Saturday, December 20, 2014

"If there are hoarders, and then there's everybody else, I guess I'm in the plebeian consumer camp."

An oldie but a very, very goodie. Sorry I missed it the first time around, and thanks to A for the link.

We'd been chatting about how different the "craft" world would be if all tastings (and the ratings derived from them) were truly blind -- if all you had was the liquid, sans the pre-knowledge of how rare/special/epochal others already believe it to be.

In a nutshell, hoarding is the physical manifestation of anti-egalitarianism, and as such, it's the hoarder's ignominy, not mine.

Against Hoarding, by Miles Liebtag (Beergraphs)

... There's a decent argument that hoarders drive some business at the retail level -- everyone loves traffic in the door, even if people are only coming in to see what's new or limited that week. Hoarders, however, are by their very nature fickle consumers with little retailer loyalty. They have their local spots like anyone else, of course. But they also spend a lot of time popping into bottle shops and big craft retailers to buy up whatever's being kept behind the counter that week, leaving less of the new hotness for that retailer's regular, loyal customers, the people in the store three or four times a week buying Lagunitas IPA or Left Hand Milk Stout. Most hoarders I know could also give a shit about breweries' bread-and-butter brands, those core beers that allowed the brewery to build a successful business and branch out into more adventurous projects like barrel aging, sours, etc. The intrinsic elitism of hoarding fosters an implicit dismissiveness of everyday beers: core brands are for the punters, the thinking seems to go, and no one gets excited about, say, a classic American stout that's been made consistently for 25 years. Unless you put that shit in a bourbon barrel. Then everyone needs that shit.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Tickets for BIG's 7th annual Winterfest in Indianapolis are on sale now.

Passing this along. I missed the last Winterfest, but will be there in 2015.

Winterfest tickets now on sale

Get 'em now: Early Bird will go quickly!

It's the moment Indiana craft beer fans have been waiting for: Tickets to the 7th Annual Brewers of Indiana Guild Winterfest are now on sale, and as an IN Brew News subscriber, you're the first to know.

Join Brewers of Indiana Guild and 80+ craft breweries–most from Indiana–on January 31, 2015 for the 7th Annual Winterfest, a craft beer celebration at the Indiana State Fairgrounds benefiting Brewers of Indiana Guild, the non-profit trade association that represents all of Indiana's nearly 100 breweries.

We’ll return to the Marsh Blue Ribbon Pavilion, but we’ve doubled the space (while not doubling ticket sales) so there’ll be more room to enjoy more great beer from even more breweries.

Buy Tickets

Volunteer at Winterfest

Interested in volunteering at one of Indiana's best beer fests? There are two shift options: 
  1. Set up: You'll help set up Friday, 1/30, from 10am-5pm (food will be provided) and Saturday, 1/31, from 9am-noon. If you help to set up both days, you will receive 2 Early Bird tickets, one for you and one for a friend. This will be limited to 12 volunteers, so go ahead and sign up to volunteer during the festival, just in case.
  2. At Winterfest: Saturday, 1/31, from 10am-8pm. Food will be provided. You're attending the festival, so you already have Early Bird access.
And yes, there will be a volunteer "you are awesome" party to thank you for all of your hard work! 

Feel free to send this email to your friends, but please make sure they want to work and aren't signing up just to enjoy free beer. It's true that the best volunteers can enjoy beer while working, too.

Apply to volunteer now.

Big thanks to Hoosier Beer Geek for leading our volunteer effort!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Flat12 is embracing the vision and serving intriguing vittles.

Fairly soon, that Ohio River Hoosier Beer Trail we always talk about is going to be feasible. Jeff, New Albany and Corydon, then to the Pour Haus in Tell City once it is brewing. Then, on to the work-in-progress "monastery" brewery in St, Meinrad and nearby Jasper. Finally, the three independent breweries in Evansville.

Flat12's in the news twice. First, the vision thing.


Yes, finally!

