40 Years in Beer (Book II) Part 48: F.O.S.S.I.L.S. newsletter antics, Typo’s Brewpub, and True Beer Freedom

40 Years in Beer (Book II) Part 48: F.O.S.S.I.L.S. newsletter antics, Typo’s Brewpub, and True Beer Freedom
40 Years in Beer (Book II) Part 48: F.O.S.S.I.L.S. newsletter antics, Typo’s Brewpub, and True Beer Freedom

Previously: 40 Years in Beer (Book II) Part 47: A “special vacation” with Kölsch, Altbier and Roggenbier (1993).

During the decade of the 1990s, the F.O.S.S.I.L.S. homebrewing and beer appreciation club was inseparable from Rich O’s. Primarily this was because I intended it to be this way.

The club doubled as the establishment’s propaganda arm and fan club aside from its own beermaking and educational activities. The pub hosted most club meetings and provided a place for members to socialize, and they were among our most loyal regulars. I’ll always be grateful for that, because word of mouth is always the best advertising.

As the beer and brewing revolution expanded and numerous new beers became available in Indiana, I would invite brewery and importing company sales representatives to introduce themselves and make their pitch at F.O.S.S.I.L.S. meetings – with samples, of course, from diverse entities like Spaten (Munich), Celis (Texas) and Jack Daniels 1866; who even remembers that? It was brewed by John Barrett, former brewmaster at Evansville Brewing Company.

One Sunday the club held a blind taste test of the short-lived Miller Reserve line of mockrobrews, an event that came about after a Miller employee contacted me out of the blue and volunteered to provide the beer (spoiler alert: Miller Reserve’s stout actually scored well in the tasting).

Similarly, F.O.S.S.I.L.S. later hosted none other than the legendary Mitch “American Originals” Steele, a brewing prodigy at Anheuser-Busch before striking out on his own. He brought several cases of A-B’s “crafty” line extensions (Michelob, Red Wolf, et al) to a meeting.

Beers from My Past: The Anheuser-Busch American Originals

And then there was Walking the Dog, the newsletter of F.O.S.S.I.L.S. Because I wrote and produced much of the newsletter (although many members contributed), my memories tend to revolve around what it took to meet a monthly deadline ten years running.

I’m not blowing my own euphonium to say that Walking the Dog’s tone was utterly unique among homebrewing club newsletters in our approximate region, and to an extent, beyond it. One reason was the Campaign for Real Ale (C.A.M.R.A.)

I became familiar with C.A.M.R.A. during my stint abstracting British magazine articles during the late 1980s, and was a dues-paying C.A.M.R.A. member for many years. C.A.M.R.A.’s newsletter What’s Brewing was a valued source for information about cask-conditioned ale, British pub culture, licensing and regulatory matters, and issues pertaining to European beer (after all, this was long before Brexit).

As you’d imagine, beer news from a British perspective was of a far different orientation than in America, but the sheer magnitude of C.A.M.R.A.’s principled stances toward all aspects of brewing, serving and drinking beer was fascinating to me, as deriving from a open, avowed politicization that was seldom seen in America (apart from bleating and babbling about lower taxes on mass-market swill).

Consequently, my goal was to absorb a bit of the C.A.M.R.A. stylistic template into the F.O.S.S.I.L.S. newsletter, thus coloring our “crusade for better beer” more ideologically and militantly, even if we had no “Real Ale” around here to protect (and still don’t).

Yes, I genuinely believed in these positions. Moreover, their embrace allowed for early experiments in what might be described as performance art. Incorporating my travels and previous studies, this “revolutionary” newsletter editorial policy, while unlikely to “change” anything outside the immediate vicinity (if even that), made us completely distinct.

No other homebrewing club was doing it quite like Walking the Dog, and I reveled in being an outlier. Seems I was a polemicist by nature and inclination: “A person who strongly attacks or defends a particular opinion, person, idea, or set of beliefs” (Cambridge Dictionary).

My affinity for polemics long predated any clear understanding of what the word meant, probably owing to binge-reading H.L. Mencken, Hunter S. Thompson and other essayists from a very early age. Later came Christopher Hitchens, and a strong case can be made that George Carlin was a brilliant stand-up polemicist.

It was NOT a good investment.

One of my favorite targets was the bumbling Oldenberg Brewing in Northern Kentucky near Cincinnati, which I christened “McOldenberg Brewmall.” It was our extended region’s first brewpub, nestled in a hotel complex and deployed mostly as a marketing device, the pomposity of which was fatally prone to comically Disneyesque marketing mentalities stemming from people with no beer knowledge whatsoever.

