Thursday, June 30, 2016

A BIG mug filled with agitator emeritus.


In March, I resigned my seat on the Brewers of Indiana Guild after seven years and several thousand great memories. On June 30th, I met the guild's executive director Rob Caputo for beers and catch-up, and he presented me with this mug from the board.

I'm flattered. Thanks, guys -- it means a lot to me.

Monday, June 27, 2016

AFTER THE FIRE: Out and about in America, Europe … and my cups.

AFTER THE FIRE: Out and about in America, Europe … and my cups.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

Kindly note that I’ve changed the name of this column to reflect the fact that my involvement in the “craft” beer business no longer is ongoing. As a recovering former small business owner, I survived the frying pan, and perhaps it’s time for an evolving perspective. Just don't expect me to jump back into that particular fire ... at least yet.

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The Irish Rover was established in 1992 and to me, it always has been Louisville’s most authentic Irish pub. For as long as the Rover has been in business, these words have graced the menu.


“A pub is a poor man’s university.”

It’s more important than Guinness, and a sentiment after my own inclinations. I tried mightily to honor this dictum during the period of my own pub business.

Being just down the street from a university didn’t hurt, but the degreed customers were not the only part of the learning equation. My pub usually was an egalitarian venue. I tried my best to keep it that way in spite of the “craft” beer cost structure.

It’s over now, and I don’t miss the beer, though being divorced from a university of my own making is harder than I imagined. It’s especially true in times of compelling international news, as with last week’s Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom.

Social media debate simply doesn’t replicate cool pints and pointed fingers in a pub atmosphere.

Luckily my old friend Jon invited several of us to his house on Saturday for an afternoon of UEFA Euro matches, beer and conversation. We spent four hours talking about British politics, insidious neoliberal economics and the turning of calendar pages. Alas, we’re not getting any younger.

As I’ve noted elsewhere, the themes and controversies attendant to Brexit’s “leave or remain” paradigm effectively symbolize the life of my own mind, coming full circle from the starting point of the Berlin Wall’s sudden dismantling in 1989.

The fall of The Wall was the first thunderclap of a storm that modified – though not completely erased – the post-WWII world order. The collapse of Communism provided the opening for expedited globalization, and whether by chance or otherwise, it coincided with my personal decision to seek a career in beer, right here at home.

It wasn’t always clear to me then, but the 1990s were the ideal time for neoliberalist economic policies to poisonously blossom, hastening the concentration of capital in the hands of the few, prompting the populist backlash emblemized by Bernie and Brexit, three decades later.

I was kept busy thinking globally, but drinking locally. My preferred variant of capitalism was a small, local, independent, grassroots business, with a necessarily educational offshoot – the ad hoc poor man’s university – providing a framework for education through beer, and also ensuring I wouldn’t go stir crazy in the American hinterlands.

Through it all, to greater or lesser extent, I kept in touch with Europe, and never once stopped thinking that I should have been European.

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The year 2009 was the advent of Bank Street Brewhouse. At the time, I’d convinced myself that we were marrying European sensibility to American “craft” brewing. It may even have been true, although the subsequent record provides decidedly mixed testimony.

At their worst, my forays into attempted definition proved I had an unclear notion of self-exile-in-place.

Coinciding with BSB’s launch, I’d started writing a weekly column for the local newspaper. My essay of February 5, 2009 on the topic of personal geography generated a surprising degree of rancor, and for reasons that surprised me.

I fully expected to be admonished for deploying a certain rhetorical device pertaining to closets, and was prepared to take my medicine. I still am. However, I can’t un-write a published column, only learn from it. This I’ve done, and continue to do.

What I didn’t expect was to be denounced by a longtime pub patron and friend, who immediately boycotted the Public House in protest, citing grounds of Roger’s publicly failed patriotism.

Eventually he returned, and while this isn’t the point, I’m frankly unable to tell you what the point might actually be. To each his or her own, but to me, Europe’s been my life for as long as I can remember.

Granted, I’ve made shoddy work of it. Language aptitude eludes me, and here I remain at the age of 55, stuck inside of Nawbany with the Bamberg blues again. I’ll probably never live in Europe, and yet it’s impossible for me to imagine not being obsessed, haunted and enraptured by Europe, even if much of what I wrote in 2009 is revealed to be drivel.

I’ll take that chance, and so the original column follows. If it provokes another boycott, I can live with it.

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Out and about.

But the whole point of liberation is that you get out. Restructure your life. Act by yourself.
-- Jane Fonda

Shouldn’t the act of writing be as personal as it ever gets, especially if the results are intended for public, not private, consumption?

Shouldn’t one’s own words be inextricably linked to one’s own identity, with the writer endeavoring to honestly address matters like self-realization, personal liberation, and all those little acts of defiance, mourning and acceptance that go together to make a life?

Certainly this was the general condition for much of human history prior to the electronic immediacy of modern times. Either a person was literate, retaining at least the possibility of leaving a tangible record of existence for posterity, or he wasn’t, in which case a life passed unnoticed -- unless one was part of the tiny minority deemed suitable subjects for biographical renderings.

In those earlier times, when something of significance needed to be said, those few who were literate were expected to compose manifestos, polemics, confessionals and apologetics. Just like Martin Luther’s famous tract, these were intended to be nailed both literally and figuratively to the cathedral door for all to see.

In the current age of ephemeral solipsism, you needn’t know any more than the method of posting a self-made YouTube video, then sit back to count the hits as they mount through e-links, and finally calculate the extent of your newfound (and short-lived) notoriety.

It just isn’t the same.

These themes of personal freedom and written expression today compel me to broach a difficult topic, and yet it seems to me the right time to tackle it: Who am I as an individual, where did I come from, and where am I going?

For me, the one achievement reasonably attainable in my lifetime is self-knowledge. Random serendipity deposited me here, and I was issued one non-renewable life with second chances rarely if ever permitted. There is so very much of it that cannot be controlled, time is short, and as an atheist, I don’t look elsewhere for answers. But each of us spends every single moment of our lives inhabiting our own bodies, so doesn’t it make sense to come to terms with who we really are?

