David Wondrich on Cocktails, Cincinnati, and Surprises

One of the major highlights of the Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic this year was getting the chance to interview a spirits writer that I greatly admire, Esquire Drinks correspondent David Wondrich. Thanks to his books and articles, most notably Imbibe! and Punch, his name is closely associated with the classic cocktail movement and documenting the history of drinking culture in the Unites States. My partner Charlie and I sat down (more accurately, stood up in the corner of a tent in Washington Park) to talk with him about his writing and why he decided to attend the Food and Wine Classic in Cincinnati. You can listen to the full interview in Episode #195 of The Charlie Tonic Hour but here are the highlights.

David Wondrich and Ginny and Charlie Tonic from the Charlie Tonic Hour

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Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic: A Foodie's Paradise

This year I was once again lucky enough to be asked to attend the Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic, held September 11-13 in Washington Park. This year’s event proved itself to be a significant increase over last year, with an additional day of tasting and events on Sunday as well as more things to seek out throughout the weekend. I was immensely satisfied with this year’s event. Last year felt like a wonderful local event with a lot of potential. This year they went a long way toward meeting that potential. The Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic felt much bigger and more vibrant this year, and I was thrilled to see our city producing something that seems destined to grow into a nationally recognized event.

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One of the offerings from Orchid’s and Chef Todd Kelly on display this weekend.

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Learning About Beer: Oktoberfest

It’s the first week of September; there was a slight chill in the air last week though it’s in the 90s today, and there are too many damn pumpkin beers on the shelf. Pumpkin beers seem to be the new official beer of fall, but long before pumpkin beers became famous in America Germans were having a fall festival with its own style of beer, Oktoberfest.

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Bourbon Classic Returns to Louisville: You Need to Be There

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Many times I have praised Cincinnati’s proximity to the heart of bourbon country, but never was I more thankful for it than last February when I was able to attend the Bourbon Classic. I learned more about bourbon history and the current  bourbon industry in that weekend than I had in the previous year. This year it is back and looks to be just as good as 2014. Once again Fred Minnick is MCing the Bourbon Masters Session and this year Jim Rutledge of Four Roses will be joining the line up. He was the one distiller I was very disappointed not to meet last year. The Bourbon University has some great classes lined up, including a very timely class on bourbon collecting. Here is the press release but for now all you need to know is this is the best bourbon opportunity you have within such an easy drive. And keep in mind that WhiskeyFest in Chicago is already sold out. Hope to see you there.

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Bourbon & Culinary Weekend Returns to Louisville in February 

Third Annual Bourbon Classic Focuses on World-Class Culinary and Bartending Talent

Louisville, KY (February 2, 2015) Bourbon Classic 2015, the third annual Bourbon-culinary experience will take place in Louisville at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts next weekend, February 20 – 21, 2015. The event attracts Bourbon enthusiasts and culinary adventurists from across the country. A complete cross-section of the Bourbon industry will attend: Bourbon distilling legends, writers, chefs, bartenders, connoisseurs, and casual enthusiasts.

This year, Bourbon Classic will kick off with an exclusive pre-event reception, Bourbon Classic Taste, on Tuesday, February 17th. Chef Ed Lee and Julian Van Winkle will participate in this progressive tasting experience hosted at Copper & Kings American Brandy. Kentucky Proud-inspired food, Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Four Roses Bourbon, Copper & Kings Brandy, Copper & Kings Absinthe, Van Winkle Special Reserve (12 year), Van Winkle Family Reserve (15 year), Van Winkle Family Reserve (20 year), and 1,000 Stories Barrel Finished Wine will be available. A limited number of tickets to this Kentucky Proud supported reception are available to the general public.

