29 June 2007

Delirium Tremens @ BARcelona Tapas

For Knights of the Beer Roundtable Review #21, we chose to hit an establishment that Indianapolis has needed for a long, long time--BARcelona Tapas, the new Spanish tapas bar that is part of an effort to invigorate the eastern side of the Mile Square along Ohio Street. Making our roundtable special this time around were our guests. As Jason noted, we had a whopping party of fourteen for the festivities. Four of our guests simply popped in after reading last week's beer feature in INtake; three guests were the esteemed gentlemen who were also part of the INtake feature.

As a tapas aficionado as well as a beer geek, I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of a tapas bar in Indy. Unfortunately, our fair city has a reputation for being slow to change, and we are well behind the curve on the tapas phenomenon. While other restaurants in the city have done tapas, they didn't do the Spanish-style dishes that are the main feature at BARcelona. Consequently, I am very grateful for BARcelona's arrival in the Circle City. It saves me the trouble of having to trek up to Chicago for Emilio's or Café Iberico, which are great restaurants in their own right but not exactly conveniently located at 180 miles to the north.

So, Hoosiers, here's a crash course in tapas. Why should you love tapas? Because they're very flavorful, served in small portions--a welcome change from the typical American restaurant, where your main course comes on a plate the size of Rhode Island--and inexpensive. The smaller portions are also conducive to sharing with friends. Everyone can order a different dish for the whole group to sample.

Tapas usually consist of hot and cold plates. The classic cold tapas plates are marinated vegetables, olives, Spanish cheeses, garlic potato salad, and serrano ham. Typical hot tapas plates include fried turnovers called empanadas, and various meat, fish, and vegetable dishes coupled with distinctive sauces. From what I sampled, BARcelona gets the food right. I tried the spinach and mushroom empanadas, the patatas bravas (potatoes in spicy tomato sauce), and some marinated mushrooms. Though not the best tapas I've ever had, all three dishes were excellent.

Accompanying my tapas was the feature beer, which was Delirium Tremens, a Belgian beer. Throwing together Spanish and Belgian fare might be considered a strange pairing--sort of like Antonio Banderas and Jean-Claude Van Damme choosing to co-star in some sci-fi/martial arts/b-grade action flick. Not so. While taking in a Banderas/Van Damme feature would undoubtedly be a total waste of a hard-earned $8.00, the pairing of spinach and mushroom empanadas and the Delirium was darn near ideal.

Like many Belgian ales, the Delirium Tremens has a huge fruity aroma, heavy with apple and plum notes. The flavor is similar to the aroma; it's fruity, malty, slightly sweet, and dry on the finish. At 9% alcohol by volume (about twice the ABV of American macrobrews), Delirium Tremens is appropriately served in a snifter, which promotes the drinker's slow enjoyment of its potent aroma and taste. I have, however, had more flavorful Belgians than Delirium Tremens. Still, this is a decent beer. I'm with Jason here--a 3.5 mug rating seems about right.

All in all, Review #21 turned out to be a fantastic evening. We ate some food unique to the Circle City, drank some Belgian suds, and forged new friendships--all thanks to the power of beer.

Brewers and beer geeks join forces. From left to right: Jason, Jason, Jim, Mike, Chris, Gina, Adam, and Brent

Don Quixote de la Munchies, by Miguel Cerveza Sangrias

It's amazing what a little publicity will do. Last week, we're listed again in Intake Weekly (three times actually). This time, our next gathering is also publicized. We arrive at Barcelona, a new tapas bar in downtown Indianapolis, and the five Knights of the Beer Roundtable are joined by 9 squires, all of them very fit to fill the roll as our Sancho Panzas. And our Dulcinea? Good beer.

Because it is the mission of each true knight... their duty... nay, their privilege! To dream the impossible dream, to face the unbeatable foam, to beat the unbearable sobriety, to run where the drunk dare not go.

To right the undrinkable beers. To love hops and malts at the bar. To try, when your arms are too weary, to reach for a better beer! This is my Quest to follow that beer, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far, to fight for the right without question or pause, to be willing to march into hell for a heavenly brew!

Whoa, excuse me. I must be suffering from delirium tremens. Was that what Alonso Quixano suffered from? I don't normally break into Broadway musical numbers. Ask anybody who knows me.


Speaking of delirium tremens...

The beer of the evening was Delirium Tremens, a Belgian Strong Pale Ale from Brouwerij Huyghe in Belgium. You may have seen signs for Delirium at some of the better bars. Their logo is pink elephants. How appropriate!

It's a very nice Belgian beer, with sweet and dry flavors and aromas of apples and citrus. It is cloudy with a light orange color. The best part about this beer is that it gets sweeter with time. If you let it sit and warm up, more sugary notes begin to appear. Enough to make you stop singing Man of La Mancha songs and switch to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory songs (the Gene Wilder version, not the Capt. Jack Sparrow version)...

