Friday, July 25, 2014

Tipping abolition explained.

It's hard to argue with the reasoning. Last year I covered this topic at my other blog.

A growing number of restaurateurs want tipping abolished; you should, too, by Steve Coomes (Insider Louisville)

Last week, Amanda Cohen, chef-owner of Dirt Candy, a celebrated restaurant in Manhattan, penned a column for titled, “Why Tipping Is a Devil’s Bargain.” Overall it’s an argument to end the questionable practice of tipping because it’s not fair …

To kitchen workers who work hard and earn disproportionately less

To guests who don’t always relish the responsibility of figuring out their server’s reward

To service employees who are at the mercy of so many things out of their control that ultimately affect their tips.

Cohen takes a lashing from numerous commenters on the piece who say she’s naïve, that her suggestions for correcting the problem are mathematically inept, that she’s back-of-the-house biased, plus other names not worth repeating. Regardless of whether the criticism is fair, she deserves big props for her willingness to say out loud that tipping is one hell of a screwed up way to pay a staff.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Where and why we need a monument to victory over the prohibitionists.

Over at my civic affairs blog, I have a fairly good idea. I think it's one of the best ideas I've had in a while. Here's the link:

ON THE AVENUES: Ice Cold WCTU (A Modest Proposal).

... The grand opening can be preceded by a community-wide art contest, in which local artists riff on a theme of fundamentalist zealotry. For the occasion, we might clear the former dining room of furniture and display the art there. Behind the art, through the window, lies the brewery, and if those machines kill fascists, surely they eradicate prohibitionists as well.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Diary: Affirmative beer action in taxpayer-funded venues.

What was that?

Some random thoughts on how local government can be helpful when it comes to having better beer choices?

Of course, as it pertains to the majority of local businesses participating in what sometimes resembles a free market, government can't do a lot. However, there hasn't ever been much of a free market at taxpayer-funded ballparks and entertainment venues, where the fix tend to be "in" with concessionaires.

In this context, I believe that landlords have sizeable bully pulpits, but they must elect to use them. The mere mention of quota reviews should do the trick. Here is my recommendation to Metro Louisville government.


It is widely understood and accepted that Metro Louisville government is an equal opportunity employer, one that seeks to utilize minority, female and handicapped employees, whether when hired directly, or indirectly through contractors, suppliers and vendors. The importance of these precepts extends far beyond beer and brewing, to government’s fundamental aim of providing conditions for the improvement of daily life.

In like fashion, metro Louisville government understands the critical importance of the local economy in a sustainable future, as well as the key position that locally generated food and drink businesses occupy in the city’s outreach, whether within the community itself, or directed toward visitors from elsewhere. Alongside urban bourbon heritage and an explosion in innovative dining, Louisville’s breweries serve as exemplars of this new economy.

Aspects of pre-existing “older” economic systems sometimes must be modified to fit new and evolving realities. As an example, it has remained the case that customary concessions practices in venues for sports and music have evolved from the three-tier alcoholic beverage distribution system at state and federal levels, and to a certain degree, reflect private commercial matters between concessionaires and wholesalers.

And yet, there is nothing fundamentally ‘Louisville” about concessions choices emanating solely from contractual arrangements that the general public never sees. For native and tourist alike, viewing a baseball game at a venue such as Louisville Slugger Field should present the opportunity to inform and offer choices that pertain to the community which laid for the venue’s construction – that speak to Louisville itself.

Reflecting the reality that private for-profit businesses entities and drinks vendors utilize publicly financed venues and facilities, Metro Louisville government seeks to be a positive force in encouraging these entities and vendors to provide equal opportunities for local brewers, precisely because public financing of these venues implies acceptance of the merits of equal opportunity, as well as providing the ideal forum to educate attendees as to the merits of local, sustainable economies.

Metro Louisville government supports the creation of branded, destination concessions areas unique to the venues its taxpayers have financed. It works to educate concessionaires as to the benefits of a contemporary local economy as it pertains to beer and brewing, safe in the knowledge that profit margins for handcrafted beers can be equal to or greater than those for products supplied by multinational breweries.

In short, Metro Louisville government enthusiastically greets the chance to expand local brewing consciousness by use of the landlord’s bully pulpit in venues/events that include, but are not limited to, Slugger Field; Waterfront Wednesday; Iroquois Amphitheater; YUM! Center and Hike, Bike and Paddle.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The PC: Well, ya gotta start somewhere, part three, in which a shaky maturity is attained.

