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.

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