If you want to drink paradise, simply pour a bottle and drink it...

Sorry, I'll try to make that the last musical number of this posting.

Delirium Tremens is similar to Unibroue's La Fin du Monde. I like it better than La Fin because the flavors are better layered and finished in Tremens. Having said that, I'd have to give Delirium Tremens a 3.5 mug rating. It is not my favorite beer out there, but it is one of my favorites in this category of beer.

A few quick words about Barcelona... Last night, there were quite a few patrons enjoying themselves in groups small and large. Some questioned if they would do well being right next door to the Wheeler Mission. It seems to be doing fine from that respect. The food is very tasty, though they come in small portions that this steak and potatoes guy is not used to. But that's suppose to be the idea, they tell me. The wait staff was very friendly, though still a little green. But I think that will improve with age.

They have six or eight beers on tap, though mostly the standard mega-brews. The beer list had twenty or so bottled beers, including craft brews from Indiana and beyond, including imports. The beer list was out-dated when handed to us, which is a little frustrating. It would be nice if they could keep it updated. But I'm sure that will also improve with time, given that this joint is still in its infancy. Nevertheless, you will find a beer here to fit your tastes. I mean, Bell's Oberon was on tap, and that is always nice.

I'm going to finish by saying thanks to the our esteemed guests for joining us. These three fine fellows were also in Intake's beer guide and it was great to be introduced to them (or re-introduced in my case...I went to college with two of them). They have elected to use their inner beer geek to make good beers as their hobby and, hopefully one day, their profession. Yes, they've tried each and ev'ry beer recipe on the information superhighway. But more, much more that, they brewed it their way.

Sorry, couldn't help myself...

27 June 2007

Red Harvest Ale and Film at Spencer's Stadium Tavern

Just stumbled across the following info at SpencersTavern.com:

This Friday come top the tavern and see a free movie while enjoying $2 pints of a specialty microbrew created in honor of the film.

RED HARVEST is a short horror movie produced by some friends of the tavern who are filmmakers over at Indianapolis’ own Venogram Productions. The film will be shown on our big screen at 8 and 10 PM Friday, June 29th.

In honor of the film, local brewing phenom and friend of the tavern Clay Robinson presents his entry into the World Beer Competition, Red Harvest Ale. The brewer and filmmakers will be on-hand, and Clay’s pints will be a horrifyingly cheap $2.00. So come enjoy some great beer, meet some filmmakers and a great brewer and be sure to catch one or both showings of Red Harvest.

Two dollar beer and an horror film produced in Indiana? Sounds like a winner to me. Tell them you heard about it on HoosierBeerGeek.com.

Hops for Pops

As I mentioned last week, The Hop Shop and Dads Inc. were planning to team up to offer a large charity beer festival in the spring, with all proceeds going to Dads Inc. Courtney and I met on Monday to finalize some ideas and start some others.

Hops for Pops (only the working name - please, please suggest some others!) will take place on the afternoon of Saturday, April 19, 2008, most likely in the outlots of where The Hop Shop is located. We know this is the same day as the Race for the Cure, but their thing is in the morning, so we're hoping that after all the walking and running, those people will want to come up and drink some good beer! We're going to try for all the in-state breweries, and some of our favorites from the midwest, the nation, and one or two foreigners.

We want to do a few things differently than most beer fests - we really want to use this event for good beer education, too. One idea we're kicking around is having a Brewers Roundtable, and some other events that highlight the craft beer industry.

Tickets for the event will probably be $25 in advance, $30 at the door, with a special low price for DDs. We will also probably do I VIP ticket that will get you into the Roundtable and few other things. Just put it on your calendars, and as I get more info, I'll pass it on.

26 June 2007

Brugge's Best - Bottled

On a recent visit to Brugge Brasserie we learned that the restaurant was making a move towards bottling and distribution. Ted Miller's work at Brugge is a Hoosier Beer Geek favorite, so we followed up with Brugge's Charlie Midgley to see what's in store for Brugge Beer.

HBG - What prompted the move to bottling?

Midgley - Expansion from the restaurant concept to the bottling and distribution side was always part of the plan. We were patient in finding the best possible brewery for the types of beer we want to make. The Terre Haute Brewing Co. facility is the perfect place for us.

HBG - Where is the beer being bottled?

Midgley - The Terre Haute Brewing Co on S 9th St is the 2nd oldest oldest brewing facility in the US. Brugge bought the building from Mike Rowe, owner of THBC, and the famous Champagne Velvet brand. We did not buy those names from Mike, only the facility.

HBG - What styles of beer do you plan to bottle?

Midgley - We will be making 5 Belgian beers at this facility: Black, White, Dubbel, Tripel de Ripple, and the Sacre Fleur Saison. Each of these will available in .75 litre bottles or 12 pack boxes. Kegs will available for bars and restaurants and these 5 beers will now always be available at Brugge Brasserie in Broad Ripple. A barrel aging room is also under construction and all kinds of fun things will be flowing out of there in the future.

