After a quarter century, Roger Baylor will move on from New Albanian Brewing Company


Roger Baylor.

Twenty-five years ago, Roger Baylor got a long-haul job selling beer; he and wife Amy, along with her sister Kate Lewison, took over a business that had belonged to the former’s father, Richard O’Connell. This is how Sportstime Pizza and Rich O’s Public House, which would later become New Albanian Brewing Company, were born.

Today, however, the principal owners are putting the finishing touches on a move that would place full ownership into the hands of Lewison and Amy Baylor (the Baylors divorced in the early 2000s but continued to be business partners).

Roger Baylor, well known for his long career in beer and brewing, is now running for mayor of New Albany. If he wins, that will be his new focus. If not, well, he’ll look for another path to follow. Either way, his position as the public face of New Albanian has come to an end. He already had announced he would step away if he won the election — instead, he’s moving on ahead of the decision. It was simply time, he says.

Regarding his growing involvement in local politics over the last few years, Baylor tells Insider, “It seems to be what I’ve been interested in for a while now and seems to be what I spend a lot of time on. That might actually tell me something about where my head is.”

And while he still enjoys beer and brewing, it’s become more of a hobby-level interest, in part because of the popularity of what is now termed “craft beer.”

When he started working at a liquor store back in the late 1980s, he was one of only a few in the area seeking out imported beer for sale. He wanted to spread the word, which would later lead to Rich O’s becoming a regional beer destination. But the growth in craft brewing has changed the hobby into an industry.

“We’re entering this phase where it’s all about money,” Baylor says, “and that’s never why I wanted to do it. I wanted to do it because it meant something; it stood for something. It was all the intangibles. Now it’s about who’s going to sell out to whom. It’s sickening. That doesn’t do anything for me.”

Meanwhile, Lewison and Amy Baylor simply want to keep their life’s work going forward. When New Albanian expanded in 2009, adding a production brewery with a taproom and restaurant in downtown New Albany in the form of Bank Street Brewhouse, things were looking up. However, sales didn’t flow as hoped. Last year, the restaurant portion of the business was suspended.

While the original pizzeria and public house continue to succeed, the failure of Bank Street to stand on its own has placed the business in deep debt. Lewison and Amy Baylor hope to take over and slowly but surely pay down the debt while also finding a way to make Bank Street succeed. Part of that, however, means learning the beer business while also working long days to keep the pizzeria running.

Amy and Kate“We’d like to keep the brewery, even though it’s done not so well,” Amy Baylor says. “It’s not so much that it doesn’t have potential or that I’ve given up the dream.”

“We’re taking Bank Street to where it is now, where it just evolved naturally,” Lewison adds.

And by that she means that their friend Stacie Bale from Earth Friends Café has taken over the kitchen after a few pop-up experiments and a failed partnership with Taco Punk. While Bank Street began with a focus on French-inspired fare, it now offers a fairly basic menu primarily made up of beer-infused appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches and flatbread pizzas. Baylor and Lewison also promise a special fall menu that Bale is especially excited to roll out.

While the sale isn’t complete, Amy Baylor says “it’s basically a done deal.” It’s just a matter of finalizing terms and taking care of all the details.

“It’s like any other divorce or selling a business or anything else,” Roger Baylor says. “It’s going to take a while to connect the dots and to do the paperwork. There’s a zillion legalisms.”

There was also the option to sell his portion to a third party, but the sides worked toward an in-house agreement. “It keeps it in the family that way,” Roger Baylor says.

He adds that he knows Lewison and Amy have a different vision from his own for the business, which is another reason he has decided to move on. He says they “have ideas where they want it to go; I think that’s fine. They are really interested in being a 100 percent female-owned brewery. It was their business anyway — they were already there when I showed up. To me, it has always been this big collective. I’m just part of it.”

So far, so good. “The last six months have been great,” Lewison says.

