October 8, 2009

Greeting from New Albany, Ind.

I'm sitting in the New Albanian Brewing Co. Pizzeria listening to a 6-feet tall staffer with a thunderous, infectious laugh whose in a tear listening to an actor who gets roles as jockeys, maybe four-and-a-half feet tall, with a bushy mustache and Newsie cap spinning yarns. Two women just walked in and zeroed in on him; he's obviously somewhat of a local celebrity. He's discussing a new movie about Secretariat co-staring John Malkovich and Diane Lane. My sampler tray includes Hoptimus Prime Double IPA (10.7% ABV, 100 IBU).

On a pouring Thursday afternoon, somehow finding myself between Louisville, Kent. and Nashville, Tenn. with an inadvertent day to kill, I remembered the advice of someone earlier on this beer odyssey to check out New Albanian, even if I don't recall who offered it. It started as a pizzeria in 1987 that the owner started bringing in more and better beers. Fifteen years later, they started brewing in-house. For my sampler of 5 beers, I was faced with 14 option. To get a wide array, I settled on the aforementioned Hoptimus, Elector Imperial Red, Farm House Saison, 15-B Robust Brown Porter, and Beak's Best American ESB (in reverse order, of course).

My 6" pizza has 10 toppings because they let me.

So what have I been up to since St. Louis. Well, for starters, I DID score a bottle of Whiskey Barrel-aged Smoked Porter (and while yes, bourbon is whiskey, I think they should specify and call it Bourbon-Barrel-aged Smoked Porter). CanNOT wait to bust this baby open. I palled around with Bryce Eddings, my St. Louis counterpart as a Beer Examiner. We hit three breweries: Square One, O'Fallon, and The Stable. I highly recommend the first two.

From there, I drove 350 miles to Cinannati. It was my first but probably not my last time there. Great homebrewing community, and while it doesn't boast much of a craft brewing community, things are changing. I visited Listermann and Mt. Carmel breweries (opposite ends of the brewery cleanliness and ambition spectrums). The former grew out of a successful homebrew supply shop. The latter grew out of the owner's actual house (they've since moved out, to make room for the brewery). I also attended a board meeting of the Bloatarian Brewing League, a homebrew club co-founded by Randy Mosher, author of Radical Brewing. They plied me with great beers I can't get at home such as Three Floyds Gumball Wheat (no gumballs actually employed in the making of this beer) and Founder's Breakfast Stout (though I did buy a 4-pk to take home) and I introduced them to the beauty that is Russian River Consecration. No one had heard of it. Some loved it; some liked it. The 22-year-old daughter of the meeting's hosts tossed her pour over the fence. I should've charged her $3 for her share's worth.

I also had three various homegrown Chili establishments. Cincinnati Chili is only kinda-sorta chili. It's ground beer chili, but either has cinnamon (Skyline) or chocolate (Dixie) or both (Gold Star). And it's served on spaghetti. Or li'l hot dogs. With a heaping mound of shredded cheese on top. There's the standard 3-way chili (spaghetti, chili, cheese), 4-way with onions, 5-way with red beans added, or my favorite that I only found at Dixie, 6-way with garlic.  I'm surprised Cincinnatians aren't fatter. I know I am.

That brings me to metropolitan Louisville, of which New Albany, Ind. is a part of. Somehow I thought I'd wake up and it'd be Friday, which is when the Music City Brew Off homebrew comp in Nashville starts. Any suggestions on what to do today? Head east a bit and tour a bourbon distillery? Check out Churchill Downs despite it not being Kentucky Derby season? Or just stay put her drinking New Albanian and wait out the rain? I think this pick of my pint of Kentucky Komon (an odd black beer soured not by lactobacillus or anything Belgian, but by leaving the corn & barley mash overnight to sour just like Jack Daniels sour mash) answers the question.

October 2, 2009

Midwest odyssey

Greetings from the Orf home in So. County, St. Louis. This is the home of my fellow beer-loving, beer-traveling, beer-brewing buddy Orf who aims to make the leap from am. to pro brewer down in Austin. Imagine my glee at sharing some pints with Papa Orf last night at both the Schlafly Bottleworks brewery (I had the dry-hopped APA) followed by Growlers Pub (I had Bell's Two-Hearted IPA, and yes, you're jealous).

So where'd I leave off? Oh yeah, Kansas. Sad that Free State Brewing owner Chuck wasn't on hand, I consoled myself with a lamb burger and a pint of Stormwatcher which is a brown ale/IPA hybrid. For dessert: a glass of John Brown Ale, which almost seemed like a light stout or imperial brown, so rich and chocolatey was it.

The next day started with a tour of Boulevard Brewery across the stateline in KC, MO. The new brewhouse (Brewhouse 2) is online unlike during my first/last visit a few years ago. Production is now up to 150,000 bbls, making them the 8th largest craft brewery in the country. My tourguide and tasting room companion was Rick, nephew of Bob Sullivan who is a legendary brewing figure of sorts in KC, and the inspiration behind their Oktoberfest beer, Bob's '47. Among the Blvd "Smokestack Series" beers I picked up: Seeyoulator Dopplebock (aged on Cedar), Saison-Brett (aka George Brett, a Saison brewed w/ Brettanomyces), and Double-Wide IPA (the imperial version of their regular Single-Wide IPA).

A long, wet drive to St. Louis and a great night's sleep and here I am, about to hit Square One Brewery with my Beer Examiner counterpart from St. Louis, Bryce Eddings. From there, it'll be off to O'Fallon Brewery (O'Fallon is a town just northwest of St. Louis), purveyors of Smoke, one of my favorite rauchbiers, and I hope to find their Whiskey-aged Smoke. Fingers crossed.