New Belgium free Festival of Beer and Film, Conner Prairie offers History On Tap, Friday, May 30 events!

New Belgium Brewing comes to Bloomington, IN, again with their Clips Beer & Film Tour Friday, May 30, in Bryan Park starting at 8:00 PM for beer flowing with short films starting at dark. New Belgium usually pours 15-20 beers, many either unusual or rare at $1.25 per 3 oz. sample or $5 per 12 oz. glass. (free admission, bring lawn chairs)

Some of the beers that are likely to be included are:
RyePA, 7.5% alc. rye spiciness with Simcoe, Galaxy, Cascade and Mosaic hops
Gruit Ale, 6.66% alc. malty beer with wheat and oats plus herbs of horehound, wormwood, Elderflower, yarrow, and bog myrtle added.
Snapshot wheat, slightly tart wheat beer with citrus hops and sweetness of coriander and grains of paradise.
Wild2 Dubbel ale, 8% alc. auburn ale with Schisandra berries providing salty, sweet, sour, spicy, and slight bitterness.
NB collaboration with Cigar City Brewing at 8.5% alc. combining Belgian yeast, spicy peppers, and citrus hops.
Transatlantique Kriek, 8% alc., an authentic kriek cherry beer that started in oak barrels in Belgium at Boon with 2 years aging blended into a full-bodied NB lager that offers some sour with a sweet ending.
La Folie 7% alc. wood-aged sour brown that is sharp with green apples and plum-skin notes.
Le Terroir, 7.5% sour beer oak-aged with earthiness
Yuzu 8% alc. pale-malt and wheat Berliner Weisse with acidity from lactobacillus.
Rampant 8.5% alc. imperial IPA using Mosaic, Calypso, and Centennial hops with high level (85ibu) of flavor and bitter.
1554 black lager, 5.6% alc. combines lager yeast and chocolate malt based on ancient Belgian recipe

Conner Prairie History On Tap near Fishers on May 30, 6:30-10:30, PM offers tastings from more than 15 local craft breweries, celebrating Indiana’s rich tradition of brewing craft beer, past and present. Enjoy craft brewing demonstrations, historical beer tastings, food, music from the Bleeding Keys and Reid & Tim, plus mingle with the citizens of Prairietown after hours.Tickets Online HERE Check prices online. Web page with Video here

Royal Ale Force

WWII-SpitfireBy coincidence, Beer, the Campaign for Real Ale‘s magazine came with an article about delivering beer during WWII. Since Dribs and Drams recently had a picture of a Spitfire equipped with beer tanks instead of drop tanks, I can’t resist parsing author Martyn Cornell’s prose.

The first delivery to troops was made four weeks after D-Day. The RAF had sporadically dropped shipments to French towns before and when the Allied  troops needed delivery service, Spitfires filled their 45-gal drop tanks with Chichester ale from Henry & Constable.

Even though the metal was steam-cleaned, the beer still tasted of petroleum and was still welcomed enthusiastically. Soon Hawker Typhoon fighter/bombers came into use – they could hold 90 casks. Later P-47 Thunderbolts were added to the supply chain.

At 15,000 feet (I said 12,000, sorry) altitude the beer reportedly chilled nicely. Ale was also sourced from High Point Brewery and Bushnell Watkins & Smith of Kent.

The picture here is of wood casks with streamlined nosecones, an innovation started by a Polish flying wing of the RAF. These were known as “XXX depth charges.”

When the Allies broke out of the Calais countryside and captured Caen on July 21st brewers and pipefitters were brought in to set up Ale breweries in Normandy that were re-taken from the Germans. The Royal Ale Force (as Cornell has termed it) existed for a month.

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 Kölsch 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

Craft Beer Week: DRINK UP!