The vapid and generally clueless McOldenberg Brewmall front man was an attorney called David Heidrich, a veritable daily font of tacky short-term ways to subvert his ostensible mission of brewing and selling better beer (in time Oldenberg’s beer was pushed aside entirely and the owners installed a “boot, scoop and booger” country music emporium with light beer and Falangism all around).

Purpose-built for Miller Lite: “But don’t tell my heart/My achy breaky heart.”

Heidrich left an indelible impression similar to that of Homer Simpson running a nuclear reactor — and I took great joy in reminding the emperor that he had nary a stitch amid the line dancing.

But thirty years later, the irony is profound. Heidrich and Oldenberg have been mercifully absent from the scene for 25 years (the complex itself was demolished circa 2022), but now we see similar instances of McOldenberg-Brewmall-Thought on a regular basis, beer marketing having lapsed into kaleidoscopic and irrelevant ephemera for the edification of simpletons, with growing numbers of local breweries incapable of recalling why they bought fermenters in the first place, preferring instead to produce hard seltzer for kiddies and emit carnival-barker triviality as the quality of their beer steadily plummets – not that youthful consumers weaned on TikTok and AutoTune even know how to tell the difference between real beer and rainbow-colored beer slushies. Did Heidrich win in the end?

Love me or hate me, but you simply cannot say I haven’t remained consistent these past 30 years.

It’s all the rest of you who insist on losing the thread. 

However, the polemically inclined always must accept responsibility for their (my) words, and archivists looking back to the Walking the Dog in June, 1993 will find a front page story titled “Dizzy with Excess.”

Students of twentieth-century world history will readily make the connection between this glib paraphrase and the original “Dizzy with Success” utterance, as attributed to Uncle Joe Stalin, back in the USSR. Mind you, there is no parallel whatever between these usages insofar as their direct impetus is concerned (I’m not the purging-of-kulaks type), save one, as Stalin and Baylor both were “presidents for life” (in my case, a position shortened to P-F-L).

My style of newsletter outreach was heated and rambunctious; subtlety was never my strong suit, and it transpired that Heidrich was not the only outraged recipient of WTD. In early summer of 1993 I received a scathing written critique from a friend, someone I trusted implicitly, who detailed instances of my previous polemics as embarrassing and counter-productive for F.O.S.S.I.L.S. as a club.

Had I now confused my own litany of personal grievances (it is admittedly a vast collection, then as now) with official positions on the part of a youthful homebrewing club?

The critique was indeed objective, and I took it to heart, proceeding with two remedies: first, at a club meeting I divulged it and asked for a vote of confidence from the membership, which was given; second, from this by-the-rules position of support, I hereby relinquished the F.O.S.S.I.L.S. symbolic femur of power on the grounds that it would be better for the club at any rate to have yearly elections and rotating leadership.

“P-F-L Emeritus” worked just fine for me. I had a wedding and special vacation to deal with in 1993. Dispensing with lifetime sinecures was the best route F.O.S.S.I.L.S. could have chosen, friendships ultimately were maintained, and most importantly, I retained control of the propaganda ministry (insert winking smiley face).

A substitute front page was appended to Walking the Dog #39 (December 1993), positing an alternative reality 50 years hence, when life in the city of New Albany was (shall we say) slightly different.


The New Albanian Times

Saturday, 11 December 2043

45 Years Ago: A New Newspaper, A New Brewpub, A New Era

It was way back in 1996 when the late Mark Francis, a member of F.O.S.S.I.L.S., struck it rich in the Hoosier lottery and made good on his promise to open a brewery in New Albany.

While he was at it, Francis benefited the community and our newspaper in another, unexpected way. His purchase of the Tribune Building in his subsequent eviction of the newspaper took place at the same time as the founding of the New Albanian Times, which was dedicated to the proposition that any newspaper was better than the Tribune. The combination of the bitter court battle that preceded the eviction, the new newspaper’s enlightened leadership, the incompetent bungling of the Tribune’s last management team and widespread public disgust with the Tribune’s sad legacy brought down the old newspaper and led to this newspaper’s rise to prominence.

When Typo’s, Francis’s new brewpub in the vacated Tribune Building, opened in 1998 the New Albanian Times reported that “the party seemed destined for a life beyond that normally associated with the tailgater’s dream of Lite in cans and Kentucky Fried Chicken in cardboard buckets, to extend into the future like a wild Midwestern tornado’s kicking of mud, blood and debris, until the last keg of brewmaster David Pierce’s Imperial Stout would gasp and expire, heralding the storm’s slow calming. Then, and only then, would anyone even consider the prospect of opening the doors to the public on some yet-to-be-announced day the following week.”

