Beer and Loathing in Louisville: Gonzofest gets a companion event

Beer-and-Loathing-291x451Louisville’s own Hunter S. Thompson was a fan of good beer. That’s why Dennie Humphrey thought a local craft beer fest would be another fitting tribute to the gonzo journalist.

And thus, Beer and Loathing in Louisville was born as a sort of halfway-to-Gonzofest companion event to the local annual tribute to Thompson that was created in 2010. Beer and Loathing will take place Nov. 28 at the Ice House.

Gonzofest organizers are working with the Kentucky Guild of Brewers to make the event happen; expect plenty of local and regional craft beer, wine by Old 502 Winery, food, live music by BoogieJuice Funk-n Horn-Band and plenty more. The proceeds will help fund Gonzofest; in addition to honoring Thompson’s legacy with the events, the hope is to ultimately create a statue of Thompson.

Humphrey, Gonzofest co-founder and owner of The Monkey Wrench, believes this can happen by growing Gonzofest.

“I see people getting their picture taken with it,” Humphrey says, adding that he hopes the statue can be placed somewhere of importance, like the waterfront or someplace downtown. “Someplace it can be seen.”

Another attraction at Beer and Loathing will be a Hunter S. Thompson look-alike contest, with the winner getting two free tickets to Gonzofest 2015 as a grand prize. Imagine an Ice House filled with Hunter S. Thompsons — tipsy ones, at that.

Beer and Loathing has another goal of sorts as well, and that is to entice Bill Murray, a friend of Thompson who portrayed the writer in the 1980 film “Where the Buffalo Roam,”  to attend Gonzofest 2015. Mention the wild possibility of Murray showing up to the festival dressed as Thompson, and Humphrey appears to get chills.

“Awww, man,” he says.

“That would be amazing,” adds Lauren Hendricks, who in charge of promoting Beer and Loathing.

Humphrey wants to grow Gonzofest for the obvious reasons, but he also knows it can be huge culturally, which helps the city in addition to honoring Thompson’s legacy. At the same time, he doesn’t want to upset the grassroots nature of the festival and how it began, which basically was just a group of friends deciding to do it.

So, the talk of sponsorships and such must be handled delicately.

“Hunter would not be down with anything like this,” Humphrey says. “We know this.”

At the same time, the festival and its intentions have outgrown its previously small environs: “It’s way bigger than The Monkey Wrench,” Humphrey says. “I don’t mind my name being related to it, but it’s way bigger than this little spot.”

With assists from the city and the Louisville Downtown Development Corp., Gonzofest looks poised to see more growth. Beer and Loathing is a step in that direction. At the 2015 event, Humphrey hopes a rendering of a Thompson statue — possibly with fist raised and a typewriter under one arm — can be unveiled. And hey, maybe Bill Murray will even show up.

Meantime, we have one more way to honor the father of gonzo journalism and  another reason to drink local beer.

“We’re behind any event that helps promote Kentucky beer,” says John King, executive director of the Kentucky Guild of Brewers. “And this particular event is unique.”

Beer and Loathing in Louisville will run from 5-8 p.m. on Nov. 28 at the Ice House. General admission tickets are $45. VIP tickets are $75 and include 4 p.m. entry, special beer tastings, food vouchers and a VIP lounge. Designated driver tickets are $10 and included unlimited non-alcoholic drinks. The Monkey Wrench will host an official after-party featuring the music of Johnny Berry.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

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A Guide To German Beer Styles For Oktoberfest

Photo by Leigh Wolf

Photo by Leigh Wolf

Oktoberfest is upon us: lederhosen, bratwurst, schnitzel and beer. Lots of delicious, German beer.

Of course, when I travel to talk to people about beer, I often find that there isn’t a lot of understanding about the difference between German-style beers and others. At the end of the day, it’s all about malts, hops and yeast for any beer, but the beer heritage in Germany is deep and unique.

So, for anyone out there who is about to crash an Oktoberfest celebration – and there will be a lot of you – here’s a brief guide to some of the more recognizable beer styles and what to expect from them (with a little help from the very complete list at GermanBeerInstitute.com).

Altbier: This is a style on which I cut my “good” beer teeth at my local brewery back in the 1990s. It is copper in color, cool-fermented, medium-bodied and ultimately just really drinkable. I love that there is a slightly dry finish to these beers. Great with a pretzel and beer cheese. Sierra Nevada brewed a version of this with Victory this year.