HBG - How much volume do you expect to produce?

Midgley - Our current brewing capacity is 3,000 barrels in the first year. The facility is large enough to expand to upwards of 100,000 in the future, although our current goal is to be at 10,000 in 5 years. 1 barrel equals about 14 cases of beer.

HBG - Where will your beers be available?

Midgley - In the first year, we will sell our beers exclusively in Indiana, focusing on upscale retailers and restaurants.

HBG - Who are you working with for distribution?

Midgley - We are happy to be partnered with World Class Beverage as our exclusive distributor in Indiana.

HBG - What sort of things have you learned by going in the bottling direction?

Midgley - The biggest thing we have learned so far is there is a growing demand for high quality beer. As more and more people are exposed to the craft beer segment, there is no turning back. Everywhere we go, we see a certain inquisitiveness, a broadening of horizons, and a sense of adventure among beer drinkers which all make us believe we are on the right track.

HBG - Are you doing anything else new that you'd like to talk about?

Midgley - We will holding a "Launch Party" for the brewery in a tent outside Brugge Brasserie, Friday night, July 20. After a VIP reception from 5:00 - 8:00 PM, we will be opening the party to the public. All beer that night will be $2.00 until 1:00AM or until we run out of beer!

This party will also be our kick off celebration for the 12th Annual Indiana MicroBrewers Festival the following day held in Broad Ripple. Another "launch" party will be held at the brewery in Terre Haute on a date in August, yet to be determined.

HBG - Thanks for your time - I'm sure you're busy.

Thanks for the interest. As one of Ted's partners, I've come out of retirement, moved from Bangkok to Indy, and bought a house here to look after the sales, marketing, branding, and distribution of the products.

You heard it here first. A Hoosier Beer Geek exclusive? - Look for Brugge Beer across Indiana later this summer. And make mine black.

25 June 2007

Hoptimus is Prime!

As you can see from Jim and Mike's post, we spent our Saturday afternoon in beer drinking glory, otherwise known as a beer fest. This was the 12th Annual Brew-Ha-Ha, a charity event supporting The Pheonix, a local theatre, and I'm sad to say that this was the first time I had ever attended. We'll, to quote the Governor of California, "I'll be back." It was a great event and we really had a good time.

We even got to hang out with our Online Bretheren of Beer - the guys from Indiana Beer, as you can see of the photo of Bob Ostrander and I (shoplifted from their site). This was at the end of the day, and Bob had just given me a kiss on my cheek. Bob, I know this was an event supporting The Pheonix and all, and I'm totally cool with all that, but we weren't THAT drunk! :)

My only two complaints were already put forth by Jim - New Albanian Brewery left way too early (meaning before I could get back for seconds) and there were only 4 port-o-potties - at a beer fest!! That's a forgiveable sin if it's their first year doing this event, but to be in the 12th year is unacceptable. At that point, I was very thankful I'm a guy and very thankful there were a number of secluded nooks and crannies in the area. But at the end of the day, I survived, and all is well.

My Top 3 list is really the same as Jim's, and in that order. The Hoptimus from New Albanian was the first beer I tried, and I immediately fell in love with it. From the name of the logo, I assume one or two things about the brewers, Jesse & Jim. Either their big dorks like me, or they are in their early thirties and late twenties and are dorks like me. It was a total take, as you can see from the logo in Jim's post, on Optimus Prime of The Transformers. Which I'm so stoked to see next weekend! At any rate, I'm not sure if I was so enormed with the beer because of the taste or the label. I think both. We'll definitely be heading down south to get some more of that!

Now, how many days is it until the Microbrewers Festival????

24 June 2007

Jim is a lightweight and other musings - Brew-Ha-Ha 2007

So I found myself at Brew-Ha-Ha, messenger bag filled with the proper beer review supplies - notebook, pen, copy of INtake to impress the ladies... well, the copy of INtake belonged to Chris, but I could sense his motives.

As we worked our way through the 15 or so booths, I decided that instead of writing down everything, I'd just wait for something to jump out and grab my taste buds, and that would be the beer I reviewed. Near the end of the day nothing had stood out, and the only thing I had written down was "Jim is a lightweight".

That's why I wouldn't let you see the notebook, Jim. And I'm only teasing.

Gina and I had the pleasure of bringing out a couple of my non-beer geek friends, and it was interesting to see their reactions to the samples - it wasn't too long ago that I puckered up when tasting an IPA or based my beer choices on their resemblance to something Miller brewed. As the day went on, our guests found a few things they liked; so perhaps a door was opened.

Another thing worth noting was that the last thing I tried was Barley Island's Bourbon Barrel Stout - a beer I gave a 3 mug review back in April - and found it to have more appeal this time. I guess that it proves that you should give everything a second chance, because I'd give the Stout a higher rating now, perhaps somewhere between 3.5 mugs and 4 mugs. I was also pleased with the samples I had from Clipper City's stable of beers, though I couldn't tell you why.

