How Do You Do that VooDoo that You Do So Well

For the holiday season, I thought about doing an odd session with my brother and sampling some unique beer offerings.  Unfortunately due to scheduling conflicts, we sat down and only enjoyed two beers together this Christmas Eve.  The first, would be the magical elixir in the Pepto Bismol colored bottle: Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale.  The second, the enigmatic Samuel Adams Gingerbread Stout.

Not that the Rogue was ever difficult to find, but it has taken me too damn long to actually pluck a bottle from the shelf and forked over the cash for it.  In this particular instance, the $13 asking price was of no concern to me as I blindly handed over my $20 bill without thinking twice.  The cartoonish Mardi Gras looking figure on the bottle was holding his fist up in the air as if to approve and we made our way back to my place.

I had no preconceived notions with the Bacon Maple Ale.  Outside of expecting it to taste like bacon and maple, I didn't know what to expect in terms of color, smell, pour, etc.  As I tipped over the bottle into my pint glass a golden brown liquid emptied from the vessel.  Picture Mrs. Butterworth's or Aunt Jemima with just enough water to give it a beer consistency.

If you do not like anything smoked in your beer, avoid at all costs.  However, if you think bacon makes everything better, you need to get while the getting is good.  I drew in a deep breath to capture everything and was greeted with the heavenly smell of smoked bacon with the sweet aroma of maple lingering underneath the surface.  If your mouth isn't watering for this beer right now I am a horrible promoter.

The maple flavor was more prevalent at first sip than anything resembling bacon.  As the beer warms to room temperature the smoky flavor really advances and you get the full spectrum.  Never having eaten the bacon maple doughnut I am sad to say I couldn't compare it to Voodoo's delicacy, but loving beer as I do, this was delicacy enough and I would even say well worth the $13.

As far as the Gingerbread Stout, well it was following a tough act.  I did give myself ample time to get the smoke residue out of my mouth before tipping this back, but I still found it to be a little flat.  The ginger was nice and the spice combination was nothing fancy.  My suggestion would be, if going for a holiday refreshment that screams of Christmas seasonal, grab Great Lakes Christmas Ale.

Great Brewpubs of Indiana: Oaken Barrel

My original intent here was to showcase a few area brewpubs that might be considered “underrated” these days. Recent years have treated us to an explosion of new breweries around the state, including some that manage to garner a great deal of publicity and have arguably revolutionized the way local craft beer is distributed and marketed to Hoosiers. Some of the more traditional brewpubs may lack the staff to seemingly be everywhere at once, but a select few can easily stand up with the best beer any brewery in Indiana has to offer. One of these in my book is Greenwood’s Oaken Barrel. I was initially stuck trying to decide if a brewery can really be called “underrated” when they are a multi-year winner of the Indiana Brewers’ Cup Champion Brewery and pack the house in Greenwood every weekend. So I’ll just use the term “great” instead.

Oaken Barrel was established in 1994 when I was still swilling Busch Light, Icehouse, and whatever watered-down concoction they served at penny beer night at Purdue. Eventually they became one of my first craft beer favorites in the area and planning visits to spend an evening at the brewpub became a household tradition. My kind spouse would volunteer to drive so the trip from Northeast Indy would be worthwhile and the fridge could be properly stocked with bottles of Snake Pit Porter and growlers of Super Fly IPA. Ken Price was the head brewer at that time and Mark Havens has kept their fine tradition going since Ken left for Yazoo Brewing in Nashville. Oaken Barrel also has an impressive record of training talented brewers as many former assistants have gone on to head brewer positions including Jerry Sutherlin at Rock Bottom Downtown, Andrew Castner at The Ram, and Tonya Corbett at Bend Brewing in Oregon. Congrats to current assistant John Treeter who is leaving soon to take over as head brewer at the Broad Ripple Brewpub.

Oaken Barrel offers a well-rounded menu of brewpub fare that includes sandwiches, pasta, ribs, steak, and seafood. The appetizers are a step above what you might expect to find at your average brewpub and include personal favorites Cajun Beef Tips and Kwang’s Dynamite Shrimp. Lunch specials are offered on weekdays if you work in the area. But food was not on my agenda for this visit. I was there for the beer – enjoying old favorites and revisiting a few that hadn’t been on my short list for years. The brewpub offers a lineup of six core beers that are usually accompanied by 1-3 seasonal selections.