Berliner Weisse: Sometimes called “the people’s champagne,” this is a tart, spritzy, refreshing beer that is low in alcohol and high in drinkability, especially in summer months when you need a thirst quencher. This is one that can only be brewed in Berlin, so you may not run across it at your local event. Then again, this isn’t Germany. Florida brewery Funky Buddha does a Berliner Weisse series you may want to check out.

Bockbier: Now we’re talking. This is a beautifully robust beer that usually is consumed in spring, but is perfect for fall and winter as well. It’s dark in color, heavy and malty, yet a smooth and drinkable beer that begs to be sipped and savored. Oh, and word to the wise: they come in at more than 8 percent ABV. La Trappe makes one of the world’s more popular bocks; proceed with caution.

Doppelbock: Another bock-style beer that is a heavier version of a Bavarian bock. Starting at 7 percent ABV, this is another one that begs a designated driver. Or at least a really sturdy liver. My favorite Doppelbock is Celebrator, which comes from Ayinger. So smooth.

Dunkel: This is basically a mild, dark lager beer that is malt forward and gently hopped. Coming in at around 5 percent ABV, it’s drinkable and perfect for a fall romp in a beer garden. Keep your elbows up. And if you’re looking for a Dunkel outside a festival, Hacker-Pschorr makes a classic version.

Hefeweizen: Some call this Weissbier, but it’s an unfilitered, easy-to-drink wheat beer. More of a summer beer, but hey, if you’re offered one at an Oktoberfest event, you’d be a fool to turn it down. Hefeweizen and Weissbiers are everywhere (think Blue Moon and Shock Top), but I have a buddy that swears by Schneider Weisse.

Helles: A straw-colored, drinkable beer, this is a perfect entryway into German beer for the beginner. It usually comes in around 5 percent ABV, and if a light beer drinker can’t get through one of these without making a face, he or she probably should stick with iced tea. Helles is closely related to a style known as Dortmunder – check out Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold.

Photo by Yuting Hsu

Photo by Yuting Hsu

Kölsch: A German ale (not lager), Kölsch is the beer of Cologne and is one of the lighter entries into German brewing. It’s kind of a lighter cousin of Altbier, but employs a special yeast that helps give it a slightly fruity flavor. Reissdorf Kölsch is a classic example of this summer favorite.

Märzen: This might be considered the beer that founded Oktoberfest, as it came to be an annual October beer release. Wanting to get rid of it fast to make way for winter beers, German brewers began holding festivals to move it along. Thus, Oktoberfest. It’s an amberlager with a kick, sometimes yielding over 6 percent alcohol. Hundreds of these are currently on the market, from Sam Adams to Paulaner. Hell, why not try ’em all?

Pils or Pilsner: If you’re drinking a beer as you read this, there’s a good chance it’s a pilsner (or pilsener). Why? Because 9 out of 10 beers consumed worldwide are pilsners. You can chalk that up to American light beers technically being pilsners, but the fact is it is the world’s most popular beer style. It’s ultra-light and drinkable, perfect for those long sessions of watching football and flirting with bartenders. Look no farther than Pilsner Urquell.

Schwarzbier: A black lager that might fool people with its surprising drinkability, given its dark appearance. It’s rich and mild, with a subdued, malty character, lacking the hop bite of many light lager style beers. If your friends are the kind of people who think “dark” beer is a style, you could probably quaff a couple of these and convince them you’re drinking motor oil. Grab a Sprecher Black Bavarian and hold on to your taste buds.

That’s the short list. When you head to your nearby Oktoberfest to hoist a few lagers and do the chicken dance, that should get you started – maybe you can try one of each. For a list of Oktoberfest celebrations across the U.S., check out Gayot.com.

This post was originally published by AlcoholProfessor.com.

Report aimed at growing Louisville’s craft beer industry

Mayors_Beer_Report_2014_ver_2-1Saying “the pint glass is more than half full,” Mayor Greg Fischer this morning announced a report containing recommendations for furthering the rapid growth of Louisville’s craft beer industry.

The Local Brewery Work Group, appointed by Fischer earlier this year, developed the recommendations and strategies to maximize the local craft beer industry, increase its impact on jobs, culture and tourism, and renew the strong beer heritage Louisville once boasted. (Editor’s note: The author of this post — an expert on local beer — is part of the Work Group.)

The five recommendations range from developing an official beer trail and map of local breweries to changing beverage control laws to be more beer friendly to creating an internationally recognized event to spotlight beer that is aged in bourbon barrels.

