Friday, September 22, 2017

TRAVEL PRELUDES: Herring, preferably by the tail.


That's what I'm saying: Rotterdam style.

Dredge the filet in chopped onion, grasp the tail, and down the hatch it goes. Rick Steves displays proper form in this video.



In the winter of 1992, nearing the end of my post-communist teaching assignment in Kosice (now independent Slovakia), I took an overnight train to Brno (these days, in the Czech Republic), then an all-night bus to Rotterdam. I proceeded to spend a week in the nearby satellite town of Spijkenisse with Bram and Rie, elderly parents of Nelly, my former neighbor out in Georgetown.

Those wonderful days are a story of their own. Bram took great delight in showing me the sights, and one day we turned up at Scheveningen (a neighborhood in The Hague) for a sunny but frigid afternoon at the beach.

Bram wanted to know if I liked herring, and I answered affirmatively, imagining he meant pickled herring like I'd often had in Copenhagen. We found a fish vendor, and I was handed a cardboard vessel with what I assumed was raw herring (it's actually frozen, then salted for preservation).

Following my leader, I tipped my head and took a big bite.

Then smiled, broadly.

Back to Rick Steves ... who needs to understand that it isn't really pickled, you know.

Haarlem with Raw-Herring Breath, by Rick Steves

I’m under the towering church spire in the tidy Dutch market town of Haarlem, tempted to eat a pickled herring. The sign atop the mobile van reads: “Jos Haring — Gezond en Lekkerrr” (healthy and deeeeeelicious).

I order by pointing and ask, “Gezond?”

Jos hands me what looks more like bait than lunch, and says, “En lekkerrr.”

I stand there — not sure what to do with my bait — apparently looking lost.

In other Haarlem food notes, I see the De Ark restaurant has closed. That's shame. It was an old school slabs of meat and baskets of potatoes kind of place, stacked amid venerable wooden ambiance. It will be missed.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

ON THE AVENUES with THE BEER BEAT: Getting in tune with the straight and narrow.

ON THE AVENUES with THE BEER BEAT: Getting in tune with the straight and narrow.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

Really, has it been three years?

The following essay has not been published previously at NA Confidential, though it appeared on September 29, 2014 at The Potable Curmudgeon.

In the interim, time has a habit of marching on. Stone Brewing Company's location in Berlin has opened, bringing San Diego-style IPA to the German capital.

U2's 2014 album was received with indifference, and earlier in 2017, Daisy retired.

Last fall for our Sicilian excursion, I finally got around to taking my iPhone across the pond.

My attitude? It remains unchanged, thank you.

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ON THE AVENUES with THE BEER BEAT: Getting in tune with the straight and narrow.

“You can feel that there’s something coming,” said Johannes Heidenpeter, who opened one of Berlin’s newest craft breweries, Heidenpeters, in the gritty-but-hip central neighborhood of Kreuzberg last December. “I think the time is good to change the taste of beer.”

Mr. Heidenpeter may represent the most iconoclastic and cosmopolitan take on Berlin’s newly developing beer culture: instead of traditional German lager yeast, he praises the aromas from the Belgian and English ale yeasts, and he eschews his own country’s favorite pale lager style of pilsner, or pils. Instead, as he explained when we met up the next day, his brewery offers an American-style pale ale as its standard pint, which uses non-German hops such as Cascade and Amarillo.

Yeah, well – I missed it.

In fact, while visiting the German capital for two enlightening days in September, I missed all the rest of the varied outposts of the Berliner New Beer Wave, too.

However, to be perfectly honest, my neglectful attitude toward this rebellion-in-progress was not intended as an overt political statement of any sort. It’s just that there was no time, this time.

My last visit to Berlin came way back in 1999, and an alarming quarter-century has elapsed since I spent a whole month in the then-divided city, just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. With only two days on the ground in 2014, what my soul (?) needed most of all was a refresher – a worldview booster, an agitprop enhancer, and perhaps a final contextual putting to rest of those ghosts inhabiting my beer cultures passed … except that some of them still flourish.

And so it was, quite successfully.

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My 34th in a series of European vacations served both as reunion and greatest hits tour. Little new music was performed, apart from selective embellishments to arrangements tried and true – a new breakfast room at Brauerei Spezial, Schlenkerla’s youthful heir to the crown, and a Belgian-hopped beer and food pairing on the Grote Market in Poperinge.

The rich history of my connections with these beers, places and persons dates back to the late 1980s and early 1990s. In terms of impact on the course of my own beer business career, they were to me what the Ramones and the Clash were to U2 – and like the latter’s new album, it's all about these and other formative influences, invaluable and impossible to overstate:

Berliner Weisse … long before sour was cool, with the many choices of syrup entirely optional.

Those sublime smoked beers in Bamberg, the centuries of diligent craftsmanship they represent, and the local thirsts they slake.

Crisp, subtle Kölsch on a gorgeous autumn day, in the shadow of Cologne’s mountainous cathedral.

The amazing, unchanging Daisy Claeys and her life’s work of art, the seemingly eternal Brugs Beertje café in Brugge.

The stolid crossroads town of Poperinge, observing its hoppy heritage every third year with one of the most genuine and honest fests known to the world of beer.

Food and drink, too, in abundance: Escargot and beefsteak with De Dolle Oerbier; Leberkäse and Spezial Rauchbier; East Prussian meatballs with white caper sauce, beetroot and Berliner Pilsner … pork shoulder and mussels, Mahrs Ungespundet and Rochefort 10, espressos and currywurst, tartare and Hommel Bier, and a Doner Kebab for good measure.

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It seems to me we’re all guilty at times of espousing a false dichotomy, in which there is mass-market corporate swill on one side and exuberant, innovative craft beer on the other, but the problem with hegemonic Cold Beer War dualism like this is that it utterly excludes a beer like Schlenkerla Märzen. Maybe it fits rather comfortably in the same metaphor with non-aligned nations of the 1970s.

Schlenkerla obviously isn’t swill, and it’s hardly innovative in the newspeakable sense of a hyacinth-infused, dry-meringued Triple India Pale Ale. Schlenkerla is as craft-based and traditional as tradition possibly can be, fully guaranteed to offend any oblivious beer drinker who believes that Bud Light represents brewing nobility (tell it to the AB-InBev global shareholders, dumbass), and yet is often ignored by today's hoarding narcissists precisely because excellence on purely traditional grounds isn’t sexy enough for selfies.

Yes, I’m slightly exaggerating, although I believe it to be the immutable case that both here in America and elsewhere, an informed grounding in certain eternal beer truths helps provide perspective when gauging flavors-of-the-moment in an understandably changing world. It’s what I’ve tended to forget, and what the September journey helped me to recall.

It was off the grid. I didn’t carry a phone, and there were no books available to consult. The object was to survey classic European beer styles, in their ancient, preferred public settings (with one exception, an amazing bottled Trois Monts from Northern France, supplied by my friend Jeff), and to go with my gut.

My gut turns out to have remarkably good taste, not that there were many doubts in my other mind.

Don’t get the wrong idea. Naturally, I support the continued innovative advance of “craft” beer. At the same time, it strikes me that the very last thing I want to see happen is every beer drinker in Bamberg waking one morning to the conclusion that India Pale Ale is the only beer for them. It’s a nightmare scenario.

