New Albanian Wins, at Least for Now

louisville beer - new albanian brewing companyLouisville beer enthusiasts probably already know that an Indiana Attorney General’s office advisory board has declared that the Floyd County Health Department’s requirement that New Albanian Brewing Company and other vendors pay a fee to sell their wares is in direct contradiction to state regulations.

We knew this was the case all along, because Roger Baylor does his due diligence, but now a higher authority has backed up this assertion. So what now? I asked Roger what would become of the money that had been illegally collected and whether NABC had heard anything from the health department.

“The FCHD has not responded, and we don’t expect them to,” Baylor wrote in an e-mail. “It’s a major beat
down from what is, in essence, their own attorney of last resort.”

He said the opinion came about because NABC asked the Brewers of Indiana Guild for help, and that group’s attorney brought the issue to the attention of the Alcohol & Tobacco Commission, which in turn asked for the AG’s office to rule. The ruling was based in part because of a similar case called City of Fort Wayne v. Kotosopoulos, 704 N.E.2d 1069 (1992). It was pretty much the same situation, and I’ll spare you all the what-fors and wheretos.

“I’m told that the ATC has adopted (or adapted?) the ruling as part of their official interpretive rule book, as applies specifically to the class of temporary permit holders specified in the advisory opinion,” Baylor wrote. “It remains interpretive/unofficial until a court might come to rule on a specific case, as with Fort Wayne v Kotsopoulos.”

So, yes, it’s a victory. Sort of. Because there’s no guarantee the Grinches at the health department plan to play ball. Baylor said the fees paid out amounted to less than $200, so NABC isn’t exactly reeling from that loss. But the principle remains: The health department is wrong, has now been proven so in the opinion of the freaking Attorney General’s office, and as such the former should pay back all those fees. Like, now.

Baylor said he’s inclined to let that one go, for the most part, however.

“NABC’s lawyer does not believe we’d get anywhere asking for the fees to be returned … because it was denied previously when we appealed to the FCHD board,” he wrote. “I’m trying to devise a way of asking the department for these to be returned, with the objective of us donating the money in turn to a worthy non-profit.”

That would be a nice bow on the victory, if indeed true victory comes. Until we know what the health department’s next move is, that remains a mystery.

“I see it as a stalemate of sorts, advantage NABC,” Baylor said, “with some welcomed documentation on our side. Time will tell.”

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FCHD Apparently Unaware Human Pathogens Don’t Grow in Beer

louisville beer - fchd truck

Really? (Click to view full size.)

In the Middle Ages, drinking water often was scarce. Why? Because most water was unfit for human consumption. In a lot of cases, if you drank it, you got sick. Sometimes worse.

So the poor drank beer, cider or mead, and the rich typically would drink wine. In fact, beer at this time was seen as a healthy drink (probably because unlike water, it couldn’t kill you … unless you drank a LOT of it).

It is well documented that human pathogens can’t grow in beer. Sure, a beer can spoil, but it isn’t going to grow E. Coli and put you in the ground. And that isn’t due to the alcohol, as many assume; it’s due to the high pH content.

In fact, some believe beer had a hand in saving us as a species, thanks to the fact that many people in Medieval times died young because of the pathogens that existed in drinking water.

“But beer is a natural antibiotic,” wrote Marty Russell on DJJournal.com in 2010. “In fact, no known human pathogen can survive in beer. So switching from water to beer probably saved our early ancestors from extinction, at least some of them. Washington Post columnist George Will wrote in a 2008 piece that researchers believe beer may also have helped us evolve as a species by weeding out those of us who probably weren’t going to make it anyway.”

All of which just makes the latest tactic by the Floyd County Health Department seem so, well, “juvenile.”

New Albanian Brewing Company’s ongoing battle with the FCHD has been well documented, and Roger Baylor reported on his blog recently that the department had taken a photo outside Bank Street Brew House of a FCHD truck. Naturally, all following the story wondered what the department had up its sleeve. The answer to that wonder is the photo above, which apparently was posted on the department’s website with a headline about how hard the department is working to “keep food safe,” and captioned with sad rhetoric about the dangers of food-borne diseases: specifically, human pathogens that cannot grow in beer.

