7.5%

IBU: 26

Color: Dark brown to black.

Flavor: Medium- to full-bodied, sweetish and malt-heavy. Distinctive flavor comes from molasses and/or sorghum.

Compare to: No commercial examples, but OLR is in the same flavor range as darker, sweeter beers like Wee Heavy, Doppelbock and some higher-gravity Belgians.

Description: “Let thy discontents be thy secrets” with this annual January release commemorating the birthday of Benjamin Franklin. Old Lightning Rod is a throwback strong ale from Colonial American times, incorporating “triangular” molasses (or sorghum) as an adjunct, and encapsulating Franklin’s sly founder’s wisdom.

Recipe suggestion: Our good friend Steve Thomas of the Thomas Family Winery in Madison, Indiana, makes fine wine and delicious ciders and scrumpy, and still has time to periodically cater fine victuals in his guise as “His Lordship’s Beef.” With Old Lightning Rod (use earthenware or ceramic vessels to establish mood), Steve recommends an entrée of Steak and Ale, with Ben Franklin’s favorite side items: Clapshot (turnips and potatoes in butter) and Pease (peas in chicken stock and butter, topped with fresh mint).

Addendum: Other beers in NABC’s Heritage Series of occasional season releases:

Kaiser 2nd Reising … Pre-Prohibition Pilsner
Mt. Lee … California Common “Steam”
Phoenix Kentucky Komon … Kentucky Common

_

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tony Beard's artwork for Gravity Head 2016: "Choose Your Own Adventure."


Gravity Head starts on Friday, February 26 at 7:00 a.m. at the Public House. This is Tony Beard's logo and tag, as released this week at his personal Facebook page. When clues are released as to this year's beer list, I'll let you know.

Gravity Head 2016 begins at NABC on February 26.


_

Monday, January 11, 2016

The PC: "Who are you going to believe, me or your own two eyes?"

The PC: "Who are you going to believe, me or your own two eyes?"

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

Yes, it's been a while. When last we met:

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

The next installment of the Euro '85 travelogue has resisted my best efforts at corralling a huge volume of content and forcing it into a vague 1,500 word framework -- which is to say, I can't seem to remember much about three days in Stockholm.

It may be time for hypnosis, or maybe Scandinavian mead. Wait ...

Until then, here is the full text of my last column at Food & Dining Magazine (Winter 2015; Vol. 50; November/December/January). The next issue will be published in February, and should include my profile of Donum Dei Brewery and Floyd County Brewing Company.

---

Who are you going to believe, me or your own two eyes?

When Food and Dining Magazine published its inaugural edition in 2003, there hadn’t yet been an American Craft Beer Week. It came along three years later.

As for the descriptive term itself, “craft” first arose in the mid-1990s, and it took a long time for many of us to assimilate the usage. When we finally moved past “microbrewery,” it already was time to question the meaning of craft. Truly, the curmudgeon’s work is never done.

However, developments entirely divorced from semantics have contributed mightily to how we see craft beer today, and in the most literal of senses.

The first camera phones were developed in South Korea in 2000. After a period of Japanese honing, they reached America in late 2002, to become widely available amid continuing technical improvements.

Camera phones were absorbed and redefined by smart phones equipped with increasingly sophisticated capabilities, all of which has brought us to an unprecedented juncture in the history of contemporary beer appreciation.

Suddenly, beer taste became visual, and at times viral. First a revolution in brewing changed the way we think about beer, then technology changed the way we process, document and disseminate these expanded thoughts. Nowadays, craft beers are micro, and beer drinking rituals macro.

Mere seconds after gently popping the cap on a prized, hard-to-find Westvleteren 12, Pliny the Elder or rosy periwinkle-infused Malagasy Saison from the hottest new nanobrewery in southwestern Madagascar, a quality photo of the beer, glassware and bottle is ready for staging, a scene captured by the ever-present phone camera, and one quickly reaching a huge potential audience of friends and followers on social media.

Enjoy a sip – and tell everyone about it

Having been properly certified and accredited, the beer is ready for drinking, but the ritual has only just begun. A review must be written at one’s favored on-line beer ratings aggregator, destined to join thousands of others, which collectively form the basis for beer decision-making by countless beer nerds all over the world.

