The holidays are a great time to spend several days of quality time with extended family members. Either that or a perfect time to hit the road for a few days and go on a brewery trip. After making the agonizing decision to attempt the latter, I picked up my friend Jason and local pinup celebrity Poppi Rocketts and cut a path through Northwest Indiana and Western Michigan. On the way, we were able to visit three great Indiana breweries (also tried to hit Three Floyds but the brewpub was sadly filled to capacity when we arrived).
Crown Brewing – Crown Point
We arrived at Crown Brewing just in time for opening on Friday. Crown has a small tasting room with a view of their fermenting tanks that is conveniently connected to Carriage Court Pizza to make it a great destination for lunch or dinner. An outdoor patio with a small hop garden is also available for enjoyment during the warmer months. You can pick up beer to go in growlers and select 22 ounce bombers.
After a strong showing with nine medals (and second place overall) at the Indiana State Fair Brewers Cup, I was looking forward to sampling what they had to offer. Thanks to fellow blogger Jason Wilkerson for joining us for beer and recommending the BBQ Chicken pizza. The pizza and beer were both excellent and well worth the trip.
Special Forces IPA – Aggressively hopped American IPA with a solid malt base and dominant flavors of pineapple and grapefruit. Took home a bomber of this bad boy.
Crown Brown – Rich toffee malt character followed by a distinct hop bite. The 4.1% ABV makes it a very flavorful session beer.
Java Porter – Full bodied Robust Porter with well-balanced espresso flavors. Uses a base of the State Fair gold medal winning Industrial Porter.
Milk Chocolate Stout – A silver medal winner that combines lactose sweetness with rich chocolate flavors.
Figure 8 Brewing – Valparaiso
This was my first time trying Figure 8’s beers but I’d heard good things leading up to our visit. This turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise and one of the highlights of the trip. They have a small tasting room at the front of the brewery offering samplers and pints along with carryout beer in growler fills and bombers. I would describe the beers I sampled at Figure 8 as fairly aggressive and pushing the limits of traditional styles – just the way I like it.
Within the spectrum of a 60 IBU Belgian Honey Lager to an Imperial Chocolate Stout it was difficult to pick favorites, but here goes:
Snake Pro Double IPA – With a hefty malt backbone providing the 9% ABV, the spicy/citrus hop character slaps you upside the head in the best way. Took home a bomber of this one.
Raven Tor Oatmeal Stout – Served on nitro for a smooth and creamy mouthfeel with roasty malt flavors and a balanced sweetness.
Black Corridor Imperial Chocolate Stout – Dangerously drinkable at 10.2% ABV with rich flavors of chocolate and dark fruit.
Ro Shampo – Imperial Red Ale with a big toasty malt character and pleasant alcohol warming. Hops are present but malt flavors are the star of this one. Took home a bomber.
If you’re in Central Indiana, you can find Figure 8 beers at Kahn’s Fine Wines and the Tomlinson Tap Room. Check them out so you can say you were there before they got huge.
Shoreline Brewery – Michigan City
Nursing a two-day hangover and in need of a good meal on Sunday, we ventured into Michigan City to visit the friendly confines of Shoreline Brewery. Shoreline is a true brewpub with a full menu and extensive selection of beers produced onsite. There is a certain fixation here with Chicago sports teams, particularly the Cubs, but that at least spared us from having the Colts game on television.
Along with a sandwich and pasta salad, I managed to brave another beer sampler. With the keg blowing on a half pour of the 6th Anniversary Ale, I ended up with seven different beers to try. Favorites here included:
Beltaine Scottish Ale – A two-time silver medal winner at the World Beer Cup, this beer is a true standout. Medium-bodied and very drinkable with a smooth caramel malt character this is one of the better Scottish ales I’ve had anywhere.
Region Rat Red – More caramel malt goodness nicely balanced with a citrus hop character.
Don’t Panic English Pale Ale – Pleasant, easy-drinking pale ale with a subtle but distinctive English hop character.
Our Michigan visits included Saugatuck Brewing in Douglas, New Holland Brewing in Holland, Odd Side Ales in Grand Haven, Michigan Beer Cellar in Sparta, Hopcat in Grand Rapids, and (last but certainly not least) Founder’s Brewing in Grand Rapids. Odd Side is a very small, unique new brewery that is worth seeking out if you’re in the area. All in all a great trip that gave us the chance to visit a number of new places and try a lot of great beer that put turkey and stuffing to shame. Hope you had – or will have – a chance to explore the craft beer scene and try some new things this holiday season.
Cheers - Nathan