I'd say a brew festival isn't really the best place to review beer - everything sort of blurs together after a little while. But that's not to say it's a lost cause. In fact, I think it's a great experience, and a great way to get to know styles of beer. For the uninitiated, it's a chance to sample a little bit of everything and find a path to work your way down. For the beer geek, it's a good excuse to expand your knowledge of the varieties from familiar breweries. And if nothing else, it's a great excuse to get a little drunk. And there's certainly nothing wrong with that.

Almost too many beers to remember - Brew-Ha-Ha 2007

On Saturday, Chris, Mike, Gina, and I all experienced the Phoenix Theatre's Brew-Ha-Ha for the first time. This annual beer festival, which is in its twelfth year, is a fundraiser for the Phoenix. From the looks of it, the event brings the theatre a truckload of money because the 700th block of North Park Ave., which is where the festival was held, was nearly full of people from sidewalk-to-sidewalk.

Brew-Ha-Ha brings out most of Indiana's brewpubs and microbreweries to give Indianapolis a taste of their offerings. Most brewers had two to four beers available for sampling. And most of the brewers were very generous with their sampling pours. We initially intended to sample as much as we could from each brewer, but after only one round through the sampling tables, I was so full and my taste buds were so shot that I decided to gracefully bow out of the festivities. Chris, Mike, and Gina soon called it a day as well.

In general, I thought that the event was well-planned and well-run. The only issue, which was surprising, was the insufficient number of port-a-potties. There were four port-a-johns for all attendees, which made the wait to use the facilities excruciating for some. I hope the theatre has better foresight next year.

Brew-Ha-Ha also included some interesting entertainment that involved sausage balloons, but I will let one of my comrades discuss this because I don't want to monopolize the discussion of the event, and, frankly, I was left nearly speechless by what I saw.

So, on to the beer. I estimate that I sampled around 15 beers. Some were fantastic, some were good, and some were fair. I can't say that I had a bad beer. Rather than speaking on all 15 (frankly, I can't remember all 15), I'll discuss the three best beers that I sampled, in reverse order.

3. Jefferson's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout - Bluegrass Brewing Company (Louisville, KY). This dark, chocolaty stout is aged in bourbon barrels provided to BBC by the makers of Jefferson's Reserve Bourbon. As one might expect, this beer has a nose heavy on bourbon and alcohol. However, the taste is surprisingly smooth, with the bourbon flavor serving as a hint rather than a sledgehammer. The beer has a nice, silky mouthfeel and a pleasant aftertaste. This beer served as a great contrast to the heavily hopped beers that I'd been gravitating toward during the course of the afternoon. At 8% ABV, the Bourbon Barrel Stout is for sipping, not quaffing. A 4 mug rating.

2. Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale - Clipper City Brewing Company (Baltimore, MD). Hop3, which Clipper City describes as its "interpretation of American IPA," is part of the brewery's Heavy Seas line, which is a group of craft beers targeted at beer geeks like us. As you might have surmised by the name of the beer, it is heavily hopped (triple-hopped, to be precise). It pours with a generous head and a coppery-gold color. The hop aroma is huge and citrusy. The taste has a lively fruitiness and is slightly sweet. Hop3 finishes with a bit of dryness, which is not unexpected for an IPA. As I was sipping on this,
I imagined pairing it with some grilled salmon and roasted zucchini on a hot July day. This is another high alcohol beer at 7.25% ABV. Hop3 gets a 4 mug rating from me. Thanks to Cavalier Distributing for featuring Clipper City's Heavy Seas beers at Brew-Ha-Ha. Clipper City certainly deserves a wider beer-drinking audience here in the Hoosier State.

1. Hoptimus - New Albanian Brewing Company (New Albany, IN). Leave it to an Indiana brewery to provide the best of the best of the day. This was the first beer for Chris and me at the first sampling table, and wow, what a way to start! Hoptimus is an imperial IPA with a copper-gold hue. The nose is very citrusy, primarily with grapefruit notes. Like the Hop3, it has a crisp and hoppy flavor, but the finish on this beer is different from the Hop3's finish. Unlike other IPA's, which tend to have a dry finish, this one had a finish that was a bit sugary. The ABV is 9%. As a consequence, the wonderful flavor of this beer might pose a danger to those, like me, who might be tempted to finish a glass quickly. As my grandmother used to say, "Go easy, son." Hoptimus earns a
4.5 mug rating.

After making the circuit of the beer tables at Brew-Ha-Ha, we returned to get some more suds from New Albanian (I was willing to wedge just a little more beer in the tummy at this point, mostly because the Hoptimus was so memorable) only to find that they'd left because they had underestimated the amount of beer they needed. Word has it that they ran out after only an hour and fifteen minutes and went through 15 gallons of beer.
Gina tried a cherry imperial stout from New Albanian, which I had a sip of; that, too, was an excellent offering. Consequently, I'm sure that New Albanian will make its way on our list of out-of-town breweries to visit.

