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Dec 21, 2014

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Beer Break Vol. 3, No. 7
The 'Lite Free' philosophy

Nov. 14, 2002

Today, the New Albanian Brewing Co. in Indiana began selling its beer. With that, opinionated publican Roger Baylor made it official that he is expanding the "Lite Free Zone" established in New Albany nearly nine years ago. He explained why in Publicanista!, an email newsletter he sends out semi-regularly.

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The message is long, but we think worth taking the time to read, even if you don't agree with him. Wynkoop Brewing Co. (Denver, Colo.) owner John Hickenlooper, for instance, says he favors selling mainstream beers so everybody can make the choice they want. Here are Roger's views (passed on with his permission):

For those who are not yet aware, the arrival of house-brewed beers at Rich O's Public House and Sportstime Pizza signals the departure of American mass-market lagers and low-calorie "light" beers from Sportstime, and the completion of a crusade that began almost a decade ago.

There isn't a beer snob among us who hasn't experienced the dissonance that arises spontaneously when a brewpub patron is spotted drinking Budweiser or Miller Lite, usually straight from the bottle, while all around people are enjoying craft beers.

While it is lamentable that so many beer drinkers routinely settle for the lowest common denominator and choose to define themselves by reference to a mass-market product, and a generic one at that, it isn't only a case of people consciously or unconsciously bowing to the incessant and pervasive nature of modern mass marketing. It must be remembered that they are allowed to do so by the management of the brewpub in question.

Explanations for this incongruity on the part of management are many and seemingly varied, but quite frankly, most have at their foundation an implicit admission of cowardice on the part of ownership, further implying a lamentable unwillingness to trust the veracity of the beer being brewed on the premises.

By doing so, the establishment's reason for being is fundamentally contradicted.

Speaking philosophically and conceptually, a bottle of Miller Lite is the antithesis of a pint of house-brewed ale. The very existence of the house-brewed ale, and by extension of the brewpub that produces it, is predicated as a necessary reaction to the bottle of Miller Lite.

The bottle of Miller Lite symbolizes the mass-market "McWorld," in which the individual is subordinated to the system. Conversely, the pint of house-brewed ale celebrates the uniqueness to be found in every person and the joy of the differences to be discerned in pre-industrial commodities.

At this juncture, there will be readers who are unable to fathom the preceding. Some are irrevocably loyal to a certain brand, and no amount of persuasion will budge them from the certainty that McBeer, and McBeer alone, is the only beer in this huge and diverse world that can be allowed to touch their lips. While most of us find comfort in the idea that human beings are rational animals; others embrace irrationality as a non-negotiable article of faith, and there is nothing that can be said, and no alternative to be offered, that will alter their perceptions.

A far better argument on behalf of Miller Lite goes something like this: A licensed establishment enters into business in order to make a profit, and the light, mainstream beers are the biggest selling brands in the world. Furthermore, if the establishment is a restaurant and not just a bar, customers want to drink their favorite brands when they come in for their favorite meals.

I reiterate: What were these management people thinking when they made the decision to become a brewpub? To brew one's own beer and serve it on the premises is to stake out specific and specialized territory; one is proposing to jump far past Miller Lite in the same manner as a steak house is a more specific, specialized version of a hamburger joint. Besides, isn't it possible (and in fact, usually always the case) that the on-premise brewhouse can produce a mild, yellow-colored liquid for the flavor impaired?

I will concede that it takes patience and fortitude to navigate America's insipid sea of swill, and I know that neither Rome nor the Lite Free Zone was built in a day. Now that Sportstime Pizza and Rich O's Public House have added a brewing arm, the time has come to take the next logical step and provide New Albany with its first venue in which to enjoy the city's, the country's and the world's finest beers without the taint of Anheuser-Busch and Miller.

