End of Movember!

Beer and mustaches and raising awareness and funds for men's cancers are a great combination.  Actually anything paired with beer is a great combo!  

To help celebrate and show of your mustaches,  we wanted to share this great event - The End of Movember Gala put on by the Movember charity.  

Sun King, Flat 12 and more local Indiana craft beer will be on site. This is a great time to enjoy fresh local beer for a good cause.  

For more Details, please check out below:

 End of Movember Gala! 

  • December 6th!
  •   Time.: 7:00pm – 11:00pm
  •   Location: The Speak Easy in Broad Ripple
  • (5255 North Winthrop Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46220)
  •   Featuring: Auctions, Raffles, Contests, and much, MUCH MORE
  •   Local Indiana Craft Beer to quench your thirst!

    • Hard Hat Tour Lager and multiple other styles from Sun King
    • Moustache Ride Red and multiple other styles from Flat 12
    • Curious Tenacious Traveler Shandy
  •   Food Trucks  (Scribble & Caveman Truck)
  • Live entertainment to move your feet!
  •   $10 Entry Fee – ONE HUNDRED PERCENT goes to charity – tickets available at door!
    • Sorry we’re unable to honor Official Movember.com-provided Gala certificates
  •   NO MUSTACHE REQUIRED TO ATTEND – They have Loaners!
  • This is a 21+ event

Dribs and drabs

We get press releases:

UplandCherryOn Tuesday, November 26th, Upland Brewing Company will open an online lottery for the release of two of its sour ales: Cherry and Raspberry fruited Lambic-style ales. Due to labor intensiveness, a long brewing process, and the seasonal availability of local fruit, these ales are released infrequently and in limited quantities. Consequently, lottery requests will be restricted to one bottle per style per person.

The lottery, at www.UplandSours.eventbrite.com, will open at noon EDT on Tuesday, November 26th (that’s now) and close at noon Tuesday, December 3rd. Preferred pick-up location must be specified at the time of entry; both the Brew Pub in Bloomington and the Indianapolis Tasting Room are options.

Lottery winners will be notified via email on December 4th and will have the opportunity to purchase the sour ale they selected at their preferred location from December 9th to December 23rd.

PicoBrew Zymatic. Make beer on your kitchen counter. $1700 to $2100. Oh, that’s a preorder for June, 2014. But you may want to have your credit card charged now. Nope, not buying into the company on Kickstarter. That’s just one unit. But the kickstarter page has more info than their web site. Run by an ex-MS VP. Not sure they’ve got the idea. No word on how may gallons per batch. Looks like something between 2 and 5. But their not the only one who has a fixation – not according to this quote: "Even at a $1,600 investment, it would really only take about 6 weeks of home brewing for me to recoup the cost of a PicoBrew Zymatic in consumed beer." Do you Does that person really spend $750 per week on beer?

GrowABeerNews: Beer truck overturns in Georgia. Nope, that’s a Bud Light truck.

Amsterdam has launched a government-funded scheme which uses chronic alcoholics as street cleaners – and pays them in beer. article

The Huffington Post lists 9 Reasons Why Beer is Even Better than You Thought. And where else can you find Zooey Deschanel’s Mom’s Signature Pecan Pie Recipe?

Thankful for Beer

Just a few days away is the annual stuff ourselves until we comatose from turkey overload. We'll entertain with family, football games, or board games and be thankful for everything we have aka Thanksgiving time.

In a launch of pre-Thanksgiving tidings, I've been thinking about things I'm thankful for in relation to beer:

 I'm thankful for this blog, where I can obsess of beer and talk about it all the time. Although lately I've been a little busy with a new job, I still love beer more than ever.
 I'm thankful for the network this blog has brought to my life.
 I'm thankful for the Indiana Brewer's Guild who helped pass a law that Indiana breweries can sell growlers of draft beer on Sunday.
I'm thankful for the sheer awesomeness that is all the Indiana breweries. They are pure creative geniuses in brewing and I'm thankful to be able to try so much deliciousness.
I'm thankful for breweries who make vanilla porters, pumpkin ales, and christmas ales which are some of my favorite beers ever.
I'm thankful for beer festivals that make it possible to try so many different beers all at once time.
I'm thankful for Bier Brewery being a walk away. ( I'd be more thankful if they served pints more often!)
I'm thankful for brew pubs so I can bring my kid and have a good dinner, with good local craft beer
I'm thankful for other beer groups like Hoosier Beer Geeks and Girls Pint Out

It is really something I could go on an on about, over a small topic like beer, but craft beer is important to so many, and it is just really darn good.  If you still haven't tried any local craft beer, go out and try some! I'm sure the brewers would be... thankful that you did! (see what I did there)

So I hope all of you have a great Thanksgiving, enjoy some local craft beer and prepare for the holidays!