Let there be an artisan working his or her side of the marketplace, providing alternatives for contrast and comparison, but don’t sacrifice those elements of tradition which still function as fundamental cultural markers, especially when they're doing as good or better a job of defining "craft" as the majority of "craft" brewers everywhere.

A damned fine Pilsner still is, and it pulls the Baltic right out of the Matjes herring. If I return to Berlin 25 years from now, I hope the pairing still works, and maybe I’ll have time to visit Heidenpeter’s newer tradition, too.

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Recent columns:

September 14: ON THE AVENUES with THE BEER BEAT: Beef Steak and Porter always made good belly mortar, but did America’s “top” steakhouses get the memo? (link to come)

September 7: ON THE AVENUES with THE BEER BEAT: We are dispirited in the post-factual beer world.

August 31: ON THE AVENUES: On a wig and a prayer, or where's the infidel gardening column?

August 26: ON THE AVENUES SATURDAY SPECIAL: One-ways on the way out, because with downtown at a crossroads, they simply had to be exterminated.

TRAVEL PRELUDES: An eagle's nest, a tasting room; a study in brown.


At the precise moment of this post's pre-set publication, we're likely eating breakfast in Haarlem, a city that is much to my liking by virtue of having friends there, as well as its proximity to Amsterdam to the east, and the sea to the west.

To tell the truth, there have been occasions when I've stayed in Haarlem and not even bothered to go to the bigger city 20 minutes away except to fly home.

Granted, there are distinctive museums, cultural attractions, food, drink and frivolity in Amsterdam, and yet Haarlem always has struck me as just fine in its own right, smaller and no less interesting.

Whether Amsterdam or Haarlem, one classification of pub- or tavern-being that has always impressed me in Holland is the institution of the brown cafe. Here's a good description from a non-beer-centric source.

Brown Cafes

You haven't really tasted Dutch beer until you've tasted it in Holland, served Dutch-style in a real bruine kroeg (brown cafe). These traditional Dutch bars are unpretentious, unpolished institutions filled with camaraderie, like a British pub or an American neighborhood bar. In a brown cafe, pouring another beer is much more important than dusting off the back bottles on the bar; the ritual is to draw a beer to get as much foam as possible, then to use a wet knife to shave off the head between a series of final fill-ups.

Even if you're not a beer lover, venturing into a brown cafe in Amsterdam will give you a peek into the city's everyday life. In old neighborhoods, brown cafes are on almost every corner -- you can't miss them. Most have lacy curtains on the bottom half of the window, and perhaps a cat sleeping on the ledge. In winter (and sometimes into spring), their front doors are hung with a thick drape to keep out drafts. Once inside, you'll find the smoky, mustard brownness that's unique to an Amsterdam brown cafe, the result of years -- no, centuries -- of thick smoke and warm conversation.

There may be booths or little tables sprinkled around, but the only spots of color and light will be the shining metal of the beer tap and, perhaps, a touch of red still showing in the Persian rugs thrown across the tables (a practice that's typically Dutch, if you recall the old paintings). You'll feel the eons of conviviality the minute you walk into a really old, really brown brown cafe. Some have been on their corners since Rembrandt's time, haunted by the ghosts of drinkers past.

Naturally, the choice of beer in a typical brown cafe during the time of my first visit to Amsterdam in 1987 would have been Dutch golden lager, whether Heineken, Amstel, Brand, Grolsch or numerous others.

The whole of the Netherlands has long since exploded into pervasive beer craftiness, and I'm guessing this phenomenon has altered the selection in brown cafes just like it has everywhere else.

There are many great beer bars in Amsterdam these days, though my personal favorite is 't Arendsnest, which means Eagle's Nest. It's also the name of the man who founded it.

Morebeer is the company owned by Peter van der Arend, passionate beer lover and beerologist. He started his venture in the year 2000 when he opened the Dutch beer bar Proeflokaal Arendsnest, located at the Herengracht 90 in Amsterdam. Proeflokaal Arendsnest was the first bar to serve exclusively Dutch craft beers.

The Dutch word "proeflokaal" (test classroom) appears to be one of those only vaguely translatable concepts, although at root it implies something on the order of testing/tasting room, and may have originated from the habit of jenever (Dutch gin) distilleries operating sampling venues nearby.

When Peter van der Arend opened his specialty Dutch beer bar, there were only a few dozen breweries in the Netherlands. The number now is in the hundreds. He definitely was on the front end of a savory trend.

At the moment, breakfast. However, beer thirty will arrive, and if we've had the chance to explore Amsterdam this time around, hopefully a rest stop at 't Arendsnest has been included in the itinerary.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

TRAVEL PRELUDES: Haarlem's awesome Cafe Briljant is winding down (for now), but not before I have another drink there.

Are you going to have another beer?

Boris, my friend and original Haarlem connection, long ago introduced me to his preferred local pub, the Cafe Briljant (Brilliant). Founded by Rob Alphenaar in 2002, Briljant is an intimate monument to fundamental good taste.


On September 30, Rob will preside over the Cafe Briljant's final evening in business at the current location. Happily, I'll be able to drink a few beers there before this closing event occurs.


At this point in time, I've been away from Haarlem for so long that there's a risk of my transmitting unintended fake news, but it appears Rob's looking for a new building for Briljant; he intends to continue showcasing local music, whiskey and beer fests; his identity as a periodic "gypsy" brewer remains intact; and his sister bar (Lokaal - Dutch Beer Bar, the former Cafe Pitcher) remains viable a short distance away.

I've had a lot of great times and fine beers at the Cafe Briljant, and wish Rob the very best as he reformats. It just means we'll have to go back sooner than later, and have a look.

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TIME TO REWIND

September 24, 2005 at The Potable Curmudgeon
Haarlem's Cafe Briljant

Rob is the patient, hard-working and beer-loving proprietor of the Café Briljant, which happens to be my friend Boris’s “local” café in Haarlem, Netherlands.


Kim, Rob, the Curmudgeon and Dewi at the Jopen beer festival.

The café is located on a quiet side street and is frequented by a diverse cross-section of the city’s lovers of well-tended ale (the local Jopen and Belgium’s La Chouffe, among others) and a civilized atmosphere in which to enjoy them.

My first visit to the Café Briljant came in 2004, when Kevin Lowber and I closed the highly successful Tour de Trappist bicycle adventure with three days on Boris’s floor and an evening or two of café crawling with him and our new friends Bill and Inge.

Unfortunately, Rob was unavailable for duty in July, 2004, having been packed off for a long overdue break by the café’s regular customers, who were concerned that he hadn’t had a vacation in more than two years, pooled their resources to organize a holiday for him, and volunteered for bar duty in his absence.

Now that’s appreciation.

For an evening’s session or a nightcap after dining in one of Haarlem’s seemingly endless supply of fine restaurants, Café Briljant is the ideal stop, neither loud nor boisterous, and suited for conversation and one of Rob’s thoughtfully chosen drafts and bottles. It seems that single malt lovers also have been known to savor a tipple at the small, comfortable café.

Rob’s web site, although in Dutch, is regularly updated and amply illustrates the range of activities that emanate from behind the bar.