“Like bourbon, the craft beer industry is red hot, nationally and locally, with new breweries and restaurant operations opening throughout our city and just across the river,” Fischer said during a press conference at Against the Grain Brewery and Smokehouse. “Our goal is to accelerate this growth and maximize the benefit to our economy, culture and tourism.

“Also like bourbon, craft beer is an increasingly vital part of our culinary scene and a key ingredient in our goal of making Louisville the best food and beverage city in the world.”

Fischer also noted that, nationally, sales of craft beer rose by 18 percent in 2013, while overall beer sales actually declined. The growth has happened locally as well; currently, the Louisville Metro area is home to a number of breweries, with several new ones in the process of opening.

“The growth of the brewing industry in the Louisville area coincides with the locavore food movement we are seeing now,” said John King, executive director of the Kentucky Guild of Brewers, in a press release distributed at the press conference. “Our growth as an industry is a direct result of our determination to put Louisville on the map as a top beer destination in the United States.”

The five key recommendations are:

  • Develop an official beer trail/beer map/website/video combination to help promote all local breweries and offer both residents and visitors information on what sets the breweries apart, where they are located, and offer virtual and printed maps that can be seen/distributed at the breweries and other places around town. A bike trail would also be developed with local artists and breweries creating bike racks in front of each brewery.
  • Change Alcohol Beverage Control laws to be more beer friendly. Currently, it is a difficult and winding process to open a brewery, and with the brewing community growing in Louisville and around the state, breweries feel the process should be more intuitive and organized. In addition, it remains difficult for breweries to hold special events, conduct tastings and other promotional activities.
  • Represent local breweries and their products in more city events, functions and venues. Since alcoholic beverages must run through distributors as part of the post-Prohibition three-tier system, it can be difficult for smaller, local breweries to be represented at large events. The goal is to bring down the walls that have blocked local breweries so they can be represented, specifically in city-affiliated events and venues.
  • Create a bourbon-barrel event that will be recognized nationally and internationally. Bourbon is a natural draw, which makes bourbon barrel-aged beer a logical and national way to represent Louisville’s brewing community. Growing such an event not only promotes beer hand-in-hand with the state’s signature spirit, it also draws attention from around the U.S. that Louisville is, indeed, a worthy beer destination as well as a bourbon and dining destination.
  • Reconnect Louisville with its brewing heritage. Many in the city are unaware of the rich history of brewing in Louisville, and the rich heritage in beer culture in general. Louisville was once not just a thriving brewing hub, but also filled with lush, German beer gardens and beer celebrations that can and should be revived today to help promote local brewing culture.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer chats with ATG's Sam Cruz following Monday's press conference.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer chats with ATG’s Sam Cruz following Monday’s press conference.

Sam Cruz, a co-owner of Against the Grain, spoke at the well-attended press conference as well, and presented Fischer with a growler of My Old Kentucky Common, which is based on a beer style created in Louisville in the 1800s.

Fischer said the city will work with the Kentucky Guild of Brewers, the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the breweries to implement and refine the report’s recommendations. He said the report already is having an impact in the form of ReSurfaced, which transformed a vacant area at 615 W. Main St. into a pop-up plaza for craft beer, music and art. Local breweries helped develop the project.

The work group included representatives from area breweries including Against the Grain Brewery, Apocalypse Beer Works, Beer Engine, Bluegrass Brewing Company, Falls City Brewing, Gordon Biersch and New Albanian Brewing Company, the Kentucky Guild of Brewers, representatives from the city and Convention and Visitors Bureau and other consultants.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

Inaugural National Homebrew Contest Will Benefit Autism Charity, Bring Together America’s Best Home Brewers

Photo by Nomadic Lass.

Photo by Nomadic Lass.

Homebrew is about making beer for yourself and your friends. Well, and the homebrew group you joined a couple of years ago. Well, and for that big annual barbecue you have in your backyard. And maybe the state fair.

Oh yeah, and for the new Hop Courage Great American Homebrew Contest. Yep, a national homebrew competition. That’s like all the southern grandmothers getting together to compare biscuits. Except with really, really good beer involved, for a great cause, and there will be far fewer old ladies.

Sponsored by Rogue Ales and All About Beer Magazine, Hop Courage is a sanctioned competition that will benefit the Beer Autism Hope movement, which AlcoholProfessor.com wrote about recently.