If this tableau plays out at home, the mere possession of prized beers may owe to ubiquitous electronic connectivity. Beer lovers construct vast networks of like-minded acquaintances to track rare and unusual beers, and once they’ve been located, the gray market opens for business, and the haggling begins in earnest.

Thousands of beers are available through normal distribution channels, and may be purchased at package stores for carry-out, or consumed at specialty beer bars and multi-taps. Increasingly, all manner of restaurants stock craft and imported beer: Pizza joints, taquerias, Chinese buffets, gastropubs, weenie wagons, steak houses; you name the concept, and a range of better beer probably is being offered.

Wider beer availability makes it even more complicated for the well-rounded beer geek, because not only must the beer be rated, but the establishment as well.

There is so much to do: Check in with social media, scan voluminous beer lists, critique the omission of crucial stylistic ranges, match available choices with ratings aggregators, ensure the beer isn’t a repetition of a previous choice, determine whether wait staff has a clue, dip a thermometer into the liquid, parse issues of beer freshness, and at some point, at long last, once the housekeeping tasks finally are collated and nearby planets helpfully fall into alignment, there’ll be time to chase a bowl of fiery chili with an honest ale, and maybe – just maybe – have some fun.

Old assumptions, new realities

I may be slightly exaggerating these accounts of modern times. You’ve heard it all before, from every ancient geezer who ever hugged a handy bar stool and spun tales of snow drifts, deprivation and the unreliability of younger generations.

This being a magazine centered on food, I readily concede that you may wish to take my musings with a grain of Himalayan salt.

Still, I’m sticking with my basic hypothesis: The visual-oriented immediacy of instantaneous mobile communications has obliterated the craft beer landscape and swapped old assumptions for a new reality, which continues to mutate and evolve.

In retrospect, there was a steady cadence to the arc of craft beer growth and acceptance from 1976, when New Albion Brewing was founded in California, to the early 1990s, when a great spurt took place. Unfortunately, the exuberance was premature, and in 1997 the bubble burst.

Craft beer growth in 1997 was only 2%, following a 58% surge just two years before. During the period 1997-2003, growth remained in the low single digits. Beginning in 2004, there was a healthy escalation, and double-digit increases have occurred ever since.

By this point, a new generation of craft beer drinkers was coming of age. They were familiar with craft, and had never seen a rotary dial phone.

Ratings sites like Rate Beer and Beer Advocate already existed on-line, and soon adjusted to mobile communications. The advent of mainstream social media brought Untappd, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, among others.

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

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

Where we are now


From its inception in 2003, this publication has been exemplary in its devotion to twin virtues: Thoughtful, cogent writing and mouth-watering photography.

Moreover, it has deployed these dual strengths to document the Louisville area food and dining scene, which deserves it. My beer column has been but a tiny component in this bill of fare, and yet it bears noting that when the column began, it wasn’t at all common in our part of the country to associate better beer with better food.

Now it is, and the point is constantly reinforced through the very same electronic and communications mediums.

Up the revolution, but let’s not forget that in its most glorious and expressive format, Food and Dining Magazine remains real, tactile and capable of occupying space on a table top, to be discovered by the next reader, or actually arrive in the mail, as did the beer publications we used to pluck from the postbox after navigating pesky snow drifts … and hangovers.

Ironically, now that craft beer verges on mainstream acceptance, thanks in part to communications technology altering the way we think, my own thoughts continue to turn toward grassroots counter-revolution, to beer as a singular joy, embracing tastes and places.

As a contrarian, I’ve no choice except seeing it differently. Perhaps I’ll start carrying a blindfold with my bottle opener.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Lew Bryson cuts cord, returns to blogging, has an occasional drink.

Man with a plan. And cigar.

He calls it Seen Through A Glass.

Lew Bryson's blog: beer, whiskey, other drinks, travel, eats, whatever strikes my fancy.

I chose to wait a couple of weeks before pointing in the direction of Lew's revived blog. At the beginning of the year, he explained the renaissance.

