IndianaBeer Best of 2013

2013_beer Welcome to the first (annual?) edition of IndianaBeer’s staff picks of our favorite, and least favorite, things in the past year of craft beer! Sure…..we’re a little late to this party, but trying to come up with an authoritative list like this is challenging because we don’t individually visit every Indiana brewery, try every beer on the market, or attend every event. We’d love to make that sacrifice for you, but our resulting condition would become a pretty big drain on your tax dollars. Still, we do make our rounds in the craft beer world, and 2013 produced some wonderful memories and standout beers, events, and trends that deserve a mention here.

Our sincere appreciation goes out to everyone who visited our site in 2013. We’re looking forward to a great 2014 and making plans for some exciting new content and events. Cheers!

gregsmall From Greg…..

Best Indiana Craft Beer: RAM St. Olaf Barrel Aged Bock

This deep bock beer delivered excellently the flavors of the bock beer with rich, malt sweetness with a finish that still lingers slightly sweet accentuated by light hop bittering. Yet, this beer, to become a Saint, spent 9 months aging in a Harrison Hill (Indiana produced) bourbon barrel! This provided the vanilla notes with the flavor of the bourbon! Perhaps my choice is influenced by my affinity for bourbon barrel aged beer, perhaps because it is Indiana+Indiana, and perhaps because it was a ‘swan song’ beer for both Andrew Castner and Chris Knott as I knew at that tasting that both were leaving the RAM. However, I truly believe, after tasting hundreds of Indiana beers this year that this one shines on flavor alone and stands proudly as my choice for a local favorite in 2013.

Best non-Indiana Craft Beer: Brewery Ommegang Three Philosophers

With so many great beers I usually refuse to name a ‘best’ or ‘favorite.’ Yet, I have one! Well, two. Three Philosophers is a Belgian-style quadruple from Brewery Ommegang, (Cooperstown, NY) that is enhanced with 2%, yep just 2%, Kriek from Liefman’s of Belgium. Ommegang is part of Duvel Moortgat of Belgium providing wonderful opportunities for even more enhancement of the Belgian style beers. Three Philosophers is a limited release strong dark ale (9.8%) with notes of dark roast, raisins, dark sugars, and when fresh the cherry/kriek comes shining through. Background has banana esters with solid malt sweetness from 5 malts with a deep fruit characteristic going from raisins to molasses to a hint of chocolate, and the background of Spalt Select and Styrian Golden hops. This is a wonderful sipping beer. The brewery suggests it is a beer for contemplation. It is also a beer that can be aged although I drank some fresh on tap and then compared that to a bottle of the 2011 release which I found interesting but delivered more dark fruit with the cherry completely hidden, or just gone. Yet, I would be happy to contemplate on this beer many times and I look forward to next year’s release!

Best Beer Event: Bloomington Craft Beer Week and Festival

Sure there were many great events and some had more offerings, but even so how many beers can I conscionably taste in a few hours? While the Bloomington Festival is my ‘local’ so you may be crying ‘foul’ my defense and designation is based on three factors: 1) the venue, 2) the full week of local events including a brewers panel, and 3) the organization that included our own Nathan Compton heading up a giant recycle environmental effort! Most Indiana breweries and many out-of-state and national breweries made it to Bloomington where fresh air freely circulated through the quaint cover of the historic quarry building, which also makes this event a multi-level and architecturally interesting venue! Participation of attendees was fabulous with never a crushing crowd and usually an opportunity to chat with brewers. This is a perfect Spring event where the weather cooperated fully in 2013, parking if plentiful, and the only possible drawback might be the need for a few more restrooms and bus service. The concept of a week with local beer on tap all over Bloomington, special tappings with Indiana Breweries and their brewers, and a panel with brewers from Central Indiana which was very well attended, quite informative, and perhaps even raised a slight controversy or two without contention. The capstone for me to name this the best was our man Nathan working his @ss off before, during, and after the event to make sure this provided the lowest environmental impact possible.

Best Craft Beer Trend: Increasing Number of Local Beer Taps

While many chain restaurants are hanging on to 3 taps of Light, many have at least a few taps of fresh local beer. The trend of some bars not to even carry national beers gives us reason to cheer! This year shows even bigger declines for former big national yellow fizzy beers and increased growth of craft – and much of that is driven by the local restaurants and bars that are giving many customers what they are asking for which is good, fresh, interesting and flavorful craft beer!

Worst Beer Event: Dark Lord Day

Well it is not fair to rip on an event that I don’t attend, is it? And I am certain others enjoy this event making it worthwhile. But the concept of a beer being so rare that one must go on one day, get a ticket and realize that in the early days there might be a possibility you did not achieve your goal of coming back with the beer made Dark Lord Day a non-starter for me. Yes, I realize the rules changed and you should get 3-4 bottles as long as you stand in line but even last year 3F suggested if you were not Group A you might not get Vanilla. YES, I know it is mostly about sharing rare beers. Yes, I know Three Floyds has made great efforts at customer service. Yes, I believe the Floyd family are wonderful folks with a great brewery and I like their beer. So… this is not really a bad event. But it is an event that I’ve not been able to justify what, for me, would be the outlay of a few hundred dollars for two nights in a local hotel, food, beverage, tickets, beer to share, etc. So… at the bottom of my choices.

 

jake_small From Jake…..

Best Indiana Craft Beer: Daredevil Brewing Lift Off IPA

In my opinion Lift Off IPA from the guys in Shelbyville has been one of the best and most consistent beers out of Indiana this year. Releasing the 4-pack of cans at an extremely competitive price only solidified them as the best beer available in Indiana.

Honorable Mentions
Upland Wolf Eye: Wolf Eye is a slightly tart berliner weiss style beer recently released by Upland. It is pretty well available around Indy, and is one of the few beers I'll order multiple, berliner weiss is probably my favorite style.
Sun King Pappy Fog: This special release of Velvet Fog was aged in 23 year old Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrels. I was able to try it at the VIP tent at Microbrewers Festival in Broadripple, and it was easily the best beer available at the festival.
McClure’s Orchard Jalapeno Cider: McClure's Orchard has really broadened my view of how interesting ciders can be. Usually coming in between 6-7% ABV this spicy cider inspired me to make a few batches of my own Jalapeño Cider using apple cider from McClure's. I've only ever found their bottles at Kahn's Fine Wine and Spirits and at the orchard in Peru itself (which by the way sells cider and a multitude of other apple products even when they are out of season.) Parts of the orchard shut down between Christmas and April, but I believe the restaurant/tasting bar is still open during the winter months.

Best non-Indiana Craft Beer: Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale

I'm generally a big supporter of using proper glassware, that is never frozen, especially with hoppy beers, but there is just something about sipping this easy drinking flavorful pale ale out of the can it comes in. I'm loving having this and Oskar's Imperial Stout, Ten Fidy, regularly available thanks to Oskar Blues joining the growing list of great breweries distributing in Indiana.

Honorable Mentions
Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine: Coffee BCS is a very close second only missing out to Barleywine because the Barleywine is brand new this year! The whole line up this year was spectacular including the Backyard Rye which is relatively hard to find in Indiana.
Local Option Morning Wood: While I love the Morning Wood, an oak aged coffee amber, really all of Local Option's beers have impressed me. Based in Chicago, IL but brewed on contract in Maryland and Michigan, the original location is a "Beer-cade". A "Beer-cade", for those of you who don't know, is a glorious place that blends an awesome craft beer draft and bottle list with an arcade. Sometimes the games are free. Why Indy doesn't have a Beer-cade is beyond me, but I fully support anyone who wants to give it a go.

Best Brewery: Daredevil Brewing (Shelbyville)

Daredevil's first year was an outstanding success in my opinion. While the number of different beers they released this year may have been low compared to other breweries, all of them were outstanding. In addition to the social media presence, the overwhelming detail put into letting their customers know where to find their beer was done extremely well. I'm also very much looking forward to the Rare Devil series from these guys.

Honorable Mentions
Three Floyds Brewing Co: Always. Great.
Sun King Brewing Co: The brewery that really started everything happening in Indy right now is still simply put one of the best breweries in the state. They have a few beers that miss the mark every once in a while, but overall they are absolutely one of the best breweries in the state and no one can argue that.

Best Brewpub: Twenty Tap (Indianapolis)

Twenty Tap just fits into this category because Kevin Matalucci finally started brewing in the basement a month or two ago. Between the seasonal menu, the 38 craft beers on tap, and the outstanding bottle selection no beer bar or brewpub comes close in my opinion. Chef Rob Coate, who is also in charge of the beer list, does an outstanding job here. Living so close makes it easy to get to Twenty Tap anywhere between 2-6 times a week for me. You'd think with all those visits the beer list would get repetitive, and how wrong you'd be. I have never looked at the incredible 38 beer draft list and have tried all 38. If you like trying new things get to Twenty Tap, and try the outstanding food too!  I'm probably headed there right now.