Indiana Beer Group Tasting and Reviews – Russian Imperial Stouts

According to legend, the origins of Russian Imperial Stout can be traced to when Peter the Great opened Czarist Russia to the West. A trip to England exposed Peter to the Porters that were very popular in the early 18th century. When the Imperial court of Russia requested Porter to be sent over from England; the low alcohol, lightly-hopped brew spoiled during the journey. Because alcohol and hops act as preservatives in beer, English brewers increased these qualities in a new version of porter that could survive the journey, and the style we know as Imperial Stout was born. The John Courage Brewery used the term “Imperial Stout” on the label of their beer, boasting that it’s creation was by Imperial order of Catherine the Great.

catherine-the-grea_2262561b                  Courage_Imperial_Stout 

Today’s Russian Imperial Stout has been embraced by American craft brewers to be even bigger and more flavorful. They typically clock in with an alcohol by volume content of 9% to as high as 15%+, and contain an intense blend of various dark malts. As the winter months close in on the Hoosier state, now is a great time to acquire some thick and rich Russian Imperial Stouts to help you make it through some chilly nights ahead. The high alcohol and specialty malts also make these beers ideal for aging, where the flavors can mature and sometimes develop a vinous quality. To make the comparison in this tasting as fair as possible, all beers included were 2013 vintages. Keep in mind that a comparison of the same beers after aging for 3, 5, or even 10 years could yield different results.

We didn’t mess around with the lineup for this tasting – each of these beers rate at least a 92 on Beer Advocate and come from highly respected breweries Bell’s, North Coast, Oskar Blues, Sierra Nevada, and Three Floyds. With this lineup of heavy hitters, a blind tasting was administered by our lovely hostess Poppi Rocketts (watch for the coveted Poppi’s pick in the results below). The beers were served in a random order to our tasting panel, and the identity of each was not revealed until after the panelists had finalized their individual rankings. Joining me on the panel were IndianaBeer reporters Dave Allen and Jason Wilkerson and guest reviewer Tim Palmer. Here is a summary of each beer sampled, with the brewery’s description followed by the panel’s tasting comments.

Beer #1: Sierra Nevada Narwhal – Narwhal Imperial Stout is inspired by the mysterious creature that thrives in the deepest fathoms of the frigid Arctic Ocean. Featuring incredible depth of malt flavor, rich with notes of espresso, baker’s cocoa, roasted grain and a light hint of smoke, Narwhal is a massive malt-forward monster. Aggressive but refined with a velvety smooth body and decadent finish, Narwhal will age in the bottle for years to come. 60 IBU 10.2% ABV

Dave: I ranked this beer in third place of the five we sampled. To my palate the beer seemed a bit simplistic for what I might expect from a RIS. Not to say that it was not a good beer, it certainly was. But there were other beers in the panel that were more complex, better balanced, and generally just better beers. I found the Narwhal to be primarily about the chocolate malt and alcohol. It was also the most carbonated beer in our flight, which I was grateful for, as we’ll see coming up… I like to measure the beers in these tasting panels against the completely subjective and totally arbitrary question:
Would I Drink Another. Which is to say: did this beer impress me enough that I would order more than one if out at a bar having beers with friends. For the Narwhal, I say sure. It was a decent beer; I’d be happy to consume a couple of pints. 
Dave’s Rank: 3rd
Jason: This is not nearly thick enough to be a Russian Imperial. There is no coating of the glass and I miss that used motor oil sensation. There is a nice, roast smell to it but it is subtle. The beer was not harsh on the tongue at all, not strong or overpowering like some beers in this category tend to be. I had trouble detecting the bitter notes of hops which is okay for me because it leads to a very smooth drink. There was no strong after taste, nothing lingered longer than it had to. Good overall beer, a nice stout to give to a beginner to the category but not quite sure it's a Russian Imperial.
Jason’s Rank: 5th
Nathan: Pours with a thick, frothy head and a nice chocolate malt aroma. The roasted malt and hop aroma are fairly low for a RIS. Chocolate and coffee dominate the flavor profile with hints of dark fruit and some earthy hop character. The thick and heavy mouthfeel seems more in line with a RIS than the overall flavor profile. Alcohol is present, but very smooth and not distracting. This is a very good beer overall, but seems a bit lacking in flavor complexity for the style. 
Nathan’s Rank: 4th
Tim: Pitch black with a large light brown head. Spicy, woodsy hop character followed by light roasted chocolate notes. The initial hop character initially reminded me of a Northern Brewer hop, but seemed to disappear as the beer warmed. Full body with a smooth roasted chocolate character (more chocolate than roast) and high hop bitterness that lingered. This was also the most carbonated out of the beers sampled. Alcohol was present and warming, but not harsh. The beer did not have the character of a Russian Imperial, but reminded me more of a big American Stout, and as such was nice, but not a Russian Imperial Stout, BUT I would definitely order another.
Tim’s Rank: 4th

Beer #2: North Coast Old Rasputin – Produced in the tradition of 18th Century English brewers who supplied the court of Russia's Catherine the Great, Old Rasputin seems to develop a cult following wherever it goes. It’s a rich, intense brew with big complex flavors and a warming finish. 75 IBU 9% ABV

