31 January 2008

DarkLord Day Rumors - Part II

Back in November of last year I gathered together some DarkLord Day hearsay and rumblings and put together this post, which passed those rumors on to you.

That post was entirely incorrect - both the date and location are different.

After digging around, here are the details I now feel safe reporting.

According to the Dark Lord Day 2008 event page on BeerAdvocate.com:
DarkLord Day 2008 Saturday April 26th 11Am-10:30pm

DarkLord Day 2008 is the only day of the year to buy Three Floyds DarkLord Russian Imperial stout.DLD is a festival where participants can meet other beer enthusiasts, sample beers from all over ,buy DarkLord, try Oak Aged Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout ,eat BBQ, Listen to live music.

Darklord Day 2008 will be greatly improved to accommodate larger crowds, including expanded parking, more porta johns, shorter lines and more food choices.
Furthermore, Floydicus himself reports these details in the BeerAdvocate forums:
DarkLord Day:
Usually there is a 6 bottle limit per person
Bottles are $15 a bottle
2008 DarkLord Day begins at 11am-10pm
20,000Sq Ft of added space this year
Live Bands
Beer from all over the world
Many Porta Johns
expanded parking
Faster Lines
We will have more available than last year
Although we previously reported rumor of the event happing at the Hammond Civic Center, those rumors are incorrect. The event is being held at Three Floyds Brewery.

More from Floydicus:
20,000sq.Ft extra is we will be using the whole other half of the building.And there will be ALL kinds of music this year,youll be suprised by the lineup Cheers
Hoosier Beer Geek plans to be in attendence this year, so if you can't make it to Munster, you can read about it here.

30 January 2008

News of brews from around the world

- Going to watch that anti-climactic football game this Sunday? Here are some craft beer suggestions for the game from finance website TheStreet.com. Brian Graham of Indy's own Hot Shotz Ale & Grill is quoted in the article. I've had only one beer mentioned in the article (Stone's Arrogant Bastard). Anyone tried the others?

- From the heartland of Canada: the Great Western Brewing Company seeks the answer to the age old question, "How long can beer sit outside in winter before freezing?"

- Chicagoist recommends Unibroue's vintage brew Quelque Chose, which is best consumed when heated (yes, you read that correctly).

- We at HBG encourage you to drink your beer from a glass to better appreciate the beer's appearance, aroma, and flavor. Miss Manners, on the other hand, thinks it's just a matter of good table manners.

Bloomington's new better beer (and food) option

It wasn't that long ago that we were talking about better beers at finer dining establishments. And we ended up with a great discussion that included those from Indy's cream-of-the-crop restaurants like L'explorateur, H2o Sushi Bar, and Meridian. We know that Neal at L'explorateur is going to do a food and beer dinner on February 27th and Eli at H2o Sushi Bar will be offering one on March 10th. Prices and menus for both have not been set yet.

I should also point out that Badaboomz Downtown, as part of the Devour Downtown event, is offering a $30 dinner that is paired with beers. It runs through Saturday, February 2nd.

Elsewhere in the state, much has been made of celebrity chef Daniel Orr's return home to Indiana. He has just opened a restaurant and market called FARM Bloomington and I want to point out that he has a stellar beer menu. Just another chef who really appreciates craft beer.

On draft they have: Upland Wheat, Rogue Dead Guy, Bloomington Brewing's Quarryman Pale, Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, Bluegrass Brewing's Jefferson Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout, Stella Artois, and Guinness. Their bottle list is very nice as well. Looks like another place for beer geeks to try out.

29 January 2008

"This is stupid"

Thanks to reader Rodney who saves us from the eduction going on in the De Struise Brouwers 6 Pack interview with a bit of news.

Carlsberg to sell the Louis Vuitton handbag of beers - "We can feel that there's an increasing market for this type of product, as some of our customers order extremely expensive wines without blinking an eye," Lau Richter, restaurant chief at the Noma restaurant, said today by phone. "Ten years ago, it was a rare event selling a 1,000 kroner bottle of wine at a Danish restaurant, now we do it every day."

The brewery claims the the high price is reflective of the amount of work that went into the beer - "We're trying to raise the bar for what a beer can be," Jens Eiken, the brew master at Jacobsen who developed the product, said today by phone. The beverage is "cheap" considering the amount of time the brewery spent developing it," he said.

As Rodney pointed out: "I can't imagine what they did to that beer that make them charge $260,000 for a barrel."

They left out the fact that you can't crush a bottle on your forehead - "It just makes sense. The can is a superior package to the bottle. Cans are lighter and take up less space, making them cheaper to transport and store. They’re more durable once filled. Cans are completely lightproof, meaning the beer won’t get “skunked,” acquiring the nasty odor that comes from hops compounds breaking down in sunlight."

As we noted in our visit to Ft. Wayne, Warbird started out canning their products, but public perception - the idea that craft beer doesn't belong in cans - caused them to make the switch to bottles. This article contends that people are coming around to cans. That may be the case; It's certainly working for Surly (the 11th ranked brewer in the RateBeer Best 2008).

Next up - Three Floyds Alpha Kroger - Ok, that might be a stretch. Brew Blog is reporting that Costco will soon be selling beer brewed by Gordon Biersch Brewing Company, a brewery/restaurant chain based in California.

Of course Costco isn't the first private label to rebadge a beer brewed by outside sources: Trader Joe's has been at it for quite some time.

I'm going to get Mormon Tabernacle trashed
- The Salt Lake Tribune, home paper of my personal friend, reporter, and former Real Salt Lake GM Steve Pastorino (sorry, soccer geekout), is reporting that Utah's Wasatch Beers is now brewing an 8% ABV Double Bock Amber that goes by the name of "The Devastator".