Honorable Mentions
Black Acre Brewpub: This little brewpub on the east side of Indy offers another spectacular menu by Chef Mike Dike. I especially like the brunch served on Sundays from 11-3. After a rocky start in 2012 the brewers have really picked up their game and have an average of 10-12 of their own brews on at any given time. This place is absolutely worth the trip.
Broad Ripple Brewpub: With a change of head brewer comes a fresh look at the classic English brewpub in Indianapolis. The former Oaken Barrel brewer who has taken over is starting to stamp his own style on a few of the beers at the brewpub. When you make it in, I suggest trying the Dark Hero, a strongly flavored coffee oatmeal stout that I thoroughly enjoy.

Best Beer Event: Upland Sour Wild Funk Fest

In the second year of this festival, the people at Upland improved on what was already my favorite festival of the year. This year having the pairings of fruits and cheeses at the pouring tables and the inclusion of the VIP presentation by Caleb only made it better. To say I'm excited to see what they do in 2014 is an understatement, especially now that I live walking distance from the festival.

Honorable Mentions
Brewers of Indiana Guild Microbrewers Festival: Perhaps the VIP experience wasn't quite as thought out as it could have been, but all in all I enjoyed the Microbrewers Festival this year, as I do every year. With some tweaks and maybe a slight price drop the VIP experience will be worth it and I know the good people at the Brewers Guild are doing everything they can to make the 2014's Microbrewers Festival even better.
Indiana State Fair Brewers Cup: This was my first time participating in any fashion at the Brewer's Cup. I judged 3 flights and a mini-best of show and I had a great time. The quality of the beer was outstanding; even though I did try the worst beer I've ever tasted, which was disqualified. All the stewards were great and the whole list of volunteers who helped out did an superb job. If you are involved with craft beer in any way in the state of Indiana you should be volunteering at the Brewer's Cup; it's really a great time.

Best Craft Beer Trend: Canning

The push towards craft brewers canning instead of bottling is something I fully support. Some local Indy area brewers are even taking advantage of a business who has a mobile canning line to can their beer for distribution. Cans are simply a superior vessel and craft beer drinkers in Indiana are already used to cans, thanks to Sun King, making the introduction of cans from Daredevil, Oskar Blues, Flat 12 and others easier. I am ready to see some more specialty and dark beers from the local breweries going into cans. We all love IPAs but its time to see some stouts and weird/funky brews in cans on shelves.

Honorable Mention
Actually Opening: I'm looking at you Outliers! Seriously though, with approximately 70 operating brewers permits in the state we are looking to add another 35 or so in 2014. Realistically we could see 100 operating breweries in Indiana by the end of 2014. CHEERS TO 100!!!

Worst Craft Beer Trend: Craft Beer Hipsters

If you hate people who drink craft beer, and hate people who buy rare/specialty beers but still go to festivals and drive long distances to get rare/specialty beers you might be a hipster. These people can be a bit annoying, but generally they aren't hurting anyone so who cares.

(Dis)Honorable Mentions
Session Beers: I had quite a few discussions with people about session beers back in the spring/summer. Oddly enough nobody is talking about session beers when its 10 degrees outside. I'm guessing when March rolls around they'll be back. Drink them if you like them, but I'll stick to interesting and flavorful beers, more often than not that means beers above 5% ABV.
Stubborn Beer Managers: I’m lucky to live in Indy, very close to Twenty Tap, however a lot of bars around Indy, especially the suburbs, and other areas of Indiana are slow to accept craft beer. Recently Clay, President of the Brewer's Guild, said that 60% of craft beer sold in Indiana is sold within Indianapolis. If all the new breweries are going to make it they are going to need to start converting taps in areas other than Broadripple and Mass Ave. Craft beer needs to break out of its comfort zone and challenge what people are drinking at chains restaurants and bars. This is going to take support from all 3 tiers, especially distributors, to get this done.

 

cooksmall From Jason C…..

Best Indiana Craft Beer: Three Floyds Zombie Dust

I know, I know…this would probably be near the top of the list for a good number of people. I’ve always maintained that I’m a craft beer geek for the common person so here is my boring, mainstream selection. Look, I’m still a hop-head at heart, I dig the Citra hops, and it’s friggin’ delicious so it’s my #1 choice.

Honorable Mentions
Bare Hands Thai.p.a., Iechyd Da Gumption Double Amber, New Albanian Mt. Lee California Common, People’s Notorious BIP, and anything that Crown Brewing does with their java porter (especially the Coconut Java Porter)

Best non-Indiana Craft Beer: Founders KBS

I realize that this is a tough beer to get your hands on but once you do, I promise you, your taste buds will jump back and wanna kiss themselves. This bourbon barrel stout comes in at 11.2% but somehow manages to just melt over your tongue with smooth coffee, bourbon, & chocolate flavors. When I get one I tend to hug it and pet it and squeeze it and call it George.

Honorable Mentions

Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye, Bell’s Two Hearted (oldie but goodie), Founder’s Backwoods Bastard, Green Flash Hop Head Red, Southern Tier Pumking, Stone Ruination

Best Brewery: Three Floyds (Munster)

I had to re-write this once I knew that this was also Nathan’s selection since he pretty much said it all. With Zombie Dust on the top of my list plus the murderer’s row of ridiculously great beers, Three Floyds is still the undisputed heavyweight champ of Indiana breweries.

Honorable Mentions
Bare Hands Brewery, Crown Brewing, Flat 12 Brewing, Iechyd Da Brewing, ZwanzigZ Brewing

Best Brewpub: Iechyd Da (Elkhart)

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why my vote for best brewpub goes to Iechyd Da. My one and only visit (in case you missed the review click here) occurred shortly after they opened for business on a Sunday so the patrons were fairly sparse. However, something about the overall ambience of the place just struck me as welcoming and comfortable. The food menu consisted of artisanal pizzas and sandwiches along with a handful of nice munchies. Then, of course, there are the beers. I’ve already sung my praises with mentions in the best Indiana beer and best Indiana brewery categories. Put it all together and I’d strongly suggest making Elkhart a destination for your next brewery visit.

Honorable Mentions
Lafayette Brewing Company, Shoreline Brewing

Best Beer Event: Winter Warmer @ the Lafayette Brewing Company

I set a new personal record, eight, for festivals in 2013 but my choice for best event was the easiest decision I had among all of the categories. There are many reasons that this long-running strong ale and barleywine event sold out just 40 minutes after ticket sales opened to the general public. First is because there are more high-octane brews in a relatively small area than what should be allowed by law. Next is that it’s held in the cozy confines of the LBC’s second floor venue with an occupancy limit of about 300 (and that includes the brewery representatives). Oh and what’s this? Some fantastic BBQ, plenty of tables and seating, tons of great raffle prizes, big hitting homebrews from the Tippecanoe Homebrewers Circle, and some pretty fantastic people. Huge beer festivals are overrated!

Honorable Mentions
Bloomington’s Craft Beer Festival (nice for a big event), Lafayette’s Beers Across the Wabash

Best Craft Beer Trend: Cans

So sure, once opened I will most likely pour my beer into a glass or cup so why should it's vessel matter? I suppose I just like the added convenience that a lighter weight, less breakable beverage container has to offer. As long as I can get the same great flavor out of a can then sign me up! Added bonus, it’ll help me get past those pesky yellow shirts at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway every May.

Honorable Mention
New breweries opening up everywhere!

Worst Craft Beer Trend: Food Pairing

Fairly certain that I'm in the minority on this one and I'd surmise that beer and food pairing is really just starting to gain momentum. That said, my approach is simple. I’m drinking the beer I’m drinking because it has the flavor and characteristics that I want to experience in that particular beer. I’m eating the food that I’m eating because it has the flavor and characteristics that I want to experience for that particular meal. I really just don’t give a rip if a particular beer style would complement or enhance the flavor of blah blah blah…  If I wanted to worry about this sort of crap I’d be drinking wine.

(Dis)Honorable Mentions
Fake mustaches @ beer festivals, sours

kathleensmall2 From Kathleen…..

Best Indiana Craft Beer: Zwanzigz Ghost Pepper Infused Imperial Stout

This beer I’ve tracked to every festival since first trying it on Winterfest 2013. I think it is amazing. It first hits you with the malt and chocolate tones and then the burn creeps up in the back of your throat. It isn’t over powering, but it is just damn good.

Honorable Mentions
Bare Hands Brewery - Peanut Butter Chocolate Stout, Black Swan Brew Pub– Sour Cherry, Brugge Brasserie – Getting’ Figgy with it Porter

Best non-Indiana Craft Beer: Lakefront Holiday Spice Lager

This was a new one for me this year. I first found Lakefront up in Chicago during Labor Day weekend and was excited to see the Wisconsin brewery had distributed down here Indiana as well. (I’m looking at your New Glarus, it can be done!) I love the spiciness, the warm flavor, the consistency of ever sip. I love that this beer is good cold, but gets better and better as it warms in your hand. A true winter warmer.