The account was written by Roger a Baylor also a member of F.O.S.S.I.L.S., whose rise as a commentator and beer critic paralleled that of Typo’s and the New Albanian Times. These were the forces that fueled the Great American Beer Revolt and the enactment of reforms that have effectively removed the tyranny of a Lightweight swillocracy in our age.

Typo’s was Mark Francis’s first and last business venture, and it was Pierce’s final stop in a brewing career that began at Louisville’s Silo (opened in 1992, closed in 2001), relocated to the Bluegrass Brewing Company – the grandfather of Louisville breweries – in 1993, and ended in New Albany in 2031 at a desk belonging to Eddie LaDuke, former editor of the defunct Tribune, in a spacious brewhouse that stands unchanged today.

Ask any Typo’s employee about LaDuke, and you’ll be entertained with the story of how the departed editor’s ghost still visits the building. It is said that every year on the anniversary of the Tribune’s ouster, LaDuke’s spirit returns, dips its finger into a glass of stout left standing on the bar, and writes anti-Baylor graffiti, most of it ungrammatical and misspelled, on the barroom walls.

It has been 45 years since the events that led to the establishment of a new brewpub and a new newspaper in New Albany. Appropriately, this newspaper’s 45th consecutive Christmas Party at Typo’s will be held on Christmas Eve beginning at 5:00 p.m. Typo’s brewmaster Mary Anne Ottersbach Rodriguez, daughter of founding F.O.S.S.I.L.S. members Barrie and Beth Ottersbach, has announced a particularly potent anniversary edition of her predecessor’s spiced ale. All past and present F.O.S.S.I.L.S. members are welcome.

Typo’s Brewpub

  • Home of New Albany’s Aleian Adventures Since 1998
  • Now Serving: Mark’s O.P.C.D. (Old Porsch Crankcase Oil) Porter … 2-Tonic German Lager … Wander-Up Winter Wheat … and our full menu of pub grub
  • 303 Mark Francis Drive (in the Historic Tribune Building), New Albany, Indiana


Three decades have now elapsed since this issue was released, and the New Albany Tribune ceased to exist as such in 2011, when its parent company merged the newspaper with the Evening News in nearby Jeffersonville. There the combined entities continue to operate, only periodically to my approval.

The Tribune’s building in New Albany was sold and creatively refashioned into office suites circa 2016. The former sportswriter (and minor league baseball player) Ray Edward “Eddie” LaDuke, who’d been elevated to editor according to the iron law of chain journalism known as the Peterless Principle, died at 81 in 2022. Bizarrely, when LaDuke finally was fired in 1994, he sued the chain for ageism and won a huge settlement.

Which served them right.

I posted this sign in late 1994. After the back bar was reconfigured a few months later, the sign was moved a few feet to the rear and remained there continuously for almost 25 years.

Back in 1993 I considered Mark Francis’s future passing, he was 33 years of age then, the same as me; we were born in 1960 roughly 12 hours apart.

Sadly, Mark died in September of 2023. He never won the lottery or founded a brewpub called Typo’s, but the idea for my futurist fantasy came directly from him as we laughed over pints at the Rich O’s bar in the autumn of 1993.

Mark in 1994. Rest in peace, my friend.

There was a second “history rewritten” story included as part of the fake front page in December, 1993. This one was written by Barrie Ottersbach.


The New Albanian Times

Saturday, 11 December 2043

Published daily in memory of the New Albany Tribune and Edward “Festus” LaDuke, whose journalistic crimes in the 1990s made necessary the founding of this alternative newspaper.

FOSSILS and True Beer Freedom: Then and Now

by New Albanian Times staff writer Mojo Rhyzome, Jr.

In this, our 40th year of “true beer freedom,” we should look back to where it all started. Only then can we truly appreciate how far we’ve come.

What impact did the F.O.S.S.I.L.S. have on the evolution of the G.T.H.B.M. (Good, True, Honest Beer Movement) in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries? The F.O.S.S.I.L.S. introduced informal beer rules throughout North America, and some of the specific reforms they proposed were eventually adopted in the United States*.

The F.O.S.S.I.L.S. were able to inaugurate informal rules concerning beer, and beer drinking reforms, by providing steady discussion, propagating their ideals in a consistent and non-dogmatic manner and providing facts concerning the extent of beer degradation under the ruling swell autocracy. Perhaps the most important attitudinal change they promulgated was the view that beer degradation was the fault of an uncooperative swillocracy that twisted thousands of years of beer culture to their own profit-making imperatives.