I’ve never gotten around to compiling an official list of “sister bars” to Rich O’s Public House, but if such a list ever is assembled, you can bet that the Café Briljant will be on it.

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POSTSCRIPT


In February of 2007 I took a week's beer hunting break in Belgium and Netherlands in the company of my pal Kevin Richards. Among the other attractions was Boris' (no numbers, please) birthday party in Haarlem.

In this photo from February, 2007, Rob is tending bar at Cafe Briljant, with Bill England (mentioned in the preceding) and Kevin chatting at the other end.

Sadly, Bill and Kevin died in 2016, roughly nine months apart. I just want to say that I think about them all the time, and there'll be more than one glass lifted to their memory in 2017 during the "return to Haarlem" segment of the trip. They'd both appreciate the irreverence of this closing toast to cycling togetherness masterfully articulated by Bob Reed:


Here’s to us.

May we never quarrel or fuss.
But if by chance we should disagree,
#%@* you, and here’s to me.

SHANE'S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS: Carrier squab just doesn't have the same ring.




Shane's at home making money, and I'm in Belgium spending it ... on youthful pigeons?

The book is called Cooking with Belgian Beers, with recipes by Stefaan Couttenye, owner of 't Hommelhof restaurant in Watou, Belgium. When it comes to local Westhoek foodstuffs, it's best to keep an open mind -- not to mention mouth.

What Is Squab? (D'Artagnan)

Squab are young pigeons that have never flown. For thousands of years, they have been a favorite meal for every stratum of society throughout the world. They were unequivocally the first domesticated poultry, even preempting chicken.

This may surprise twenty-first century Americans. More often we think of pigeons as annoying denizens of city monuments and buildings. In fact, these are rock doves, a relative of pigeons, and far less edible. Yet squab is considered a most exquisite ingredient in cuisines as distinct as Cantonese, Moroccan and French. The simple reason for squab’s universal appeal is the delicate, succulent flesh, truly unlike that of any other bird. Squab is a dark-meat bird, like duck and goose, yet the meat is not nearly as fibrous, rendering it far more tender. Its flavor, when properly cooked, is a lush, rich essence, reminiscent of sautéed foie gras, albeit with more texture.

Thanks to MW for reminding me that life's all about how you sell it. Let's hope someone at Gospel Bird takes note.

As you read these winged words, our time in Poperinge (with Watou nearby) is through, but if squab made it onto the personal menu card, I'll tell you about it later.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

TRAVEL PRELUDES: Ieper ... Ypres ... Wipers; the Great War and a passing of generations.







The three segments of this decade-old documentary -- Geert Mak's In Europa ... "1915 Ieper" -- last only 40 minutes, but it's an invaluable introduction to the lasting impact of World War I. 

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I'm trying not to read very much into this breathtakingly trite observation, but time has a way of passing.

Between 2000 and 2008, I traveled to Poperinge seven times, five of them with a bicycle as integral component of the itinerary. However, 2017 will mark only the second time back since 2008, and in the interim, much has changed in Pops and environs.

Well, duh -- and yet it's always amazing the way a human mind can remain stuck in self-enforced sepia, visualizing a milieu as it was, as though life itself wasn't dynamic and ever shifting.

Westhoek means "west corner" in Dutch, and as a region, Westhoek includes the areas around Poperinge, Ieper, Watou and Diksmuide. More so than the Middle Ages or Napoleon -- far more so than World War II -- these locales were profoundly impacted by almost four years of constant combat during the Great War.

In the year 2000 on the Monday of our first-ever bicycling adventure using Poperinge as a base, we rode to Ieper (ee-per). That's the Flemish version; it's Ypres in French and 'Wipers" to British soldiers during World War I. Barely a stone was left standing in Ieper at war's end. The whole city was rebuilt from the cellars up, and to this very day, tons of unexploded ordinance surface yearly.

On that first day in 2000, as we headed east from Poperinge, the French hills known as Trois Monts almost always could be seen rising on the horizon to the south, and although they aren’t particularly big, the flatness of Flanders magnifies their significance and one can readily understand their strategic importance in wartime.

The hills are why the Germans attacked in this direction. The Allies answered, and the result was years of devastating trench warfare stalemate. Just to the north, the Allied flank was secured only by a desperate expedient: the dikes near Diksmuide were breached and thousands of acres of farmland flooded to create a wall of water.

Our cycling journey took us past numerous Great War monuments and cemeteries of the British Commonwealth forces, whose final resting places attested to the global scale of the First World War: Irish, Australian, Canadian and Indian soldiers, buried alongside lads from Manchester and Newcastle. The resting places of Belgian, French and German soldiers also were seen.

Monday’s midday sag brought us to the center of the city, and a tale I've never forgotten. When the second world conflagration swept through Belgium, one young Ieper native resolved to escape. He made it somehow to the then-colony of Belgian Congo, and later to South Africa, where he enlisted in the British armed forces and fought against his country's German occupiers until 1945.

Afterward he returned to Ieper and founded a restaurant and pub, sold it, then opened another, called Ter Posterie for its location opposite the post office.

Ter Posterie was another classic Belgian cafe, with many dozens of bottled ales, a few more on draft, savory food and a comfortable outdoor terrace, where we sat and discussed our first half-day’s ride.

I never knew this man’s name, but nonetheless met him on three different occasions while enjoying the beer, food and hospitality at Ter Posterie. By 2000, active control of the business had long since passed to his daughter, although the old man still frequented the establishment.

Whenever he heard English being spoken, he'd amble over and spin his life story for the visitor in a narrative honed over thousands of ale-side retellings. Apparently we met him as he was descending into Alzheimer’s disease. During one visit on a quiet afternoon, perhaps in 2005, he could be heard howling somewhere to the rear, with harried family members rushing back and forth to care both for him and the cafe's guests.

At some point prior to 2009, he died, and later Ter Posterie closed.

In circuitous fashion, we return to the inevitability of change. I'm writing these words in advance of our actual visit to Poperinge and Haarlem (Netherlands), which I suspect will be a tad more elegiac than those stays in previous years.

In Poperinge, the triennial hop fest rolls merrily on. Luc is retired from the tourist office, and it's been almost ten years since Guy and Beatrice ran the Hotel Palace. It remains a viable business, just not the same for me as before.

In Watou, Chef Stefaan Couttenye's wife Sabine died a few years ago. She ran the front of the house at 't Hommelhof, and I worked with her twice when making arrangements for feeding my motorcoach groups.

I'd visited Poperinge prior to my period of obsession with bicycling, and for this reason my friends joined me in biking there for the first time in 2000, but there'd have been no biking without the encouragement and tutelage of the late Kevin Richards, who'll be very much on my mind as the parade unwinds in 2017. Glasses will be raised, repeatedly.

As you're watching the video prefacing these thoughts, remember that 100 years ago, there seemed to be no future for Westhoek. The people there persevered, and they built it back.

For me, returning to Poperinge will be like visiting old friends, albeit missing a few of them. All I can do is promise to remember them, and keep moving forward.

Monday, September 18, 2017

TRAVEL PRELUDES: For a town so small, Watou packs a big gustatory punch.