Go grab a craft beer as you read this! This is the week to celebrate craft beer! Just a few years ago if anyone would have said that yellow fizzy beer would decline and new bars would survive on craft beer alone we might not have believed it. Back in 1982 the first Great American Beer Festival was held in Denver with 20 breweries serving 35 beers. By the 1990s pioneer brew pubs such as Broad Ripple Brew Pub, Oaken Barrel in Greenwood, & Bloomington Brewing Company established 'beach heads' for fresh local beer.

While overall U.S. beer sales were down just slightly in 2013, craft beer sales were up a whopping 18% in volume! There are over 2,768 craft breweries in the U.S. Indiana is recognized as ranking 12th in availability of craft beers among the U.S. states. Most of us only have to drive a few MINUTES to the nearest brew pub, brewery, or craft beer bar. There are now slightly more microbreweries than brew pubs. Today 98% of the breweries in the U.S. are small and independent, meaning local businesses serving up local beer, owned by your neighbors.

According to marketing research, seasonal beers make up some of the top selling craft beers. You, and your craft beer drinking friends, like variety and flavor! The Brewer's Association recognizes 140 different beer styles when judged at the Great American Craft Beer Festival or the World Beer Cup. Okay, we need to take some yellow-fizzy out of that for Craft Beer Week but 130 craft styles means you have a lot of drinking to do!

How are you celebrating?

Hundreds of us will flock to Indianapolis City Market (May 17) for the Upland Sour + Wild + Funk Fest. This event, in its third year, is sold out. A few years ago if you gave someone a sample of lambic many would make a face. Today sour beers are well known and sell quickly when released.

So... get to your local establishment. Enjoy a craft beer. Be proud to be a craft beer drinker!

Greg Kitz

Dribs and Drams

News of the day – or the week – or May(be not).

New Albanian’s Bank Street Brewhouse changed this week from an epicurean restaurant to a tap room. Article, Blog, Blog

A Granite City Food and Brewery is scheduled to move to Indy’s Circle Center Mall. This will be the second GC in Indy and the fourth in Indiana (incl. Fort Wayne and Mishawaka) Article The address will be 49 W. Maryland. 317-803-2025. Monday - Thursday: 11:00am to 12:00am. Friday & Saturday: 11:00am to 1:00am. Sunday: 10:00am to 10:00pm. Sunday Brunch: 10:00am to 2:00pm.

Ron Smith’s Beer MBA Class starts a summer series at the end of May. He’s slao gaking a group (which could include YOU) on a trip to Belgium in July. Plus an IUPUI beer appreciation class. Busy guy, as always.

Data and info on the ABA National Homebrew Competition.

The Atlantic looks at The State of American Beer

x1htifqxBeer socks. (with an “o”) $10. Link

Pico Brew – a Kickstarted self-aware $1700 brewing system. OK, maybe not self-aware but according to their plans you’ll be able to fill it, flip the switch and wait 3.5 hours. Oh, then there is that fermentation thing.  Remember the Brew-In-Bag?

Lager Lollipops. $2.50 each! Yike.

z0jqno27Another Scottish brewer gets in the act with a 67.5% beer – Snake Venom.

Flying Dog replies with a beer seasoned with Old Bay seafood seasoning (which is a good thing with fish but we’ll reserve judgment about liquids).

13 June 1944: An English brewery donates a sizable amount of fresh beer for the troops fighting in Normandy and a unique delivery method is created, strapping kegs to the underwings of Spitfires being shipped to forward airfields. “Flying at 12 000 feet chills the brew to perfection.”

On the other hand, Lifehacker tells us to use a Chilled Glass with Room Temperature Beer for Best Flavor.

June: PA Resort to Hold Naked Beer Festival

Jim Koch on How to Drink All Night Without Getting Drunk – the secret ingredient is yeast. (?)