Hello Again


Beer eventually led me to realize that editing was not what I wanted to spend -- let's be frank -- the remaining years of my career doing. I want to write more, and I want to write about beer, and whiskey, and food, and travel, and even some fiction ideas I have. To do that, I had to cut the cord again...and here I am again. Blogging. Freelance. Writing.

At the merest mention of ideas in the context of beer, I'm giddy. After all, cluelessness often has encroached ...

All Flippers Go To Hell


I'm talking about beer and whiskey flippers. These are the folks who pick up rare or hyped bottles and immediately turn about and sell them at a jacked-up price for substantial profit, legally or illegally (most states don't allow the sale of alcohol beverages, even so much as one bottle, without a license). 

 ... and it's important to remember:

Craft Beer: Big Enough To Fail


Make your choice. Just remember how we got to where we are, and what we had to go through to get there. It's just beer, but...it's beer.


Lew calls it Seen Through A Glass, and you should make it a point to be reading.

_

Saturday, January 09, 2016

"France has the best government guidance on alcohol consumption. It has none."

The tone differs, but something about Jenkins' column reminds me of a "Health Plans and Death Plans," a piece by the late Alexander Cockburn.


 ... It’s sometimes argued that a decent single payer system would be functional to U.S. capitalism, since industries like the auto sector would be liberated from the burden of health costs. There are scores of decent policies that would be functional to US capitalism. But the soul of US capitalism is wedded to indecency. Consider torture and the death penalty. Critics of these procedures sometimes argue that they don’t work, or are inefficient. People spout out lies amid their torments. Innocent people die in the gas chamber and the justice system is injured in reputation thereby.. But the real allure of torture and capital punishment for the owners of the system is to instill fear and compliance precisely by the demonstration of vindictive irrationality.


The beauty of Cockburn's contrarianism is its political label neutrality, neither left nor right, just Cockburn.


The state needs to butt out of Britain’s drinking habits, by Simon Jenkins (The Guardian)

Goodbye nudge, hello Big Brother. The new “limits” on how many drinks ministers feel are “safe” make no sense. For two decades, we have been told to closely monitor our units, with the number 21 hovering over us. Now the hyperactive health secretary Jeremy Hunt has decided to slash the number to 14, though leaving it the same (14) for women.

These limits are about a vague national self-image of puritanism, not health ...

 ... Words such as risk, safety, danger and warning are both vague and yet loaded with fear. That is why rulers love using them. They invite the public to submit to a state-ordered pattern of behaviour that should not be the state’s business. These words should be banned from every government statement, unless strictly vetted by a statistician and a linguist.

_

Friday, January 08, 2016

Riverfront permits, carry-out growlers and Roger's status as lightning rod for esoteric regulatorydom.


Is anyone noticing a pattern?

2013: The Floyd County Health Department decides temporary food permits should apply to draft beer pours, and is proven mistaken.

PourGate 2013: It took two years, but this new law silences Dr. Tom Harris and the Floyd County Health Department.

2014: Indiana's requirement for weenies in the freezer (food service requirement) comes under scrutiny, and is amended.

Another legislative win: Effective July 1, revised food requirements for Indiana brewery taprooms.

2015: Decades later, Indiana's riverfront development three-way permits suddenly become incompatible with carry-out sales from small breweries.

No wonder they want to be rid of me.


Bangert: Hidden law mean goodbye to LBC growlers?, by Dave Bangert (Lafayette Journal & Courier)

And then one day, just like that, Greg Emig found out his Lafayette Brewing Co. wasn’t supposed to be filling 64-ounce growlers for carryout of Eighty-Five, Star City Lager or any of the other fresh beer produced at the brew pub on Main Street.

Last fall, word started getting around among the Brewers of Indiana Guild that there was a glitch in state law that forbids carryout of any alcohol under special liquor licenses set up in economic development zones.

And now, after years of being tucked away in Indiana Code, the law was being enforced by the state’s Alcohol and Tobacco Commission ...

 ... The story started in October, about the time of Harvest Homecoming festival in the southern Indiana city of New Albany.


Profuse public thanks go to Senator Ron Alting and Representative Ed Clere for their diligent efforts to make necessary repairs to these and other strange statutory divergences. After all, the ATC doesn't write these laws; it merely enforces them.