It was in the year 2000 that our little band of bicycling bar buddies went for the first time to Belgium to ride. We came to Poperinge from Tournai on a Sunday and checked into the Hotel Palace. On Monday morning we rented bikes and started pedaling.

On Tuesday the riding schedule was light, but rich in intangibles, because Poperinge's tourism director Luc Dequidt and his wife joined us as local guides. They took us on a leisurely pace through the country lanes radiating from Poperinge, never very far from the smell of manure and the sight of hop trellises.

It became a pub crawl on human-powered wheels, commencing with a Westvleteren 12-degree Trappist on the terrace of the Café de Vrede opposite the St. Sixtus abbey. After cruising through the woods and fields to the fabled “brewing village” of Watou, there was refreshing Witbier from the hometown Van Eecke brewery.

Then we rode south and east via wooded lanes and more farms, back to Poperinge and a few rounds with the owner Guy at his hotel bar.

Buddy must have taken this one.

Out from Poperinge near Watou at the edge of the Helleketel forest there used to be a small brewery and tasting café known as the Brouwerij de Bie.

One of its flagship beers was named for the forest.

There is no Helle,
or even Kapelle,
in Hellekapelle.

Rather it’s a light, spicy beer,
named after the pub of its first little cheer
with the original brewery near.

The brewery lay next to the Helleketel woods
where flew brooms with witches in hoods.

With all that flying a good portion is a life raft
but one day one spilled her draught.

The pubgoers thought the new brew was a whopper
and that's how Hellekapelle came to be a topper.

The Bie had character galore, but it wasn't open on our riding day with Luc. Since then, the brewery has relocated twice and now operates out of Dentergem, near Kortrijk.

Amazingly, yet another brewery lies just outside tiny Watou: Brouwerij St. Bernard, which for a half-century (through the 1990s) produced beer under contract for the monks of St. Sixtus (makers of the famous Westvleteren mentioned earlier) under the brand name St. Sixtus.

When the monks expanded their brewing capacity, the contract was terminated, and the St. Bernard brewery responded sensibly by beginning to brew its own line of St. Bernardus abbey-style ales, landing understandably near Trappist style norms, and arguably the finest of all secular recreations.

The point to all this is that for a village so small (population 1,900) and a scene so bucolic, Watou is a happening kind of place, with the two aforementioned breweries as well as ’t Hommelhof, a world-renowned restaurant, which I'll come to in a moment.

First, a closer look at the two breweries. As a prelude to this 2012 link, note that 18,000 hectoliters is the equivalent of roughly 15,000 barrels (31 gallons each) as we know them in America. By comparison, in 2016 the Upland Brewing Company in Bloomington, Indiana brewed 16,000 barrels of beer.

Brouwerij Van Eecke down the street from ’t Hommelhof dates to 1862. It’s still family-owned (one of the 15 members of Belgian Family Brewers) and has only five employees producing about 18,000 hectoliters of beer a year. The brewery maintains a fleet of 10 trucks—each driver has 100 accounts—for villagers who can have their favorite Van Eecke beers delivered to their doorstep as in the olden days.

As for Brouwerij St. Bernard, I can't even touch Michael "Beer Hunter" Jackson's elegant prose.

This whole border region is hop country, especially around the Belgian town of Poperinge, not far from Ieper (Ypres). The town of Watou even has a statue of a brewer on one of its main squares. He is not identified as a particular brewer - he just serves as a symbol of the local industry. I have seen no such statute anywhere else. On another main square is a famous restaurant specialising in cuisine à la bière, 't Hommelhof (the name means hop garden).

At a time of instability in France, the monks from Mont des Cats moved across the border and established a chapter in Watou. "The Chapter" (in Flemish, Het Kapittel) gave its name to a range of fruity-tasting, complex beers still made by the Van Eecke brewery, just off the town square at Watou.

The chapter of monks also established a dairy farm and developed a local market for their cheese. When the monks returned to France, a local family of cheese-makers took over the business. In the recovery period after World War II, the family, called Claus, turned their dairy (also in Watou) into a brewery.

Confusingly the stimulus for this was a request to produce beer for another Trappist monastery, St Sixtus, in nearby Westvleteren. During that half-century, the monks of Westvleteren produced beer for sale at the abbey, while the Claus family brewed a St Sixtus range for wider distribution. When the monastery of St Sixtus replaced its old brewhouse with a bigger one in the 1990s, this arrangement came to an end.

Like the cheese-making monks who inspired it, the Claus family brewery had always been dedicated to St Bernardus. Its beers, in the abbey style, are now sold under the name St Bernardus, and new partners have joined the company to help market this range.

In closing, food.

I've been extremely fortunate to have enjoyed more than one meal at the 't Hommelhof restaurant in Watou, founded twenty or so years ago by Stefaan Couttenye and his wife, the late Sabine Dejonckheere. On one early springtime visit, hop shoots were on the menu.

When Chef Couttenye opened 't Hommelhof, the notion of beer cuisine in general, and local food sourcing in particular, remained a minority taste even in a place like Belgium.

It is an understatement to say he was far ahead of his time. I've purchased his most recent book, Cooking with Belgian Beers: Great recipes flavoured with the famous 'Westhoek' beers, written with Stefaan's son Simon, who now runs the beer program at the restaurant. A review is forthcoming.

The exact details elude me, but I remember one time in Poperinge when a few of us wanted to air it out at 't Hommelhof. It's only a few miles away, but we didn't have a way there and back for an evening to be spent eating and drinking. We were staying at the Hotel Palace, and Guy magnanimously volunteered to drive us to dinner.

Overly sated, a ride was fortuitously hitched back to Poperinge with a friendly local couple who overheard us talking during the feast.

There's a reason why I keep coming back to this corner of Belgium.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

TRAVEL PRELUDES: The Talbot House in Poperinge, where the ghosts congregate.



Every three years, Poperinge's hop festival concludes on a Sunday afternoon during harvest season with an inspirational, and thankfully only faintly commercialized, parade through the center.

The history of the hop serves as pretext, but what the parade really reinforces is Poperinge's ongoing viability and local identity. Probably every family in town is involved in one way or another, and to me, it's like a heritage weekend.

I've written about the parade on several occasions, most recently here: 2014 Euro Reunion Tour, Day 12.5: The story of hops in parade format.

Any 2017 updates I might have will be found here, in time.

Poperinge is a pleasant place to visit year-round, hop fest or none. It is an excellent base for bicycling, with fine food and drink as well as ample history. I believe it was 2008 when I finally got around to visiting the Talbot House -- or, Every Man's Club.

During the Great War, Poperinge was part of unoccupied Belgium. Away from the turmoil of battle in the Ypres Salient, the town became the nerve centre of the British sector. In the heart of this bustling town, the Army chaplains Neville Talbot and Philip "Tubby" Clayton opened a club. From December 1915 onwards, and for more than three years, the House provided rest and recreation to all soldiers coming in, regardless of their rank. Today, as real as then, the place offers a welcoming and friendly stop in Flanders fields.

I found it very moving, indeed.

Poperinge narrowly escaped the fate of so many other cities and towns during World War I, such as nearby Ieper (Ypres), which was reduced to a lunar landscape by more than three years of combat. I'm not the supernatural sort, but in and around Poperinge the now peaceful landscape is populated with ghosts, and it takes very few Poperings Hommelbiers to feel their presence.