Honorable Mentions
Southern Tier – Crème Brulee, Founders Brewing – Rubeaus

Best Brewery: Bier Brewery

I have to give it to my neighborhood brewery. That little nanobrewery is kicking it up more and more and still makes excellent quality beer. I also like that after three years they are still keeping it going with a new mix up every week with some “classics” and some amazing seasonals. Plus Jerry, Corbin, Darren and all the rest are great people.

Honorable Mentions
Zwanzigz, Cutters Brewing, Iechyd Da

Best Brewpub: Black Swan Brewpub

If I didn’t live all the way over on the northeast side I’d eat and drink so much at Black Swan I’d be a regular. Their food is always wonderful, fresh, and kept new with changing their menu. The house brews are high quality for a great price. I love their cream stout, maple oat ale, and their sour cherry.

Honorable Mention
Zwanzigz

Best Beer Event: Brew Bracket Oktoberfest

The Tomlinson Tap Room is a great place to host Brew Bracket, you get to sit, eat, chat, drink and vote and it benefits a good cause. The only downside to this Brew Bracket is it is only 8 breweries instead of the usual 16.

Honorable Mentions
History on Tap, Bloomington Craft Beer Festival

Best Craft Beer Trend: Holiday Seasonals

I love pumpkin ales, I love Christmas ales. I love that more and more breweries are getting with these seasonals and producing their own little twists or some improving on the basic concept. This year I tasted double digit amounts of both of these beers and it made me extremely happy. I hope this is a continuing trend.

Honorable Mentions
Local Craft Beer on Tap, Local breweries getting into canning / bottling

Worst Craft Beer Trend: Special Release Events

Now, I understand the hype of getting a special released beer, but some events are packed full of people, for an extremely overpriced bottle of beer.

(Dis)Honorable Mention
Recipes with Beer

nathansmall From Nathan…..

Best Indiana Craft Beer: Bare Hands Brewery Thai.p.a.

First off, I love IPAs. But the craft market has become so saturated with the style, many examples I try these days just kind of run together. So when a brewery does something truly unique with the style, and pulls it off beautifully, it tends to get my attention. Bare Hands Thai.p.a. infuses an IPA base with spices including ginger and lemongrass to pull off a beer that is remarkably flavorful and still well-balanced. Cheers to one of the best up-and-coming breweries in the state for breathing new life into one of my favorite styles.

Honorable Mentions
Barley Island Black Mystic Java Stout, Black Swan French Country Ale, Flat 12 Walkabout Pale, Sun King Grapefruit Jungle, Three Floyds Arctic Panzer Wolf

Best non-Indiana Craft Beer: North Coast Old Rasputin

This pick was unavoidable following our group tasting of Russian Imperial Stouts. North Coast’s Old Rasputin is Exhibit 1a on the trappings of taking a wonderful beer for granted in the quest to try new beers in a growing craft market (Bell’s Two Hearted might be 1b…but I digress). Filled with complex flavor while maintaining an easy drinkability, Old Rasputin also offers a value that is difficult to beat. In an era of increasingly overpriced specialty beers, it’s nice to see the best Russian Imperial Stout on the market still available for a reasonable price.

Honorable Mentions
Great Divide Claymore Scotch Ale, Green Flash West Coast IPA (when reasonably fresh, check the bottling date before laying down your cash!), Ommegang Biere D’Hougoumont, Troegs Nugget Nectar, Two Brothers Domaine DuPage

Best Brewery: Three Floyds Brewing (Munster)

Hype and trends provoke different reactions from different people, and they tend to elicit a negative knee-jerk type of backlash from me. But as much as I’m inclined to slot another brewery here, you have to set that aside and consider the full body of work: Alpha King, Gumballhead, Zombie Dust, Arctic Panzer Wolf, Alpha Klaus, Broo Doo, Moloko, etc, etc. I can’t objectively say that any other brewery can top that lineup. Do their beers always live up to the hype? Nope. Are they still the biggest bad ass on the block? Absolutely.

On a side note…….I may live in Indianapolis, but it seems northern Indiana is giving our scene a pretty good run for its money these days. What gives? The Michigan influence?

Honorable Mentions
Bare Hands Brewery, Bier Brewery, Crown Brewing, Iechyd Da Brewing Company, Oaken Barrel Brewing

Best Brewpub: Half Moon Restaurant and Brewery (Kokomo)

While I can’t say enough about the exceptional beer quality at Rock Bottom College Park, Half Moon gets the nod here for overall experience. The Kokomo brewpub combines a high quality and diverse selection of beers with tasty smokehouse barbeque and a wide range of additional brewpub fare. And their beer sampler is done right: a solid sample of every beer on tap. Half Moon seems a bit underrated outside of Kokomo, but the packed house we’ve encountered on some visits suggests the locals recognize this gem in their backyard. Skip the bypass on your next trip through Kokomo, and treat yourself to a Half Moon visit instead!

Honorable Mentions
Black Swan Brewpub, Figure 8 Brewing, Rock Bottom College Park (Indy), Rock Bottom Downtown (Indy), Zwanzigz Pizza and Brewing

Best Beer Event: Lafayette Brewing Company Winter Warmer

It’s a rare thing these days to find a beer event that doesn’t grow for the sake of growing, let alone one that has been around since 1995. LBC’s Winter Warmer started that year as a barleywine and strong ale tasting event for their Brew Crew program. While the event quickly grew to include a takeover of LBC’s second floor, additional breweries, and public ticket sales by 2002; it has never ventured beyond the walls of LBC’s downtown facility. While tickets are difficult to obtain these days unless you know a local Mug Club member (thanks Jason!), this unique event more than justifies the $45 ticket price. Consider the ratio of about 250 patrons and 19 participating breweries (an event where you actually can sample beers from every brewery without long lines), the free Beer-B-Que buffet, and free taxi rides home; and you get a uniquely intimate event with great breweries and high gravity beers for a chilly February weekend. An easy call for best event of the year.

Honorable Mention
Brew Bracket Pale Ales

Best Craft Beer Trend: Local Craft Beer at Bars and Restaurants

There were numerous occasions in 2013 where I was pleasantly surprised to find great local craft beer on tap when visiting a bar or restaurant. I’m not talking about businesses who have historically (or even recently) marketed themselves as craft beer destinations, I’m talking about your average establishment around the city that caters to patrons who couldn’t care less what IBU, SRM, Starting Gravity, or Final Gravity mean. It’s great to head out for a family dinner and find offerings from Bier, Daredevil, Flat 12, Fountain Square, Sun King, or Triton available to complement your meal. There is still plenty of room for improvement in this area, but it’s a real sign of progress when the average restaurant understands there is more to a good meal than offering BudMillerCoors for refreshment.

Honorable Mention
Increased Diversity and Availability of Canned Craft Beer

Worst Craft Beer Trend: Barrel Aged Beer Pricing

This is a touchy category because it tends to involve the ugly monetary aspects that have become a byproduct of craft beer’s commercial success. And yes, it’s hard to fault a business for charging whatever somebody out there is willing to pay. But as a consumer, I have to take issue with the pricing trends in barrel aged beers. Barrel aging is a valuable tool in continuing to push the boundaries of flavor in craft beer, and I respect the time and resources required of such an endeavor. But your beer probably didn’t become 5 times better just because you stuck it in a barrel. So forgive me if I pass on the opportunity to pay 5 times as much for the result.

(Dis)Honorable Mentions
Beer Cocktails, Paid memberships just for the right to spend more money on beer (ie. Secret Barrel Programs)

Best Trend I Want to Start in 2014: Combining Craft Beer and Burlesque

Who’s with me???

Indiana Beer News: Dec. 21

Evil Czech Brewery of Culver, IN, paid a visit and brought a sample of their new Czech Pilsner - to be introduced on New Year's Eve at the brew pub. As the brewery's Manager of Sales & Operations, Shawn Erickson, relates to us with a Master Brewer and Owner from the Czech Republic they were not about to release this beer until they felt they have it just right. This is a medium body, complex beer that starts with maltiness with a rounded bitterness and spiciness from Saaz hops. The sample we received tasted very nice!

Evil Czech continues to expand! Later this Spring they will open a new brewery in Mishawaka, IN, which adds to the presence of their Corndance Restaurant in the area which currently serves their beer. They also are expanding with a new MUG CLUB! Click on their restaurant site for details about the mug, growler, discounts, swag, and party(ies) available and the mug club is being offered at a discount with a special party this Saturday afternoon (Dec. 21) Noon - 4 at Corndance Mishawaka.

Planetary Brewing in Greenwood is expanding! The Brewery, located on Polk Place in an industrial park, is adding an expanded tasting room to be open in a couple of months.
Brewer/Owner Andy was proud to offer six beers for growler fills when we stopped by for his nine-month anniversary. One of those beers is a wonderfully balanced big hoppy and malty beer dedicated to a man we lost last year who was an acquaintance of mine and a life-long friend of Andy's. The JSS 550 is over 8% abv and 94 ibu but seems smooth and bold. The new tasting room will allow for pint sales and will allow for a lot more brew room. Planetary beer is also on tap at Shallo's in Greenwood and is slowly and selectively adding taps on the South Side. Andy says they are right on plan as he realizes his dream with this brewery.

