Indiana Microbrewers Festival Review

The 18th Annual Microbrewers Festival wrapped up a huge week for Indiana craft beer, beginning with the Indiana Brewers Cup competition, and bridged by a boat load of special beer events during Circle City Beer Week. Our staff suffered through another long day of hanging out with friends and drinking great beer to bring you the following pictures and individual thoughts and beer picks. If you don’t see your favorite listed, give them some love in the comments below. Cheers!

gregsmall From Greg………….

A record was broken by 4:45 on Saturday, July 20, when over 6400 tasting glasses had been given out at Broad Ripple's OptiPark for the Eighteenth Annual Microbrewery Festival. Cooler weather and huge sampling selection seemed to have combined to pull people out to taste beer! A number of attendees commented that though there were plenty of people the lines did not seem ridiculously long and there were certainly plenty of samples to be had.

What stood out and what did I try? It is impossible to sample all so the best you can do is start with an idea of where you want to go and then keep asking others what they most enjoyed so far. With such a large venue it also is best to sample by area or by tent, and I regret that I did not make it back to a few breweries I missed. It helps when a brewer has a particular beer they want to share. Thanks to Dave Colt of SunKing for making sure I got some of the Lonesome Dove Barrel Aged Tripel! So let's start with that.

SunKing, (Indianapolis, IN) LoneSome Dove Barrel Aged Tripel. Spent months in the barrel and delivered vanilla and oak from the bourbon, initial sweetness that moved to a dry finish of the tripel. Absolutely delicious.

From the brewery that just won Brewery of the Year from the Brewer's Cup.

SunKing served a special beer every half hour!

Zwanzigz Brewery, (Columbus, IN) I just had to try two! I went for the Barrel Aged Ghost Chili Pepper Stout -- a triangulation of Imperial Stout with roast and toast + nice spice (not intense burn) from the world's hottest pepper + a solid taste of bourbon (not hot, but flavor). And a Barrel Aged Scotch Ale delivered the gentle sweetness of that beer style with the flavor of a rye barrel and came in at 13% abv. Holy scotch and rye, Beerman!

Against the Grain Brewery, (Louisville, KY) Boom Gose the Dynamite (yep, GOSE) -- German style Gose, Brewer Sam shared that this is his favorite from what is currently on tap down at the brewery delivering a very sessionable ("drink all afternoon") 4.2% abv beer brewed with wheat and barley, seasoned with pink salt, coriander, and hops and fermented with lactobacillus to give a slightly sour, slightly citrus delicious hot afternoon drink.

Destihl Brewery, (Normal, IL) Saint Dekkera reserve lambic sour single barrel spontaneously fermented, slightly sour, refreshing and highly interesting beverage.

Bare Hands Brewery, (Granger, IN) offered TEN beers. Mango Habenero 574, spice, fruit and lots of heat -- this baby really delivered on the Scoville units but with nice fruit flavor.

Just had to try the Bare Hands Mosaic double IPA and the triple performance (aroma, bittering, flavor) gives this single-hop IPA wallop of flavor. Mosaic delivers some citrus, some pine and some herbal and this beer showcases that well.

I've read some out of Chicago are now making tiny little Bare Hands, located in an industrial park outside of South Bend, IN, a destination for beer!

Flat12 Bierwerks (Indianapolis, IN), offered TWELVE firkins and barrels! Barrel Aged Pogue's Run Porter was my first choice, since I really appreciate this Porter it was interesting to see what the Corsair whiskey barrel brought to it with nice notes of vanilla, spice, and hint of leather to add to this roasty bier.

Though I don't like cucumbers the Flat12 Gin barrel aged Cucumber Kolsch was recommended to me. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this resulted in a bit of the Juniper berry and botanicals tangled with malty refreshment.

Sorry I did not get the Flat12 Cask Conditioned Brazilian Coffee Chipotle Vanilla Porter!

Iechyd Da! Brewing, (Elkhart, IN) The name means Cheers and is pronounced Yacky Da in Welsh but I went for one beer and was swayed by another! Afternoon Delight Rye PA was recommended to me by a beer connoisseur friend and it was spice, pine, and rye bread in a glass.

I originally stopped for the Iechyd Da Breakfast Cookies and Milk Stout. It did not disappoint, though a sweet stout.

Triton Brewing (Indianapolis, IN) French Toast Saison. You get maple syrup, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla and sugar sweetness on a biscuit malt using a replicale (old school) base! Thought I would not like it -- I did! I mean, come on! We've heard "beer, it's not just for breakfast anymore..." but seriously? Breakfast french toast in beer? That should not work! But it certainly did!

Figure8 Brewing (La Porte, IN) Brewer friend Mike Lahti offered his new Pirate's Pils which had a nice ibu bite to it and was very refreshing!