Indiana Amber  28 IBU  5.5% ABV – Crimson colored ale with smooth malt character featuring moderate caramel and toffee notes. Bitterness and hop flavor are relatively low. Not in the mold of aggressively hopped American Ambers that have become more prominent in recent years, but a good introduction to Oaken Barrel’s lineup. Indiana Amber won a silver medal for Amber Hybrid Beer in this year’s Indiana Brewers’ Cup.

Razz-Wheat  12 IBU  5% ABV – Oaken Barrel’s long-running version of a Raspberry Wheat Ale, I had not touched this beer for a good while. Light fruit beers are generally not in my wheelhouse, particularly when they come in a nice pink color. But the raspberry is more tart than sweet and the overall beer has a nicer drinkability than some fruit beers. I was pleasantly surprised by this beer, but it’s still not one I would go back to very often. Razz-Wheat won a bronze medal for Fruit Beer in this year’s Indiana Brewers’ Cup.

Gnaw Bone Pale Ale  45 IBU  5.5% ABV – Now we’re getting somewhere. Gnaw Bone is a light-bodied pale ale that prominently features the aroma and flavor of grapefruit and other citrus notes from Cascade hops. This West Coast style Pale Ale has a dry finish and a slight tang in the aftertaste that could suggest a small amount of rye in the mash.

Snake Pit Porter  41 IBU  5.6% ABV – One of my personal favorites, Snake Pit leans towards a Brown Porter style with a substantial chocolate malt character and light hop flavor. A full-bodied, smooth showcase for specialty malts that includes toffee and nutty notes underlying the chocolate flavor. Full of flavor but very drinkable, this is a great introductory beer for your friend who thinks “dark” beers are too harsh.

Alabaster Wit  10 IBU  4.5% ABV – Thankfully served without an orange, Alabaster is Oaken Barrel’s take on the 400-year old Belgian Wit style that Blue Moon brought to the masses. A hazy wheat beer with the flavor slightly tilted towards orange peel over the coriander and chamomile spices. A touch of sourness in the aftertaste gives this beer a refreshing quality.

Super Fly IPA  100+ IBU  7.5% ABV – The one beer that easily inspires a drive to Greenwood on its own, Super Fly has been one of my favorite local beers for a long time. Wonderfully complex hop aroma and flavor with the tropical fruit character complemented by piney and spicy notes. This beer has a darker color and more malt character than most Imperial IPAs, but it serves as a nice complement and does not distract from your hop fix. The dry finish and assertive bitterness are perfect for the style. Oaken Barrel is now bottling Super Fly and should begin distributing it soon to local retailers. For now, you can purchase six packs from the brewpub for $8.25 which is an absolute steal for a quality beer in this style. Super Fly won a gold medal for India Pale Ale in this year’s Brewers’ Cup.

Epiphany Tripel (seasonal)  27 IBU  9.7% ABV – Oaken Barrel’s traditional holiday seasonal is a high-gravity Belgian Tripel available both in draft and six packs. Epiphany is light-bodied with a sweet malt character that finishes dry and slightly fruity. The high level of alcohol is warming but deceptively smooth in the best tradition of the style.

Scottish Ale (seasonal) – Light brown color with a nutty character supported by notes of chocolate and caramelized wort. Low bitterness, low carbonation, and just the right touch of residual sweetness. A wonderful example of the style that is very flavorful but clean and easy to drink. If you enjoy a good Scottish Ale as much as I do, getting to the brewpub for a pint of this one is highly recommended.

Oaken Barrel’s restaurant and brewpub are located at 50 North Airport Parkway, Suite L in Greenwood, just west of Exit 99 off I-65. Growler refill specials are offered on Thursday with a $5 refill on most house beers (excluding Super Fly and some seasonals). Also look for Indiana Amber, Razz-Wheat, Gnaw Bone, Snake Pit Porter, and Alabaster Wit in six packs at local retailers. Brewpub hours are:

Monday - Thursday: 11am - midnight
Friday – Saturday: 11am - 1am
Sunday: 11am - 10pm

Cheers, Nathan

Carmel’s Union Brewing Company

Union Brewing Company is set to become the first craft brewery in Carmel. That should be enough to pique your interest, but they also offer a setup that puts them in a unique place for the state’s overall beer scene. Union has installed an extensive cask-conditioning system with multiple taps for serving naturally carbonated ale through a hand-pulled beer engine. While several of our local breweries have employed this system to offer one of their beers on cask, Union’s system enables them to offer all of their beers in this manner along with a few special guests. This will give customers the chance to enjoy beers they may already be familiar with, but served in a way you can’t get anywhere else. I was able to sample People’s Mound Builder IPA on cask and it was a nice twist on a beer I already appreciated.

