My Journey through Stone Vertical Epic Part 1

From a personal perspective, I discovered craft beer fairly late in the game.  It took several treks to a favorite establishment to broaden my palate and fully enjoy all that micro brewers had to offer.  As such, I stumbled upon Stone Brewing and their Vertical Epic Ales well beyond the start of their adventure.

Stone is not known for modesty.  If you buy any of their beers you can see their ego printed directly on the label.  They are more brazen than my current champion Three Floyd's but their beer definitely can hold up to their claims.

For more detailed information from the brewery themselves, feel free to visit their own telling of Vertical Epic.  My own experience is limited as I was not able to get the full series.

I first obtained Vertical Epic in a rare beer sale at Wise Guys Liquors in Merrillville, IN.  They held a lottery for rare beers with Founder's CBS being the prized get.  These Vertical Epics from Stone Brewing were actually just filler.  I walked away from this sale with a 2006 and a 2008 and a journey to discover others.  At the time of this sale (2011) and up to the point eBay decided to stop selling alcohol related collectibles, a bottle of 2002 Vertical Epic, the first year of brewing (brewed on 02/02/02), was selling for $2,000.  I obtained 07/07/07 and 10/10/10 fairly cheap from eBay, 11/11/11 from the aforementioned Wise Guys Liquors, and a friend bought 12/12/12 when it was released.  Thanks to Bob O. of IndianaBeer, I got 03/03/03 because I asked nicely.

My goal was to take my 03, 06, 07, 08, 10, 11, 12 and ring in the New Year with friends.  I apparently need a new group of friends because no one was drinking craft beer that night but me.  This was definitely problematic because all of these beers are in bombers and have a fairly high alcohol content.  But, without further ado, here we go.

03/03/03 - 9% ABV
Tasting notes from Stone:
  • Appearance - Brown, slightly hazy with sediment, creamy head
  • Aroma - Dried fruit, malt, bread, wheat, bananas, spice, coriander, grains of paradise, toffee, mild oxidation
  • Taste - Really malty, molasses and caramel, hints of coriander, trace of grains of paradise, candy sweetness, some sherry-aged notes, tart wheat, some oxidation
  • Palate - Creamy, smooth, lingering bitterness, finishes dry, medium-full body, good carbonation
  • Overall - Showing a little more oxidation, aged nicely and drinks well
Wilk's Take: I defer to my IndianaBeer brethren to dissect what that means, because to me, I don't understand any of it.  I've never tasted grains of paradise and couldn't begin to know where that begins.  Bananas? Wheat? Toffee?  That's a stretch.  Just think sweet and you're there.  Who am I to argue with the brewers about how they reflected on their ale?  No one of any consequence for sure.  The only thing I can offer to this ale is that it reminded me exclusively of barleywine and it was a great way to start the evening's festivities.

06/06/06 - 8.66% ABV
Tasting notes from Stone:
  • Appearance - Dark mahogany, tan foam, nice clarity
  • Aroma - Roasted chocolate, complex dark malt, phenolic yeast notes, smoke, pepper, spice, light cocoa, caramel
  • Taste - Christmas spices, molasses, slightly smoky, phenols, cocoa and dark fruit
  • Palate - Crisp, creamy, medium body, good carbonation, a little sweet
  • Overall - One-dimensional, pronounced yeast characters
Wilk's Take: My personal experience has always led me to believe that if chocolate is on the nose in the beginning, it will be there throughout.  Roasty notes were to be expected so I was glad they were there.  This was a perfect beer for the season, which begs the question why it was brewed in June?  This beer could compete with Great Lakes Christmas Ale.  It would lose, but it could compete.  As you can see, two bombers in with both registering around 9% ABV.  I was starting to feel it in my knees. 

07/07/07 - 8.4% ABV
Tasting notes from Stone:
  • Appearance - Deep gold, some hazing, subtle carbonation
  • Aroma - Ginger, lavender, jasmine, cardamom, strong fruit, citrus peel
  • Taste - Ginger, very floral, some citrus, a little botanically bitter, sweet, spices, hint of yeast
  • Palate - Dry, bitter, some creaminess, smooth
  • Overall - Aged nicely, spices are more dialed in and well-blended, great summer beer
Wilk's Take: The overall comment was spot on, this was a great summer beer being consumed on December 31.  Not the first time I've had an off season beer.  It was a refreshing twist in the chapter after finishing off the 06/06/06.  The floral scents dominated every drink in your nose but did not diminish the flavor of the spices on your tongue.

That was all I could take that night.  I had to stop because there was no way I could continue on this path alone.  I am finishing the series this week and will write a follow up next week.

Beers, Cheers, and Sneers – March 24th

Welcome to spring! March 25th is the official release date for Bell’s Oberon, which is either the worst or greatest timing ever depending on your perspective. So after you’ve dug out from a foot of snow, here are the official release party locations for Monday morning/night (see Bell’s event page for Indiana for additional events later in the week): phil-lied

Bloomington Yogi's Bar and Grill 6-8pm
Bloomington The Tap 8pm
Elkhart Sauk Trail on 17 Smokehouse & Grille 5pm
Fort Wayne Dicky's Wild Hare 5pm
Granger Tilted Kilt 5pm
Indianapolis Mousetrap Bar midnight Sunday
Indianapolis The Aristocrat Pub 5-9pm
Indianapolis Mass Ave. Pub 5pm
Mishawaka Buffalo Wild Wings 5pm
Mishawaka The Gallery Sports Pub 6pm
Muncie The Heorot midnight Sunday
Plymouth Pizza Bill's 5pm
South Bend O'Rourke's Public House midnight Sunday
South Bend Brothers Bar and Grill 5:30pm

Oskar Blues Brewery is reportedly in talks with distributors for expansion into the Indiana market with a target launch of late spring/early summer. If you’re not familiar with Oskar Blues, they specialize in big, hoppy craft beer in a can. That probably sounds unremarkable at this point, but they were one of the pioneers in challenging the notion that canned beer had to be cheap in both price and flavor. My first experience with the brewery occurred when stopping off at a Colorado liquor store before the 2006 Great American Beer Festival. I hesitated with the clerk recommended Dale’s Pale Ale as a great local choice for a thirsty traveler. Good beer in a can? Inconceivable! But that choice led to a habit of stashing cans of Dale’s Pale, Old Chub, Ten Fidy, and (my personal favorite) Gordon in airline luggage during subsequent trips within their distribution network. Now Oskar Blues is canvassing our region with recent launches in the Ohio, Chicago, and Michigan markets. Who will be next? I’m looking at you Lagunitas.

