Monthly Archives: September 2014

Top 5 Things That Will Make Me Smack You at GABF

The Great American Beer Festival is once again upon us and if you’re heading to Denver this week to join in the revelry (as I am) and you don’t want me to beat you up on sight, these are the behaviors from which you should refrain:new gabf

5. Applauding when a glass is dropped. Seriously, how old are you?

4. Wearing a Utili-kilt: If you’re actually Scottish, you get a pass, but if I see you, I will make you confirm it with A. a believable accent and B. by making disparaging comments about the English in said accent.

3. Spending two hours in line waiting for Pliny the Elder/Younger when you could be sampling at least 10 other beers of equal quality (though with less hype): No disrespect to Russian River; Pliny’s an incredibly good beer. But is it worth spending half the session waiting for it? Read the rest of this entry

The Conspiracy of the Go-Nowheres: One Traveler’s Rant

I recently had an epiphany that there’s a vicious conspiracy among infrequent travelers to get those who actually enjoy exploring the world to curtail or completely cease their journeying.

According to the International Trade Association and U.S. Commerce Department of Commerce/International Trade Administration somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of the U.S. population left the country last year, primarily for business purposes. And that’s on the high side.  It’s completely understandable if economic circumstances keep people close to home. But when the vast majority of the American population is composed of those who won’t get out of their geographic comfort zones, there’s a much stronger force than personal finance at work. Just shy of a third of all U.S. nationals own passports, and two-thirds of those go unused.

Again, economic hardship notwithstanding, a significant chunk of the 80-85 percent who didn’t leave the U.S., exhibit a kind of hive mentality, where they believe any sort of travel is fraught with some bizarre combination of frivolity and peril. And the hive mind reared its ugly head during my recent career transition.

The moment anything changes in my life, the reflexive response from various and sundry busy-bodies is an almost-universal “You won’t be traveling as much anymore.” I’m talking without fail, like it’s an automated response. Read the rest of this entry

Bitter in New York

I love a good Old Fashioned. Mainly because I love good bourbon. (And I want to taste the bourbon, so don’t you dare put any club soda in it. But I digress). But the one ingredient that’s often taken for granted is the bitters—without which, an Old Fashioned wouldn’t be an Old Fashioned. You’ll never take it for granted again once you’ve tried the artisanal bitters produced by Brooklyn-founded (and now operating in Long Island City, Queens) Hella Bitter. A couple of weeks ago, the founders were generous enough to let me peek behind the curtain at their humble little production site and I’ve got video footage to prove it.

Bluegrass State of Mind: Part 3

Editor’s note: This is the final installment of my three-part Kentucky Adventure. Click the numbers for parts 1 and 2.

Part 3: Urban Bourbon and Off-the-Beaten-Path Beer

For the more serious drinking part of the Kentucky drinking trip, I was eager to explore the Urban Bourbon Trail, a loose confederation of watering holes promoted by the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau. The bureau set it up in 2008 just as this whole renaissance thing looked like it was really happening. When it was first launching, LCVB marketing and communications coordinator Jessica Dillree told me, her office had to actively seek out pubs to get on the list and into the stamp-ready Urban Bourbon Trail passport. Now, the LCVB is practically turning them away on account of the stipulation that a bar must be open for at least a year before it’s eligible for consideration. As of this writing, there are 27 stops on the trail. Some of those can be quite touristy, so it’s best to steer clear of those.

SilverDollar1One that’s a bona fide local haunt is The Silver Dollar, one of the newest establishments on the trail and one that came highly recommended by Ms. Dillree, a lifetime local.

The Silver Dollar occupies the space of a restored late-19th-century firehouse (There’s even still a pole!) in the city’s Clifton neighborhood. If Louisville has a Williamsburg (of the hipster Brooklyn, not colonial Virginia variety), Clifton is it. That is not a bad thing. Look, no one loves to skewer the hipsters more than I, but you have to admit, they like to hang out in cool places. Not to mention, it’s more fun to make snarky remarks about them when they’re in such close proximity. Add to that the fact that the Silver Dollar provides the perfect introduction to the Louisville drinking scene and you’re in for a hell of an evening.

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Bluegrass State of Mind: Part 2

Editor’s Note: This is the second of three parts recounting my recent adventure into bourbon country. For part 1, click here.

Part 2: Where the Buffalo Roam (and we drink)

The allure of things small and intimate should not deter travelers from visiting a truly sprawling distillery operation—the, well, operative word being “operation.”

Interestingly, the one worth visiting isn’t even on the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail. It jumped ship from the Kentucky Distillers Association (KDA)—whose dues-paying members enable such a trail to exist—but its tours are very much in full swing and should be a required visit for anyone stepping foot in the state with the grass which is blue. I’m talking about the Buffalo Trace Distillery, owned by Louisiana-based Sazerac. The folks at Sazerac gave no reason for the company’s abrupt decision to ditch the KDA in 2010, but there’s some speculation that it was an issue of not playing well with others. In other words, the top brass decided it was a better use of time and resources to promote the most important distillery to Buffalo Trace (that being Buffalo Trace, natch), rather than be part of something that shines as much of a spotlight on those that compete with the mighty prairie beast.BuffalTraceWaterTower

On the outskirts of the commonwealth’s capital of Frankfort, hidden down an old back road called Great Buffalo Trace (what else?) is the distilling compound composed of a series of early-20th-century brick industrial buildings, the type that have long since become luxury condos and entertainment complexes in gentrified areas of post-industrial America. But these are working spirits production houses, with a Buffalo Trace logo-emblazoned water tank towering over it like the Eye of Sauron, always observing and ensuring the venerable distillery’s legacy remains intact in the hands of these mere mortals.

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