22 June 2007

Clipper City Brewing Co. Tasting at The Hop Shop

If you're not making it out to the Brew-Ha-Ha, and perhaps even if you are, you've got an opportunity to get some Northside daytime drinking in on Saturday. From 11am - 1pm, representatives from the Clipper City Brewing Co. will be at The Hop Shop to sample some of their fine brews and answer any questions you may have.

The Knights of the Beer Roundtable reviewed Clipper City's Red Sky at Night for our session with INTake, and we all liked it, so this tasting comes recommended. Tell Courtney that Hoosier Beer Geek sent you for absolutely no discount whatsoever.

We're Experts*

Our thanks go out to Jim Walker and the folks at INtake, who have given Hoosier Beer Geek another healthy dose of publicity thanks to the many articles in their June 21st beer issue.

Advice from our Knights of the Beer Roundtable were featured in three seperate articles in the issue: Beer Me, Learning to Sip, and Booze Clues.

There's a little something to learn for everyone in the INtake issue; for example, at least three Hoosier Beer Geeks were not aware of Party Pak Liquors, which is just a couple miles from my beautiful and expansive southside estate. From the looks of their beer selection in the article, an awareness of Party Pak is going to be pretty rewarding.

Pick up the new issue of INtake at your local grocery store, liquor store, bar, church, temple or synagogue, or adult bookstore.

*We are not experts.

Meet Your Geek

Like to put a face with a name? Haven't met the Knights of the Beer Roundtable yet? Here's your chance to Meet Your Geek! From Left: Chris, Mike, Jim, Gina, Jason, Kelly, Courtney (owner of The Hop Shop, but we count him in our ranks). Photo courtesty of Jim Walker.

20 June 2007

New Beer Festival on the Horizon

This isn't official yet, but both parties will be meeting next week to talk logistics and are interested in moving forward. It looks like Dads, Inc. - as you all know is my non-profit - is going to team up with The Hop Shop again, but this time to host a microbrew festival sometime in the early Spring of next year. This would be a charity event, similar to this Saturday's Brew-Ha-Ha is for The Phoenix Theater, with proceeds from the event going to Dads, Inc. Again, I don't have many details as of right now and it isn't official, but as soon as it is, I'll post the specifics.

New Belgium Ramps Up Production

There's good news for fans of Fat Tire beer as the Fort Collins, CO brewery has began bottling its beers in a new plant to support the brewery's expansion into those Minnesota, Iowa, and the Northeast. The new plant can fill up to 700 bottles per minute, which is just fast enough to keep up with the demand at most KOTBR meetings.

The new plant continues New Belgium's tradition of using green technologies, including the use of wind power, skylights and solar tubes for lighting, and non-chemical based water treatment. You can read more about New Belgium's new facilities at the Denver Post's website.

19 June 2007

Beer: The Pedal Pusher's Potion

You don't have to be a cyclist to be familiar with the Tour de France, the three-week road race that features the best cyclists in the world competing for the Maillot Jaune (or yellow jersey). Cycling as of late has become as well known for its use of performance enhancing drugs as for its competitions, but one drug has an even longer and more public history with cycling: alcohol.

The Tour de France, along with the Giro d'Italia, and the Vuelta a España form the triple crown of cycling. But not so long ago America had its own grand cycling competition: The Coors International Bicycle Classic. Although the Coors Classic went away after 1988, the Red leader's jersey is still popular among cyclists, and is still available for purchase at many cycling stores.

But the Coors jersey is just the tip of the iceberg as far as beer-based cycling jerseys go. The list of microbreweries with their own jerseys is growing exponentially, giving the biking beer geek a vast and almost overwhelming selection to choose from. A recent online search turned up jerseys from Dogfish Head, Ommegang, Stone Brewing Company, New Belgium, Smuttynose Brewing Company, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Boulder Beer Company, Harpoon Brewery, Breckenridge Brewery, Troegs Craft Brewery, Avery Brewing, Bell's Brewery, Lancaster Brewing, Full Sail Brewing, Deschutes Brewery, Leinenkugel, Redhook, Guinness, Fuller's, Brooklyn Brewery, and Left Hand Brewing.

The connection between beer and bicycling jerseys starts with customers, jersey suppliers, and brewery employees. Frederick Mazzeo, Dogfish Head's Merchandise Manager/Community Relations & Licensee Liaison, designed the Dogfish Head jersey himself. When asked why Dogfish got into cycling jerseys, he wrote "Customers began asking." In the case of Boulder Beer's jerseys, Brewmaster David Zucker informed me that the process worked a little differently. "We got involved with cycling jerseys when the guys at Primal Wear contacted us after drinking our beers. They liked the beers, and the graphics, and then they contacted us about whether we would be interested in having them produce the jerseys."