Thr3e Wisemen (Indianapolis, IN) Two Lucy's Blackberry Wheat, an interesting beer for a Summer day! A gentle taste of blackberry (from Oregon) come through in a surprising 6% beer. A beer I had not tried and was glad I did! By my count Omar, Keely, and crew walked away with at least 4 awards from Brewer's Cup this year!

Some Surprises!

Hunter's Brewing Company, (Chesterton, IN) Northwest Indiana has yet ANOTHER new brewery since February. I loved the name: Porter County porter (yes, they are in Porter County, IN) and I loved the roast and toast in a 4.5% beer from this newcomer. Operating a one barrel brewhouse, they offered only two beer, the second being a very nice Steel Town Girl saison where all spice flavor came from the yeast. They currently are running 9 taps at the brewpub. Owner/brewer Amy Gentry was very sociable and truly enjoyed chatting about this hobby-turned-vocation.

New Boswell Brewing, (Richmond, IN) has historic roots! The first tiny brewery in Richmond was apparently owned and run by Ezra Boswell, who learned brewing in England, brewed in North Carolina, and built a frame structure in Richmond, Wayne County, IN, about 1817. The NEW Boswell brewery was started as an entrepreneurship project via the I.U. East Center for Entrepreneurship as owner/brewer Rodrick Landess was getting a degree. The current establishment opened in Spring, 2010. Landess offered Maelstrom Imperial Stout with peat smoked malt and Maris Otter malt at 10% and the smoke flavor enthralled me.

Planetary Brewing, (Greenwood, IN) Another one of our newer nano breweries, was proudly serving their Apes#!t IPA -- which I will reveal I did not have time to try, but one festival attendee was so excited and going Ape.... well, you get the picture, so I thought it worthwhile (seriously, true story) to mention!

Broad Ripple Brew Pub (Indianapolis, IN) My last taste at this Microbrewer's Festival is perhaps appropriate for two reasons. First, it was from the ground-breaking BR Brew Pub. I mean we were in Broad Ripple, steps from the Brew Pub! John Hill brought the concept to the area back in 1990 and it flourishes today.

Second, this is a beer with a story! Each year the Brewer's Cup Homebrewer's Best of Show beer is eventually brewed at the BR Brew Pub (most locals just call it, "the Brew Pub")> In 2012 Homebrewer Shaun Kaus won Best of Show with a cream ale that was jalapeno infused. This Holla Jala Jalapeno Cream was my last sip. It offered a clean, crisp beer (as a cream ale should) and a solid flavor of the pepper, more than a hint in my opinion, a burn but not a big burn! This was the 3rd pepper beer I'd had at this Fest and I could recommend any and all three!

All in all a very nicely organized, never push-and-shove crowded, great meeting of great brewing friends supported by wonderful weather, wonderful sponsors, and the Brewer's Guild of Indiana. Just wish it was a 3-day event so we could sanely and soberly get to more great beers!

Thanks to all and 'next time' to those I did not get around to!

jake_small From Jake………….

After waking up to a dreary Saturday morning, the Microbrewers Festival ‘13 had better weather than the last couple.  I’ll take some light rain over 95 degrees every year.  This year the Brewers of Indiana Guild started the VIP Experience, and I grabbed one right away.  I had no idea what this was going to consist of, because no one had heard anything about it.  In the build up to the festival I was able to talk to a few people and get a feel for what this VIP tent was going to entail.  The basic idea was pretty good, a tented area to sit down, relax, and get some really rare beer.   An email was sent out explaining that there would be two tapping times for the VIP experience tent and that absolutely no one without the special VIP wristband would be let in.

So 2:50 hits and  my phone alarm goes off to let me know to start heading that way.  I got to the tent and the volunteers weren't quite ready to serve the beer yet.  To help you relax there was an air conditioned bathroom, and some light food pairings and fruit. Sadly I missed out on the food pairings, but the bathroom still had quite a bit of a line most of the time. After a brief wait of 5 or 10 minutes we were let in and got to sample from the first tapping of beers.  The food line grew very large so I headed to the beer line, naturally. With the relatively well available lineup of Brugge’s Peony, Three Floyd’s Dreadnaught, among others I was starting to doubt if the VIP experience was worth it at this point. A few pitchers to pre-pour the beer and some more chairs probably would have been nice, but otherwise the experience ran pretty well.  The five o’clock tasting had quite a few interesting beers.  The offerings included Triton’s Batch #1, Lafayette’s 14 year old Big Boris Barleywine, and a 4 year vertical of Shoreline’s Scotch Ale from ‘07 to ‘10.  All of these were great, however by far the best beer at the festival, and one of the best beers I’ve ever had for that matter, was Pappy Fog.  This batch of Sun King’s World Beer Cup gold medalist Belgian Quadruple was aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels and it is truly a spectacular beer.

I enjoyed the rest of the festival as well, with some entertainment provided by Flat 12’s cosmic bowling themed casks and Black Acre’s togas or maybe they were ghosts.  I missed out on most of Flat 12’s beers, even though I didn’t mean to, but Black Acre’s Coffee Cat was one of my favorite beers all day.  Sun King’s booth was tapping a new specialty beer every thirty minutes, which actually worked out quite well for them and it was great beer too.

