Sad day for Cincinnati beer

Carla and I were saddened this morning to learn of the death of Ohio Valley Distributing’s Jim Hennessey. We don’t know what happened, other than it did.

If you love good beer and live in Cincinnati then Jim Hennessey’s life touched yours. He’s been an important part of that ever-changing network of relationships that make up the beer scene for a long time. He was very good at what he did. More than that, though, he always — always — conducted himself with a fundamental kindness that was obvious from the first time you met him.

He got to see Cincinnati beer grow up.  He was a big part of why it grew up. When we were starting Hoperatives he was someone who had no reason to take us seriously, but he did. He let us know what was going on. He’d send us the usual press announcements, but he’d also give us a heads up that something was getting ready to come into the market. It was ok to mention it, but it wasn’t for attribution yet. Sometimes the email would just be the logo of a brewery and the word “soon.” It gave us a chance to get ready for the onslaught that usually comes with a launch. That was Jim. He looked out for us.

In a business full of good people, Jim was among the best. He’d get excited about the beer events out at Riverbend Music Center as much for the music as the beer, It was always fun when he’d get on a riff about some part of the beer business here in town. He never badmouthed anyone, but he had a  great way of telling a story. We’re going to miss that.

Today there are a lot of people mourning the loss of Jim Hennessey. Our hearts go out to his family, his colleagues and the uncountable number of people whose lives he touched in so many ways..

Next time you lift a glass of a beer worth drinking, lift one for Jim.

It’s National Lager Day. Have A Cold(er) One!

According to various sources on the interwebs, December 10th is National Lager Day. When I first found out about this marvelous new thing last week, I assumed the day would a national holiday celebrated with bank closures, a day off for workers everywhere (or at least for the federal government), and a series of lederhosen-and-masquerade balls held in very cold rooms as an homage to the lower temperature storage that most lagers undergo before being ready for the world.

After a brief call to my Congressman’s office, though, I learned that National Lager Day isn’t quite that official. It’s apparently not even as important as Groundhog Day. Which, you know, makes me wonder why we even have holidays. But I digress.

Lederhosen Ball or not, we can—and should—certainly celebrate without a mandate from our government and/or employer. In fact, if my research is any indication, college students have been celebrating National Lager Day for years, often without even bothering to verify that that’s actually December 10th beforehand.

And who can blame them? It’s probably December 10th somewhere. N out of 10 quantum physicists agree.

Regardless of how you might choose to recognize it, today being National Lager Day has, at least, got me thinking about all that beer fermented by bottom-dwelling, colder-thriving yeast. And the more the wheels in my head turned, the more I wondered why I smelled burning plastic.  Ignoring that, I also realized that it seems lagers have maybe gotten the shorter end of the stick in the recent years of craft beer booming.

Now, sure, gallon after gallon of good quality lager is quaffed by thirsty humans every year. In fact, it’s no doubt a ponderous volume that I’m sure is remarkable without even considering the oceans of “American Light” consumed worldwide. For that matter, I’ve personally swallowed close to a good-sized lake’s worth of Sam Adams’ Boston Lager between the dawning of my craft beer drinking days more than 15 years ago and today.

But then, with all that lager, why does it seem that most of the big, high profile beers that pour forth from the minds of our nation’s creative brew masters are ales? Why does it seem that for every one truly creative Imperial Pilsner with hints of coriander, rhubarb, and sesame seed, there are ten brewers out there shoving hearts of palm and a anything else they can find on sale at Whole Foods that week into an ale with a healthy dose of hops and some kind of sugar I’ve never heard of.

Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating a bit.  I do tend to do that whenever I write words in English from time to time. And having done some home brewing myself, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I understand ales are less difficult to manage, making them easier to experiment with while mitigating the possible financial setback of brewing 60 barrels of something a donkey wouldn’t even drink.  Also, my knowledge of available brews isn’t exactly encyclopedic, either. It could be there are a lot more experimental Weiss beers out there that I wouldn’t recognized if I one was splashed in the face by an angry cousin at a family gathering.

So you tell me, am I missing them? What’s you favorite off-the-beaten path lager?

And much more importantly, how do you plan to celebrate National Lager Day?  Because, sure, we could leave the college kids to celebrate this on for us, but I’m thinking there are probably ways to do it that taste a whole lot better.