For Chris Lennert, the jerseys actually served as a sort of gateway into working for Left Hand Brewing. "Before I started working at Left Hand, I worked for a company that did a few cycling jerseys, and I approached Left Hand (my favorite brewery) to do a few jerseys with them. We wound up doing a Sawtooth and Milk Stout jersey, both of which are sold out. Based on the response that we had, a few months after I started working at Left Hand, we decided to do another one."

At Smuttynose, demand for the jerseys started with company president Peter Egelston and his partner, Joanne. "Joanne and I have been avid cyclists for a long time. When we expanded our brewpub ten years ago, adding a retail shop, we were looking to expand our product line beyond the usual lineup of tee-shirts and logo glasses. Since many of our friends ride, as well, we'd gotten inquiries about cycling jerseys, so Joanne, who designs all of our graphics, got in touch with Louis Garneau, based in nearby Vermont, about custom jerseys." There was a similar sort of in-house demand at Harpoon Brewery, says Liz Melby. "We have always had a very active crew that has worked at the brewery, including many passionate cyclist. Because of that, there was a demand for Harpoon cycling jerseys." According to Chris Cochran at Stone Brewery, the demand came from everywhere. "We had been thinking about doing them for awhile, some of the Stone Staff requested we make some, and there are LOTS of people in SoCal that ride, and we were contacted by Canari to make them so it all came together."

The production of jerseys may also come from brewery sponsorship of bicycling teams. Todd Thibault of Breckenridge Brewery, said they got into the business of cycling when a cycling shop in Breckenridge contacted them to sponsor their cycling team. Because Great Adventure Sports was already creating jerseys for the team, it was only natural that the brewery would offer them for sale to the general public. The brewery also supports smaller cycling teams through what Todd calls "beer support". As he says, "What more could a rider need?"

The graphics used on many craft brewery labels are a natural choice for use in cycling jerseys, which often feature designs that run the gamut from classy to garish. But is there a deeper link between beer and bicycling? Why do so many cyclists choose to wear brewery based jerseys? Left Hand's Lennert thinks it's about the passion. "Cyclists and breweries are both very passionate about what they do, and they take pride in who they partner with."

Breckenridge's Thibualt sees the connection as a continuation of tradition. "Beer and cycling is an old tradition, we even have some framed photos in our pub in Denver dated to the early 1900's that show cyclists on the side of the road drinking beer...well, OK they're just big bottles...we assume it's beer." Smuttynose's Egelston says it's a lifestyle choice. "The big guys have NASCAR, we have cycling. People who ride seriously are not likely to choose mass-marketed beer because they are not making mass-market choices in other areas of their lives." For Dogfish's Mazzeo, the answer is a bit more simple. "The carbs, man."

Perhaps it is just the carbs. It shouldn't be surprising that companies that sell cycling jerseys also promote cycling and wellness through in-house programs and sponsorship of cycling teams. The folks at Dogfish promote a healthier lifestyle through securing gym memberships for employees, and on site Bocce courts. At Breckenridge Brewery, wellness is explained in simple terms. "We're all from Colorado; the out-of-doors is how we roll." The folks at Boulder seem to have a similar philosophy. "We have a lot of staff who are bikers. Boulder is an exceptionally bike friendly community, so biking comes naturally to many of us. With the athletic inclination of Coloradans, we have a very fit group of people. Aside from biking, we have people play ultimate, disk golf, baseball, softball, hike, rock climb, ski, board, water ski." The folks at Harpoon see cycling as an extention of the company motto. "Our brewery's motto is 'Love Beer. Love Life' and we encourage living the motto to both our employees and our drinkers," said Melby. "We host and sponsor several cycling events each year, including the Harpoon Brewery to Brewery Ride and the Harpoon Point to Point." So perhaps it's only natural that these breweries are selling jerseys. They're also out there wearing them.

So if brewing and cycling really do go hand in hand, shouldn't a beer make a perfect post-ride reward? Which beers do the brewers themselves prefer? Each brewer had their own opinion, though Smuttynose's Egelston may have the most sound advice. "Obviously, the best post-ride cooldown is plain water. After re-hydration, I'd recommend a nice hoppy pale ale or IPA." Chris Cochran at Stone Brewery says you've got to consider circumstances: "If you are looking to cool down and carb up with a lower alcohol beer, I would say Stone Levitation Ale or Stone Pale Ale. However, if you just worked your ass off on a ride, and want to “reward” yourself, I’d say go with a Stone IPA or Arrogant Bastard Ale!"