Fountain Square Brewing is back with another Peep Show event and Miss Poppi was not invited to perform. No, Fountain Square’s version of a Peep Show commissions local engineering talent to design gadgets capable of shooting full-sized Peeps. Kind of like a Punkin Chunkin event for people with real lives. Which is a great approach if you enjoy a good sausage fest. I kid…I kid…it will be a lot of fun. The event takes place on Friday, March 29th at 7:00. Visit the Fountain Square registration page to claim your spot in the competition.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed a bill that legalizes homebrewing in Mississippi, which is nice since an estimated 2200 citizens are doing it anyway. Mississippi now becomes the 49th state to allow homebrewing, and we’re proud to say this is one area where Indiana was a bit ahead of the curve. What about the 50th state? Well, a homebrewing bill in Alabama was removed from the special order calendar when politicians decided to be politicians and ground business to a halt due to other disagreements. Which means Mobile County prosecutor Keith Blackwood is still a criminal for posting his homebrewing exploits on Twitter. C’mon Keith – illicit affairs and laundering campaign contributions might be standard operation procedure, but keep your Berliner Weisse out of the public domain!new-england-668-neighbor

Some news on beer and rock and roll. Iron Maiden will partner with Robinson’s Brewery to create Trooper, a 4.7% ABV premium British ale with Bobec, Golding, and Cascade hops. Maiden fans searching for a Belgian Golden Strong will still have to settle for the slightly less-Satanic 668 Neighbor of the Beast from New England Brewing. 

I don’t often have a good excuse to link one of my favorite internet haunts in this column, but the fine folks at picked up on the collaboration between Three Floyds and thrash metal band Municipal Waste. The new Toxic Revolution ale is a massive Oatmeal Stout perfect for winter shred sessions. And being a new beer from Three Floyds, it’s probably also perfect for the hallowed Viking quest of online beer trading.

Tip of the cap to People’s Brewing of Lafayette for their participation in a project to conserve the important ecosystem of Mulvey Pond in Tippecanoe County. The land was purchased by NICHES Land Trust and several local businesses, including People’s, are assisting with tree planting and the construction of a visitor platform. The platform will offer views of local and migratory waterfowl including snow geese and sandhill cranes.

Some timely new statistics are in from the Brewers Association following our recent piece on craft beer growth. For the full year of 2012, craft brewers achieved a 15 percent increase in sales volume and a 17 percent increase in dollar growth. These numbers balance out pretty well with an 18 percent increase in the number of U.S. operating breweries. The numbers for 2013 should be pretty interesting as the Association expects new breweries to open at an even higher rate.

As the power struggle between craft brewers and big brewers rages on, a grocer in Chicago scores one for the little guy. Garden Gourmet Market is working on a deal to obtain a liquor license in the mostly dry East Village. The catch? Garden Gourmet could only sell beer produced by craft brewers. While the results look pretty good, selling the idea that Garden Gourmet’s customers are professionals who aren’t interested in hard liquor or “40s” might not help the stereotype of craft beer as an elitist pursuit. On the opposite end of the spectrum, MillerCoors struck back with an exclusive agreement for product placement in all original TNT and TBS shows. There should probably be a joke here, but I can’t name a single original series on either of those networks. And the Ommegang Brewery already claimed Game of Thrones, so maybe we should score two for the little guy in this case.beer_beard

The coveted Best Beard of Craft Beer award went to Chili of Stone Brewing. Never mind the fact that Chili isn't even a brewer (he is Stone’s groundskeeper and gardener), I suppose going by the single moniker Chili earns you some bonus cool points. I can only assume the guy to the right would be a serious contender if his choice in beer were improved.

Cheers and Hoppy Easter, Nathan


Great Lakes Brewing Company

About two weeks ago I decided to pop over to Cleveland to cross off an item from my lifetime bucket list, visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!

Like so many other beer lovers, before I went on my trip, I searched for nearby local breweries and came across Great Lakes Brewing Company. Ohio's First Craft Brewery, and coming up on it's 25th anniversary, I thought it'd be the best place to visit for dinner on my first night in Cleveland.

Great Lakes Brewery at Night

Great Lakes BrewPub
Getting in late on a Friday, I wasn't able to tour the brewery itself, but across the street there is a Great Lakes Brewing Co gift shop and pub with multiple level dining rooms and dark English style pub/bar in the basement.  The whole brewpub is general is dark wood paneled, dimly light, the majority of the glow is from the fermenters in the middle of the dining room keeping the guests company.

I have only had one beer from Great Lakes Brew Co before. It was the Edmund Fitzgerald Porter that I found a bottle of at a party store in Cincinnati, so I decided to order a flight to sample them all. 12 - 3oz samples of the entire line available.
Drink responsibly - I will say, some of the poor beers were left in the glass

This is the beer left to right from above. The two in the front were the Midwest Lager on the left and the Ohio City Oatmeal Stout on the right. 
 Along with the flight I had a cup of clam chowder and the ribs that had a Edmund Fitzgerald Porter BBQ sauce. Some of the beers went great with this combination, some not so good. But let's get into the beer!
Below is my run down thoughts,  beers and yes, I even ranked them afterwards.

Midwest Lager - Made with Mosaic hops - which are known for their blend of floral, tropical, fruity characteristics. This started out creamy and smooth like a regular lager and finished with a profile more related to an IPA. It was good in an interesting way.