In addition, F.O.S.S.I.L.S. offered a convincing argument concerning real beer and its place in society. In doing so, they provided an alternative to the swillocratic view that beer was a tool of the “bourgeois brewers” and had to have all identifying characteristics minimized before unleashing it on the helpless, uninformed masses.

The development of the modern Beer Protection League can be traced to the efforts of the F.O.S.S.I.L.S. Their Constitution and platform for action were co-authored in 1990. Included in the platform was a call for mandating that beer be treated with the respect that it and all the previous generations of brewers deserved. The F.O.S.S.I.L.S. were instrumental in subsequent beer reforms in America, such as the comprehensive system of modern beer education, the adoption of universal brewing in our schools, mandatory beer style education inside buildings designated for worship, and the abolishment and immediate seizure of any “bourgeois brewer” who undertakes to attack the noble lineage of beer.

The last of the original F.O.S.S.I.L.S. passed on this year, and the government subsequently declared Rich O’s Public House a national cultural monument. As I observe lines of visitors sneaking into Rich O’s to view the preserved livers of the heroic founders, I find myself wondering what it must have been like for them as they charted the course to break the iron grip that the dark forces of the swillocracy had foisted on America in the late 20th century.

Against the money, against the advertising men, against all odds … through battle and betrayal they staggered on. Flags snapping in the breeze, chests filled with pride, special ales at the ready … they marched on.

How much does our enlightened modern society owe those intrepid souls? Neither words, nor songs nor moments of adulation could ever express our gratitude, although I think they would have wanted no more than a healthy “Prosit,” a slap on the back, and a homebrew.

* One reason that the F.O.S.S.I.L.S. had limited influence beyond North America was the absence of a formal need for classic beer-making integrity elsewhere. In America there were some pockets of opposition that resisted the swillocracy, but the philosophical basis of the F.O.S.S.I.L.S. paradigm served as a specific platform to rally beer-related reform in the United States. Their writings, especially the facts used to support their proposals, were particularly relevant to the United States.


By the end of 1993, the F.O.S.S.I.L.S. internal command situation was resolved. There was an election for officers, and a rapprochement with my critic. My newsletter polemics never really diminished, and where were headed next may have appeared unlikely: Southern Bohemia, specifically České Budějovice, home of the original Budweiser Budvar lager beer.

Everything about the years 1993 and 1994 was turbocharged (as opposed to Turbodog, the beer from Abita Brewing).

In 2024, 40 Years in Beer is an ongoing and serialized memoir. It is my hope someday to alchemize these tens of thousands of words into a book, even if I harbor few illusions about it ever being published in the old-school manner of binding and library shelves.

As a memoirist, there are few hard and fast rules governing what I might choose to divulge about my life – or not. It is a beer-based story; salacious revelations could fit on a matchbook, and hardly anyone cares, least of all me.

It remains that I am a purely average human being who on widely scattered occasions has found himself briefly possessed of a noteworthy skill or insight, the most fortunately timed of which was stumbling half-aware through the open doorway of the beer and brewing revolution precisely as it was breaking big and bad – for once in my life ahead of the curve, and being ideally configured to be a part of it.

I’m also aware that during the late 1980s, the Louisville metropolitan area was the sort of place where being white and male boosted a guy halfway up the ladder before breakfast. There’s no denying I benefited from this aspect of regrettable Americana, although once arrived I always worked hard tending my rows.

There are two personal matters deserving of comment in this narrative, beginning with the  failed first marriage to Amy, my business partner during and after. My intentions were good, even if the final outcome wasn’t. No one in his right mind gets married with an expectation of being divorced. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time, and yet it was inordinately complicated from the beginning.

There was an age difference that I didn’t take fully into consideration at the time – not that she was necessarily too young, but maybe I was. In spite of my advanced years, I completely lacked the necessary maturity and self-awareness to look into the mirror and analyze my own inadequacies, or to honestly consider my own inexperience in relationships (remember: Roger is a slow learner and a late bloomer).

Moreover, the divorce rate among hospitality industry workers has always been among the nation’s highest, and when beer doubles as your pay packet, brief pockets of oblivion have a way of taking the place of healthier support mechanisms which exist to address problems. In truth, neither of our families was well versed in matters of emotional self-management. We all came from the “rub some dirt in it and keep going” generation.