After the five o’clock beers I would have to say that the VIP experience felt worth the money.  It certainly needs some improvements, but at the end of the day its all about the beer.  Congratulations to Clay, Rob and the rest of the Guild on a great festival and a big thanks to all the volunteers.

cooksmall From Jason………….

Despite my best efforts to infuse some sort of clever, witty opening commentary summarizing my experience at this year’s Indiana Microbrew Festival, I came to realize that this reflection will most likely end up mirroring my day of beer tasting. Looking back at the day, the breweries I visited, and the beers I sampled, the only word that accurately sums it all up is random.

Just about the only conscious decision that I recall making was to hit the Hopapalooza tent upon entering. Beyond that, just about every brewery visited was either the result of following a friend to where they were getting their next sample or just running out of beer and hopping into the closest beer line. Ok, where am I? Victory? I’ll try the Summer Love Blonde. Against the Grain? The Kentucky Ryed Chiquen sounds interesting.

The only negative thing about not having an itinerary is realizing that you missed out on a few favorites along the way. Not only that, but one of those favorites, People’s from here in good ol’ Lafayette, had a pretty kick-ass jukebox tapper featuring all of their #1 hits. Personally, I’m big on the Space Cowboy and Amazon Princess but, for this day, my randomness just didn’t find my feet taking me in their direction.

I will say this about my beer tasting exploits for this day, there were some damn fine beers for the tasting. I’m no beer judge and I’m not about to start breaking down specific characteristics that made the following list of beers enjoyable. So I’ll just say this and get on with the list; they were very, VERY enjoyable! So, in no specific order (I suppose that makes this….random?) I give you my IMF favorites for 2013.

  • Grapefruit Jungle IPA – Sun King
  • Black Note Stout – Bell’s
  • Doom 2013 Imperial IPA – Founders
  • Ghost Pepper Imperial Stout – Zwanzigz
  • Barrel Aged Strong Scotch – Zwanzigz
  • Saucy Intruder Rye PA – Black Acre
  • Plead the 5th Imperial Red – Crown
  • Mt. Lee California Common – New Albanian
  • Hop Head Red Ale – Green Flash

I really don’t have many other observations for the event this year. Rain stopped just in time and the temperatures were a welcome relief compared to last year. Everything seemed pretty crowded yet it never seemed like too long of a wait for your next tasty offering. Overall, couldn’t have gone much better from my perspective. Well done Brewers Guild, see you again next year.

kathleensmall2 From Kathleen………….

It's been two years since I last volunteered for the Microbrewers Festival. I've helped out at Winterfest and other events, but this festival is one of the biggest festivals put on by the Indiana Brewers Guild.

Being a volunteer gives me a different perspective on the festival, it also limits my drinking time. Let's start with my thoughts on the festival and wrap up with the fun stuff aka the beers I did get to try.

Overall, I thought this festival was one of the best ones. Things were more organized, chaos did not ensue.  I'm not sure if the VIP tent was a good new feature or not. None of the volunteers were allowed in and the people I helped checked in who paid the $100 to go to the VIP experience didn't seem to understand themselves what it was all about. (Which I found interesting considering how much they paid to be there). Lines this year at the booths weren't extremely long, even with General Admission roaming around, I'm not sure if that was due to not selling out or the brewers were just getting them in and out faster than before.

My only two thoughts / issues I had with the festival was first seeing around 5:30, with an hour and half left of the festival, that there were empty booths, or that most of the beer was out from the brewers. It was a mixed feeling to be happy that people loved certain breweries so much that they ran out of beer, but it was also sad that the breweries weren't more prepared for everyone to enjoy their beer. Secondly, and I know the Microbrewers festival is getting bigger and bigger, but I didn't like that all of the Indiana breweries were crunched into the Riverfront, the Lawn or the Allee and all of the distributors and out of state breweries had the free reign of the fields. I'd almost like to see if that could be flipped somehow. Or at least give more room to the Indiana Breweries instead of the out of state breweries.

Now.. Onto the Beer!

I didn't get to try everything I wanted. (I'm looking at you - Zwanzigz - with your Imperial Stout infused with Ghost Peppers), but I did get to a few ones and some that weren't on my list that I tried were great.

These are my highlights -

Great Fermentation - Berliner Weiss - I was surprisingly delighted by this one. If the lines weren’t crazy in the Alley I would've gone back for more.

Flat 12 Bierwerks - Brazilian Coffee/Chipotle/Vanilla Porter - This was on the top of my list to try. I think I'd like a little more vanilla than coffee, but everything blended together beautifully. So much so, that it was the only beer I took a picture of on Saturday.

