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July 20, 2012

NASH: A quarter century of beer and pizza

JEFFERSONVILLE — My personal relationship with the New Albanian Brewing Company goes back to a few years before I was even able to drink beer, legally. I do not recall the actual circumstances that I met Amy Baylor and Kate Lewison, two-thirds of the ownership partners, I just remember we were all in high school and that we had several friends in common. That was back when their family was running a pizzeria that had been a Noble Romans franchise that they transformed into what is still widely known as Sportstime Pizza.

Quite a bit of my personal history with the company cannot be repeated in this column. Many of the stories of my exploits I cannot recap as a gentleman and because I am not completely sure that the statute of limitations has completely ran out on all of my juvenile offenses. I can say that in those early years I had a lot of fun in that establishment, met a lot of friends there and of course I drank a lot of beer.  

In the early 1990s I worked overnights in a factory in New Albany’s industrial park. At the time Sportstime Pizza was open 24 hours a day. Many mornings when our shift would end, several employees would head to the location just off Grantline Road and order pizza and breadsticks and wait for the 7 a.m. deadline when they could legally serve us alcoholic beverages in the state of Indiana.      

My co-workers and I would throw darts or play pinball and basically unwind from a hard night of work.  I remember that the last day of the work week was a particularly good day to go because more people would come. Some people might frown upon drinking that early in the morning, but when you sleep from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 7 a.m. is considered your evening hours.  

Not too many people remember or were ever aware, but for a few months I was actually an employee of the pizzeria. I worked a crazy shift something like 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. on the weekends. It was just a part-time thing for me that I did in addition to my full-time gig. My main responsibilities included washing dishes, clearing tables and taking the leftover beers from people once the hour struck they could no longer legally have a drink at their tables. It wasn’t very glamorous work but it put a few extra bucks in my pocket that I promptly spent on beer and pizza.

At one point I lived within walking distance in an apartment just behind their location on the corner of University and Plaza Drive. I remember taking my young son for walks in his stroller and stopping by and getting lunch. By that time they had opened up “Richo’s”  — the precursor to what is now known as the Public House. It was originally branded as a “barbecue” joint and I recall being fond of the quarter chicken dinner with baked beans.

Throughout the late 1990s and early into this century my trips to the establishment would become more rare. The people that I met and socialized with that were my friends back then moved on or moved away and family obligations kept me away. Over the years I would occasionally stop in but all of the faces had changed and it wasn’t the same as it had been in those early years.

A few years ago I became acquainted with the third member of the ownership team, Roger Baylor. I had read his letters to the editor in the “‘Bune” for many years and from his  “blog” New Albany Confidential [www.cityofnewalbany.blogspot.com] and eventually he had his own weekly column. By his writing you might consider him conceited and condescending, but you have to sit down and have dinner with him to know for sure. Most people consider him a beer snob and I think if you asked him directly I am sure that he would probably concur.

In 2008 I met my wife at the New Albanian Public House. We were both enjoying adult beverages with friends at the time and by the end of the evening I had her phone number and a lunch date for the following day. We were both excited about the impending opening of their new establishment and the expanding of their craft brew operation.

 We were there when the Bank Street Brewhouse opened in downtown New Albany and continue to patronize both locations. They have been a cornerstone in the ever growing renaissance of downtown New Albany and a place for great food and great beer. They continue to expand their distribution operation and have even more plans for expanded dining downtown. When Amy and I got married a few months ago only New Albanian beer was served to our guest.

The last few years during the opening weekend of their annual beer festival, “Gravity Head,”  I have served as a designated driver. Out of town guest that stay at local hotels or patrons who may have had too much to drink are provided a ride home for just a small donation that benefits the Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics. It is cheaper than a cab ride home and way cheaper than a DUI,

The New Albanian Brewing Company is celebrating its 25th year of doing business in New Albany. On Sunday, July 22, at the New Albany Amphitheater beginning at 10 a.m. come down and enjoy the festivities. Local bands will be there for entertainment, local food will be available for the nourishment of your body and of course, locally brewed craft beer will be available for your consumption. Come down and enjoy the family friendly activities that are planned for a full day celebration of “25 years of Beer and Loathing” in New Albany.

Matthew Nash can be reached at dmatthewnash@gmail.com

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