Not A Bad Week At All

wnile01It’s been a pretty full week. It included several things that could have been turned into blog posts if I felt the urge but none for which the urge was felt. I was about to schedule a Trip Peek to fulfill my Sunday morning commitment when I decided to just list the week’s activities and include a few pictures from my favorite.

On Sunday I went to the afternoon performance of Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash at Playhouse in the Park. The play was over before the big football game started so I watched some of that, too, but I liked the play a whole lot more.

Monday was Groundhog Day and, although I didn’t didn’t actually travel to the home of any of the prognosticating rodents this year, I did make the quasi-traditional visit to Bob Evans for ground hog & eggs and I did follow the reports. There are three furry forecasters whose jurisdictions I think I might be in. One is Punxsutawney Phil who is the most famous and whose forecasts might, for all I know, apply to the whole world. The others are Buckeye Chuck, Ohio’s Official State Groundhog, who makes his predictions in Marion, and Rosie who lives and works in nearer-to-my-home Dayton. Phil and Rosie saw their shadows. Chuck did not. What now? There isn’t even a geographic pattern. I don’t know whether to hunker down for six more weeks of winter or get ready for it to be over in a month and a half.

Tuesday I did nothing but meet the gang for some Buzztime trivia. The temperature was in the 40s on Wednesday so I walked down to Flipdaddy’s for exercise then ate a Burger of the Month to nullify it.

A string of nights out began on Thursday with the Bare Boards Theater Company‘s performance of Rabbit Hole. This isn’t a trivial play but the BBTC nailed the first performance of their first production. I attended with my daughter and both of us were entertained and impressed.

wnile02wnile03wnile04On Friday it was a Willie Nile concert at The Southgate House Revival. I became an overnight fan of Willie after seeing him for the first time last year and bought my ticket to this show as soon as I heard about it. I learned just a few days ago that, rather than the anticipated full band show, this would be a performance with just Willie and bassist Johnny Pisano. I thought things might get toned down and I’d be disappointed. No so and not so. I’ll admit to missing Matt Hogan’s guitar licks now and then but I got to focus on and appreciate Johnny’s outstanding bass work even more. Far from being disappointed, it was, as you can see, my favorite event of the week.

The Cincinnati Winter Blues Festival took place on Friday and Saturday. I wrapped up my week by going to the festival’s second night with a few friends. The night’s headliner was young guitar phenom Joanne Shaw Taylor and she did not disappoint. The festival was successful to the point of being uncomfortably crowded. Maybe I’m just getting too old for this sort of thing even when it’s got chandeliers and marble staircases.

Dinner and a Movie – Cincinnati Style

asmdm01I put Wednesday’s screening of the movie Sign Painters at the American Sign Museum on my “maybe” list as soon as I heard about it. It was moved to “probably” when I learned dinner would be included. When I found out the museum’s almost neighbor Camp Washington Chili would be doing the catering, I bought a ticket. I’ve eaten at CWC many times and I’ve eaten many things there but never a salad. I don’t believe it ever occurred to me that they would even have a salad. It was quite good and apparently can be had with grilled chicken at the restaurant. Who knew?

asmdm02asmdm03The beverage table never really got crowded but I hit it before even a hint of a line formed. Local (Mount Carmel & Christian Moerlein) and “other” beer was available along with wine and soda. I made my food line pass after the initial rush. There were 3-ways and coneys in addition to the aforementioned salad and they even had cold-cut sandwiches. I’m guessing those were for the out-of-towners.

asmdm05asmdm04The tables that were empty when I took my picture of the beverage table, were filled as soon as the food was served as were other tables throughout the museum. Paint trays and cans held a variety of movie-appropriate sweets and one pail was filled with small paper bags so you could carry a supply of Lemonheads, Charleston Chews, Bulls-Eyes, Necco Wafers, and other goodies into the viewing room.

asmdm06asmdm07asmdm08As showtime approached, a drawing of museum founder Tod Swormstedt (accurate enough to identify him should he ever go missing) was replaced by the real thing and Tod introduced the movie. Two large screens were filled by a pair of synchronized digital projectors so everyone had a good view. The event had sold out several days earlier. I don’t really know what that means but something like 200 attendees seems a reasonable guess.