Dave: Our tasting panel all came to the same conclusion that this one was, hands down, the best beer on the table. To my palate it was complex, balanced, with flavors of both chocolate and roasted malt, hints of coffee and apparent (but not dominating) alcohol. When I conjure up what RIS should be in my imagination: this is it - delicious without being overpowering in any of the handful of typical flavor profiles one might expect. Great beer. And readily available locally all year round at a competitive price point. What’s not to like?
Would I Drink Another: Absolutely.  
Dave’s Rank: 1st
Jason: The aroma of chocolate was a welcome sign as it reminds me of this category of beer. Thicker than Beer #1 but still not the texture I've come to expect, which is not a bad thing. Great flavor. This beer throws a knockout punch on your tongue from the start to announce its presence. Rich in color, flavor and texture, the bold taste follows from the front of your mouth to the back. A great Russian Imperial with good balance of bitter and sweet.
Jason’s Rank: 1st
Nathan: Less head retention than the first beer, but the level of roasted malt character has increased and nicely balances the chocolate notes. Wonderful flavor complexity: chocolate, coffee, raisins, figs, and hints of citrus hop character. Thick mouthfeel with a fairly dry finish and lingering bitterness the complements the intense malt character. Moderate alcohol warming in the aftertaste, but never harsh or distracting from the other flavors. This beer almost perfectly embodies the best qualities I associate with Russian Imperial Stouts. Outstanding! 
Nathan’s Rank: 1st
Tim:  Let's just say that I can't see through the beer as it is dark as night with a small dark tan head. The first hints of the aroma immediately hit me as this wonderful blend of rich malt (bready, hint of fruit), roast and chocolate character followed by a low earthy hop nose. The first taste filled my mouth with this full bodied, rich, more roast (not acrid) than chocolate, complex delicious beer that finished dry leaving me asking for more. Even with the low head, it had plenty of carbonation to support this big beer. The alcohol was pleasantly warming and not hot at all. This was solid all the way through! Can I have another? This is what I was expecting from a Russian Imperial Stout.
Tim’s Rank: 1st

DSCN1480     DSCN1481

Beer #3: Three Floyds Dark Lord – A demonic Russian Style Imperial Stout, brewed with Intelligensia coffee Mexican vanilla, and Indian sugar this beer defies description, available one day a year in April at the brewery, Dark Lord Day. ??? IBU 15% ABV

Dave: This beer was my least favorite of the group. I found it to be syrupy, very sweet, a little under carbonated and heavy on the palate. To be fair, there were some malt complexities present if one could get past the palate coating sweetness, but for me personally it was too much. Perhaps a bit more carbonation would have helped to lift some of that sensation (see the Narwhal notes above) but compared side by side with other examples of the style, this beer fell flat. This is the part where I offer up opinions about marketing and the conception of quality as it compares to demand and price points… or not. The panel scores speak for themselves.
Would I Drink Another: No. Please no. Someone take the rest my sample, please… 
Dave’s Rank: 5th
Jason: No overpowering roast aroma here but yet distinct as almost too sweet. This is the viscosity I was expecting as it leaves a presence on the glass. No hop bitterness that I can detect and even if it was there the sweetness just dominates the liquid throughout. If you like syrupy sweet beers, this is a great one for you. Bold and attempting to be imposing, but not a beer you could drink with ease.
Jason’s Rank: 4th
Nathan: Low head retention and carbonation, but still unleashes an intense aroma dominated by roasted malts and burnt sugar. Nice complexity in the flavor with coffee, molasses, burnt sugar, and cream. There is a lingering residual sweetness throughout the flavor that does not fade even after you swallow the beer. Substantial bitterness is apparent, but is still competing with the sweetness to clean up the beer before your next sip. Seems higher in alcohol than the other examples, and might be pushing the limit of “too much”. I really like the flavor complexity of this beer, but the residual sweetness is hard to overlook. 
Nathan’s Rank: 5th
Tim: Well let's just say, more pitch blackness. Getting the idea here. Very little head or apparent carbonation, but it did carry a dark tank ring around the top of the beer. My first impression of the aroma and the taste was I was drinking some extremely rich, sweet creamed coffee. As I continued to evaluate, I just could not get rid of the lip smacking residual sweetness in my mouth. Once I could cut through this, I could detect the hops, but the sweetness was just too overpowering and this is not a malty sweetness, this was residual sweetness; as if the beer did not attenuate out. I think more carbonation could help this a bit, but to be honest, the more I thought about this, the more I kept thinking that this beer was some sort of imperial milk stout!
Tim’s Rank: 5th

Beer #4: Oskar Blues Ten Fidy – This titanic, immensely viscous stout is loaded with inimitable flavors of chocolate-covered caramel and coffee and hides a hefty 98 IBUs underneath the smooth blanket of malt.  Ten FIDY is made with enormous amounts of two-row malt, chocolate malt, roasted barley, flaked oats and hops. Ten FIDY is the ultimate celebration of dark malts and boundary-stretching beer. 98 IBU 10.5% ABV