In 2018, it will have been a century since the war's conclusion, or one hundred years to learn one very big lesson, which I doubt we have ... or will.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

TRAVEL PRELUDES: Poperinge and a date with Westvleteren.

I harbor a great deal of affection for the town of Poperinge, to which I was introduced way back in 1998.

I'd organized a motorcoach tour, wherein 16 of us visited beer pilgrimage spots in Netherlands and Belgium. It came to me attention that the tourist office in Poperinge was dipping its toes into beer tourism, and had an inexpensive program to supply a guide to board our bus for a few hours and officiate.

We went to a countryside roadhouse, learned about old-fashioned pub games, toured the Van Eecke brewery in Watou, and finished at the Hopmuseum Poperinge.

There a strange man approached me and asked if I was the tour leader Roger, whereupon I met Luc Dequidt, then the tourist office's director, and these days happily retired.

Many bountiful returns have accrued from this meeting with Luc, beginning with my first triennial hop festival in September, 1999. I've only missed one since, in 2011.

In 2005, the missus realized she liked beer after all. The revelation came in Brugge, when she absconded with my Trappist ale, a Rochefort 10. Hence this dispatch from Poperinge, where she closed the deal. It was dated September 22, 2005 and written following our return home for publication at The Potable Curmudgeon.

2017 updates will be linked here, in due time.

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In the grand tradition of beer advertising, we've chosen a beautiful woman to display the product being touted.



Trust me - it's really Westvleteren 12, the beer that “disappeared” from circulation when it was selected as the best beer in the world by readers of RateBeer.com.

Not that it was easy to find, even in Belgium ... even where it is brewed.

The Cafe de Vrede, across the lane from the Sint Sixtus Abbey, was closed for its annual autumn break, which seems usually to occur at the very same time that beer lovers gather in nearby Poperinge for the triennial hop festival. We biked past the venue, and as my old friend Barrie would say, paused to kiss the lock on the door before proceeding into town.

Arriving at the marvelous Hotel Palace in Poperinge, we found no Westvleteren at that estimable cafe; actually, it wasn't clear whether Guy had had any from the start, or whether his stock already was depleted by the time we checked on Saturday.

Cafe de la Paix? Fine food and a great beer selection, but no, not there, either.
Then on Sunday, in preparation for the parade, we dined at the Poussecafe, located just up Ieperstraat from the Palace, and the elusive Trappist elixir was right there, printed on the paper menu, in full view.

I asked the server, who proved to be the owner, "Do you really have this beer in stock?"

He shrugged and replied: "It wouldn't be listed if I didn't."

An incredible lunch followed, and the food was good, too, but I still prefer Rochefort 10, with Westvleteren a close second.

Later, comfortably seated along the parade route, I was introduced to a great new way to enjoy Poperings Hommelbier.



Pitch the lemons and limes, and go back to the basics.

Friday, September 15, 2017

TRAVEL PRELUDES: Mechelen, with a side of Gouden Carolus.

2014.
Mechelen is located north of Brussels, situated roughly equidistant between the capital and Antwerp.

This historic city of 82,000 lies on flat ground astride the Dijle River, with the 320-feet tall cathedral tower of St. Rumbold's visible from the nearby countryside amid fields of endive, asparagus and cauliflower.

In September of 2008, six of us went bicycling through Belgium, occasionally hopping a train between destinations. We began in Haarlem, Netherlands, where we rented bikes, then took the railroad to Mechelen.

From the train station, a short ride brought us to the Het Anker brewery, with an onsite hotel and fully equipped café for our sampling pleasure.

Het Anker’s flagship Gouden Carolus Classic remains a great favorite of mine, and in 2008 I was at the peak of my powers, since largely ceded, to cajole favors from importers and wholesalers. In this case it was a guided brewery tour for the group.

The brewery's adaptive late-20th century survival strategies might be more interesting than the previous 400 years of brewing history on the site, a former beguinage.

In 2008, we rode around, walked a bit and explored the city. I found it intriguing; as though with a bit of a civic inferiority complex (everyone fixates on Brussels and Antwerp), though right on the cusp of something more.

It took a while to make it back, but Diana and I spent a final night on the continent in Mechelen in 2014 before flying home from nearby Brussels airport (ten minutes away by direct train), and a significant amount of municipal groove seemed to have been reclaimed.

It’s been three years, and I can still taste the superb Moroccan food at the Ronda restaurant on the Vismarkt, where transcendent tagines and couscous stand ready for the tasting. In 2017, Mechelen’s the first night of the trip, not the last, and I bet I already know where we'll be eating ... after a few beers at Het Anker.

I've never written about the 2008 trip, and some day it finally will get done. When photos of 2017 are available, you'll find them here.

2014 Euro Reunion Tour, Day 13: A final Belgian evening in Mechelen, with Opsinjoorke.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Us, too: "Louisville’s roads need to be designed for citizens, not cars."


If Greg Fischer's words aren't enough, just think where this leaves Jeff Gahan.

Speechless?

Streets for People: Louisville’s roads need to be designed for citizens, not cars, by Chris Glasser (Insider Louisville)

This is the first in a series of articles focusing on Louisville’s street design. Written by Bicycling for Louisville Executive Director Chris Glasser, the “Streets for People” series will be published with the goal of encouraging a (polite and civil) online discussion of these topics. Please see the comment form below.

... Mayor Greg Fischer, it should be noted, is fantastic at talking about the need for our city to shift away from its car dependency. Fischer was one of the driving forces behind a national report on “Innovation Districts,” which advocates for redesigning cities’ infrastructure for improved walkability. In his strategic plan for Louisville, the top goal is to “improve multi-modal transportation and community streetscapes.” Fischer is as well-spoken as any leader on the importance of walkable, bikeable, inviting city space.

This is great. Unfortunately, it’s not enough.

When being interviewed by Charlie Rose recently, the mayor argued that actions speak louder than words. “You know, what I always say is, I don’t watch the lips, I watch the actions,” he said. “That’s really what’s critical and that’s how people judge us.”

To take Fischer at his word and judge him by his own standard, our city is falling well short of the administration’s stated top goal. Fischer’s annual budgets speak volumes on this matter — they’re his defining action, louder than his words. Yes, there is a small amount allocated to build a bike network — a pittance that Metro Council undercuts every year during the budget review period — but beyond that, there is virtually nothing that will begin to push us toward achieving Fischer’s goal of 25 percent of trips occurring on foot, bike or bus by 2030.

What can be done? Here are three suggestions, along with a map to show where they could be implemented:

Fund two-way street conversions in urban neighborhoods.
Remove traffic signals, replace them with stop signs.
Design major intersections to be nodes, not throughways.

An eleventh way to experience Harvest Homecoming's 50th.


It's a good lineup, and here's #11 (or #1). "Patronize local businesses. They're here all year."

Ten Ways to Experience Harvest Homecoming's 50th, by Regina Walker-Tekulve (Go SoIn)

Beginning late September through October 15, downtown New Albany is home to one of the largest fall festivals in Indiana. Aside from the parade, fun rides, funnel cakes, and pumpkin ice cream, here’s a list of “Ten Ways to Experience Harvest Homecoming You May Not Know About” to help you enjoy Harvest Homecoming’s 50th anniversary to the fullest.