And some other pictures.

landladyen NUTELLA-FIN PopTarts varieties wasted-214 wasted-15

IndianaBeer Group Tasting and Reviews – American Pale Ales

What category of beer best represents the style and attitude of American craft brewers? I would make an argument for the extreme flavors and high alcohol of an Imperial IPA. But before Vinnie Cilurzo unleashed Pliny the Elder on hop lovers in 2000, American Pale Ale (APA) had been steering brewers in that direction for over two decades. The landmark beer of this style has to be Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, first distributed in 1981 and still very popular today. Sierra Nevada’s version lightened the malt character of Pale Ale’s English counterpart and featured an intense citrus hop character (for the time anyway) from American Cascade hops. There were also a few notable examples before Sierra Nevada. Anchor Brewing could stake a good claim to developing the APA style, as their Liberty Ale was released in 1975 and is still available today. But Liberty was initially brewed as a special commemorative release and did not become a regular release until 1983. Another beer often cited as influential was Jack McAuliffe’s New Albion Ale, which was developed in 1976 and featured the hop-forward style associated with modern APAs. But New Albion Brewing struggled to make a profit while brewing only 7.5 barrels (217 gallons) a week, and shut down production in 1982. Their beers were highly influential to the next generation of craft beer pioneers, and Sam Adams resurrected the New Albion Ale recipe for a special release at the beginning of 2013.

                           liberty ale 1975                     new albion ale

The lineup selected for our tasting featured highly regarded modern APAs from Flat 12, Oskar Blues, Sun King, and Three Floyds. And for the sake of curiosity, the classic Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was also included. 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 Kathleen Slauzis; with a guest appearance from Brew Bracket's Mike Sale. Here is a summary of each beer sampled, with the brewery’s description followed by the panel’s tasting comments.

Beer #1: Sun King Osiris – Osiris is an assertively hopped west coast style Pale Ale. Every aspect of Osiris is designed to showcase the hops without overpowering your taste buds.  50 IBU  5.6% ABV

Dave: I ranked this beer third overall. To my palate, it resembled the top end of beers found in the Pilsner or Light Lager categories. Subtle but present hop aroma and a well-attenuated dry finish with some hop bitterness. Very refreshing, if a bit thin in body when compared side-by-side with the other beers in the panel. A nice beer to be sure. Just the sort of thing I might like when floating down the river in an inner tube with a bunch of pals.

Would I Drink Another: Sure I would… Especially if it was really warm outside (August, I’m looking at you!). 
Dave’s Rank: 3rd
Kathleen: The first beer to me was light in color, almost golden. It has little to no head with a slightly sweet aroma in the nose, almost floral. My first taste had me thinking that it was a little piney or woodsy with the hops. It wasn’t an overpowering taste or bitterness. Definitely drinkable and since it was light enough I thought it’d be something that would go well with food. I also felt that this would be something I would drink a few pints of but didn’t overall excite me.
Kathleen’s Rank: 4th
Mike: Going into the event, I think I was most excited to sit on the other side of the curtain for a blind taste testing. We built Brew Bracket to try and let the beer speak for itself without the perceptions of brand or the brewery behind the beer to influence. And the silver medal was that I love pale ales. Going into the tasting I decided I would be looking for a perfect pale ale for the spring that would be “sessionable”, i.e. that I could drink 3 of while playing cornhole and still throw the bags straight.

The hop aroma on this one was just right, not overpowering, but very present. The beer had a mild bitterness, with a subtle, hop finish that stayed with your tongue. The malt backing was light, leaving a nice dry finish. The hop finish really stayed with me, but didn’t burn out my palate. Right off the top I felt like we had landed on a perfect example of the style. This beer ended up being my first place pick. I’m ready to buy a 6 pack and go throw some bags.