"The beer breaks the mold in Utah, where only beers with 4 percent alcohol by volume can be sold in grocery stores or on draft at bars and microbreweries. "

The article states that the beer is almost flying off liquor store shelves - perhaps the $1.39 per bottle price has something to do with that.

25 January 2008

Six Pack interview with Urbain Coutteau of De Struise Brouwers

As we mentioned here recently, De Struise Brouwers recently was named 2008's no. 1 brewer by RateBeer.com. I'm sure that many of you had the same thought: "Who?" This young Belgian brewery has been making some noise in the world brewing industry, as well as some tasty beers apparently. Thankfully, brewmaster Urbain Coutteau was willing to give us a Six Pack interview:

1) Who are you and where do you work?

My name is Urbain Coutteau, I am brew master and head of operations at Struise Breweries. My fellow companions, Carlo, Phil and Peter, all have more than 9 to 5 jobs in other firms. Carlo Grootaert is a sales representative for Rabotvins Belgium (http://www.rabotvins.com/) in the wine industry. Phil Driessens is a sales representative for Pgcars (http://www.pgcars.be/) in the automotive industry. Peter Braem is a commanding officer (http://www.mil.be/) in the Belgian army and myself was active in ICT before and now working part-time at http://www.struisebrouwers.be/ since December 2007, so you can call us a bunch of good friends and amateur brewers who had the luck of being recognised by a wide International public.

2) What inspired you to start brewing beer? How did you get your start?

I had incurred brewing experience during my decennial stay in Africa and wanted to share this with my buddies, all taste and aroma geeks, certainly what artisan beers as well as wine concerns. In 2001, we developed our first beer "Struise witte" at the holiday resort “De Noordhoek” near Lo-Reninge. Of one beer came another, the beer list grew. Enthusiasm grew too and became after a year this outsized that we decided to go commercially. Not with an own installation, for that we did not have the money yet, however, as contract brewers.

3) What's your brewing mission? What are you trying to accomplish with your beer?

Yes indeed, we have a mission. Through the development of very special and original crafted beers, we try to promote our county everyday abroad, which results in growing tourism and interest from all over the world. Our county, called “Westhoek” is already made famous in the past due to other breweries like Sint-Sixtus Abbey, De Dolle Brouwers, Saint Bernardus, different world known Artisan cheese and butchery producers, world class restaurants, well kept nature, beaches, and last but not least the battlefields of WW1 and WW2. Every day, we try to put our little spot on the map while brewing the most special, and out of the box beers, though very progressive for our Belgian beer culture.

4) Was there a beer that you benchmarked your own against? How did you know your beer was good enough to take to the general public?

There was so much innovation on the brewing front in countries like the United States and Denmark than we have ever thought was possible! The last couple of years, Carlo and myself have tasted +/- 750 different beers from abroad, and we have encountered a lot of magnificent beers and different styles we never had sampled before and learned a lot regarding styles, aromas, taste, etc... Guess what, some of those unknown styles to Belgian traditional standards (sorry for saying that), blew our minds away and we started dreaming. This dream came reality with the reception of different golden awards since 2006.

5) What beer are you proudest of? Which of your beers is your personal favourite? Why?

This is a question I can not really give you an exact answer on. All our beers have something to be proud of, but a favourite, I could not really say. Maybe “Tony’s New porter”, but this beer is not commercialized yet. I never drink beer during working days, with the exception of this nice and soft creamy porter of 5% ABV, that I could drink several glasses instead of coffee in the morning! “ Houston …, I think I have a problem”.

6) Which beers outside of your own do you enjoy? What beer do you wish you came up with? Why?

I had the luck of tasting and enjoying the very best like Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout, Lost Abbey The Angels Share, Russian River Beatification, Three Floyds Dreadnaught Imperial IPA, Mikkeller Simcoe IPA, all world master pieces and perfectly crafted. Avec les Bons Voeux means “Best wishes” a saison style beer from Brasserie Dupont is thé beer I wish I came up with. To me, my all-time favourite perfectly balanced well hopped hazy gold blonde.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you and/or your company?

We have recently started a new joint-venture in association with Chris Lively of http://www.ebenezerspub.net/ and Sean Paxton of http://www.homebrewchef.com/. In the past we had already launched a common project, this to the general joy of a lot of beer geeks, namely the development and realisation of Black Albert for Ebenezer’s Pub, Lovell, Maine, USA. This Belgian Royal naughty Stout did climb in no time to the top 20 charts of www.beeradvocate.com/top_beers and to the top 10 charts at www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/Ratings-Top50.asp. Black Albert created such a hype that thousands of beer tourists went to the well-known Ebenezer's pub of Chris Lively to taste Belgian world class beers and Belgian inspired food. In the December 2007 edition of Beer Advocate magazine, both Black Albert and Ebenezer’s pub were exclaimed to be the worldwide best.

To return to the core of our tale, we were recently contacted again by Chris Lively with the question if we would be interested to be part of a new creation called "Pannepot Cafe" and this in Portland , Maine , USA . Portland is a beautiful coast town, east of Boston . This sounded like magnificently played music in our ears and were immediately prepared to work on the concept. After a lot of meetings a decision was taken to open not only a pub but a restaurant as well coupled to a nano brewery. With this joint-venture, we have a new extra mission, brew good beers in Portland with constant collaboration from the best brewers worldwide, and 3.5 barrels at a time. 75 to a 100 (we hope) elite draught choices, over 1,000 bottles including many vintages to choose from, and serving them at 100%, with glasses razor sharp hand cleaned, perfect lacing and colour every time, for true beer complexity. California / Fusion Cuisine is to be offered, and all of this democratically priced so everyone can come play. Further information will be published in the future on our websites http://www.struisebrouwers.be/ and http://www.pannepotcafe.com/. Opening date is planned by the end of April 2008.