ON THE AVENUES with THE BEER BEAT: Beef Steak and Porter always made good belly mortar, but did America’s “top” steakhouses get the memo?

ON THE AVENUES with THE BEER BEAT: Beef Steak and Porter always made good belly mortar, but did America’s “top” steakhouses get the memo?

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

You can always tell when I'm looking forward to a meal.

This essay has not appeared previously at NA Confidential. However, it ran at Potable Curmudgeon on February 22, 2016.

As usual with vintage pieces, there's a necessary update. The downtown Louisville location of Z's closed temporarily in late winter 2017, with the disruption attributed to the renovation of the Kentucky International Convention Center.

Management says the steakhouse will return once the dust clears, and let's hope they do, although it remains that for the Confidentials, walking down two-way Spring Street to Brooklyn is more likely than driving to Louisville.

Finally, note the distinct possibility that the Café de la Paix meal described at essay's end stands an excellent chance of being repeated in just a few days.

Which may be the entire reason for this column in the first place.

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ON THE AVENUES with THE BEER BEAT: Beef Steak and Porter always made good belly mortar, but did America’s “top” steakhouses get the memo?

Once upon a time during a previous life, so long ago that Michael Jordan still played for Da Bulls, I had dinner at Louisville’s branch of Ruth’s Chris Steak House.

The restaurant was (and is) perched on the 16th floor of the Kaden Tower, with a spectacular view of the Watterson Expressway and adjoining suburbs, complete with a hazy filter of exhaust fumes as a soothing background for selfies, which of course didn’t even exist at the time.

It was a fine evening, and while I’ve long since forgotten what I ate and drank that night, there remains one serviceable memory of the occasion: Looking around the dining room and seeing lots of customers in the process of cheerfully dropping C-notes for an appetizer, entrée and dessert, then washing down these fruits of their expense accounts with $5 Miller Lites – often straight from the bottle.

In short, nauseating and revolting, although I’m prepared to concede something important, for the fact that I even noticed this scene probably says a lot more about me and the gnawing of my own resident demons than Ruth’s Chris Steak House or its habitués.

After all, I’m neither a frequent consumer of steaks nor a regular patron of those restaurants specializing in them. It alarms me that so far in 2016, I’ve eaten four hamburgers, which probably equals my total from all of last year.

For me, beef should be safe, legal … and rare.

Accordingly, earlier this month, for the first time in a year, we enjoyed an excellent night out with friends at Z’s Oyster Bar and Steakhouse in downtown Louisville.

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It should surprise no one to learn that such an evening constituted a major splurge, but even if we were wealthy, it isn’t something we’d probably do regularly.

If for no other reason, my gout medicine soon would be overwhelmed by the blood, shellfish and Port.

Z’s is pricey, and very good. A half-dozen tasty West Coast oysters at a place like Z’s cost more than the entrée at most of my usual haunts, and three hours later, after an entire bottle of Malbec, half of an unfortunate heifer and a glass or two of Graham’s Six Grapes for dessert, with various other nibbles scattered throughout, I was heavier around the waist and lighter in the wallet.

Exemplary ... and here is the Z’s beer list.

Amstel Light 5.95
Buckler 4.5
Bud Light 4.5
Budweiser 4.5
Coors Light 4.5
Corona Extra 5.95
Heineken 5.95
Hoegaarden 6.95
Goodwood American Pale Ale 6.95
Goodwood Bourbon Barrel Stout 8.75
Kentucky Ale 5.95
Kentucky Ale Bourbon Barrel 8.75
Michelob Ultra 5.95
Miller Lite 4.5
Sierra Nevada IPA 6.95 (presumably Torpedo)
Stella Artois 6.5

In truth, it’s a better selection than I would have imagined.

Nine golden lagers in varying shades of quantifiably insipid, but two barrel-aged beers and two hops-forward options. To be sure, congratulations are due them for featuring four local beers. All in all, the list could be worse.

It also could be better.

(A disclaimer: In no way is any of this to be construed as a complaint about Z’s. Everything about my experiences there – food, service and atmosphere – have been uniformly excellent. My head-scratching extends beyond a single eatery, to the realm of universals.)

Why is it that the American model of “steakhouse” in the context of Z’s, Ruth’s Chris and so many others invariably – inevitably, infuriatingly – shortchanges beer options, which nowadays are plentiful and stylistically varied, but also would immeasurably enhance the overall experience for those so inclined?

Perhaps the simplest answer is best. There is no documentary evidence to suggest that the customer base of such a steakhouse desires beer choice. Moreover, the profit margin on wine and liquor surely dwarfs the return on beer, so only a few popular lagers are kept around for the die-hards, and that’s that.

I’ve long since learned to mournfully adapt. Precisely because my operating assumption is that steakhouses customarily downplay beer, I harbor absolutely no expectations once I’ve resolved to dine at one of them.

Instead, I generally drink wine, all the while imagining what certain styles of beers would taste like paired with interesting menu items.

Admittedly my sampling is small, and exceptions surely plentiful. Just last week, Brooklyn and The Butcher opened in New Albany, and while the “see cow, eat cow” cognoscenti can debate whether it should be compared with the preceding and other similar establishments, the short beer list at Brooklyn already is certifiably better than the one at Z’s.

Consequently, in the future when a splurge is merited, I know where I’ll be walking.

In the interim, I’m left to ponder examples of how it might be done better, and that’s easy. In my tortured, beer-forward universe, there already exists a model for how this might work.

It’s called Belgium – the country and its beers.

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Specifically, the Café de la Paix on the main square in Poperinge, which I cite here because only a year and a half ago, we ate there. The same is true of the dining room at the Hotel Palace, a scant 200 yards away, but we didn’t make it to the Palace in 2014. Needless to say, there is a corresponding example in every town of size in the country, at large.

Café de la Paix is a full service restaurant, offering an excellent wine list and a full bar in addition to a lengthy beer sheet. Is it the exact equal of Z’s or Ruth’s Chris? I doubt it, but to reiterate, the point is to illustrate how beer and steak go together.

Here is what I had for dinner.

Opener: Escargot with Rodenbach Grand Cru. The oyster-like texture of snails, slathered in garlic and butter, with a classically sour, wood-aged red ale to cut through the richness.

Main Course: Steak (medium rare) with Béarnaise sauce, green salad, frites and De Dolle Oerbier; the latter is malty, fruity and complex, and elegantly fills the slot red wine might otherwise occupy.

Closer: Rochfort 10, and a stolen bit of a fellow diner’s tart. Still one of the top Trappists on the planet, and a dark, rich dessert in a bottle.

Total cost: Somewhere around $50.

Fifty bucks, forty Euros; they’d buy plenty of groceries here or in Europe – and this is utterly irrelevant. It was a special occasion, and cause for celebration. Add my wife’s meal and drinks, recall that the gratuity is included, and know that this wonderful, beer-friendly meal was one-third the cost of our recent Z’s feast … and not only that, outside it was Belgium, not Louisville.

Priceless, wouldn’t you say?

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Recent columns:

September 7: ON THE AVENUES with THE BEER BEAT: We are dispirited in the post-factual beer world.