Sign Painters features interviews with a number of painters plus quite a bit of footage of some of them at work. A few of the painters are in their thirties but most are older and there is, as you might expect, plenty of talk about the good old days when sign painting was a thriving profession. There is no question that automation and the availability of cheap — in every sense of the word — product have wreaked havoc on the field but not everything is doom and gloom. There are still people who feel called to paint signs and there are still some customers who appreciate the value of hand crafted advertising. In particular, large wall signs are often seen as worthwhile and they remain something that takes a human touch.

At one point in the movie, I found my mind returning to thoughts of a couple weeks ago. I was loosely following an online discussion about ghost signs. Ghost signs are always old so they are almost always faded and they often, but not always, advertise something that is no longer available. They can be considered eyesores or glimpses of history. People may tend to lean one way or the other but opinions are often of the “it depends…” sort. I believe my participation in the discussion was limited to sharing a link to a local radio story on ghost signs. The story uses the words “art” and “pollution” but that’s really just another way to say “history” and “eyesore”. In the movie, when a large and fading hand-painted advertisement is painted over — by hand — with a new and very different advertisement neither of the signs seem very important. It doesn’t matter whether some history gets covered over or if an ugly wall is made beautiful. What matters is that an art form, a skill set, a profession gets to breathe a little.

The museum’s parking lot is not huge and, in addition to the chili and beer and candy and movie, there was free valet parking. I tucked a couple of bucks into my shirt pocket for a tip but by the time my car was pulled up to the door, I’d already heard what the valet would say to me. “No, I can’t take that. No tips. We’ve been taken care of.” Me too.

An E-book Cometh

kindle_bmttggSometimes hordes of fans demand an e-book version of a publication which prompts the publisher to pull out all the stops and produce one immediately. Sometimes one or two people casually ask about an e-book version and probably forget about it by the time one appears a year or so later. One of these sentences describes my situation perfectly.

It’s not too tough, of course, to figure out which one. It was just a little over a year ago that By Mopar to the Golden Gate was published as a paperback. I was immediately and understandably asked if an electronic version was or would be available and I had my answer ready. Nope, I said. It was too much work. I suspect those who asked were as surprised by my answer as I had been surprised to learn that making a document completely comprised of digital computer files available to electronic readers wasn’t simply a matter of checking a box and clicking a button. After all, I had published through Amazon and anyone somewhat familiar with their collection of services might be more inclined to believe that than those knowing nothing at all about them. The Kindle side of Amazon’s website clearly states “Publishing takes less than 5 minutes and your book appears on Kindle stores worldwide within 24-48 hours.” That’s not a lie. It’s just not the whole story.

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is Amazon’s e-book publishing component. There really is a button that will transfer a book produced through Create Space, Amazon’s hard copy publishing arm, to KDP in “less than five minutes” and I don’t doubt in the slightest that it would be “on Kindle stores worldwide within 24-48 hours”. It will even be readable if — and here’s the rub — it is formless and free flowing. Most are. Most, in fact, are 100% text. Fiction, they say, is what drives e-book sales. If, on the other hand, your book has, say, 160 or so carefully sized and positioned photographs, it’s a different story.

This topic came up recently in an e-versation with a couple of friends heading down the self publishing trail. The discussion benefited from some expert insight that reinforced the fact that, for certain books, there is no single box to check or magic button to click. And it prompted me to revisit the issues I’d ran away from a year ago, work through them, and produce an electronic version of By Mopar to the Golden Gate.

The central issue — it can’t really be called a problem — is the variety and flexibility of e-readers. Content designed for a specific sized sheet of paper just doesn’t get along well with all the different hardware variations and the ability of users to customize things like font style and size. Publisher types talk about two styles of e-books, reflowable and fixed layout, both of which are pretty much described by their names. Reflowable documents make few or no assumptions about the devices used to display them. When a bigger screen is available, more of the document is displayed on each “page”. If the user selects a larger font, less is displayed at one time but the entire document will ultimately flow across the screen if the user just keeps scrolling. That’s different than with a fixed layout document. It may be possible to zoom the display so that characters are larger and more readable but zooming magnifies a portion of the “page” and other portions may never be seen by scrolling. If you’ve ever used an e-reader for something digitized by capturing an image of each page, you’ll immediately understand. Reading a zoomed fixed layout document can sometimes seem like reading a billboard with a jeweler’s loupe.

