Chances are, that bourbon you're drinking came from an industrial distillery in southern Indiana:
In just the last 10 years, the number of craft distilleries in this country has ballooned from around 100 to more than 1,400. That growth is a product of consumer demand, but it’s also due to the easing of state distillation laws and the availability of sourced whiskey from suppliers like MGP in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.
Templeton Rye — marketed as Al Capone’s favorite whiskey and proud product of Templeton, Iowa — is also distilled by MGP. Tincup Whiskey, a self-described “mountain whiskey” replete with commercials conjuring a frontiersman image and Rocky Mountain ethos, is mostly MGP, too.
Those brands aren’t alone in their Indiana provenance. Even super-premium brands like High West and Whistle Pig have sourced from MGP at some point in their respective histories. And the list goes on.
MGP isn’t a household name in bourbon, but it’s well known among industry insiders and connoisseurs. With distilling operations headquartered in the old Seagram’s Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, MGP is one of the largest whiskey sourcers in the industry.
So why do so few people know MGP’s name?
For one, it maintains strict confidentiality agreements with all of its customers; the purchasing brand only has to reveal MGP as its source if it wants to — an option many decline.
In addition, labeling regulations only require that the bottler list in which state the liquid was distilled — easily done in tiny print on the back of the bottle.
This is why I've got Trader Joe's $15 "Kentucky Bourbon" at home instead of $60 Whistle Pig. It's the same whiskey.
Single-malt Scotch, on the other hand, is by UK law exactly what it says on the bottle.
Ah, Ribfest. The bane of my diet.
This year I went back to a couple of old favorites and tried a couple of new ones:
- Chicago BBQ: Smoky, a little tug off the bone, tangy sauce. 3½ stars.
- Mrs. Murphy's Irish Bistro: Like last year, they glooped on a lot of (delicious) sauce. But the meat tasted better this year, and I got a bit of a lagniappe. 3 stars.
- Old Crow Smokehouse: I haven't tried them before. They were decent. Good smoke taste, but a little fatty and not a lot of sauce. 3 stars.
- Fireside Restaurant: The best sauce of the day, tangy and a little citrus. Good meat, smoke, and char.
I may go tomorrow. If I can digest today's bones.
Every so often I like to revisit old photos to see if I can improve them. Here's one of my favorites, which I took by the River Arun in Amberley, West Sussex, on 11 June 1992:
The photo above is one of the first direct-slide scans I have, which I originally published here in 2009, right after I took this photo at nearly the same location:
(I'm still kicking myself for not getting the angle right. I'll have to try again next time I'm in the UK.)
Those are the photos as they looked in 2009. Yesterday, during an extended internet outage at my house, I revisited them in Lightroom. Here's the 1992 shot, slightly edited:
And the 2009 shot, with slightly different treatment:
A side note: I did revisit Amberley in 2015, but I took the path up from Arundel instead of going around the northern path back into Amberley as in 2009, so I didn't re-shoot the bridge. Next time.
Ballast Point, a former craft brewery that sold out to Constellation Brands for $1 billion in 2015, hasn't given the buyers everything they had hoped for:
Ballast Point has plummeted back to earth after its meteoric rise, though, a sales decline that reflects early missteps after the merger and the slowing growth of craft beer in general, according to industry experts and Constellation executives. The San Diego-based brewer of Sculpin IPA faces numerous challenges in its quest to grow as national craft brand, but perhaps none more significant than this: There are almost 6,500 breweries in the U.S. today — at least 2,000 more than when Constellation bought Ballast Point.
“We have a great high-end Mexican portfolio and wanted to get into craft. We entered in a big way with Ballast Point. … This is really an example of where we’re headed right here in terms of executing our strategy,” said Marty Birkel, Ballast Point president, in an interview at the new Chicago brewpub.
Michigan-based Founders Brewing Co., best known for its lower-priced, lower-alcohol All Day IPA, was roughly the same size as Ballast Point in 2015, but could end up shipping twice as much beer to wholesalers this year. Founders CEO Mike Stevens called the Ballast Point decline a “perfect storm” of high price point — a six-pack of Sculpin regularly sold for $15 — and what he believes to be a fading trend in fruit-flavored IPAs.
“They were obviously just screaming to the top of the peak, riding that price point, riding their fruit IPAs. … Right when that (deal) went down, we kind of all knew that they were going to have to fix the price points because the consumers were going to lose interest,” Stevens said.
Given that "small" and "craft" are two of the things people who drink beers from small, craft breweries want, and that these things go away when a conglomerate buys them, none of this should surprise anyone. And yet, the culture at large companies almost compels this kind of behavior.
