Beautiful weather, four tents full of brewers, over 3,000 thirsty souls--these ingredients comprised the 2007 Indiana Microbrewers Festival. The Knights of the Beer Roundtable, in full beer geek regalia with our newly-minted black t-shirts, spent a little over four hours sampling the best from Indiana's microbreweries and from select national breweries. During the festivities, we saw interesting attire (e.g., a guy with a t-shirt reading, "I'm fat. F*ck off."). We saw the token 10 or 11 American soccer fans, who for some reason can always be counted on to be beer geeks as well (I tallied two David Beckham jerseys, a Bayern Munich jersey, a Real Madrid jersey, a Celtic FC jersey, and two U.S. National Team jerseys). We saw a few football-beer drinkers in need of some beer education (said one woman after tasting Three Floyds' Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout: "Ew! That's gross!"). We picked up some very cool stuff (for me, a New Albanian t-shirt). We hung out with the crazy folks from the Good Beer Show. And, we tasted lots and lots of beer.
After clearing my foggy brain cells with a few diet Cokes, I came up with the following as my five favorites of the festival. Here they are in reverse order.
5. Diamond Kings of Heaven - Brugge Brasserie. This new offering from the Belgian brewpub is a Saison. Orange/copper color, plum-like nose, spicy-sweet finish. When I ordered this beer from brewmaster Ted Miller, I felt like I was in a speakeasy because festival-goers had to use the secret code name "Angry Melon" to get a pour of this fine ale.
4. Thunderfoot Cherry Imperial Stout - New Albanian Brewing Company. One of several excellent imperial stouts that we sampled on the day. Dark brown, small tan head, rich coffee-cherry flavor. I'm not a fan of fruity beers, but this beer had just a tiny hint of cherry, which made for pleasant drinking. New Albanian is quickly becoming one of my favorite Indiana breweries. Their Hoptimus could easily have ended up in my top 5, but I decided to leave it out since I made it my top choice for the Brew-Ha-Ha.
3. He'Brew Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A. - Shmaltz Brewing Company. Oh man, what a beer this is! A double IPA brewed with rye malt, this ale pours with a reddish brown tint and slight coppery head. Very malty and hoppy all at once with a great caramel finish. Lenny's R.I.P.A. is the best of the He'Brew line.
2. Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout - Three Floyds Brewing Company. The legendary Beer That Must Not Be Named made its appearance at 4:00 p.m., an hour after the gates opened for the festival. The line for the Three Floyds taps snaked all the way from the Three Floyds tent to the port-o-potties (believe me, this was a long line). Fortunately, Mike DeWeese of Badaboomz was at the Three Floyds taps and helped us to avoid the line. Dark Lord is all you would expect from an imperial stout--midnight black color, thick tan head, and coffee/chocolate/molasses notes--but 100 times smoother.
1. Bourbon Barrel Double Cream/Expedition Stout Blend - Bell's Brewery. I might get some arguments from my colleagues on this one, but this special Bell's offering was better--yes, better--than the highly touted Dark Lord. I went back for seconds on this stout, poured courtesy of Hoosier Beer Geek ally Courtney Hall of the Hop Shop. So many adjectives come to mind for this beer: dark, milky, smooth, creamy, chocolaty, sweet. It's close to being the ultimate stout. We're on a five-mug system with our beer review ratings, yet I would give this beer six mugs if I could.
Special thanks to Bob Ostrander of Indiana Beer for getting us in to the festival a half-hour before the official start; to all of the brewers for coming out to show us what they have; and to the Brewers of Indiana Guild for staging this unparalleled Indiana beer event.