THE BEER BEAT: Narrower focus, deeper appreciation — or, a few words about the Pints & Union beer program.


One of my biggest ambitions for the beer program at Pints & Union is to enable one of those dandy social media notification mechanisms of the sort that breathlessly advises you when a new beer has been added to the list.

Having done so, my objective will be to use it as seldom as humanly possible. Once or twice a quarter sounds about right to me.

If we both forget the notification mechanism even exists, that’s better still.

The current projection calls for eight draft lines at Pints & Union, five of them unchanging and one devoted to cider from Steve Thomas at the Thomas Family Winery (the latter may also prove to be seasonal owing to the availability of apples; we’ll see).

This leaves two draft lines to rotate, and my preference would be that one of these truly stays seasonal, perhaps changing only every other month — or, in the case of Bavarian-style Hefe-Weizen during the warm weather months, pouring different brands of the same basic style.

The watchwords remain: traditions, classics, old school.

There’ll be room for a tad more modernism amid the bottle and can coolers, although not until we’re able to nail down our downtown’s most representative list of quality beers from Belgium, Germany and the British Isles. A few of the 50 shades of American IPA, sours and pastry stouts can be accommodated by cans.

These probably will change more often than beers on tap, although the most important consideration is starting small to ensure freshness via sell-through, then gradually expanding the offerings. 

I’m going to be asked quite often if it isn’t hypocritical of me to be emphasizing non-local beers at what will assuredly remain an independent local business. The simplest answer is that sometimes, it’s all about me — perhaps less insolently, it’s all about my 35 years of experience in beer.

It will surprise no one to learn that my great passion in life is Europe, and when beer first became a thing for me, imports from Europe were just about the only game in town.

Since then, I’ve visited dozens of breweries in Europe (and America), developed rich and fulfilling professional relationships, and done my level best to honor the legacy of folks like Michael “Beer Hunter” Jackson, whose wonderful writing shaped my own point of view.

What’s more, I’m older. I’ve done my time and worked my share of shifts promoting the American “craft” beer revolution, both at NABC and on behalf of Hoosier brewers during my terms on the board of the guild.

In 2018, for one to stand at the corner of Market and Pearl in downtown New Albany is to be within a three or four block radius of at least 100 beer taps, the majority of them pouring American-brewed “craft” beer.

By almost any reasonable standard, this denotes wild (and in some ways unanticipated) success as it pertains to what so many spent so long fighting to achieve in terms of self-sufficiency, choice and artistic achievement.

Victory is ours, and as such, I’m free to retrench and remind everyone that the previous generation of great beers has been neglected as a result, and consequently is undervalued — and nothing interests me quite so much as an under-serviced niche ripe for specialized love and attention.

If you’re curious about those five fixed taps, here’s the way it looks to me today.

Guinness Stout
Pilsner Urquell
Fuller’s London Pride
Anchor Porter or Bell’s Porter
Bell’s Two Hearted or Anchor Steam

Conjecture this lineup augmented by (for example) Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, Tripel Karmeliet, as well as Steve’s scrumpy; furthermore, imagine it remaining in place for two months, allowing repeated samplings of the sort that fix lasting and affectionate memories, rather than hurried reviews at a crowd-sourced scrum.

Never have Lennon’s words spoken to me more clearly:

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one; I hope some day you’ll join us, and the (beer) world will be as one.”