kindle_bmttgg2Other than correcting a couple of spelling errors, absolutely no text was changed in generating the e-book. The same pictures are in the e-book as in the paperback with essentially the same dimensions. I did utilize color versions so they ought to look a little prettier on some devices. To make things reflowable, I unhooked the pictures and their captions from fixed positions on the pages and placed them between paragraphs. If you think of the sizing and positioning of a book’s non-text elements within the text as design, then what I did was undesign the book. To be honest, there wasn’t very much “design” in it. I placed pictures where I thought they looked good and I chose sizes to spotlight those I particularly liked or to allow some to be grouped together. Design is too kind a word. At best what I did was layout. I arranged some block images so that they looked alright, appeared near any text that referenced them, and didn’t disrupt that text too much. But other books truly are designed and their designers agonize over scaling and placing elements so that a page — a physical page with fixed dimensions — looks good and works well. That sort of design is no better accommodated in the e-reader world than my clunky picture layouts.

At present, the electronic version of By Mopar to the Golden Gate is available for Kindle through Amazon and Nook through Barnes & Noble. Whether it ever goes to other platforms or distribution channels is undecided. It’s my impression that software supporting one or both of these formats is available for most devices. At Amazon, By Mopar to the Golden Gate is part of the MatchBook program which means that all past and future purchasers of the print version can get the Kindle version for just $1.99. I haven’t yet figured out how to provide Kindle versions on the cheap to those who purchase the book elsewhere but I’m working on it. Click on the images below to go shopping.

amzkindle bnnnook

But It’s Really Nice Ice

hif01Even though Ohio doesn’t experience the months long freezes of places farther north, finding ice here in January is hardly rare. Of course, it isn’t always welcomed and finding it in your path is sometimes disastrous. But every two years, ice and the folks who carve it are invited to Hamilton, Ohio, “The City of Sculpture”, and made to feel very much welcome. With the theme “Hamilton Goes Hollywood”, this year’s IceFest features more than 80 movie related ice sculptures. I attended Friday. In 2011, I attended the second of the event’s two days which includes the fun-to-watch carving competition. This year, Saturday’s 50 degree temperatures threatened to take a little of the edge off of the existing sculptures but I’m sure they still looked good and watching the carving was no doubt exciting.

hif02hif03I started at the east end of the sculptures and found one carver at work. I later spoke with someone who works in the building in the background who said the man had provided wonderful entertainment for most of the day and even later I got a shot of the finished product.

hif06hif05hif04As you might expect, there were several sculptures representing movies with which I was completely unfamiliar but there were plenty that I recognized immediately. The remarkable detail that some of these artists achieve with the ice is even more impressive when you consider how fragile it can be.

hif07They had just started unpacking the blocks for the Wall of Ice when I arrived but it was complete by the time I walked past all of the sculptures and returned. There were quite a few pairs of blocks and several two block sequences that were properly matched and placed. When I first spotted what turned out to be the second of a three block sequence and did not see an appropriate block immediately following I thought it might be lost or at some far off point in the wall. Nope, missed it by only that much.

hif10hif09hif08When I first walked the display area, only two of the three blocks were filled. Because of temperatures in the 40s, sculptures for the third block, the courthouse block, were not put out until after sundown. These are the sculptures that are illuminated from behind to create the Technicolor Walk.

hif11hif12hif13I’ve not been here at night before so don’t know if the spotlights are normal or part of the Hollywood theme. The tents are where the carving takes place on Saturday. After grabbing what I believe is my first nighttime shot of The American Cape, I slipped into a coffee shop to warm up and pretend to be Puss in Boots.

hif14This is Hamilton’s ninth IceFest and there’s little doubt that they have a real winner. Some 25,000 people were expected to attend over the two days. They got a pretty good start on Friday with a whole bunch of smiling folks of all ages.