Ohio City Oatmeal Stout - Named after the local area that the brewery is located in Cleveland, this oatmeal stout had a slight dry, roasted chocolately taste.

Starting from the right side and going back (Yes, I should've gone from light to dark, but I rinsed with water) 
Cream Ale - This ale had no aroma, very light in color. Drinkable and smooth. A very easy beer to pair with anything, went especially well with the clam chowder. I think of cream ales as a sit on the porch, drinking lots of beer kind of beer.
Alberta Clipper -  A winter porter brewed with belgian chocolate and raspberries. I was really looking forward to this beer. I was hoping it'd be good enough to be after dinner "dessert", but the flavors were really mild. It was a bit of chocolate and a tiny taste of the tart raspberries.
The Wright Pils
The Wright Pils - I was impressed. This was very clean and crisp. Finished a a little dry, but was definitely an instant hit with me.
Conway's Irish Ale - A mix of smooth and bitter, which confused my tongue because I was expecting more smooth. Where the pilsner before hand was a hit, this irish ale wasn't.
Alchemy Hour Double IPA - I could smell and taste quite clearly the nugget hops in this this IPA. It was very interesting because as the beer went in my mouth it seemed to blossom in flavor. Some sips were a little overpowering at the end than others, but overall it was very well rounded.

From the left to the right (I kind of feel like I'm in the middle of a line dance song right now)
Edmund Fitzgerald Porter - This beer paired with the ribs that had the beer infused in the BBQ sauce wasn't a good choice. Made a porter actually taste bitter. Alone though, it was a very nice, roasted robust porter. Which reminded me of IB's most recent Robust Porter blind reviews (did you see what I just did there)
Commodore Perry IPA - The description claimed this beer had more of a fruity taste, but really it had more of a floral hop profile.  Unlike the Alchemy which blossomed and was wonderful, the Commodore Perry IPA was a little flat.
Burning River Pale Ale -  This ale was smooth, creamy. Still held a cascade hop flavor. It reminded me slightly of Goose Island's Matilda.
Eliot Ness Amber Lager -  This one was perfect with the ribs plus malty and creamy. (if you couldn't tell, I once I got to this beer which was my 11th beer, I was running out of words. )
Dormunder Gold Lager - Light, smoother. No sneaky bitterness a little more heavier than the Eliot Ness, but very drinkable and would order many more of these.

My overall rating of the flight was:
1. The Wright Pils
2. Eliot Ness Amber Lager
3. Dormunder Gold Lager
4. Midwest Lager
5. Alchemy Hour Double IPA
6. Burning River Pale Ale
7. Ohio City Oatmeal Stout
8. Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
9. Cream Ale
10. Alberta Clipper
11. Conway's Irish Ale
12. Commodore Perry IPA

It was a lot of fun to taste, and eat and try the round up again. I did finish up the glass of The Wright Pils. Thanks to the gift shop next door I was able to take home a mix 6 pack with 2 Wright Pils, 2 Eliot Ness Amber Lagers, 1 Dormunder Gold Lager and 1 Alchemy Hour Double IPA along with getting somethings to add to my collection.

If you are in Cleveland, I definitely stop by. There is another brewery near by called Market Square brewery and a bar called Bier Markt that has at least 12 Belgian styles on tap year around. Oh, and also the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a good place to go as well.

Unfortunately Great Lakes Brewing Co beer is only distributed in parts of Northern Indiana, maybe one day it'll be found all over, but Ohio isn't too far to pop over and pick up some or head up north!

Thanks for reading,


25 years ago, Brooklyn Brewery started; a guide to Brooklyn beers

When most of us think of Brooklyn Beer, we think of Brooklyn lager. Yet as we celebrate their 25th anniversary, there is so much nore. The Brooklyn Lager is the iconic beer that neighbors Steve Hindy and Tom Potter brewed to open Brooklyn Brewery in 1988. While Brooklyn Lager was contract brewed at first, they originally commissioned a 4th-generation German brewmaster for the recipe and facmous Milton Glaser (the "I love New York" logo) for their label. By 1994, BrewMaster Garret Oliver joined the mix. If Garret had not already created enough notoriety, in 2003 he published The BrewMaster's Table . On March 20, Brooklyn will celebrate their Twenty-Fifth Anniversary!

Many of us don't explore Brooklyn's craft beer often. But there are wonderful options beyond Brooklyn lager!

Brooklyn Pennant, a nod to the Brooklyn Dodgers, is a nice English pale ale, with a balance of malt and hops. Do not compare this to an American pale, think of an almost bready and yeasty Maris Otter start with a hop notes at the end from 4 hops. One of their regular perennials.

Brooklyn Blast which we find on tap now. At 9% ABV this beer gives you 9 hops for a"blast" of complex hop flavor. This one could be a sleeper because we taste the complex citrus, spicy, even some resin tones without packing a big hot punch.

Moving to the seasonals:
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout - I love this winter/spring beer. Absolutely opaque, black, that starts with chocolate and finishes like dark toast! at 9% this warms on the cold Brookly or Indiana (or Irish) night! As of this writing I can still find 4-packs around and I most recently had it on tap again.

Brooklyn Monster Ale. The Monster is 10% abv. Evaluation of this beer is linked with the age. The ale is brewed with 3 mashes of heirloom British malt but includes Willamette, Cascade, and American Fuggle hops. My most recent sample on tap was fresher with copper color, warming and some light breadiness, a taste of the alcohol, and some caramel. Brooklyn ages this beer for 4 months but evaluations of older bottles and posted tasting notes of vintage kegs reveals this beer becomes somewhat more complex with age.

Brooklyn Sorachi Ace: This beer may be most unique because it allows almost no classification. Focusing on a combination of the Sorachi Ace hops developed in Japan (now from Wash. state) with Belgian yeast this makes a most unusual farmhouse ale. It provides lemongrass, a little lemon citrus, and a bubbly delight.