Friday, February 20 – Bourbon Classic Cocktail Challenge:

  • MC Jared Schubert, winner of the 2013 Bourbon Classic Cocktail Challenge, will guide attendees through the event featuring contemporary and classic cocktails and small plates prepared by teams of chefs and master bartenders representing distilleries. Cocktails and pairings will be judged by an expert panel including Hannah Hayes, Southern Living, Joy Perrine, Jack’s Lounge, and Chef Albert Schmid, Sullivan University. Participating teams are as follows:

    Barton 1792 Distillery
    Beth Burrows, Down One Bourbon Bar
    Chef Newman Miller, Harrison-Smith House, Bardstown, KY

    BlantonBourbon
    Marie Zahn, St. Charles Exchange
    Chef Levon Wallace, Proof on Main

    Buffalo Trace Distillery
    Jason Cobbler, Harvest
    Chef Coby Ming, Harvest

    Four Roses Bourbon
    Isaac Fox, Volare
    Chef Josh Moore, Volare

    Heaven Hill Distilleries
    Gary Gruver, Southern Wine & Spirits
    Chef David Danielson, Churchill Downs

    Jim Beam
    Sean Thibodeaux, 8-UP Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen
    Chef Todd Rushing, 8-UP Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen

    Michters
    Hannah Kandle, Old Seelbach Bar
    Chef Patrick Roney, Seelbach Oakroom

    Wild Turkey
    Amber Yates, Feast
    Chef Ryan Rogers, Feast

    Woodford Reserve
    Jacquelyn Zykan, Doc Crow’s
    Chef Jonathan Schwartz, Doc Crow’s

Saturday, February 21 – Ultimate Bourbon Experience:

  • Bourbon Masters Session
    Mark Coffman, Alltech Brewing & Distilling Company
    Wes Henderson, Angel’s Envy
    Ken Pierce, Barton 1792 Distillery
    Fred Noe, Jim Beam
    Harlen Wheatley, Buffalo Trace Distillery
    Jim Rutledge, Four Roses Bourbon
    Denny Potter, Heaven Hill Distilleries
    Nicole Austin, King’s County Distillery
    Willie Pratt, Michter’s
    Jimmy Russell, Wild Turkey

    Author Fred Minnick will MC this session sponsored by the Urban Bourbon Trail.

  • The Bourbon Classic University, exploring focused learning sessions like Country Ham & Bourbon, The Life of the Barrel, Essential Bourbon Cocktails Past and Present, Straight Up Storytellers, Bourbon & Cheese Pairings, The Art of the Glass, Entertaining with North American Whiskey, Bourbon Collections, Bourbon Flavor Profiles, and Bourbon Icons. Sets of five sessions will be offered and attendees will have the opportunity to choose which sessions to join.
  • The Bourbon Marketplace offering exhibits and displays featuring Bourbon tastings, book signings, food tastings, and culinary and Bourbon-related products.
  • Bourbon Culinary Tastings prepared by Coby Ming, Harvest, Sean Ward, Ward 426, Levon Wallace, Proof on Main, and Ouita Michel, Holly Hill Inn.

Some of the bourbon industry’s most well-known brands are sponsoring the event. The Urban Bourbon Trail is the welcoming sponsor of this event joining Buffalo Trace DistilleryFour Roses BourbonMichters, Alltech Brewing & Distilling Co., Barton 1792 Distillery, Bulleit Bourbon, Heaven Hill Distilleries, Jim Beam, Woodford Reserve, 1,000 Stories Barrel Finished Wine, BlantonBourbon, Wild Turkey, Bingham Greenbaum Doll, LLP, Old Forester, Angels Envy, Corsair Distillery, Jeffersons, Kings County Distillery, Copper & Kings American Brandy, and Willett Distillery. Media sponsors include The Bourbon Reviewand Louisville Public Media.

The Bourbon Classic was co-founded by Tony Butler of FSA Management Group, an established event planning and marketing firm based in Louisville, and Justin Thompson, Seth Thompson, and Bob Eidson of The Bourbon Review.

Ticket sales for the event are available by calling the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts at 502-584-7777. Details are available at bourbonclassic.com.

New MadTree Cans Coming Soon Plus One More Surprise…

I don’t normally get into this type of thing as I have no interest in chasing TTB filings. If you want to keep hot on things like that follow Brew Professor on Twitter. That said, the reason I am publishing an article on this is that one of my absolute favorite beers in Cincinnati is going to be canned in early March.