As such: I can’t remember when it first occurred to me that I was different from the others.

There was neither a singular epiphany nor an earth-shattering revelation, only a dawning recognition that my attractions and desires were directed toward other places than those taken for granted as "normal."

For more than a quarter of a century, I’ve known the truth. The immensity of it overwhelmed me, and the implications usually blinded me to the realities of my situation. I kept going both directions, there and back and forth, never willing to admit that my orientation might be other than that considered typical for a male of my upbringing in a small Southern Indiana town and in a conservative, traditional society.

As a youth I wanted nothing more than to be like my friends, and after all, in those days we were not readily exposed to alternative lifestyles as part of our formative educational experiences. One might by chance read about such matters in books and see the issues skirted on television, but here? It really was the sort of thing that dared not speak its name aloud.

I was tormented by the usual doubts and questions. Was it nature or nurture? Had I done something wrong? Was I being punished? Did I have control over my real feelings and possess the ability to change them, or were they hard-wired and non-negotiable?

After much soul searching and heartfelt discussions with loved ones, dear friends, longtime customers, local politicians, cherished teachers, and even that pleasant fellow in White Castle the other day whose name I can’t remember, I’ve come to a momentous decision, and I’m able finally to reveal it to you, my faithful readers, and to the world.

I’m really a … a … a European.

There, I’ve said it. European. Not American.

Apparently the stork erred, and I’ve spent 48 55 crazy-quilt years trapped in this hamburger-eating, swill-slugging, mindless patriotic church-going, television-gazing country. It’s just so profoundly unfair.

I should be riding on bicycles or affordable public transportation through thoughtfully planned, human-scale communities to important soccer matches, and then vacationing in Madagascar or Bali or Cuba.

I might be drinking Belgian ale, Greek ouzo and Spanish wine from the appellations of their origins, and gratefully choosing between many more than just two political parties, among them one that actually reflects my own belief system.

I could be enjoying competent, universal, cradle-to-grave health care and never having to worry about the harmful encroachment of a fundamentalist Christian theocracy, with religion restricted to debating the architectural merits of charming church buildings in Rome and Kiev.

I would be refusing to own a firearm, seeing that the crime rate is low and I needn’t affix my status as genuine citizen and "real man" on gunshot cadences … speaking a full half-dozen languages fluently … and understanding that my tax burden, while high, is being distributed to the benefit of my community as a whole, which benefits me as an individual.

Surely the delivery error can be rectified with a revised document of authenticity.

Anyone seen that damned negligent stork?

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June 20: AFTER THE FIRE: Less can be more.

June 13: THE POTABLE CURMUDGEON: I know I’m gonna change that tune.

June 6: THE POTABLE CURMUDGEON: A Mile Wide sidewalk superintendent.

May 30: THE POTABLE CURMUDGEON: “The Drinker” (A Book Review).

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Turn up at a complete stranger's house and pay them to cook you dinner.

A platform in the UK called EatAbout "invites you "to enjoy private meals in the home of a chef." You can bring your own wine or beer; there's no corkage fee.


Is it last orders for restaurants? by Killian Fox (The Guardian)

A wave of new internet startups aim to do for eating out what Airbnb did for travel accommodation and Uber for taxis, with diners eating in chefs’ own homes

... It may be too early to compare social dining platforms such as EatAbout with genuine disrupters such as Airbnb and Uber. “Unlike hotels, which have a captive market, in that everyone visiting a city needs a place to stay, restaurants exist for the neighbourhood they inhabit, for their people,” says the chef Jackson Boxer, who runs the restaurant at Brunswick House in Vauxhall, south London. “I think there are lots of fabulous things about the supper club model, but these sites are filling a niche. I don’t think they’re a threat.”

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Taco Steve, appearing at Bank Street Brewhouse on Monday evenings.


Turns out I was mistaken. You really can go home again. Well, at least Stephen can. Otherwise, Steve's still cooking at his home base. Check out the hours and menu at Taco Steve's Facebook page.



NABC Bank St + Taco Steve Mondays 4p-8p

NABC Bank Street Brewhouse is now open from 4p-8p Monday evenings for pint drinking and growler refills. Come hang out with Heather Morris serving up pints as well as food served by Taco Steve. Is there a better way to spend your Monday?

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

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

HopCat (no spacing, alas) is a regional chain out of Michigan, one of those "bigger is better" ideas that proliferate in America, where "craft" beer long since has been claimed as a victim of Disneyesque Capitalism, though it cannot be denied that immediately upon planting a location in Broad Ripple (Indianapolis), HopCat started pouring (a) sponsorship money into the Brewers of Indiana Guild, and (b) lots of Indiana-brewed beers.

Duly noted. Duly appreciated. Here's how the Indy branch of HopCat describes itself on Twitter.


130 all-craft drafts, ciders, wines, cocktails + food your Mom would make if she loved beer. Lunch, Dinner, Sunday Brunch.


The forthcoming HopCat location to Louisville has been mildly controversial owing to the familiar spatial and parking issues on Bardstown Road.


Massive Highlands beer bar now has an opening date, by David A. Mann (Louisville Business First)

HopCat – Louisville will open July 30. The big bar, boasting about 11,000 square feet, has been under construction on Bardstown Road in the Highlands, at the former Spindeltop Draperies Inc. property, since last year.

The first 200 people in its doors that day will get a card good for a free order of its "crack fries" every week for a year.


I don't think "crack" is particularly funny as it pertains to fries, or for that matter to much of anything else (remember "crack babies," anyone?) but to each his own. I suppose if a brewery called Special Ed can talk about "'tard tested, 'tard approved," then crack fries is a relatively mild linguistic offense.

Meanwhile, it's bigger and bigger and better and better. One gets the impression that if "cat houses" were legal, the marketing tie-in would be only nanoseconds away.


(The Highlands HopCat) will feature 132 varieties of craft beers on tap, a full menu, three event spaces (including two with private bars) and a rooftop deck with outdoor seating. It will also have more than 200 whiskey selections, including many many Kentucky bourbons, and a small-batch in-house brewery featuring its own creations and collaborations.