Flat 12 Bierwerks has officially, as of Nov. 22, opened its doors to Jeffersonville and rest of Southern Indiana/Louisville. This is a big deal, at least to me, and here’s why you should put your hands in the air ala YMCA fame and be rejoicing with me.

And, some food from Smoking (not Trojan) Goose.

Flat 12 serves intriguing bar fare using mini-kitchen approach, by Kevin Gibson (Insider Louisville)

Knowing how to brew great beer does not necessarily translate to also knowing how to offer great food. Flat 12 Bierwerks, which opened recently at 130 W. Riverside Drive in Jeffersonville, doesn’t serve food at its home brewery in Indianapolis, but it has decided to do so at its new location.

The results are intriguing and surprisingly effective — this isn’t a mail-it-in effort with bag-to-fryer pub fare like mozzarella sticks and chicken cubes. Instead, Flat 12 hired a chef named Elliott Rogers-Cline, who got his culinary degree at Sullivan and now manages a menu based around naan flatbread, hummus, regionally produced meats and a little creativity in making a few ingredients go a long way.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

These requests from abroad, Vol. 10: "My favourite interest is collecting beer items, especially openers."

If you own or work for a brewery, you've probably fielded numerous e-mail inquiries from overseas asking for beer labels, crown caps and the like, as destined to become the cherished keepsakes of private collectors from just about anywhere -- although it seems that most of them live somewhere around eastern and central Europe.

To me, there is something compelling and yet haunting about these foreign requests, places of longtime personal interest to me both historically and geographically. I've been in or near many of them. They speak vividly to my inner melancholic. Lately, I've been pasting their addresses into Google Map and seeing what their places of residence look like.

After all, they can look at my business, and it seems only fair for me to see where they live, so very far away.

Tracking Krystyna from Poland proved a bit of a challenge. Addresses can be confusing when place names for streets, towns and districts overlap. 

I have a lot of it from my country, but I would like to broaden my collection for openers from abroad. I also collect other beer items like: coasters, labels, caps, glasses, beer mugs etc. I will be very grateful for any help with widen my collection. I found your e-mail address in web and I decided to write this request. I hope you understand my passion. I take any item with great gratitude. I wish Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

She lives between the Polish capital of Warsaw and the Baltic, amid vast, flat farmland.

The actual town of Koneck is here.

It's a tidy place lining both sides of the main drag. To the left below are the commercial buildings, including a restaurant/pub (bet there's beer there) and a grocery.

However, the address provided is a few kilometers south of Koneck, within the township. Brzeźno is the name of a town nearby, and presumably, doubles as the street identifier connecting Brzeźno with Koneck. At any rate, it's the house on the right, set mysteriously in the trees, and surrounded by farmland.

This may be the most thought-provoking request to date.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The PC: If you tolerate this, then your children will be next.

The PC: If you tolerate this, then your children will be next.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

There’s such a cynicism about the phrase ‘I laughed all the way to the bank.’ It’s as though money is what you’re doing, rather than playing music. If you’re playing a money game, why not get into banking? -- Artie Shaw (swing era bandleader)

If I were to concede that lately, writing about beer has become a burdensome chore, you might plausibly respond by asking why I keep trying.

It’s a good question.

I suppose writing about beer is a reflex habit borne of many years, one that still scratches an itch even when relief is so maddeningly elusive. Perhaps it’s a reflection of a subconsciously ingrained work ethic, intrinsic stubbornness or simple grim determination; in short, patiently keeping at it until morale improves and the fun returns.

Conversely, given that I still enjoy drinking better beer with interesting people in conducive pub settings, it could be that I’m merely suffering through an artistic slump – seemingly months long at this juncture, but something nonetheless temporary, which will improve with time, focus and maybe, just for once, some luck.

Other factors probably come into play. Seasonal Affective Disorder, to which I’m prone, can shroud the best intentions with the critical mass of 800-lb gorillas. SAD, coupled with the “moral and aesthetic nightmare of Christmas” (which began the day following the July 4th holiday), can produce a scenario in which twenty minutes of dull staring at incoming e-mail is required before finally opening it and clicking onto a spreadsheet for another intimate session with my least favorite objects in the whole wide world: Numbers, and by extension, what they imply.