Dave: I ranked this beer in second place, and for a minute there it was a close call. There was a greater hop character apparent in this beer than the others, but not enough to be off putting. There were also the requisite malt complexities with hints of coffee, roast, chocolate and toffee. I’d like to grab a sixer of this beer and set it back for a few months. I think it might have given North Coast a run for first place if it had just a bit more age on it. But that wasn’t the beer we had in front of us, so Ten FIDY wound up in second. However, I would really like to try this beer on nitro. I think that might round off some of the sharper edges. If you see it around town on a nitro tap do yourself a favor and stop for a pint. Maybe I’ll see you there.
Would I Drink Another: Yes please. 
Dave’s Rank: 2nd
Jason: At this point in the tasting I was starting to doubt myself. I was afraid my nose was deceiving me. I smelled absolutely no roast and detected rubbing alcohol. The liquid coated the glass well enough but it wasn't nearly as thick as Beer #3. As I was drinking this I thought it would pair perfectly with a strong, stinky cheese. There was no hint of sweetness at all which does not lend to balance. Still find it acceptable to drink, just not want I expected. I make it sound unappealing but it was pretty solid.
Jason’s Rank: 3rd
Nathan: Now here are some hops to compete with all this malt flavor! Notes of black licorice and tobacco combine with the expected, but subdued, chocolate and roasted malt flavors. The amplified hopping sets this beer apart and adds to the layers of flavors at play here. Medium mouthfeel, not as thick as the other examples, with some burnt malt character in the finish. Very good beer, but clearly a notch below beer #2 in terms of malt complexity and refinement. Very close to beer #5 in my book, but the hop character pushes it past that beer into second place. 
Nathan’s Rank: 2nd
Tim: Guess the color! The pour had a low light chocolate brown head with a light malty, roast and earthy hop aroma. Very full bodied in the mouth feel, with good carbonation (even with the low head). To me the malt character came across as a little one dimensional, solid, but not very complex. There was both a smooth roast and chocolate notes as expected, with the roast  more prominent. A nice hop bitterness to support this beer, but little hop aroma. Could immediately tell that this was big beer as the alcohol was prominent, not hot or distracting. Overall a very solid beer, but the aroma did not have that in your face character that would be able to push it higher on my ranking. It came across as an extremely fresh, young beer, just out of the fermenter!
Tim’s Rank: 3rd

Beer #5: Bell’s Expedition Stout – One of the earliest examples of the Russian Imperial Stout in the United States, Expedition Stout offers immensely complex flavors crafted specifically with vintage aging in mind, as its profile will continue to mature and develop over the years. A huge malt body is matched to a heady blend of chocolate, dark fruits, and other aromas. Intensely bitter in its early months, the flavors will slowly meld and grow in depth as the beer ages. 10.5% ABV

Dave: Ranked in 4th place on my list, I was a bit surprised by the results. I’ve purchased and consumed Expedition more than once and enjoyed it greatly. But that is the benefit of not having a side-by-side comparison. When paired against the other beers in the flight, it just didn’t have the same delightful character as the others. However, let me take a moment to mention the relatively close ranking of the middle of our field. The beers in spots 2-4 were all very good and the competition was close. Ultimately, not everyone can get a trophy. There are in fact winners and losers (just like in the real world, kiddo) and one of the beers has to be in 4th place. This time around it was Bells Expedition. For me personally, there was a significant licorice flavor, and that’s not one of my favorites. Here again the beauty of this sort of blind tasting is that it’s completely subjective. We’re not scoring beers according to any style guidelines or handing out medals and fancy swag at the end. That gives us the freedom so speak clearly about the things we liked or disliked. Less licorice, more roast and I might have scored it higher on the list.
Would I Drink Another: Probably not.
Dave’s Rank: 4th
Jason: Roasty, sweet aroma with decent lacing around the glass. Almost has the same alcohol scent as Beer #4. Very earthy from the taste and once again all bitterness with no sweetness. I like my Russian Imperial to blend the roast of coffee and chocolate and not lean too heavily in one direction. I could almost mistake this for a black IPA if I didn't know any better. At first I was pretty adamant this was not a beer for me, almost thinking it was the worst of the group. However, after a lengthy rest and a warming of the glass I find myself returning to drink more and more. At the end, I would definitely buy this beer and put it on par with Beer #2 or #4.
Jason’s Rank: 2nd
Nathan: Very nice malt complexity: roasted notes, black licorice, coffee, and bitter chocolate. Low level of citrus hop character and medium lingering hop bitterness. Good carbonation level and very smooth with a nice touch of sweetness to complement the roasted malt character. Thick mouthfeel, good drinkability, and a nice balance between the malt character and hop bitterness. If this had a little more chocolate character and hop flavor, it would have been a contender for the top of my list. But we’re seriously nitpicking now – this is another excellent Russian Imperial Stout.
Nathan’s Rank: 3rd
Tim: Ok, they were all pitch black beers! This beer poured with a low dark tan head and had a rich malty nose with the roasted and chocolate character to support this. Not as bold as beer #2, but still very nice. Very full bodied, roasty, almost coffee like, with a very supportive hop bitterness and a malty, but dry finish. The beer did have a very pronounced alcohol warming, but was not hot. It was a little distracting at first, but with a little more time, this dies down and I believe just adds more complexity to the beer. This was another solid example, just needs some time!
Tim’s Rank: 2nd

And the results are in…….