Todd Thibault at Breckenridge recommends their Avalanche Amber Ale. "It matches the jersey. It's all about a balance." Frederick Mazzeo at Dogfish Head says he enjoys a postride 60 minute IPA followed by a 90 minute IPA. Chris Lennert at Left Hand isn't picky. "Any of them! It depends on what time of year you’re riding – do you want a good thirst quencher or a good winter warmer??" Harpoon's Melby recommends any of their beers for a cool down, but adds "IPA is always a great choice because it will cut through the salt of the sweat." David Zuckerman at Boulder Beer has his own very solid advice. "Whichever of our beers satisfies you, is good enough for us. It's kind of like the question that I get a lot about what is my favorite beer. My answer is always, the one that's in front of me."

* * * * *

Thanks to those of you who provided links to more jerseys in the comments section. They've been added into the article and hopefully will provide as a valuable resource for cyclists looking to support their favorite brewery.

17 June 2007

Beer Run - Cincinnati, Ohio

I've just returned from a two-day trip to Cincinnati, where I took in a concert and baseball game. The concert and baseball game were my original reasons for visiting Cincy, but a couple of detours proved to be just as rewarding.

The first detour was Jungle Jim's International Market, where Gina and I went a little overboard buying beer. How overboard? Here's the list:

Heritage Brewing Company, Cincinnati, Wooden Shoe Bock Beer
De ProefBrouwerij Lochristi, Belgium, Lozen Boer - Abbey Style 10%
Barrelhouse Brewing Company, Cincinnati, Duveneck Dortmunder Style
Unibroue, Belgium, 16
Barrelhouse Brewing Company, Cincinnati, Boss Cox - Double Dark IPA
Lion Brewery, Sri Lanka, Lion Stout
Van Steenberge, Belgium, Gulden Draak
Bells Brewery, Comstock Michigan, Kalamazoo Stout
Bells Brewery Label, Brewed and Bottled by Kalamazoo Brewing Company, Comstock Michigan, Third Coast Old Ale
Great Lakes Brewing Co., Cleveland, OH, Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
Great Lakes Brewing Co., Cleveland, OH, Dortmunder Gold - Golden Lager
Left Hand Brewing, Longmont, CO, Blackjack Porter
Left Hand Brewing, Longmont, CO, Milk Stout
Great Divide Brewing, Denver, CO, Denver Pale Ale
Great Divide Brewing, Denver, CO, Wild Raspberry Ale
Dogfish Head, Milton, DE, Raison D'Etre
Dogfish Head, Milton, DE, Midas Touch - Handcrafted Ancient Ale
Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY, Witte
Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, Dexter, MI, Bam Biere
Michigan Brewing Co, Webberville, MI, Celis Grand Cru - Belgian Style Ale
Anderson Valley Brewing Co, Boonville, CA, Boont Amber Ale
Anderson Valley Brewing Co, Boonville, CA, Hop Ottin IPA
New Holland Brewing Co., Holland, MI, Sundog Amber Ale
Atlantic Brewing Co,, Portland, ME, Bar Harbor Real Ale
Summit Brewing Co., St. Paul, MN, Maibock
Windsor Brewing Co., Windsor, VT, UFO Hefeweizen - UnFiltered Offering
Bison Brewing Co., Berkley, CA, Bison Chocolate Stout
Speakeasy Ales and Lagers, San Francisco, CA, Prohibition Ale
Mendocino Brewing Co., Saratoga Springs, NY, Blackhawk Stout
Weyerbacher Brewing Co., Easton, PA, Blithering Idiot - Barleywine
Weyerbacher Brewing Co., Easton, PA, Merry Monks - Belgian Style Golden Ale
Breckenridge Brewing Co., Breckenridge, CO - Vanilla Porter

Needless to say, Jungle Jim's has a fantastic selection - by the time I had worked my way through the domestic breweries, I knew I was going to have trunk space issues. We barely browsed the foreign selections, though I did manage to pick up a few old favorites. If you're in Cincinnati, don't hestitate to visit Jungle Jim's. It's well worth your time.

Our second detour was sort of by accident. Before leaving Indy I pulled up directions to various Cincinnati destinations, one of which was a pub that I found through Fox Soccer Channel's Pub Guide. Although it looked promising, I shook off that thought, and went about printing directions to our hotel, the concert venue, and the stadium.

Friday night we left our hotel on route to the concert, but when we arrived at the address of the venue I realized I had made a mistake - we were at the Pub instead. After an hour or so of what seemed to be aimless wandering, we managed to find the concert venue... and Saturday we managed to find Hap's Irish Pub again.

Hap's has a fair beer selection (the Guiness family of beers, Newcastle... that sort of thing), but the staff and patrons were top notch people. Hap's is another Cincinnati instituion I can recommend without reservation. If you're ever in the neighborhood, check it out.

15 June 2007

KOTBR Review #20 - Trans Am's flat tire leaves Burt Reynolds red in the face

I always wondered how the folks in Atlanta reacted after getting their first sip of the beer that Bandit and Snowman worked so hard to sneak in. I mean, it's Coors. I imagine some Georgian had to have said, "You evaded Sheriff Buford T. Justice and risked time in prison for THIS?!?"