Brooklyn Local 1 I can drink this over and over.... A "Belgian style" bottle fermented beer with German malt plus cane sugar. High carbonation, medium body, sweetness with just a hint of hop IBU at the end and the Belgian quality that some call "bubble gum" Great as a beer to relax with and savor.

And beers we can't get, maybe ever again, but leave me desiring more future specialty releases!
Brewemasters Reserve beers are draft only, seasonal usually one-time introductions:

Brooklyn Gold Standard Export. This was a 2012 release in kegs and thanks to both Andrew of Brooklyn and Nathan of The Tap for finding a rare keg. This unfiltered kellerbier with floor-malted Bohemian barley has the New Glarus yeast strain (yep, not a collaboration except for NG giving Brooklyn some yeast) and German hops. Garret claims this should remind us of a beir-garten, and it certainly went that way for me! Prost!

Brooklyn Fiat Lux ("let there be light"). I am afraid to say wit, because it is "wit inspired" NOT a wit. Starting with Madsen White winter wheat, German perle hops, lime peel, corriander and 'magic' gave this beer a wonderful summer tasted and of my specialty samplings of about 10 Brooklyn beers over 2 days, this is one of my top 2 favorites. I'll be looking to see what the Brewers follow this with in 2013!

Okay, my favorite.
Brooklyn Black Ops! I LOVE bourbon barrel stouts. Each year this one varies just a bit. the most recent was 10.7% A Russian Imperial stout only 1000 cases are released each year. Bottle fermented with Champagne yeast and aged abot 4 months in the wood this complex beer has big bourbon aroma with vanilla and oak leading to chocolate plus dark fruit and finishing almost like sweet coffee. This is a beer that I would rather sip than write about. I discovered with Garret's help that this beer can warm to room temperature and deliver a wonderful complex flavor! Likely because of the yeast this finishes a bit light compared to most RIS and has just a tad less body than most.

Happy Anniversary to Steve Hindy, Tom Potter, Garrett Oliver and Brooklyn Beer. May I be able to drink your beer for 25 more years!


Greg Kitz

special thanks to Andrew Maxon of Brooklyn Brewing and to Garrett Oliver himself for sharing!

Another Dark Lord Day?

Oh yeah, I volunteered for it.  I didn't volunteer, I set up my laptop right next to my desktop and loaded the ticket site for Dark Lord Day on both at approximately 11:45am Central Daylight Time.  I frantically hit refresh on both as the minutes approached: 11:56, refresh; 11:57, refresh; 11:59, refresh. 12:00, here we go!

The Facebook brigade was in full force today.  First, Three Floyd's didn't post the ticket sales link in their status until 11:57am.  Honestly, if you were on Facebook waiting for that to appear you were not going to secure tickets.  The bevy of comments that ensued spanned from, "I got mine" to "FTS!"  But this is what Three Floyd's does, this is what it has been doing as of late.

At 12:49pm the Facebook status indicated tickets finally sold out.  Of course, after I secured a pair on the laptop I tried for a pair on the desktop and not a single group had a ticket available.  This was at 12:03pm.  Server problems? Sure.  However, if you didn't time that refresh just right, you were screwed.

The ticket sales medium that Three Floyd's has chosen does have issues, but I can't think of a fairer process, especially now that they are trying to affix the purchaser's name to the ticket and will be checking identifications at the door.  But the major flaw in this year's ticket sales was the missing Group A.

Upon entering the screen to buy tickets, any chance at selecting Group A was gone.  I know there are people who bought these tickets online, but the option was never presented to me.  I really didn't think of it at the time because the brewery does a very good job treating their ownership and VIPs so I just assumed that these tickets were reserved for them.

The ticket distribution system is set up like you're going to see a concert.  I complain a lot about Three Floyd's, but in this regard there is no suitable alternative.  If you insulate yourself and just sell tickets to the local patrons you isolate your brand and it might not have become the global phenomenon that it is.  But if you open the availability to the masses, the surest way is selling the tickets like any band performing in concert.  Here's your chance, good luck!  So you've been to 9 DLDs in a row but now your screwed.  Get over yourself.  Heaven forbid you share in your good fortune for nine years and let someone else try a beer that is one of the best in the country.

The one downfall is admittance onto the grounds.  Although I was lucky to get Group B tickets, I know I will be resting on the pavement in the early A.M. that morning because getting into the brewpub is half the battle.  All ticket holders are welcome at 10am, regardless of group.  Last year I had Group A and by the time we made it into the festivities and in line to purchase the beer, we had a half hour left in our buying window.  So this year, more of the same.

I am a seasoned veteran by now and am prepared for all Dark Lord Day entails.  My friends secured their tickets with little hassle as well so it should make for a good post in the future.  I promise I'll try to be more positive this time around.

If you are reading this, please leave a comment.  I want to know the most outrageous thing you've done for a beer (could be dollars spent, distance traveled, etc.).  You must leave a comment with your full first and last name with a valid email address.  The week before DLD (April 21st) I will consult with IndianaBeer staff and we will pick a winner.  The winner will receive their choice of Baller Stout, 2012 Dark Lord, or 2013 Dark Lord.  I know they might not be the rarest beers, but they are the ones I have at my disposal.

Upland on April 6th brings to life famous Indiana Champagne Velvet beer

A beer brand that was once one of the more prominent brands in the United States will literally roll down the streets of its former hometown on April 6th, as a horse-drawn beer wagon delivers Upland's Champagne Velvet, the beer with the Million Dollar flavor, to 3 notable Terre Haute pubs as Upland Brewing starts the celebration of its 15th anniversary. Just fifteen years ago Upland Brewing came to life in a small brick building near downtown Bloomington, Indiana. Yet, 109 years before the establishment of Upland, the seed of one of the nation's great early beers was born as The Terre Haute Brewing company was formed in a brick building near downtown Terre Haute, Indiana. In 1900, before prohibition, Terre Haute Brewing was one of the largest breweries in the U.S. By 1901 to 1904 they had Champagne Velvet Brand which was eventually distributed in 48 states. (citing our own Bob Ostander, in the book "Hoosier Beer") Indeed, Champagne Velvet, or CV as it is known by old-timers, was Indiana's biggest and best known beer for years.