To determine the overall results, we used a model where the lowest number of points would win (a 1st place vote = 1 point, a 2nd place vote = 2 points, etc). After tallying up the scores, our collective rankings determined the final order:

Fifth Place: Three Floyds Dark Lord (19 points)
three floyds dark lord
Fourth Place: Sierra Nevada Narwhal (16 points)
Third Place: Bell’s Expedition Stout (11 points)
Second Place: Oskar Blues Ten Fidy (10 points)
First Place: North Coast Old Rasputin (4 points)


And while it doesn’t count in the official rankings, our hostess “reveals” her favorite……

Poppi’s Pick: Bell’s Expedition Stout


There are two big stories that came out of this tasting for me. First is the rediscovery of a wonderful beer in North Coast’s Old Rasputin. There was a stage in my craft beer drinking evolution where Old Rasputin was a beer I commonly sought out, and an Old Rasputin sign proudly hangs next to the pool table in our basement. But as the number of craft beer options has exploded, it’s very easy to get caught up in constantly trying new things and taking some of these old favorites for granted. I can’t remember the last time I purchased this beer off the shelf, but it certainly won’t take that long again. Along with the straight tasting results we always try to include cost analysis at the end of these because the highest ranking beers are often the most expensive. But at the relatively low price (for a Russian Imperial Stout anyway) of $10.99 for a 4-pack, this aspect only bolsters the case for Old Rasputin in this lineup.

But I suppose the real elephant in the room here is the performance of Dark Lord. It wasn’t the poorest performance of any beer we’ve had in these tastings (the dubious distinction for that belongs to Brooklyn Brown Ale), but it was definitely the most surprising. Reaction to the result may be summed up best in a note from Jason:

I was able to call out Beer #3 as Dark Lord as soon as I smelled it and it was only confirmed by the taste. It is amazing that a beer that I truly enjoy, when placed side by side with beers of the same category it could pale in comparison. The mystique of Dark Lord certainly draws its following, but in a "blind" tasting the simple fact that it could be labeled worst amazed me. Of course, in a pairing of five someone has to be a loser, but that beer? Shocked and amazed. Just proves that there are a lot of great beers in this world to enjoy.

Even with the consistently low rankings, opinions from the panelists about Dark Lord still varied somewhat. Jason and I noted certain qualities that impressed us, while Dave flat out wouldn’t finish his sample. But this ranking clearly came down to a consistent feeling among the panel that the high level of residual sweetness in Dark Lord hurt the drinkability and distracted from the positive qualities. Personally, I had tagged this beer as probably 3rd or 4th in the initial round where we taste them individually. But when compared side by side in a final lineup of this caliber, any notable flaw really stands out. And there’s no getting around it – when considering this beer as a value for your dollar, Dark Lord was a huge disappointment. But I’m not sure that’s even a controversial statement for people who really like this beer. You’re always paying a certain premium for the mystique and a memento of your experience at Dark Lord Day.

We shouldn’t forget about the rest of the lineup – Oskar Blues Ten Fidy and Bell’s Expedition Stout are exceptional beers. Bell’s Expedition in particular exhibits the type of character to suggest it could really be outstanding with some extensive aging. But at a slightly elevated price point, it’s still hard to recommend Ten Fidy ($15.99 for a 4-pack) or Expedition ($17.99 for a 6-pack) over Old Rasputin. Sierra Nevada Narwhal is a worthy value consideration at $10.99 for a 4-pack and will likely develop some of the lacking complexity with some aging.

But if you’re looking for a great Russian Imperial Stout to enjoy in the near future, we can’t recommend Old Rasputin strongly enough. Buy up a good portion of that beer and horde it for yourself. Save the Dark Lord for impressing your friends with rare beer.

Cheers, Nathan

Castner exits RAM

It's official, Indy RAM brewer Andrew Castner said farewell to his fans tonight (Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013) as he departs his post and gives us what is the best "S'No Angel" WeizenBock yet! Brewer Chris Knott took the helm tonight toasting with the Barrel Aged St Olaf Bock -- aged nine months in an Indiana produced Harrison Bourbon barrel. Andrew will hang his hat at both Great Fermentation AND Flat12 Bierwerks over the next few months. However, permits expediting, we will be with him for his inauguration of a new brewery in Greenwood on State Road 135 across from Hal's Las Vegas. This means I can get great beer and a great dinner by walking across the street! This makes the RAM a certified launch pad since it was the home to Dave Colt and Clay Robinson prior to SunKing and now to Andrew and a new operation. Watch here as we follow Chris Knott and his future. What we DO know is that barrel aged beers and great recipes have sprouted in this downtown Indy corporate chain restaurant. We highly recommend you get the current S'Sno Angel. Just leave the St Olaf for me!

Cheers to progress! GregKitz

Indiana Beer News - collaborations, new beers, and more....

SunKing has released a seasonal beer IPA: Fistful of Hops. At 73 ibu and 6.4% it delivers great hop notes featuring Pacifica and Zythos providing orange, tangerine, a little grapefruit but still a nice balance with a big beer. WeeMuckle is also available and tasted mighty good last night with higher alcohol and nice caramel and toffee!

RAM releases the much awaited (at least in my house) S'No Angel tonight, Nov. 20, but also features a Barrel Aged Bock starting at 6:30 PM downtown. Of course the seasonals will end up at both DT and Fishers, but do not expect the BBL Bock to last long.

Flat12 has a Girl's Pint Out event with racer Sarah Fisher tonight at Lino's 5-7 PM. Flat12 starts their always anticipated Twelve Beers of Christmas 12/5 and runs through 12/22.

Upland has TWO collaborations with New Belgium Brewing: Light Synth is 50% NB Felix, 40% Upland Sour Reserve, and 10% Upland Cherry Lambix. Dark Synth is 50% NB Oscar, 40% Upland Dantillon, and 10% Upland Raspberry Lambic. Both will be released in 750 bottles in 2014.