Broadripple Brewpub - Jalapeno Cream Ale - This beer was interesting. Not on the original line up, but you get the cream first and then the jalapeno heat to follow. I felt like I was drinking a jalapeno popper.. (maybe they should add some bacon into the brewing process)

Hawcreek Brewing Co. - Wildberry Wheat - I really liked this one. I've had some fruit mixed wheats were the fruit kind of tastes heavy along with the beer, but this made it nice and light and not overpowering with the berry flavor.

Against the Grain - Boom Gose the Dynamite - a Sour, of course I was destined to like this one. It was my first choice

Black Swan - Sour Cherry - this is a cheat, I've had this a few times at Black Swan's Brewpub. Still delicious and tart everytime.

Brugge Brasserie - Harvey - I'm very happy that Brugge brought back Harvey. I still remember the first time I had it, back in 2011- First Annual Bloomington Craft Beer Festival. This beer is one of my loves. (which means I had multiple glasses of it)

I hope everyone had a great time at the festival, that you were nice to the brewers and volunteer staff, that you found a new beer to love or a brewery to follow and that you come back next year!

nathansmall From Nathan………….

The 18th Annual Indiana Microbrewers Festival was a nearly flawless event from my viewpoint. I know that’s a pretty boring opinion and the good people working behind the scenes could probably tell you 30 things that went wrong off the top of their head. But here’s what matters for an attendee: we got in quick, all the breweries we saw were setup and ready to roll, and we had great beer. Congrats to the Brewers of Indiana Guild, Hoosier Beer Geek, World Class Beer, and all the breweries and volunteers on another great event! They’ve been around this block a time or two and know how to put on a good show.

The Microbrewers Festival is a huge event, but with a completely different layout and feel than Winterfest. While things can get fairly crowded in “The Alley”, the massive outdoor layout never quite induces the same claustrophobic panic sensations as trying to walk down one of the main aisles of Winterfest at 4pm. The beer lines do get a little long, but I’ve seen worse at the Michigan Summer Festival and GABF. This year was also blessed with cooler weather that did not inflict the wrath of “swamp crotch” on attendees. However, as Poppi noted, this meant you weren’t sweating out all the liquid you consumed and lead to longer restroom lines.

Some random observations:

  • Browsed through the Zwanzigz website and could only find info about their pizza (which is supposed to be pretty good), and nothing about the brewery. They really need to start bragging about the beer! This is the one brewery that comes to mind who has consistently produced an unexpected standout (see picks below) at every festival in recent years.
  • It’s always a subconscious goal for me to hit breweries whose beer is not readily available in the Indianapolis area. The aforementioned Zwanzigz, along with Bare Hands, Crown, and Iechyd Da have been consistently impressive at these events. You can’t hit every brewery and Figure 8 (normally on this list) was one of my regrets this year, but fortunately their bombers have become more prevalent in better craft stores around the city.
  • While I don’t recall it interfering with any particular brewery I was determined to try, the number of breweries who shut down early was definitely more noticeable than I can ever recall. Do you blame that on poor planning or credit the insatiable thirst of our crowd?
  • I’d hate to be accused of promoting irresponsible behavior, but time management is critical if you have 2pm entry for this event. We spent way too much time holding empty glasses and talking with friends during that hour. You end up regretting that. There will be plenty of time for talking later while you’re standing in line.
  • If you buy a ticket for 3pm entry and for some reason feel it’s vitally important to show up at the gates before 2:00, don’t mix in line and try to sneak in early. It doesn’t work (I’m talking to you, couple who tried to enter in front of us). Better yet, spend a few more minutes at home with a good book and enjoy your Saturday. Staff will get you in efficiently if you show up a little later.

On to the beer picks……..

Nathan’s Pick of the Day: Zwanzigz Barrel Aged Scotch Ale – Intensely malty with a nicely balanced bourbon character, ridiculously smooth for a beer weighing in at 13.4% ABV.

Honorable Mention:

Against the Grain Citra Ass Down IPA
Bell’s Black Note
Black Acre Saucy Intruder (Rye IPA)
Carson’s Psycho Pagan (dry-hopped Pale Ale)
Crown Brewing 5th Anniversary Imperial Red
Daredevil Rip Cord DIPA
Iechyd Da Big Pit Porter
New Albanian Mt. Lee California Common
Oaken Barrel King Rudi Hefeweizen
Urban Chestnut Zwickel

Indiana Beer News: Circle City Beer News, Festival Tix and Tips, & more....

Circle City Beer Week is in Full swing with many local events!

