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.