Bloomington Brewing released their Persimmon Ale on Nov. 6, and last we checked it was still on tap at Lennie's Bloomington. This has a reasonable spice that almost reminds of pumpkin beer. BBC also released their Homegrown Ale featuring organic Cascade Hops grown on their own farm providing a light bodied ale with a bit of pine bit and some grassy flavor.

Daredevil cans of LiftOff IPA have hit shelves with distinctive graphics.

Bell's (Okay, a bit further afield) ships CANS of Two Hearted and Oberon in late April 2014. These will eventually be followed by cans of Bell's Best Brown, Winter White, and Smitten Golden Rye.

So many breweries.... SO much good beer!!

Cheers, GregKitz

Dribs and Drams (Hi, David)

If you haven’t heard, Duvel Moortgat of Belgium has inked a deal to buy Boulevard Brewing of KC. The NY Times article says there are 2,600 micros in the U.S.

We get letters:

I am an avid homebrewer and fascinated with historical brewing.  I recently came across your book after my move north from Alabama.  I have not purchased your book as of yet but definitely plan to within the next couple of weeks (that is if my wife doesn't make me wait until Christmas).

From what I have seen on your website, hoosierbeerstory.com, I can't get enough of the brewing history in Indiana.  I was curious if any of the old breweries released any of their recipes or if they kept that information secret.  I would love to bring some of this history back to life!  If you have any information or could point me in the right direction, I would greatly appreciate it.  I would be more than happy to do the conversions from large scale to homebrew size myself.

Thank you for your time,

And make replies

Yes, some old breweries have their recipe available. Notably Terre Haute's Champagne Velvet and SBBA's lager. BUT it isn't possible to replicate these recipes. The malt is different with different temperatures and methods used in its creation. The yeast is very different being now a truer strain that has less microbial variety. The hops are stronger with many new flavors - originally something from the back yard but now sourced from England to New Zealand. And the water even isn't the same as in the pre-prohibition days - now with more chemicals and purity processing.

Upland spent six months getting their new Champagne Velvet into shape to be a new mainstay of their product line but don't expect the same beer as previously available under the same name. Don't expect that you can use a recipe from a book here. Caleb Staton of Upland had lots of brewing school and lots of expert help but theirs is not at all the same as Terre Haute's.

The Big Lebowski at the Brown County Playhouse this next Saturday. Sponsored, of course by our best abiders – Big Woods. info

Bloomington Brewing and Black Acre’s collaboration, a Roggenbier, is now on tap.

1% of Canadians work in the beer industry. proof?

So there’s these drunk guys walked into a bar the sea in southeast England. One rescued without problem but the second was unconscious and "He had had eight cans of beer. The paramedics said that it probably kept him alive because his body had slowed down so much that it might have helped him." Of course he’d be on dry labnd without the eight beers. article

Beer is good for you, let me count the ways: article

  • It goes with food – burgers, wings, spicy
  • It’s more nutritious than gin
  • You can batter food in beer
  • It increases blood flow to the brain
  • It’s good for your heart (31% fewer heart attacks and strokes)
  • It can prevent kidney stones
  • You can wash your hair in it
  • You can bathe in it

Brewmeister Brewery in Scotland has hopped into the strength ring with a 67.5% Snake Venom. article

Deep Ellum Brewing (Texas) has come under a bit of fire publicity for naming their Dallas Blonde as “it goes down easy”.

BeerMits IceWhiskey

HealthAndBeauty Smiley

French Onion Soup with Oaken Barrel Snake Pit Porter

If you're a fan of French onion soup, then you already know the joys of the flavor it brings to the table.  Well, it's not that difficult to bring that taste to life at home.  The first encounter with French onion soup made with beer was at Rock Bottom in downtown Chicago.  Theirs was made with a stout.  This version was made with Greenwood's own Oaken Barrel Snake Pit Porter.

Procure a soup beef bone from your local grocer or butcher.  Season with salt and pepper and roast in an oven for about an hour and a half at 350 degrees.

Place roasted beef bone in a soup pot and cover with about eight cups of water.  You're just preparing a broth with this.  I suppose you can cheat and use an existing beef broth, but believe me, this is worth it.

Your ingredients:

1/4 cup butter
3 large sweet onions sliced (about 4 cups)
Teaspoon sugar
Tablespoon Flour
2 1/2 cups water
12 oz. of dark beer (Oaken Barrel Snake Pit Porter is good, also have used browns and stouts)
Prepared beef broth
French bread
Gruyere cheese

In hot butter, cook onions and sugar for about 10 minutes.  Stir in flour until well blended.  Add water, beer, broth and boil.  Reduce to simmer for 10 minutes.  Slice French bread and toast in toaster oven, conventional oven at 325 degrees or in a toaster if it will fit.

Ladle soup into oven safe containers.  Place bread in soup and then place slices or shreds of Gruyere on top of the bread.  Place bowls on a cookie sheet.  Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Remove from oven.  Open 12 oz. bottle of the same beer used to cook the soup.  Pour beer into your favorite serving vessel.  Take a few sips of beer and then dig into the soup, this enhances the taste.

Does Craft Beer Need To Be Defined?