2014 in the Rear View

The year in numbers with 2013 values in parentheses:

  • 7 (6) = Road trips reported
  • 80 (77) = Blog posts
  • 77 (57) = Days on the road
  • 1972 (1437) = Pictures posted — 384 (406) in the blog and 1588 (1031) in Road Trips

htv50s_cvrrWhen days on the road increase, an increase in pictures posted is sure to follow. Last year an additional twenty road days yielded an additional 557 road trip pictures. 35% more days resulted in 54% more photos. Blog pictures decreased slightly. In addition to the 52 regular weekly blog posts, there were 16 reviews, 7 road trip links, and 5 miscellaneous asynchronous posts. The number two and three blog posts from 2013 moved up to one and two. Last year’s most visited post stayed in the top five at number four leaving just two of the top five slots for new posts. The most popular item posted in 2014 was the review of an ebook.

Top Blog Posts:

  1. My Wheels – Chapter 1 1960 J. C. Higgins Flightliner
    When I started the My Wheels series of articles on vehicles I’ve owned, I really had cars and motorcycles in mind and started the series with a bicycle as something of a lark. It stands today as testament to just how bad a prognosticator I am. It was the most popular new post of 2013 and the second most popular overall. This year it moves on top. Hardly a day goes by without at least one visit to the article and there are usually several. Most are from search engines and I don’t believe many of the readers stick around for much of anything else but it appears that a lot of people had, have, or dreamed of having J. C. Higgins Flightliners.
  2. Route 66 Attractions
    This review appears in the top five for the third time moving from fifth to third to second. The subject is a GPS based product for tracing Route 66.
  3. How to Visit All 50 States in 12 Trips
    The most popular new post of 2014 was a review of a free ebook. Terri Weeks wrote the book partly to promote her website and a “real” book, Adventures Around Cincinnati, she co-wrote with Laura Hoevener. I suspect Terri and her friends sent as many readers to the post as the search engines did and that’s OK by me.
  4. Twenty Mile’s Last Stand
    After two years at number one, this article on an endangered historic building dropped to fourth. The building was demolished more than a year ago so I’m not surprised that the ranking dropped but I am a little surprised — and a lot delighted — that it still cracked the top five. I’d like to think it and the post on the demolition (Roadhouse Down) are being used as cautionary tales to help save other buildings. A gas station has been built on the corner where the building stood. There is absolutely nothing within the building’s actual footprint.
  5. Don’t Worry Be Hoppy — or Gene or Roy or…
    This is the report of my visit to the Hopalong Cassidy Festival in Cambridge, Ohio. I’m thinking that, like me, some of those Flightliner fans are also Hopalong fans.

Top Non-Blog Posts:

  1. Englewood
    For several years, an oddment page on a 2006 visit to the site of the town of Tadmor was the most popular pages on the site due largely to a reference in a Wikipedia article on ghost towns. The link never seemed all that appropriate (I had not placed it.) and I believe it has been removed. That post ranked seventh this year. This post describes a visit to Englewood Park that took place a week following my visit to Tadmor. Both parks contain dams on the National Road but I have no theory on why this post shot to the top in 1014.
  2. AMA Hall of Fame Museum
    This Oddment page covers a 2010 visit to the museum. I have no guesses as to what brought the increased interest this year. At four years old, it is the most recent item to make 2014’s non-blog top five list. Last year only one article from 2013 made the list. Does that mean I’ve already covered everything worth covering and that I might as well stop posting new journal entries? Maybe, but I won’t.
  3. Natchez Christmas
    This is the journal of my 2006 Christmas trip which included driving the full length of the Natchez Trace Parkway. Day 5, which involved a visit to the Vicksburg National Military Park seemed to be the main focus so the visits may have come from an interest in the Civil War.
  4. Kentucky Short Loop
    This was a rather spontaneous 2004 day trip to Kentucky with nothing in it that suggests why it became an attraction in 2014. There is, however, an odd coincidence connected to it. One of the things I do whenever I’m unable to post a new blog entry on Sunday is post a canned “Trip Peek”. These are short articles pointing to completed trips. On January 4, the first Sunday of the year when I should have posted this look back, I was on the road and had to use a canned article. Four days after these rankings were frozen and before I’d actually looked at them, the randomly selected article posted was the Kentucky Short Loop “Trip Peek”.
  5. Lincoln Highway West
    The 2009 trip on which I clinched the Lincoln Highway for the first time completes the top five and I’ve no idea why. The focus seemed to be on a day spent in Iowa and I’m pretty sure I can’t attribute that to Civil War interest.

