Winterfest 2016 the lesser known brewers and beers

Winterfest 2016 by the Brewers of Indiana Guild is a great place to try new beers. Winterfest was held this year on Saturday, January 29, at the Indiana State Fairgrounds from 2:00 (early bird) -6:45. With over 80 Indiana brewers plus many guest beers it took a strategy to decide what beer to try. Simple math says that if there were 84 Indiana breweries pouring at least 5 beers each (Bare Hands offered 40 brews) no one was going to sample over 400 beers!
We started with breweries we don’t know as well, those maybe farther away or newer.

One of the first beers we tasted was Blind Owl Brewery’s Belgian Dark Strong. They used traditional ingredients, La Chouffe yeast, and candy sugar in this one to provide a nice slightly sweet heavy beer. Blind Owl has not been open a year yet and is known for Hoo Brew Honey Brown and None the Wiser IPA, both of which they offered.

Schnitz Brewery’s Wayne Patmore offered us the Schnitz porter, with very nice deep roast flavor – a solid porter. Wayne had been home-brewing for about 15 years and loves to brew all styles. He told us the IPA & Blonde sell best, and we’d clearly support the porter!

Heady Hollow is a north side Indianapolis brewery (116th and Allisonville) with a wheat, APA, IPA, and scotch ale who are now adding small batch beers to their line up. The 60 Horses Scotch Ale is named for the 60 horses William Conner’s Delaware tribe wife kept when she left him to move on with her tribe! If Conner was brewing scotch ale back then we hope it had the solid flavor this one had.

Crooked Ewe Brewery of South Bend brought their Glasgow Butcher Scottish with nice caramel notes. Brewer Andy Walton has been concentrating on 5 styles but is starting to mix it up a bit. Their brewpub has a view of the river.

Cedar Creek (Winery &) Brew Co. has been around less than a year as a brewery and offers a slightly bitter, cocoa flavored porter. Their brewpub and winery is east of Martinsville off of Highway 252.

Big Lug’s Kristofferson is a true to style medium hopped pale from the hands of Steve Ellis, former brewer at The Ram downtown Indy. We also sampled the King’s Jive Brown which was malty with a chocolate hint. Big Lug opened this past year just over the Monon Trail at 86th Street. It is owned by Sahms who have many restaurants in town.

BrewLink, originally a beer and wine supply firm, has a brewery with one of the more unusual beers we tried. Ivory, a partner to their Ebony oatmeal stout, is a ‘white coffee stout.’ This very rich and ‘stout flavored beer’ has coffee, British malt, vanilla, and cocoa nibs but is a pale, golden color. If you closed your eyes this would seem to be a dark beer. And no matter, it is delicious! We’ll have to keep our eye on the new cans in distribution, their taps, and their upcoming taproom in Plainfield.

Devil’s Trumpet of Merrillville , open over a year, gave us their Chocolate Taco imperial oatmeal stout. We went for the name and the beer gave us nice solid chocolate flavor in a deep stout.

Route 2 Brews of Lowell, IN, is only about 30 minutes from Merrillville and is a really new brewery, open just a few months, yet Brewer Chris Fast brews 8 styles and we tasted his Psychotic blonde which was a good beer.

Back Road Brewery is not a new brewery but since we were tasting northern Indiana beer, once we saw the Bacon Spire Red Rye we just had to go for it. What we particularly liked was the modest level of bacon which did not overpower the slight bite of a rye.

Deviate Brewing opened in Fall 2015 and, true to their name, love to take a slight twist on classic beer styles. Their Tiki Mocha Nut Russian Imperial stout with coffee, coconut and vanilla beans gave a wonderful tropical trip in a dark stout at 10%, but stood up next to their The Main Monkey Business Scottish Strong with coffee and banana. Yep, you read that right this was one deviant but delightful pair of beers. The new brewery near 96th and Michigan Road in Indy is one to get to.

There is no reason to pick 'the best' from these. It was a real joy to try beer from a dozen or so breweries we have not been to. But since Deviate, Big Lug, and Blind Owl are on the north side of Indianapolis they are worth a visit to try sooner, rather than later. And Northwest Indiana is just a hotbed of new breweries so... road trip.

We'll post a Part Two about some of the special beers from breweries that have been around awhile.

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