Tonight, Thursday, July 18, is a Quad Tap Take-over at Tomlinson Tap Room in the City Market Building. Sixteen Beers from Four Indy Breweries: Flat12, Bier Brewery, Daredevil, and Fountain Square Breweries (4 beers each) starting at 5:00 PM. Tom Tap on the Web

Tonight, July 18, is Tails and Ales at the Broad Ripple Brew Pub 6-9, meet rescue dogs, your kids are welcome - to stop by, not to be rescued

Fountain Square Brewery taps Barrel Aged Dubbel (Dubbel Dog Dare) and Mounds Bar Porter tonight

Mass Ave Pub has a Flat12 Tap Takeover tonight

Mo's Irish Pub has Upland, SunKing, Triton Tap Takeover (3 taps each) starting at 7

Twenty Tap has SunKing Tapping of Poff the Magic Dragon at 6:00 tonight

Triton taps Headsplitter
Imperial IPA tonight at their Lawrence location

Tomorrow, July 19, LaMargarita, Fountain Square, hosts a Daredevil Brewery event with Lift Off IPA, Muse Belgian Golden Ale, Rip Cord Double IPA, and Vacation Kolsch + a PIN of Citra Dry Hopped Lift Off

Look for more events in your neighborhood beer bar or Brewpub!

SAVE MONEY -- TIX still available for the Indiana Microbrewer's Festival this Saturday, TIX Only $40 NOW in Advance at Broad Ripple Brew Pub, Crown Liquors, or ONLINE

Festival Highlights: An Excellent chance to check out the latest beers from the big winners of the Brewers' Cup last weekend: SunKing and Upland. Check out the Beers online at I will be looking for yet another taste of Zwanzig's Bourbon Barrel Aged Ghost Chili Peppers Stout, Black Swan's Cherry Wood Smoked Porter, Iechyd Da's Breakfast Cookie Stout, Bloomington Brewing's Award winning Rooftop IPA, RAM's Barrel Aged Final Countdown IPA, Thr3e Wise Men Two Lucy's Blackbeery Wheat and from out of state Destihl (IL) Saint Dekkara Reserve Sour Ale, + New Belgium's Transatlantique Kriek. All beers I've tried and enjoyed and want more of.

Enjoy! GregKitz

Cutter's Brewing Co.

Hard Working Beer

Cutter's Brewing Co.'s slogan says its it all. The team of  seven - from brewers, owners, and bottling team - are definitely working hard in their new home up on U.S. 36 Avon. 

Set back from the main street, you come up to Cutter's and see the gleam off their outside tanks. 
  The brewery may seem small at first, but Cutter's Brewing Co. has become one of the Circle City's top breweries. 

Thanks to my friend and packaging manager, Adam, I was able to pop into Cutter's after work a couple Friday's back and get a little tour of the place, talk to owners Monte and Chris and of course sample some great beer. (Straight from the tank) 

Cutter's - coming from the stone cutters - Brewing Co, started back in 2010 down in Bloomington, IN. Almost as a weekend hobby, the brewery was only available on tap to a few local bars. The demand out grew the supply and thanks to a good opportunity; Cutter's moved up to Avon in December 2012 to its new facility where it can brew up to 21,000 barrels! (current production is 8-12,000)

Since moving to Avon, the crew at Cutter's have hit the ground running. Bottling their core lineup -

- Monon Wheat - A Belgian Wheat
- Empire Stout - An Imperial Stout
- Floyd's Folly - A  Scottish Ale
- Half Court - An India Pale Ale
- Lost River - A Summer Ale

They first started self distributing to local liquor stores and bars and eventually joined and became one of the first craft beers distributed by an AB distributor which means faster delivery, more locations and eventually plans to share some Hoosier made - Hard Working Beer -with near by cities such as Chicago and Cincinnati. The growth and success of the brewery is a pleasant and welcome surprised. 

At the end of June, Cutter's started opening its doors to the public for samples, growler fills, keg fills and more. Their current "tap room" is set up right inside the brewery with the fermenters and mash tanks saying hello. (When you go, look at tank FV 4 - Chris, one of the owners designed it) Future plans do include a possible tap room, maybe a satellite tap room for growler fills and samples but for now all one has to do is follow the keg "brick" road to delicious, well crafted beer.

A stand out offering by the brewery is the new Beer Pouch. A 64oz foldable, container that makes it safe to store beer, is lighter than a regular growler and can go to any place that cans or glass are not allowed. Cutter's is the first brewery in Indianapolis to offer this to customers. 

They will be offering fills on "party pigs" and they offer home keg delivery for all your craft beer party needs.

So you know the history, you know where to get it, but what about the beer itself!
(I saved the best for last!)

Cutter's beer ranges from session beers to some high gravity ales (10% for Empire). All are simple, smooth and leaving you wanting more.  During my visit I had privilege of getting Monon Wheat off the tank and I'm telling you on a hot day, this beer was perfect. Next up was their Imperial IPA, Full Court. The flavors in this beer, a little citrusy from the citra hops, were well balanced and made this IPA smooth and creamy.

The rest of Cutter's beer lineup is also delicious. Recently I've had their new General Brown Sour and their Vanilla Bean Empire Stout.  I'm looking forward to the Empire Stout and Floyd's Folly that are hanging out in bourbon barrels as we speak. There are plans for a Bourbon Barrel Aged Vanilla Bean Empire Stout and some fruit infused varieties as well.