Visits to the website increased to 248,033 from 170,809 last year and page views rose to 741,404 from 467,084. WordPress’ Jetpack reports 8,062 views (up from 6,863) for the blog in 2014.

The increases are modest. Heck, the total traffic is modest, but I’m happy with it. I wouldn’t object to a little more feedback but that’s not the same as being unhappy. I’m a little disappointed that nothing I added to the journal in 2014 generated more interest than stuff from 2010 and earlier but I’m definitely not unhappy about that. It’s rather nice, in fact, that four and more year old articles still get read. I made no structural changes in the website in 2014 and I anticipate none in 2015. From here, it looks like another non-jiggy year has just begun.

Trip Pic Peek #27
Trip #23
Kentucky Short Loop

pvd10This picture is from my 2004 Kentucky Short Loop day trip. The trip was prompted by good weather and was fairly spontaneous although I did have a few places in mind to visit. It was basically a day spent driving around Lexington, Elizabethtown, and Versailles, Kentucky. The picture is of a horse farm near Versailles. Apparently this was the trip where my attraction for US-62 began.


Trip Pic Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the trip journal it is from.

My Wheels – Chapter 14
1965 Barracuda

barracuda1965A white Plymouth Barracuda became mine after the Suzuki disappeared from the roadside and I think it was still running when the purloined motorcycle returned. I bought it from a co-worker for $300 or maybe $350. Though barely a half-dozen years old, the slant-6 3-speed had accumulated more than its share of miles and developed an appetite for oil in the process.

Of course, the Barracuda was my main ride while the wife drove the “good” car. I often took the bus to my downtown job and even when I did drive it to work, the car’s oil burning tendencies were kept in check by the fairly low speed route. Then a job change inserted about twenty miles of expressway into my workday drive. Some carpooling helped and I drove the wife’s car when I could. Sedate right-lane travel, frequent looks at the dipstick, and an ever present case of cheap oil in the trunk held off the inevitable.

I was still in a band and that was the job where the Barracuda’s oil consumption became something of an issue. Actually, it was just one particular gig. This gig was in Napoleon, Ohio, near the top of the state. We played there multiple times and each was a three night, Friday through Sunday, deal. I was working about 150 miles away in South Lebanon, Ohio. With looser schedules,  the rest of the group drove up on Friday afternoon. I headed north as soon as I could slip away. This freed me from lugging in and setting up equipment but meant I had some real time constraints and basically walked through the door and started playing after a non-stop drive. Or maybe a one — or more — stop drive. At 50 MPH or less, the Barracuda could squeeze a few hundred miles out of a quart of oil. At 65 MPH, the rate was closer to 100 MPQ and at 75 or 80 it was noticeably worse. More than once I found myself trying to mentally calculate whether I would get there sooner by rocketing onward and making a high-speed dump-in-a-quart pit stop or slowing down and saving the oil. I don’t recall ever getting that worked out satisfactorily.

It’s probably not surprising that other ‘Cuda stories are also band stories. One involves having my drums loaded in the car. It was actually pretty good for that. With the rear seat folded down, there was a goodly amount of space under what was the largest piece of glass ever used in a production car at the time. Details escape me but we had stopped somewhere to see another band play. The others wanted to stay longer than I did so, after hearing a few songs, I went out to the car to sleep. Maybe I had to work in the morning or maybe I was just tired. By moving some things to the front seat, I dug out enough room to snake around what remained and fall asleep. I awoke when the light of a thousand suns hit my face. My head was toward the rear with that big rear glass just inches away. I eventually figured out that there was just one light, not a thousand, and that it was white and probably not the sun. I couldn’t look directly at it, of course, or see around it and I felt completely helpless and pretty darned scared. The car was locked but if someone wanted to smash a window and drag me out by my feet I certainly couldn’t have stopped them. At last the light pulled back and I could see that it was held by someone in a uniform. There was another person beside him and in time I could make out badges and realized that it was a pair of police officers. They chatted with each other and, although I couldn’t make out what they said, they apparently decided I was harmless and moved on. I went back to sleep. With long distance hindsight, I’m thinking that those cops may have glimpsed a horizontal body in the car and hit the light for some parking lot picture window porn. Sorry to disappoint. Wish I could have obliged. Really.