August 31: ON THE AVENUES: On a wig and a prayer, or where's the infidel gardening column?

August 26: ON THE AVENUES SATURDAY SPECIAL: One-ways on the way out, because with downtown at a crossroads, they simply had to be exterminated.

August 24: ON THE AVENUES: PourGate (the Great Beer Pour War of 2013) and Dr. Tom's prescription: "Kneel and Kiss My Ring, You Degraded Alcoholic."

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

"A lesson from Hurricane Irma: capitalism can’t save the planet – it can only destroy it."

Growth for the sake of growth?

It's the ideology of the cancer cell.

A lesson from Hurricane Irma: capitalism can’t save the planet – it can only destroy it, by George Monbiot (The Guardian)

The perpetual quest for growth drives our economics. That’s why our environment and financial system lurch from crisis to crisis

There was “a flaw” in the theory: this is the famous admission by Alan Greenspan, the former chair of the Federal Reserve, to a congressional inquiry into the 2008 financial crisis. His belief that the self-interest of the lending institutions would lead automatically to the correction of financial markets had proved wrong. Now, in the midst of the environmental crisis, we await a similar admission. We may be waiting some time.

For, as in Greenspan’s theory of the financial system, there cannot be a problem. The market is meant to be self-correcting: that’s what the theory says. As Milton Friedman, one of the architects of neoliberal ideology, put it: “Ecological values can find their natural space in the market, like any other consumer demand.” As long as environmental goods are correctly priced, neither planning nor regulation is required. Any attempt by governments or citizens to change the likely course of events is unwarranted and misguided.

But there’s a flaw. Hurricanes do not respond to market signals. The plastic fibres in our oceans, food and drinking water do not respond to market signals. Nor does the collapse of insect populations, or coral reefs, or the extirpation of orangutans from Borneo.

The unregulated market is as powerless in the face of these forces as the people in Florida who resolved to fight Hurricane Irma by shooting it. It is the wrong tool, the wrong approach, the wrong system.

There are two inherent problems with the pricing of the living world and its destruction. The first is that it depends on attaching a financial value to items – such as human life, species and ecosystems – that cannot be redeemed for money. The second is that it seeks to quantify events and processes that cannot be reliably predicted ...

LIVE TO EAT: A cooking contest at MESA, with an application deadline of September 25.


I have no desire to enter a cooking competition. Judging it is another matter entirely. Alas, the judges already have been selected, and so I return to my stool, beer in hand.

Here's the press release.

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MESA, A Collaborative Kitchen and PANTRE Kitchen Essentials will be hosting its first annual contest called “SO YOU THINK YOU CAN COOK?”

This unique and exciting cook-off competition will pit local amateurs against one another for the title of Best Amateur Cook. 36 lucky individuals will be chosen by four local, professional area chefs to compete in teams of four.

 Area professional chefs/judges will chose 36 applicants. The chosen applicants are to create their best signature dish and bring it to MESA on Monday, October 2nd at 6:30 p.m. for an official tasting by the judges. From the 12 dishes, the three chefs will chose teams to mentor and help perfect their respective dishes.

Team One will cook on October 11th, Team Two on October 18th, and Team Three on October 19th. The best cook of each contest evening will advance to the final round on Wednesday, November 8th.

 A grand package will be given including a $250 Gift card among other prizes. Details will be provided to the 12 individuals who are chosen to compete.

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN COMPETING, PLEASE SUBMIT AN APPLICATION TO MESA IN NEW ALBANY BY MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 25TH.

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About Mesa: MESA is a state-of-the-art collaborative kitchen-classroom, featuring demonstrations and shows by Southern Indiana’s and Louisville established and aspiring chefs. The collaborative space offers cooking classes, dinners, and demonstration and also houses a bookstore, pantry, to go cooking dinners and cookware boutique. With the emerging and dynamic restaurant scene, MESA has become the culinary hub for Kentuckiana’s highly talented chef population to come and share their love for food with the public and each other.

What can two-way drivers see that one-way driver's didn't?

When Spring Street was reverted to two way traffic, some of the first comments I heard were about the urban tableau "looking different" than it did before.

As someone who walks a lot, this observation didn't make sense to me, at least until I realized that for many people a one-way perspective has been virtually the only one they've ever seen ... while driving through downtown, rarely walking.

Following are some examples of this phenomenon. Please submit yours, and I'll post them after I return from vacation.

Dress & Dwell's new west-facing logo might be a coincidence given the ongoing alley beautification project, but it definitely stands out for those traveling east on Spring.


Businesses on the Pearl Street side of the old Opera House now can be seen by drivers and passengers who are headed east.


Unfortunately, so can the terminally vacant former La Rosita space. Perhaps an expanded point of view will help conjure a buyer or new tenants (hint: signage larger than a sheet of paper might help achieving this aim).


Over on Market, you've always seen this side.


Now there's balance.


In closing, don't forget to two-way your banners.

SHANE'S EXCELLENT WORDS: Wordplay, mispronunciation, the tube and two Ronnies.

Wordplay is just that.

noun
1. clever or subtle repartee; verbal wit.
2. a play on words; pun.

While not suggesting that America lacks suitable examples of wordplay, it remains that our experience with the English language doesn't match that of our former colonial overlords.

Back in 1987, when I first became acquainted with the Three Danes of the Apocalypse, beer provided a powerful bond, but Monty Python arguably was stronger; a Hoosier and a trio of northern Europeans, all delighted with the verbal humor of a comedic band of Brits.

Recently Kim Andersen directed my attention to a sketch of which I was unaware.



Ronnie Barker (above) and Ronnie Corbett famously collaborated as The Two Ronnies on British television. The two Ronnies appear together in this sketch, conversing in what might be called "tube-speak."



The tube?

As a reminder, in British English the tube is the subway, metro or underground, especially in London.


Don't forget to mind the gap!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

ASK THE BORED: Elm Street reversion rollout? Don't ask, because it's not the city's top priority, or something like that.


It looks like the newspaper's Elizabeth Beilman drew the short straw for the Board of Works meeting this morning, seeing as usual Bored observer Chris Morris was otherwise occupied urging precipitate vigilante action against the owner of 519 Hausfeldt Lane.

MORRIS: Time has run out on New Albany house


 ... But that black walnut tree would be a welcome site to the folks who live near 519 Hausfeldt Lane in New Albany. Instead of a walnut tree they have junked cars, trash, mosquitoes and yes rats running around the neighborhood. You see 519 Hausfeldt Lane is a junkyard sitting in a residential area. The house and both front and back yards are full of junk. And due to an ongoing lawsuit, nothing can be done about it until a judge rules on the matter or tosses it out for having no merit. But something needs to be done with it, like now. It needs to be bulldozed ...

... So there are legal hurdles to clear. But it sounds like the city is determined to do something about the property. That is a good thing. This should be the city's top priority as we close out 2017. Whatever it takes to speed up the process needs to happen.

I understand due process, but it's a joke that in 2017, in a civilized society on a street visible to many and near a large industrial park and college campus, this is allowed to continue. It seems like no judge could look at this property and say it's not a health hazard or just wrong. Something has to get done.

"I understand due process, but ... "

Wait -- wasn't this Donald Trump's subliminal campaign slogan?

