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.”

NABC’s Naughty Claus Makes the Wish List

NaughtyClaus-710x1065Ah, Christmas: Good tidings, sleigh bells, reckless consumer spending and seasonal beers. To the surprise of no one involved, many of us prefer the latter. For those folks, there is New Albanian Brewing Company‘s Naughty Claus, rolled out last week around Louisville.

I made the drive to NABC’s Public House to enjoy a pint and some breadsticks with my girlfriend this past weekend, and I have to say that Dave Pierce and his brewing team over at New Albanian did it up right.

To be bluntly honest, I’m actually not usually a fan of Christmas beers — I find that too often breweries overdo the spices in order to make the beer more … well, Christmasy, if you will. The same goes for a lot of the pumpkin beers I’ve had. When it stops tasting like beer that is made with pumpkin and starts tasting like liquid pumpkin pie, that’s when they’ve lost me.

louisville beer - naughty clausNaughty Claus is not one of those over-the-top brews; it is imminently drinkable, like a solid, mild pale ale that just happens to have that something extra to it. Even the tagline spells it out, calling the beer a “seasonal ale with spices.” So, while the medium body, slightly sweet malts and mild hop character (it’s only 12 IBU) take the lead here, you still get a sense of the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange peel within.

I was fond of the interestingly sharp finish that comes from the spices, but for the most part this is, again, just a really solid, easy-drinking ale with a kick. I could easily see this one going well with your Christmas dinner. Or, hell, your Thanksgiving turkey in a couple of days. Or by itself. (Just be careful, because while it goes down like a session beer, it packes 8.0 percent ABV.)

Until next time, happy holidays and drink locally. Especially the beer.

exBEERiment at Louisville Science Center

louisville beer - exbeeriment louisville science centerEveryone knows there is a science to beer; most people just don’t know how it works. The making of beer has fascinated us for centuries, and exBEERiment is here to keep that fascination alive.

This second annual event at the Louisville Science Center happens next Wednesday, Oct. 17, and will offer not only tastings but sessions on the science of home brewing, ingredients and how to cook with beer. You’ll also see a few familiar faces, as exBEERiment partners include New Albanian Brewing Company, Against the Grain Brewery and Smokehouse, My Old Kentucky Homebrew, Pauly’s Schnitzelburg Pub, Nachbar, Bluegrass Brewing Company and Cumberland Brewery.

Also, exBEERiment will feature free ice cream samples made with beer and liquid nitrogen (???). In addition, adults can take advantage of a kids-free Science in Play exhibit where adult visitors can build rollercoasters, maneuver through a rope maze and play hide-and-seek in the Noodle Forest. Oh yeah, there will also be hydrogen balloon explosions and liquid nitrogen induced ping pong ball volcanoes.

Last but not least is the Brewseum, by My Old Kentucky Homebrew. If you missed this at Louisville Brewfest last month, you really should check it out. Oh yeah, and DJ Matt Anthony will spin some tunes as well.

Tickets are $20 for non-members, $15 for members and business partners, and $10 for designated drivers.

Fringe Fest 2013 Starts Oct. 10

louisville beer - fringefest 2013This isn’t news to those in the Louisville beer know, but Fringe Fest starts tomorrow, Oct. 10, at Bank Street Brewhouse. It’s the sixth year for the anti-Harvest Homecoming festival featuring craft beer, live music, craft beer, belly dancers, craft beer, food and craft beer.

You can get the details over at NewAlbanian.com, but here are some of the beers you can wrap your mouth around:

Hoosier Daddy: Crimson & Cream Ale begins its six-month seasonal run. Mmmm.

Strassen Bräu: Genuine Bavarian yeast gives this annual Märzen/Oktoberfest lager its smooth character.

Wet Knobs Harvest Hop Ale: American Pale Ale brewed with “wet” (unprocessed), locally grown hops. Get it while you can.

Tricentennial: A Post-Colonial ale brewed to commemorate New Albany’s 300th birthday in 2113. On tap and in bottles, but it probably won’t be in stock for 100 years.