Mike’s Rank: 1st
Nathan: Gold colored, very clear, medium carbonation. Tangerine hop aroma with a bit of grainy malt in support. Flavor is very hop-forward with a strong orange and tangerine impression (almost reminds me of chewing on an orange peel…..which is actually much better than it probably sounds). The residual bitterness and hop flavor are well-balanced, and the beer has an overall bright, fresh, and clean impression. The malt character plays only a very minor supporting role here, kind of like a smaller West Coast IPA. Very enjoyable and well executed beer, a little more malt complexity would improve it for my personal tastes.
Nathan’s Rank: 3rd

Beer #2: Flat 12 Walkabout Pale Ale – A single-hop pale ale featuring Galaxy hops from Australia, Walkabout delivers a big passionfruit aroma and flavor, with a nice hoppy finish.  40 IBU  5.3% ABV

Dave: This one was the biggest surprise when the big reveal came. I ranked this beer last in our line-up. To my palate, I found it a bit over-attenuated, highly carbonated and firmly bitter. I was quite surprised when we learned which beer this was, as Walkabout has been a staple go-to beer in our household since Flat12 opened their doors. In fact I am such a fanboy that as a home-brewer I have sought out and paid a premium for Galaxy hops to add to my own recipes. Despite that, somehow when compared to the other beers on the table, Walkabout fell a little short of the competition. This is a great example of how a side-by-side comparison can change my preconceived notions about the beer in front of me.

Would I Drink Another: Maybe if it was fresh draft on-site at the brewery. But probably not from a bottle shop. 

Dave’s Rank: 5th
Kathleen: Out of all the beers this one was the only cloudy beer. It was a hazy shade of winter, well more like a hazy shade of a darkened gold color. The scent on this beer had a definite citrus scent with a little undertone of floral. The mouth feel however was very overpowering, almost to the point of being harsh. Even though the nose on this beer had the citrus scent which is more appealing to me, the taste of this was too much.

Kathleen’s Rank: 5th
Mike: The hop aroma on this one was intense. My notes say intense smells of citrus and bubble gum wafted out of the foamy head. The hops led each sip with a punch, although it didn’t feel as if they lingered for as long as the first beer. The unique smell and taste was fun, but in my rankings of sessionable beers, I worried about palate fatigue when I lined up more than one of these.

Mike’s Rank: 4th
Nathan: Significant haze is immediately noticeable after pouring. Aroma is a bit more subdued than Beer #1, but still carries some nice citrus notes… primarily reminds me of pineapple. Very nice multi-layered hop flavor: pineapple, tangerine, with piney notes. I get a bit of caramel malt, but this is another very hop-forward offering with limited support from the malt. The bitterness is pretty intense and overshadows the hop flavor in the aftertaste.

This one was near the top of my list after the initial tasting – the hop flavor was very nice. But once all the beers were placed side by side, my opinion started to change. In comparison to the other beers, the flavors are just kind of muddled and the bitterness is a little too much. Note: After learning this beer is “only” 40 IBU, I may have been picking up an astringent character that was mistaken for bitterness. 

Nathan’s Rank: 4th

Beer #3: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – Pale Ale began as a home brewer’s dream, grew into an icon, and inspired countless brewers to follow a passion of their own. Its unique piney and grapefruit aromas from the use of whole-cone American hops have fascinated beer drinkers for decades and made this beer a classic, yet it remains new, complex and surprising to thousands of beer drinkers every day. It is—as it always has been—all natural, bottle conditioned and refreshingly bold.  38 IBU  5.6% ABV

Dave: I placed this beer 4th in the panel. Not because I found it off putting in any way, nor because there were perceived flaws (this was a tough panel to rank, all the beer being really tasty). But when compared to the other beers on the table, this one just didn’t have enough oomph to push it higher in the ranks. I found it to be quite drinkable and well balanced between assertive hop character and malt profile, but non-committal overall. Very much a middle of the road offering. A good beer to be certain, but not much in the way of personality when compared to the others.