The attempts of large brewers to penetrate the craft beer market has resulted in some interesting backlash this year. Much of this has come from the Brewers Association, a trade group that represents the interests of small and independent American craft brewers. While this may seem tantamount to protesting their own success, Brewers Association founder and president Charlie Papazian addressed the controversy again with a recent article on the need to define craft beer and prevent it from being hijacked. The Association has already taken it upon themselves to define a craft brewer, so it wasn’t much of a mystery which side Papazian would take on the issue. In any event, I’m guessing most of us are more interested in the beer we drink than participating in an industry trade group pissing match. So I’d like to discuss what this means to the craft beer consumer, and if we should even care.beerwars

For many people, craft beer is like the kick ass band you discovered at a basement show. It’s new and exciting, the artist is accessible, and you leave feeling a unique personal connection to the experience. The band gains some momentum and is booked at local clubs and festivals. You’re excited to see this and tell all your friends they need to check out this brand new thing you discovered. But pretty soon the band is playing sold-out amphitheaters, and you just paid $250 for a scalped ticket because prospectors bought up all the Upland Lambics tickets with the intent to capitalize on your scene. You’re still excited for the band, but a bit disillusioned and take to internet message boards to debate their punk credibility. Now comes word that the offers are coming in from AB InBev major record labels, and you fear the band will devolve into a vehicle for watered down pop songs aimed at 12-year old girls.

Similar to the way many people feel about music, Papazian admirably holds out hope that we can de-commoditize craft beer. But society just doesn’t tend to work that way. Higher prices, limited supplies, sold out festivals, “VIP” packages, barrel society fees…….these are some of the realities we find as consumers in today’s craft beer scene. Even the Brewers Association has struggled with their own definition of small breweries and craft beer. It’s now evolved to where a brewery can annually produce 6 million barrels of beer a year and still be considered “small” by their standards (this conveniently preserves the inclusion of Boston Beer Co. and the Sam Adams brand). They’ll point to the megabrewers and claim 6 million barrels is small in comparison, but it’s also a stretch to place a brewery that size in the same classification as your local brewpub. For some perspective, consider that Three Floyds – Indiana’s largest craft brewer – still produces less than 50,000 barrels a year. So they could increase production by over 10,000% and still meet this loose definition of small.

CandyRetailPerhaps I cast a somewhat cynical eye toward efforts to define craft beer, yet ultimately I have to cast this aside and fully stand behind Papazian on the issue. The recent celebration of Halloween is the perfect case for explaining why, and why it should matter to you. I learned this year that 99.4% of snack-sized chocolates are made by just three companies: Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestle. This made me start thinking about how often we see new and innovative products become readily available on the candy shelves of retail stores. The answer seems to be rarely – and what new products we do get are often nothing more than slight modifications of already established brands. The candy haul my daughter brought home from trick or treating pretty much resembled the junk people stuffed in my plastic pumpkin 30 years ago. Now, you may like Snickers – but wouldn’t it be nice to try a viable alternative from time to time? These companies seem more concerned with launching marketing campaigns to make their products appear new and exciting then actually producing products that meet this description.

This is why you should care about defining craft beer. Any definition is likely to be flawed, but the Brewers Association efforts ultimately serve to educate the consumer and help us make informed choices. Supporting a vibrant community of small, independent brewers is the best way to preserve the diversity and quality of choice we have come to enjoy in this scene. For any brewery that might be getting a little too big for your tastes, there are still plenty of places where you can walk in, enjoy some awesome beer, and casually chat with the person directly responsible for its production. We found a few of them on our recent trip through Northern Indiana.

This is not meant to be a lecture on why you should never enjoy a Goose Island Bourbon County Stout or a fine Belgian or German import. By all means, drink what makes you happy. But there is nothing wrong with knowing where your beer comes from and allowing this to play a role in your purchasing decisions. The modern craft beer explosion may have some undesirable side effects, but the worst case scenario is placing full control in the hands of a few mega-conglomerates who limit your choices while spending millions to convince you they aren’t.

Suck it Snickers.

Flat 12's Flat as Hell

…so here’s the thing: I really like Flat12. I mean, they’ve got a lot to offer the local craft beer consumer. A standard roster of great beers (Walkabout and Pogue's Run come to mind) but they also have a track record of pushing the envelope and trying any number of unusual ingredients or odd mash-ups in beers that find their way to the tasting room or beer festival. These are the folks who bring us Bleeding Heart IPA, Cucumber Kolsch, and the infamous 12 Beers of Christmas.

So it was that my lovely spouse (and all-around good sport) and I found our way down to Dorman Street for their Halloween event: Flat as Hell. The event hinged upon an interesting line up using their amber as a base beer and dosing nine different kegs each with a different pepper ranging from green bell peppers in beer # 1 all the way to Scorpion peppers in beer #9 (a la Dante’s Inferno). As if this weren’t enough, Flat 12 also coordinated a salsa bar courtesy of Tlaolli  featuring salsa made with each separate pepper. Along with great food and exciting beer choices the night included live music and the obligatory costume contest. Despite rainy weather and municipal insistence that Halloween festivities take place on Friday the 1st, the place was packed. The crowd was good spirited and all seemed to be enjoying the event.