There will also be wine from Old 502 Winery, cigars from Billow, and a portion of the proceeds will go to a good cause, namely Open Door Youth Services.

Another Weekend of Louisville Beer (and More) …

louisville beer - nabc pickmans ale

New Albanian’s Pickman’s Ale: Mildly hoppy. Sessionable. And great with beer cheese.

I got around this past weekend. I was actually in search of cider for a story I’m working on for another website, but I really like hoppy more than fruity. So I made it a point to have some Louisville beer along the way.

My first stop, on Saturday afternoon, was at New Albanian Brewing Company. I was in search of Gale’s Hard Cider, by way of Thomas Family Winery, but there were no bottles left (drat!). Instead, I tried a New Day South Cider, which wasn’t bad at all. Then I cleansed my palate with some breadsticks and had a (NABC) Pickman’s Ale, which is one I don’t believe I have tried before. I’m an APA guy, so I couldn’t resist, and it didn’t disappoint.

Anyway, it’s long on kick (6.5 percent ABV), medium on hops (52 IBU) and just what I needed to go with NABC’s spicy beer cheese. It has a burnt orange color, thin head, medium hop nose, just a touch of citrus tone and a quick hop bite that gets there before you expect it to. The hop flavor then continues to emerge drink after drink. Thumbs up.

louisville beer app - buckheads

Pick a beer. Any beer.

On Sunday, I watched some football with my pal Greg and had a flight over at Buckhead Mountain Grill in Jeffersonville, where Tisha Gainey always has a kick-ass selection. It’s always fun to use Buckhead’s Craft Beer App, in any case, scrolling through what’s on tap, separating the ales from the lagers and whatnot. I worked my way up the hops ladder (after tasting one Angry Orchard Cider) with Upland Campside Session Ale (4.5 percent ABV, 50 IBU); Daredevil Liftoff IPA (7.2 percent ABV, 72 IBU); Sun King Bitchn’ Camaro (8.7 percent ABV, 89 IBU), and Stone Ruin Ten Imperial IPA (10.8 percent ABV, 110 IBU).

I let Greg have a taste of the Stone Ruin. Here was his reaction: “That grabbed a hold of my whole mouth! Holy shit!” After that, he said, “I’m going back to my Miller Water.”

Yeah, I couldn’t taste anything by the time I finished off that flight. I also went a bit outside the region with the Stone Ruin, but I figured it was the perfect way to cap off a hop orgy like that one. Glad I only had four-ounce pours of those, though. Yikes. I bet Greg wishes he didn’t even have the one sip.

louisville beer - apocalypse irish red ale

Apocalypse Brew Works Irish Red Rapture: So smooth and creamy, it’s like bathing in a pool of kittens.

A bit later, still on a quest to find ciders I could write about, we wound up at O’Shea’s Irish Pub in the Highlands. There, I was greeted by something on a different part of the beer spectrum, but also one of my first loves: an Irish red ale. But not just any Irish red — it was an Apocalypse Brew Works Irish Red Rapture. How could I resist? And luckily, my palate had been wiped clean by tasting samples of cider.

At 5.9 percent ABV and 26 IBU, it looks like a brown ale, and even has coffee on the nose. It’s so creamy and malty. This is the kind of beer I typically go for in fall and winter. I wrote in my notes, “Leah rules.” Obviously, I was referring to brewer Leah Dienes.

After that, I went home and watched football. And fell asleep in the process. Totally worth it.

New Sitcom Based on Dogfish Head Brewery?

dogfish head brewing logoMore proof that craft brewing is becoming more and more mainstream every second that we live: There is a sitcom pilot in the works based on Dogfish Head Brewery.

No joke. A couple of years ago, I knew fantasy football had gone absolutely mainstream when “The League” debuted. And  now? Looks like the same thing might be happening with craft beer.

Dogfish Head is one of America’s most popular craft breweries already, and co-founder Sam Calgione was college roommates with comedian Ken Marino, who pitched the show to various networks. Fox liked it enough to purchase exclusive rights and order a pilot.