Counseling? That’s when they called you in during high school to cull your transcript. The marriage wasn’t successful. The business came to be.

NABC is still there today, even if I’m not. This makes me proud. I believe we were intended to work together, not be together. If it helps at this very late date, I am perfectly willing to accept the lion’s share of responsibility in terms of the breakup. However, this happened later, and in the interim, at some point not long after the wedding and special vacation, a sizeable bomb went off at 3312 Plaza Drive – figuratively, of course, but it was no less disruptive at the time.

From the inception of Sportstime Pizza in 1987, it was clear that the O’Connell family’s involvement in pizza and beer came about entirely because the father, Richard “Rich” O’Connell, required an outlet for what most acquaintances interpreted as a restless intelligence, or maybe an unrequited entrepreneurialism.

For many New Albanians, Rich was Sportstime Pizza. Unfortunately, as the years passed and his wife and two daughters were drawn into the business, it became increasingly obvious that Rich’s attributes were intertwined with demons. Simply stated, the man possessed profound emotional and behavioral problems.

I’ll admit that much of what Rich had to say in the beginning made sense to me. He astutely deconstructed the flawed corporate regimen of a flailing Noble Roman’s franchise and instilled an appropriate indie dynamic at the redubbed Sportstime. He could be a good front man, friendly and gregarious with the customers (inconsistent personal hygiene notwithstanding).

As I became better acquainted with Rich, his manic, manipulative and bullying proclivities became ever harder to ignore, especially the extent to which his emotional instability impacted his own family — a family I was becoming a part of, personally as well as professionally.

The epitome of Rich’s controlling tendencies was his unilateral decision to open Sportstime, an independent, family-owned pizza business, for 24 hours each day, year-round. It was a strategy reflecting a sound enough market analysis in the abstract (hey, shift workers and insomniacs need to eat, too, and why should White Castle have all the trade?), but when applied to the real world, it had the purely intentional effect of exhausting his family, which became transformed into a go-to cheap labor force while reinforcing Rich’s own pre-eminence as the entrepreneurial “fixer” capable of mitigating the chaos he’d created himself.

It was not sound. In fact, it was fairly sick.

I’ll probably never know exactly what led to their breaking point. The unraveling began during the winter of 1993-94. One evening the longstanding walls started falling, instigating Rich’s abrupt departure from both family and business. It’s not my place to divulge details, but I’ll concede to being enraged by the whole of it. My lifelong stance of non-violence was tested amid the familial tumult when one day I was called to meet Rich at the front door of Sportstime.

He’d been instructed to stay away; now I sought to advise him with supreme earnestness — and an aluminum softball bat — to refrain from entering, or else I’d promptly swing for the fences, or preferably, the very center of his rotten skull.

(Mind you, the second most puzzling aspect of this doorway confrontation is why I thought there was any possibility of my succeeding in connecting squarely with his noggin, given a high school baseball batting average well below the Mendoza Line; even more baffling was the proximity of a softball bat in the building to begin with. Huh?)

When the smoke cleared, Rich had lost it all. As it stands today, I haven’t seen him for 30 years. I believe he relocated and remarried. Subsequently when asked, I’d reply only that he ingloriously divorced himself out of the family right after I married into it, which is true insofar as it goes. His unaddressed psychological problems tore apart his family unit; his wife and children suffered the brunt.

And I was tremendously chagrined for being so naïve and easily duped. Someone I viewed as a friend before he became my father-in-law had completely deceived me, and my rage frankly was long-lasting. Naturally I did nothing at all about it, except to keep on working (to prove his presence wasn’t necessary) and drinking (to medicate my own discomfort).

Publican, heal thyself? In truth, not so much.

My immediate gut feeling was that I didn’t want our pub to be known as Rich O’s any longer. Why honor an utter cad? And yet the situation on the ground was extremely muddled. Who owned what? Would there be lawsuits? Could we be sure the business would even survive, and assuming it did, what sort of maneuvers would be required to transfer licenses and bank accounts – or to change business names?

As much as it galled me, I voted to leave the identity as it was, for the moment, until emotions were running cooler. Eventually Rich O’s BBQ became Rich O’s Public House, and when the brewery finally arrived an effort was initiated to refer to the entire building as New Albanian Pizzeria & Public House (serving beer from New Albanian Brewing Company).

I understand quite well that a great many people still prefer the name Rich O’s, and that’s their choice. As they please.

At least now you know why I dislike the name.

Next: Bluegrass Brewing Company opens in 1993, and when the New Year dawned, the Lite-Free Zone was born.