Look for beer in cans to explode in 2014. From Tin Man Evansville, to Daredevil Shelbyville, now even Flat12 is adding select products in cans. Cans are portable and can be taken to sporting events and outdoor venues where glass is not allowed. For a brewery the issue is carrying the inventory of printed cans which take much more room than beer labels.

Winter Beers are here as we've profiled in a couple of blogs. Bloomington Brewing just released their Winter Ale with Saigon cinnamon, vanilla, orange peel, and chocolate coming in at about 6%, and only 10 IBU. BBC Winter Ale will be available at Lennie's in Bloomington and at select tap handles in central Indiana.

While we anticipate Winterfest on Feb 1, mark your calendars for the Bloomington Craft Beer Festival on April 12! Bloomington Craft Beer Week will run April 5-12.

12 Beer of Christmas at Flat12

The Glazed Ham Porter (yes, it is beer) has been back at Flat12 Bierwerks, Indy, (web site here) along with 11 of its closest Holiday ‘friend’ beers. This year I tasted 7 of the 12 and got good reports from regulars on the others. The Glazed Ham Porter has sweetness that layers into the porter. This is a ‘love it or not so much…’ beer and is one the regulars look forward to each year.

Other varieties include(d) the Brandy Barrel Walk-About Pale (tapped12/13) which is very balanced between the sweetness and hops; so balanced that a hop lover visiting Flat12 said it would not be his favorite while his lady who likes hops less really enjoyed it. Juniper predominated the Juniper IPA (tapped 12/14) which was made with crushed juniper with the flagship HalfCycle IPA base. The SnickerDoodle Blond (tapped 12/15) was another addition with cinnamon and lactose making it taste incredibly like the popular cookie.
The Chocolate Mint Porter (tapped 12/19) featured cocoa nibs and house-grown fresh mint while the crazy Cocoa Beware Milk Stout (tapped 12/8) was incredible with Dutch cocoa, Ovaltine brand chocolate, and marshmallow fluff – it’s a good things kids can’t get to this one! One that I missed but heard fabulous reports on was Wholey Ghost Porter (tapped 12/12, keg blown 12/13) Mexican coffee + ghost chilies! I also missed the Cranberry Maple Amber (12/6) and Chocolate Orange Porter (12/7) but have had Head Brewer Rob’s maple concoctions before and can imagine how good chocolate with orange would be in porter.

Coming up are the Apple Bottom Blonde (12/20), the Gingerbread IPA(12/21) and the finale on 12/22 is a delicious bourbon barrel aged, spiced, plus vanilla beans added Grandpa’s Glazed Ham Porter (12/22). From the sample Rob grabbed me, Grandpa’s delivered notes of every flavor from the extra vanilla with oakiness to the richness of the porter so can be highly recommended.

And for another Twelve Beers of Christmas, Check out Kathleen's previous BLOG here

Flat12 hosts its third anniversary on January 4, with special beers! Brewer Rob Caputo promises yet another crazy theme at their booth and with their beer for Winterfest Beer Festival on February 1, http://www.brewersofindianaguild.com/events/details/winterfest-2014 with 12 not sampled before beers. And look for new ideas in 2014 such as some firkin tappings!

Happy Holidays! Rob made mine tastier! -- Greg Kitz

Meet the New Brewers 2014

According to Barney from HIMYM “New is always better!”, slightly dated reference but hey it’s still on the air, and in terms of the brewing scene in Indiana there are going to be plenty of new breweries opening up in 2014. Our friends at Hoosier Beer Geek posted a list of 36, yes you read that right thirty six, breweries planning on opening in 2014. Their list is really comprehensive, but one of my favorite things about local breweries is being able to talk to the brewers and find out more about their styles and their brewery. So I sent out a few questions to some of the Indy area breweries and some from other parts of the state to find out a little more about the brewery. Below you will find the first two responses I’ve receive from the Director of Brewing Shenanigans at Two Deep Brewing Company, and from Summit City Beer Works in Fort Wayne, only the second brewery in the state’s second largest city. I’m still waiting on replies from many other breweries, because of that this will most likely be a series of posts so check back often. Also if you or someone you know is opening a brewery, have them get in touch with me at jake@IndianaBeer.com. Anyway onto the breweries!

TwoDEEP Brewing Company, Indianapolis, IN
Director of Brewing Shenanigans: Anonymous (for now)
Location: Capitol Avenue
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I have been working on this project since about 2008 – at least that’s when I really put pen to paper and started writing the business plan. Originally from Indianapolis, I lived in Chicago from ’03 to ’10 which is where I fell in love with craft beer. Embarrassingly, everything I knew about beer up until about 2006/2007 was what I had learned in college…there are three types: Miller, Coors & Bud (with the occasional Natty Light, etc. thrown into the mix). While I am not proud of admitting that fact, it was where a lot of us come from whether we admit or not. Anyways, I was introduced to craft beer by a friend of mine one day after work. He took me to a place called the The Map Room which is a MUST visit for anyone who loves craft beer. As we sat there and tried all kinds of beer I was blown away at how each one I had was completely different than the one before. It was love at first sip and I was amazed at how enjoyable drinking a beer could be vs. choking down stuff that we forced ourselves to “like” during our coming of age phase in life. Fast forward a couple months and I found out you could actually make this stuff at home! Thinking to myself this is too good to be true, I started grabbing every book I could get my hands on and researching everything about home brewing. Standing in line at Borders, the checkout attendant asked if I was starting a home brewing library. I stuttered a response and said, “Um, they are gifts for a few people that I know.” Having stack seven of books in my hand, I thought to myself, “these people are going to think I’m crazy!” Digesting about half of the literature I purchased, watching numerous videos (I even caught the Good Eats with Alton Brown episode on home brewing), I figured it was time to give this thing a whirl. Equipment in hand, hundreds of brewing book pages absorbed, rubber gloves on and one of the most sanitized kitchens you would have ever encountered, I was ready! I brewed two batches the first time – an English Brown and an American Amber (such a good use of the spectrum, I know..lol) - in hopes that one of them was going to turn out right. Not sure where the logic was coming from at that point, I proceeded forward. Four weeks later, it was time to pop these suckers open and see how bad I was going to be at this. Drank a bottle from each and I was blown away that by taking ingredients and doing a couple different things to them, I am then treated to this amazing elixir. I was not instantly in love with the process behind it. The marriage of science and art. From here on, drinking craft beer became secondary, I couldn’t get enough of the process of brewing. Having drank both of those first two beers, I was two deep when I knew this was what I wanted to do in life.

As mentioned above, I started writing a business plan in ’08 in the midst of brewing every other week if not every week for some periods. I had more beer than I knew what to do with. Spring of ’09, I enrolled at at Seibel Institute in an effort to put some professional knowledge behind my crazy obsession. I continued writing a business plan – which ultimately started out as a Brew On Premise idea (wanted to share my love of the brewing art with everyone) - but eventually evolved into a full on production brewery plan. Early ’10 we relocated back to Indy which put things on pause as well as having our second child. In 2011, I started running full steam again in getting off the ground and have been at it ever since. With numerous real estate hurdles along the way, we have hopped from one place to the next and just as recent as last week, we hit ANOTHER major hurdle. While it looks as if we have crossed it with ease, I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag until later this week. I can say that we are still on Capital Ave., just can’t announce exactly where.

We are doing a 15 bbl NSI system of which we acquired from a brewery in Nebraska (only a year old!). We will be operating out of a 7,000 sq ft facility with distribution and a sizable TapRoom – roughly 3,000 sq ft. - bringing together the best of both worlds. Our location is strategic in that the area where we will be is relatively un-serviced right now. We have had goal all along of creating a brewery that encourages you to stay for a pint or two and then have the ability to get your to-go packaged beer. Heck, fire up your laptop, have a meeting or just sit back and relax with some friends. We love the age old idea of a public house in that its a place for people to converse, so why not do it at the brewery!? The beers we will be offering will cover a wide range – I have fun brewing everything. I have a passion for German lagers and ales, however, we will be brewing all kinds of styles (“19 Days” - a fusion bock, and “Jenny Wheat” - a Belgian Wit are the most popular right now). Experimenting with crazy brew ideas will definitely find its way into the mix – holding it off for later as I want to get our year round brews and specialties into the hands of the public first. But one recipe I am working on right now is a Dark Chocolate Raspberry Oatmeal Stout.

As for opening, we are about 4 months away (provided TTB does not slow down anymore).

Director of Brewing Shenanigans
TwoDEEP Brewing Company


If you’ve ever talked to anyone who recently opened a brewery you’ll understand the difficulties that Mr. Director is talking about above. I for one am excited to see another production brewery in Indy.


Anyway on to another production brewery, however this time in Fort Wayne. In my humble opinion Fort Wayne is a bit of a wasteland for local beer. Yes Mad Anthony is there, the long standing local brewpub chain which has 4 locations. But to be honest with Fort Wayne having 419k people in the metro area versus 359k people in the Evansville metro area (Indy has 1,756k) and only one brewery compared to Evansville’s three. Well the guys from the new Summit City Brewerks in Fort Wayne are looking to change that. Below is the response from Summit City’s Head Brewer David Tomaszewski.