The plan for the sisters now is to continue to re-invest in the original business and to also make Bank Street profitable. David Pierce remains as head brewer, and Josh Hill, who had departed briefly earlier this year to become brewer at the forthcoming Floyd County Brewing Company, has returned. The next couple of years will be about paying down debt and figuring out some consistency in the bottle beer releases and what the brewery’s distribution future holds.

And Roger will move forward as a mayoral hopeful.

“Beer has moved more into the hobby realm for him,” Amy Baylor says. “Now he’s grown up and he wants to see if his voice can make a change in something other than beer. Can it do something for the whole town?”

“The mayoral thing just tells me my head is in some other place,” Roger Baylor adds, “and that it would be best for everyone (to move on).”

And if he doesn’t win, what will he do?

“Something different,” he says. “Not necessarily in or out of beer. In some way, shape or form, I’ve been selling beer for 32 or 33 years now. That’s a career.”

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

Great Flood Brewing Commemorates Year One with Celebration, Limited Bottle Release

Photo courtesy of Great Flood Brewing.

Photo courtesy of Great Flood Brewing.

Great Flood Brewing co-owner Vince Cain recalls that when he and his business partners opened the doors to the business nearly a year ago, one of the primary goals was for each of them to quit their full-time jobs to focus on the brewery within a year and a half.

“We’ve been working here together full-time since July,” he says.

Call it the little brewery that could as it nears its first birthday in its cozy spot at 2120 Bardstown Road, a birthday it will celebrate on Saturday, April 11, with a limited release of four bottled beers and a birthday party featuring a full tap lineup of 16 Great Flood beers (usually there are roughly seven or eight with guest drafts balancing out the taps).

Plenty has happened during that first year of business. Cain reminds that they were in the brewery space working on Christmas Day 2013, so for he and co-owners Matt Fuller and Zach Barnes, the timeframe is actually closer to a year and a half.

Upon opening, local beer enthusiasts famously drank Great Flood nearly completely out of beer the first weekend, forcing the owners to close up shop that first Sunday to regroup. But regroup they did, brewing the 100th batch of beer as a collaboration with Grind Burger Kitchen back in December. Along the way, the beer kept getting better, and the owners invested in some barrels and a new brite tank.

And with the beginning of 2015, the brewery began opening seven days a week, versus four when it started out. The demand was there. And in January, the Flood Liars Club, a 100-member exclusive mug club, was announced and sold out within days.

Of course, it wasn’t all rosy; earlier this year, one of the major music publishers, ASCAP, came calling: Great Flood had become a popular place for local and even touring bands to perform, something ownership wanted to do to help support local arts (the brewery has gone out of its way to be an active community contributor, from hanging local art on its walls to hosting charity events). But ASCAP demanded money, claiming the original artists that local performers covered needed to be paid.

It forced Great Flood to not only cancel a number of shows, but to stop hosting live music altogether. Cain noted that the brewery never profited – it never charged admission, and bands always got paid. (Unfortunately, publishers strong-arming small venues for publishing fees isn’t something new, as evidenced by a coffee house in Missouri that was forced to stop featuring live music due to such tactics.)

“They are asking for outrageous amounts of cash,” Cain said at the time, “and if we pay them we have to stop paying bands. I think what hurts me is I feel bad for our customers and the many local artists who were relying on us, frankly, for part of their income. I viewed it as more of a service to the neighborhood. And it’s just gone now because of the greed of whoever these people are.”

But luckily, quality beer keeps customers coming back, even without the live music. And the latest round of special-release brews is no exception.

Great Flood Four TulipsThere are a limited number of four-packs available of the four bottled beers, which include Tribulation, a bourbon barrel-aged stout made with coffee and oats; Double Eclipse, an imperial brown ale aged in bourbon barrels; Old Imperial ’37, an imperial porter made with vanilla and barrel aged; and Velvet Racer, an imperial red ale aged in bourbon barrels. Each bottle is 750ml, and once the four-packs sell out, the remaining individual bottles will go on sale.