The back end of that car really could hold a lot. A Hammond organ, for example. It wasn’t a line topping B3 and it wasn’t completely pure but a real Hammond did get transported inside the compact Plymouth. It was an M3; Noticeably smaller than a legendary ‘B’ but still a potent music maker with two keyboards. In the interest of portability, the organ’s “guts” had been removed from its finely finished tall wooden cabinet and placed inside a sturdy but far from finely finished black plywood box. The desired playing height was achieved by screwing legs made of pipe into brackets on the bottom of the box. A similar box held the volume pedal and the bass pedals were simply left at home. I have absolutely no memory of why it became necessary to carry the organ in the Barracuda but things like that seem to happen fairly common in the music world. The big black box went in and out the passenger door and I recall that someone had to force that seat forward and down while the organ was squeezed over it. Apparently once was enough. We henceforth put enough effort into planning to avoid a “Hammond Under Glass” repeat. Sure wish I had a picture.

Christmas Escape 2014

pic01dDespite a sincere and publicly proclaimed desire to get to Key West last year, it didn’t happen. I can’t guarantee it will this year either but at least I’m headed that direction. I attended the Lighting of the Serpent on the evening before leaving and have plans to drive some Dixie Highway both coming and going. I’ll probably also visit some friends and/or relatives somewhere along the way.

The journal for the trip is here. This entry is to let blog subscribers know of the trip and to hold any and all comments.

Cincinnati the Exhibitionist

cte01I visited a few museums this week. One reason was that I realized some temporary exhibits I wanted to see would be ending soon but there was also a lot of happenstance involved. For those of us spared desperate last minute shopping, the week before Christmas seems to be rife with days needing to be filled with something and a little catching up fits nicely. This post will wander a bit but will eventually get around to explaining the nose shortage revealed in the photo above.

cte02cte03cte04Early in the week, I attended the Mummies of the World exhibition at Cincinnati Museum Center. No photos were permitted in the traveling display so I’ve included a picture of the museum’s resident mummy, Umi. Mummies of the World will be in Cincinnati through April 26. The third photo is of the museum’s giant Christmas tree backed by Union Terminal’s brightly painted half-dome. For those who feel a little disoriented by that shot, a more traditional view is here.

cte08cte07cte06On Friday, I went out for breakfast then decided it would be a good time for an overdue visit to the American Sign Museum. There is so much here that it’s often near impossible for me to know if a sign is truly a recent addition or simply something I’ve not noticed before. As I gawked my way around, founder Tod Swormstedt made a point of saying hello and verified that a couple of signs in the local area were indeed newly placed. I clearly remember driving and walking by the Wizard sign many times in the wild but do not recall ever being inside the Clifton area record shop. Tod also gave me a little behind the scenes tour that included a recently acquired 1944 sign truck that will be used in parades and other promotions.

cte10cte11This year’s Fotofocus was in October and, with the exception of Treasures in Black & White at the museum center, I pretty much missed it. However, some related exhibits are still in place. One of them isn’t too far from the Sign Museum so I figured this was a good time to visit it as well. Good thing, too. It had just two more days to run. Documenting Cincinnati’s Neighborhoods at Hebrew Union College contains examples of the work of three local photographers from the middle of the 1900s.

cte13ncte12Maybe realizing how close I came to missing the Neighborhoods exhibit scared me because I next headed straight to the Taft Museum where two photo exhibits were in progress. I didn’t really need to hurry, I suppose, since both Black, White, and Iconic: Photographs from Local Collections and Paris Night & Day: Masterworks of Photography from Atget to Man Ray continue through January 11. No pictures were allowed in either exhibit but amateur photos of photo masterpieces aren’t all that appealing anyway. On the other hand, what I believe is a fairly recent policy change, not only allows but encourages non-flash photography in the other areas of the museum. The two photos here are of displays in the museum’s annual Antique Christmas exhibit.

cte14That opening photo was also taken at the Taft. A trio of reindeer stands in the lobby with an oval cutout that allows anyone to be photographed as one of the group. Apparently red noses were once available so that adding a Rudolph like touch was an option. That option, it seems, was quite a bit more popular than anticipated which led to it currently being unavailable. BYON.