Basically, it’s like most homebrew competitions, but on a grand scale – participants will get feedback from top-tier national judges as well as a chance to win awards and prizes such as premium brewing equipment, cash, VIP brewery trips and more. And the coup de gras? The winner of the best in show grand prize wins a VIP trip for two to visit Rogue Ales in Oregon and brew the winning recipe with a Rogue brewer.

Of course, there’s plenty of coolness in the cause. The charity was inspired by Lance Rice, a beer historian with autism, who began a 30,000-mile brewery tour in the summer of 2013 to raise awareness for autism. His nephew Aaron has been his tour guide and is the one leading the charge to not only benefit the autism charity, but other charities within the brewing communities he and Lance visit.

“The mission of Hop Courage is to bring the beer community together to celebrate the bold creativity and benevolent spirit of craft beer in order to give back,” Aaron Rice said in a press release. “Brew good, do good.”

Chris Thomas, a Beer Autism Hope spokesman, when asked how the idea came about, responded, “As all great ideas do – it was over beers.”

Asked to extrapolate, he said the idea arose about eight months ago when the tour crew saw the potential to bring together the craft beer and home brewing communities in a unique and large scale way.

“We began discussions with Rogue roughly four months ago,” Thomas said, “and as an original Beer Autism Hope brewery supporter, they continued to be involved with our ongoing philanthropic efforts to support autism through beer.”

Thomas said All About Beer came on board a little over a month prior to the launch, “when we realized how powerful Hop Courage Great American Homebrew Contest could be. After learning what the competition was for and supporting, All About Beer came on right away.”

Home brewers can register online. The fee is $30 ($25 if you get there quickly) and there are dozens of categories, from Light American Lager to Strong Scotch Ale to Imperial IPA to Imperial IPA to Applewine. Basically, if you brew it, there’s probably a category for it. Judging will take place on March 21 in Los Angeles. The grand prize winner will be announced on National Beer Autism Hope Day, April 8, 2015.

Hop Courage is also looking for volunteers, be it judges, stewards or just people to help make this thing happen. Those interested in getting involved can also sign up online.

“We are proud to embrace our homebrewing roots while supporting a good cause,” Brett Joyce, president of Rogue Ales, said. “Our brewmaster of 25 years, John Maier, was named National Homebrewer of the Year in 1988 and we’re honored to continue our relationship with the homebrewing community by sponsoring the first Hop Courage homebrew competition.”

“We are very excited to be involved to support Hop Courage,” Christopher Rice, President and Publisher of All About Beer Magazine, said. “Having been involved with homebrew contests for a long time, we are very excited about supporting an event with a national focus and for such a worthwhile mission.”

This post was originally published by AlcoholProfessor.com.

West Sixth Brewing to release limited edition County Series beer

West Sixth COuntryDirect from West Sixth Brewing:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
First beer, called “Washington County” will be available next week

Lexington, KY – October 7th, 2014
 
West Sixth Brewing announced today the creation of a new series of limited edition beers called the “West Sixth County Series”.
 
“We’re excited to announce a new project here at West Sixth — the West Sixth County Series! For the first time ever, we’re going to release a series of small-release bottle conditioned beers celebrating the unique qualities and character of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”  said founder Ben Self

West Sixth plans to release around 3 different beers each year, in extremely limited quantities, each named after a different Kentucky county.

West Sixth Brewing head brewer and co-founder Robin Sither said “The first beer of our series is American Wild Sour Ale we’re calling Washington County. Nearly a year in the making, the base beer for this ale is a blend of berliner weisse and saison, with secondary fermentation provided by our friend Brettanomyces lambicus in a used red wine barrel.  Tart, crisp, and funky, it weighs in around 7% ABV with high effervescence created during the bottle conditioning.” 

Founder Brady Barlow said, “Being the first in our series we’ve named this wild ale after Washington County, the first county created in Kentucky after our fair Commonwealth was founded.   There are only 225 750ml bottles available, and once they’re gone, they’re gone.” 

The limited edition bottles feature labels designed in partnership with Cricket Press.  Each bottle was hand-bottled and hand-labeled and is individually numbered.  The label features a cut of the state on the back.

These beers will go on sale next Monday, October 13th, at 5pm. Bottles will be $20 and will be limited to one bottle per person since supplies are so limited.

If You’re Making Chili, Be Sure To Use the Right Beer

Photo by makatcheks.

Photo by makatcheks.

One of my best friends is a minister; Kory is in his 40s and has never tasted alcohol before. But when he decided to enter a chili contest a few years ago, he reached out with a question: “What kind of beer do you use to make your chili?”

