BEER WITH A SOCIALIST: Chasing grandiose white whales is far less interesting to me than nurturing my scruffy little herd of goats.

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We returned three weeks ago from Gdansk, Poland. I’m still processing the journey, and so until the words come to me, meet Żywiec IPA.

It’s a newer-age beer style brewed by an old-line Polish brewery that’s been owned the past two decades by Heineken. The ABV is 5%, making it a Session IPA in my world. It was tasty, and available in bottles throughout the old town in Gdansk.

Now to a larger point. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the deeper I dive into beer programming at Pints&union, the less I’ve had to say about beer in a more abstract sense.

I’m very interested in what we’re trying to do at the pub, less so pertaining to those beers landing outside the newly established perimeter.

Apart from the day-in, day-out tasks at the pub, much of my time has been spent catching up with my past. I’ve done some reading at the bedrock Beer 101 level, which is to say actively avoiding immersion in this week’s beer phenom of the moment.

What’s new, different, and the latest, greatest beer to grace Louisville area store shelves and draft spouts?

I’ve no idea. Frankly, trendsetters, I don’t give a damn.

Chasing grandiose white whales is far less interesting to me than nurturing my scruffy little herd of goats. The thrill of the chase isn’t entirely tumescent these days, and my preference is to refrain from the heated rush, settling into a nice space at a clean, well-lighted place, and sipping on a bona fide classic.

Yes, craft beer exuberance always will remain a part of my better beer soul. I’m happy we’re winning the beer wars, and I’ll support the culture while traveling, sneaking a habanero-infused sour pastry Kolsch on scattered occasions just for the hell of it. I’m delighted that so many of the bars and restaurants in downtown New Albany offer these dizzying choices within a minute or three’s walk of Pints&union.

However, my contention remains: If beer is “special” every day, all the time, then it really isn’t “special” any longer. That bountiful Thanksgiving meal you enjoyed last week materializes rarely, and rarity contributes to the experience. 

From a beer buyer’s perspective, it simply astounds me to see kegs of untested craft beer twice the price of a Paulaner Oktoberfest or Bell’s Porter. Even if every last one of these beers was spectacular — and with dozens of them on offer, how could one solitary palate ever really know? — it wouldn’t be feasible to have them all on tap at the same time.

This is why I appreciate limitations, because they have a tendency to restrain urges for overkill. At Pints&union, we have ten draft handles and space for around 50 bottles and cans. That’s it. Yes, we might decide to pour beer from sixth barrels only, and add another ten draft lines, except that in terms of everyday pour costs, this would be self-defeating. At the same time, the current configuration allows for two rotating taps.

I think that’s enough. There’s a daily undertow, and there’s some spice. Contrasts are what make the game interesting.

I’ll continue to express the wish that our downtown New Albany dining and drinking scene would embrace a bit more of the fixed in beer, and slightly less the kaleidoscope; for instance, that the Exchange would put Firestone Walker Pivo Pils on tap permanently, or there’d always be Sierra Nevada Pale Ale at Cox’s Hot Chicken (the former Big Four Burgers).

I’d go to these places more regularly if I knew there’d be everyday pints I liked, and I strongly suspect many others would, too.

Contrarianism; swimming against the tide. It’s a tough way to be, but someone’s got to do it. See you next time.

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