Would I Drink Another: Probably so… It’s a great go-to beer when out with the family for dinner. 
Dave’s Rank: 4th
Kathleen: Compared to the second beer, this one started out very shy. It had no significant nose, little head, and light to amber in color. The taste of it as well was nothing standout making it hard to tell anything on the hop profile. With the simplistic flavor of this pale ale, it is something easy to drink, which makes it a good summer ale to drink multiple pints of but doesn’t keep the tongue interested the flavor. Overall, since it was smooth, it became my mid-range pale ale.

Kathleen’s Rank: 3rd
Mike: This beer had a much more subtle hop aroma then the rest of the pack. The beer was nicely balanced with a subtle bitter finish, with more caramel flavor at the close. However, the tasting for me felt like the three little bears story. A couple of the pale ales were a little too malt and hop heavy for what I was looking for in the category, and this one just fell off my radar on the lighter end of the spectrum. 

Mike’s Rank: 2nd
Nathan: Medium hop aroma: a pleasant mix of piney and grapefruit, but distinctly more subdued than the other samples. Similar hop notes in the flavor with a lower level of bitterness that leaves a bit of malt sweetness on the backend. Very easy drinking, very smooth, with a softer overall profile than the other beers. The malt profile and hop flavor achieve a pretty nice balance that is still slightly tilted in favor of the hops. With all that said, the beer really struggles to grab your attention when placed side by side with the other samples. The malt and hops both seem pretty one-dimensional in comparison. Damn…..something has to go in 5th place. I enjoyed this beer, it’s technically stronger than a few of the others, but it doesn’t deliver the flavor or complexity I prefer in American Pale Ales.
Nathan’s Rank: 5th

Beer #4: Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale – This voluminously hopped mutha delivers a hoppy nose and assertive-but-balanced flavors of pale malts and citrusy floral hops from start to finish. Oskar Blues launched its canning ops in 2002, brewing and hand-canning Dale’s Pale Ale in the Lyons, ColoRADo, brewpub. America’s first-craft-canned mountain Pale is a hearty, critically acclaimed trailblazer that changed the way craft beer fiends perceive portable beer.  65 IBU  6.5% ABV

Dave: I ranked this beer at number two in the panel. Assertively hopped, but with enough malt backbone for support. I found it to be dry in the finish with firm hop bitterness. Just the sort of thing for a warm late-spring afternoon. Delicious beer and something I had not had the pleasure to sample before this panel. I’ll definitely be adding this one to the regular line-up.

Would I Drink Another: Absolutely! 
Dave’s Rank: 2nd
Kathleen: Immediately the scent of citrus hit my nose as I drank this golden amber pale ale. The flavor though has a piney taste in the front and an orange like flavor in the back on the throat. However after the overall mouth feel there is a coating of caramel that lingers all over the tongue. Instead of the others beers where the hops played a key part you can tell with that caramel flavor that the malt had a bigger play in this beer. This was my second favorite beer, since it had a more complex balance with the bigger malt component.

Kathleen’s Rank: 2nd
Mike: Another really sessionable pale ale in my book. The hop aroma and taste on this one was a little more piney and resiny than number 1. The darker color made me think it would have a sweeter finish, and I could almost detect a honey sweetness to the taste, but the beer still finishes nice and dry with a good lasting bitterness. This was another perfect example of what I was looking for in the category.

Mike’s Rank: 5th
Nathan: Massive aroma: the first beer where both malt and hops are significant players. A touch darker than the first three beer and very clear. Biscuit, nutty, caramel malt flavors with a touch of residual sweetness. Hops feature grapefruit, lemon, and an interesting spicy quality. The balance is almost a bit toward the malt in this one, or maybe my perception is just skewed by the preceding samples that were so low on malt character. A pretty substantial bitterness in the aftertaste works well with this beer as it cleans up the malt sweetness and makes the next sip more inviting. Very well-executed and nicely balanced American Pale Ale.