Yeah, I make pretty good chili. And to me, beer is an essential ingredient. What I’ve found over the years is that different styles of beers can add different flavors and textures. What I do is just choose the beer I want, pour in a twelve ounce bottle once all the other ingredients are there and the chili is ready to simmer.

Oh, and be aware that many recipes just say “one 12-ounce bottles of beer.” Some even say absurd things like “one bottle of beer (such as Budweiser).” These are the ones who aren’t looking deeper for an added flavor layer. I guess that’s no crime, but if you’re going to make chili, why not go for it?

Red Ale

I don’t remember what specific beer I recommended to Kory back then (and I always wondered what he did with the other five bottles in the six-pack), but at the time I was heavily into making what I called “red ale chili.”

The reason I was so into it is that red ale was sort of my gateway beer back in the 1990s, starting with a beer by Bluegrass Brewing Company in my hometown of Louisville, Ky. (This was actually a German-style altbier, but it did the trick.)

But the maltiness of a red ale, for me, adds just a bit of sweetness to the mix, a nice little hint of something that isn’t spice – and my chili has plenty of spice. The times I made this beer I used things like Sam Adams Light (do they still make that stuff?) and Killian’s Irish Red – once, I even used a Murphy’s Irish Red – but with the proliferation of craft beer now, the possibilities are insane.

But imagine putting something like a Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale into a bowl of chili, with all its caramel malt character. Now you’re talking.

A classic English-style pale ale works nicely here, too.

Pale Ales

Photo by Andy Pucko.

Photo by Andy Pucko.

As time went by, my taste buds moved toward American Pale Ales and then India Pale Ales, so I started experimenting with those as an ingredient in my chili. What I found was that the hop bitterness enhances the flavor of the peppers, while adding a distinctive bite to the mixture.

I would be hesitant to use a really big IPA, like an 2XIPA or an imperial, but a good 50 to 75 IBU IPA has worked for me in the past. Think Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, or something a tad milder like a Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale. In fact, pretty much any American-style IPA, from a Cigar City Jai Alai (delicious!) to a Bell’s Two Hearted to a Victory Hop Devil, would be a good one to start with.

I’ve begun using IPAs in my chili primarily because I do tend to make it so spicy. Hops and spice go together, so mixing them can help enhance both. Hey, why else would people drink beer with hot wings?

And if you start to like IPA chili, well, then you can consider graduating into the “big” IPAs. Let your taste buds be your guide.

Stout

Stout is a perfect base ingredient for stew, so it’s also a natural ingredient for chili. Hey, chili is a kind of stew, right? And we know that beef goes well with stouts.

You can go for the rich malts of a time-honored favorite like Guinness, but imagine the possibilities. We talked about the addition of sweetness to a spicy pot of chili. I found more than one recipe online that called for Samuel Adams Cream Stout as the beer of choice, which is intriguing to consider.

Good lord, what would Young’s Double Chocolate Stout taste like in chili? It’s a question worth asking if you can bring yourself to part with a bottle of it.

Others

As I said above, let your taste buds be your guide. Use your favorite chili recipe (I always use my own, but there are a bajillion of them on the InterWeb) and just experiment with each batch. What would chili taste like with a strong ale, for instance? Something like a Lightning Brewery Old Tempestuous, perhaps? Or a bourbon-barrel-aged beer like Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale? (Hey, we don’t mess around here in Bourbon Country!)

And there seem to be more and more pepper beers rising to the surface these days, beers that pair hops with pepper spice from the get-go. How could you go wrong with one of those?

The sky is the limit, and your chili palette is blank. And once you find the beer that’s right for your chili, you’ll know what to do with the remaining five bottles. To get you started, here’s a recipe from epicurious.com for that Sam Adams Cream Stout chili. Enjoy.

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 5 pounds ground chuck
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 1/2 pounds onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds red bell peppers, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 pounds yellow bell peppers, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 large jalapeño chiles with seeds, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
  • 7 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons (packed) minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce*
  • 2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes with added puree
  • 2 15-ounce cans kidney beans, drained
  • 1 12-ounce bottle dark beer (such as Sam Adams Cream Stout)
  • Sour cream
  • Chopped green onions
  • Coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese

Preparation

Toast cumin and coriander in skillet over medium heat until darker and beginning to smoke, about 4 minutes. Cool.