Some craft drinkers may have past experience that leads them to associate cask-conditioned ales as being warm and under-carbonated, but all of brewer Cameron Fila’s creations will be served at 50 degrees and naturally carbonated to the appropriate level for style. Think of it as bottle-conditioned beer served from a larger vessel. The first Union beer on tap will be International Harvester, a Harvest Ale employing ingredients from around the world but finished with Cascade hops literally from Cameron’s backyard. In addition to the cask system, Union will feature several conventional rotating guest taps that focus on unique offerings for the local market.

As you enter the brewery, you are offered a full view of the brewing area where a custom Stout 2-barrel brewing system produces the unfermented wort. You proceed down the hallway with another view of the temperature-controlled fermentation room before reaching the pub area. The pub area has a cozy lodge style atmosphere that overlooks the Monon Trail. And yes, a proper beer garden is under consideration for future development. In addition to the assortment of house and guest beers, food can be ordered from the pub and will be delivered to you by nearby SoHo Cafe.

Union Brewing Company is now open for business at 622 S Range Line Rd (Suite Q) in the Mohawk Place Shopping Center just south of downtown Carmel. Stop in to meet Cameron, Jay, and Nathan and see for yourself what they have to offer! Their hours of operation are:

Tuesday: 4-10pm
Thursday: 4-10pm
Friday: 3pm-midnight
Saturday: noon-midnight
Sunday: noon-8pm

Just Eat Bacon and Drink More Beer

Last week I was flipping through the channels on the television and came across an old  Man V. Food Nation episode. The one where Adam Richman was in Boulder, Colorado visiting a restaurant called The Buff.  The main food item mentioned is a meal called Saddlebags. Basically pancakes with your choice of bacon or sausage placed in the pancake, topped with an egg.

How is this relevant to beer? 

The relevance in this blog is - 

Rogue Brewery collaboration with 

So.. here I was, watching Man V. Food Nation, salivating over the Saddlebags, the bacon kind - of course, and thought, mmm I bet Rogue's Voodoo Bacon Maple Ale would be great with this meal.  Always a fan of breakfast for dinner, I enlisted a friend come over for dinner and have pancakes filled with bacon, with a side of bacon and of course, to drink - Rogue's Voodoo Bacon Maple Ale.

Now, I've only had one kind of maple ale that I can think of.  Actually during a recent IndianaBeer meeting at Black Swan Brewpub, I had a half pint of their Maple Oat Ale. This year's brew was less heavy on the maple syrup flavor than last years.  Still a good, smooth brew, but it was missing one of my favorite ingredients - Bacon!

Back to my dinner. We made four pancakes with bacon crumbles in the pancakes, the rest without. And had plenty of bacon on the side. Filled up our glasses, set the table and got out the real maple syrup to give this beer pairing dinner a good start.

The Results? -

If you drink the ale after eating the pancakes covered in maple syrup, it becomes a little harsh, almost bitter to the taste. As if the maple syrup on the pancakes and the maple syrup flavor in the beer become enemies. It wasn't undrinkable, but it was noticeable.
Just eat the bacon alone and drink the ale, they are a well-balanced pair.

Moral of the store? Just eat bacon and drink more beer.

It was a fun experiment.  I may have to get my hands on some more unique brews and combine them with food.  I'm sure someone has done Flat 12 Bierwerks Glazed Ham Porter with an actually Glazed Ham.

Let me know if you have tried Rogue's Voodoo Bacon Maple Ale or what you think it goes paired with the best.

As always,

Brew Bracket 5 - AMBERgeddon

Since discovering the existence of Brew Bracket last year on my 30th birthday, I have loved coming and participating in this completely unique event, that not only features 16 local breweries, makes you the judge, but helps out with a local charity as well.

On December 8th, Brew Bracket came back again to the Indiana State Fairgrounds with a Amber Ale showdown, called AMBERgeddon. The past winning Brew Bracket contenders were all there along with general favorites and newbies to find out who was the best of the best when it comes to amber ales.