Louisville's HopCat will be the chain's ninth, with a tenth outpost to follow in Lexington, late 2016 with the Lexington outpost having opened in the fall of 2015. As Mark Twain once presciently noted, there are lies, damned lies, and press releases.


“We’ve worked hard to make HopCat – Louisville unlike any other,” Mark Sellers, founder and CEO of BarFly Ventures, said in the release. “I believe we’ve created a location that will serve as a hub for Kentucky craft beers and a magnet for local beer lovers as well as those visiting Louisville from around the world.”


The usual dreary boilerplate code language, concocted to gladden the hearts of fetishists who read business news for their jollies.

But HopCat still isn't AB-InBev, so I'd heartily recommend the Kentucky Guild of Brewers prepare an invoice and get out in front of the chain's arrival in Kentucky.

Finally, am I being cynical? Yes, but only when absolutely necessary.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

There's a "Brewing Experience & Education Retreat" coming to Hanover College.


This sounds interesting. The text of the e-mail I received is reprinted here, and to sign up, go this way.

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Hanover College (Hanover, Ind.) will host Brewing Experience & Education Retreat (BEER), August 6-7. This two-day event is designed for beginning homebrewers and features instruction provided by Craig Philip and Tim Cunningham, experienced beer producers and Hanover chemistry professors.

The two-day, overnight experience costs $275 per brewer. The price includes on-campus accommodations, direct instruction during the brewing process, take-home equipment, meals and a tasting event featuring local breweries. Participants will be able to produce, and take home, their creation of a Dry Irish Stout, India Pale Ale or American Brown Ale.

Brewing Experience & Education Retreat (BEER) is available only to those ages 21 and older.

If desired, campus housing is available Friday, August 5, for just $25.

For more information or to register online, visit www.hanover.edu/beer.

Contact Craig Philipp at philipp@hanover.edu or Tim Cunningham at cunningham@hanover.edu.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

AFTER THE FIRE: Less can be more.

AFTER THE FIRE: Less can be more.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

Kindly note that I’m changing the name of this column to reflect the fact that my involvement in the “craft” beer business no longer is active. As a recovering former small business owner, I survived the frying pan, and perhaps it’s time for an evolving perspective. Just don't expect me to jump back into that particular fire ... at least yet.

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I remember being in Prague in the mid-1990s. We’d wander downtown neighborhoods hunting beer – sometimes hopping street cars, other times the subway, but most often on foot.

The objective was to find drafts from as many of the Czech Republic’s breweries as possible, and having identified these beers, to drink them straight down.

In retrospect, it isn’t clear to me what sort of legal framework for beer distribution even existed in the Czech Republic at the time. Something akin to a “tied house” seemed common, in that a pivnice (piv-nee-tsuh, or tavern) generally would serve beer from only one brewery.

These days, we’d quickly decamp to a multi-tap and be overwhelmed by sheer choice, and I’ve read that Prague now has such establishments boasting bountiful selections, as well as WiFi to enable the inevitable postings at Untappd, but this approach strikes me as tantamount to the king’s gamesmen running the animals past his shooting point.

It’s also no way to conduct a drinking tour of a city, especially when traveling overseas, where there’s so much else to learn.

20 years ago, many of Prague’s pubs served beers from one of the city’s “big three” breweries: Staropramen, Braník or Mestan, the latter two apparently long deceased as independent entities.

Other breweries were well represented, too, and it seemed the closer their home cities to Prague, the better chance of finding them. Pilsner Urquell was a given. Gambrinus, Velkopopovický and Radegast also were around, though at the time, the epochal Budvar not as much.

Intriguingly, it remained possible in the mid-1990s to find watering holes in Prague that had hooked up with smaller breweries, or even larger ones further away from the capital. There’d be occasional appearances by Ferdinand (from nearby Benešov), Hostan (Znojmo), Regent (Třeboň) or Starobrno (Brno). The trick was finding the places serving them, as they didn’t always correspond to addresses amid the prevailing tourist routes.

An obscure brewery called Herold became an obsession for my band of explorers. It was founded in the countryside in 1506, surviving the threat of closure in the waning months of the Communist period only because its stubborn plant manager refused to do what the authorities told him.

These authorities soon were gone, and the plant manager remained.

We seemingly traipsed over half of Prague one evening trying to find the sole pivnice that we’d been told poured Herold, and stopping frequently for directions at other establishments along the way. These wayfinding tips generally came accompanied by beers, which might explain our ultimate failure.

Resolving to locate the Herold brewery itself, eventually we did so with the help of a savvy travel agent in Prague, who secured a minibus and driver for a day’s journey deep into the Bohemian hinterlands.

First we visited the town of Velké Popovice for a Velkopopovický Kozel tasting, then Vysoký Chlumec (home of Lobkowitz), and finally the tiny town of Březnice, where a farmer on a tractor pulling a wagon overflowing with manure slowly guided our careful man at the wheel to the Herold brewery gate.

I’d contacted the manager, but he had an untimely emergency and wasn’t there, so his second in command made a hasty phone call, ran out the door, and soon emerged with a local schoolteacher in tow to serve as interpreter.

Our Herold brewery tour lasted all of 20 minutes, yielding to a considerably more intensive two-hour survey of the lagering cellar. By the end of our seminar below ground, we had absorbed so much knowledge that the ancient stone staircase leading back to the top began wildly undulating to the beat of non-existent music.

The magical motion very nearly kept us subterranean, which would have been just lovely by me.

Two decades later, much has changed in the Czech Republic -- and everywhere else in the world, too. Many of the old-school Czech breweries are gone (Herold survives), and a new crop of “craft” brewers has arrived.

Granted, the range of beer choice in Prague used to be far narrower, but it was a beer paradise nonetheless, and while it may sound as though I’m waxing nostalgic for a bygone era – one I devoted a full quarter-century of my professional life to revolutionizing – it’s very important to understand that yes, you bet I am … unless of course, I’m not.

Just as trudging eight miles robed in primitive bearskin through six-foot-high snow drifts helped transform a previous generation of mid-20th century schoolchildren into improved parents, hunting beers the hard way had its merits.