Sauté beef in heavy large pot over medium-high heat until no longer pink, breaking up with spoon, about 8 minutes. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, all bell peppers, and jalapeños. Sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 15 minutes. Add mixture to pot with meat. Mix in toasted spices, chili powder, and chipotle chiles. Add crushed tomatoes, beans, and beer. Bring chili to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated up to 2 days (or freeze up to 1 month). Rewarm over medium-low heat.

Ladle chili into bowls. Serve with sour cream, green onions, and cheese.

This post was originally published by AlcoholProfessor.com.

Bank Street Brewhouse unveils new food menu … sort of

Photo by Robyn Lee.

Photo by Robyn Lee.

Apparently, Bank Street Brewhouse, New Albanian Brewing Company’s downtown New Albany tap room, once again has a food menu.

But before you start to salivate while thinking about pommes frites in a Pavlovian frenzy, know that the “menu” is, shall we say, somewhat limited. Posts by Roadtrippers.com and other sites revealed this new food offering this week, which is in response to Indiana state law requirements.

Per IC 7.1-2-3-7 and 905 IAC 1-20-1 (or something like that), establishments that serve alcohol by the drink in Indiana absolutely, positively must have food service available at all times that can serve a minimum of 25 people. That law, which is nearly 70 years old, also pertains to Bank Street Brewhouse, which ceased food service in May.

And so, to avoid having the law dogs descend upon the small brewery and tap room with citations and decrees and axes, Bank Street management has added a food menu that adheres to these state requirements. Food is once again available at the tap room.

There are actually several options spelled out as the mandatory minimum food offering at an establishment such as Bank Street Brewhouse, according to this sacred law: hot soups, hot sandwiches, coffee, milk and soft drinks. (Your tax dollars at work, Hoosiers.)

As such, here is the new Bank Street menu:

Our Famous Hot Dog Sandwich: Microwaved to perfection, including both weenie and bun, sans condiments. $10.

Chef Campbell’s Soup of the Day: Served in a bowl. Your choice of whichever can is on top of the stack. $10.

Instant Coffee: Caffeinated only. Available black, or black. $5.

Powdered Milk: With or without water. $5.

Sprecher Craft Soft Drinks: Different flavors … market pricing.

If you are scoring at home, that’s Bank Street Brewhouse 1, Big Government 0.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

Lock, Stock & Smoking Barrels promises to be ‘unique, special’ brew fest

Lock Stock barrel picWhen Louisville Craft Beer Week commences on Sept. 12, there will be a new event in town – one that is a fully new concept.

That concept is called Lock, Stock & Smoking Barrels, and on Saturday, Sept. 20, it will feature a dozen barrel-aged beers – using brandy barrels, mind you – brewed just for the event by local and regional breweries. It was the brainchild of John King, executive director of the Kentucky Guild of Brewers. While Louisville breweries often use bourbon barrels to age beer, brandy-barrel beer is a new concept locally.

He ran into Joe Heron, co-founder of Copper & Kings Distillery in Butchertown, and pitched the idea.

“This has never been done before during craft beer week,” King said. “We’re so bourbon focused. … I had this idea; there is a local brandy place that’s brand new. Why don’t we become friends with them? Let’s be the first ones to use their barrels.”

King pitched the idea to Heron, who works out at the same gym, and discussions commenced regarding logistics.

“I initially thought, ‘They’re so busy, they might not go with it,’” King said. But he was wrong. In fact, Heron had a similar idea in mind already.

“We always imagined beer being aged in brandy barrels,” Heron said. “This was always on our agenda. That John enabled us to do it in concert with all the regional brewers was simply serendipitous, as all the greatest things always are.”

The beers sound, well, delicious. The barrels are Copper and Kings apple or grape brandy barrels, by way of fresh bourbon barrels from Woodford Reserve. Here are a couple of the entries:

  • Barreling In, by Great Flood Brewing, is a Belgian golden strong ale aged in a brandy barrel. This one packs a 9.0 percent alcohol by volume wallop. (King said he had a pre-taste and that it is coming along nicely.)
  • Never Be Gold, by Beer Engine, an English barleywine aged in a brandy barrel. This will be another big one.
  • Mild Davis, by Bluegrass Brewing Company in St. Matthews, an English mild aged in a brandy barrel.
  • Takashi, from Against the Grain, which is an imperial stout aged in a brandy barrel. Named after the lovable character from “Revenge of the Nerds,” this may end up tasting like the distant cousin to the brewery’s popular Bo & Luke series.

That’s just a small taste of what’s in store. There will be other beers available as well, but you won’t want to miss these limited-edition brews. Heron certainly is looking forward to tasting them.