These numbers are impervious and vicious. They mock and insult me, and I wish I’d never invited them into my life. Their presence reminds me that capitalism is good for quite little apart from the castration of youthful ideals, to the point that even superstitious religious twaddle rings vaguely true: Be careful not to give Satan in a three-piece his opening, lest he step through the cracked rear door and whisper soothingly into your ear:

“Don’t worry about the debt service; you’ll be a star. After all, everyone else is striking it rich in beer – don’t you ever read the Tweets about their fabulous success? You’re next, my boy. By the way … there’s a payment due.”

But my disillusionment goes deeper than my own position of admittedly self-inflicted enslavement to bankers. It extends further than my ongoing annoyance with “beer geeks spend(ing) all their time hunting white whales instead of drinking beer in their back yards,” their historical ignorance, or Trojan Goose’s sad masquerade.

It’s even worse than knowing how few present-day “craft beer” enthusiasts and “craft” brewing entities have so much as heard the phrase Think Globally, Drink Locally, and that’s because they’re not even thinking locally nowadays.

You see, for weeks now, my social media feeds have been filled with news of protests and rallies across the United States.

Is It Bad Enough Yet?, by Mark Bittman (New York Times)

THE police killing unarmed civilians. Horrifying income inequality. Rotting infrastructure and an unsafe “safety net.” An inability to respond to climate, public health and environmental threats. A food system that causes disease. An occasionally dysfunctional and even cruel government. A sizable segment of the population excluded from work and subject to near-random incarceration.

You get it: This is the United States, which, with the incoming Congress, might actually get worse.

This in part explains why we’re seeing spontaneous protests nationwide, protests that, in their scale, racial diversity, anger and largely nonviolent nature, are unusual if not unique. I was in four cities recently — New York, Washington, Berkeley and Oakland — and there were actions every night in each of them. Meanwhile, workers walked off the job in 190 cities on Dec. 4.

The root of the anger is inequality, about which statistics are mind-boggling: From 2009 to 2012 (that’s the most recent data), some 95 percent of new income has gone to the top 1 percent; the Walton family (owners of Walmart) have as much wealth as the bottom 42 percent of the country’s people combined; and “income mobility” now describes how the rich get richer while the poor ... actually get poorer.

In fact, even notoriously apolitical professional athletes have seized the bully pulpit to lend their weight to these protests by wearing shirts reading ''Hands up, don't shoot!” and "I can't breathe!”

What I haven’t seen are “craft” breweries doing anything remotely the same.

What I haven’t seen are “craft” breweries taking an interest in inequality or human rights.

What I haven’t seen are “craft” breweries doing much of anything at all, apart from the usual white whale spotting, chest thumping and lesson ignoring.

And no, producing t-shirts with the slogan "We've Got IPA" doesn't cut it.

Note that this blanket condemnation, of which I’m sure there have been notable exceptions, includes my own “craft” brewery, so don’t assume I’m making an exception for my own inexcusable personal cowardice. I always thought I'd be the pro athlete, bass player or actor wearing the t-shirt nd standing up for the downtrodden, but right now, as a craft brewery owner, I'm being exposed as fraudulent. I've done done nothing, and at this precise moment, I hate myself for it.

Perhaps “craft” beer is sitting on its collective hands because we associate these protests exclusively with African-American concerns (as Bittman clearly shows, while this largely is the case, there is a clear linkage with other significant non-racial economic rationales), and as such, the pathway of institutional, ham-fisted obliviousness leads to another uncomfortable fact, namely “craft” beer’s ongoing rejection of egalitarianism as it translates into a noteworthy absence of people of color, in terms both of brewing companies and their consumers.

Why Aren't There More People Of Color In Craft Brewing?, by Alastair Bland (NPR)

Frederick Douglas Opie, a food historian at Babson College, says that cultures in western and central Africa have "a long history of artisan brewing." People of the region, he says, made beer from sorghum and millet, as well as palm wine — which, he says, was considered by some a luxury product.