Beer tastes better when you work for it, and breweries, too; we’d follow a canal or rail line, sniff the unmistakable aroma of a boil in progress, and follow our noses to the goal line. The biggest problem was finding our way home.

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The real reason I’m bringing all this up is because, as a consumer, there exists a little-known, positive connotation to the tied house: If it’s a Fuller’s pub, you know there’ll be Fuller’s served there. No guesswork is involved, and at times, this can be a good thing.

In the present era, unceasing “guest” tap rotation has morphed into something that’s incredibly diverse, but also no longer comes moored to any system or routine. It’s wonderful and chaotic, all at once.

Rotating guest taps made for a refreshing trend when acting as the changeable component alongside a non-revolving core selection, but we’ve long since settled into the rigid orthodoxy of a daily (hourly?) spin-the-flavor-wheel approach. Accordingly, fresh ideas for marketing and retailing a profusion of better beer choices have steadily diminished.

When the only constant is dizzying change, then surely for some establishments in search of a noteworthy market niche, resolving to give the pendulum a nudge in the opposite direction is merited. Either a semi-permanent selection of classics, or a single brewery’s popular range, would make for a distinctive strategy.

Naturally, I’m not sanctioning tied houses if by “tied” we mean contractually narrowed choice, especially via a swillmonger. And, of course, the tied house isn’t exactly legal in America – even when it happens, which is lamentably often.

Rather, I’m advocating a voluntary tie of sorts, and as always, I’m insistent that any beer and brewing knowledge base emanate from behind the bar, as reflected by an intelligent and coherent (if narrowed) selection, and mirroring the conceptual contours of an establishment’s wine and spirits program.

After all, everyone knows that a bar simply must have a core selection of liquor, but how does this not apply to beer styles?

Conversely, many bars in metropolitan Louisville proudly feature Brown-Forman wines and spirits. So, why not follow suit with an exclusive selection of Falls City’s genuinely independent local drafts?

Wouldn’t it make sense for an eatery on the Indiana side of the river to feature all Sun King drafts?

And isn’t it true that if one did, Sun King’s three flagships – Sunlight, Osiris and Wee Mac – would be the biggest sellers?

There are many ways of cultivating loyalty. My contention is that more customers than we tend to think actually like the idea of “their” favorite brand or style of beer, and when it comes to better (“craft”) beer, the merits of continuity are being vastly undervalued.

Accordingly, there’s a case to be made for making the process of choosing a regular beer easier for those who might become regular customers just because they know what to expect when they drop in for a sandwich.

Recently a friend was musing along these lines: “If I opened a pub, would I be crazy to have a three-tap keg box, pouring Guinness, Pilsner Urquell and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, with no guest taps at all?”

Aside from the absence of representative beer localism, no – he would not be crazy. In fact, there’d be something I personally like on tap, all the time.

And: There's only so much time in the first place.

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June 13: THE POTABLE CURMUDGEON: I know I’m gonna change that tune.

June 6: THE POTABLE CURMUDGEON: A Mile Wide sidewalk superintendent.

May 30: THE POTABLE CURMUDGEON: “The Drinker” (A Book Review).

May 23: THE POTABLE CURMUDGEON: A few beers on Estonian time (Part Two).

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Come to Forecastle and enjoy 4-oz samples of local "craft" beer.

Handmade thimbles -- photo credit.


It says so, right here in the article.


Local Beer at Forecastle Festival 2016, by Cresant Smith (Louisville Beer)

The Forecastle Festival will be held on the Louisville Waterfront July 15 – 17th 2016. All of this great music deserves great local beer. You have seen the list of artists that are scheduled to perform, however, you may not be aware of the craft beer selection that will be available.

Here are the Louisville and Kentucky breweries and what they will be offering:

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Special Ed's Brewery elevates cluelessness to an art form -- and brewing hasn't even started.

From the web. 

Any snarky preamble I might offer cannot do justice to the unawareness on open display herein.

Some jokes simply aren't funny, however much inner mirth one might derive from them. Yes, hubby is special. But Special Ed means something different, doesn't it?

How can 'tard-tested be defended in any way? Then again, we still tolerate a football team called the Redskins.

Naturally, I'm reminded of Indiana's Route 2 Brews, and its ridiculous Leg Spreader. Special Ed's may not be as obvious, but it's just as indefensible.



Special Ed’s Brewery owners apologize but keep provocative name, by Blair Anthony Robertson (Sacramento Bee)

In a whirlwind 24 hours, the owners of Special Ed’s Brewery in Galt saw indignation go viral about their company name and slogans, received death threats, filed a police report, issued a written apology, took down their Facebook page and, yes, opened the retail store for business Tuesday.

“My husband is getting death threats on his phone,” co-owner Cheryl Mason said. “The situation is not funny at all.”

Mason said she and her husband, Edward, have reported the threats to police. The name and related themes tied to the business – including the slogan “Take the short bus to special beer” and “’tard tested, ’tard approved” – touched off a firestorm of complaints, vitriol and calls for a boycott on Facebook and Twitter. The business also promoted a proposed beer, Back of the Bus Brown Ale, that appears to refer to Jim Crow-era segregation.

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Monday, June 13, 2016

THE POTABLE CURMUDGEON: I know I’m gonna change that tune.

THE POTABLE CURMUDGEON: I know I’m gonna change that tune.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king
I've been up and down and over and out and I know one thing
Each time I find myself flat on my face
I pick myself up and get back in the race
-- Frank Sinatra, “That’s Life”

Growing up in the Hoosier heartland, I wanted nothing more than to like beer.

A girlfriend would have been nice, but you can’t go around asking for too much out of life.

In the beginning, I didn’t like beer because beer didn’t taste good. This didn’t stop me from drinking it. Although beer didn’t taste good, its effects were quite good. The effects kept me coming back for more until finally, the flavor made sense.

It is no exaggeration to state that in due course, beer became highly sensible. It was my life’s work. Beer served as governing principle for a variety of personal interests, ranging from history to geography, through politics, and including food, travel and recreation.

Beer connected them in a way iced tea simply couldn’t manage, and frankly, then as now, iced tea consistently annoys the hell out of me.