The accomplishments: Upland Brewing President, Doug Dayhoff, told us they wanted a major beer introduction for the brewery's 15th anniversary and they were quite pleased to add the Champagne Velvet label to Upland. “We’re heading into our 15th year of operation on the heels of a massive brewery expansion, and the next few years are going to be very exciting,” said Upland's Dayhoff. “We think the best way to celebrate the success that so many local breweries are having is by paying tribute to the most successful beer in Indiana’s history.” Quite a year it is for Upland with the revival of Champagne Velvet, a new Tap Room coming online in Carmel, IN, major expansion into Ohio and beyond, and continuing the other brewing tradition Upland has adopted as a major brewer of sours with Kiwi and Persimmon being released soon, yet this Spring.

The beer:
I had a chance to taste test batches of Champagne Velvet in January and then sample a bit from the fermenter just recently. With a nod to its past at 30% corn grain the beer will be bright and modern and has been taste-tested with bartenders and consumers. This German-inspired lager uses traditional German yeast strains and Tettnang hops but will be light on the bitterness. There was a brief revival of the brand more than 10 years back by a Terre Haute entrepreneur who claims to have found a recipe from the assistant brewmaster from 1901, yet that recipe was not a complete brewing mashbill and ingredients have changed in over 100 years. The Upland Brewing Crew including Peter Batule, VP of Brewing operations, Patrick Lynch, Brewer and Matt Wisley, Asst. Brewer, went to work perfecting just the right brew to bring back the label but with an appeal to today's beer drinker.

The arrival:
The horse-drawn beer wagon will first stop at Sonka Irish Pub,1366 Wabash Ave, in Terre Haute about 3:00 PM on April 6. The parade then continues to The Copper Bar, 810 Wabash Ave, which itself originates from 1895. After the tappings at these establishments the beer wagon rolls to Mogger's Restaurant, 908 Poplar St, which was a German immigrant's brewery from 1848-1868, the pub of a Mattias Mogger. The arrival of Upland's Champagne Velvet is set for about 6PM at Mogger's where evening festivities will continue. The new Upland Champagne Velvet will be available for some sampling as early at April 1, at limited locations but after April 6 will roll out to bars, restaurants and liquor stores in kegs and 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles.

Here's to a great run for the revival of the Champagne Velvet beer and Happy Anniversary to Upland Brewing!


thanks to Doug Dayhoff, Patrick Lynch, Matt Wisley, Jackson Heiss and Andrea Lutz, all of Upland
Why you should consider (or reconsider) going to Dark Lord Day 2013

This year Three Floyds have made a lot of changes to their annual event marking the release of their famed Russian Imperial Stout Dark Lord. I have not been able to make it to one of these events yet, mostly due to the demand for tickets being astronomical the past few years. The tickets are released on St. Patrick’s day every year online. This year they go on sale at 1 pm EST (12 pm CST) Sunday March 17th. However its the changes to the tickets that are going to, in my opinion, improve the festival. There is a limit of 2 tickets per transaction online, however the most important part is the fact that the tickets will be printed with the name of the purchaser. It will be, and has been for the last few years at least, against the rules of the event to resell or trade the tickets. However this hasn’t stopped many people in the past from selling the, previously $15, for upwards of $100. On the Dark Lord website Three Floyds has specifically said that anyone with a ticket must have a valid government issued ID that corresponds to the name on the ticket to be granted access to the event.  Also Three Floyds has increased the number of sales sessions from 3 last year to 5 this year. I am certainly going to attempt to get tickets this Sunday, and good luck to all you out there who are going to try to get some too.  Below I’ve listed some of the rules from the Dark Lord website.

  • Tickets are non-transferable (no resale or trading)
  • Valid state or federal ID or valid passport of the original purchaser of the tickets required
  • No children or pets (strictly 21 and over)
  • No coolers (although beer trading/sampling is allowed)
  • Tickets are $30 per ticket (limit of 2 tickets per person)
  • The event is cash only (there is an ATM on site)
  • There will be food vendors, as well as live music
  • Dark Lord day is April 27th from 11am - 11pm EST (10am -10pm CST)
    1. Group A 11am - 1pm EST (10am - 12pm CST)
    2. Group B  1pm - 3pm EST (12pm - 2pm CST)
    3. Group C  3pm - 5pm EST (2pm - 4pm CST)
    4. Group D  5pm - 7pm EST (4pm - 6pm CST)
    5. Group E  7pm - 9pm EST (6pm – 8pm CST)

Dribs and Drams

Newsy Stuff

Dark Lord tickets (Apr. 27) go on sale this Sunday at noon. $30. No coolers, no trading, no lawn chairs, no selling your ticket.

Brew Bracket on April 27 (6-9pm) in Indy will feature Belgians link

ZwanzigZ Pizza in Columbus are bottling. IPA and Honey Wheat now in glass. link

Kevin Cox of Muncie / Heorot / has won runner-up in Wynkoop’s Beerdrinker of the Year competition. link

Diegeo (Guinness) told the British Institute of Innkeeping they couldn’t give a trophy to BrewDog. link

New Breweries

Jason and Elizabeth Lacny and Colin and Kimberly Oswald have asked the town council of Winfield (east of Crown Point) for the okey dokey to set up a brewery and tap room. link

Indiana City Brewing Co. gets some ink about their Home Brewing Co. ancestry. link

Publicity stuff

Bloomington Brewery at the Courier Press. link

Sun King held a tasting in Fort Wayne. link

Flat 12 at Star Press. link

Misc. Stuff

Picture of The Beer with the Million Dollar Flavor from Michigan.

budweiserGroups in CA, NJ, PA and more have class-actioned A-B for watering down their beer. "A-B (Anheuser-Busch) never intends for the malt beverage to possess the amount of alcohol that is stated on the label. As a result, AB's customers are overcharged for watered-down beer and AB is unjustly enriched by the additional volume it can sell" A-B says they must be testing errant cans. linklink

A long, dull, look at the alcohol industry in 1931 (that’s during Prohibition). link

Beer Flavor Wheel link

WSJ says beer is cheaper than water in the Czech Republic. They sell twice per capita than the U.S. link


Planetary Brewing orbits onto the Greenwood, IN, beer scene: big name, nano-brewery

There's a new brew in town!