"So, why that discontinues in America after the Atlantic slave trade, I don't know," Opie says. Blacks, he notes, often made moonshine liquor and bootleg beer in the 1920s and '30s. But these days, they're all but absent from the craft beer scene. "It could be that beer is like a lot of things in the food industry which, as they grow popular, become very hip, yuppie and white."

It’s hard not to be disgruntled when one considers that his own unfortunate position of perpetual bondage within capitalism in this period of amok, greed-driven excess is precluding action on matters of social justice.

And yet here I am, both self-loathing and self-muzzling.

What if a note-grasping banker got peeved?

After all, as it stands, when he says “jump,” my only question is response is, “Thank you, sir, may I have another?”

Worse yet, entirely apart from the money, or in our case the absence of it, and completely separate from considerations of economic inequality in America, which is an appalling travesty and insult to every ideal we blithely claim to profess, what if my deepest fear of all as a “craft” brewery owner is the risk of alienating a primarily white consumer base by speaking truth to power?

That's a hard one to swallow.

It’s “last call,” at least for now. There’ll be another business day, more months in the unforgiving muck of the capitalist trenches, and numerous additional opportunities to think it through – like I’ve been doing for something like five years, or forty-five.

And yet, if experience has taught me any one valuable truth, it’s that answers come from a process, not an epiphany.

What's the process? How to make “craft” beer part of the solution? I don’t know. Maybe it cannot be, but if not, it may be time for me to consider another career at the tender of age of AARP-eligibility. As Abraham Lincoln was reported to say, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” What he meant was: A soul.

Does "craft" beer have one?

Do I have one?

Friday, December 12, 2014

"History Brewing" in New Albany.

The newspaper of record for New Albany (NABC's home town) and Jeffersonville (where Red Yeti and Flat12 new taproom are located) is called the News and Tribune. It is a branch of the CNHI national tree.

Recently, the newspaper's weekly entertainment supplement considered the renovation of one of two buildings located just a couple blocks from my house, these being the last remnants of the 19th-century brewery (Market Street, sometimes called Buchheit) once working there. Ironically, I'd only recently written about the same topic at my other blog, and had been shown the interior of the featured house when the owners first began work in 2012 or thereabouts.

Revisiting the rise and fall of New Albany's 19th-century Market Street Brewery.

The SoIn article can be viewed here.

The N & T's reporter Daniel Suddeath also asked three questions of me, via e-mail. The questions and answers are reprinted below.

As for the house ... damn, I have to admit to WANTING it badly.


I will make a general comment and then answer the questions.

When I graduated from IU Southeast in 1982, there were fewer than one hundred breweries in the whole country. Beer as we know it came to America with European immigrants, but Prohibition killed small scale, local brewing, and the ensuing consolidation and commoditization of beer and brewing resulted in a vast shrinkage of stylistic choice.

In short, most of the remaining breweries produced German-style golden lager, differing primarily by the name printed on the label. By the 1970s, Americans who had traveled or been posted to the military overseas began asking why beers like they drank there couldn’t be gotten here.

First, imports addressed this need, but it was only a matter of time until someone revived small-scale “artisan” brewing. It really was artisanal then, because equipment had to be improvised, and homebrewers basically learned on the job. It started in places like California, the Pacific Northwest and Colorado (to an extent in New England) and moved around the country from those places. Nowadays the shorthand is “craft,” which can be misleading, because while in some respects it refers to ownership and production volume, the term has been adopted to refer to the type of beers being brewed.

1. There seems to be a renewed interest in brewing. What do you credit this to? Is it a good or bad thing for the industry?

The renewal probably owes to the good things about America as a melting pot – greater awareness of other places and other ways, more people traveling, better education, more discretionary income, greater interest in food and drink, and the like. Currently there is a tremendous boom in brewing, even given the previous rate of increase in breweries and volumes of production. It’s both a good and bad thing. In theory, with BudMillerCoors still controlling 85% to 90% of the market in a place like Indiana, the sky is the limit in terms of taking customers away from them. But the three tier system (having to go through middlemen) can be a pain, and a lot of breweries go into business with a debt service predicated on outside distribution, when this is becoming the hardest variable to control. The result probably will not be a bubble bursting, but there’s bound to be some dips and retrenching at some point. Now more than ever, a strong on-premise component is critical. Your own bricks and mortar is the only place you can control the variables.

2. You specialize in craft beers. What inspired you to go that route with your brewing operation?

Bizarrely, we’re the 13th oldest brewery in Indiana (started 2002). The other 87 or so have come into business since then. We’re all craft by the definitions of independent ownership and production size (largest are Three Floyds, Sun King and Upland, none yet above 40,000 barrels), and I’d guess we all brew what people think of as craft, which basically means NOT golden lagers of varying strengths – although some craft brewers dabble in those, too. Most craft brewers were inspired to go the non-golden lager route by the plain fact that those were readily available, anyway, and what we wanted to do was brew the styles that couldn’t be found, whether stouts or saisons or steam beers.

3. From what you've learned through your profession, what were breweries like 50, 75 and even 125 years ago? What was the beer like? Would it have been comparable to anything today? Stronger?

I’ve read that the breweries themselves often were family affairs, with the owner’s house on the grounds, and communal meals for employees, perhaps even rooms for them. Most of what they brewed didn’t go outside the city limits, but that changed as transportation got better. As for the beers, there is general agreement that from the end of Prohibition through WWII and until the craft movement began, American beer generally became weaker and more adulterated with adjuncts (corn and rice), which lighten the flavor and body, and are less expensive than barley malt. We brew a few throwback beers throughout the year, and people assume they’ll be stronger and heavier, but here’s the thing: In olden times, with fewer scientific controls, brewing was a hard discipline in which to exercise consistency. The more malt sugar, the higher the alcohol content, but not if the yeast is shaky and unable to do the job. So, the answer is contradictory. As now, there were beers designed to be strong, others brewed to be weaker (tax rates were a factor because they were based on the grain that went into the batch, not the alcohol content at the end), and others that would have been variable though not necessarily by design. Even recreating the older recipes, it’s hard to judge, because a century’s worth of genetic engineering has changed the malt, hops and yeast. To make this point clear, do any of us really know what chicken tastes like if everything tastes like chicken? A whole fryer 125 years ago probably tasted very different.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

These requests from abroad, Vol. 9: "I am a big collector of beermats, coasters and other promotional items of beer brands."

If you own or work for a brewery, you've probably fielded numerous e-mail inquiries from overseas asking for beer labels, crown caps and the like, as destined to become the cherished keepsakes of private collectors from the foothills of the Alps to the South Sea islands.

To me, there is something compelling and yet haunting about these foreign requests, which tend most often to come from Central/Eastern European locales, places of longtime personal interest to me historically and geographically. They speak vividly to my inner melancholic. Lately, I've been pasting their addresses into Google Map and seeing what their places of residence look like.

After all, they can look at my business, and it seems only fair for me to see where they live, so very far away.

Now, for something completely different, we have Frans. His request is the first we've received from the Netherlands in a very long time. He's from Zwolle (population 125,000), the capital of Overijssel province. 

First, see where the water used to be ... and still is.

According to Wikipedia, "In World War II, Zwolle was single-handedly liberated from the Germans by Canadian soldier Léo Major. He was made an honorary citizen of Zwolle in 2005 and a street is named for him."

This is it: Leo Majorlaan. Look at those tidy bike paths on both sides. Sighhh ...

In addition, note that "Citizens of Zwolle are colloquially known as Blauwvingers (Bluefingers)."

Frans says:

I live in the Netherlands and I am a big collector of beer mats, coasters and other promotional items of beer brands.

I hear you, buddy. Let's forget the small potatoes.

Would you like to trade homes?