Beer was the way I scratched various itches – to write, to teach and to connect with other people. Beer taught me how to speak, so I could speak to others – about beer, and also about these other interests of mine. Beer was my hobby, and it became my profession.

I had a good run, and then it got complicated. Through it all, I drank enough beer to float a battleship around. Just the same, I never had the slightest physical difficulty stopping.

At the peak of consumption, my physician ordered tests requiring me to be dry for a month. It wasn’t a problem. The lab cruelly botched the test, and it had to be done a second time.

Thirty more days? Still not a problem. There were no spiders crawling up my wall, and the hours passed without delirium tremens.

(As an aside, note that I’ve no intention of arguing with those who can construct brilliant causal links to alcoholism from the scantest of sources. Do you drink alone? With others? Near your cat? Wearing a hat? DING DING DING – dude, you need treatment now … and we accept all major credit cards.)

That’s fine, and it may even be true, but you can count me out, so kindly bugger off, although the writer (and reformed alcoholic) Pete Hamill probably was right when he pointed to memory loss from drinking being unkind to writers.

Point taken ... Jim?

Physical effects are one thing, and psychology quite another. The hardest part about reduced alcohol intake always has been the damnable persistence of the real world.

Even during times when my beer consumption was relatively light, going without a dose for a few days would lead to a noticeable uptick in mental acuity. There’d be vastly enhanced clarity, followed by an existential query: Who really wants to see this miserable, pain-filled, stupid world in such excruciating detail?

I guess it depends on whether you have any interest in changing it. At any rate, I do remember when this whole thing began, when I adored beer’s effects and couldn’t get past the flavor. Forty years later, the ground is shifting, and I’m not sure what to make of it.

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Beer remains a physical entity. Beer exists in the material world, where it derives from natural ingredients and a predictable process, one guided by human intelligence toward an end.

So far, so good.

And yet, beer also is a deeply held symbol, for me as well as others. For us, beer is a real object that does double duty by representing abstract ideas – about the ideal economy, the primacy of localism, cultural norms, a universal brotherhood of beer lovers, and perhaps the meaning of life itself.

Thus, the crux of the problem, for while my beer symbolism used to be bright and rosy, it has become vexing and complex. It almost seems I’ve come full circle. Now I like the taste of beer, but not the effects.

Recently the missus announced her intention to go shopping in Louisville. Did I wish to be deposited at a local brewery to await her return in the company of one or two cool, pleasing pints?

Diana’s such a sweetheart. I duly accompanied her for shopping, but killed time with a stroll rather than a beer. Afterwards, she asked why. As I haltingly tried to explain, she shifted into social worker mode and helped me understand that my relationship with beer is going through a rough patch for both physical and psychological reasons.

It’s easier to explain the physical reason.

Two or three years ago, I began having adverse reactions to certain beers. To be sure, allergies are familiar to me, and just last month, I had pesky sinus infection, but these beer-related issues are different. My head will be reasonably clear, then the beer triggers a painful sinus shutdown.

The reaction doesn’t happen all the time. I’ve ruled out wheat, barley and grain, as I continue to eat bread and cereal without any problems. Wine and liquor don’t cause it, and neither does most lager. The only logical explanation is an allergy to certain types of hops, especially those more commonly used in ales with more alcohol and higher IBUs.

I still like the taste of hop bombs – but the physical effect can be a colossal buzzkill. What's more, drinking any alcohol late in the evening interferes with my sleep, and if the drinking starts too early, I can’t write worth a damn.

Whatever happened to those days of beer + repetition = blissfully passing out?

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By far, my biggest problem with beer is psychological. Simply stated, beer now symbolizes discomfort more often than it does pleasure. When I think about beer, the imagined flavor is appealing, but the dissonance is never very far away.

This needs to change.

My spoilages of symbolism have been widely documented. Most recently, NABC business affairs have stubbornly resisted being settled, and it’s frustrating to contemplate the time it will take to rectify it.

Concurrently, perhaps I underestimated what it would take to adjust to civilian life after 25 years in the food and drink business. Whether private or professional, divorce remains difficult.

Beer now reminds me of these facts. It’s like a bad flavor in my mouth, except that even before electing to jump from a moving train, my disillusionment was manifest.

“Craft” beer got big, wide and depressingly shallow. As a result, much of the plot was lost. We started by revolting against business as usual, but today, “craft” is a business like any other. I remain a reluctant capitalist – and the Bank Street Brewhouse experience proved my limitations in such a role.

Of course, I stand by each and every one of my tried-and-true rants about narcissism, co-opted concepts, sellouts, beer rating aggregators, white whale hunters and pestiferous multinationals.

Furthermore, I’m still enamored of beer’s rich back story – of the stories to be told, the fellow travelers to be revealed, and the educational opportunities waiting to be uncovered. I’m confident the pendulum will swing back in my direction, hence my diet of Sinatra classics.

I’ll be back in the race, but which race isn’t clear. For now, beer symbolizes uncertainty – and it won’t always be this way. As equilibrium is restored, the widening of my palate has been welcome, whatever the impetus. Drinking gin, wine, and even bourbon on occasion has been fun, though overall, I drink far less of them than beer in the rare old times.

Bizarrely, for the first time in decades, the clarity of relative sobriety is appealing. Perhaps this owes to being in unfamiliar surroundings, worried that missteps might be magnified into problems. It's the same way I felt long ago, in Europe for the first time. Caution can be good.

I may be too old to rock and roll, and too young to die.

I may be aging, though I’d hate to think I might be growing up.

Know that I’m optimistic. I’ll come to like beer again. There’ll be an opening, then it can start all over, building enthusiasm from the grassroots, the way that makes the most sense for me.

Right now, it’s time for a Lillet spritzer. No judging.

Consider it rehab.

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June 6: THE POTABLE CURMUDGEON: A Mile Wide sidewalk superintendent.

May 30: THE POTABLE CURMUDGEON: “The Drinker” (A Book Review).

May 23: THE POTABLE CURMUDGEON: A few beers on Estonian time (Part Two).

May 16: THE POTABLE CURMUDGEON: A few beers on Estonian time (Part One).