Shelton Brothers is our importing partner for the USA, Roland Russell for Ontario Canada, and Horizon Wines for Alberta, Canada.

Random Beer Roundup

Here's a few new and old beer related articles I've run across in the past couple days.

MSNBC declares Belgium "Malt Disneyland" - "American craft brewers may boast about their innovative ways: bourbon-barrel-aged beers, wild ingredients, formulas that tip the alcohol content well north of 10 percent. Guess what? The Belgians were there first."

Can microbreweries revive Germany's lagging beer sales? - "There used to be 100 breweries in this neighborhood alone," Lemke said. "They died out in the 1970s with the trend toward mono-breweries. The big breweries -- for example Warsteiner or Licher – said: ‘We're only going to make one sort of beer, a premium pilsner, and we'll market it nationwide.' And that inevitably leads to a dead-end. At some point, even the world's biggest idiot notices that there's virtually no difference between a Warsteiner and Licher."

I'm guessing Anheuser Busch products lead to sensory underload
- "Menus laid out seven courses of haute cuisine: coconut shrimp and Michelob, beef tenderloin and caramelized onions with Michelob Amber Bock, and Caesar salad with Budweiser in pilsner glasses.

Brewmaster and host George Reisch stood by, explaining how a Ray Hill's American Pilsner — brewed by A-B in New Hampshire — would "open up" the taste buds to savor the oils and creams of the tenderloin and balsamic vinegar."

Diners "don't ever forget this," he said. "It's sensory."

Speaking of forget, forget what I told you yesterday: In yesterday's post about English and American Barleywines, I confused the samples. Bell's Thrid Coast is an American Barleywine (not English), and Brooklyn Monster Ale is an English Barleywine (not American). I've corrected the post now. In case you're paying attention, that means I've had something wrong twice in just three posts. Next time someone else is typing up the notes.

24 January 2008

Back to School #3 with Strong Ales - Old Ale, English Barleywine, and American Barleywine

Traditionally we haven't paid very much attention to style at Hoosier Beer Geek - our focus is usually first on finding beers that look tasty and drinking them. But a little knowledge never hurt anyone, and accordingly we've started trying to expand our knowledge of style. This is the third post in what we hope will become a regular series, in which we're passing on what we learned in our meetings at World Class Beverages to you. We continue our beer schooling with Strong Ales.

Strong Ales

Strong Ales are subdivided into three groups - Old Ale, English Barleywine, and American Barleywine. These beers are typically associated with winter, and have a high gravity.

Old Ale

According to the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), old ales feature a malty-sweet nose, with fruity esters. They have a light amber to very dark reddish-brown color, and a flavor with medium to high malt character with a luscious malt complexity.

Old ales are a traditional English ale style, mashed at higher temperatures than strong ales to reduce attenuation, then aged at the brewery after primary fermentation.

Winter warmers are a more modern sytle of old ale that are maltier, fuller-bodied, and often darker. Of the three varieties of Strong Ales, old ales are the least strong, with sometimes lower alcohol.

Our example from this category was Theakston Old Peculiar, a beer that is distributed by Cavalier Distributing.

Theakston Old Peculier:
Jim: Malt, malt, and more malt in this baby. Not much of a nose. Heavy, dry caramel notes in the taste. Tastes like a session beer, which is not a bad thing. Would definitely buy this.
Mike: Whiskey nose, coca-cola look and soda pop lacing. Tastes of pepper, red meat, boullion(?!?), and chocolate. I took a second pour to double check the flavors I was picking up, and although they were a bit more faint with the second drink, they were still there. In any case, I found this one very agreeable.
Matt: Not much nose that I detected. The flavor was malty, and I could not taste alcohol to the extent that I had expected. I'll definitely be revisiting this one.

American Barleywine

Beers in the American Barleywine style feature a wide color range, and are rich, malty and hoppy. They are the richest and strongest of American ales, and, if meeting BJCP qualification, should be hoppy with and emphasis on American style hop characteristics. While strongly malty, the balance should always seem bitter. These beers should have a noticeable alcohol pressence.

Our example American Barleywine was from Michigan's Bells Brewery.

Bell's Third Coast Old Ale:
Jim: Heavy caramel nose and flavor. At bit boozy as well; can definitely taste the alcohol in this barleywine. Left a weird aftertaste in my mouth, but strangely, I still like it.
Matt: This one was sweeter than the Monster and had less hops and less alcohol taste. I'm still learning about the whole evaluation of taste regionally on the tongue, but this one struck me high on the back. I could be completely imagining that, but, ah, there it is.
Jason: Caramel flavors, less alcohol punch, not pcking up as much hops as the Monster Ale. This could become a staple beer in my fridge; very enjoyable.

English Barleywine

English Barleywines that meet BJCP guidelines are rich, malty, and fruity, with a wide color range. They are the richest and strongest English ales. They place an emphasis on malt character, but can also be hoppy - though only British hops are used in this variety of barleywine. This leads to less emphasis on the hop character than their American counterparts.

Our example English Barleywine was, ironically enough, from Brooklyn Brewery.