On January 1, 1994, American low-calorie "light" lagers were banned from Rich O's Public House, and the prices of dubiously "full-flavored" mainstream lagers (Budweiser prime among them) were raised. The advent of the Lite Free Zone was momentous, but as most Rich O's patrons always grasped, it was a "zone" only, a foothold from which to wage war against the prevailingly "lightweight" mentality of Kentuckiana until such a time as it would be possible to extend the "good beer" mandate to the remainder of the building.

Consequently, we pursued a pragmatic strategy at Sportstime Pizza and continued to offer mainstream golden lagers and American low-calorie lagers. At the same time, we used Rich O's Public House and its Lite Free Zone as the rallying point for the revolution. The results of this gradualist approach became increasingly evident as the millennium arrived: Steadily declining sales of mainstream lagers and light beers at Sportstime Pizza accompanied by concurrently increasing sales of good beer.

With the new brewery approved for operation and the first batches of beer already brewed on premise, it's finally time to complete the process of transformation at Sportstime Pizza, which in its original incarnation (circa 1988) was the leading draft Budweiser account in all Floyd County. Now it will be the taproom and pizzeria fronting a brewpub dedicated to the revolution of good beer over mass-market swill.

When current stocks of Budweiser, Bud Light and Miller Lite are depleted, no more will be ordered. The New Albanian Brewing Company has brewed an authentic English Mild, a dark-colored, light-bodied and lightly hopped ale, to serve as the house "dark light" beer. For those customers demanding the familiar golden hue, we will offer Spaten Premium Lager, certainly the easiest drinking of German beers, at a reduced price of $3.25 a 20-oz. pint. We have introduced Flying Dog Old Scratch Lager and Oaken Barrel Meridian Street Lager in 12-oz. Bottles at $2.50, and lowered Samuel Adams Boston Lager to $2.50. Lighter imports like Red Stripe and Warsteiner still are available, albeit at regular prices.

To drinkers of light beer, I say this: Try to remember what it was like when you were a baby (of course I do), and a quivering spoonful of Gerber's goo was lovingly offered in the vicinity of your mouth. Sure, it tasted good. It was easy going down, and it served the purpose - but c'mon, you knew even then that it was a passing stage, because you really were thinking about growing up someday and being big, and when you were big, you certainly wouldn't have to eat Gerber's any longer; there'd be steak! Chicken! Lasagna! Bacon! Even falafel (for the veggie crowd)!

It's the same with beer. Now it's time to grow up, to wean your long-suffering palate from the spoon-fed swill, and to become an adult beer drinker. Sugarcoating no longer is necessary: If you can't drink Spaten Premium Lager, you have no business drinking beer, here or elsewhere. It's as simple as that, and as a business, we'll sink or swim with that dictum in mind. Thank you for your support.

To learn more about New Albanian, visit http://www.newalbanian.com. You'll find a link there to Rich O's, where you may read more from Baylor.

Anagram of the week

Following up on last week's anagrams from beer slogans, reader Bob Tobin sent us this one:

Guinness recently used the phrase: Guinness Gaelic for Genius.

  It comes out as: Sensuous, eager if clinging

We like it. Thanks, Bob.

Tasting notes

ABITA TURBODOG
Brewed by Abita Brewing in Louisiana
Michael Jackson writes:
An old favorite from a deservedly successful brewery. Darker than I remember (this sample had a black cherry color). Attractively sweetish aroma; silky smooth start; lots of flavor development; toffeeish depths, moving to grain, figgy, rounded dryness. Soothing and more-ish. A big, malty beer to suit the bourbon-tinged bars of New Orleans. This is somewhere between a big, very well-balanced brown ale and an altbier.

IRON HILL PORTER
Brewed by Iron Hill Brewery in Delaware
Roger Protz writes:
The color is a rich ruby-red going on black topped by an enticing barley-white, fluffy head. The aroma is fascinating, with earthy fuggles slugging it out with dark malt and a delicious hint of toffee. The aroma doesn't prepare your for a palate and finish that is intensely hoppy and bitter yet balanced by some malty sweetness and dark fruit. A Cockney would say it's a "real belter of a beer," which is only fitting when you consider porter's origins.

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