Stout Season, Sound Off!

As you may have noticed, the air is becoming crisp, the days shorter and Christmas decorations are popping up around town.  That can only mean one thing; fall has arrived in Greater Cincinnati.  And though it troubles me that it has become normal around here for Christmas to arrive ten minutes after Halloween (we will save that for another post), one of my favorite things about this time of year is that fall is also stout season.  Everyone has their favorite beers and beer styles and for me, the higher the SRM1 the happier I am.

Chris and Jared enjoying a Stout at Holler
Chris and Jared enjoying a Stout at Holler

I can’t really articulate what it is about stouts that make me so happy.  Maybe the roastiness, or the dark chocolates.  Maybe it’s how the full body makes you feel like you are really drinking a beer.  Maybe, and this is a stretch, just maybe it is the often-elevated alcohol content.  Whatever it is, I love a good stout. Since we are getting into the season of the stout, I thought it would be fun to find out what your favorite Greater Cincinnati brewed stout is.

So let’s hear it!  What is your favorite stout?  Start with your favorite that is brewed locally.  I would also like to know what your all time favorite is if it doesn’t happen to be from around here.  And I know Porters are really good too, they are my second favorite style (see previous SRM comment), but I am looking for stouts right now.

Let me know in the comments here, on Facebook or Twitter @cmcgnky what your favorite Cincinnati area stout is and where I can find it.  Then let me know about your all-time favorite even if it is from out of town.   I will be making my stout shopping list and will follow up with another post on all of the great hometown stouts out there, hopefully just in time for you to start your Christmas shopping.

1The Standard Reference Method or SRM is one of several systems modern brewers use to specify beer color. Wikipedia

To Be Called A Contributor, You Must Contribute

Hello long lost beer readers, this is Chris.  I have been somewhat estranged from my contributor duties over the past….. well year or so, and I apologize to Tom and Carla for my lack of participation.  As they and some of you know, I was working very diligently over the past year and a half to achieve my life long goal of becoming a police officer.  Thankfully, I finally accomplished that goal, but as you might imagine, my better beer hobbies weren’t really at the top of my to-do list.  That list was heavily dominated by eating better and a lot of sit-ups, push-ups and jogging (pronounced yogging, according to Ron Burgundy).  Don’t get me wrong, there was a good amount of tasty beer involved and my homebrewing hobby, along with (equally estranged) Hoperatives contributor Jared Whalen, saw some action over that time, I just never found much time to sit behind my computer and write things down I thought you would want to read.

Chris Y'allville

With that I thought I would reintroduce myself in this semi-beer related short post.  Initially my goal was to write a bunch of Traveling Tuesday posts for Hoperatives, because in my last job, I traveled a ton so it made sense.  Of course about that time, I left that job and don’t get too far out of Cincinnati anymore on a regular basis.  So I hope to help Tom and Carla add some posts about one of my favorite parts of better beer which is alive and well in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area, the vibrant better beer community consisting of you fine people and all of the great beer stores, restaurants, bars and events that call this area home.  I am going to make a great effort to visit spots and write reviews and recaps of all my adventures.  And hopefully, I will get to meet some cool new people along the way.

Until then, feel free to keep up with me on Twitter @cmcgnky.  I would love to hear any post ideas you might have.  And if you don’t see anything from me in a few weeks, put your electronic boot up my you know where.


Chris #212


A Hoperatives Toast: That’s Officer McGreevy to You, Pal

Chris McGreevy

This isn’t directly beer-related, but it’s important to us here at Hoperatives nonetheless. Today — right around the time this post is going up — Hoperative #212, Hoperatives contributor and stalwart member of the Northern Kentucky Brewer’s Guild Chris McGreevy is graduating from the Department of Criminal Justice Training’s academy at Eastern Kentucky University. With that he’ll embark on his lifelong dream of becoming a police officer. Chris is a wonderful dad, a great friend and he’s very important to all of us here at Hoperatives.

Congratulations, Chris. We proud of you and we’ll let you know when we’re done buying your beer.