Brooklyn Monster Ale:
Jim: Brooklyn Monster Ale: Biscuity, hoppy/roasted malt nose with a flavor that follows suit. Really like this--one of Brooklyn Brewery's finer beers.
Jason: Brooklyn Monster Ale: bit of a hop nose, buttery scotch, and the alcohol is easy to find.
Mike: Copper/golden color, with a heavy head. Hoppy bite, tight with notes of pepper. Oddly enough, reminds me of all the good characteristics and flavors of smoking cigarettes (which I quit many years ago).

* * * * *

Thanks again to Jim and Bob at World Class Beverages - particularly Bob, who provided the material for the majority of this lesson.

Click here to access all of the beer school series of articles.

23 January 2008

I must be traveling on now

On August 8th of 2006, I started this blog with just the sole intention of raising the discussion about good beer. I could never have imagined that it would have taken off as it has, garnering so much attention and so many readers, and becoming part of the lexicon when discussing good beer in Indiana. I am very proud that I have made a positive contribution to the beer community. So it was with something of a heavy heart (or lazy ass, according to Jason) that I informed my fellow Knights earlier today that I am officially resigning my status as a Knight of the Beer Roundtable. I've got a lot of cool things going on in my life right now, and those things, along with my family, need my full attention. And so, to quote the best Southern Rock band of all-time, "I must be traveling on now."

The Knights are all very wonderful people. It has been a sincere pleasure to become friends with all of them over the last year and a half, and I couldn't think of a better group of people to drink with or to keep this blog running. They've even made me a Knight Emeritus (I think that means that I'm supposed to somehow buy someone some beer), and I will continue to show up to roundtables as my schedule permits.

Thanks to all of you for reading my stuff over the last year and a half, and for raising the conversation about good beer in Indiana!



Ratebeer completes "The World's Largest Beer Competition"

The folks at RateBeer.com have just compliled the giant piles of user-provided data to come up with The RateBeer Best 2008 - a collection of lists of the best beers and brewers in the world.

What beer is at the top of the list? None other than Three Floyd's Dark Lord Oak Aged Imperial Stout (up from #4 in last year's results). Rounding out the top five are (#2) Westvleteren Abt 12, (#3) Närke Kaggen Stormaktsporter, (#4) Struise Black Albert, and (#5) Surly Darkness.

There is bad news (well, kinda) for Three Floyds - they've been knocked out of the top brewer spot spot by Struise, who did not appear on last years list. Rounding out that list are (#3) Port Brewing/Lost Abbey, (#4) Bell's Brewery, and (#5) Närke Kulturbryggeri.

UPDATE by Jason (1/25/08): I received a note from Struise's brewmaster Urbain Couttreau giving some clarification to their history on RateBeer.com:

"As a matter of fact, we did appear on the last years list, but still with our beers under the Deca brewery. We were initially contract brewers at that time and we received from Ratebeer 8 golden awards in 2007. Due to our energy, the Deca brewery climbed from nowhere to the 32nd place in the top 100 of the best brewers in 2007. Several weeks ago, we were separated from this chart and we were given our own brewer’s chart by ratebeer.

"Just to say that we are not an upstart because we are already active since 2001. Our Pannepot figures in the top 50 of ratebeer since 2005. Our Struise Witte was 17th best Wheatbeer at the same time."

22 January 2008

Back to School #2 with Fruit Beers

This is the second post in what we hope will become a regular series, in which we're passing on what we learned in our meeting at World Class Beverages to you. We continue our beer schooling with Fruit Beers.

Fruit Beers

According the the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Guidelines, fruit beers should above all should be "a harmonius marriage of fruit and beer". Beers in this category should (critically) be balanced with fruit, not overwhelmed. Fruit extracts are commonly used - whole fruit use is rare because whole fruit tends to add different flavor characteristic. These beers are judged "based on the pleasantness and balance of the resulting combination".

What this leads to is high ratings for beer that might not necessarily be considered "good" by a beer geeks' standards. Judges look that the beer meet the qualifications of the category first - perhaps at the expense of the beer's overall taste.

Fruit beer is amongst the oldest beer styles, dating back to at least 3000 BC in Iran. Prior to the middle ages, many beer were brewed with fruit and herbs - a combination known as gruit. Hops later replaced gruit in the brewing process, leading to the beer styles we are more familiar with today.

Another note: Lambics and other Belgian fruit-based specialties are not included in this category - they have their own categories.

Fortunately this section of our lesson included tasting - here are some thoughts:

Pyramid Apricot Weizen:

Jason: apricot smell, clean feel, but why am I getting a cashew flavor?
Jim: Heavy apricot nose; very pleasant, mild, and balanced apricot/beer flavor. Good warm weather beer, but heavy hitters would probably like Dogfish Head Aprihop more.
Mike: Nice nose, dead-on for style. Apricot front, smooth lager back, tight but not tart.

We've been told that Pyramid's beers all have a sort of "house flavor", meaning that they all have a similar agreeable flavor to this example. We were also told that this beer goes very well with Thai Food.

Oaken Barrel Razz-Wheat:
Jason: Raspberry juice smell, very tart, very champagne-ish.
Matt: I could smell this one from a few feet away, as opposed to the others where I had to get my nose in there or at least close to it to smell anything. It was softer on the raspberry flavor, but it was by far the dominating influence. The texture was kind of watery.
Jim: Meh. Balanced raspberry/wheat beer flavor, but too meek for my taste.

Some of our readers may be familiar with Razz-Wheat from its availability at Victory Field, home of the Indianapolis Indians. We all agreed that the Razz-Wheat is a worthy choice when watching baseball under a hot summer sun.