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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Craft Beer Colorado kinda sort secedes from the Colorado Brewers Guild.

It isn't entirely clear what this secession means. Read this account, and tell me.

Colorado isn't Indiana. Although our Hoosier "craft" beer business has grown exponentially, it isn't as big as Colorado's. And, there's always the obvious: Nationwide, the gap between the smallest and largest "craft" breweries continues to widen.

Legislatively, this gap has ramifications. What's needed to assist on-premise brewpubs can differ from the framework for big-time production brewers.

The work we did at the Brewers of Indiana Guild to increase barrel limits was very important -- and it applied to only a few of the state's breweries. In fact, the overwhelming majority of Indiana brewers aren't going to see 30,000 barrels any time soon, or ever.

Personally, I think we did well keeping everyone together.

But probably there are times when togetherness doesn't work. Alt-Indie-Beer is big business now, and the ka-ka likely will continue to occur.


The Colorado Brewers Guild Has Fractured in the Face of Changing Industry, by Jonathan Shikes (Westword)

The Colorado Brewers Guild, which has represented the interests of the state’s craft breweries for the past twenty years, has imploded in the face of a rapidly changing industry.

At least fourteen independent craft breweries, including Colorado’s four largest —New Belgium, Oskar Blues, Odell Brewing and Left Hand — are forming a new organization called Craft Beer Colorado that “aspires to be open, responsive, proactive and effective on issues that impact its members.” Some of these breweries will remain as members of the Guild, but others will not.

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Friday, June 10, 2016

"This could very well be the first whiskey in the world that is meant to taste like beer."

From Sara's article.

Master distiller Chris Morris of Woodford Reserve was on hand earlier in the year when The Exchange pub + kitchen released its Old Forester Single Barrel Selection.


Top-shelf everything: The Exchange pub + kitchen's Old Forester Single Barrel Selection dinner.

 ... Speaking for myself, it was a first-rate experience. The world of spirits remains lesser known territory for me, and although we inhabit a golden age of bourbon, almost all of it slips blissfully past me. Having acknowledged this, if bourbon always tasted as satisfying as Exchange's single barrel cull, I'd sip it more often.


Morris has the best line in Sara Havens' piece. She asks him why make a whiskey like this?

"Because it's fun."

Outstanding.


Woodford Reserve’s latest Distillery Series release is an ode to beer
By SARA HAVENS | June 9, 2016 4:19 pm

Woodford Reserve‘s latest Distillery Series release, titled Five Malt, is like bourbon in reverse, explained master distiller Chris Morris to a small media group Thursday afternoon at the historic Versailles distillery. The whiskey is distilled from a malt-only mash, making it technically closer to beer than bourbon.

Back in the day — the day being the late 1800s and early 1900s — some whiskey distillers would buddy up with brewers and buy already ground up, sometimes fermented mash to make their product. The brewers took care of the more difficult parts of grinding the grains and fermenting the yeast, so the distillers would then work their magic by running it through stills and aging it in barrels.

Morris and the Woodford team wondered what it would be like to start from an all-malt recipe, like beer, and craft a fine tasting whiskey that tipped its tasting notes to beer. Inspired by the popularity of micro-breweries, they decided to experiment with malted grains normally used in beer to come up with the Five Malt whiskey ...


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Thursday, June 09, 2016

Video: "Karen Eland Paints with Beer."



Considering there isn't a bone, gene or sinew in my body for artistic aptitude, this is impressive, indeed.


Artist Karen Eland paints with beer to create classic works of art. "People always wonder if I drink and paint at the same time. I can only have a little or else my paintings might unintentionally become abstract!"


Then again, drinking beer while watching other people work is a lifelong hobby. Thanks to Patty, a pal from high school days, for the link.


Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Black Coffee.


These three Canadian videos (not PBS, as suggested) have absolutely nothing to do with beer, although if you're a devotee of beers brewed with coffee, then the three-hour history lesson about coffee will be appropriate.

Of course, quite a few beer drinkers begin their days with coffee. If you're fortunate to be near a shop of the caliber of Quills, the opportunities to learn are immeasurably enhanced.

Having devoted the past 25 years to denouncing American mass-market swill culture, the take-way for me is the astonishing extent to which mass-market coffee of the Folgers and Maxwell House ilk has bastardized the planet. From reliance on mundane Robusto beans to Cold War anti-revolutionary politics -- not excluding slavery and the despoiling of the environment in places like Central and South America -- the modern history of coffee makes Budweiser look benign by comparison.







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Monday, June 06, 2016

THE POTABLE CURMUDGEON: A Mile Wide sidewalk superintendent.

THE POTABLE CURMUDGEON: A Mile Wide sidewalk superintendent. 

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

To be perfectly honest – but then again, why let the accumulated truth spill out, all at once? – demonstrable elements of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can be spotted amid otherwise encouraging signs of the Curmudgeon's ongoing recovery from the vicissitudes of small business ownership.

For instance, there is a recurring nightmare. I’m stuck in a roofless maze, trying to find my way out. Every time I spot a seemingly safe exit corridor, out pops a familiar impediment – some times a do-nothing gasbag from Heidelberg Distributing, at others a phalanx of Floyd County Health Department bureaucrats carrying clipboards.

Worst of all is the RateBeer luminary, waving his hop garland like a priest with bobbing censer, and screaming about my Doppelbock’s failure to taste like an IPA. When I glance up to the sky, the sun is blocked by the doughy faces of bankers, looking down at me and laughing.

Consequently, when I read previews like Kevin Gibson’s recent piece on Mile Wide Beer Co., it's like being at the harbor, watching as the Titanic sets sail, all the while expecting dreadful things to happen sooner rather than later ... then I fall asleep again.


Mile Wide Beer Co. announces it will open in late summer, by Kevin Gibson (Insider Louisville)

The mysterious Mile Wide Beer Co. announced this week it will open in late summer, also detailing what types of beers customers should expect.