The first flow of beer from the Planet... ah, er, Planetary Brewing flowed at 4:00 PM, Friday, March 8, 2013, in a small almost off-the-beaten-path space (like a galaxy far, far away!) but actually just minutes from Oaken Barrel Brewery in Greenwood, IN. This new nano-brewery (yep, very small) rises from the dreams of a home brewer with previous business experience (sound familiar). Andrew Groves was a home brewer who had friends really enjoy his beers! So what does a brewer do when friends want more of your beer? You dream of better equipment, bigger production, and growlers of beer. Andrew, who had already worked with his father to grow a small business, had such a dream. Planetary Brewing with new stainless steal brewing equipment, a tap room, and opening for growler fills is the result! Open Fridays 4-8, Saturdays 12-6

The first brews available are a Creme Ale ($10 growler/$6 bullet), a Stout* ($12 growler/$7 bullet), and Dunkelweizen ($12 growler/$7 bullet). Growler fills only! No Pints, no food, just beer to go. Note how these three likely complement a Greenwood beer run.... Oaken Barrel can fill you up with their famous wit, or SuperFly IPA while you get over to Planetary for one of these different styles.

UPDATE We visited on Saturday for samples of the actual commercial beer. The Stout is a deep chocolate oatmeal stout with a lot of body and deep, dark flavor. The cream ale is deeper and richer than most of those in this style.

As these rotate off tap the next three will be (not necessarily coming in this order) a pale, a brown ale, and a honey wheat. Eventually, Andrew plans to add a porter, an amber, an IPA, even a triple, dubbel, and Belgian dark strong based on home brew recipes. By the way your first empty growler will cost $6
but he is prepared if you bring your own he can paste a sticker on it. Empty 32 oz bullets cost you $4.

My first introduction to this venture was through Planetary's Admiral of Planetary Explorations (um...I'd call this a beer ambassador) Doug Goins, who is a fixture in the Greenwood beer world as long-time bartender at Shallo's, home of hundreds of beers.
I had some of Andrew's beers from homebrew batches and the ones I tried were very solid beers, the ones his friends like drinking. For those who like more technical information brew batches are about 62 gallons but fermenation and holding capacity is much more. Rough calculations are that at the start customers can expect about 700 pints per week.

To find Planetary (my GPS takes me to the wrong place) use Greenwood's Main street. If exiting off I-65, head West, 1.2 miles to Polk Street. From Central Greenwood head East, over the railroad tracks to Polk Street. Turn South. Look for the sign that says 500 South Polk Street! Turn East and the third door on the right has the Planetary sign above it. Limited parking either on the street or across from the brewery in a small lot of a neighboring building. (see photos)

The street sign where you turn, the stainless,
and the growlers

Cheers.... see you there! Greg Kitz

Craft Brewing Growth: How Much Is Too Much?

Craft brewing has experienced a tremendous run of impressive growth in recent years, but can it be sustained? We raised that question and gathered thoughts from several IndianaBeer reporters. It’s also our chance to welcome new reporter Jake Keefer as he joins Greg and I in the following discussion.

nathansmall From Nathan………….
crowdThe explosive growth of craft brewing over the past ten years has been a great American success story. The craft sector has reportedly enjoyed average growth of 7.9% over the last ten years with an even more impressive 10.1% over the last five. As demand grew, there were relatively few craft breweries in position to supply a larger consumer base. It presented the ideal business environment where good products were met with great success and demand has continued to skyrocket. Some of you may have had a front row seat to the National Homebrew Competition registration fiasco as demand from the explosion of craft brewing at home brought the server to its figurative knees. Tickets for the Great American Beer Festival sold out in 45 minutes in 2012 after remaining available for a full week the year before. Michigan beer fans were taken off guard when their 2013 Winter Beer Festival sold out in 13 hours after being available for a couple weeks the previous year. These tickets, along with many rare beers, have become hot items for secondary market sales (the polite way to say “scalping”).

But digging a little deeper shows that recent years have seen tremendous growth on the supply side as a large number of new breweries have navigated the years of planning often required to open their doors and provide new options to the craft beer consumer. In my opinion, we have now turned the corner where supply is catching up with demand and the current rate of brewery growth is not sustainable. Supply is probably still behind demand, but it will even out fairly quickly at this rate. I’m a big believer in craft beer and there is no shortage of potential converts in the mainstream beer drinking community. But there will be new challenges for the market and perhaps our very definition of craft beer. Here are the reasons behind this opinion:

The math doesn’t work right now. The number of craft breweries reported by the Brewers Association rose from 1,949 at the end of 2011 to 2,336 at the end of 2012. While market growth has exceeded 10% in recent years, a 20% increase in the number of breweries still reduces the average slice of that pie available to each business. Now consider that 1,254 prospective breweries-in-planning are reportedly in some phase of opening. Some of these will probably never reach the market, but consider the implications that a potential 54% increase in operating businesses would have on any industry.

Craft beer is trendy. Trust me on this, my natural inclination is to sit here and try to invent a reason why this thing I write about can’t possibly be branded with the “T” word. I’ve always felt the craft beer scene had a bit of counterculture appeal working in its favor. But while it makes us feel good to continue mouthing “we are the 5%”, like this is still completely underground, the truth is undeniable here. Just note the growing number of beer festivals that cycle through our calendar being put on by organizations that have nothing to do with the brewing world. These often support wonderful causes, but it’s pretty clear this is occurring because beer festivals are the cash cow du jour. And while I can’t personally imagine abandoning the craft beer world once you become immersed in this segment, you always have to wonder about the staying power of any trend when the next big thing comes along.