Summit City Brewerks
Head Brewer: David Tomaszewski
Location: 1501 East Berry St. Fort Wayne, IN
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We plan to have a brewpub and will be inviting the local food trucks to park outside our space during dining hours. We have a 7 BBL system but will produce mostly 3BBL batches as we are striving to provide variety and new experiences first and foremost. As far as what types of beer we will be making, we tend to feature fusions of technique and flavor. We will have some barrel aged beers, some sours, and some no nonsense traditional styles. We are very experimental! We are forever in search of the next great beer! One beer that has had great critical success is our Scotch Strawberry. It is a traditional Scotch ale to start, but then we dose it with ripe strawberries! There is also a series of Bourbon barrel IPA's I have been working on...I am a hop head at heart!

Will and I have both been brewing for 3 1/2 years and have packed lots of batches into such a small amount of time. I have a Culinary Arts background so I am always in search of great flavor and interesting tastes/techniques. Our location choice had a few facets; it has all the power we need already, it has a great vintage/industrial feel, and the developer plans to promote creative business in the surrounding spaces! Our grand opening will be in March and we are kicking things off festival style. Patrons buy a ticket and receive memorabilia and complimentary sampling for 5 hours! We plan to have at least 25 Summit City Brewerks beers, up to 10 guest taps, and some local wine! It should prove to be a memorable if not nerve wracking experience!

David Tomaszewski, Head Brewer
Summit City Brewerks



I hope you enjoyed the brief preview of these two new breweries in Indiana. Get out there and support your local breweries. Cheers!

- Jake

12 Beers of Christmas

We all know the song, "on the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me".... well, in my version my true love gave me beer, on every one of the each day before Christmas. Thus came my idea of hosting the 12 Beers of Christmas tasting.

I hit some local liquor stores (Parti Pak in Southport and Payless Liquors in Fishers), pulled some friends together and decided we'd all play commentary and rate the beers. 

Below are my 12 beers of Christmas 2013:

Bell's Brewery - Christmas Ale
Goose Island  Brewery - Christmas Ale 2012
Fat Heads Brewery -  Holly Jolly Christmas Ale
Three Floyds Brewing  - Alpha Klaus Christmas Porter
Breckenridge Brewery - Christmas Ale
Schlafly  - Christmas Ale
Lakefront Brewery - Holiday Spice Lager Beer
Anchor Brewing - Merry Christmas Happy New Year
Thirsy Dog Brewing - 12 Dogs of Christmas Ale
Bison Brewing - Organic Gingerbread Ale
Triton Brewing - Gingerbread Brown



 This was my first time getting a group togther for a more organized beer tasting. All of us like beer, some more than others, we all are just regular people, with no beer judging experience. We had a sheet of all the beers, and the descriptions from the breweries along with places for commentary and ranking.

Once everything was in place, it was time to drink some beer!

We started out with my favorite Christmas ale which is from Schlafly. I purposefully bought a six pack so everyone could have plenty of this beer. I personally think Schlafly makes the best two seasonals with Pumpkin Ale and Christmas Ale, so in this Christmas beer taste testing I'll admit I was bias and thought Schlafly would win all the way.  It actually wasn't the case. Between the four of us Schlafly actually tied for second with 3.8/5 Stars in our rating.  An overall thought was lightly spiced and a little sweet.


After the Schlafly we went down the list of beer after beer.
The bottom five out of the twelve were actually from some of the bigger breweries:

Pamela writing some commentary


Bell's Brewery - Christmas Ale - 2.9/5
Goose Island  Brewery - Christmas Ale 2012 - 2.8/5
Breckenridge Brewery - Christmas Ale - 2.5/5
Fat Heads Brewery -  Holly Jolly Christmas Ale - 2.4/5
Three Floyds Brewing  - Alpha Klaus Christmas Porter - 1.8/5

The five of us taste testing didn't have anything bad to say about these, they were light, pleasant. The Alpha Klaus was a little hoppy and it was actually the last beer in our ranking due to the bitterness. Some of the commentary was that it was "overpowering" and that the aroma is very strong. Alpha Klaus is the "cousin" of Alpha King.

Since those were the lesser of the 12, the top 7 where:

Lakefront Brewery - Holiday Spice Lager Beer - 4.4/5
Schlafly  - Christmas Ale - 3.8/5
Triton Brewing - Gingerbread Brown - 3.8/5
Southern Tier Brewing - 2xMas - 3.8/5
Thirsy Dog Brewing - 12 Dogs of Christmas Ale - 3.6/5
Bison Brewing - Organic Gingerbread Ale -3.5/5
Anchor Brewing - Merry Christmas Happy New Year - 3.3/5

Anchor Brewing - Merry Christmas Happy New Year
The Southern Tier one was interesting due to the addition of fig in the brew, that along with the culimination of spices is what made it one our tied for 2nd place beers. Another eye raising beer was the Anchor Brewing Merry Christmas Happy New Year because it had a pine scent yet most of the tasters said it tasted line raisins or and also a very heavy molasses flavor that weighed on the tongue. But what got me was the Lakefront Brewery beat my #1 favorite!

Lakefront seems to have a penchant for making lager instead of ales. This past fall I had one of their Pumpkin Lager beers. It was too light for me in the spice, but their Holiday Spice beer really made up for it. It was complex with the ginger, nutmeg cinnamon spices but had a nice addition with a twinge of citrus.



The nose complimented the flavor as well and the beer's color was nice and dark which is a delicious reminsces of a stout or  porter which is perfect for a cold winter night.  I actually had a the pleasure of trying this beer again on draft at Mass Ave Pub in Indianapolis and I can fairly say that the bottle is almost as good as fresh of the tap.





Now of course there are less that 12 days left til Christmas, but then again there are more than 12 Christmas beers out there to try. I highly suggest either trying one on our list or finding a new one and letting me know what you think. Tis the season for giving and sharing so let's share some wonderful reviews about some great beers.


Happy Holidays everyone!

Kathleen





Carson’s Invades Indy/Bier Brewery Turns 3

Carsons logoIndianapolis – an event near and dear to our mugs comes your way Thursday with the first local commercial tapping from Carson’s Brewery of Evansville to be hosted at local favorite Twenty Tap. Carson’s beers are currently available at bars in restaurants throughout the Evansville area, and bottles of Pagan Pale Ale and Red Dawn Amber Wheat recently hit liquor stores in the area. If you didn’t get the chance to try their samples at this summer’s Microbrewers Festival, pop in and try a pint from one of Indiana’s newest breweries!

The event will kick off at 5:30. Carson’s brewer (and former IndianaBeer colleague) John Mills will be on hand with four beers available:

Brown Cow: Brown ale with biscuit and dark toast aroma, nutty malts, balancing hops, and a medium dry finish. Scaled up from John’s homebrew recipe that won Best of Show at the Indiana Brewers Cup. 32 IBU 5% ABV

Eville Wheat: An aggressive American Wheat dry-hopped with Simcoe Hops. 25 IBU 6% ABV

RIPA (Red India Pale Ale): Rich toasted malts with a monstrous Northwest Pacific hop profile. 70 IBU 7% ABV

Icesis: Seasonal winter warmer spiced with cinnamon, coriander, and orange peel.

Carsons Brown Cow            Carsons Eville            Carsons RIPA

Also consider a stop by Carson’s tap room if you’re in the Evansville area, and catch a brewery tour on Saturday and Sunday.

And coming up Friday……..

bier_sanitariumBier Brewery celebrates their Third Anniversary with a special bomber release of Sanitarium Belgian Quad. Sanitarium won a silver medal in Belgian-Style Abbey Ale (out of 86 entries) at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival. Sanitarium sales start at 12pm with the following options:

Single Bottle: $20
Gift Pack (Bottle + 1 tulip glass): $25
Gift Pack (Bottle + 2 tulip glasses): $30
** limit 2 bottles per person

In addition to the Sanitarium release, pint sales begin at 3pm with a heated 40 X 60 tent available for your comfort. Congrats to Bier on three years of outstanding biers!

Cheers, Nathan

Indiana Beer News, Dec. 8, Holiday Beers and Brewer Moves

'Tis time for special beers and apparently for brewers to play musical chairs with brewing systems.

RAM Indy seems major changes. On the heels of former award-winning Head Brewer Andrew Castner leaving The RAM in Indianapolis in Mid-October , former Asst. Brewer Chris Knott solidified his move to Scarlet Lane Brewing with his announcement this week. Scarlet Lane is another new operation with plans to be brewing soon. It appears the RAM has become another stop on the way to independent brewing since Dave Colt and Clay Robinson of SunKing fame departed the RAM just four years ago. Castner, once with Oaken Barrel, made a major mark on Central Indiana with many award winning beers and now temporarily assists at Flat12 (corrected from earlier misprint) and Great Fermentations Brew Shop on his way to his own start-up brewery on IN 135 in Greenwood, set to open this Spring. Knott did more than shovel grain at The RAM and had his imprint on a number of great beers. I had a chance to wish both Andrew and Chris well on future adventures on Nov. 19, with their great tasting Barrel Aged Olaf as well as this year's S'No Angel Weizenbock. S'No angel remains on tap. We hope each of them continues some of the "big beer" and barrel aging tradition in their new spots.