Lock Stock“The beers are still aging,” he said. “The concepts are all terrific – but still in the barrels, so I am going to have to taste them all on the day” of the event.

The event is broken up into two sessions – one during the afternoon, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., and one in the evening, 4-7 p.m.

Lock, Stock & Smoking Barrels also will help raise funds for the Kentucky Waterways Alliance. In addition, there will be live music by the Kentucky City Boys. Of course, you’ll want to have something to wash down with these beers, so Feast BBQ will be having a pig roast.

In addition, there will be Copper & Kings brandy and special brandy cocktails available, and attendees will be able to take tours of the distillery. There also will be copies of “Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft” available at the evening session.

Heron said he is “really excited about the ambitious and expansive nature of the entire ‘smoking barrel’ concept – sublime beers aged in brandy barrels, cask strength brandy straight from the barrel, and also the rain barrel program from the Beargrass Creek Alliance. This imaginative scope says a lot about where we live.”

“It’s very unique,” King said. “And for a lot of these breweries, it’s the first time they have used brandy barrels, especially locally owned ones.”

Tickets are $45 per session, and for a limited time can be purchased at a discount online (discount code: brandyrocks). Discounted tickets ($15) are available for designated drivers.

King urged people to enjoy the unique beers while they can.

“A lot of these beers, you’ll never get to drink them again,” he said. “A lot of them, this is it – the rest, they’ll be going to out-of-state festivals.”

“I’ve been a to a lot of beer fests around the country … and tried some very cool beers and ciders,” Heron added. “But this is about as unique and special as I have ever seen.”

Drink up.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

‘Brew on premise’ concept comes to Louisville for the first time

Brew 5Paul Young was attending film school at the University of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina ripped her way through the city, leveling huge sections of the landscape. Thousands of lives were turned upside down. One of those lives was Young’s.

“Job, school, friends – gone,” he said, looking back on that time in 2005.

It sent him packing back to Louisville, where he grew up, not exactly knowing what he wanted to do. His first instinct was to open a brewery – mostly, he just knew he wanted to create something that would last. But a friend told him running a brewery also involved running a bar, and gave him a book about doing so.

“I started researching what it would take to run a bar,” he said, “and I thought, ‘I don’t want to do that.’”

That’s how My Old Kentucky Homebrew was born in 2009. And this week (if the paperwork is approved as expected), his five-year project is slated to become one of only a handful of facilities to offer “brew on premise” services to home brewers. It will be the first one ever in Louisville.

“People around here have talked about doing them,” Young said, “but this is going to be the first fully devoted brew on premise that I know of.”

Brew on premise is not a unique concept, but it is a rare one. Young, who was in his early 20s at the time, did his research by visiting similar concepts in Cleveland and in Maryland; he said there are several brew on premise facilities on the west coast, but many of those focus on wine.

What it means, essentially, is that a home brewer who is accustomed to brewing small batches of a gallon or two at a time can expand their recipes and brew up to 15 gallons using My Old Kentucky Homebrew’s three-barrel brewing system. For a batch that would yield about 90 bottles of beer, Young said, a brewer can expect to spend around $200 (not including bottles).

The good news is that the entire operation is supervised. And it’s a step by step process that even a novice brewer can follow.

First, you either bring your own recipe or you choose one from a selection available at My Old Kentucky Homebrew. Some are original to the store, some are generic recipes , and some are recipes for popular craft beers such as Sweetwater 420 IPA.

Breew 6Next, you pick your ingredients from the in-store stock. My Old Kentucky Homebrew has it all, from hops to yeast to malt extract. Then you brew the wort. Once the wort is ready, it is transferred to buckets by staff, and the brewer pitches the yeast. It then goes to the fermenting room, which is kept at around 68 degrees, 24 hours a day.

Once the beer is ready, it is kegged, and then the brewer can use the bottling system at My Old Kentucky Homebrew to bottle the beer. At that point, it’s all about drinking it, which obviously is the best part.

The fermenting room can hold 144 buckets of wort, while the brewing system is capable of brewing six batches at a time, up to 15 gallons each. The goal, he said, is to brew six batches per day. And perhaps the best part of it all is that all the cleanup and sterilization of the equipment falls to the crew at My Old Kentucky Home Brew.

“We do all the nasty stuff,” Young said.

At first, the system will be available at specific times, but Young envisions it going to seven days a week. And, he said, he believes the service will be in quick demand.

“I get phone calls about it every day,” he said. “Our belief is it is going to fill up very fast.”