If you don't get a chance to pop over to the west side to visit Cutter's, don't worry they will be at the 18th Annual Microbrewer's Festival, Dig-In, and also hosting special tap takeovers around the state.  If anything, please pop into your favorite liquor store and pick up a six pack. You won't be disappointed.

A big thanks to Adam, Monte, Chris and the rest of the Cutter's Brewing team! I appreciate the time you took to show me around and talk to me about your wonderful beer!

Cutter's Brewing Co 
9973 U.S. 36, Avon, IN 46123
Hours: Fri - 1-6pm
Sat/Sun - 1-5pm

Behind the Scenes at Indiana Brewers Cup

For the 2013 version of the ever-popular Indiana Brewers Cup, a collection of brave souls came together to tackle the challenge of judging nearly 1300 homebrewed and professional beers in a span of 24 hours. As we adjust to steady growth in popularity, a few new changes were in effect this year. This was the first year an entry cap was in place with a limit of 900 homebrews and 400 commercial entries. While we did not actually hit the cap (despite what the registration system apparently told people at times), I believe the final tally brought us to around 880 homebrew and 370 professional entries. This still made it easily the largest Brewers Cup field yet with about 120 more homebrew entries. Second, there was a change in the way Brewery of the Year was determined on the professional side. Similar to the GABF competition, breweries were still free to enter as many beers as they wished but only 12 entries (of the brewery’s choice in advance) counted toward the points for Brewery of the Year. I thought this was a very positive change and ensured that everyone was on a level playing field regardless of brewery size, business model, etc.

I serve as the Chief Steward for this event, which basically involves a lot of bottle wrangling and checking paperwork since we attract so many repeat stewards who do an excellent job of working independently. There were a few hiccups along the way that test your ability to adjust on the fly. You don’t expect printer incompatibility issues in 2013. You don’t expect a last minute trailer cooler replacement that doesn’t have any source of light (see pic of Dave Lemen below). But once things were off the ground, everything went fairly smooth. I can’t say thank you enough to the community of organizers, judges, and stewards who pull this off every year. You don’t want to hear me whine about how much work is involved, but those who have been involved in the process understand that it’s no small task. So without further adieu, here are some highlights (or lowlights) captured in photos from Saturday followed by observations and insights on beer competitions and judging.

Upland Brewing is already well known for their sours which have earned Best in Show professional the past two years. So while it wasn’t a major surprise to see Caleb accept the award for the third straight year, it might be considered a bit of an upset that the winning beer was Helios Pale Ale. Sun King took home their first Brewery of the Year award in a very competitive race thanks to the new format. We had some unexpected national entries from breweries I’d never heard of including Blackberry Farm (Tennessee), Galveston Island (Texas), and Pateros Creek (Colorado). Besides strong performances from Sun King and Upland; perennial contenders Bier Brewery, Crown Brewing, and Oaken Barrel had another good year. Side note: If you’re in central Indiana and have never had a chance to try Crown’s beer, make it a point to do so at the Microbrewers Festival. You won’t be sorry.

On the homebrew side we had winners from brewers in states including Colorado, Louisiana, Texas, and Virginia (let’s just call them interlopers); but the Indiana brewers scored well again with a lot of different winners. Strong performances were turned in by consistently good brewers like Tom Wallbank, Chris Ingermann, and Brian Spaulding; while a few newcomers scored multiple wins as well. And some hack managed to work the name Poppi Rocketts into the list….which is awesome. While I should check my biases at the door, it was great to see my friend and occasional brewing collaborator Tim Palmer take this year’s Best in Show and Homebrewer of the Year awards. Make a big deal out of it if you see Tim, it will embarrass the hell out of him!

If you have not checked out the full results yet, they are now available here.

A few comments on the future of Indiana Brewers Cup and other homebrew competitions. The hobby of homebrewing has exploded in popularity and the number of brewers interested in entering competitions has followed suit. This creates a dilemma for competition organizers when the number of certified judges does not keep pace. This was particularly exemplified in this year’s National Homebrew Competition (NHC), the classic example of a no-win situation for the American Homebrewers Association. Despite taking the unprecedented step of limiting individual entries for the first time in history, demand for this competition created an insane rush of entries when registration opened. Aided by some system issues, this created a very frustrating experience for many would-be entrants. I’ve heard a variety of solutions for this, and none of them are perfect (before guaranteeing one entry per AHA member, consider there are still 40,000 members).