Nate Scruggs, formerly of Fountain Square, will start brewing at The RAM although corporate will have to anoint a head brewer.

Bell's Brewing brings its "Twelve Bell's of Christmas" to Chatham Tap on Mass Ave. this week Thursday, Dec. 12, starting at 5:00 PM with a special keg of Black Note barrel aged stout (Whoa.. one of my favorites), Christmas Ale, Hopsoulution DIPA, Oarsman Ale, Porter, Third Coast Old Ale, Two Hearted, Winter White , Raspberry Ale, Harry Magill's Spiced Stout, Wedding Ale, and... either Bell's can't count or there will be one additional beer. I'd vote for Expedition Stout but we'll see. Bell's does this event other places with 12- beers but not the same so in Elkhart, IN, on the same night you can visit The Chubby Trout after 5:30 for 12 Bell's favorites or in Newburgh, IN, near Evansville visit Beef O'Brady's at 6:00 where the Rednose ESB is one of the 12 Bell's beers. If you really want a road trip, Bell's Comstock, MI, brewery unveiled a wood sculpture this past week commissioned by Larry Bell called, "From Seed to Senses." It is less beer related as all Bell required is that the piece from a tree that had to be taken down become art.

Thinking of spicy for the Holidays? Bare Hands Brewery in Mishawaka, IN, yesterday tapped their popular Mango Habanero 574 Pale Ale on Dec. 7. Growler fills available.

Flat12, Indy, is well on their way to this year's Twelve Beers of Christmas! 12/5 = Glazed Ham Porter, 12/6 = Cranberry Maple Amber, 12/7 = Chocolate Orange Porter and 12/8 = Cocoa Beware Milk Stout, , 12/12 = Wholey Ghost Porter, 12/13 = Brandy Walkabout Pale, 12/14 = Juniper IPA, 12/15 = Snickerdoodle Blonde, 12/19 = Chocolate Mint Porter,' 12/20 = Apple Bottom Blonde, 12/21 = Gingerbread IPA, and as the last volly the ever-popular and odd 12/22 = Grandpa’s Glazed Ham Porter! And if you must taste all 12 at once, visit City Market on December 14, for The 12 Chef's of Christmas where local participating chefs have drawn one of these 12 holiday beers and created his/her culinary masterpiece to be unveiled at this event. The Pairing Party is free and open to the public Saturday, Dec. 14, 5-8PM at the City Market.

Check out your favorite local brewery or brew pub for their holiday seasonal. Triton has Gingerbread Brown on tap and in bottles. Rock Bottom brew pubs Indy have their Tartan Scottish Ale, Fountain Square currently has Count Nibula Chocolate Stout, and several of us are going to visit Black Swan this week to see what DJ has brewed up!

Cheers! GregKitz

End of Movember!

Beer and mustaches and raising awareness and funds for men's cancers are a great combination.  Actually anything paired with beer is a great combo!  

To help celebrate and show of your mustaches,  we wanted to share this great event - The End of Movember Gala put on by the Movember charity.  

Sun King, Flat 12 and more local Indiana craft beer will be on site. This is a great time to enjoy fresh local beer for a good cause.  

For more Details, please check out below:

 End of Movember Gala! 

  • December 6th!
  •   Time.: 7:00pm – 11:00pm
  •   Location: The Speak Easy in Broad Ripple
  • (5255 North Winthrop Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46220)
  •   Featuring: Auctions, Raffles, Contests, and much, MUCH MORE
  •   Local Indiana Craft Beer to quench your thirst!

    • Hard Hat Tour Lager and multiple other styles from Sun King
    • Moustache Ride Red and multiple other styles from Flat 12
    • Curious Tenacious Traveler Shandy
  •   Food Trucks  (Scribble & Caveman Truck)
  • Live entertainment to move your feet!
  •   $10 Entry Fee – ONE HUNDRED PERCENT goes to charity – tickets available at door!
    • Sorry we’re unable to honor Official Movember.com-provided Gala certificates
  •   NO MUSTACHE REQUIRED TO ATTEND – They have Loaners!
  • This is a 21+ event

Dribs and drabs

We get press releases:

UplandCherryOn Tuesday, November 26th, Upland Brewing Company will open an online lottery for the release of two of its sour ales: Cherry and Raspberry fruited Lambic-style ales. Due to labor intensiveness, a long brewing process, and the seasonal availability of local fruit, these ales are released infrequently and in limited quantities. Consequently, lottery requests will be restricted to one bottle per style per person.

The lottery, at www.UplandSours.eventbrite.com, will open at noon EDT on Tuesday, November 26th (that’s now) and close at noon Tuesday, December 3rd. Preferred pick-up location must be specified at the time of entry; both the Brew Pub in Bloomington and the Indianapolis Tasting Room are options.

Lottery winners will be notified via email on December 4th and will have the opportunity to purchase the sour ale they selected at their preferred location from December 9th to December 23rd.

PicoBrew Zymatic. Make beer on your kitchen counter. $1700 to $2100. Oh, that’s a preorder for June, 2014. But you may want to have your credit card charged now. Nope, not buying into the company on Kickstarter. That’s just one unit. But the kickstarter page has more info than their web site. Run by an ex-MS VP. Not sure they’ve got the idea. No word on how may gallons per batch. Looks like something between 2 and 5. But their not the only one who has a fixation – not according to this quote: "Even at a $1,600 investment, it would really only take about 6 weeks of home brewing for me to recoup the cost of a PicoBrew Zymatic in consumed beer." Do you Does that person really spend $750 per week on beer?

GrowABeerNews: Beer truck overturns in Georgia. Nope, that’s a Bud Light truck.

Amsterdam has launched a government-funded scheme which uses chronic alcoholics as street cleaners – and pays them in beer. article

The Huffington Post lists 9 Reasons Why Beer is Even Better than You Thought. And where else can you find Zooey Deschanel’s Mom’s Signature Pecan Pie Recipe?

Thankful for Beer

Just a few days away is the annual stuff ourselves until we comatose from turkey overload. We'll entertain with family, football games, or board games and be thankful for everything we have aka Thanksgiving time.

In a launch of pre-Thanksgiving tidings, I've been thinking about things I'm thankful for in relation to beer:

 I'm thankful for this blog, where I can obsess of beer and talk about it all the time. Although lately I've been a little busy with a new job, I still love beer more than ever.
 I'm thankful for the network this blog has brought to my life.
 I'm thankful for the Indiana Brewer's Guild who helped pass a law that Indiana breweries can sell growlers of draft beer on Sunday.
I'm thankful for the sheer awesomeness that is all the Indiana breweries. They are pure creative geniuses in brewing and I'm thankful to be able to try so much deliciousness.
I'm thankful for breweries who make vanilla porters, pumpkin ales, and christmas ales which are some of my favorite beers ever.
I'm thankful for beer festivals that make it possible to try so many different beers all at once time.
and
I'm thankful for Bier Brewery being a walk away. ( I'd be more thankful if they served pints more often!)
I'm thankful for brew pubs so I can bring my kid and have a good dinner, with good local craft beer
I'm thankful for other beer groups like Hoosier Beer Geeks and Girls Pint Out

It is really something I could go on an on about, over a small topic like beer, but craft beer is important to so many, and it is just really darn good.  If you still haven't tried any local craft beer, go out and try some! I'm sure the brewers would be... thankful that you did! (see what I did there)


So I hope all of you have a great Thanksgiving, enjoy some local craft beer and prepare for the holidays!

Cheers,
Kathleen




Indiana Beer Group Tasting and Reviews – Russian Imperial Stouts

According to legend, the origins of Russian Imperial Stout can be traced to when Peter the Great opened Czarist Russia to the West. A trip to England exposed Peter to the Porters that were very popular in the early 18th century. When the Imperial court of Russia requested Porter to be sent over from England; the low alcohol, lightly-hopped brew spoiled during the journey. Because alcohol and hops act as preservatives in beer, English brewers increased these qualities in a new version of porter that could survive the journey, and the style we know as Imperial Stout was born. The John Courage Brewery used the term “Imperial Stout” on the label of their beer, boasting that it’s creation was by Imperial order of Catherine the Great.

catherine-the-grea_2262561b                  Courage_Imperial_Stout 

Today’s Russian Imperial Stout has been embraced by American craft brewers to be even bigger and more flavorful. They typically clock in with an alcohol by volume content of 9% to as high as 15%+, and contain an intense blend of various dark malts. As the winter months close in on the Hoosier state, now is a great time to acquire some thick and rich Russian Imperial Stouts to help you make it through some chilly nights ahead. The high alcohol and specialty malts also make these beers ideal for aging, where the flavors can mature and sometimes develop a vinous quality. To make the comparison in this tasting as fair as possible, all beers included were 2013 vintages. Keep in mind that a comparison of the same beers after aging for 3, 5, or even 10 years could yield different results.

