July 11, 2012

Bar Belle: A salute to NABC

When I was 25, I drank like shit — cheap, American swill chased by shots of Jager or Rumple Minze. Unfortunately, some things haven’t changed. But throughout my years of socializing after dark, I’ve learned to appreciate good bourbon and craft beer.

Rich O’s/Sportstime Pizza/New Albanian Brewing Company in New Albany is celebrating its 25th birthday this month, and you better believe there won’t be a Miller Lite or shot of Jager anywhere near the place. In fact, owner Roger A. Baylor is renting out New Albany’s Riverfront Amphitheater to throw a big party. Mark your calendars for July 22. It’s free, starts at 10 a.m., and features live music, NABC beer, wine and a bloody mary bar (newalbanian.com). I caught up with Baylor to reminisce about the last 25 years.

Bar Belle: Did you think you’d still be in business after 25 years?
Roger A. Baylor: No, not at all. John Lennon was spot on: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

BB: So you started Sportstime first, and then Rich O’s? What made you want to get into the pizza biz?
RB: Actually, I got into the pizza business just a bit after the family of my ex-wife and current business partner and her sister started it in 1987. Their family took over a failing Noble Roman’s. To be honest, I got into the pizza business because of them, and because, just for once, I wanted to have good beer at a pizza place!

BB: And what made you then get into the craft beer business?
RB: The Public House opened in 1992, and it was the fruition of the idea of having an authentic specialist beer bar attached to the pizzeria.

BB: Have you always been a beer snob?
RB: Probably since my first trip to Europe in 1985. Before then, I was interested in different types of beer, not that there were very many, but after 1985, it was harder to go back to the default mass-market lager choices. Pilsner Urquell and Guinness changed me, and now there are 2,000 American craft breweries to enjoy.

BB: What would you like to say to people who only order Michelob Ultra?
RB: How unspeakably boring. Beer can be much, much more.

BB: If you were trapped in a liquor store, what would you drink after all the craft beer was gone?
RB: Any label that reads “Cabernet Sauvignon.”

BB: What do you have against fruit in beer?
RB: If lemons were intended for use in German-style wheat ale, then lemons would grow alongside hops and barley in German fields. Do oranges grow in Belgium? No, and they don’t grow in Golden, Colo., either, so there is no place for the orange on a glass of Blue Moon. Whether drinking competently conceived German wheat ale, or the wretched carbonated Mexican urine known as Corona, the presence of redundant fruit slices marks you as one who mindlessly follows prevailing fashion, but training wheels are just that. At some point, it’s time to learn how to ride the bike.

BB: Do you have a favorite local brewery?
RB: Diplomacy precludes precision. It is my aim to support all locally owned Metro Louisville breweries to the best of my ability … and spare change.

BB: If you weren’t operating two restaurants, what would you be doing?
RB: Teaching, in some capacity; it’s what I’ve been doing all this time with beer.

BB: What’s the biggest misperception Louisvillians have about New Albany?
RB: That there’s nothing of interest in New Albany other than the road to Horseshoe.

BB: What’s your favorite NABC beer?
RB: It changes. I’ve been drinking Yakima Rye IPA lately, and I have a soft spot in my heart for Solidarity Baltic Porter.

Drunk Texts of the Week
• I just peed in a corner while trying to creep out of someone’s house! Happy Friday :)
• Jst wtchin Bitch McConnell on the news
• Dont shake your unicorn at me

Send your drunk texts to shavens@leoweekly.com. My blog is at barbelle.leoweekly.com. Word.