Nathan’s Rank: 2nd

Beer #5: Three Floyds Alpha King – A bold yet balanced American Pale Ale with slight caramel sweetness and aggressive citrus hoppiness. This is our flagship beer.  68 IBU  6.66% ABV

Dave: This was hands-down my favorite beer in the panel. Firm hop character coupled with a strong malt framework. Sweet on the front of the palate, quickly transforming to assertive hop bitterness and dry enough that I wanted another sip. Piney, resinous and delicious. Ringing in at 6.6% this was also a bit on the big side for my perception of the style. To be fair, my affinity for this beer may be influenced by a preference for IPA as I found this beer to be closer to that end of the scale overall. However, the nature of these panel tastings is not to determine how closely a beer meets a style definition but rather to offer thoughts regarding side-by-side comparison of similar styled beers. As such, this was the standout beer of the afternoon. Here again, I was surprised by the reveal, typically shying away from beers with this much ABV when purchasing at my local bottle shop. Alpha King is not something I consume on a regular basis. I think that’s about to change.

Would I Drink Another: Without Question. In fact, I hear it may be on tap over at the Sinking Ship. That’s within walking distance and all this typing has made me quite thirsty…

Dave’s Rank: 1st
Kathleen: The darkest beer of the bunch, it is almost an amber color instead of the pale golden colors as the previous pale ales. The flavor is strong, all hops – hops – hops hitting on the side, the front and the back but not in a puckering, bitter way. This is something I would drink a lot of but alone and not mixed with highly flavorful food otherwise the tastes of both would be muddled. In the back of the throat this beer finishes toasty and also a little dry. Ultimately it was my overall favorite.
Kathleen’s Rank: 1st
Mike: Boom! Any malts that we had been missing from prior examples could all be found in this beer. The hop aroma and taste was really nice on this one, but the malty finish really took over and I thought it was too sweet for what I was looking for in my pale ale. I’d pair this one with a solid meal, but don’t think it would help me survive an afternoon cornhole tournament.

Mike’s Rank: 3rd
Nathan: Deep copper color – significantly darker than the other examples. Aroma seemed a bit musty at first, but this faded quickly. Hop aroma has a significant piney quality to go with the typical citrus of American hops. But it’s not all hops here – I get significant caramel malt and a few notes of dark fruit. The malt character is very upfront in the flavor, followed by layered hop flavors of apple, pear, and lemon. There is an interesting note in the finish from the malt that is almost coffee-like. Seems to have a pretty dry finish for such a malty beer – the bitterness may be contributing to that impression. Distinctly more complex than the other samples.

When trying all the samples side by side, this beer emerges as the most complex and interesting of the group. While we tried a lot of great hop profiles in this lineup, it’s the malt complexity that puts this one over the top for me.

Nathan’s Rank: 1st

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: Flat 12 Walkabout Pale Ale (18 points)
flat12 walkabout
Fourth Place: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (14 points)
sierra nevada pale ale
Second Place (tie): Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale and Sun King Osiris (11 points)
oskar blues dales pale ale        sun king osiris
First Place: Three Floyds Alpha King (6 points)

three floyds alpha king

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

Poppi’s Pick: Three Floyds Alpha King

In my opinion, this was the strongest field we’ve had for any of these tastings. There usually are at least 1 or 2 beers that are clearly several notches below the rest of the field. This was the first time I went back and forth at the end trying to slot 2-5. But we probably shouldn’t be surprised at who came out on top. Three Floyds gets a lot of hype. Sometimes it's questionable, and sometimes we find it to be very well earned. While it fell just short of sweeping first place, Alpha King was the clear winner and also managed to earn the coveted Poppi’s Pick. Three Floyds is often associated with insanely hoppy beers, but our panel frequently cited the malt character in pushing Alpha King to the top. Our second place tie featured a prominent local example in Sun King Osiris and a newcomer to our market (though already well-established nationally) in Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale. Given the previous collaborations between these two breweries, we’re guessing they won’t mind sharing second place in a very strong lineup.