Cool New Tally System
This Brew Bracket had a new voting tally and procedure, making it quicker to tally, save paper and you got a cool little bracket to follow along with.

Voting Caps

It also had the presence of some local food trucks, Spice Box Indy, Byrne's Grilled Pizza and Der Pretzel Wagon. Previous Brew Brackets had a small cafe style food location, but the addition of the food trucks really brought out the feeling to support your local vendors.

Unfortunatly at this Brew Bracket, Bulldog Brewing Co. couldn't make it down, so it left 15 breweries going head to head:

Triton Brewing Co.
Flat 12 Bierwerks
The RAM Restaurant and Brewery (BBIV: Bourbon Barrel Aged - Winner)
Half Moon Brewery
Bloomington  Brewing Co. 
Barley Island Brewing Co.(BBIII: Wheats - Winner)
Bier Brewery (BBII: Stouts - Winner) 
Three Wisemen Brewing Co. (newbie!) 
Rock Bottom  (Rock Bottom Downtown - BBI: IPA - Winner)
Fountain Square Brewery
Upland Brewing Co. 
Iechyd Da Brewing Co. (newbie!)
Powerhouse Brewing Co. 
Oaken Barrel Brewing Co. (newbie!)
Twisted Crew Brewing Co. 

The tasting starting promptly at 1pm and off the bat it was hard to make a vote. A lot of the amber ales seemed to me to be aggressively hopped, which is not something I am used to in an amber. I prefer something a little more smooth.  I did learn that Bier Brewery had a bourbon barrel aged Amber and I guessed and later confirmed that Mustache Ride Red was roaring through Brew Bracket courtesy of Flat 12.

Despite the overly hopped ambers, I'd have to say this Brew Bracket has been my second favorite one so far. The first one is obviously the Stouts competition, mostly because I'm biased and stouts are my favorite. The best thing about Brew Bracket, which I continually point out over and over again is that the average, everyday beer drinker gets to be a part of an event that THEY decide what is good, and what should win.

And after 5 rounds of taste testing.. the people had spoken to make Andrew Castner, head brewer of the The Ram, the AMBERgeddon winner with his Buttface Amber:

Congratulations Andrew!

Andrew is a dangerous Brew Bracket contender now. This is his second win in a row, after Big Horn Maibock won at the BBIV: Bourbon Barrel Aged.

The question is will he go three in a row for the undetermined Brew Bracket 6.
Which btw.. I am secretly hoping  the style will be Porters

We hope if you went out to Brew Bracket you had a good time, hopefully you met me, in my beer socks of course, or Nathan, or the lovely Poppi.  If you didn't come out, then come in the Spring!

As always,
Kathleen & Jill with our beer socks!

Fort Wayne Events - December 17

Wednesday, December 19:

Mad Anthony Brewing Company's (2002 Broadway) will be releasing their Vintage Ales for the holiday season.  These beers are only available during the holiday season and are in limited quantities.  The list of beers available are:

Thursday, December 20:

Belmont Beverage (10311 Illinois Road) will be having a FREE Holiday Tasting Event from 6p.m.-8p.m.  Come out and sample some beers and who knows you may find a beer or two you have not tried yet to enjoy this holiday season!  (Must be 21 years of age or over with valid Government-issued ID.)

Friday, December 21:

Cap n' Cork located at 5430 Coldwater Road in Coldwater Plaza will be having a FREE beer tasting from 5p.m.-7p.m.  There will be beers to sample from New Belgium, Sam Adams, Blue Moon, Triton, Sierra Nevada, Goose Island, and Mt. Pleasant to name a "few"!!  Come out and sample these beers and you might just find a new beer or two to enjoy this holiday season!  (Must be 21 years of age or over with valid Government-issued ID.)

Craft or "Crafty"

Ah...It's timely that at an event I attended this week someone asked the defintion of craft beer. There are many definitions including one from the Boston Beer Co., better known as Sam Adams brewery, which states, " An American craft beer is produced by a small, independent brewer who follows traditional brewing processes."

This past week the Brewer's Association, the association representing craft brewers, chose to draw a line in the sand against the big brewing companies. Not only did the BA state (again) that a craft brewer is limited to 6 million barrels of production per year BUT ALSO is not owned by a firm that does not meet that restriction (e.g. Goose Island as part of ABInbev).

