Mug Shots: The most divine of 2009

Dec 23, 2009 at 6:00 am

“The beer culture, beer IQ and all around tastes of beer drinkers in the Metro have risen, and businesses are taking notice thanks to the endless amount of work on the part of a few individuals. My short list would be too long, but it is still a small, dedicated group.”

—Joel Halblieb, Bluegrass Brewing Co. brewer


Joel’s entirely right, and I’m terrified that any effort to name a few individuals will result in omissions. Nonetheless, here it goes.

Verily, an unprecedented number of Louisville-area restaurants, pubs and retail outlets added the element of good beer to their operations in 2009 or enhanced the program they already had. It’s often overlooked that all this wonderful beer must come from somewhere else, passing through the wholesale tier before it lands in your waiting glass.

As buyers and resellers of huge volumes of beer, it’s obviously important that wholesaler sales staffs have what it takes to keep your favorite ales on store shelves and flowing through pub faucets.

Consequently, the single most important Kentucky “win” over Indiana in 2009 was the wholesaler Beer House’s hiring of Tisha Dean, formerly of World Class Beverages in Indianapolis. She’s a true believer in better beer, and her tireless efforts assist a proliferation in Louisville of brands from star breweries nationwide: Bell’s, Founder’s, Stone, Great Lakes, Dogfish Head and others.

However, Tish represents these craft brewers only indirectly. While it’s possible for a brewery to ship beer through the wholesale tier without having a representative on the ground, it’s not advisable, and that’s why people like Phil Dearner (BBC), John Campbell (NABC) and Scott Shreffler (Schlafly) are so important.

I’m happy to announce that Scott is the winner of the first Mug Shots Consonance In Zymurgy Award. Just try to say “Shreffler of Schlafly” five times, and if you can manage it without injury, have Scott pour you a sample of his employer’s Quadrupel as just reward. He’s everywhere, all the time, and recently became Louisville’s first Certified Cicerone (beer sommelier) to boot.

Whether it’s Tish, Phil, John, Scott or others making the sale, someone at the licensed, beer-selling establishment — owners, managers, servers or preferably all of them — must be actively, internally driving the notion of craft and specialty beer as viable alternative to the usual industrially manufactured suspects.

Here’s where the list starts to get longer: Greg, Chris, Sergio, Ashley, Dennie, Drew, Dave, Matthew, Clay, James, Tom, John, Andrew, Travis, Ken, Chris, Becca, Michael, Jim, Brad, Brennen, Michael, Chris, Tyler, and easily a dozen others. Whether on-premise or off-premise, these are the people who truly get it, so remember to thank them for their considerable efforts at changing the beer paradigm.

In other developments, 2009 saw a stunning return to the primacy of the growler, that familiar glass jug for filling with draft beer for home consumption. Numerous package outlets now have draft lines and offer growlers, and their number steadily grows.

It also was the finest year in memory for those of us who can’t open a can of pork and beans without wondering what style of beer goes best with it (my choice is smoked lager), and while I’d like to offer a comprehensive list of beer dinners and food pairings that occurred during the past year, it’s impossible. Keep looking for them in 2010, and ask your favorite eatery if it is planning one of its own.

In local brewing, my New Albanian Brewing Co. opened its Bank Street Brewhouse, and BBC announced plans for a new location across from the rising downtown arena. Cumberland Brewery draft handles are becoming ever more common, but I’m especially happy for the folks at Browning’s at Slugger Field. Brewer Brian Reymiller persevered and kept brewing through six months of the restaurant’s shutdown, which ended when the brewpub reopened just after the beginning of baseball season.

Concurrently, even though the management of the Louisville Bats continued its inexplicable enforcement of a Low Overall Beer Quality Zone, the otherwise clueless Center Plate concessionaire managed to keep a Browning’s beer on tap at precisely one dependable concourse location for almost the entire season.

In the year 2010, with craft beer growth way up, Budweiser sales down and a country filled with profitable examples to choose from, maybe, just maybe, the number of good local draft beers in the ballpark can be doubled. Wouldn’t that be something?


Roger Baylor is co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Co. in New Albany. Visit for more beer.