Some of the more popular competitions are going to have to decide how to balance allowing the maximum number of entries/participants with the quality of judging entrants will (and should) expect. NHC Regional sites cannot just accept an unlimited number of entries and ensure they will be judged by BJCP judges, nor can additional sites just be thrown together and staffed entirely by volunteers within a month. To handle the record number of entries, the Brewers Cup had to accept novice judges this year. Don’t take that the wrong way, our novice judges did a great job. But I know you homebrewers (I am you). If you get an unfavorable scoresheet from a novice judge, what’s your first thought going to be? What the heck is my point? Good question. 1) Expect to see more caps and various entry restrictions at larger competitions in the future. Try to understand that it just comes with the explosive growth of this hobby, and nobody intends it as a personal affront to you or your sure-fire winners. 2) If you want to help out, please consider working on your BJCP judge certification. You can find some info about exams here and Ron Smith’s Beer MBA class is a great place to start your studies if you’re local to central Indiana. 3) The good news is you can find a growing number of smaller competitions springing up in our region. These comps are often staffed by a large proportion of BJCP judges and you can receive excellent feedback if that is your main objective. You can find a list of upcoming competitions on the AHA calendar.

Cheers, Nathan

The following is commentary on beer judging from IB’s Greg Kitzmiller who served as a judge at the Indiana Brewers Cup……..

The Brewer's Cup, of the Indiana State Fair, has not only grown bigger each year but also grown better each year. Despite minor flaws, of the competitions I do or have judged this is truly one of the best organized and professional. What makes it solid? Judges are lined up well in advance; judges’ expertise are carefully considered. And if you are a home brewer (me too) you will be glad to know that while Nathan correctly reports novice judges had to be recruited still all beers are judged by judging teams and novices are paired with experienced judges. Another plus is that judges know in advance what styles they will be judging. While I often suspect what styles I will judge, knowing a couple of days in advance gives me a chance to pull some of the best examples of those beers, find some on draught, and read the style guidelines as I drink these examples. Yes, this year I literally opened more than one bottle, drank about 5 oz. and then eventually poured that out so I could focus my palate on another example -- all in the pursuit of giving that brewer the best advantage or the best attempt at judging their beer against some of the best.

The Brewer's Cup also draws some of the best judging talent in the Midwest. The top judges for the Kentucky State Fair or the Ohio State Fair and other major contests are here judging this one. I know judges come from all over the Midwest and I have judged with or enjoyed the company of many from Missouri, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio and more. Beyond just judges many of the stewards handling the beer, checking the temperature, pulling the bottles, pouring the beer into pitchers for professional categories are brewers and/or have done this many times before. Anita Johnson did an excellent job of inspiring so many for this competition and Mike Freeman, Nathan Compton, Tom Stilabower, and many others have done a great job of making this professional.

Many of you know what it is like to judge. But yesterday I was asked, "how you judge beer without being biased by what you like." There are two forms of answer. First, all BJCP trained judges are taught to carefully evaluate a beer. We don't have to love a particular attribute of a beer, but we should be able to recognize the attribute. Judges should recognize how the tongue perceives sweet, salty, sour, umami, and bitter. (In 2012 researchers at Washington University identified that the tongue also perceives fat, but that does not add to beer judging!) Thus, following carefully constructed guidelines for each style of beer, a judge can recognize and comment on distinct aspect of aroma, appearance, flavor and mouthfeel of a beer as well as general characteristics. The second aspect is that most of us volunteer to judge beers that we do appreciate often - although many experienced judges can and will judge any style and have learned to appreciate (perhaps not 'love') every style. For example, I am somewhat of a self described 'nerd' so when I am drinking a beer socially there are times that I pull out the style guidelines (or just remember them) and mentally judge that beer against those -- a bit like 'training' in any other setting. For the brewer entering his or her beer it means someone has gone to great extent to evaluate that beer carefully against a strict set of guidelines and with an experienced beer palate and beer knowledge.

What are some other downsides to beer competitions? First, on the plus side many if not most of the professional beers winning medals this year appear to be beers that you or I could actually have purchased from the brewery or at the brewpub. Yet, that is not always so. Commercial brewers are allowed to brew small batches for entry which means (and seems to happen with GABF) the beer that wins is not necessarily consumed by the masses drinking that brewers beers. Kudos to Indiana Breweries that received Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals for beers that we can find on the shelves or at their tapping room! Reviewing the list of winners it is clear if most, maybe all, were commercially available. Yet there is one other 'wrinkle.' Obviously if you were entering a car competition you would polish your car and if you drove to the competition you might spruce up that car a lot before judging. Likewise, brewers certainly bottle the beers at what they believe will be the ideal condition for judging in July. So I have actually judged beer where certainly I did not know what brewery it was from, but the score was so high (and I was judging with one of the top judges in the U.S.) that it became clear the beer I judged was a medal winner in that category. Some weeks later I happened to visit that brewery's retail facility (I am masking this to hide the brewery and will only reveal that it was in Indiana but not my hometown). It was clear to me, as well as to my table of experienced beer lovers, that the beer we were drinking that particular day was not the best that brewery had put out. Since then I've had many fine beers from that brewery. But a medal does not completely guarantee that the beer in your glass later is the same beer the judge tasted. Just as true of homebrewers of course. So take heart, if your score was low remember if the first line judges got a bottle that was not the best example for you, that score reflects that bottle. Even then, I have asked to pull and have often seen this when there is oxidation perceived, the 2nd bottle just to give that brewer a chance in case the one bottle suffered.

