Upland Sour + Wild + Funk Fest, May 17, got the FUNK on!

Hundreds of sour and wild beer lovers jammed historic 1886 vintage Indianapolis City Market on Saturday, May 17, to sample and celebrate sour beer at the Upland Sour + Wild + Funk Fest. This Fest was held on the upper level mezzanine where in most of the space that Tomlinson Tap, purveyors of only Indiana beer, does not occupy. There was a DJ and munchies provided while some of the food vendors on the main level provided some offerings. This venue was an improvement in atmosphere over the quasi-Broad Ripple venue last year although a bit crowded in the central traffic area. As at any fest there was sometimes a line for the restroom and while the lines were not long for beer the space of the mezzanine with two sets of vendors on each side in one area made you use your best moves to get through the crowd. As participants stopped to talk about beer you could almost find yourself joining in as you tried to maneuver for your next taste.

There were just under two dozen breweries in total, which was plenty for the space available, and more than half of those were Indiana breweries. Upland Brewery of Bloomington, is the perfect host with a solid reputation for great Lambics and a large number of staff to attend to needs at the event. Since 2006 Upland has been barrel aging beers and now has over 200 barrels in their collection with a focus on a growing sour ale program amid their large line-up of regular draft and bottled beer. Upland sampled at least three of their Sours, all aged with bacteria in oak casks for over a year: Raspberry, locally grown Persimmon, and Kiwi where the fruit is added in the last months of aging. All are exceptional.

Standout beer from Indiana among those I sampled were:

Upland -- in addition to their lambics, Upland Head Brewer Caleb Stanton poured Lightsynth and Darksynth, the Upland collaboration using base beer from New Belgium Brewing. Darksynth is 50% NBB Oscar brewed in blackberry wine barrels with 40% Upland Dantillon spiced ale (a favorite of mine when I can find it) and 10% Upland Raspberry Lambic. Lightsynth is 50% Felix love, a beer that starts out as a light lager with pale malt, oats, and wheat aged in large previously used French oak wine barrels with bacteria and wild yeast with 40% Upland Sour Reserve and 10% Cherry Lambic. I need to sample Lightsynth again with a clean palate as this one is very nuanced and interesting!

Triton -- has a Forking Series (get it, triton, forking) which includes their Pink Ribbon Saison. As a regular Spring seasonal this is a beer you will find on tap occasionally and they say, “Brewed annually in honor of the Triton Family whose lives have been touched by cancer; this ale is one way we [Triton] contribute to the fight! A portion of the proceeds are donated to local and national cancer charities.” This beer has a great combination of lacto sour with spice of pink and white peppercorns and comes in at about 6%.

Tin Man brewery would win an award as one of the most improved in Indiana! They have solid beer and they arrived at this fest with a Pale with Brett. This laid down a solid foundation of their pale with a nice level of twang.

Daredevil served Carnival, which is a nice saison with lemongrass – that lemongrass added a great soft citrus. The interesting surprise was that Daredevil also took their K├Âlsch with a nice bite and added brett for another beer with a nice foundation and then interesting kick.

Bloomington Brewing had a beer that I know was very popular as I helped them pour. BBC Biere de Mars is a nice French ale to which cranberries were added. Comments were that people liked the nice light level of cranberries on top of the peppery spice of the beer.

Out-of-State standouts among those I sampled were

New Belgium (Colorado) Leopold which is aged in Blackberry Whiskey Barrels from Leopold Brothers Distilling. What a nice kick!

Destihl Brewery (Illinois) Saint Dekkera Reserve Sour with Paw Paw (indigenous Indiana and Illinois fruit) aged since July 2013. Destihl uses open fermentation similar to that used in Belgium. The result with this ale is a tropical citrus favor from the paw paw to the nice funk of a delicious sour ale.

Avery Brewing (Colorado) Rufus Corvus is sour with 85% aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels, 9% aged in chardonnay barrels and 6% in Zinfandel barrels combining 8 beers from 40 oak barrels. This deep dark brew is as rich in flavor as you are guessing and comes in at 8%.

Opuntia is Avery’s light sour ale aged in small-batch tequila barrels for nine months with prickly pear added. 6.6%

Goose Island (Illinois) served several limited edition bottles where Madame Rose was my favorite with Belgian brown sour with wild yeast aged on cherries in wine barrels. Yep, it is ABInBev, which means it is also Belgian related but a cousin to Bud. But yep, it is very good.

Rivertown Brewing (Ohio) had their Lambic which is spontaneously fermented beer aged in port oak wine barrels for over 1 year. As I asked Fest attendees which beers they liked I noted this one came up frequently. My sample showed why. This is dry, vinous and sour at 6.3%

Overall this is a great little festival. The crowd really appreciates craft beer and the reps and brewers are proud to talk about this niche. The venue would be a bit tight for a larger crowd, cut sure is cool.

Cheers! Greg Kitz

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