To be more specific the statement from the BA uses the term craft-imitating beers for products of some of the big firms. They even name names: Blue Moon and Shock Top. That seems appropriate as a friend new to home brewing pointed out recently that his neighbors say they drink craft beer when drinking Blue Moon.

Given that one of the beers I've enjoyed most in the past 2 months has been Bourbon County from Goose Island, I've pointed out to others that it is from a brewery owned by the big guns - but I still love and appreciated that fine beer.

I also spoke to the Head Brewer of Leinenkugel this year and asked straight out, "how much does parent SABMiller influence what you do with your Big Eddy brand and beers. With full disclosure this was just after he'd provided me with some free Big Eddy Wee Heavy Scotch Ale and Russian Imperial Stout (I love both). His answer, "none!" He said those brands are so small to SABMiller that they almost consider them his hobby.

Let's be clear, we have plenty of local, regional and even national beer to drink without drinking beer made by the brewers of Miller Light. And it is absolutely appropriate that as 'craft beer' grows the new beer drinkers deserve to know what is local, and who started brewing on their stove top.

At the same time, one of the things I like most about Jim Koch, founder of Sam Adams, is that he started brewing beer on his kitchen stove just like I did. (My first batch wasn't that great -- he says his was pretty good.)

Okay... be warned some beer is 'crafty' as the Brewer's Association says and some fits their definition of craft. And it is nice for the public to know whether their beer is being brewed by a brewing artist or a kind of corporate chemist.

And if you want to read the Brewer's Association statement click here

People's Brewing Celebrates 3 Years of Tasty Beers

Greetings from Lafayette.  With the 3rd Anniversary of People’s Brewing approaching, I had the opportunity to sit down with co-founder and brewmaster Chris Johnson for a bit of reflection and some discussion regarding the state of the brewery and what’s on tap for 2013.

What’s the1st thing that comes to mind when you think about the fact that you’ll be celebrating your 3rd year of People’s Brewing?

Right off the bat, it’s amazing that it’s been three years.  It seems like it’s been a whirlwind.  Time flies when you’re having fun I guess.  It’s awesome, it’s cool…you never know how things are going to go when you get started so it’s cool to get into year three.  Were at a point right now where we’re further along than we expected to be.  We’re working on some year five and year seven original plan things to get done in the new year.  So yeah, it’s pretty exciting and its fun that we’re here in year three.

So actually you’ve answered my next question to some extent.  At the 3-year mark, do you feel that you have fallen short, met, or exceeded your expectations that you had set?  It sounds like you’ve exceeded you’re expectations to this point.

Yeah, we’re way further along than we expected to be.  Right out of the gate we had a great local acceptance, the local bars and pubs, and the local folks have been awesome for us.  Our taproom has done better than we ever expected.  We’re producing all the beer we can possibly produce, which we’re excited about.  We thought originally that we were going to able to use our current setup for the first five years and we’re already upgrading so yeah, it’s definitely been a really good three years and we look forward to really good future years.

How much time is involved with doing your job each week and has it diminished or increased since you first began?

Well, it’s diminished, luckily.  When we started, I was brewing, selling, and delivering.  Basically, we didn’t have the money to have people to do things.  We’ve gone from having two employees on day one, now we have four full time and seven part time employees so that has taken away from my day to day hours.  I can get what I’m doing done in a shorter period and we have a lot of good people that are taking care of other things that I used to do.  From day one it was seven days a week, 14 hours a day and now it’s much more reasonable.  Every Sunday is a day off for my family and Saturday’s I’m usually here until 2 o’clock or so, just sort of buttoning up the week.  It used to 24/7, it still kind of is because I’m always thinking about this, I’m always working on new stuff.  Even when I’m at home I’m often working on the brewery but it’s a lot better, I see a lot more of my family these days.

How much of what you do actually feels like work and how much feels like you’re amazed that you’re getting paid to do what you do?

Well, I’ve done a lot of different jobs and beer is a passion of mine.  I get up every morning and I don’t ever think to myself ‘I have to go to work’.  I get up excited to go to work and I have since I started in 2000 at the Lafayette Brewing Company.  The days just fly by because you’re doing something you love.  My recommendation to anybody is to find something you love to do.  It never really seems like work, that being said, it’s not that it’s not stressful or hard sometimes but, at the end of the day, I’m doing what I want to do and that’s incredible.