The big brewers won’t sit idly by. While craft brewing has experienced tremendous growth, domestic macros have seen their market share decline. The big brewers have responded by introducing their own “faux craft” brands and buying out successful craft brands like Goose Island. Expect to see a lot more of this if the craft segment continues to grow at anywhere near the current level. And that’s not even mentioning the pressure they can exert on distribution networks and shelf space at chain retailers. Additional consolidation like the proposed AB InBev/Modelo merger will make these companies even more formidable.

The news is not all bad. Increased competition among craft breweries will likely lead to more choices and increased quality for those of us who enjoy drinking the product. Premium pricing for specialties like barrel-aged beers and sours may come down a bit as more breweries introduce their own offerings to the market. And a continued shift towards supporting local businesses could support widespread brewery success on a more modest level. But the days of constant headlines like “Brewery X reports rapid growth, plans massive expansion” might be a little harder to come by in the next phase of craft brewing expansion.

jake_small From Jake………….
Craft beer in Indiana is trivial.  This may be a bit of a bold statement on a website like this, but in all reality the volume of craft beer sold in this state is miniscule compared to the big two beer companies, AB InBev and Miller-Coors.  In 2011, the entire US craft beer industry made up approximately 6% of the industry according to the Brewers Association.  However, while overall beer sales dropped by 1.3% in 2011, craft beer increased by 13% in the same year.  This leaves some craft beer enthusiasts concerned that this kind of growth is unsustainable.  Without discussing the quality of Indiana craft brewers, which is outstanding in my opinion, the craft beer boom in Indiana isn’t going anywhere.  This craft beer boom has brought to Hoosiers a pride in drinking a beer made in their towns and neighborhoods, at their local pubs, and especially at the local brewpub that will not fade.

Distribution is not meeting demand.  While there's no denying the fact that distribution of craft beer in Indiana is improving, the fact of the matter is we don’t get a lot of the craft brands that we crave: Allagash, Dogfish Head, Lagunitas, Russian River, and many more.  This hole in the market has, in part, encouraged the influx of craft breweries around the state.  Distribution of Indiana brewed craft beers has been around for a while with Barley Island and Upland, but the opening of Sun King in 2009 set the stage for the increase of production style craft breweries in the state.  This Sun King blueprint has since been used by many breweries in the state that are now flourishing, such as: Flat 12 in Indianapolis, Peoples in Lafayette, Triton in Fort Benjamin Harrison, Cutters in Bloomington, and the newest, Tin Man, in Evansville.  These breweries are all offering craft brewed Indiana beer on draft at nearby pubs, and/or packing their beer for retail sale at your local liquor stores and even grocery stores.

Craft Beer is a Source of Pride. Both production breweries and brewpubs alike have become local hangouts that are packed most nights of the week.  Almost all of these breweries like Black Acre, Flat 12, and Triton are brewing great beer and helping revitalize their neighborhoods.  These breweries are now ingrained in their communities, and can’t brew fast enough to meet the resulting demand.  This effect extends to smaller cities as well.  For example, Columbus, despite being a relatively small city, currently supports three breweries, not including one in nearby Hope.  However there are still plenty of communities that do not have a brewery and communities that could support more breweries.  Take Peoples in Lafayette for example.  When a former brewer from Lafayette Brewing Company started his own brewing company a mere 2 miles from LBC; some questioned whether Lafayette could support another brewing company.  I was just getting into craft beer, living in West Lafayette, around the time Peoples opened up, and LBC’s creativity was stagnant in my opinion.  Peoples has really hit their stride recently creating some very tasty brews, see Amazon Princess.  This local competition has spurred LBC to develop new creative recipes making them a better brewery as well.  LBC’s support in the community has not diminished; their brewpub location in downtown Lafayette offers a very different experience from the tap room experience offered by Peoples.  Another longstanding brewery in Greenwood, Oaken Barrel, has some new competition opening soon in Planetary Brewing Company, who recently brewed their first batch.

The big brewers ARE sitting idly by.  This is obvious if you examine the recent moves by AB InBev.  The most recent introductions into their product line, Black Crown and Beck’s Sapphire, show a lack of understanding of the craft brewing industry.  They view beer drinkers as demographics, and this is why they are failing.  Craft beer drinkers are discerning palates that are not interested in a slightly more alcoholic amber lager with a stupid name, honestly which King ever wore a black crown.  While the purchase of Goose Island and the distribution rights for Kona Brewing is cause for concern it is by no means an omen for the craft beer industry.  Their proposed merger with modelo, which is being blocked by the US government currently, would give them more market share; however modelo is by not a craft brewery and therefore doesn’t help them reach the growing number of craft beer enthusiasts.  Also the spectacular reaction from Lagunitas owner to the recent takeover interest from AB InBev should be applauded (see below).  I certainly hope other brewery owners follow Lagunitas’ lead.


I only see craft beer getting bigger and better.  Some breweries may be forced to close and that is by no means a bad thing for the industry.  As the community grows and changes it will reach people that you never thought would try craft beer, my Dad for example a lifelong light American lager drinker, MGD 64, who recently tried and enjoyed the Schwarzbier from Black Acre.  This craft beer boom is going nowhere but up and I for one am excited, and you should be too! 
gregsmall From Greg………….
While sales of beer and of total alcoholic beverages contracted during tough economic times, growth has returned. Beer (combined with cider and malt beverage) represents 62% of all alcoholic beverages sold in the U.S. and flavorful beer is on a solid upswing! (Marketline 2013) While the Brewers Association, the trade group representing 'small and independent' brewers, frequently changes their production limit upward to continue to include some of its larger members, they define craft brewers based on volume and based on control by beer producers only. But is craft beer about brewer size or about a combination of brewing art with science and the creation of flavor beers from specific grains, hops and water? The average American, and perhaps the average global citizen does not know who makes their beer, they just know about flavor.

