The Story of Elector

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.


Elector-style Ale

ABV: 7.5%

IBU: 62

Color: Amber/red.

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.

The Story of Black & Blue Grass

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

ABV: 6.5%

IBU: 18

Color: Orange-brown.

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

The Story of Beak’s Best Bitter: “Wet Your Beak”

Arguably, English ale-making traditions are the least understood of all those passed down to us by our European forbearers, at least during the present, “extreme” phase of America’s better beer revolution.

But smaller can be as good or better, and from the inception of NABC’s brewery in 2002, we’ve sought to honor the English ale ethos with a select few brews. Back in 2002, Beak’s Best was the second batch of beer NABC ever brewed. Community Dark was the first, and Elector came third.

All of them possessed English stylistic antecedents, even if actively encouraged along the way to showcase American attributes borne of their New World creation and residence. It’s nature and nurture; family trees span space and time, both in beer itself and for the people who brew beer.

Then, as now, Beak’s borrows its name from Dr. Donald “Beak” Barry, whose bibulous exploits have set the tone for generations of New Albanians to drink themselves to sleep on their couches. Don, the cousin of NABC co-owner Roger A. Baylor, has been Roger’s mentor through decades of historical studies, European vacations, irreverent political debates and prodigious alcohol consumption in a wide variety of configurations.

Whether at home or abroad, these many lessons have been pivotal in NABC’s evolving view of beer and brewing in the context of drinking locally and thinking globally.

Like all of NABC’s beers, Beak’s has evolved over the years, even if its founding concept has remained quite consistent. Originally, Beak’s was broadly placed in the range of an English-style Extra Special Bitter (ESB), albeit with American hops rather than English. Because our base malt in the early days was Simpsons Golden Promise, we formerly referred to Beak’s as Anglo-American.

Later, as the brewery grew into maturity, it transpired that the malt, hops and yeast used to make Beak’s became entirely American. For a while, we referred to Beak’s as “American Ale,” although in terms of flavor and intent, it remained reminiscent of its English ale lineage.

Now, for 2014, we’re tweaking Beak’s again. The ingredients remain exactly the same, with the only difference being a slight lowering of ABV so that Beak’s now fits snugly into NABC’s Session Beer Series at 4.5%. Hence the pun: Beak’s Best/Best Bitter, because Best Bitter (BJCP 8B) is the style that it most closely approximates.

Draft Beak’s Best Bitter remains a staple at NABC’s two New Albanian locations (served on the hand-pull at Bank Street Brewhouse whenever possible), and is available by the keg through distribution in Indiana (Cavalier) and metropolitan Louisville on the Kentucky side of the Ohio (River City Distributing).

Later in 2014, we’ll be bottling Beak’s and other NABC Session Series ales (Community Dark, Houndmouth & Tafelbier) in 22-oz bombers for carry-out sale ONLY at Bank Street Brewhouse and the Pizzeria & Public House.

Beak’s Best Bitter

Best Bitter

ABV: 4.5%

IBU: 35

Color: Copper/ brown.

Flavor: Mid-range maltiness and bitterness with a balanced fruitiness.

Compare to: The same range as Fuller’s London Pride; similar to Rogue Younger’s Special Bitter, with less alcohol.

Description: “American Bitter & Soul Liniment.”

Recipe Suggestion: Ideally, the atmospheric accompaniment to Beak’s is fish and chips, but just about any pub food will do. Beak’s has the bitter edge to cut and complement most fried foods. The Cornish specialty Stargazy pie is a particular favorite of Roger’s, although it’s virtually impossible to find pilchards in the Ohio.

Updated May 2014