More Info About Proposed KY Growler Regulations

Last Friday we learned that new rules concerning growlers were being proposed by the KY Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (KY ABC). We researched and wrote the story late on a Friday afternoon which didn’t allow us time to make contact with anyone from the department itself to include their comments. We spoke to KY ABC Special Assistant Trey Hieneman, the contact person named in the growler regulations proposal, on Tuesday, June 10 to get more information about the proposal in general and to attempt to get some clarification for questions we had.

Hieneman said that there was no particular incident or event that led to this proposal and is something that had been under review for a while.  The staff looked at other state regulations, the US Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) rules, as well as the Brewer’s Association recommended guidelines. The proposed language was released last month, on May 15.

HoperativesGrowlerRegulations2Hieneman noted that up until now, anyone who wanted to start selling growlers had to contact his department and have the rules spelled out for them individually. He said that making rules public would take a lot of the mystery out of  what’s required. We asked directly if the intent behind this proposal was to make it more difficult to sell growlers in Kentucky. The answer was a very quick  and direct “no.” It’s not as if we’d expect him to say “yeah sure, let’s not sell these anymore,” but everything about how he answered questions indicated that the idea isn’t to make things harder for retailers. He also said that licensing requirements were going to be simplified so that stores that want to sell growlers will no longer be required to hold a license for on-premises consumption, so it’s actually going to be simpler to get into the growler business.

When we spoke to Karen Lentz of the Ky Association of Beverage Retailers (KABR) last Friday she noted that the proposed rules concerning sanitation were very similar to those adopted in North Carolina just over a year ago. A little time on the Brewer’s Association website leads to the text of the North Carolina rules. There’s more than a passing similarity, but the rules aren’t a verbatim restatement. That, it turns out, may be the source of some confusion.

To recap our post from last Friday:

[…]there’s more than one way to read the rules regarding sanitizing. Subsection (3) of [the section on sanitation] begins:

(3) Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, a growler may be filled or refilled without cleaning and sanitizing the growler by:[…]

The only problem is that the first sentence of Subsection (2) says:

(2) Prior to filling or refilling a growler, the growler and its cap shall be cleaned and sanitized by the licensee or its employee by:[…]

I’m no lawyer, but you could read that as “There’s a circumstance that allows you to fill a growler without cleaning and sanitizing the growler, but it can’t happen because you’re always required to clean and sanitize the growler.”

We pointed out to Hieneman that the North Carolina rules are worded somewhat differently. The equivalent line to subsection (3) above reads:

(d)  Notwithstanding Paragraph (b) [which is the part of the NC rules covering sanitation], a growler may be filled or refilled without cleaning and sanitizing the growler as follows:

“Notwithstanding” has an entirely different meaning from “except.” It means that as long as the sanitized fill-tube procedure is followed, there’s no need for the three-sink or commercial washer/sanitizer  setup to be in place. That’s a much more reasonable requirement for a retailer to meet. Hieneman said that the staff is researching this issue and it might very well be a clerical error. No matter how many ways we asked him, he would not commit to an interpretation. He would only say it’s being researched. We didn’t press too hard since we might have been asking him to violate the rule-making procedures. He did confirm that the issue had already been brought to his attention.

Hieneman said that the labeling rules were intentionally silent with respect to the specifics of how the labels were to be attached to the growler. He acknowledged that some people own expensive or visually attractive growlers that could be marred by adhesives and the like. We asked if it was the intent to allow retailers to be flexible with the labeling as long as the necessary items were included and he agreed that it was the case.

The impression we came away with is that the KY ABC perceives that growlers are becoming more popular and that there need to be published rules in the same way that there are published rules for other aspects of selling beer. It doesn’t sound like this is a backdoor attempt to make growlers harder to sell, but it’s a good thing the comment period exists because there’s definitely ambiguity. A public hearing on the matter will be held in Frankfort on June 23. We’re still deciding whether or not to take a day off work and go down for it.

Top Ten Things We’d Rather Not See at Beer Festivals

We go to a lot of beer festivals, possibly more than is healthy. It’s pretty hard to go more than a month or two without a festival popping up somewhere. A well-run festival is a lot of fun. It seems that when we compare notes at the end of a festival, however, certain things seem to happen over and over. Every blog seems to be required to do a list of ten things, and we considered doing “The Top Ten Beer Lists That Really Bore Us” but we thought that might be a little meta. So, instead we talked about it and polled our contributors to come up with this list of things we’d rather not see at beer festivals.