The PC: Well, ya gotta start somewhere, part three, in which a shaky maturity is attained. 

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of “dark” beer during my formative years. After all, who are you going to believe, Gussie Busch or your own eyes? Wasn’t beer supposed to be yellow, and if it wasn’t yellow, what exactly did that mean?

Very, very interesting.

My first close encounter with Guinness was not of the draft kind, which didn’t reach Louisville until later in the 1980s. Rather, it was Extra Stout from the bottle. Fireworks went off, and bells could be heard chiming deep in my throat.

But dark beers were not entirely new to me, although I hadn’t the first idea why they were dark, or how they were made, or how they differed from the massive blackness of Guinness, which cut an olfactory swath through my soul.

Early on, in 1978 or thereabouts, there had been a dark beer from a long-defunct Chicago brewery called Peter Hand (it also made an extra light beer of some sort), and it was followed onto Cut Rate Liquors’s shelves by Augsburger Dark. Occasionally we purchased the contract-brewed American version of Lowenbrau Dark, having accepted without question Miller Brewing’s television advertising strategy of "tonight, let it be Lowenbrau," and saving it for special times.

There had been other American Dark Lager sightings. Don Da Leon’s, a deli and imported foods store located in the shabby old Quadrangle in Jeffersonville, was far ahead of its time, and put Schlitz Dark on draft around 1981. Even before that, Mario’s Pizza on Charlestown Road in New Albany (Mandarin Café is located there now) had a dark beer on tap for a few months. It came from the Budweiser wholesaler, and must have been a short-lived Bud house brand experiment.

Just after having Guinness for the first time, I saw a six-pack of Stroh’s Bock and tried it. What was bock, anyway? According to an old man at Steinert’s, who spoke in stately and authoritative confidence, and probably hadn’t traveled any further afield than Cincinnati in his entire life, bock was brewed from the leftovers at the bottom of the vats after spring brewery cleaning each year.

As for himself, he wouldn’t touch the dark stuff for fear of its crippling 20% alcohol content and molasses-like consistency. It wasn’t long until I learned that those tales of spring scrubbing and heightened potency were utter nonsense. At first I suffered from embarrassment for having been so stupid, but later realized that listening to old men perched on bar stools telling stories was the important part, and truthfulness a subsidiary consideration.


At first, Guinness Extra Stout was a multicultural shock, and the impact was softened by mixing it with flavorless golden lager beers. To be perfectly honest, on more than one occasion we brought a six-pack into the K & H Cafe in Lanesville and amused the owners by making “black and tans” using draft Budweiser. I must have been living right, because the beer gods saw fit not to punish me for this transgression, and anyway, the percentage of the “cut” became more and more lopsided until we graduated permanently to unalloyed stout.

Whether “black and tan” or “half and half,” I’ve had little use for the idea of training wheels since discarding them. As my friend Mark once noted, the perfect “black and tan” isn’t halves of stout and pale ale or golden lager mixed in a glass. It’s a pint of each, mixed in your stomach.


Of course, merely being introduced to better beers like Guinness and Pilsner Urquell did not imply automatically enshrinement into a state of pure bliss and enlightenment. Many years of practice and refinement were yet to come, in part because youth is wasted on the young. When there is a surfeit of hormonal adrenalin and a paucity of discretionary cash, progress in any area can be painstaking and incremental. Old familiar temptations and new, unexplored domains vied for hegemony over mind, palate and wallet.

Gradually it became clear that if beer’s sole purpose was to serve as an odorless, flavorless alcohol delivery device, then it held little ultimate interest for me. A bottle of cheap vodka and a few drops of Rose’s Lime Juice provided a much speedier and efficient means of intoxication.

It was left to Michael Jackson’s original “World Guide to Beer,” as culled from the remainder table at a mall bookshop, to become the cosmic text that wove all the threads into a coherent whole.
Jackson offered the saga of beer as a long and fascinating one, ranging across all aspects of the human experience.

Beer is about science and art, farms and cities, social history, local culture and geography. It's about the places you've gone, and the ones you'd like to go. It's about different textures and flavors to match your mood, the time of day, the season, and the task at hand.

To this very day, my relationship with better beer continues to be defined by what the academicians would call a cross-disciplinary approach. In its absence, my interest flags, because when better beer is removed from its context as a unifier of human experience, to be isolated and objectified as a status-affirming Soma for beer porn narcissists, it’s just another fad.