Unibroue Ephemere:
Jim: Vintage beer from Unibroue. Strong apple nose; smells just like apple cider. Flavor is apple-heavy as well, but the beer has a surprisingly mild and dry finish. Could drink lots of this.
Jason: Apple, apple, apple. This variety is 2 and 1/2 years old, but very tasty. One of the better Unibroue's, IMO.
Matt: It smelled like an apple cider, and had a lightly tart flavor. I really enjoyed this one. It was my favorite of the fruit beers we tasted.

* * * * *

Click here to access all of the beer school series of articles.

21 January 2008

News on possible NABC expansion

Southern Indiana beer geeks (or those of you who make it down to the Louisville area frequently) may be excited to read this update from Roger Baylor of New Albanian Brewing Company on the brewery's planned expansion to a building in downtown New Albany. The good news--NABC hopes to offer more consistency in keg sales to the public, including keg sales to eager buyers in Indianapolis. Roger initially broke the news of NABC's plans to expand back in October.

We at Hoosier Beer Geek certainly hope that the expansion comes to fruition because that means more opportunities to consume NABC's wonderful offerings here in the Circle City.

Corrections to "Back to School with Real Ales and Firkins"

I should have paid a little more attention in Beer School. A couple helpful readers have chimed in to let me know that I was mistaken in writing the following in our "Back to School With Real Ales and Firkins" post.
"real ale never leaves the container in which it is fermented before it makes its way into your glass."
Not true.

According to reader Paul:
"Once beer is fermented it is then placed into a cask or bottle, and without getting too technical, this is where a secondary fermentation takes place. The beer is live in the container and when it is served. Dead beer like most lagers are given an injection of CO2 to give it an over the top amount of fizz."
Another reader who failed to leave her or his name added:
"Paul is right. The initial round of fermentation would leave too much yeast slurry and hop residue (sludge from hop pellets or leaf particles from whole hops) and that wouldn't lead to very clear beer. Once initial fermentation ceases, the beer is racked (aka transfered) into the cask or bottle and it has had a certain amount of priming sugar added to let it do a final fermentation that causes that lovely carbonation we do so enjoy. Bell's beers and Dark Horse beers are bottle conditioned, that is why you decant them into a glass and leave the yeast sediment behind. The yeast is still there and makes the carbonation, thus the beer is alive."
I'd like to thank Paul and Annonymous for their quick corrections to the post, and I apologize for my mistake. Hopefully it'll be the last.

20 January 2008

Back to School With Real Ales and Firkins

As Jason recently posted, we spent Thursday evening at the Monarch/World Class Beverages facility. Our trip out wasn't just for a tour; We also sat in on World Class' salesperson training where we learned about Real Ales, Firkins, Fruit Beers and Strong Ales from World Class' professional beer geek[1], Bob Mack.

Real Ales and Firkins

According to the folks at Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), real ale is "is a natural product brewed using traditional ingredients and left to mature in the cask (container) from which it is served in the pub through a process called secondary fermentation." This container can be a cask, firkin, bottle or even an aluminum can - the defining characteristic is that the beer is matured by secondary fermentation in the container in which it is dispensed.

Often times you'll hear real ales refered to as "firkins". By definition, a firkin is a container (made of any material) for real ale that holds 10.8 gallons of real ale (9 imperial gallons, or 1/4 a British beer barrel). So while a real ale can also be a firkin, a firkin is not necessarily a real ale.

[1] Unfortunately, we can only aspire to be professional beer geeks. Good work if you can get it.

2007 Hoosier Beer Geek Review - by the numbers

The Knights should thank their livers for allowing them to review approximately 57 different brews from all over the globe (30 cities, 10 states and 6 countries) in 2007. There were 51 beers at 27 Roundtable events while the remaining six reviews were random entries (warm-up beers, diary entries). During 2007, we had two amazing parties, 1 beer with our namesake*, and were especially busy during the month of December when we did about a quarter of our Roundtable reviews (13 beers).


We rated the most beers at one time (6) during Jim's Chrismukkah celebration, which was somewhat surprising since all of the reviewed drinks had an ABV of 8% or more. The remaining 26 Roundtables commenced at 20 separate locations with Deano's, Brugge, and Badaboomz as the setting for more than one Roundtable.

Our highest rated breweries with one beer, Upland (Ard Ri) and Dogfish Head (90 Minute), had 5 mugs overall. Our highest rated brewery with more than one beer was Bear Republic with an average of 4.25 for their Racer 5 IPA and the Big Bear Black Stout. Not surprisingly, the most represented state was Indiana featuring 15 reviews from nine distinct breweries including Upland, New Albanian, Broad Ripple Brewpub, Oaken Barrel, Brugge Brasserie, Barley Island, Mad Anthony, and Three Floyds. Other states that had five or more reviewed beers were California, Michigan, and New York.


Our most reviewed style (of approximately 27), Belgian Strong Ales, had eight different beers. They were Brouwerij Huyghe Delirium Tremens and Delirium Noel, Brewery Van Steenberge Piraat, Ommegang Abbey, Bell's Batch 8000, Brugge Brasserie Imperial (I think this is considered a Belgian Strong, but I am not positive), Unibroue Signeurale, and Goose Island Demolition. They faired well overall, having an average score of 3.14, but there were seven other styles averaging a four mug or better rating (Irish Ale, Scottish Ale, Quadruples, Imperial Stout, Imperial/Double IPA, Dry Stout).