Even if craft beer is about not only flavor but also local, independent, and fresh then it is very clear that many consumers have embraced craft beer. So let's dissect the growth and determine if it can continue.

Beer is growing and craft beer is fueling growth. During 2012, total sales of beer in the U.S. increased over 2011 (U.S. Government, Department of Treasury) While one percent growth may not sound like much that represents approximately 744 million MORE pints drawn from breweries in a year. That would be nearly 4 more pints for every person over the age of 21; well, I did my share! The Brewers Association reported in mid-2012 that craft beer volume, by their definition, was up 12%.

There is tremendous market share opportunity for craft beers. The world of craft beer is still relatively small. There are a lot of numbers thrown around but comparing the BA estimate of barrels sold to the U.S. government statistics, craft beer would represent 7% of total beer sales (yes, I've seen 5 or 6%). That means 93% of beer consumed in the U.S. does not meet the Brewers Association of craft beer (Brewers Association statistics, U.S. Treasury statistics). If flavorful 'craft like' beer is thrown in the percent of these beers is clearly larger. For example, MolsonCoors, the fourth largest global brewer in revenue and the only one actually headquartered in the U.S. reported double-digit growth for its Blue Moon and Leinenkugel brands. Thus, even stealing share from 7% to 14% is a huge growth opportunity!

Low barriers to entry and low entry cost fuel the opportunity. The cost and legal requirements to set up a nano-brewery, a small brew tasting room served by food trucks, or even a small brewpub/restaurant are fairly low. Many new entrants are primarily self-funded and some have reverted to small micro-finance forms of public offerings. Homebrewers enlarge their equipment and turn pro-nano-brewers. And the Brewers Association shows far more craft brewery openings (250 in 2011) than closings (36 in 2011).

Local is the key word. The fact that one of Indiana's largest brewers (SunKing) grew at tremendous rates while serving only consumers in approximately a fifty mile radius shows that local has been popular. In addition, the fact that a few brewpubs with not particularly great beer have thrived primarily because they developed a very local following. In a few cases they were the only local pub and in one case I see people sitting at the bar drinking a Bud Light, but hey, the place stays open and they keep brewing beer -- and the beer they brew gets better and better! Fresh local is a big trend in food and in beverage right now. Will it last for a long time, who knows? But does it make sense that more people are enjoying their own neighborhood brewery for the first time since before prohibition, absolutely! Given the current populations there is still solid opportunity for more locations and increased market penetration. Look at the trend of the successful breweries opening multiple tap rooms. Restaurants are much more open to local taps than in the past. Yet consider that less than one-quarter of alcoholic beverages are sold in restaurants and brewpubs. This means there is ample opportunity for expansion into supermarkets and retailers. Why do restaurants, bars, and supermarkets like craft beer? The answer is higher sales prices and higher profit margins. Traditional yellow fizzy beer is sold at highly competitive prices, on sale, and in multi-packs. Craft beer sells well at higher prices, in six-packs and often does not require a reduced price! Fresh, local, profitable can drive growth!

Younger drinkers drive growth. One bar owner pointed out to me that the traditional beer drinker is older and blue collar. Look around at bars filled with craft beer drinkers and you find young and higher incomes! I hang out in a college town a lot, but I've also experienced an evening at Twenty Tap and Sinking Ship near Broad Ripple. If I compare Bloomington Beer bars Yogi's and The Tap, with Twenty Tap and Sinking Ship I am surrounded by a relatively young crowd appreciating variety and flavor. One of the owners suggested that Millennials feel entitled to 'better beer.' If you had suggested 20 years ago that you could run a successful bar by selling beer only, most bar owners would have called you crazy. Yet, now it is being done regularly. Higher margins, greater variety, smaller kegs (6ers and half-barrels), and younger crowds are the norm.

Will the market grow and will the large brewers change the mix? Two industry sources I checked predict higher volume sales for alcoholic beverages and for beer over the next 4-5 years. The four largest global brewers, AB-Inbev (Belgium), Heineken (Netherlands), SABMiller (Great Britain), and MillerCoors (Denver) are mostly globally focused. AB-Inbev, this nations largest seller of beer, has managed to stem the tide and increase volume and profit in the U.S. mostly by bringing in the flagship Euro-beers. But Asia and Europe both represent growth areas and and reading the annual reports of these firms it is clear that is where growth will be. And recent reports on the Wall Street Journal report that homebrewing is growing in China (WSJ, 3-1-13) and that craft beer sales are growing in Europe (WSJ, 8-12-12). No wonder they will leave alone some acquisition they made in the U.S. as long as it makes profit.

Surely some won't make it. Just as we've seen some craft brewers exit over the past ten years we know some won't survive in the next five years. If you don't make good beer you don't deserve to survive. And places that aren't well managed won't make it -- there are more failures in the restaurant business than almost any other business. Plus, people like to try new things so sometimes people just get tired of a place; yet that has not happened to most of the oldest brewpubs like Broad Ripple Brew Pub which is even just called 'the Brew Pub' by many. I would expect some consolidation. When a brewery founder decides to retire (for example, Fritz Maytag of Anchor) expect either an investment management group to take their brewery over or expect it to be gobbled up by a bigger brewer seeking more brands. And expect more brands from some of the major brewers. But hey, you won't want to read this but I actually like Batch 19 and Third Shift beers! Yes, we likely won't see an addition of another 1500 breweries as we had from 1990 to 2000. But there is plenty of room and fuel for growth of beer with flavor whether truly craft as defined by the Brewers Association or a combination of craft, local, and more artisanal beers!

So what do you think? Is there an end in sight to the current growth rate of craft brewing? Or are we still in the early stages of the better beer revolution?