Do you have others? Leave a comment!

#10. People showing up drunk.
Why on earth would you come to a beer festival already drunk? There’s a good chance it’ll happen while you’re there, which is why good designated driver programs and close-by hotels are hallmarks of a well-run festival (e.g see Cincy Winter Beerfest). It doesn’t seem to matter, though. We’ve seen bachelor parties. We’ve see bachelorette parties. We’ve seen people projectile vomiting while waiting in line to get in. (They didn’t, by the way.) We’ve become weary of the the line “you’re doing it wrong,” but in this one case it seems very appropriate.

#9. People stopping randomly and without warning, then being astonished when someone runs into them.
This one comes under the heading of “News flash! There are other people on the planet besides you!” Because people (reasonably) attend beer festivals in groups, it’s not unusual to see herds of people migrating around a festival location. Traffic patterns emerge. Paths get beaten. Or they do, anyway, until Captain Clueless and his Merry Band of Slugs decides that this choke-point between two popular booths is JUST the place to stop and check their phone. Maybe to take a picture of all the people who were walking behind them and are now getting crushed because you came to a full stop in the middle of the traffic lane. Here’s a hint: if you’re walking, there’s a good chance there’s someone behind you doing the same thing and won’t stop when you do. Move out of the flow of traffic before you stop to have a chat.

#8. Booths that have nothing to do with beer or the festival.
Just because someone is willing to write a check to participate in your festival, it doesn’t always mean it’s a good idea to have them there. They won’t get much traffic and people will just stare at them the longer the night goes on.

#7. Brewers and Brewery Reps who won’t interact (or just disappear).
We’ve made a lot of great contacts with brewery folks over the years at festivals. It’s safe to say that most brewers and brewery reps take the promotional part of being at a beer festival seriously. What can be pretty annoying, though, is wanting to talk to someone from the brewery but you can’t get their attention because they’ve huddled together at the back of the booth and are talking among themselves. Granted, you can’t be “on stage” all the time (and brewing appeals to introverts), but that human touch is supposed to be what distinguishes craft beer from MegaBrewingCo. Make an effort.

#6. Lack of water for rinsing glasses and hydration.
Water is the second most important liquid at a beer festival. People need to drink it, and people need to rinse their glasses between samples. It’s not uncommon for there to be empty pitchers sitting out, but sometimes they get pressed into service as dump bucket instead of holding water. We’ve also seen situations where there was supposed to be water, but there weren’t any arrangements made to get the water refilled. We rejoice when we see iced bottles or cans of water readily available.

#5. People who know (or were told) nothing about the beer they are serving.
This is a tough one because a lot of festivals are staffed by volunteers who are either working for free beer at breaks or tips for an organization. They may not know much about beer (or the ones they’re assigned to pour). On the other hand, somewhere on the list of reasons people say they hold beer festivals is to help educate people about beer. There’s not much education going on if the person pouring the beer is surprised it gets foamy on top. You also have festivals required by venue rules to use some particular set of “professional” bartenders. Some try to pick up a bit, most don’t. If you can’t be there yourself, help out the people who’ll be pouring the beers by providing some kind of cheat sheet.

Top Ten Beer Festivals#4. No listing of available beers.
Some beer festival advertising would be more accurate if it simply said “We know what beers are going to be there but we won’t tell you.” There may (or may not) be a list of participating breweries. That list may (or may not) include what beers will be poured. There may (or may not) be a sign at each booth, but that sign will be written in ballpoint pen by a child and hung on the edge of the table that has a line in front of it slightly smaller than the population of Albania. You finally make it to the front of the line to find that the chalkboard tap handle has nothing on it but a pale smear of green eraser marks. You ask the sole person pouring beer what the tap is and they respond, “yellow.”

#3. (tie) “Strollers” and “Unattended toddlers running around screaming”
There are family restaurants. There are family fun centers. Family arcades, church services, petting zoos and ice cream stands.

There are no family beer festivals.

(Before you get the torches and pitchforks out, there are events held outdoors that have a music or food component at least as important as the beer part. That’s not the kind of event we’re talking about. We’re talking about events that are about the beer first and foremost.)

