NABC’s Elector is one of the iconic brands in New Albany’s brewing history. It often is mentioned in the same breath as Ackerman’s Old Rip and Hop-O, the latter a Prohibition-era “near beer” that proved to be too much more upon close examination.
The conceptual roots of Elector extend to the beginnings of NABC’s original garage brewery off Grant Line Road — now known as the Research & Development Brewery. It was the third recipe brewed by NABC’s founding brewer, Michael Borchers, and his assistant, Joey Burns, and it was made for the very first time on Election Day, 2002.
Brew day in 2002 happened to be the occasion of the mid-term congressional election following the disputed presidential race of 2000, in which Al Gore won the popular vote nationwide, but lost the White House owing to Florida’s uncounted hanging chads and the state’s subsequent votes for George W. Bush in the Electoral College.
Needless to say, as subversive and leftist brewers, this political outcome was still somewhat fresh in our minds in 2002 as Michael concocted an initially modest plan to follow Community Dark and Beak’s Best with a traditional English-style seasonal winter warmer. Brew day was uneventful, but as the fermentation proceeded and time rolled past, it became obvious that the new batch of winter warmer was going to have a more reddish color than planned, and also was considerably hoppier than the intended style should ever be.
Well, there’s nothing wrong with any of that, as it turned out. The resulting hybrid was delicious, medium- to full-bodied and aggressively hopped, and we concluded that while the intent had been tamer winter warmer, the result was a strong ale of some unknown variety that we quite liked. We stuck with the results. These days, I prefer to call it an Elector-Style Ale, such is the beer’s uniqueness. It is a one-off, and stylistically, there is no classification except fine flavor.
Before the finished character of our newly hybridized ale had become apparent, we’d already started the process of hybridizing its name, something that arose out of drunken mischief (imagine that) when, after much discussion, Joey suggested calling it Elector in reference to the Electoral College and the way it made the popular vote in 2000 pointless, and by extension, rendering democracy itself somewhat redundant.
I replied that the “-tor” suffix would suggest Doppelbock in the minds of knowledgeable drinkers, and of course we had no intention of producing a beer remotely close to Doppelbock.
“Right,” Joey said.
“Then we’re agreed,” I replied. “Elector it is.”
Many years have passed, and I feel just as strongly as I did then: An Elector in hand is well worth multiple Bushes in retirement, any election day, and in fact, any time of the year. Elector’s back story would be sufficient to render it an iconic brand, and Tony Beard’s graphics add to the mystique — but of course, it’s the liquid in the glass that really matters.
Draft and 22-oz bombers of Elector are available year-round in Indiana and metropolitan Louisville on the Kentucky side of the Ohio. Naturally, Elector can be enjoyed in all forms at NABC’s two New Albanian locations, especially in the Red Room at the Pizzeria & Public House.
Flavor: Medium- to full-bodied, with assertive but adeptly balanced malt and hops.
Compare to: Arrogant Bastard … but Elector is unique.
Description: An Elector makes democracy pointless.
Recipe Suggestion: At 7.5% ABV, Elector is deceptively drinkable, a fact that might lead one to surmise snacks – sharp cheeses or elephant garlic dip – as ideal accompaniment. However, we suggest taking this strategy to its logical conclusion by smearing the cheese and garlic atop a medium rare, grilled burger … but make sure to buy the beef from 3D Valley Farms in Depauw, Indiana.
What is bluegrass, anyway? It can mean different things to different people.
The late, great Bill Monroe once offered his definition of bluegrass music, for which he did so much to foster worldwide appreciation:
“Scottish bagpipes and ole-time fiddlin’. It’s Methodist and Holiness and Baptist. It’s blues and jazz, and it has a high lonesome sound.”
At the same time, the historical record shows that Poa pratensis predated “Precious Memories.” In other words, the actual grass came first, but interestingly, according to Richard L. Duble of the Texas Cooperative Extension, Kentucky bluegrass was not born in the Bluegrass State, even if the music later evolved there.
“Kentucky bluegrass is native to practically all of Europe, northern Asia and the mountains of Algeria and Morocco. Although the species is spread over all of the cool, humid parts of the U.S., it is not native to North America. Apparently the early colonists brought seed of Kentucky bluegrass to this country in mixtures with other grasses.”
So, whether the topic is ground cover or ear candy, the consensus is that “bluegrass” is an adaptive concept, deriving from more than one source, and reflecting the authenticity of America’s traditional melting pot.
NABC’s Black & Blue Grass follows this model. We brew Black & Blue Grass in Indiana, just a few miles away from one of our favorite Kentucky breweries, Bluegrass Brewing Company in Louisville, but the inspiration and raw materials come from many locales outside our own immediate neighborhood.
The ingredient list for Black & Blue Grass includes North American barley malt, wheat, German hops and Wallonian yeast. Blue agave nectar from south of the border is used as a fermentable sugar, and black pepper and lemongrass (as opposed to blue) are added for spicing.
We refer to the finished package as a Belgian-style spiced ale, and it’s a great bet alongside any food you have on the table, or just by itself. It also has a way with music of all sorts, from Union Station to Interstellar Space.
Black & Blue Grass is available year round on draft and in 22-oz bombers from NABC’s wholesalers in Indiana and metropolitan Louisville. It also can be enjoyed in all forms at NABC’s two New Albanian locations.
Black & Blue Grass
Spiced Belgian Ale
Flavor: Medium-bodied, fruity and spicy.
Compare to: Quite unique, but Belgian-style Saison ales are close.
Description: An homage to the eclectic, independent, can-do roots of food, drink and music. It is brewed with black pepper, blue agave nectar and lemongrass, hence the name.
Recipe suggestion: Black & Blue Grass stridently and effectively pleads the cause of locally-based internationalism: Babaganoush, chicken enchiladas and Vietnamese-style clay pot catfish are among the flavorful ethnic foods we’ve paired with Black & Blue Grass.
Updated in May, 2014