Some of the plotlines would be adapted from Calgione’s book, “Brewing Up a Business.” It documents the struggles he and his wife Mariah had getting Dogfish Head off the ground and making it successful.

All of which just begs the question: Who would play Roger Baylor in a sitcom about New Albanian Brewing Company? Ron White perhaps?

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.)

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.

PourGate: NABC to Pour ‘Under Protest’ Tonight

louisville beer - new albanian brewing companyIf you go to Bicentennial Park in New Albany tonight and have a New Albanian Brewing Company beer, be sure to tip a little extra. Remember, NABC is paying an extra $20 in permit fees to pour that beer, as “PourGate” continues. Baylor says he and his staff will pour beer “under protest.”

A hearing date for NABC’s appeal of the Floyd County Health Department’s insistence that local vendors need a temporary food permit to sling suds has yet to be scheduled, according to NABC owner Roger Baylor, but he said the department is so far complying with his request for five years’ worth of temporary food service permit citations.

As annoying as bureaucrats can be, it could be semi-humorous to watch the health department squirm in the next few weeks, possibly in hopes this issue will simply go away. Baylor noted on his blog the other day that while day to day business has to continue at NABC, those interested in seeing how this dispute plays out should never fear that he’s going to let the issue fizzle out. I don’t doubt that for a minute.

Based on comments posted on this blog and Baylor’s, as well as what Baylor himself has said regarding the public’s response, the health department is alone in believing it is in the right by forcing vendors like NABC to pay for a temporary food permit just to sell beer at events.

“No other health department in the state is laying claim to what Dr. [Tom] Harris sees as is his department’s sudden obligation to control temporary draft beer pours,” Baylor wrote in his blog this morning. “It seems that the opinion of his fellow bureaucrats is against the FCHD, too. Shouldn’t that tell you something?”

The fun starts tonight at 6 p.m., with Nick Dittmeier, followed by Quiet Hollers. Hopefully, the health department won’t force the bands to buy temporary oxygen permits to dispense their vocals.

Poorcastle, New Apocalypse Brews & Houndmouth

poorcastle - louisville beerIf you’re a music fan, you like to support local music and you love local craft beer, you should probably check out the Poorcastle festival on Saturday, July 6.

Poorcastle?  Yes, it’s exactly what you think it is – a one-day music festival for those who either can’t (or won’t) pony up the crazy amount of money it costs to go to any of those other music festivals. Better yet, it’s a fundraiser for Crescent Hill Radio, whose mission is to support local and regional music. So, it’s 12 local/regional bands donating their time and talent to help support the community radio station that helps support their time and talent.

I feel dizzy.

Anyway, Poorcastle will be held at Apocalypse Brew Works, and head brewer Leah Dienes promises at least one new beer will be on tap for Poorcastle.

“There’s a Coco Stout in the fermentor right now,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll have Hefeweizen too.”

She describes the former as “an Oatmeal stout with cocoa nibs.” The Hefe, she added, would be a classic German Hefeweizen.

It’s only $5 to get in, you can bring your own chairs, blankets, water and soda, and it’s family friendly (kids 12 and under get in free all day, and all adults get in free before 4 p.m.). Also, there will be food available for purchase from local food trucks Booty’s Diner and Traveling Kitchen. Of course, there will be a ton of local and regional bands, from Kathleen Hoye to New Albany’s the Hart Strings, plus Nick Peay, Phourist, the Uncommon Houseflies, Tall Squares, Huh Robots, Nashville’s Kristen Cothron and more.

Speaking of local bands, New Albanian Brewing Company announced that another batch of Houndmouth, the delicious hoppy wheat ale that shares a name with a rising musical group from across the river in Indiana, will be brought out for a couple of events in New Albany this weekend and next. I tried Houndmouth only recently, and it’s currently one of my favorite local beers, a true summer classic.

Oh, and based on the couple of songs I’ve heard, the band isn’t bad either.