At least Constellation isn't trying to kill its acquisitions, as InBev and MillerCoors have been accused. And craft breweries continue to flourish, both here and abroad. So all is not lost...just Ballast Point.
A little Tuesday morning randomness for you:
Back to debugging acceptance tests.
Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts has announced a joint venture with Sterling Bay, the developer building on the former Finkl Steel site in Lincoln Park (mentioned here last week), to bring professional soccer back to Chicago:
Sterling Bay will develop and own the stadium, and will keep an ownership stake in the USL franchise it bought last year. Ricketts will be the team’s majority owner.
The Tribune in October reported that Sterling Bay was proposing a stadium on the site, as part of its effort to bring Amazon or another large corporation to the mixed-use development as an office tenant.
Chicago’s USL team is expected to begin playing in 2021.
The stadium and training facility will be available to youth and professional athletes, and also will have community and cultural events, according to the news release.
The stadium is planned along the west side of the river.
I'm looking forward to the Lincoln Yards development. The Finkl Steel plant, though an economic powerhouse for decades in Chicago, was also a huge, ugly, and polluting bunion at the foot of the Lincoln Park community area. Like other former industrial areas near to downtown (including, or perhaps especially, the New East Side), almost any mixed-use commercial/residential development is preferable at this stage of Chicago's life.
Also, I think an English Premier League vs. Chicago football match would be loads of fun.
No, this isn't one of the two Daily Parker milestones we'll see this month. It's trivial and personal.
On this day in 1988, 30 years ago, I bought my first CD. It was an almost-new technology—the first CDs were commercially available in 1981—and it sounded a lot better than scratchy old vinyl records.
Just looking back at what I posted 10 years ago confirms I haven't bought that many CDs lately. I don't have the number in front of me, but I believe I've now got 940 of them, meaning I've bought an average of 12 a year since 2008. That's slightly fewer than the 12 a month I bought in 1990.
For historical context, when I bought my first CD, Ronald Reagan was president, it looked like (but wasn't certain) that Michael Dukakis and George H.W. Bush would be the candidates to replace him, and our arch-rival for world domination was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. A Toyota Corolla cost $10,000, a gallon of gas or a gallon of milk cost 96c, and you could buy a 3-bedroom house in my home town for $200,000. (The same house is now close to $750,000.)
This month will see two important Daily Parker milestones. This is the first one: the 6,000th post since braverman.org launched as a pure blog in November 2005. The 5,000th post was back in March 2016, and the 4,000th in March 2014, so I'm trucking along at just about 500 a year, as this chart shows:
Almost exactly four years ago I predicted the 6,000th post would go up in September. I'm glad the rate has picked up a bit. (New predictions: 7,000 in May 2020 and 10,000 in April 2026.)
Once again, thanks for reading. And keep your eyes peeled for another significant Daily Parker milestone in a little less than two weeks.
It's the 99th day of 2018, and I'm looking out my office window at 25 mm of snow on the ground. It was -7°C on Saturday and -6°C last night. This isn't April; it's February. Come on, Chicago.
The Cubs' home opener originally scheduled for today will be played tomorrow. This is the second time in my memory that the home opener got snowed out. I didn't have tickets to today's game, but I did have tickets to the game on 15 April 1994, which also got snowed out.
(Cubs official photo.)
Because it's Chicago. (Actually, there's a blocking mass of warm air to the east of us causing a bulge in the polar jet stream and pushing cool Canadian air down into the U.S. That sort of thing feels really nice in July; not so much in April.)
Yesterday, the Nielsen Norman Group released groundbreaking research on user interface design for dogs:
There are several key usability guidelines that help dogs to have the most usable experience on modern websites and apps, particularly on mobile, tablet, and other touch-based interfaces:
- Consistency is critical. While consistency in any user experience is important, with dogs, it’s even more so. Experienced dog trainers will tell you that, for dogs to learn proper behavior, consistency in enforcing routines, expectations, and commands is critical. Some common UI culprits that provide extra difficulty for dogs are swipe ambiguity, gestures without signifiers, tap uncertainty for flat UI elements like ghost buttons, and unusual placement of common elements like navigation and search.
- Tap targets must be large. We recommend 1cm2 for human tap targets, but paws (whether belonging to cats or dogs) require larger tap sizes (of at least 3-4cm2, or even larger for Labradors and Great Danes).
- Gestures must be ergonomic for dog physiology. While many wearable interfaces now involve gestures such as swiping left or right to dismiss notifications or switch apps, these need to be modified for more ergonomic canine movements (such as “shake”). Dogs have a greater ability to move paws with precision up and down, but dogs’ range of motion along the horizontal axis is limited and relatively imprecise, so all gestures must account for this limitation.
They also give special guidance on the risks of using hamburger menus and pie charts.