For the very competitive price of $12, intrepid party-goers received a ticket to be punched for a sample of each of the nine beers AND a commemorative pint glass AND a full pour of the beer of their choice. What a great value. We were all in.  
Here's the part where I attempt to offer some insightful and informative narrative regarding the beers on offer.  But my tasting notes from the evening read a little like that well-circulated internet gag about the poor rube who volunteered to judge the chili cook off and likely wound up with a peptic ulcer as a result…. which is to say that by about beer 4 or 5 I couldn’t really taste much of anything outside of hop character and heat. This didn’t stop me from trying all nine of my samples, mind (I'm no sissy).  It just means that I have very little to offer by way of review outside the memory of a delightful evening tasting out-of-the-ordinary beer.

Which brings me to the over-arching point of this missive: I wish more of our local breweries would steal a page from Flat 12’s playbook. If there’s one thing we can count on it’s that Flat 12 will push the envelope and try some new things. Some of them may not be commercially viable on a large scale (I don’t foresee a scorpion-pepper infused amber making its way to bottles and distribution sites any time soon…) but they will always be fun. And if that draws folks down to the tasting room on a Thursday or to the next beer festival, well that’s good for everyone in the craft beer community. Let’s be fair: I can hit my local bottle shop and purchase lots of great local beer from lots of great local breweries. Or I could make a special trip to the brewery for the same beer. And as creatures of convenience it takes more than a simple sixer of Walkabout to draw me downtown on a weeknight. This is the sort of thing where Flat 12 excels. I for one would like to see more of it in the future. And speaking of more beer fun in the future I hear there will be special Black-Friday beers on the schedule from the Flat 12 folks… something about turkey day leftovers? Rumor has it there may be a reappearance of one of those pepper infusions for the 12 Beers of Christmas just a few weeks away. It’s big fun for everyone. Take yourself down to your local brewery and grab a pint of something out of the ordinary. Variety is the spice of life after all.

Belgian Influence: From Cooperstown to Kansas City: Duvel Moortgat

I recently had a great beer, not just a good beer, but one that stimulated every aspect of taste and senses. Then I had another beer from the same brewery that caused me to think about the influence of Belgian Brewery Duven Moortgat both in Europe and the U.S.

I sat down at a nice spot for lunch: good view, good food, good company, good beer selection. I chose the Ommegang Scythe and Sickle harvest ale. 'Tis the season!
Harvest ales are often produced with local hops, near the brewery. As Ommegang says on their web site, "Scythe and Sickle is a testament to the craft and care of farming." It is truly not enough to call this beer well rounded or even balanced. This beer provides complexity of barley, oats, wheat and rye then layers Belgian yeast for a nice flair and give us wonderful hop notes that caress rather than overpower the malt. The Scenic View restaurant overlooking Monroe lake and the beautiful sunshine on local hills served this beer in the appropriate Ommegang glass making my wonderful lunch almost an added thought!

Then it hit. They had blown the keg of another beer and I was told Three Philosophers from Ommegang was now on tap. Three Philosophers is a beer I usually consume in bottles and by vintage. Not only could I not pass by the opportunity to have this beer fresh on tap but ordered water to cleanse my palate from my lunch and allow full appreciation of this masterful libation.

Three Philosophers: Solid malt sweetness from 5 malts with a deep fruit characteristic going from raisins to molasses to a hint of chocolate, the tartness of the cherry from the blend of Liefmans kriek (at 2%), and the background of Spalt Select and Styrian Golden hops. This treasure was served to me in a special glass that showcases the breweries that Duvel Moortgat now owns, excluding their latest purchase this month of Boulevard.

Ommegang and Duvel Moortgat: That might have been enough -- savor the beers, enjoy the moment - but it helped me recall my first blush with Ommegang and later my first blush with the parent brewery. Several years ago I found myself near Cooperstown and discovered Ommegang beer in a convenience store! Of course that started my fan status of this U.S. brewery that brewed Belgian style beer. A few years ago I enjoyed LaChouffe beer in Belgium. I had the opportunities to meet the brewer, talk beer, and expand my range of samplings of Chouffe beers. A friend of mine who has spent a lot of time in Belgium turned me on the crisp carbonation of Duvel, Belgian Golden Strong. Now all of these are under one ownership along with Maredsous abbey beers. Duvel Moortgat bought Ommegang back in the 1990s. The Belgian firm acquired Chouffe in 2006. What we might think of as this tiny little brewer in Breendonk, Belgium reportedly has sites set on both the U.S. and China.

Boulevard bought by Duvel Moortgat: When I think of Boulevard brewing, Kansas City, I think of Single-wide IPA, unfiltered wheat, and Tank 7 farmhouse wheat. Yet, Boulevard has a Belgian brewer who knows the brewers at Duvel Moortgat. This past month, October 2013, Duvel Moortgat finalized their purchase of Boulevard Brewing. According to the Kansas City Business Journal (Oct. 18, 13) Moortgat plans to make Kansas City the operational hub for the combination of Ommegang, Duvel Moortgat, and Boulevard in the U.S.

I hope they change nothing about such great beers as Scythe and Sickle, or Three Philosophers, and I will have to again try the Long Strange Tripel and Bourbon Barrel Quad from Boulevard.

Cheers! GregKitz