Located at 636 Barret Ave., behind Diamond Pub & Billiards in a former live music space, Mile Wide is owned by four partners: Scott Shreffler, Kyle Tavares, Matt Landon and Patrick Smith, the latter of which also owns River City Drafthouse. Shreffler and Tavares are former representatives for Schlafly Beer, which is based in St. Louis, while Landon has worked in construction …

… The brewhouse will consist of a 15-barrel, three-vessel system with an initial annual capacity of about 1,700 barrels, thanks to two 15-barrel fermenters, three 30-barrel fermenters, and a pair of bright tanks.

Other amenities will include a circa-early 1990s jukebox, plus a retail space that will include a crowler station; at Mile Wide, 32-ounce crowlers, which are cans sealed on site, will be a specialty for taking beer off site and maintaining its freshness longer than growlers. In fact, Mile Wide will be the first brewery in Louisville to offer crowlers ...

... Shreffler says the space has room for growth if the need arises. Future plans, pending success of the brewery, include a canning line. In the meantime, there is plenty of build-out work left to do, and recipes to perfect.


Of course, my anxiety is just a mirror, reflecting a scalded publican shunning the fire, even if he continues to adore Rauchbier.

This feeling of impending terror has nothing whatever to do with the merits of the start-up brewery in question. Mile Wide’s principals have certifiable pedigrees, and assuming the brewery is sufficiently capitalized, there is no reason to believe they won’t do fine, although it won’t stop me from offering astute analysis in just a moment.

Meanwhile, professional therapy may eventually be necessary.

When the whistle blew for opening day at Bank Street Brewhouse in 2009, I thought we had a great business plan. By the time Day Two rolled around, this plan had all the value of Confederate banknotes, crisp and baled.

In the months and years to follow, things seldom worked as intended, and even when they did, critical mass stubbornly refused to occur. It was an amazing and educational ride, and so help me Jeeebus, never EVER again.

For six years at BSB, we performed too well to fail, and yet not well enough to succeed, and as the experience of World War I amply illustrates, there isn't much to be said for the daily stalemate of trench warfare.

On those rare occasions when the shelling stopped, I found myself questioning my worthiness to exist in an atmosphere of peace and quiet, fully expecting the blows to keep raining down.

For the past year, I’ve been convalescing, in part by immersing myself in local politics. Compared to today’s “craft” beer business, the snarling, backstabbing, soul-crushing viciousness of a small town mayoral campaign comes off as serene and hushed, like libraries used to be.

---

Because you’re entitled to my opinion, here’s what I think about Mile Wide’s prospects, using Kevin's Insider Louisville survey as the sole basis for my armchair quarterbacking.

This means I’ll probably be wrong, but so are most weather forecasters.

There is no mention of a kitchen at Mile Wide, and that’s good. At Bank Street Brewhouse, we had enough money to either open a restaurant or a brewery, so naturally we tried to do both. Apart from the maddening fickleness of the food service business, there’s a reason for the wise old brewer’s adage.

“Wanna make a million in the brewing business? It’s easy – start with $5 million.”

Better to spend the additional $4 million supporting the beer your brew, which after all is a brewery’s primary reason for being, and conversely, if one is intent on being a restaurant owner, don’t bother brewing at all – or find another $5 million.

(As an alternative, one might serve the basic Belgian beer café menu of spaghetti with meat sauce, meat plate, cheese plate and a grilled ham and cheese sandwich (Croque) capable of being prepared by one employee with a kitchen stove, crockpot and panini press.)

It seems that the four partners in Mile Wide each possess an important primary skill set: Physical plant, front-of-house, brewing and sales. That's a good mix, and it echoes Against the Grain’s four-pronged ownership structure, which has proved viable.

Crowlers and retail swag? By all means. Big cans sealed on site is a novelty, albeit one with genuine utility for the consumer.

As for shirts, caps, jackets, thongs and signature condoms, it remains a matter of much regret to me that NABC wasn’t ever able to maximize sales for items like these, in spite of my wonderment at the well-stocked, high-volume souvenir shops at breweries like North Coast and Schlafly, among other travel destinations visited prior to the advent of BSB.

Those visions again. I kept snapping my fingers, and the damned genie never appeared.

---

Obviously, the biggest question of all concerns Mile Wide’s inevitable move into off-premise distribution.

Granted, Kevin's preview doesn’t explicitly mention distribution, apart from a reference to the possibility of canning. However, because of the Schlafly connection – Kyle as trained production brewer and Scott as a brand rep and salesman – it seems likely that Mile Wide will eventually mount its bid to appear wherever finer beers are sold.

You know, right alongside 4,500 other brewing contestants, with new brewery openings coming at an exponential rate, while shelf space and taps remain static.

Hence, the conundrum. New breweries planning to operate as brewpubs, with business plans predicated to maximize on-premise sales, are probably better placed for stability amid the bizarre market madness facing production brewers. However, brewpubs must entice customers to come spend money on-premise, and often this implies food (see "millions" above).

Perhaps Louisvillians finally are coming around to the free-standing taproom with food trucks, delivery and brown-bagging. Apocalypse Brew Works does quite well with this most sustainable of approaches.

---

Naturally there are variables too numerous to explore, but what I’m most eager to see unfold at Mile Wide is Scott’s strategy for selling his own company’s local beer in the Louisville market, because when he sets about selling his own company’s local beer, he’ll no longer be the local guy selling some other city's non-local beer – read “Schlafly.”

And, in doing so, he’ll come face to face with the 800-lb “craft” beer gorilla in Louisville, which is the local beer snob’s raging antipathy to localism, which is predicated on the sheer impossibility of local beer bearing quality, apart from Against the Grain whenever Beer Advocate’s arbiters graciously allow it, because just as in the Middle Ages and spice shipments from the exotic east, style and status points absolutely must come from elsewhere, not here.

Except for bourbon, but that's not beer, apart from the rule that all beers, from Hefeweizen through Wee Heavy, must be aged in bourbon barrels.

I’m not saying Scott can’t or won’t do it. He knows his stuff, works hard and is much loved by a segment of the demographic. If anyone can succeed, he can. I respect him and his abilities. I'll be transfixed, having traversed the same learning curve when NABC went from beer bar to brewery.