I might as well be a wine geek – and that’s a fate worse than death.


By 1983, I was working part-time at the old Scoreboard Liquors in New Albany and seeking to stock one door of the walk-in cooler with imports (remember, American-made “craft” beers were as yet several years away). On and off, I continued at this job right up until 1992, when I went into the business at the pub formerly known as Rich O’s.

Starting in 1984 or thereabouts, I no longer drank light, low-calorie beer under any circumstance. In 1985, I traveled to Europe for the first time, a voyage of exuberant discovery that has been repeated dozens of times since. In those early days, after each trip, it became harder and harder to return to old haunts and to stomach cans of Stroh’s or High Life, although until 1992, it continued to happen.

Now it is the year 2014. My last taste of Budweiser came in 2004, and before that, 1992.

Bud Light? Early 1980s.

I managed to swallow a Miller High Life in 2009, and perhaps consumed a new generation (read: impossibly vapid) Pabst at some point during the last five years. So it is that exceptions prove the rule, and the mass-produced liquid still preferred by my countrymen (and women) at a ratio of 9 to 1 is utterly alien to me. I can more easily imagine being beamed up to the Enterprise for afternoon tea than drinking a Coors Light.

And this is the source of enduring, abiding happiness for me.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Temporary beer activation of the space once intended to lead to Museum Plaza.

As usual, a wee bit of local history is in order.

In Louisville, there was to have been a game-changing, 62-story skyscraper. It was to be called the Museum Plaza.

It was not built, and the plan has been officially "dead" for three years.

In the run-up to Museum Plaza, several infrastructure improvement projects were completed by the city. One of them was on the 600 block of West Main Street, where four buildings were demolished, but their historic facades buttressed and kept intact. This was slated to be developed as the entrance to Museum Plaza from the Main Street corridor.

The space has remained vacant since 2007. The hollow cavity is shown here:

Now the city of Louisville is interested in using the space as a pop-up beer/food/fun garden during four autumn weekends -- and the beer would be entirely locally brewed. The plan was discussed during recent meetings of a committee to advise Mayor Greg Fisher on what the city might do with respect to supporting local breweries.

This could be interesting, so stay tuned.
Experimental ‘space activation’ to bring a pop-up lounge to former Museum Plaza site, by Melissa Chipman (Insider Louisville)

Remember Museum Plaza? Hard to forget the doomed 62-story project, isn’t it. What was supposed to be one of the most innovative spaces in the city is now a vacant lot across from 21c.

But for four weeks this fall it will once again be a space for innovation, culture and fun.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Pour Haus is open in Tell City.

My friend Mark, who hails from Tell City, has been updating me on the progress of the Pour Haus restaurant and brewery for quite some time. Indiana On Tap did an update in May, and now, like Point Blank (Corydon) and Red Yeti (Jeffersonville), the Pour Haus has commenced operations with its food service, but not yet with its own beers.

There's also the Tell City Beer Company, currently in development, which apparently will not have food.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Alstroms have a problem with session beer, and Lew Bryson begs to differ.

Note that these days, it is my custom to refer to RateBeer and BeerAdvocate collectively, as RateAdvocate. However, in this instance, I must defer to the correct usage, since the actual reference is to BeerAdvocate, the magazine.

Aww, what the hell.

It's been a while since I visited RateAdvocate, and I'm happy that Lew posted his thoughts on the session beer editorial. Admittedly, given the depth of my feeling in favor of session beer, I probably haven't done enough to educate local beer drinkers. I constantly vow to do more, and some day, there might actually be time. Until that day comes, it's honestly the case that most of the beers I drink fall into the session boundaries.

When I feel like something stronger, there's always Thomas Family Winery's Gale's Hard Cider or gin. Am I becoming a Session Snob? It's a badge I'd happily wear.

What's Your Problem?, by Lew Bryson (The Session Beer Project)

Jason and Todd Alstrom put an editorial in the latest issue of Beeradvocate magazine titled "The Problem with Session Beers in the US." They've had a passive-aggressive stance toward session beers from the early days, and this piece fits neatly into that. Because they have such a large bully-pulpit with the magazine, I felt I should at least respond. Because I only see ONE problem the way that they do; the rest of their problems are manufactured, questionable, or just plain wrong.