The suggestion, of course, is that the FCHD had at some point been dispatched to Bank Street to deal with some sort of health issue, which of course is entirely untrue.

The health department has officially gone too far, and has made itself look vindictive, pathetic and even a bit stupid in the process. In fact, it’s a bit offensive to me that those behind this lunacy honestly believe they can sway people with such tactics. In essence, they are insulting the public’s intelligence by assuming we don’t know the difference … or are too lazy to simply look up the facts on Google, as they should have done. So, honestly, we all should feel we’re part of this battle, and should be as angered by the public injustice, and this slap at our collective intelligence, as Baylor is.

Baylor has urged by way of Facebook that we wait to see what the department’s decision is on his appeal, a decision which should be presented this week. If the FCHD continues to defy its own policies and make a total mockery of due process and, frankly, government in general, there are more steps that can be taken. And such steps will. Baylor is determined to see this through, and his support seems to grow in the meantime. I, for one, can’t wait.

(And yes, I know the Floyd County Health Department understands that human pathogens don’t grow in beer, making the  headline of this entry initially misleading. I just can’t control my sarcasm sometimes.)

FCHD Expected to Make PourGate Decision by Next Week

louisville beer - new albanian brewing companyI won’t keep repeating why I think the Floyd County Health Department is completely unjustified in this situation, but I will provide you the link to Roger Baylor’s rundown of yesterday’s hearing regarding PourGate (aka NABC vs. FCHD). He provides an overview, as well as links to both his case and the health department’s.

The short version is that the department has seven days to issue a decision following yesterday’s hearing. I hope Roger’s continued efforts to fight this will pay off in justice being done.

And I’m still chuckling over his phrase “elderly punk on dope” in link No. 2.

NABC vs. Floyd County Health Department Hearing is July 25

louisville beer - NABC vs health department

Anti-Floyd County Health Department poster, anyone?

Roger Baylor reports over at his blog that in the New Albanian Brewing vs. Floyd County Health Department saga, a hearing is set for the department to hear Baylor’s appeal of a temporary food permit citation forced on him and other vendors back in June.

Forcing beer vendors to obtain a temporary food permit, Baylor says, was unprecedented; in addition, alcohol is not governed by local departments of health in Indiana. (See: State of Indiana Food Handling Certification Rule.)

In the latest turn of events, the department of health set a hearing for Thursday, July 25, at 5:30 p.m., but did not alert Baylor by mail, as required. In his blog post, Baylor says he found out by way of his attorney.

This tactic flies in the face of the appeals process, according to the department’s own policies. Baylor posted these two passages from said appeals policy:

“Upon the Health Officer’s receipt of such request, the Hearing Board shall hear the matter in an open hearing after at least five-days’ written notice of the time, place and nature thereof.”

and

“The notice of the hearing date shall be served upon the operator requesting the review by delivering such notice to the address of the bed and breakfast establishment, retail food establishment or temporary food establishment listed on the permit application or by facsimile or to such other address (if within Floyd County), as the operator shall designate in the letter of request to the Health Officer. Such delivery may be made by leaving the notice at the required address or by regular U.S. Mail.”

You know, it’s pretty sickening to watch a government agency at any level pull this kind of crap. This has all the elements of a good old-fashioned pissing match, with one major problem: One party is clearly right, and the other is clearly wrong. So, what’s the health department’s motivation now? Is it the $20 they’ll get from Baylor for every food permit he is forced to obtain? Or is simply another strong-armed cover up?

Baylor also reports that his request for records of previous permit citations has not been fulfilled, which suggests the health department knows its sudden governance over beer-pouring is unprecedented and, in fact, flat-out unsupported by any sort of law. But god forbid they admit that in an open forum.

Assuming Baylor’s appeal will be unceremoniously denied, file this one under “You Can’t Fight City Hall.” It doesn’t matter if you’re right and they’re wrong.