So for my friends that think beer judging must be the BEST possible hobby, I'd like to share with them some beers I've judged for which I really wished I did not have to take another swallow! On the other hand, given a choice I think I am very glad I get to judge beer and my hat is off to the swine judges! I'll stick with beer.

And the Winners Are.... Brewers' Cup competition news!

The Brewers' Cup of the Indiana State Fair has become one of the largest beer competition in the country and this year accepted nearly 900 entries from home-brewers and 400 entries from professional breweries. With judging July 12-13, this competition had its annual awards celebration last night, July 13 at the Indiana State Fair grounds.

Brewers in both the home-brew and professional categories won from as far away as Texas! Even though this event is proudly sponsored by and featured within the Indiana State Fair we are quite pleased that it has become a national competition. Three of our bloggers have been busy at work with Nathan Compton, webmaster, an event organizer while I, Greg Kitzmiller, judged for the 6th or 7th year and Jake Keefer was kept busy judging this year also. A quick comment: I've judged for the Kentucky State Fair and the Ohio State Fair and while nice competitions, neither are near as big the Brewer's Cup.

You will find major blogs here including photos during this next week with in depth coverage. However, here is a(n) (Unofficial- based on my notes) list of winners from this years Brewers' Cup.


Professional Brewery of the Year: SunKing Brewery, Indianapolis, IN

Professional Best of Show Beer: Upland Brewery, Bloomington, IN

Home Brew Brewer of the Year: Tim Palmer, Foam Blowers of Indiana Club

Best of Show, Home Brewer: Tim Palmer, Indianapolis (FBI)

Homebrew Club of the Year: Foam Blowers of Indiana

Special Mention for our own Nathan Compton, homebrewer, beer officianado, and our webmaster/blogger won 3 awards

The GOLD (1st place) Awards by Category;

Professional Brewers:

Light Lager: Brickstone Brewery, Bourbonnaise, IL, 557 Light Lager

Pilsner: Bells Brewery, Kalamazoo, MI, Lager of the Lakes

European Ambers: Thr3e Wisemen Brewery, Indianapolis, IN

Dark Lager: Upland Brewery, Bloomington, IN, Schwartz Bier

Bock: SunKing Brewery, Indianapolis, IN, Maibock

Light Hybrid: Twisted Crew Brewery, Seymour, IN, Red Rye

Amber Hybrid: G'Town, Galveston, TX

English Pale: Upland Brewery, Bloomington, IN, Helios Pale

Scottish and Irish: Half Moon Brewery, Kokomo, IN, Stoplight City Red

American Ale: Triton Brewing, Indianapolis, IN, 4-barrel Brown

English Brown: SunKing Brewing, Indianapolis, IN, Wee Mac

Porter: Bier Brewery, Indianapolis, IN, Dread Brown

Stout: Crown Brewing, Crown Point, IN, Celtic Pride

IPA: Bloomington Brewing Company, Bloomington, IN, Rooftop IPA

German Wheat and Rye: Oaken Barrel Brewing, Greenwood, IN, King Rudi Hefe

Belgian and French: Oaken Barrel Brewing, Greenwood, IN, Alabaster Wit

Sour: SunKing Brewing Company, Indianapolis, IN, Stupid Sexy Flanders

Belgian Strong: Sunking Brewing Company, Indianapolis, IN, Velvet Fog

Strong Ale: Crown Brewing Company, Crown Point, IN, Squatch

Fruit Beer: Lakefront Brewing Company, Milwaukee, WI, #22

Spice/herb/vegetable beer: RAM Brewery, Indianapolis, IN, Anaheim IPA

Smoke beer: RAM Brewery, Indianapolis, IN, Barrel Aged Final Countdown

Specialty Beer: Upland Brewing Company, Bloomington, IN, Rye So Serious

HOMEBREW: MY APOLOGIES in advance for completely messing up some names!

Light Lager: Chris Ingerman

Pilsner: Tim Palmer

European Ambers: Tom Wallbank

Dark Lager: Tim Palmer

Bock: Charlie Milan

Light Hybrid: Jeff Jennings

Amber Hybrid: David Bordenkecher

English Pale: Brian Spalding

Scottish and Irish: Tim Palmer

American Ale: Brian Pickerell

English Brown: Lloyd Chatham

Porter: Brent Johnson

Stout: Brian Imbrusia

IPA: Brady Smith

German Wheat and Rye: Keith & Pam Bradley

Belgian and French: Dwayne DeLaney

Sour: Tom Wallbank

Belgian Strong: Ken Shannon

Strong Ale: Tom Wallbank

Fruit Beer: Alex Robertson

Spice/herb/vegetable beer: Brian Imbrusia

Smoke beer: David Murz

Specialty Beer: Lee Frisk

Note: Corrections and editorial content will be published later this week!