Along with this being your 3rd Anniversary, we’re coming up on a new year.  So, what does 2013 hold for People’s Brewing?  Let’s talk first about the expansion of your facilities.

Sure, well we’ve expanded our taproom space and new cooler space.  We’re getting ready to break ground on more production space out back.  We’re going to double our physical space for production, which is also going to give us space for bigger tanks, more tanks.  Basically, go from being able to do about two thousand barrels a year to do more like six or seven thousand barrels a year.  In all, this will start to happen mostly in the 1st quarter and we’ll really be moving forward at that point but, as we go down the road we’re giving ourselves room to expand beyond our current expansion.

So an increase in production capacity opens up more possibilities.  Concerning distribution, are you looking to possibly tap into new markets outside of Indiana?

We’re looking at that.  We’ve got some distributors outside of the state that are interested in the product and at this point we just couldn’t possibly get beer to them.  As we expand we’ll continue to look at those options and, when we feel like they make sense for us, we might make those moves, maybe into the Ohio market, or Kentucky, or the Chicago area, which is a no-brainer for us eventually.  We always like to see where we’re at and take a picture of what that means to us and make sure that we can provide for that if we do move into those markets.  But, we also feel like we could do more in the state of Indiana as well.  We’ll probably focus mostly on staying local but we’re always looking at those options as well.

You’ve also recently expanded the taproom to accommodate more seating, what else may be in the works for this side of things?

Looking on the taproom side, we’re looking at maybe doing a small pizza or sandwich kitchen, offering a little bit of food that will be something good, quality but not a real expansive menu.   We just got the 12 (tap) lines put in so we doubled up the line space. So we’re just kind of chunking away little pieces, all over the place both on our production abilities and our taproom space.

You mentioned the taproom expansion and the additional taps, what will that mean for what you have to offer in the taproom?

Well we went from having six lines to twelve lines so it gives us the advantage of being able to put more of our products on and some of the specialty stuff we do, like the bourbon barrel aged and the nitrogen beers that we do.  Also, it gives us the opportunity on growler fill day to put some of the beers on multiple lines and just help with the flow of the taproom.  Most of all it gives us more variety.  We’ve often had more than six beers in the cooler so it’s nice to be able to put on more choices for folks.

When we last spoke I recall that you had mentioned the possibility of having a selection of local wines at some point…

At some point we’re looking at getting a 2-way license so that we can do some wine.  We have a lot of people that come in with their wife or husband that would rather drink wine than beer.  Our focus will always be on the beer side but we may do some things to make the taproom a little more inviting for everybody.  We really just want a sense of community in there and sort of give people a chance to stop in and see what’s going on here at People’s.

Finally, December 17th marks your 3rd Anniversary, what’s going on in the taproom to celebrate this event?

We’re going to do pint specials that day, similar to our pint day on Thursdays.  Also, as a thank you to our folks who come into the taproom on a regular basis, we’re doing an appetizer buffet starting at 5 o’clock.  We’ll probably run a little bit late that day.  We’re not that set on our 8 o’clock closing time typically but I can anticipate that day we’ll run a little bit late.  We’re also going to tap our 3rd Anniversary beer, it’s an Imperial Red we’re naming Smooth Criminal.  It’s an American style red, we used a good number of German and American malts to give it a nice malt side and then Galena hops.  It’s about a 7% beer, dark red hue and about 60-65 IBU, just a tasty new brew to do as our anniversary beer that we’ll be releasing that day and have the pint specials to go with that.


I want to extend a sincere thanks to Chris for taking time out of his Saturday to give me a tour of the facilities and answer my questions!

Stop down this Monday to help People's celebrate their anniversary and enjoy a cheap pint.  They are located at 2006 N. 9th St. in Lafayette.  As of this week, they are open every day:  Mon-Fri from 2 to 8pm, Sat. & Sun. from noon to 8pm.

tis the Season to.... reward the customer less?

Local Rock Bottom brewers have always been happy to share their beer at monthly tappings and to generally promote their locations and their fine beer. Certainly Liz Laughlin at RB College Park and Jerry Sutherlin at RB Downtown are two of Indy's most experienced brewers and ambassadors of beer.