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Dayton Brew Ha-Ha

I normally leave event coverage up to BrewProf.com and his awesome event calendar but I do want to cover awesome events and the Brew Ha-Ha is shaping up to be amazing. The first two things you need to know are that it’s a charity event and it’s only Ohio beers!

Dayton Brew Ha-Ha

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Kevin Spatz – Memorial Benefit at Rivertown

Roxanne Westendorf from the Bloatarian Brewing League, Rivertown tap-room, and AHA governing committee sent me the following info about an event happening at the Rivertown tap-room on Wednesday, December 17th. The event will be to honor the memory of Kevin Spatz, a long time local brewer, both home and professional. I think it sounds like a great time for a good cause and plan on being there. Hopefully you all can make it too!

Rereading this real quick before hitting the publish button my eyes keyed in on the bit about Boston Beer donating gifts with face value of at least $200. Only 1 thing comes to mind made by Boston Beer costs that much… Utopias! Now I’m not saying that’s what they’re donating I’m just saying I’ll be taking part in the silent auction!


Kevin Spatz passed away unexpectedly in October at the age of 47.  Rivertown Brewery is hosting a benefit for the family (wife Carol, son Philip – college sophomore, and daughter Elizabeth – high school junior).  All proceeds from the benefit will go to an educational trust for Philip and Elizabeth.

Many of us in the brewing community have very strong connections with Kevin and his family.  While our friendships started with brewing, they became much stronger through the years.  The benefit is not just about helping a fellow brewer, but is part of the bond that many of us developed with Kevin and his family through the years.

Kevin and Carol moved to the Cincinnati area just over 20 years ago.  In 1995 – Kevin attended his first Bloatarian Brewing League meeting – which is where Rob & I met Kevin (also our first meeting), and we quickly became friends with Kevin and Carol (and Philip and Elizabeth, of course). A couple of years later – Kevin got a job at the Samuel Adams brewery in Cincinnati – and was one of their first employees in Cincinnati.

When Jason Roeper – owner of Rivertown Brewing Company – started homebrewing, Kevin was one of the first Bloatarians he met.  Jason was a Sam Adams Longshot finalist in 2009, and Kevin spent a lot of time escorting Jason and introducing him to the folks at Boston Beer and other key industry players.  When Jason turned pro – he and Kevin kept in touch professionally as well.

Kevin Spatz – Memorial Benefit at Rivertown Brewing Company

  • Wednesday, December 17.  4 pm until close (9-10 pm).
  • In addition to the regular taps – we will have a special beer in honor of Kevin – an American Stout.  Stouts were one of Kevin favorite styles.  Fellow homebrewers Brian and Jen Becker are in town over the Thanksgiving Holiday.  When Brian lived in Cincinnati, he and Kevin often brewed together.  Their families are still close – even though the Beckers now live in Texas.  Brian, and Roxanne & Rob Westendorf will be brewing a small batch of this beer at Rivertown to honor Kevin.  Net proceeds from the nights will go to the educational trust for the family.
  • Silent auction and raffle.  Boston Beer has donated some amazing gifts for us to use in a silent auction and raffle – including several gifts with face value at least $200!  Rivertown will be adding additional items to the silent auction and raffle.  ALL proceeds from the silent auction and raffle will go to the educational trust.
  • Donations will also be accepted at the brewery during and before the event.
  • Food vendors will be present outside the brewery, with food available for purchase during the event.
  • Rivertown contacts:  www.rivertownbrewery.com

607 Shepherd Dr, Unit 6
Lockland, OH 45215
Phone: 513-827-9280

Many of Kevin’s co-workers at the Cincinnati Sam Adams brewery are expected to attend this event.  There will also be a group from the Bloatarian Brewing League at the event.  We would like as many people as possible to join us at the event to honor Kevin’s legacy and share our mutual love of beer and the friendships we have made through our hobby and profession. We hope you will join us there, and help spread the word about this event.