The riverfront three-way permits referenced here obviously were not intended to be incompatible with small brewing in Indiana; it's all about the wording, and the likelihood is that the words will be fixed during the coming legislative session.

As always, stay tuned.

_

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Gravity Head 2016 begins at NABC on February 26.


Yes, dear reader, there'll be a Gravity Head bacchanal in 2016.

The date is Friday, February 26. It will be the 18th edition of the festival, dating back to 1999, and the headliner for opening day 2016 is Stone Brewing Company.

That's all I know.

I remain an NABC owner, but am no longer involved with the company on a daily basis. Usually I begin organizing the propaganda effort in December, and have the program well under way by now. It feels strange not to be doing it.

Be reassured, gravity devotees: Eric Gray has been doing the Gravity Head beer purchasing for many years now, and the selection will be as good as it always has been.

So will the rest of it. Tony Beard's artwork will be superior, and my guess is that most elements of Gravity Head will be retained -- the fan vote, tailgate breakfast, first weekend brunch at BSB, Founders/Flat12/NABC tap takeover, Session Head closing event, and the like.

But I don't know for sure. When they tell me, I'll tell you.

I remain an NABC owner, but I am no longer involved with the company on a daily basis.

Four score and seven ... nah, scrap that.

I seldom cross-post whole columns, but as it happens, normality is not my current station. If you are casually reading from afar, it's time to play catch-up. In 2015, I stepped away from the beer business with a leave of absence from NABC, so as to run for mayor of New Albany. Raging introspection during subsequent months took on a life of its own, and then I celebrated my 55th birthday.

When the dust settled, I'd resolved to leave the business entirely.

February 26: Media notice: Roger A. Baylor will take a leave of absence from NABC to run for mayor of New Albany.

August 19: An ex-brewery owner? A future mayor? 30 years later, there's another fork in the road, and I'm pumped.

August 20: After a quarter century, Roger Baylor will move on from New Albanian Brewing Company.

November 5: I lost the election. I may need to get a job, or something.

The narrative continues in this column from NA Confidential.

---

ON THE AVENUES: You know, that time when Roger interviewed himself. 

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

And stay right here, 'cause these are the good old days.
-- Carly Simon, “Anticipation”

So long as we persist in delineating our messy, serendipitous lives according to sleek, clean calendar lines, there’ll be reviews, resolutions, tired December conclusions and fresh January beginnings.

These annoy me, and yet I’m as guilty of them as anyone, even if the utter indifference of the cosmos as a whole keeps me grounded ... most of the time.

Throughout the mayoral campaign, a prime objective was for "us" to speak of “we,” as opposed to “I.” This owed in part to the incumbent’s bizarrely swollen head, although my antipathy to cults of personality has resulted from personal experience as well as perusing books every now and then.

During the course of my own years in beer, there have existed periodic temptations to indulge in precisely this sort of self-deification. Regrettably, I wasn’t always immune to periods of relaxed vigilance, which are characterized by reading one’s own press clippings and actually believing what they say.

What kept me grounded most of the time was the simple realization that I was part of a team, and the daily efforts of the team resulted in satisfied customers, who returned and made possible the survival of the business. I played one role, and it was just that: One part among many, inter-related, and meaningless when separated from the whole.

Perhaps politics inevitably works somewhat like this, and perhaps it doesn’t, but either way, the very notion of a personality cult is deeply offensive to me. What’s more, the greater our proximity to it, the more indefensible such an indulgence becomes.

Never again.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll conclude this column by talking about myself.

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Your continued questions about my professional life are flattering, humbling and deserving of some answers. Insofar as there is verifiable truth to tell, I will try to dispense it, though be advised that as yet, the year 2016 is shrouded in fog and mystery.

Even I don’t know how it’s going to turn out.

1. What is your current status at the New Albanian Brewing Company?

The needle hasn’t moved for many months. As yet, I own 1/3 of New Albanian Brewing Co., Inc. (NABC Pizzeria & Public House) and 1/3 of New Albanian Bank Street Brewery, Inc. (Bank Street Brewhouse). Until I reach agreement with my two business partners to sell my shares to them, I’ll continue to enjoy the all risks of ownership without any of the commensurate rewards.