Despite it’s 4th place finish, I actually thought Sierra Nevada Pale Ale had a decent showing here. While it was a boundary-pushing beer when it first hit the market, the craft beer scene has taken their inspiration and pushed the envelope much further in intensifying the flavor profile of this style. I actually considered not including this beer in the tasting out of concerns it could not be expected to compete with the bigger examples. But in the end, apparently I was the only hack who couldn’t appreciate the subtlety enough to elevate it above 5th place on an individual list. Shifting to the 5th place beer, I would echo Dave’s comments of surprise at the finish of Flat 12’s Walkabout. I have probably purchased more Walkabout in the last year than any other beer on this list, and picked it because I really thought it would be a strong contender. It may be damning with faint praise to say Walkabout is the best 5th place beer we’ve had in these tastings, but the results were eye-opening nonetheless.

Discussing price is worthwhile here as you can expect to pay $3-4 more for a 6-pack of Alpha King versus a 6-pack of Sierra Nevada. In between those two; Osiris, Dale’s Pale, and Walkabout were found in the same price range of approximately $10-12 a 6-pack (or 4-16oz of Osiris) depending on where you do your shopping. Our results would probably justify the extra money for Alpha King, but it’s not always easy to find. In lieu of finding Alpha King, Dale’s Pale Ale and Osiris would qualify as high quality brews for your money.

Thanks to Dave, Kathleen, and Mike for participating in the panel – and thank you for reading our review. The weather is getting warmer, so get out there and enjoy some beautifully hoppy American Pale Ales!

Cheers, Nathan

Dark Lord Day 2014

It's May Day and what better way to honor International Worker's Rights and deeply held Communist and Socialist beliefs than writing about the release of a Russian Imperial Stout!

The last Saturday in April has slowly become a day to either praise or revile Three Floyds Brewery as a craft beer enthusiast and although my past writings have not been too favorable of my regional superstar I will change course this year, slightly.

My times at Dark Lord Day are small in comparison to the length of time this event has been going on, but I feel comfortable saying that this year's event was probably the best run show Three Floyds has ever put on.  There was no pandemonium in entering the gates, buying beer or food, or buying the allotted bottles.  Everything flowed like, well, I'm sure you know.

Three Floyds again expanded the festival grounds and convinced the Town of Munster to refuse parking on the two side streets that lead into the festival area.  They did this by establishing breakfast food tents on either street and encouraging more pedestrian flow.  This did eliminate a considerable amount of free parking but as had been pointed out by several hundred people, "Who would want to drive to an event like this anyway?"

The need to expand was also driven by the fact that Three Floyds offered general admission tickets this year so that someone could experience the merriment of Dark Lord off the tap and Eye Hate God on the mikes with zero chance of buying a Dark Lord bomber to take home.  I know that adding 3,000 additional bodies made great business sense, but really that's just more crowd control that needs to be handled and longer lines.

This year's brew changed recipes and that was probably a good thing.  The 2013 Dark Lord was not welcomed with much fanfare and readers of this site are fully aware that the 2013 Dark Lord finished 5 out of 5 in a blind tasting of Russian Imperials.  Instead of keeping Intelligentsia coffee, Three Floyds incorporated Dark Matter Coffee (headquartered in the Ukrainian Village).  I can't personally vouch for the taste of the 2014 because I did not have the opportunity to drink off the tap nor did I open a bottle.  However, I did witness someone accidentally break a bottle in the parking lot and proceed to get on their hands and knees to salvage what they could with their tongue.  Of course, that could have nothing to do with the taste.

The weather wasn't nearly as accommodating this year as the last but all in all the continued improvements Three Floyds makes to this event keep me wanting to come back the following year.  I've finally realized that I could put my negative angst toward the brewery aside and enjoy the day for what the founders' intents were: to share quality beer.  I had the opportunity to sample some rare, quality beers that I would have denied myself had I not gone.

Anyone else make their way to the festival?  Any stories you'd like to share?