We didn’t mess around with the lineup for this tasting – each of these beers rate at least a 92 on Beer Advocate and come from highly respected breweries Bell’s, North Coast, Oskar Blues, Sierra Nevada, and Three Floyds. With this lineup of heavy hitters, a blind tasting was administered by our lovely hostess Poppi Rocketts (watch for the coveted Poppi’s pick in the results below). The beers were served in a random order to our tasting panel, and the identity of each was not revealed until after the panelists had finalized their individual rankings. Joining me on the panel were IndianaBeer reporters Dave Allen and Jason Wilkerson and guest reviewer Tim Palmer. Here is a summary of each beer sampled, with the brewery’s description followed by the panel’s tasting comments.

Beer #1: Sierra Nevada Narwhal – Narwhal Imperial Stout is inspired by the mysterious creature that thrives in the deepest fathoms of the frigid Arctic Ocean. Featuring incredible depth of malt flavor, rich with notes of espresso, baker’s cocoa, roasted grain and a light hint of smoke, Narwhal is a massive malt-forward monster. Aggressive but refined with a velvety smooth body and decadent finish, Narwhal will age in the bottle for years to come. 60 IBU 10.2% ABV

Dave: I ranked this beer in third place of the five we sampled. To my palate the beer seemed a bit simplistic for what I might expect from a RIS. Not to say that it was not a good beer, it certainly was. But there were other beers in the panel that were more complex, better balanced, and generally just better beers. I found the Narwhal to be primarily about the chocolate malt and alcohol. It was also the most carbonated beer in our flight, which I was grateful for, as we’ll see coming up… I like to measure the beers in these tasting panels against the completely subjective and totally arbitrary question:
Would I Drink Another. Which is to say: did this beer impress me enough that I would order more than one if out at a bar having beers with friends. For the Narwhal, I say sure. It was a decent beer; I’d be happy to consume a couple of pints. 
Dave’s Rank: 3rd
Jason: This is not nearly thick enough to be a Russian Imperial. There is no coating of the glass and I miss that used motor oil sensation. There is a nice, roast smell to it but it is subtle. The beer was not harsh on the tongue at all, not strong or overpowering like some beers in this category tend to be. I had trouble detecting the bitter notes of hops which is okay for me because it leads to a very smooth drink. There was no strong after taste, nothing lingered longer than it had to. Good overall beer, a nice stout to give to a beginner to the category but not quite sure it's a Russian Imperial.
Jason’s Rank: 5th
Nathan: Pours with a thick, frothy head and a nice chocolate malt aroma. The roasted malt and hop aroma are fairly low for a RIS. Chocolate and coffee dominate the flavor profile with hints of dark fruit and some earthy hop character. The thick and heavy mouthfeel seems more in line with a RIS than the overall flavor profile. Alcohol is present, but very smooth and not distracting. This is a very good beer overall, but seems a bit lacking in flavor complexity for the style. 
Nathan’s Rank: 4th
Tim: Pitch black with a large light brown head. Spicy, woodsy hop character followed by light roasted chocolate notes. The initial hop character initially reminded me of a Northern Brewer hop, but seemed to disappear as the beer warmed. Full body with a smooth roasted chocolate character (more chocolate than roast) and high hop bitterness that lingered. This was also the most carbonated out of the beers sampled. Alcohol was present and warming, but not harsh. The beer did not have the character of a Russian Imperial, but reminded me more of a big American Stout, and as such was nice, but not a Russian Imperial Stout, BUT I would definitely order another.
Tim’s Rank: 4th

Beer #2: North Coast Old Rasputin – Produced in the tradition of 18th Century English brewers who supplied the court of Russia's Catherine the Great, Old Rasputin seems to develop a cult following wherever it goes. It’s a rich, intense brew with big complex flavors and a warming finish. 75 IBU 9% ABV

Dave: Our tasting panel all came to the same conclusion that this one was, hands down, the best beer on the table. To my palate it was complex, balanced, with flavors of both chocolate and roasted malt, hints of coffee and apparent (but not dominating) alcohol. When I conjure up what RIS should be in my imagination: this is it - delicious without being overpowering in any of the handful of typical flavor profiles one might expect. Great beer. And readily available locally all year round at a competitive price point. What’s not to like?
Would I Drink Another: Absolutely.  
Dave’s Rank: 1st
Jason: The aroma of chocolate was a welcome sign as it reminds me of this category of beer. Thicker than Beer #1 but still not the texture I've come to expect, which is not a bad thing. Great flavor. This beer throws a knockout punch on your tongue from the start to announce its presence. Rich in color, flavor and texture, the bold taste follows from the front of your mouth to the back. A great Russian Imperial with good balance of bitter and sweet.
Jason’s Rank: 1st
Nathan: Less head retention than the first beer, but the level of roasted malt character has increased and nicely balances the chocolate notes. Wonderful flavor complexity: chocolate, coffee, raisins, figs, and hints of citrus hop character. Thick mouthfeel with a fairly dry finish and lingering bitterness the complements the intense malt character. Moderate alcohol warming in the aftertaste, but never harsh or distracting from the other flavors. This beer almost perfectly embodies the best qualities I associate with Russian Imperial Stouts. Outstanding! 
Nathan’s Rank: 1st
Tim:  Let's just say that I can't see through the beer as it is dark as night with a small dark tan head. The first hints of the aroma immediately hit me as this wonderful blend of rich malt (bready, hint of fruit), roast and chocolate character followed by a low earthy hop nose. The first taste filled my mouth with this full bodied, rich, more roast (not acrid) than chocolate, complex delicious beer that finished dry leaving me asking for more. Even with the low head, it had plenty of carbonation to support this big beer. The alcohol was pleasantly warming and not hot at all. This was solid all the way through! Can I have another? This is what I was expecting from a Russian Imperial Stout.
Tim’s Rank: 1st

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Beer #3: Three Floyds Dark Lord – A demonic Russian Style Imperial Stout, brewed with Intelligensia coffee Mexican vanilla, and Indian sugar this beer defies description, available one day a year in April at the brewery, Dark Lord Day. ??? IBU 15% ABV

Dave: This beer was my least favorite of the group. I found it to be syrupy, very sweet, a little under carbonated and heavy on the palate. To be fair, there were some malt complexities present if one could get past the palate coating sweetness, but for me personally it was too much. Perhaps a bit more carbonation would have helped to lift some of that sensation (see the Narwhal notes above) but compared side by side with other examples of the style, this beer fell flat. This is the part where I offer up opinions about marketing and the conception of quality as it compares to demand and price points… or not. The panel scores speak for themselves.
Would I Drink Another: No. Please no. Someone take the rest my sample, please… 
Dave’s Rank: 5th
Jason: No overpowering roast aroma here but yet distinct as almost too sweet. This is the viscosity I was expecting as it leaves a presence on the glass. No hop bitterness that I can detect and even if it was there the sweetness just dominates the liquid throughout. If you like syrupy sweet beers, this is a great one for you. Bold and attempting to be imposing, but not a beer you could drink with ease.
Jason’s Rank: 4th
Nathan: Low head retention and carbonation, but still unleashes an intense aroma dominated by roasted malts and burnt sugar. Nice complexity in the flavor with coffee, molasses, burnt sugar, and cream. There is a lingering residual sweetness throughout the flavor that does not fade even after you swallow the beer. Substantial bitterness is apparent, but is still competing with the sweetness to clean up the beer before your next sip. Seems higher in alcohol than the other examples, and might be pushing the limit of “too much”. I really like the flavor complexity of this beer, but the residual sweetness is hard to overlook. 
Nathan’s Rank: 5th
Tim: Well let's just say, more pitch blackness. Getting the idea here. Very little head or apparent carbonation, but it did carry a dark tank ring around the top of the beer. My first impression of the aroma and the taste was I was drinking some extremely rich, sweet creamed coffee. As I continued to evaluate, I just could not get rid of the lip smacking residual sweetness in my mouth. Once I could cut through this, I could detect the hops, but the sweetness was just too overpowering and this is not a malty sweetness, this was residual sweetness; as if the beer did not attenuate out. I think more carbonation could help this a bit, but to be honest, the more I thought about this, the more I kept thinking that this beer was some sort of imperial milk stout!
Tim’s Rank: 5th

Beer #4: Oskar Blues Ten Fidy – This titanic, immensely viscous stout is loaded with inimitable flavors of chocolate-covered caramel and coffee and hides a hefty 98 IBUs underneath the smooth blanket of malt.  Ten FIDY is made with enormous amounts of two-row malt, chocolate malt, roasted barley, flaked oats and hops. Ten FIDY is the ultimate celebration of dark malts and boundary-stretching beer. 98 IBU 10.5% ABV