2. That’s odd – didn’t you already sell out?

No. Last year I stated publicly that it was my intent to sell my shares in the business to my business partners, and this objective has not changed. 25 years is long enough for me.

3. Okay, but is there a timetable for resolving this issue?

Yes, there is a mandated procedure according to our by-laws and buy/sell agreement. There have been desultory preliminary negotiations, but I have not initiated the timetable according to the mechanism specified in the buy/sell.

For one thing, it should come as a surprise to no one that the legalities involved are formidable. In addition, and perhaps more to the point, our buy/sell agreement makes no reference to my charitable donation of these shares. The verb “to sell” means something entirely different, or so we were taught at school.

4. So, to be completely clear: Are you involved with NABC on a daily basis in any fashion apart from ongoing issues pertaining to your unresolved ownership stake?

I am not involved at all, and to be honest, I do not expect to be involved during the transitional period. If you have questions or comments pertaining to NABC, I’ll try my best to direct them to someone who can help you. I have the utmost confidence in the abilities of employees and staff, and am happy to assist them if they need help.

5. What about the Brewers of Indiana Guild?

For so long as I retain an ownership stake in NABC, I remain on the board of directors of the Brewers of Indiana Guild. My enthusiasm for the advancement of the collective growth of brewing in Indiana is undiminished, and I hope to be able to participate in several upcoming guild projects. Of course, once my shares in NABC are sold, I’ll resign from the BIG board, and if for any reason the board feels it would be in the best interest of the guild for me to step aside, I will.

6. What are you doing with your time?

“I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.”
― Ignatius J. Reilly, in A Confederacy of Dunces

Reading, writing, listening and learning.

My wife is elated at my rediscovery of home kitchen cooking, something I’ve always enjoyed. I walk several miles a day and have been maintaining reduced weight. Perhaps a resumption of bicycling will occur when the weather warms.

I’ve joined the board of New Albany IndieFest, and am preparing to more actively organize and promote the New Albany Restaurant & Bar Association. As with the Brewers of Indiana Guild, there is palpable liberation in working for the good of the collective, rather than always promoting one’s own business.

My relationship with beer is undergoing a necessary reinvention. With distance has come a greater measure of perspective, which I’ll be gradually documenting at the Potable Curmudgeon blog and my new Facebook page, Roger’s Simple Beer Pleasures. Localism interests me. Multinational capital accumulation does not.

A long-term goal is to unify my varied interests in beer, history and culture with past experiences in the beer business, hopefully arriving at an integrated program of education and entertainment. I want to get back to the notion of teaching.

Of course, the NA Confidential blog isn’t going anywhere, although I’d like to do some remodeling in 2016. Nick Vaughn has agreed to write a weekly column, and I’ve extended this offer to others.

7. Is it safe to say the job of mayor pays better than all this?

Yes, quite safe. I currently inhabit a pro bono world, but am forever open to suggestions. Whether I’m employable is one of the more intriguing questions in my life at present.

8. Are you still pursuing civic activism?

*SPOILER ALERT*

I find it exceedingly difficult not to have a viewpoint, and harder still not to express it.

Did someone say “civic activism”? Yes, indeed. The pursuit continues, even if the quarry is elusive. I’ve been knocked down, brushed back, blocked, besieged, blockaded, censored, defriended, unfollowed and trivialized.

However, I’m not discouraged in the least. Overall, we’ve only just begun. In the Land of C-Minus Students, being a dissident suits me, so don't expect it to change.

9. What about your spotty career in politics?

Having mastered the Seven-Per-Cent Solution, my next amazing trick is to hover around the exclusionary and gated periphery, an eyebrow jauntily cocked, looking for loopholes.

However, to quote Tricky Dicky, let’s make one thing perfectly clear. If Scott Blair and Dan Coffey both self-identify as "independent," then I might as well run for office next time as a socialist. These people are ruining my brand.

10. Do you have any final thoughts?

Absolutely, though you’ll have to keep reading to find out.

By the way, has that News and Tribune guest columnist position been posted yet?


xxx