It sucks that it’s hard to find affordable childcare whenever you need it, but it’s not the problem of everyone else attending either. Bring your underaged kid to a beer festival and you will be judged harshly by pretty much everyone else there. You’d think it wouldn’t even be a question, but at least two festivals we’re aware of have found it necessary to explicitly ban strollers.

At. A. Beer. Festival.

We’ve seen infants in Snuglis or Baby Bjorns before and, other than the confusion and noise, we’ve never given that much thought. The kids are usually asleep. They’re being carried. There’s the risk of the child being hit by projectile vomiting from an attendee, but they’re in a better position than most to retaliate in kind. It wouldn’t be the choice we’d make, but it’s not for us to say.

Oh, and to make sure it’s clear this is really about the parents and not the kids, we don’t think mobility scooters have any place at a beer festivals either. Besides the issue with crowding at indoor events, it’s ultimately an act of drinking and driving. It hurts to get hit by one of those things.

#2. Clustering at a booth.
It’s not a bar, people. Give them your ticket (if necessary), thank the person who poured the beer and go away. Don’t down it like the first shot after working third-shift at the local mill and hand the taster back for a refill. That’s just not the way it works.

#1 “Irritating Dude-bros Tossing Back White Rajah With A Soul-Crushing Bitter-Beer-Face-Grimace While Macking On Poor Unsuspecting Ladies.”

That’s verbatim from Jason (Pud’n). No further explanation needed.

Did we miss one? Disagree with any of these? Leave your comments!


Writing About Beer

Carla and I spent most of this past weekend in Lexington, KY attending a writing conference focusing on craft beer. We did the Cincy Winter Beerfest Friday night, then got up Saturday to drive down to the UK Student Center to spend the day listening to an amazing lineup of speakers (shown here as listed in the program):

As if this wasn’t good enough — and a conference would do well to have any of these folks be the keynote speaker — the organizers decided to pile on and have Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewing, editor of The Oxford Companion to Beer and author of The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food as the actual keynote speaker.

Yeah, it was a pretty good conference.

It was actually pretty intense. So much so that when the day was over I didn’t really want to socialize. Or I did and I didn’t. People came in from all over the country to be there for it. Really interesting, fun people. The opportunity was there to hang out afterwards: a pub crawl was organized. But I couldn’t do it. I wanted to think about what I heard. It needed some time to sink in. I wanted to have a beer. So Carla and I went over to Blue Stallion Brewing and had dinner, then went back to the hotel. I’m an introvert at heart. Big crowds drain me. We’d just finished out Cincinnati Beer Week and the Cincy Winter Beerfest. We both needed the quiet, but I did especially.

We swung by West Sixth Brewing on the way out of town and, besides having a nice lunch and some tasty beer samples, we talked a lot about the conference and about what we heard. We talked about the 5B Conference we didn’t have this year and what we might want to do with it in the future. The genesis of this post (and another one) came along and I was so moved to take action on it I went out to the car and grabbed my laptop to start writing it. I wrote maybe a half-dozen dozen sentences and realized that writing a blog post at a bar while eating lunch and drinking a beer was a much better idea in theory than in practice. So we finished up and drove back to Cincinnati.

I took more than a little bit away from each speaker. Given my former life as an academic (and still involved in education and training), that’s a batting average that never happens. I’m lucky in my day job if a meeting with six speakers has one intro worth listening to (and there’d better be donuts). This lineup? Amazing.

If there was a patron saint of this gathering it was Michael Jackson. He’ll always be the gold standard of beer writers and I believe everyone on the panel knew him personally to one degree or another. They shared stories and more than one of them got choked up in the process. I’m sorry to say that my serious beer journey began after his death, but his words live on, so he does as well. He’s still teaching, and it’s a better world as a result.

Another theme that I think every speaker spent considerable time on was storytelling. Stories have beginnings, middles and endings. Some attempt to illustrate a truth through the progression of dramatic theses, antitheses, and syntheses. Stories have characters, plot, structure and voice. Beer writing? Recipes and technical discussions for the most part. A typical beer review or blog post (and Hoperatives is not excused from this) reads an awful lot like a press release or a freshman chemistry paper gone very wrong. Just last week Chris over at Queen City Fresh wrote a really nice piece that I think does a lot of what the panelists were saying ought to be done. It told a story and painted a picture of someone important to beer in this town who doesn’t make beer. You should go read it.