Of the seven Knights, the average rating / # of reviews (of 51 Roundtable beers reviewed):
• Chris - 3.72 / 27
• Jason - 3.69 / 29
• Jim - 3.67 / 37
• Kelly - 3.67 / 12
• Gina - 3.51 / 29
• Matt - 3.40 / 10
• Mike - 3.15 / 43

Here you can see the Knight with the most time on his hands (or the biggest lush) is Mike with 43 reviews. The highest rated beer (5 mugs) by the most knights (6 out of 7) was the 90 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head. Chris was the Knight most likely to give a five mug review, with seven beers receiving the honor (Upland Ard Ri, Delirium Noel and Delirium Tremens, He’Brew Origin Pomegranate Ale, Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, Bear Republic Big Black Bear Stout and Racer 5 IPA). The remaining Knights were a little more reserved with their mugs, offering the highest rating to only one or two beers (with the exception of the newest Knight, Matt, who did not officially give a five mug rating to any beer in 2007). Other five mug ratings were Founder’s Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Koningshoeven Quadrupel Trappist Ale, and BBC’s Jefferson Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout.

We accomplished a lot this past year and met some new friends along the way. We're thankful for you and your support over the past year and we hope to bring you even more beers, events, and news for 2008. If there is something in particular you would like to see, let us know. We're always looking for suggestions.

* Sint Sylvester Vooranvond - A HBG Commemorative Ale – awesome, but no official review submitted.

18 January 2008

Beer Diary - Jason

Friday, January 18, 2008: Having had Hopslam on the brain for a while, I was feeling mighty thirsty come lunch time today. Headed to BadaBoomz (new website) for one of their $6 lunches (Fish and Fries on Friday...highly recommend) and Mike Deweese recommended I try the Goose Island Pere Jacques that they currently have. He told me he had been trying to get some different beers from GI, but all that they would send him is Matilda. Then GI accidentally loaded two 1/6's on a truck headed for their Indy distributor. They asked Mike if he wanted them, and he gave them a "Hell yes!"

A very tasty, very sweet Belgian Dubbel. Not fruity, but very sugary. Some strong alcohol characteristics. A doozy of a lunch beer at 9% ABV. $5.50, served in a goblet. $1 off today (Big Ten day) and Tuesday (Goblet day), though with only 100 servings available, it may not last long.

A picture is worth a thousand beers...

Bob and Jim at World Class Beverages had a few of the Knights over to tour their facility. A very large facility. Yes, it is shared with their parent company, Monarch Beverages, and yes, the majority of the space was filled with Miller, Coors, and other related big names. What we enjoyed the most were the WCB areas like this:

Boxes and boxes of beautiful better beer! And there were kegs. By far the most beautiful of the kegs came from Brugge.

These slender, red rubber coated beauties are the supermodels of beer kegs. But remember, it's not about the looks. It's what is inside that matters.

But for me, the real excitement came when I saw this...

and these...

Ladies and gentlemen, Bell's Hopslam is in the warehouse! And soon, Hopslam will have left the building, thank you very much. Keep an eye out at your favorite beer purveyors because it should be arriving soon. You can also check up on WCB's Beer Finder to follow that booze.

16 January 2008

KOTBR #38 - I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly...

For #38, the Knights arrived at Locals Only last Thursday not to drink Ron Burgundy's favorite, scotch whiskey, but rather Founder's Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale.

This wasn't the first Scotch Ale to be reviewed by the Knights and likely won't be the last as many us found this style to be pretty agreeable. Other Scotch Ales that have been up for review are Broad Ripple Brewpub's Wee Alec Heavy, and Three Floyds Robert the Bruce.

Here are the reviews...

Jim -

Dear Dirty Bastard:

Are you a Belgian in disguise?

You're a hard beer to pin down, Dirty Bastard. Your label says you're a Scotch Ale, so I expected all roasted maltiness from you. And you are indeed malty, but you're still mysteriously different from other Scotch Ales. Your nose should give me coffee and caramel. Instead, I smell dark fruit, brown sugar, and raisins. Your mouthfeel should be thick and chewy. Instead, it's silky, sliding across my tongue in a unique way. Your flavor should give me coffee and chocolate. Instead, I taste a swirl of nuttiness, dark fruit, and a little bit of cherry.

You are an exquisite, 4.40 mug beer, which is a lofty position to hold among the many ales and lagers I have consumed in my time. Yet I'm still puzzled about you, Dirty Bastard, since you seem to have abandoned the land of scotch whiskey and haggis for the land of chocolate and of beers made by monks. So I ask you again--

Are you a Belgian in disguise?

Your admirer,


Jason -

When we decided to review Founder's Dirty Bastard Scotch Style Ale, I had a feeling of deja vu. Didn't we review this once already? My fellow Knights insisted that no, we haven't, that I'm thinking of the Kentucky Breakfast Stout.

After some research, I understand why I thought that I had reviewed this beer before: because I had!

Back when the Knights were still in their infancy, at review number 4, Kelly, Chris, and I went to Spencer's Stadium Tavern where we reviewed Spaten's Oktoberfest. But I was the only one at that review to submit a review, so I also rated Dirty Bastard, which was my warm up.

Since it was my warm up, it was never "officially" reviewed. But my thoughts then reflect many of my thoughts now: "great malty beer with a bite of hops... very dark to reddish brown in color with a nice foam head that gives way to some great lace... caramel and toffee... bit of spice in the aroma... easy to drink... not much of an aftertaste."

I will add that the nose smelled of raisin, the hops bite came in the back of the throat, and the mouthfeel was very creamy.

I'll sum it up in two words: Apple butter. This beer makes me think of apple butter in beer form. Back then, I was wanting to rate it between 4 and 4.5 mugs. I think it holds true.

And when we review it again for the first time 18 months from now, I'll still probably give it a 4.375 mug rating. Maybe instead we'll review the Founder's Red's Rye, which I had after and was very tasty.

But I won't review it now, in order to prevent future confusion.