Brew 3Young also envisions three different “tiers” of brewing. The first is for inexperienced home brewers who will need supervision and don’t have bottling equipment or bottles. But experienced brewers will be able to brew larger batches and then finish the beer themselves, meaning their cost will be lower. Perhaps most interestingly, Young ultimately wants to offer special event brewing – for instance, if a couple wants to brew a special beer for their wedding reception, they can invite the wedding party in to do a catered brew-in event.

“Then when the time comes, they will have this unique beer that is only theirs,” Young said.

And making one’s own beer is really what Old Kentucky Home Brew has always been about. Brew on premise, Young said, is “an extension of what we’re already doing.”

This new feature simply enhances the possibilities. If someone has been brewing at home on a stovetop, this gives them the opportunity to take it a step farther.

“It’s 100 percent home brewing,” Young said. “It’s just not at home.”

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

The New Domains Are Here – What Will Your .beer URL Be?

dot-beerBeer is taking over the world. As early as this September, you will even be able to register a domain name with the suffix .beer. This is not a joke.

Just go to the .beer Registry and get ready to sign up for your URL. Got a new brewery in the works? You no longer have to mess with some silly .com address – and let’s face it, all the good URLs in that domain have already been claimed. (Even GetDrunk.com is taken – I checked.)

Seriously, though, one of the more recent small breweries to open in my home city of Louisville, Ky., is Great Flood Brewing. How cool would the URL GreatFlood.beer be for the owners of that business?

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has been rolling out these product- or industry-specific vanity names since last year; they are known as known as “generic top-level domains,” or gTLDs.

Late last year there were maybe a couple dozen of these domains. Currently, more than 1,300 gTLDs are in queue to be “delegated,” meaning they then become part of the Internet’s “root code.” That means they are recognized by the Internet.

For instance, .gifts has been delegated, so if your Aunt Edna is opening a local gift boutique, she may want to consider Ednas.gifts. And if you’re a motorcycle dealer in Philadelphia, you may want to consider Philly.suzuki. (Suzuki is also the Japanese word for “striped bass,” so if you’re in the sushi business, you know what to do.)

But .beer? For a beer writer and all-around beer enthusiast, it staggers the imagination. I have a beer blog at 502Brews.com, but what could I have named it if I’d known .beer was available? 502.beer would be perfect.

The folks at ICANN know beer is taking over.

“.beer stands out from the generic .com websites,” ICANN said in a press release. “.beer offers businesses outstanding new sales and marketing opportunities, such as rebranding to an outstanding .beer name instead of a long and confusing .com name; creating new promotions/product launches; or simply adding another virtual door to their existing website.”

If this catches on, think of what’s about to happen in the world of corporate beer. Marketers starving for ideas – at least based on the silly commercials I see during football games – have a whole new toy at their disposal.

Think about it: KingOf.beer. FindYourBeach.beer. TheLightBeerThatInventedLight.beer. YouAndYourFriendsWillBeCoolerIfYouDrinkThisSwill.beer. (Man, it could get really ugly.)

But these domains won’t be open to so-called “squatters,” or people looking to steal a brand name. If your name is Joe Miller, you can’t automatically register Miller.beer because, clearly, that suggests a brand name that Joe Miller from Somewhere, U.S.A., doesn’t have a trademark to.

Beer Registry screen capAccording to the .beer Registry website, specific URLs will actually become available to specific parties at different times and prices. Trademark holders will need to register with the Trademark Clearinghouse for authentication.

Once the process of handing out trademark .beer URLs is complete, then comes a “landrush auction,” in which a URL claimed by more than one party would be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Open registration – which is first come, first served – would begin after that.

“When you might be able to officially register a new .beer domain name,” the site says, “will depend on whether you hold trademark rights, or are a member of a ‘beer’ community, if one exists, and sometimes, how much you are willing to pay.”

For those who want a specific URL – Brooklyn.beer, anyone? – there is also a watch list. The timeline on how this all plays out isn’t clear, but it’s coming.

It’s an interesting concept, and it was inevitable when you stop to think about it. It will be even more fascinating to see if these new domains grow. In five years, they may be fair game to us all, for all we know. Heck, maybe even sooner. I’m already envisioning my URL as being OneMore.beer. Or hell, maybe just Mmmm.beer.

And in case you are wondering – yes, .wine is one of the many gTLDs coming available, along with .bar and .pub. Can .booze be far behind?

This post was originally published by AlcoholProfessor.com.