Mug Shots – Folk Fest celebrates handcrafted brews

The second Ohio River Valley Folk Festival takes place this Friday and Saturday amid pleasant park-like surroundings along the north bank of the Ohio River in downtown Madison, Ind.

    The architectural delights of Madison are well documented, and a full roster of annual events — Chautauqua, Ribberfest and Madison Regatta, among others — regularly attracts visitors from Louisville, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and all across the country.

    Last year’s inaugural folk festival established a new springtime tradition in Madison, one made unique by the desire of the organizers to extol the conceptual “handcrafted” basis of folk music, and moreover, to do something else that is rare, indeed: To extend this raison d’etre to another aspect of the event. Specifically, here’s an explanation from the official Web site:

    In keeping with the Ohio River Valley’s artisan tradition, we proudly offer handcrafted beer and wine from the people who make it. Like the folks who select their wood for a fine musical instrument, these small-production, high-quality vintners and brewers are engaged in the entire process, from the selection of the grain and fruit, to pouring your glass!

    Incredibly, the reigning big-pocketed triumvirate of Budweiser, Miller and Coors was entirely absent from the Folk Festival in 2006 — and they’ll be gone again this year. Not having the “big three” participate is a bigger risk than it may seem, since the monopolistic brewing monoliths typically pony up festival sponsorship monies in exchange for a measure of, ahem, exclusivity. After all, they didn’t get to be monopolistic by accident.

    Last year’s attending brewers were Upland Brewing Company (Bloomington, Ind.) and my own New Albanian Brewing Company (New Albany). We’ll be joined this year by Ram Restaurant & Bighorn Brewery (Indianapolis) and Browning’s Brewery (Louisville). The more, the merrier, and may the Folk Festival always remain close to its handcrafted origins.

    For more info, go to

Roger Baylor is co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Co. in New Albany. He writes about beer for Food & Dining magazine. Visit for more beer.