Each of the high-gravity beers has its own delicious character, but Old Imperial ’37 especially satisfied, with its intense vanilla nose and chocolaty balance on the palate with a hint of oak in the finish. The beer feels like velvet in your mouth. Fuller said it was finished with Madagascar vanilla beans – this is not extract vanilla from a supermarket, evidence these beers got plenty of time and attention in the brewery.

Interestingly, Fuller also says the bottled versions of the beers are somehow even better than the draft versions poured for the Flood Liars Club in an exclusive preview on April 1.

“There’s nothing different,” he says, “but I swear to god they’re better somehow.”

Great Flood isn’t stopping with its one-year celebration, as Cain says the ownership trio is “actively pursuing a second location” that would be a production brewery that would serve not only the tap room but guest taps around town with 30- and 60-barrrel fermenters. He says he hopes that will be up and running “conservatively, by the end of 2015.” More bottles and possibly canning would potentially follow in 2016.

Asked if he expected Great Flood to succeed to the level it has, Cain says, “We had dreams it would go this well, but we didn’t have expectations.”

Great Flood will open for business at 5 p.m. on April 11 for its one-year birthday celebration, and four packs of the new brews will go on sale immediately.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

Red Yeti Brewing opens in Jeffersonville to big crowds

0524141504cThe good news is, when I walked into Red Yeti Brewing for the first time since it opened May 19, the place was buzzing with activity. The bad news – for me, at least – was that there had been such a lunchtime rush that I arrived just as the kitchen was being forced to shut down to prep more food for dinner.

So, I decided to just hang out at the bar, have a beer from the 10-tap craft menu, and take in the surroundings. And even without getting to try the fare, just based on my fairly brief and foodless visit, Red Yeti looks and feels like a winner right out of the gate.

The harried staff were friendly, even if they were clearly distracted by everything being thrown at them. Friendly bartender Caitlin, cousin of Red Yeti owner Brandi Ronaur, was apologetic and patient when informing disappointed would-be diners that the kitchen was closing temporarily.

I ordered a Founder’s Pale Ale – pricey at $7 for a pint – and chatted briefly with a woman sitting next to me who’d arrived in time to order a “briskit” sandwich and a bowl of cheese and ale soup. She was impressed by both, noting that the “soup” really ate more like a gravy. It nearly looked like actual beer cheese. Bring on the big pretzel.

When I first stepped into the old building – which at one time was a mortuary, according to Caitlin – back during winter, it was barren. The Ronaurs (Brandi’s husband Paul is the brewer) did quite a job with the décor, adding a striking black and red theme to mimic the distinctive logo, which plays nicely with the natural brick and a few rustic touches. It truly is a cozy place. On this sunny spring day, the al fresco seating outside the main entrance was hot real estate.

My beer came accompanied by an ice water in stemware (nice touch) and a request to see my I.D. In fact, the bartenders were carding everyone, so if you go, make sure you have identification. I witnessed a couple of people being turned away.

The menu, created by Chef Michael Bowe, is compact, but seems a cinch to be ever-evolving – when Red Yeti posted an image of it on Facebook on May 20, it noted, “Check out this week’s menu.” Hmm. That bodes well for more interesting dishes.

The briskit and burger come topped with an intriguing condiment called “bacon jam,” while the menu also offers tantalizing options like smoked pork belly and buttermilk fried chicken with bourbon and rosemary glaze with braised kale with bacon and onions, and grilled Indian corn.

There are also grilled wings with either honey bourbon barbecue sauce or spicy adobo, as well as hand-cut fries with Parmesan and roasted garlic aioli. The crab cake bites looked intriguing as well. Entrees are roughly $10-$15, while starters and salads are in the $5-$11 range. You can cap off your meal with funnel cake or a beer float made with Brooklyn Brewing Chocolate Stout.

On draft, there are plenty of Indiana beers rotating through, from New Albanian Brewing Company to Flat 12 to Tin Man to Oaken Barrel, along with a nice variety of others. Most drafts are $5 or $6, but some high-end pints run as much as $9. There are also eight more taps awaiting installation. (There are no corporate light swills to be had, just so you know.)