Mike -

This wasn't the first time Hoosier Beer Geek has visited Locals Only - back in January of 2007 a couple Knights stopped in and had kind words for the establishment. What they failed to mention is that Locals Only is a dive bar.

Consider the following:

Non-descript exterior? Check.
Dingy couch? Check.
Stage and partial dance floor? Check.
Pool table? Check.
Ashtrays? Check.
Extensive use of Christmas Lighting? Check.
Vinyl BudMillerCoors advertising on the walls? Check.
Fantastic beer menu? Way friendly staff? Check... Wait a minute... Fantastic beer menu? Way friendly staff?

Calling Locals Only a dive bar isn't meant as a slight - because as far as dive bars go you won't find better, or friendlier. Instead of the expected Bud/Bud Light/Miller/Miller Light beer menu you'd expect, Locals Only has a cooler-full of the finest in craft beer, with enough variety to keep any beer geek happy. Not to mention the fact that when you make that craft beer choice, the bartender will congratulate you on your fine selection.

After warming up with a Stone Ruination IPA, I settled into our feature beer - Founder's Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale. It's a fitting beer for Locals Only - a beer that has the look you'd expect, but reveals itself to be something completely different. The beer pours with a deep red color and no lacing. A hard-to-pin-down nose leads to a full, smooth mouthfeel, full of... something... caramel? butter? It's the sort of beer that has you scratching your head to describe.

Looking at our past scores, the "would I buy this again" breaking point for scores seems to lie at 3.00 mugs - beers at that score or higher are beers I would buy again. Keeping that in mind, I'll give Dirty Bastard a score of 3.5 mugs - this is a beer I'm anxious to revisit.

Matt -

This is indeed a dirty bastard. Its slick yet persistent texture brought to my mind the horrid image of the illegitimate spawn of an oyster and a lump of chocolate chip cookie dough. I can think of few combinations of things that I enjoy on their own, but would be this unappealing when combined in the real word, but in this rarified context I can certainly enjoy the juxtaposition. The pleasantly divergent characteristics don't stop there, however. Its color was a dark auburn, and had the malty character that one would expect from a Scottish style ale, but there was a smoky coffee-ish flavor to this bastard which leads me to believe that his old man must have been a one stout fellow indeed. I thoroughly enjoyed this particular Scottish ale, despite his questionable parentage.


Kelly -

I'm typically an agreeable soul when it comes to beer. Ales, stouts, dark, light, cold, warm -- there's a reason that I've been the Knight with the highest average mug rating given to our Roundtable selections. Alas, it's not to be this time around.

With my first sip of the Dirty Bastard, I ended up asking the other Knights if they tasted something akin to fertilizer -- an astringent, oily taste spreading out on the top of my tongue that I couldn't get past. I sampled some of the other Knights' pours, and while they seemed much more balanced, the phantom taste still hung in there for me. I wouldn't be opposed to trying another bottle at home in the future, but I just didn't get the enjoyment out of this beer like the rest of the group.

Note to the Dirty Bastard: if you were picking on me because I had a bad day... I'll get my vengeance.

2.25 mugs, open to re-evaluation.

Founder's Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale
Kelly: 2.25 mugs
Matt: 4.25 mugs
Jim: 4.40 mugs
Gina: 3.75 mugs
Mike: 3.50 mugs
Jason: 4.375 mugs
KOTBR Average: 3.75 mugs

Items of Interest

It's been a little slow here for the past few days, but worry not - there's a blitzkrieg of posts coming soon.

There's a post over at Feed Me Drink Me looking for reader votes for Indy's Best Restaurants - seems that a lot of folks are as fond of Brugge as we are. Speaking of Brugge, Indiana Beer reports that they'll be expanding the restaurant into the space that formerly housed Net Heads internet cafe. Don't worry about Net Heads - Brugge bought them out of their lease so they're moving to Carmel. How an internet cafe stays open in the age of abundant free wireless is a wonder to me - Net Heads must be doing something right.

As a follow up to our review of Beer Magazine, here's a much more critical (and perhaps even malicious) review from Andy Crouch's BeerScribe.com. If you roll down to the comments you'll see that Derek B from Beer Magazine chimed in to defend the magazine. He's got a pretty convincing argument.

And if you missed it over at The Potable Curmudgeon, this year's Gravity Head (February 29, 2008 at New Albanian) is going to be coma-inducing. Check out this beer lineup, and reserve your hotel room now:
* first time ever on draft

De Dolle Dulle Teve (“Mad Bitch”) 10% abv
*Dupont Moinette Brune 8.5% abv
*Dupont Moinette Blonde 8.5% abv
Regenboog Guido 8% abv
*Podge Belgian Imperial Stout 10.5% abv

*Wintercoat Cockney Imperial Stout (cask-conditioned)

EKU 28 11% abv
Ettaler Curator Doppelbock 9% abv

*Birra Integrale La Birra di Natale 8.5% abv

Burton Bridge Tom Sykes Old Ale (cask-conditioned)
Gales Prize Old Ale (1998) 9% abv
JW Lees Vintage Harvest Ale (Calvados barrel aged) 11.5% abv

