Three of the KOTBR, along with Mike's groupie Gina, Nick, the Bartender of Deano's, and Kord, a tailgating buddy, trekked north to Hamilton County - Noblesville, to be exact - for the latest Roundtable review to check out Barley Island. We got stood up by Bob & Mark at Indiana Beer, but we thought we had a sufficient number of beer geeks to give a good review.
Owner Jeff Eaton had promised us a tour of the brewery, and we promised to drink lots of his beer. I delved in right away, finally getting to try the Black Majic Java Stout on draft. I've been a fan of the award-winning brew in the bottle, but hadn't had the pleasure of tasting it fresh. And it was worth the wait! Many of you may know that this beer took the Silver Medal at the 2006 Great American Beer Festival for Coffee-flavored beer. It's a wonderfully malty beer, with a strong coffee and chocolate nose.
Jeff came over to have a beer and talk about their business with us for a while, too. I'm always curious about where all the beers are being distributed, how far their reach is. Jeff told me they're all over Indiana now, everywhere in Illinois but Chicago (only a matter of time), and their newest market, Minnesota (primarily the Twin Cities). Last year they brewed about 660 barrels, and with their new equipment, they're now on pace to double that amount this year.
We then turned back to the beers in front of us. First up was the Bourbon Barrel Aged Oatmeal Stout, only available in 22oz. bottles. Of course, it was better the warmer it got. The nose was heavy bourbon, with hints of chocolate. The bourbon mixed well with the malts to smooth it out. It had a slightly chewy mouthfeel, medium-bodied, I would say. There was a bit of a bourbon aftertaste, but it wasn't heavy or overwhelming. This is a really good beer, especially if you still have a stomach of steel and can take bourbon (I don't). I have to give this 4.5 mugs. It's a unique, but very satisfying taste.
Next up in this double review was Jeff's their Spring/Summer seasonal offering, the Sheet Metal Blonde, the Barley Island attempt at the classic Belgian Whitbier. And a very accurate attempt it is. It has a heavy clove nose, with a slight hint of citrus. Now I have to say that I'm not a big fan of the whitbier, in general, so I'm not the best person to review this type of beer fairly. The batch also still wasn't completed, and was missing carbonation. For those two reasons, I'm not going to offer a mug review on the Sheet Metal.
After we downed a lot of Jeff's beer, he took us to the backroom to begin the brewery tour. Like Mike, I didn't really understand much of what was going on, but I know there were shiny tanks with beer in them! The malt room smelled absolutely delicious (no surprise there). I could have camped out there. They recently purchased a good deal of new equipment from a brewery in Las Vegas (can't remember which one) that had expanded and over-bought. This is allowing them to up their brewing capacity.
I did have one very interesting experience. I got to eat an actual hop, before it was put into the beer. Jeff showed us the hope pellets they used for brewing, and we decided to have a taste. Obviously, it was very bitter, and it left a bad aftertaste that wasn't going away, and as well as a grimy feel on your tongue. Not being a huge hop head like some of my fellow Knights, I needed to get some water to wash that down before I could move on to another Black Majic to finish the evening off.
Many thanks to Jeff and his crew for the great service, wonderful hospitality, and willingness to take some time out of his night to chat with us and show us around the place.