Dave: I ranked this beer in second place, and for a minute there it was a close call. There was a greater hop character apparent in this beer than the others, but not enough to be off putting. There were also the requisite malt complexities with hints of coffee, roast, chocolate and toffee. I’d like to grab a sixer of this beer and set it back for a few months. I think it might have given North Coast a run for first place if it had just a bit more age on it. But that wasn’t the beer we had in front of us, so Ten FIDY wound up in second. However, I would really like to try this beer on nitro. I think that might round off some of the sharper edges. If you see it around town on a nitro tap do yourself a favor and stop for a pint. Maybe I’ll see you there.
Would I Drink Another: Yes please. 
Dave’s Rank: 2nd
Jason: At this point in the tasting I was starting to doubt myself. I was afraid my nose was deceiving me. I smelled absolutely no roast and detected rubbing alcohol. The liquid coated the glass well enough but it wasn't nearly as thick as Beer #3. As I was drinking this I thought it would pair perfectly with a strong, stinky cheese. There was no hint of sweetness at all which does not lend to balance. Still find it acceptable to drink, just not want I expected. I make it sound unappealing but it was pretty solid.
Jason’s Rank: 3rd
Nathan: Now here are some hops to compete with all this malt flavor! Notes of black licorice and tobacco combine with the expected, but subdued, chocolate and roasted malt flavors. The amplified hopping sets this beer apart and adds to the layers of flavors at play here. Medium mouthfeel, not as thick as the other examples, with some burnt malt character in the finish. Very good beer, but clearly a notch below beer #2 in terms of malt complexity and refinement. Very close to beer #5 in my book, but the hop character pushes it past that beer into second place. 
Nathan’s Rank: 2nd
Tim: Guess the color! The pour had a low light chocolate brown head with a light malty, roast and earthy hop aroma. Very full bodied in the mouth feel, with good carbonation (even with the low head). To me the malt character came across as a little one dimensional, solid, but not very complex. There was both a smooth roast and chocolate notes as expected, with the roast  more prominent. A nice hop bitterness to support this beer, but little hop aroma. Could immediately tell that this was big beer as the alcohol was prominent, not hot or distracting. Overall a very solid beer, but the aroma did not have that in your face character that would be able to push it higher on my ranking. It came across as an extremely fresh, young beer, just out of the fermenter!
Tim’s Rank: 3rd

Beer #5: Bell’s Expedition Stout – One of the earliest examples of the Russian Imperial Stout in the United States, Expedition Stout offers immensely complex flavors crafted specifically with vintage aging in mind, as its profile will continue to mature and develop over the years. A huge malt body is matched to a heady blend of chocolate, dark fruits, and other aromas. Intensely bitter in its early months, the flavors will slowly meld and grow in depth as the beer ages. 10.5% ABV

Dave: Ranked in 4th place on my list, I was a bit surprised by the results. I’ve purchased and consumed Expedition more than once and enjoyed it greatly. But that is the benefit of not having a side-by-side comparison. When paired against the other beers in the flight, it just didn’t have the same delightful character as the others. However, let me take a moment to mention the relatively close ranking of the middle of our field. The beers in spots 2-4 were all very good and the competition was close. Ultimately, not everyone can get a trophy. There are in fact winners and losers (just like in the real world, kiddo) and one of the beers has to be in 4th place. This time around it was Bells Expedition. For me personally, there was a significant licorice flavor, and that’s not one of my favorites. Here again the beauty of this sort of blind tasting is that it’s completely subjective. We’re not scoring beers according to any style guidelines or handing out medals and fancy swag at the end. That gives us the freedom so speak clearly about the things we liked or disliked. Less licorice, more roast and I might have scored it higher on the list.
Would I Drink Another: Probably not.
Dave’s Rank: 4th
Jason: Roasty, sweet aroma with decent lacing around the glass. Almost has the same alcohol scent as Beer #4. Very earthy from the taste and once again all bitterness with no sweetness. I like my Russian Imperial to blend the roast of coffee and chocolate and not lean too heavily in one direction. I could almost mistake this for a black IPA if I didn't know any better. At first I was pretty adamant this was not a beer for me, almost thinking it was the worst of the group. However, after a lengthy rest and a warming of the glass I find myself returning to drink more and more. At the end, I would definitely buy this beer and put it on par with Beer #2 or #4.
Jason’s Rank: 2nd
Nathan: Very nice malt complexity: roasted notes, black licorice, coffee, and bitter chocolate. Low level of citrus hop character and medium lingering hop bitterness. Good carbonation level and very smooth with a nice touch of sweetness to complement the roasted malt character. Thick mouthfeel, good drinkability, and a nice balance between the malt character and hop bitterness. If this had a little more chocolate character and hop flavor, it would have been a contender for the top of my list. But we’re seriously nitpicking now – this is another excellent Russian Imperial Stout.
Nathan’s Rank: 3rd
Tim: Ok, they were all pitch black beers! This beer poured with a low dark tan head and had a rich malty nose with the roasted and chocolate character to support this. Not as bold as beer #2, but still very nice. Very full bodied, roasty, almost coffee like, with a very supportive hop bitterness and a malty, but dry finish. The beer did have a very pronounced alcohol warming, but was not hot. It was a little distracting at first, but with a little more time, this dies down and I believe just adds more complexity to the beer. This was another solid example, just needs some time!
Tim’s Rank: 2nd

And the results are in…….

To determine the overall results, we used a model where the lowest number of points would win (a 1st place vote = 1 point, a 2nd place vote = 2 points, etc). After tallying up the scores, our collective rankings determined the final order:

Fifth Place: Three Floyds Dark Lord (19 points)
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Fourth Place: Sierra Nevada Narwhal (16 points)
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Third Place: Bell’s Expedition Stout (11 points)
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Second Place: Oskar Blues Ten Fidy (10 points)
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First Place: North Coast Old Rasputin (4 points)

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And while it doesn’t count in the official rankings, our hostess “reveals” her favorite……

Poppi’s Pick: Bell’s Expedition Stout

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There are two big stories that came out of this tasting for me. First is the rediscovery of a wonderful beer in North Coast’s Old Rasputin. There was a stage in my craft beer drinking evolution where Old Rasputin was a beer I commonly sought out, and an Old Rasputin sign proudly hangs next to the pool table in our basement. But as the number of craft beer options has exploded, it’s very easy to get caught up in constantly trying new things and taking some of these old favorites for granted. I can’t remember the last time I purchased this beer off the shelf, but it certainly won’t take that long again. Along with the straight tasting results we always try to include cost analysis at the end of these because the highest ranking beers are often the most expensive. But at the relatively low price (for a Russian Imperial Stout anyway) of $10.99 for a 4-pack, this aspect only bolsters the case for Old Rasputin in this lineup.

But I suppose the real elephant in the room here is the performance of Dark Lord. It wasn’t the poorest performance of any beer we’ve had in these tastings (the dubious distinction for that belongs to Brooklyn Brown Ale), but it was definitely the most surprising. Reaction to the result may be summed up best in a note from Jason:

I was able to call out Beer #3 as Dark Lord as soon as I smelled it and it was only confirmed by the taste. It is amazing that a beer that I truly enjoy, when placed side by side with beers of the same category it could pale in comparison. The mystique of Dark Lord certainly draws its following, but in a "blind" tasting the simple fact that it could be labeled worst amazed me. Of course, in a pairing of five someone has to be a loser, but that beer? Shocked and amazed. Just proves that there are a lot of great beers in this world to enjoy.

Even with the consistently low rankings, opinions from the panelists about Dark Lord still varied somewhat. Jason and I noted certain qualities that impressed us, while Dave flat out wouldn’t finish his sample. But this ranking clearly came down to a consistent feeling among the panel that the high level of residual sweetness in Dark Lord hurt the drinkability and distracted from the positive qualities. Personally, I had tagged this beer as probably 3rd or 4th in the initial round where we taste them individually. But when compared side by side in a final lineup of this caliber, any notable flaw really stands out. And there’s no getting around it – when considering this beer as a value for your dollar, Dark Lord was a huge disappointment. But I’m not sure that’s even a controversial statement for people who really like this beer. You’re always paying a certain premium for the mystique and a memento of your experience at Dark Lord Day.

We shouldn’t forget about the rest of the lineup – Oskar Blues Ten Fidy and Bell’s Expedition Stout are exceptional beers. Bell’s Expedition in particular exhibits the type of character to suggest it could really be outstanding with some extensive aging. But at a slightly elevated price point, it’s still hard to recommend Ten Fidy ($15.99 for a 4-pack) or Expedition ($17.99 for a 6-pack) over Old Rasputin. Sierra Nevada Narwhal is a worthy value consideration at $10.99 for a 4-pack and will likely develop some of the lacking complexity with some aging.

But if you’re looking for a great Russian Imperial Stout to enjoy in the near future, we can’t recommend Old Rasputin strongly enough. Buy up a good portion of that beer and horde it for yourself. Save the Dark Lord for impressing your friends with rare beer.

Cheers, Nathan