Morris is a member of the News and Tribune's editorial board, which was unable to muster a coherent response to DNA's recent Sombrero Stereotyping Walk, perhaps because speaking out about unaddressed racial stereotyping might insult the (naturally) well-intentioned "right" type of people, not the "wrong" evil straw men -- like the owner of this admittedly nasty suburban property-value-lowering house.

"This should be the city's top priority as we close out 2017."

Seriously?

This one house?

Granted, there is absolutely no defense for the noxious schlemiel wreaking havoc on his neighborhood -- nor for dozens of other similar buttwipes around town, those with the good fortune NOT to have one of Morris's favored grandees living right next to them so that the nearby afflicted won't have a better-connected voice to argue their case, as Larry Clemons has been doing with regard to 519 Hausfeldt.

And yet even Clemons has insufficient strings to pull as they pertain to a legal system rightly or wrongly accepted by most of us in 95% of instances, so just this one time, let's discard due process and just do what's "right."

I feel for the neighbors, but please, can everyone read a few American history books? In this case, as in so many other areas of the human experience, it's wise to be very careful what you wish for.

Others might decide it's time to abandon due process, too, and in circumstances of far more pressing impact. Vigilantism is a dangerous concept, isn't it? And can the editorial board muster some energy for explicating the multitude of local examples wherein actual human beings are subject to oppression?

It's doing a fairly uniform, consistent job of it in Charlestown and Jeffersonville, and less so in New Albany. Maybe that's because the newspaper's eyes on the ground in NA wear blinders.

But, predictably, I digress.

So, by the way, BoW doesn't know when Elm Street will carry two-way traffic because of this railroad and that luxury housing development.

Note also that BoW deems pedestrian amenities like crosswalk signals a "minor" part of the two-way reversion.

Think so?

By the time the first such pedestrian crossing finally becomes operational, it will have been a month since Spring Street went modern, for what was supposed to have been enhanced walkability.

It's okay. The irony probably was lost on every last one of them.

Market Street in New Albany now two ways — Elm is next (Beilman; 'Bune)

No date yet for Elm Street Conversion

NEW ALBANY — Market Street in downtown New Albany is now converted from one way to two, leaving just one street left to change as part of the city's grid modernization project.

City officials were told at the New Albany Board of Works and Safety meeting Tuesday that Elm Street will switch before the end of the month, though no date has been set. Contractors are waiting on a couple unrelated road projects to finish first.

A storm sewer is being replaced at Elm and 15th streets, which is expected to be finished by next week, if not by the end of this week.

Heavy equipment is maneuvering around the under-construction Breakwater apartments to install metal siding on the structure. Contractors working on the grid modernization project wanted to wait until that work was finished, fearing the equipment would tear up a newly paved Elm Street. Paul Lincks, senior project manager with HWC Engineering, said the Breakwater work should be complete by Sept. 22.

Once all five downtown streets have converted to two ways, there will still be some minor portions of the project to complete, such as pedestrian-activated crosswalks.

Help the Carnegie Center realize its public art goal of creating "The New Albany Flow Park" by donating on Thursday, September 14 via Give For Good Louisville.


I've copied the mailer, but click through the link for a much more detailed story.

Carnegie Center for Art and History Participating in ... 2017 Give For Good Louisville

Thursday, September 14, 2017, from Midnight to Midnight

Please help us to realize our public art goal of creating "The New Albany Flow Park" by donating on Thursday, September 14 through Give For Good Louisville. Donations will be accepted from midnight to midnight on September 14. Click on our Give for Good Louisville (link below) campaign for more information about our public art project. We are thankful that the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana will be offering proportionate matches for participating nonprofits on the southern Indiana side of the river. Thank you Community Foundation of Southern Indiana!

We believe we have an excellent project with lots of community approval from the City of New Albany to area skaters whose input was so important to the redesign. Hunger Skateparks of Bloomington, IN have created a compelling new direction for what we are calling "The New Albany Flow Park" and their design plans will be unveiled to the general public at our #IAmPublicArt event set for Saturday, September 23 beginning at 6:00 PM at New Albany's Riverfront Amphitheater. After checking out our proposal, we would be honored if you would consider a donation to our goal of re-imagining this old skatepark.

Please follow this link to access our proposal. We also have a need for volunteers for our public art event and there is a sign up sheet with tasks that we need help doing. If you can't make a financial donation, please consider volunteering for our September 23 event. Thank you very much for your continued support!

Follow-up: "Something's happening at 129 W. Market, where Wolf Supermarket used to be."


It was June 6 when we last looked in on activity at 129 W. Market. Earlier today the windows were gone and a crew was swarming over the building.

Something's happening at 129 W. Market, where Wolf Supermarket used to be, and we know one of the principals.

We've had no official verification, but the circumstantial evidence gathered since the June posting strongly supports 129 W. Market as the future home of Dragon King's Daughter. The Green Mouse was told that DKD would like to be occupying its new home by January 1, 2018.

If you have newer or more precise information, let me know.

Craig Ladwig ravages Bob Hall over Pleasant Ridge as Jeff "Me Too" Gahan pouts.


Don't worry, because Shane is here to help.

pluterperfect

Adjective
(comparative more pluterperfect, superlative most pluterperfect)

More than perfect

Usage notes: Seems to appear only in James Joyce's "Ulysses"

And now, also in Ladwig's column, although if Bob Hall is more than perfect, where does that leave Jeff Gahan?

Ladwig's going to need an excellent new word when he gets around to analyzing NA.

LADWIG: About Pleasant Ridge, by Craig Ladwig (N & T)

 ... We used to joke here about the occasional politician who seemed to wish that he commanded a better class of citizenry, that he could replace them with a more sophisticated bunch. Today, too many Indiana mayors and councils adopt that very attitude. In doing so, they thumb their noses at the true driver of community development — respect for individuals and property.

The pluterperfect bad example is Bob Hall, mayor of Charlestown. Mayor Hall told a judge the other day, “I know it’s not politically correct to say this, but when you have a low-rent district, it invites people who are not contributing to society.”

The mayor was referring to Pleasant Ridge, an older section of town whose residents say he is conspiring with a private developer to raze their homes. Their attorney has presented evidence that the city is secretly attempting to lower property values there using selective enforcement of city codes to force those “low rent” residents out and make way for the more aesthetically pleasing.

Municipal policy throughout Indiana increasingly is directed toward punitive zoning, tax breaks for politically favored developers and subsidies for “quality of place” projects such as upscale subdivisions, classy downtown apartments, sports facilities, jogging trails and other recreational and entertainment amenities.

These supposedly will attract that better class of citizen through national corporations and the young professionals they bring with them. Does it work? More specifically, does it work for the people who actually call your town home?

Not unless you are in a small circle of insiders and political operatives — and then only for a limited time until bonding and tax revenue is exhausted. The strategy ignores how wealth is created or how Indiana towns have historically prospered.

Dr. Berry Keating and Dr. Maryann O. Keating want you to consider another approach. They will present a white paper at the Dec. 2 meeting of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation comparing the sense of well-being of various Indiana cities.

It suggests that the cities that do best are those whose governments addresses the basic needs of actual residents rather than the aspirations of prospective ones.