For our twentieth review, the Knights had some Fat Tire Ale (from the Fort Collins, Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing Company) hauled in. This cult favorite only recently started crossing the Mississippi and is still not shipped to Indiana.

Sitting around the Beer Round Table, along with myself, were Knights Chris, Jim, Kelly, and Mike. Gina and Matt were guests who also provided commentary. My lovely wife, The Lovely Wife, was also there, but since she doesn't like beer, she didn't drink beer. Look for her new blog soon: "Hoosier Girlie-Drinks-With-Little-Paper-Umbrellas Geek".

For the big 2-0, we decided to change things up. Before doing a review of the Fat Tire, we did a blind taste test of 5 Red/Amber Ales. Since I was playing host and knew which beer was which, I elected not to provide commentary.

Among the five, the favorite was a Fort Collins, Colorado beer, but not the one you are thinking. Retro Red from Fort Collins Brewing Company. This was a unanimous selection. Everybody enjoyed the sweetness of the flavor and the complexity of the aromas.

Second place was a toss up between Bell's Amber from Michigan and Barrel House RedLegg from Cincinnati, Ohio. Everyone agreed that they were both equally good. The RedLegg, by the way, can usually be found at Great American Ballpark, home of the Reds. Hence the name.

Fourth place went to Breckenridge Avalanche Ale. It wasn't that it was a bad beer. But this beer was lacking in flavor and mouthfeel compared to the previous three.

Fifth place went to Fat Tire. A dirty trick played by yours truly on the rest of the Knights. Even those who had Fat Tire in the past didn't recognize it during the blind taste test.

Does this mean that Fat Tire is a bad beer? Not by any means. There is always the possibility that, in traveling from Colorado to Chicago, the beer went Pepe Le Pew on us. It could be that, given their popularity, they are producing so much that a bad batch went out. It is difficult to say. Given the circumstances, we decided that it wouldn't be fair to rate Fat Tire right now. We'll try again in the near future, after Mike and Gina return from a trip to St. Louis with a new batch of brew.

But I think this little test illustrates that Fat Tire may not be the best red ale out there. Given the difficulties Hoosiers have in obtaining this frequently-praised beer, it should be comforting to know that there are at least four other red/amber ales that are worthy of attention and admiration, whether Fat Tire is available or not.

10 June 2007

If only I had a mustache as cool as Burt Reynolds'

Not that long ago, I was thinking about the movie Smokey and the Bandit, a movie that came out the same year I was born, oddly enough. A movie that is celebrating it's 30th anniversary this year. What better way to celebrate it than to hope in a black Trans-Am, evade some state troopers, and ship some booze across state lines.

Well, I'm not a trucker. And I don't have a black Trans-Am. And I normally drive exactly 9 MPH over the speed limit in hopes of not grabbing too much attention from the fuzz.

But not too long ago, I did bring some beer across state lines. And it is a beer not available here in Indiana. And much like Coors back in '77, the stories about the quality of this beer are almost mythical in proportion.

I am speaking of Fat Tire Amber Ale from New Belgium Brewing Company in Ft. Collins, Colorado. If you talk to anybody from Indiana who has dad Fat Tire, you'll hear some tales about the healing powers of this elixir, how it brought peace in the Middle East, and just how damn tasty this beer is, the tastiest around.

I've had some tasty beers. In fact, Indiana and the Midwest are able to produce some damn fine brews. But I have never had Fat Tire. So is it as good as people claim? Or, like Coors, is it elevated up by the fact that, until recently, it wasn't shipped east of the Mississippi? I'm hoping to find out.

During a recent trip to Chicago, which recently started receiving shipments of Fat Tire, I picked up a case of 12 big-ass bottles. And this Thursday, I am having the Knights of the Beer Round Table, and a few selected guests, at my humble abode at Four Square No. 266 for a grill out, a blind taste test of red ales, and, hopefully, an honest assessment of Fat Tire.

Come Thursday, we'll know if there is any (Sheriff Buford T.) Justice to the Fat Tire tales.

01 June 2007

Eight Beers. Four Words.

Since our Tuesday night roundable has been discussed in depth below, and since I have the unenviable position of following the brilliant haiku reviews, I give you (at Jim's request) the four-word beer review:

Brooklyn Summer Ale -- Sigh. Disappointed. Pretty gross.

Dogfish Head Burton Baton -- Campfire smoke. Alcohol burn.

Fraoch Heather Ale -- Light! Flowery! Girly! Good!

Clipper City Red Sky at Night -- Yeasty, peppery. Butt kicker.

Dogfish Head Aprihop -- Delicately fruity. My favorite.

Warbird Thunderbolt Wheat -- Hometown love. Okay taste.

Unibroue 16 -- Complex but not overwhelming.

Black Dog Ale -- No thanks. Sobering up.

Thanks again to the Hop Shop for the hospitality and to Jim Walker at INtake for the company.