Many of you likely were members of the Rock Bottom Mug Club program which ended abruptly with an email on Dec. 3 stating that the program ended the previous night. I suppose those fortunate to have received their next reward level gift on Sunday, Dec. 2, were indeed the lucky ones. The former program, like hotel programs, rewarded for both visits and for pints consumed.

The new Rock Rewards program announced last week rewards on dollars spent similar to the Passport program for sister outlets Gordon Biersch and Big River.

Not only did Rock Bottom mug club members lose their opportunity to gain rewards they were close to (no email saying, 'ending soon,') they won't have the same rewards as those at Gordon Biersch and Big River. But the BIG DIFFERENCE
is in the new Brewer's Club

Here are the REWARDS levels (and differences)

Points earned ($ Spent)...Rock Bottom Rock Rewards...VS. ....GB/BR Passport starter at Rock Bottom appetizer at Gordon Biersch or Big River
200...................................$10 for next visit at RB.........................$15 stored on card at GB
350...................................$15 for next visit at RB..........................$25 stored on card at GB
500....................................$20 for next visit at RB..........................$50 stored on card at GB

Once you've spent $800 at Rock Bottom you are.. ta da... a member of the Brewer's Club and can enjoy exclusive invitations, tappings, rewards, and pairing dinners.

Seems to this beer drinker and observers that the attendance at some of the tappings and pairing dinners wasn't always large anyway. Sounds like they might as well cancel their tappings for awhile unless a bunch of you plan to spend $800 at Rock Bottom this holiday season!

Dare I say, 'ba, humbug?'

Yet, again our Rock Bottom brewers are fine, experienced, and hard working people. Let's keep enjoying their beer whatever other rewards the firm provides

Rock Bottom is part of Craftworks Restaurants and Breweries, Inc. which is chaired by the founder of Rock Bottom while the Pres. is from the former Gordon Biersch.

Beers, Cheers, and Sneers – December 6


Tickets are now on sale here for the Brewers of Indiana Guild 2013 Winterfest to be held on January 26th at the State Fairgrounds. A VIP ticket will again run you $55 for the privilege of an early hour of sampling, General Admission is $40, and a Designated Driver ticket runs $10 but earns the eternal gratitude of your friends. Based on past experience, you’ll want to buy early and often if you want a VIP ticket. Don’t complain too much if you get left out – Michigan’s winter festival sold out in 13 hours. And that festival is 100% outdoors. In Grand Rapids. In February. Good times.

To celebrate their 15th anniversary, Upland plans to revive the Champagne Velvet brand – with your help of course! Champagne Velvet, a German-inspired lager, was the flagship beer of Terre Haute Brewing Company during the early 20th century and is arguably the most distinctly famous Indiana-brewed beer from that time period. You have the chance to participate in re-launching this iconic brand with the following steps:

1. Take a look at the various artwork used historically for Champagne Velvet and vote for your favorite in Upland's survey by December 8th.
2. Vote for your favorite Champagne Velvet slogan during the week of December 17th (details and survey link TBA).
3. By participating in either of the two surveys, you will be entered in a random drawing to earn a spot on the Champagne Velvet Tasting Panel. Because some details of the historic recipe are incomplete, Upland brewers will be experimenting with several pilot batches of the new beer. The Tasting Panel will gather at Upland in January to help choose the recipe that will become the new future of Champagne Velvet.

Aloha - Kona Brewing Company in Hawaii will begin distributing their beers to Indiana and several other Midwest states in January. Kona’s Pipeline Porter appears to be fairly well liked among the internet beer rating population. But it appears their Fire Rock Pale Ale is not actually brewed with rocks, unlike some other examples out there. When this popped up I initially thought we had some lovely Coconut Porter headed our way, but the beer I’m thinking of is actually from Maui Brewing. Sorry Poppi.westie12_pack

Much of the beer blogosphere has been abuzz over the release of a Westvleteren XII gift pack on December 12th. If you’re not familiar with “Westie 12”, it is a Belgian Quad from the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus that has commonly been ranked as one of the best beers in the world despite never being sold in the U.S. until now (which I might argue has fed the hype machine just a little). The Indiana retailers carrying the gift pack are Keg Liquors in Clarksville, Crown Liquors in Indianapolis, and Village Liquors in West Lafayette. If you’re willing to drive out of state, additional retailers in Illinois, Kentucky, and Ohio can be found in a full listing here. The gift pack includes six 33cl (approx. 11.2 ounces) bottles of the treasured ale and two special tasting glasses. The retail price is supposed to be $84.99 but there have already been reports of retailers looking to charge more. I’ve been fortunate enough to try this once and it is a wonderful beer. But at approximately $20 a pint, you won’t find me standing in line/kissing beer manager’s feet/whatever other unthinkable act would be necessary for the privilege to hand over that kind of money. With that said, I can’t begin to imagine what kind of value this will have in the beer geek resale market. 