History by the Pint

cbc01Ohio has a new brewery. It wasn’t desperately needed, I suppose, but this one is seriously different. There were already more than 100 breweries operating in Ohio and over 3000 in the country. A dozen other states also have more than 100 each. New mini, micro, and nano breweries are popping up everywhere everyday and, while I’m personally very happy to hear of each and every new launch, it’s a fact that the opening of a brewery is not as exciting and rare as it was just a few years ago. In an effort to distinguish themselves, some breweries are targeting the extremities of things that can be measured to claim titles like “the hoppiest” or “highest alcohol content”. How about “most labor intensive”?

Carillon Brewing Company did not set out to be high on the labor used scale. It set out to be high on the historically accurate scale and provide a piece of living history befitting the 65 acre open air museum it is part of at Carillon Historical Park. It just turns out that, when you accurately recreate an 1850 brewery and use it to make beer the same way it was made more than a century and a half ago, things are going to be a bit more “hands on” than is normal today.

cbc02cbc03cbc04Though many are in really old buildings, the working bits of most breweries we see today look pretty modern. There are usually dials and gauges and maybe some electronics. One or more — sometimes many more — big — sometimes really big — stainless steel tanks are what actually identify a brewery to most of us. There are no steel tanks here and no fancy gauges. Definitely no electronically controlled automation.

cbc07cbc06cbc05Here the beer is brewed in copper kettles and fermented in wooden barrels. Heat comes from wood fires and transferring the liquid between brewing steps is accomplished by hand dipping and gravity. One of the few concessions to modern times is the use of city water to save workers the chore of toting bucket after bucket from the nearby Great Miami River.

cbc08cbc09The doors were opened in August with a full food menu and OPB (Other People’s Beer). In October, house brewed root beer and ginger ale were added. Last Thursday, December 11, two of Carillon Brewing’s own ales were introduced. The Porter (from an 1862 recipe) is pictured. I was served both it and the already downed Coriander Ale (1831 recipe) by Frank, the guy in the second picture. Note the period dress. Another modern concession is the use of refrigeration so that us twenty-first century wussies don’t have to drink warm beer. It is anticipated that some varieties will be served at room temperature to provide a true 1850 experience. Only ales will be brewed here. Even though lagering existed long before 1850, most breweries produced only ales until the mid 1860s

cbc10My new word of the day is “brewster”, a female brewer. Carillon Brewing’s Tanya Brock is that and more. Not only is she responsible for turning out something as tasty as those new stainless steel filled microbreweries, she must do it with historically accurate methods and recipes. Oh, and she has to research those methods and recipes, too. This is one unique operation. With justified pride, Brock says, “No one else in the United States is doing a fully-licensed production brewery in a historic museum.”

cbc11cbc12cbc13The brewery is indeed part of a museum and vice versa. Signs, including several on barrel heads, explain brewing and its history in the area. One barrel head contains an annotated drawing of the brewing operation that stands behind it. Employees and volunteers are knowledgeable and happy to answer questions. Brewing currently takes place Wednesday through Saturday though watching it is sometimes akin to watching water come to a boil. Actually, between the flurries of activity moving the brew between steps, it is exactly like watching water come to an almost boil. Still, it’s mighty interesting. Nowhere else can you drink a beer truly made “the old fashioned way” while watching another batch being prepared for a future visit. You’ll leave not only refreshed and educated on nineteenth century brewing methods but, with just a little counting, knowing how may states were in the union in 1850.

EDITED 15-Dec-2014: Within a day of publishing this article, it struck me that the opening paragraph did not at all establish the right tone. In a move that I certainly won’t make a habit of, it has been rewritten. The original follows:

Ho hum. Ohio has another brewery. No, ho hum isn’t really what I want to say. I’m very happy to hear of each and every new launch but it’s a fact that the opening of a brewery is not as exciting and rare as it was just a few years ago. It’s not just Ohio, of course. There are now more than 3000 breweries in the country and new mini, micro, and nano breweries are popping up everywhere everyday. Ohio is just one of thirteen states with more than 100 breweries in operation. In an effort to distinguish themselves, some breweries are targeting the extremities of things that can be measured to claim titles like “the hoppiest” or “highest alcohol content”. How about “most labor intensive”?