Stan Hieronymus talked to us about taking a journalistic approach to beer writing and a fair bit about the writing market (punchline:  don’t quit your day job). He cautioned about becoming so close to the business as a writer that you become gun-shy about describing things with some detachment. Julie Johnston spoke about the early days of All About Beer magazine and some of the early stories it covered (including reporting on a rumor that a brewery called Sierra Nevada was in the planning stages). She talked about how the beer scene, such as it was at the time, was comprised of brewery ephemera collectors, homebrewers, and who she could only describe as the “beer guys.”  The latter were mostly folks who loved imports and (where still possible at the time) regional styles of beer. She talked about how the magazine helped build a vocabulary and common point of reference for people all over the country that turned the “beer guy” into the beer connoisseurs and beer geeks we have today.

Garrett Oliver would return to talking about the power of language in his keynote by decrying the use of over-technical language in everyday beer discussions and the misuse of language among professionals who ought to know better. He set the tone for the first part by showing the now-classic video Shit Beer Geeks Say: “I can really taste the contract in this.” “This beer is really infected.  Unless it’s a lambic … in which case it’s fantastic.” We’ve all been there. On the other hand, one of the most tweeted comments he made was “Black IPAs are bullshit.” Not the style, not the beers themselves, but the name. The GABF had changed the name to “American-style Black Ale” for its competition, and that’s a good thing. If words can mean anything, then they mean nothing and point to nothing worthwhile. That’s true in wine and in food and most every sphere of human activity people really care about. It ought to be true of beer.

Teri Farhendorf told us her story of being a longtime brewmaster who left her job and trekked across the country sleeping in her camper outside breweries all across the country.  She’d stay the night so she could brew with friends she’d made over the years the next day, then move along. She documented it in her blog that steadily grew in readership as the her trip continued. She encountered women at different breweries who gravitated to her because they’d been working in isolation and thinking they were the only woman in a male-dominated business. They were, to a degree, but not to the degree they thought they were. There was no master plan from the way she describes it, but her use of online technologies to build a community of women with whom she shared her passion led directly to the founding of what became the Pink Boots Society. If ever there were a case study on how online communication media form vibrant communities, this is it.

Finally we heard from two brewery owners, one a philosopher, the other a jester. Their messages were at the same time thought-provoking and, dare I say it, entertaining. I’d nominate Roger Baylor of New Albanian Brewery in New Albany, IN to be brewing’s Philosopher-King, but then he’d just ignore the philosophy part and spend all his time plotting his own overthrow as king. That’s just the way he rolls. He spoke briefly about his concern that the danger of the craft beer revolution is that the revolutions tend to lead to new orthodoxies and codifications which, eventually, need to be overturned by revolution. It’s a horrible oversimplification, and you can read more of what he actually means here.

Jeremy Cowan is the comedy genius who brought us He’Brew: The Chosen Beer. Finally entering the promised land of Kentucky this week (it’s long been available to those exiled across the Ohio), there’s no doubt that an important part of Shmaltz Brewing’s marketing strategy has been to suck up to beer writers. That’s not deep analysis on my part: Cowan said those exact words multiple times during his presentation. I believe he actually wrote it on one of his PowerPoint slides. His reason for being at the conference, besides trying to sell his beer, was to also talk about his book Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah. And urging us to buy it. It was downloading onto my Kindle before he was even done speaking and you can bet I’m going to write more about it. It’s a self-produced book through a very small press, and the trials and tribulations of getting that done while moving the company’s operations across the country into a new brewery were the backbone of his talk.

I’ve probably not done any of the talks any justice with my thumbnail sketches, but I hope, if nothing else, you get a sense of why it’s taken a while to sink in. The heart and soul of Hoperatives will always be the event listings and information about what’s happening in the Cincinnati beer scene. It’s why so many of you come up to us when you see us and thank us for the site. What you don’t know is that when you do that we both just want to throw our arms around you and thank you for reading. But that would just be weird and uncomfortable for everyone, so we don’t do it. But we really want to. Hope that doesn’t creep you out. Much.

Anyway, what I’ve taken away from this conference is a desire to tell more stories. They’ll be about beer and they’ll be here on Hoperatives. I have a couple of ideas and as I write them I know I’ll get others. That’s the way it works. I know I’m never going to make a living doing this, but that’s OK. It’s a pretty good thing having a place to tell stories about the things you love.

