Winter Warmer 2014 @ Lafayette Brewing

From Nathan...

Always one of the best events of the year, LBC's Winter Warmer offers an unbeatable combination of short lines, free food, raffles, and free cab rides home. The event has long been a celebration of high alcohol beers like Old Ales, Barleywines, and Imperial Stouts. And as the popularity of barrels in the craft brewing world have increased, this event has evolved to where a large proportion of the beers are barrel aged. This sounds great in theory, but it's actually reached a point where the non-barrel offering have an easier time standing out. Maybe drinking that many barrel aged beers is a bit of overkill, and maybe it's just my personal tastes that lead to this viewpoint. But after hitting the barrel aged selections pretty hard in the early portion of the event, I was more drawn to the (relatively) lighter fare to close out this event.

Beer Notes:
  • This was my first chance to try any beers from Twenty Below - the small brewery that is being incorporated into the ever-popular Twenty Tap restaurant and tap room. The milk stout was pretty impressive, so definitely keep an eye out for when their beers start showing up on taps in the restaurant.
  • Lafayette Brewing's Big Boris Barleywine is very young and hop-forward right now, but I thought it was pretty tasty if you're looking for something that leans more toward the character of an Imperial IPA. It reminded me of the lighter-bodied and hop-forward Avery Hog Heaven that we used to be able to get around here (insert sad face).
  • Don't overlook the darker beers from Barley Island. The high alkalinity in Noblesville's water lends well to brewing with dark grains. Their oatmeal stouts and java stouts are always outstanding.
  • While it wasn't my overall pick of the day, Flat 12's Pinko RazPutin was the best and most unique barrel aged beer I tried. RazPutin is a barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout that was infused with blackberries and raspberries. It probably took a lot of berries to make their flavor come through in such a massively complex beer, but it really added a nice touch. Cheers to creativity on that one!
Pick of the Day: Black Swan Peat Smoked Export Stout

Honorable Mentions
Barley Island Busted Knuckle Oatmeal Stout
Figure 8 Black Corridor Imperial Stout
Flat 12 Pinko RazPutin
Lafayette Brewing Co. Marley's VSOP (barrel aged porter)
New Albanian Smoked Black Lager

From Jason...

In the 2014 craft beer world there seems to be a new beer festival or event popping up every week. Not a bad problem to have really but it does tend to complicate things a bit. Like most, the two primary factors that limit my festival intake are time and money. Because of these constraints, I find myself weighing the pros and cons of the ever-growing number of events and having to decide which festivals to attend. I know, I know, first world problems. I’ll quit complaining.

The one event that alleviates all of the strife, all of the painstaking labor over which craft beer festivals I need to attend for the year is the Lafayette Brewing Company's Winter Warmer.  No tough decision to make here, this one is a no-brainer.  I’ll get this out of the way up front, about 20% of what makes this one easy for me is the homer factor. If you remove this bias, I still say that this is one event that you should try to attend at least once in your craft beer drinking life. I named it my favorite craft beer event in our IndianaBeer Best of 2013 post
 and wasn't alone in doing so.

The Warmer assembles a formidable group of Indiana Craft Breweries pouring both high and medium octane beers.  You find yourself immersed in the cozy confines of the LBC's 2nd floor venue with approximately 250 other festival goers.  Pretzel necklaces?  Forget about it!  Baskets of pretzels and caramel popcorn (made with LBC beer by Kathy's Kandies right across the street) are constantly replenished by the hardworking staff.  To top it all off, once you feel that you should probably fill your gut with something a bit more substantial, that's when you head over and grab some BBQ.  While the beer is easily the main attraction, it's nice to have a few perks included with the cost of admission.  Oh yeah, and good luck trying to restrain yourself from buying cookies from those 
evil friendly little girl scouts hangin' out in front of the building when you leave.

Another big reason for my love of the Warmer is that the lineup of breweries stays mostly consistent from year to year. It gives the event an even stronger sense of community when you see familiar faces back with their newest and finest brews. It's always easy to be looking out for the new brewery on the block but it's pretty great seeing the veteran breweries, those that have blazed the trail for our current and next generation of craft breweries to follow.  I'm looking at you Broad Ripple, Back Road, and of course our host, Lafayette Brewing.

Finally, thank you once again to the Tippecanoe Homebrewers Circle for their contribution and selection of beers crafted by their members.  I sampled a weizenbock and a Pliny the Elder clone that were both pretty damn good.

So let’s talk about the beer. As always, I make no apologies for not getting down and dirty when I mention my favorites. I'm not here to point out every little subtlety or nuance of the beers I've sampled, mostly because I don't feel as if I'm qualified to make such observations...and I'm lazy.   Anyway, of the beers that I sampled, the following made my list of honor.  The list is a bit lacking due to not wanting a repeat of my Winterfest experience from the previous weekend.

New Albanian - Bonfire of the Valkyries Imperial Smoked Black Lager

Lafayette Brewing - Marley VSOP Barrel Aged Porter
20 Below - Milk Stout
Brugge Brasserie - Hibernal Black Belgian Strong
Flat 12 - Perpetual Slumber Belgian Dark Strong
Sun King - Man in Black (don't remember the details but it was tasty)

And finally....

Jake's Picks:

Flat 12  RazPutin
Twenty Below – Milk Stout
Union Brewing – All of their beers were impressive

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