The local blog site Beer Is My Passion is organizing a brewery tour to two of my favorite destinations: Northwest Indiana and Southern Michigan. The tour will utilize a 15 passenger van with a designated driver/chauffeur taking you on a 3-day/2-night tour from January 30th – February 1st with stops at People’s, Crown, Three Floyds, Founders, Bell’s, Dark Horse, Jolly Pumpkin, and Brugge Brasserie. There will be an added musical bonus for fans of Keller Williams. The price of just $60 covers all transportation for the trip including drop off at the breweries and hotels (lodging not included) – that’s about what you’d pay to get a cab across town these days. You can find more information and reserve your spot here.

American Homebrewers Association and Great American Beer Festival founder Charlie Papazian weighed in on the debate surrounding big brewers entering the craft beer market. Side note: Henry Weinhard’s is owned by SAB Miller if you were wondering who is bankrolling the billboards around Indianapolis for this “craft beer”. I’ve already shared some thoughts on this and don’t want to beat it to death, but Charlie makes some good points about how big brewers already use distribution networks to their advantage and can use this to favor their craft offerings and further squeeze out independent craft brands. You can vote in Charlie's poll to share how much who makes your beer “matters” to you. But I’m not about to imply you don’t care just because you’d like to enjoy an occasional Goose Island product. I recently had a Matilda and was quite pleased with that decision. With that said, these debates do bring some needed attention to issues that are nice to have in the back of your mind. Part of the fun of this blossoming craft scene is trying new things and supporting diversity in the market.

This is normally the part where I subject treat you to some of the odder stories floating around in the world of beer. But sometimes you just have to admit when you have nothing. So here are some random pictures as I tap dance off stage. The last pic is courtesy of the Indiana Burlesque Collective – a good page to Like if you’re into such things.

repeal_prohibition      drink_beer indiana_burlesque_collective

Cheers, Nathan

BB5 - AMBERgeddon - New Update


What goes great with beer? How about some Food Trucks!

Byrnes Grilled Pizza, Spice Box Indian Food & Der Pretzel Truck will be at BB5 to give you something to delicious to fill up on while deciding the best Amber yet

Also?!? -- Group tickets are available!! - buy 4 get $5 off each.

More details below - hope you see you on Saturday! 

Brew Bracket 5: AMBERgeddon!

This competition is better than the rest because YOU get to help decide the winner brew. 

How does it work? 
400 attendees sampling beer from 16 breweries in a March Madness style bracket taste off.  After 4 hours of blind tastings, 4 rounds of voting a winner is announced!

So come one, come all to the Indiana State Fairgrounds on December 8th from 12:30-5pm to participate in this fun, beer swillin' time for only $35 which also helps out a great cause - Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc. 

Tickets available at :

This season's participants are some old favorites, previous winners and some new guys:
Triton Brewing Co.
Flat 12 Bierwerks
The RAM Restaurant and Brewery (BBIV: Bourbon Barrel Aged - Winner)
Half Moon Brewery
Bloomington  Brewing Co. 
Barley Island Brewing Co.(BBIII: Wheats - Winner)
Bier Brewery (BBII: Stouts - Winner) 
Three Wisemen Brewing Co. ( a new one to the competition!) 
Rock Bottom  (Rock Bottom Downtown - BBI: IPA - Winner)
Bulldog Brewing Co. 
Fountain Square Brewery
Upland Brewing Co. 
Iechyd Da Brewing Co. (welcome another newbie!)
Powerhouse Brewing Co. 
Oaken Barrel Brewing Co. (Hi - newbie!)
Twisted Crew Brewing Co. 

For some more recaps of the fun of Brew Bracket see our previous blogs:
BBII: Stouts 
BBIII: Wheats
BBIV: Bourbon Barrel Aged

Also - Be on the look out for Kathleen and her new Beer Socks. Going red and white for Christmas!

And Also Nathan and Poppi!!