I hope you like them.

Thankful For the Better Beer in Cincinnati (and beyond, too)

Lo, the many years ago, when I first started writing for Hoperatives (that is, back in the fall of 2010, when I had way more free time and dinosaurs still roamed the Earth), one of the very first posts I rambled out in typical Puddin fashion was for Thanksgiving that year.  It related my experience from the turkey day the year prior, when I was appallingly inconsiderate to the point of offering my guests nothing but tasty craft beers for the day. Such gall I had! The cooler was conspicuously (and pointedly) free of anything I considered somewhat flavorless.

After all, it was my party, right? If you’re going to eat my turkey, then you should be prepared to drink my beer, too.

As likely comes as no surprise to the readers of this blog, the experiment was a smashing success. At the end of the day, the number of bottles remaining in my cooler equaled the number of complaints I’d received about having the audacity to skimp on the InBevMilloors options: ZERO.

The following year, then, in that first ever Hoperatives Thanksgiving post, I pondered what beers I should offer in the hopes of both making everyone a little happier while maybe taking things up a notch. You know, rolling everyone up to that fabled next level.

In the end, I came up with a solid list, one that I’d still proudly offer today.  But, of the five types of beer I iced down that day as the Detroit Lions were executing their annual march to NFL defeat, only two of them were local brews. And even those arguably strained the definition of “local”.

Finding myself now less than twenty-four hours away from having the whole fam damily over again for a day dedicated to turkey, football, each other, thankfulness, and (who am I kidding) pie and tasty brews, it’s time to settle on the beer list for this year.  As I contemplated that very question last night (yes, that likely explains the faint burning odor you thought you smelled), I realized something fairly important.

Oh, what a difference three years makes.

Because, this year, it’s not only feasible, but kind of favorable, to offer my guests beers brewed solely in the greater Cincinnati area. As anyone who’s been a Hoperatives reader for any length of time knows, today is glorious day to be a beer drinker in Cincinnati. While we’re not quite offering the volume that pre-Prohibition brewers did, we are still blessed with an embarrassing bounty of malty, hoppy riches, all produced in a twenty miles radius around downtown. I won’t name all the brewers and breweries again (the list is so long now!), but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I find the near-meteoric rise in our local brewing community a bit staggering.

Could I have cobbled together a local’s only list of brews three years ago? Sure, yes.  But my options would have been limited. Too many of the same labels all in the same ice bath. This year, though, there will be no repeats. I’ll be slipping the offerings of four or five different brewers into that ice, each one local, and each capable of going toe-to-toe with the brands and bottles of brewers hundreds of miles away.

Looking back to where this city was when I first starting writing for Hoperatives three years ago, I’d say that’s something to be damned proud of.

From all of us at Hoperatives, then, to all of our fellow believers in better beer out there, here’s to a full glass, a full plate, a full stomach, and a happy Thanksgiving all around!


Help a NKY Native Win The World’s Best Beer Trip

Check out this information from Campbell County native Jordan Flinchum and then go vote for him before Monday at 8:00 pm Cincinnati time (Tuesday at 1:00 pm New Zealand time).

The World’s Best Beer Trip is a contest put together by six breweries from around the world: 4 Pines Brewing (Sydney, Australia), Feral Brewing (Perth, Australia), Good George Brewing (Hamilton, N.Z.), Meantime Brewing (London, England), The Brew, Shangri-La (Shanghai, China) & Victory Brewing (Philadelphia, U.S.A.). Out of the thousands of entries, each brewery chose one entry to go to the finals. Victory Brewery chose me to represent them and the USA because of my entry & caption “always on the hunt for good beer & good people, and the best part is, if you find one, the other isn’t far away.” That and my travel philosophy helped me to claim Victory by a narrow margin. Votes for finalist close Tuesday, October 22nd at 1:00 pm New Zealand time and my competition has a huge lead already. If chosen as the Grand Prize winner, I would embark on this incredible four-week, round-the-world journey as a true ambassador of Victory, delicious craft beer and the great people, like all of you, who support it!

Here is blog post announcing me as the USA finalist:

Here is a short YouTube video about the trip: