Monday, April 20, 2015

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

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

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

“The Greek word for "return" is nostos. Algos means "suffering." So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.”
― Milan Kundera, Ignorance

One May morning in 1985, a middle-class American youth from bucolic Floyd County, Indiana, stumbled greasy and sleepless into the arrivals hall of a foreign airport. Following the requisite passport, customs formalities and currency exchange, he endured a thoroughly confusing and memorable first day in Europe.

Thirty years have passed since that bewildering and exhilarating Luxembourg inaugural, and the nostalgia is palpable. My inaugural European sojourn was conceived and executed with a single-minded determination unknown to me at the time. It taught me to believe in myself, and it led to many, many more pilgrimages. There have been no regrets whatever.

During my first European summer, I commenced an overdue transition from populist local yokel to genuine “citizen of the world,” as the athlete Edwin Moses so eloquently phrased it during the otherwise jingoistic and embarrassing David Wolper Memorial Olympiad in Los Angeles in 1984.

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Europe in 1985 was a life-altering epiphany, but in truth, even the most minor of ephemeral insights would have seemed huge given my indecisiveness and youthful lack of focus.

A university degree in philosophy made for witty repartee, but little else, and it seemed to me that career choices were for fools who never saw the sun rise after an evening spent closing every bar in town. Ten placid green acres with a split-level dream home, a riding lawnmower, little leaguers and a fridge filled with Old Milwaukee Light? That was philistinism, right?

At the age of 24, two part-time jobs were sufficient to pay my bills. They also provided a semblance of scheduling flexibility in the event of hangovers – as there always was enough beer money. Why else would a person work at a package store in the first place? But in truth, I wasn’t going anywhere.

Even worse, I knew it.

In 1983, I was asked by an area high school teacher to accompany him as a second chaperone on a student trip to Europe the following year. The price seemed reasonable at $1,600 for nine days, with airfare, hotels, bus and most meals included. I responded affirmatively.

A few months later, I was strolling past the travel section in the library when a title caught my eye: “Europe on $25 a Day,” by Arthur Frommer. As ever mathematically challenged, I shook my head with disbelief. Was it a misprint? Could it really be true? Skeptical, I checked out the book, took it home, poured a beer, and started reading. Eventually a pocket calculator was produced.

The earth fairly shook.

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My fellow twenty-something males would have required the woman (or women) of their dreams running bikini-clad across a Florida beach during a sultry rainstorm to elicit anywhere near my response to Frommer’s book, in which clear and reasonable tips plainly illustrated how to do Europe right, and for far longer duration than a mere week.

My new writing hero insisted that travel could be educational, and offer a rare glimpse into different worlds. His advice on the nuts and bolts of budget travel technique was relentlessly informative, effortlessly evocative and consistently pragmatic.

Always think like a European traveler, not an American, and like a local, not a visitor.

Don’t expect things in a foreign country to be the same as home, and expect to pay more when they are.

Think, plan, and accept the available bargains.

Don’t eat every meal in a restaurant. Pack a salami, but a loaf of cheap crusty bread, and picnic.

Walk, ride the bus, rent a bike.

My brain was hard-wired for the humanities and history, and yet the comparative sums quickly became persuasive. At $25 per day, my $1,600 properly budgeted the Frommer way came out to 36 days, not nine. If I were to postpone the epic voyage for another year, leaving even more time to save money, the trip might last three months, not nine days.

For the next year and a half, my European travel obsession escalated, fed by a steady diet of travel books, magazine articles and PBS documentaries. Thomas Cook rail schedules were studied, and European history devoured with renewed zeal. Plans were jotted, expanded, revised, discarded, and brought back from the waste paper basket. I acquired a Pentax K-1000 camera and learned to use it, just barely.

By the spring of 1985, with departure nearing, a rough outline had settled into place.

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There would be a round-trip flight on the then-cheapest Icelandair from Chicago to Luxembourg, returning 88 days after departure. Ground transport would be a three-month Eurailpass. Convinced that it would be my sole and only trip to Europe, a kamikaze itinerary was planned, incorporating nights on trains sleeping in seats, and crashed on the decks of boats. I studied every available trick to skim cash and expand the duration of my experience.

Then suddenly, the curtain finally rose.

There was a sleepless night on an eastbound flight, and before I knew it, a strange Luxembourg airport. Subsequently, theory yielded to practice. My well-ordered plan did not take into account greenness, timidity and stubbornness. The real work was just beginning.

The profusion of languages, local customs and currencies overwhelmed the senses. ATM barely existed, and the failure to note esoteric regional holidays and erratic hours kept by mom and pop shops led to foodless nights. There were missed connections, panicked fumbling and myriad disappointments.

There were times of panic, but I managed to keep moving. Despite the red-faced embarrassments, cheap hostels already booked, standing-room-only overnight train trips, pain in my arms from lugging a silly gym bag, fear of squat-only “toilets” in Turkey, forgetting a towel and using my only long-sleeved shirt to dry off, all of it managed to work out in the end. 88 days later, back again in Luxembourg for the westbound flight home, I could think of only one thing.

When’s next?

In the coming weeks during this 30th anniversary year, I’ll be describing the summer of 1985. At selected intervals, beer will factor into the narrative, although in retrospect, it must be conceded that I knew next to nothing about beer and brewing.

In all probability, that’s what made learning so much fun.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Say hello to Bologna Beer. Kinda sorta.

Most readers will quickly guess that smokiness is the "meat" in the bologna beer, but the overarching point here is the tying together of localist threads.

Locals react to "bologna beer" in Lebanon: Snitz Creek Brewery serves-up Seltzer's Bologna in a new way, by Meg Frankowski (WGAL)

LEBANON, Pa. —Would you drink your favorite deli variety in the form of beer? Snitz Creek Brewery is now serving-up Lebanon, Pa.'s, famous Seltzer's Bologna in liquid form.

While Seltzer's Bologna is a secret recipe, we do know that it's placed in wood smokehouses for three days to cure. Still, there's no actual meat in the beer mix. Adam Szajda, co-owner of Snitz Creek, says the secret is in the grains.

"We use grains that were smoked in the Seltzer's smoke house in Palmyra, Pa.," said Szajda.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Al Smith, Prohibition and the "greatest political button of all time."


Coincidentally, this may be the greatest Mental Floss posting of all time. Prohibition wasn't so much about alcohol as bigotry, religion, prejudice and politics.

And yes, the pirate votes wet.

The Greatest Political Button of All Time (Mental Floss)

 ... Many of the Protestants (particularly Methodists, Southern Baptists and German Lutherans) who so feared the nefarious influence of Smith's Catholicism were also in favor of Prohibition. Al Smith was not.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Pour Fool on Dick Cantwell's principled resignation from Elysian.

It's been a few months, and The Pour Fool follows up.

The Pour Fool on Elysian and AB InBev's "malignant tentacles."


Folks, a "craft" brewery absorbed by AB-InBev is just as dead as if a nuclear bomb were dropped on it. Huzzahs to Dick Cantwell:

"In his resignation, Cantwell affirms what everyone already knew about him; his integrity and standards and the unwavering dedication that he’s always shown to the craft brewing culture that he helped create."

The Pour Fool rocks it.

Dick Cantwell: Corporate Brewing STILL Sucks, by stevefoolbody (The Pour Fool)

Dick Cantwell has resigned from his position as partner and brewmaster at Elysian Brewing in Seattle, in the wake of the company’s tragic sale to AB/InBev, the Belgian/Brazilian mega-brewer which acquired the brewery as part of a broader plan to insinuate itself into the craft beer community and win back younger drinkers who have abandoned the company’s flagship beers, Bud, Bud Light, and the foundering Michelob.

Following are a few relevant postings from earlier in the year.

Pop open a Trojan Goose and enjoy this explanation of why you shouldn't.

Trojan Cigar?

The PC: Budweiser explains the Doctrine of Trojan Geese Transubstantiation.

Elysian and Sub Pop: "Corporate Beer Still Sucks."

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Heinz, Miller, ketchup and wretched light beer.

Read the first full paragraph below like this:

Amerian low-calorie "light" lager is one of those beers that science, technology and mass production have truly mastered. We as a society no longer need to make our own light beer in the same way that we no longer need to hand-crank our cars. We figured out a better way. Or, rather, Miller, Bud and Coors figured it out.

I'm serene in the knowledge that as times change, my fundamental hatred of light beer remains intact.

But there's more to ketchup than this homage to Heinz, as was verified by the time-wasting wonders of Wikipedia. The actual word "ketchup" can be traced to a local dialect of the Chinese language in reference to a condiment, and so perhaps it isn't so unusual after all for barbecued spareribs from the Chinese carry-outs using ketchup in the sauce.

Meanwhile, ketchup in England used to be made from mushrooms, not tomatoes. This makes sense, because Europeans didn't have tomatoes until they were brought back by New World explorers. In turn, this means that your favorite Italian spaghetti sauce recipes were not available to ancient Romans.

Neither was light beer. Lucky Romans.

Stop Making Your Ketchup In-House. It's Terrible, by Farley Elliott (Eater forums)

You know it's true.

Ketchup is one of those foodstuffs that science, technology and mass production have truly mastered. We as a society no longer need to make our own ketchup in the same way that we no longer need to hand-crank our cars. We figured out a better way. Or, rather, Heinz figured it out.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Keg Fest of Ale 2015.


Todd Antz does such a good job of selling his annual event that I'm sure he doesn't need the Curmudgeon's help, but just the same, a yearly approving nod in the direction of a top-quality beer event never hurts.

Read the press release at LouisvilleBeer.com: The Keg Fest of Ale 2015.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Gohmann: "Regulation, religion, and corporate interest (make) the South less hospitable to small breweries."

Steve Gohmann is a native of New Albany and a longtime acquaintance from the Public House. He's been a professor at U of L's School of Economics for more than two decades, and recently made the news when "tapped" to head the new John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise at U of L’s College of Business.

(That's Papa John, by the way)

To me, Steve is considerably more renowned of our little known somewhat secret beer tasting board, which regrettably, I've not have the time to attend of late. In what spare time he has, Steve has concluded research on craft beer and the South. The release of his paper garnered much social media attention, so please permit me to offer belated congratulations to him. I hope we can share a beer soon.

Why the South Is the Region With the Fewest Breweries, by Joe Pinsker (The Atlantic)

It may be hard to imagine now, but American ale-drinkers previously had few alternatives to the mass-produced beers that The Economist once (not incorrectly) deemed "fizzy dishwater." In fact, there were only two craft breweries in America in 1977. By 2012, that number had risen to 2,751, and while macrobreweries such as Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors still dominate America's beer market, craft breweries are estimated to account for about a tenth of the industry's revenues.

While observations abound about "the rise of America's craft breweries," the story has been very different on the state level. Vermont, for example, had one brewery for every 25,000 residents in 2012. Mississippi, meanwhile, had one for every 994,500. These aren't anomalous islands of booziness and temperance—they're exemplars of their regions. The nine states with the fewest breweries are all in the South. What is it about the region that might make this true?

In short, it's because of the Baptists. Steve Gohmann, a professor of economics at the University of Louisville, recently published a paper in Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice cataloguing the potent blend of regulation, religion, and corporate interest that makes the South less hospitable to small breweries ...