0524141503bCaitlin said Red Yeti won’t start brewing for a few months, pending federal inspections, and then dotting and crossing the requisite I’s and T’s. However, she said she tasted some of Paul’s beers at last year’s family Christmas party and assures me they will be worth the wait. The brewing equipment, a one-and-a-half-barrel system that apparently will be expanded to an eight-barrel system, is in place and appears ready to go, which is promising.

A few minutes later, it didn’t help my rumbling belly when a server brought out two burgers, presumably among the last orders of the lunch rush that day. They looked and smelled delicious. Caitlin noted that everything on the menu is sourced locally and fresh – even the buns for the sandwiches are made from scratch, which, along with having a thin staff as the restaurant gets its bearings, helps explain why Red Yeti ran out of prepped food.

Heck, I’m not even sure what I want to try first when I return. So I asked Caitlin what the best thing on the menu is.

“Hands down, the brisket,” she said. Hmm.

Guess I’ll try the brisket.

Next time, however, I’ll make sure I get there earlier.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

Beer roundup: Three brews to honor World Cup; live music at Great Flood

New Albanian Brewing Company has a lot going on in June. The busy month is highlighted by the release of three new beers honoring the three national football squads facing the USA in Group G of the opening round: Ghana, Portugal and Germany.

new-albanianNABC’s World Cup Trilogy series will be rolled out one by one over the course of 10 days at both Bank Street Brewhouse and the Pizzeria & Public House, beginning Monday, June 16, with Citra Passion Ale for the USA vs. Ghana match.

“Super Bock” will be tapped Sunday, June 22, at the Brewhouse when USA takes on Portugal. It will be available the following day at the other location.

For the USA vs. Germany contest on Thursday, June 26, Sticke Alt will be on tap at both locations. Get them while you can, because when they’re gone, they’re gone.

Great Flood Brewing‘s Sunday Soundwaves music series is off and running, and this Sunday’s entertainment is Drew Miller and His Internet Friends, starting at 6 p.m. On Father’s Day,  June 15, the J Band will perform.

The tap list beginning on Thursday, June 5, includes four Great Flood brews — Citra IPA, Brown Ale, Wit and Oatmeal Stout — with several guest taps as well, including Cumberland Red. Coming soon (possibly this weekend) are Great Flood APA, 2IPA and Amber .

Gordon-Biersch1• Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant at Fourth Street Live welcomes summer on Wednesday, June 4, with SommerBrau, a Kölsch beer made with authentic yeast imported from Cologne, as well as a special pairing menu.

SommerBrau, a golden and slightly fruity thirst quencher, will be on tap through July 13. The limited-time menu includes a Coconut Shrimp (shrimp dipped in tempura batter, rolled in coconut and served with fresh grilled pineapple salsa) starter and three steak entrées: Tenderloin Salad, Tenderloin Filet & Coconut Shrimp, and New York Strip & Coconut Shrimp.

There will be a tapping party for SommerBrau Thursday, June 5, with beer and food samples.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

Local brewer on the verge of reviving classic Fehr’s Beer brand

Jeff Faith.

Jeff Faith.

A few years ago, entrepreneur Dave Easterling brought back the beloved Falls City Beer brand; on May 10, Apocalypse Brew Works in Clifton unveiled Oertel’s 1912, a dark cream beer based on a recipe from Louisville-based Oertel Brewing Company dating to 1912.

Local home brewer Jeff Faith is about to finish off Louisville’s Holy Trinity of brewing by brewing Fehr’s X/L, a pre-Prohibition lager based on recipe elements used by the Frank Fehr Brewing Company sometime after the turn of the 20th Century.

Many have forgotten – or never knew to begin with – that Louisville was once a top brewing city, ripe with breweries that competed with regional brewing hubs like St. Louis, Milwaukee and Indianapolis. But just about anyone can name the Big Three – Fehr’s, Falls City and Oertel’s – because their grandparents or parents either drank one of the beers exclusively or actually worked at one of the breweries during the 1940s and ’50s. Possibly even both.

Faith said the revival of Falls City is what sparked his interest.