Now it’s going to be different for Scott – beer sales without a net, minus the institutional support of a regional-sized brewery. Now it’s truly understanding what those principles of economic localization mean, because there’s nothing like becoming the owner of a local business to open one’s eyes to the economic reality of big boxes, chains and multi-nationals (yes, AB-InBev counts), and sadly, to the way that so many beer snobs throw locals under the bus with palpable glee if it means getting their hands on the one special beer that will make those masturbatory selfies sing with narcissistic delight.

A flagship Belgian Wit? Good idea. It worked for Upland. Now all Mile Wide must do is break through the shadiness of Blue Moon and Shock Top placement, find a bar manager in town capable of explaining the algorithm behind his or her constant tap rotation, and get a start-up’s flagship pouring at establishments dedicated to the chaos principle of specialty drafts.

Good luck, Scott. This isn’t at all facetious. I root for local indies, not against them, and I hope Mile Wide rocks it. If you ever need advice on how NOT to do it, I happily consult for beer and pretzels, and the occasional tin of kippers -- crackers, thanks, not bread.

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May 30: THE POTABLE CURMUDGEON: “The Drinker” (A Book Review).

May 23: THE POTABLE CURMUDGEON: A few beers on Estonian time (Part Two).

May 16: THE POTABLE CURMUDGEON: A few beers on Estonian time (Part One).

May 9: THE POTABLE CURMUDGEON: Hip Hops ... A look at two new New Albany breweries.

_

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Why does local matter? Let me count these three ways, courtesy of Tristan at BIG.



Authored by Tristan Schmid, communications director for the Brewers of Indiana Guild (BIG), it's a three-part refresher course on the theory and practice of localism in beer.

Taught him everything he knows ... well, not really.

First, follow the money.


Why does “local” matter when it comes to craft beer and beer fests? Part 1: Economics

“Money from the beer value chain is made up of producer-distributor-retailer (and taxes). Where that money goes varies by retail channel, product, etc., but on average, roughly one-third ends up with the producer. When that producer is local, that means the money goes to local workers, investments, businesses, taxes, and more. When that producer isn’t, you still get the value from the other portions, but you simply lose that 1/3 that would have gone to the producer.”


Next, think about the community.


Why does “local” matter when it comes to craft beer and beer fests? Part 2: Community

You may have heard of Ray Oldenburg’s concept of “third places,” those which “host the regular, voluntary, informal, and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realms of home and work.” Nearly 2/3 of Hoosier breweries are brewpubs–the epitome of Oldenburg’s “third place.”

These are places where, in addition to beer direct from the source, you can enjoy local food, artwork, music, events, and much more. Locally owned brewpubs are places to hang out with family, meet new friends, and talk with the brewers about the beer you’re drinking.


Finally, take a bow.


Why does “local” matter when it comes to craft beer and beer fests? Part 3: You

Consumer support of finely crafted local beer is key to the industry’s continued growth and strength. Thanks to demand for a good, local product, it’s been possible for Brewers of Indiana Guild to lobby for efforts like legalizing Sunday growler fills at Hoosier breweries.

People like you made it possible to raise barrelage limits last year from 30,000 that could be sold in state to 90,000–meaning that it’s easier to get Three Floyds and Sun King across Indiana because they can legally sell more of it in their home state.

If it weren’t for Hoosiers supporting their local brewers, we wouldn’t have been able to launch the Drink Indiana Beer campaign or the app or the forthcoming DrinkIN magazine (which–plug!–features a handy-dandy regional map of all the state’s breweries.)

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Friday, June 03, 2016

A tail of two Yetis: Red Yeti sued by Great Divide.



Although I recall hearing about this dispute previously, it seems I neglected to mention it here at the PC blog. Maybe it was on social media. No matter.

Whatever one's position on Great Divide's trademark claim, ignoring a cease and desist order might not be the best legal maneuver.

Having recently been compelled to engage the services of an attorney, who prices hourly services very fairly, it occurs to me that a few hours on the clock can wipe out a Friday night's take -- and Great Divide probably has deeper pockets.  

We await further developments. If it were me, and the lawsuit goes badly for Red Yeti, I'd go with Red Trotsky as a replacement. There may even be posters somewhere.

Colorado brewer sues Jeffersonville’s Red Yeti brewpub in trademark dispute, by Marcus Green (WDRB)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Since opening in 2013, The Red Yeti brewpub and restaurant in Jeffersonville, Ind., has used a sunglasses-clad, arm-swinging creature as its logo.

But to Denver’s Great Divide Brewing Co., the beast that adorns the Spring Street business is an abomination that needs to go.

Great Divide filed a federal lawsuit against Red Yeti on Friday, accusing the Southern Indiana company of trademark infringement, deceptive trade practices and unfairly using the image. It seeks an injunction banning Red Yeti from displaying the “confusingly similar” design, a jury trial and unspecified damages.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2016

I'm the subject of a feature-length profile in this month's issue of Louisville Magazine.


"Beer's not what he does, though, not any more."

I've been given the gist of a curriculum vitae, albeit several thousand words long, and yet it feels odd to tout an article about me. Instead, here is the writer Dylon Jones to introduce his feature article in Louisville Magazine.

I spent the last year getting to know Roger Baylor. After months of political humor, debates, cigars, Communist cats, and a good many beers, I give you this: The Independent, my profile of a small-town dissident with the whole world spread out before him.

It's flattering to be featured, but more importantly, my aim is to draw your attention to Dylon Jones as a writer. He spent countless hours taking notes and making recordings, distilled this unruly mass of information to its essentials, then formed an accurate, entertaining narrative.

As a journalist, he gets it right, and as a writer, he tells the story well. Writing is damned hard work, and Dylon does it well. Keep your eyes on him.

The Independent, by Dylon Jones (Louisville Magazine)

New Albany craft-beer pioneer Roger Baylor drained his glass and left his brewery to run for mayor last fall. The path ahead is littered with obstacles -- contentious former business partners, the two-party system, "garbage trees." Good thing he brought shears.

Also, kudos to Chris Witzke for his photography and informed chat. The link takes you to the interactive issue of Louisville Magazine (June 2016), which is easy to use.