“I thought, ‘How do you find out if an old name is available?’” Faith, wearing a Fehr’s Beer T-shirt, says on a recent afternoon. Internet searches landed him at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website, where he discovered a man in Hawaii had the Fehr’s name “tied up.”

He also found evidence that two others had tried to trademark the name, one of those being Bluegrass Brewing Company, which actually brewed a beer called Fehr’s Darby Ale more than a decade ago.

Faith had also contacted Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing Company, which had brewed Fehr’s X/L for a time after the Fehr’s Louisville brewery closed in 1964. But the current owners had no idea who owned the name.

However, last year the name became available, and Faith pounced. But there was just one problem: He made a mistake in his paperwork which the other applicants had also made, dealing with the Fehr surname. Faith quickly corrected the issue, re-submitted his application, and now the brand is his.

In fact, he has been busy handing out Fehr’s T-shirts and stickers, as well as making tap handles for when the new Fehr’s X/L (which traditionally stood for “extra lager”) becomes available in bars and restaurants around Louisville.

The recipe, which Faith derived from information he found in the 1995 book “Louisville Breweries: A History of the Brewing Industry in Louisville; Kentucky; New Albany and Jeffersonville; Indiana,” by Peter Guetig and Conrad Selle. Faith said a recipe description in the book calls for a pound and a half of hops per barrel.

“I feel confident I’ve got a recipe that fits,” Faith says, “and I’m using hops that were available at the time and were prevalent in use.”

Fehr's tap handles, ready for action. Photo courtesy of Jeff Faith.

Fehr’s tap handles, ready for action. Photo courtesy of Jeff Faith.

For those wondering what this classic Louisville beer may have tasted like, Faith is excited to share that it is a very accessible, drinkable beer. And while the Frank Fehr Brewery produced a number of different styles, the Fehr’s X/L was arguably the most popular.

“Part of the reason I stuck with the lager is I think it will attract more people,” Faith says. “One friend said it reminds him of Yuengling; it is very light up front, and crisp, but it has a hop finish.”

Now it’s a matter of finding the right distributor, Faith says. His margin will be minimal regardless, but he wants to keep the beer’s price point down. If he can reach an agreement soon for local distribution, he feels Fehr’s X/L could conceivably be on tap around town by late summer. BBC is going to brew the lager on contract, at least for starters.

Meanwhile, keep your eyes peeled for Fehr’s Beer shirts and stickers making appearances around town; Faith says his shirts garner a lot of attention – people get excited to learn a classic Louisville beer is making its way back.

“I think it’s mostly because it’s a big part of the history of Louisville,” Faith says. “Fehr’s was huge. They were the first to install the big ice machines; they were supplying ice [to the city]. In 80-some years being in business, they left a mark.”

But when it comes right down to it, it’s really about staying true to a classic Louisville beer.

“I just hope it’s a good beer people appreciate, really, and I hope I do the right thing with it,” Faith says. “I don’t know, that’s just important to me.”

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

Sterling to Return in Cans

sterling - louisville beerMy pal Steve Coomes at Insider Louisville reports today that Sterling Beer is going to return in cans.

Here’s what Steve wrote:

Sterling Beer is coming back to retailers’ shelves. Seriously, Baby Boomers, I’m not kidding. It really is.

The once truly dreadful but irresistibly affordable Sterling began appearing locally on tap about a year ago, and now “The King of Hangovers,” as it was known in the ’70s, is beginning to populate local liquor store shelves.

But here’s the good news: As happened with the formerly awful Falls City Beer, which we only drank during quarter bounce games ‘cause it was free, Sterling’s new owners gave the beer an all-new recipe that actually tastes good and capitalizes on the brand’s heritage. According to a Business First piece, Upland Brewing Co. in Bloomington, Ind. (I loves me some Upland brews!) is making the beer and canning it in one-pint cans. In a nod to the old Sterling Big Mouth bottles, the new cans have unusually large openings.

I’m now on record as being fairly happy about this. I wonder how much those pint cans will cost?