*Avery Fourteen 9.46% abv
Avery Old Jubilation 8% abv
Avery “The Czar” 11.73% abv
*Avery “The Kaiser” 9.37% abv
BBC (Main & Clay) Bearded Pat's Barley Wine (2006) circa 10% abv
*BBC (Main & Clay) Queen's Knickers 8% abv
Bell's Batch 6000 (2004) 10.5% abv
Bell's Expedition Stout 2006 11.5% abv
Bell's Hopslam 10% abv
Bell's Sparkling Ale 9% abv
Brooklyn Brewery Monster Ale 11.8% abv
Clipper City Below Decks Barleywine 11% abv
Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree IPA 13.6% abv
*Dark Horse Scotty Karate Scotch Ale 9.75% abv
*Dogfish Head Fort 18% abv
Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter 9.5% abv
Founders Imperial Stout 10% abv
Great Divide Old Ruffian Barley Wine 10.2% abv
Left Hand Imperial Stout 10.4% abv
NABC Oak Aged V (Fifth Anniversary Ale) 10% abv
NABC Malcolm's Old Setters Ale 10.5% abv
NABC Thunderfoot (2007) 10% abv
New Holland Dragon’s Milk 9% abv
New Holland Pilgrim's Dole 10% abv
Rogue XS Old Crustacean Barley Wine Vintage TBA 11.3% abv
Rogue John’s Locker Stock Imperial Porter ‘007 7.77% abv
Rogue XS Imperial Stout 11% abv
*Schlafly Imperial Stout 10.5% abv
*Shmaltz He’Brew Jewbelation Eleven 11% abv
Shmaltz He’Brew Genesis 10:10 (2006) 10% abv
Shmaltz He’Brew Bittersweet Lenny's RIPA 10% abv
Stone Double Bastard (2005) 10% abv
Stone Imperial Russian Stout 10.8% abv
Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine (2006) 11.2% abv
*Stone XI – 11th Anniversary Ale 8.7% abv
*Three Floyds Fantabulous Resplendence X Anniversary 10.5% abv
Upland Ard-Ri Imperial Irish-style Red Ale 8.7% abv

11 January 2008

Answers to Questions We Never Expected to be Asked

Once upon a time, in the column to the right, you could read the following statement:
Hoosier Beer Geek was created in 2006 as an excuse to drink and rate beer. Using the title "The Knights of the Beer Roundtable", we post about the results of these tastings here for the beer consuming public. Though based in Indianapolis, we strive to maintain the best beer blog anywhere.
There is quite a bit of work that goes into this blog - daily email flurries, behind the scenes negotiations, constant harassment by the police...

The answer to "How do I become a Hoosier Beer Geek?" is simple: If you're reading this blog, you're already a member of the club.

We post our events in the calendar, which is located in the second column to the right - and we welcome anyone who wishes to attend. If you do attend, please don't expect anything formal - we're just a group of people hanging out and drinking good beer. In many cases it might be in your best interest to send us an email or leave a comment to let us know you're coming out, because we look like any other group of people hanging out at the bar. Some times we let the bar know we're coming, but more often than not we just show up.

If your question is "How do I become a Knight of the Beer Roundtable?", that's a tougher answer. Ask yourself the following:

1) Do you really want Mike to send you as many as 25 emails a day, 5 days a week?
2) Do you really have any idea how frustrating it can be dealing with beer people?
3) Do you really want to be part of one of the few places people have to turn to complain at when they're frustrated with anything that ever had to do with beer in the state of Indiana?
4) Do you realize that all of this might mean you've got to deal with loonies?
5) Did you know that 440 pixels wide is the rule?
6) Do you realize how picky Mike is about fonts?
7) Do you know that posting a photo on HBG is a four step process?
8) Do you realize we'll expect you to work on (loose) deadlines?
9) Are you sure you're ready to host 10 people just because one of us (Mike) decided that he wanted to drink a beer that week and he didn't want to do it at his house?
10) Are you aware of how hard it is to keep the Matts in line?
11) Did you know that if we decide you don't fit we'll talk about you in an unflattering way forever and ever, to the point where your name becomes a HBG injoke?
12) Are you prepared to accept that somehow Rodney has become a source of regular google searches?
13) Do you realize that Rodney thinks that this is the most awesome thing to ever happen and that will ever happen to Hoosier Beer Geek ?
14) Did you realize that Jason is always wrong?
15) Do you realize that we do this whole thing out of our own pockets?
16) Do you realize that Mike thinks money is evil and will ruin us all and will fight to keep it out of the site even though it's completely against common sense?
17) Do you know that if you talk too much Chris will turn on you?
18) Do you realize that we consider talking about politics a generally bad thing unless you completely agree with everyone else?
19) You know Jim is Jewish, right?
20) Do you own a van?

There is no leader in the Knights of the Beer Roundtable - it's truly a collaborative effort.

It's much tougher to become a Knight now than it was when the blog was started - we trust each other entirely, and we need to because of the relationships we're building with distributors, brewers, bar owners, and restaurateurs. These relationships weren't there in the beginning; it's only through our dedication to beer and our audience that we've earned them.

Though it didn't start that way, we're a pretty tight little group of friends now - and really the only way in is to earn the respect of us all - first and foremost through writing, and secondly just fitting in with our off-kilter dynamic. We aren't committed to the idea of being exclusive - but we know when something fits.

Thanks for reading the blog - we really are amazed at the response, and we're really grateful to have the audience. We hope that the reading is as rewarding as the writing.

Jason, Jim, Mike, Gina, Chris, Rodney, and Matt
The Hoosier Beer Geek Knights of the Beer Roundtable

Our Bi-Weekly Brugge Beer Update

From the Hoosier Beer Geek mailbox:
I wondered if you had any insider info on just WHEN THE HELL those Brugge beers are likely to be seen in the finer purveyors of our collective favorite beverage? I'm sure that Charlie gets people nagging him about it daily as they are a couple of months behind schedule and as I don't get up to Broad Ripple as often as I like, I am impatient....I assume we're looking at around $8-10 for a 750ml bottle....?

Hope to make it to an upcoming event. Continued success in the new year!


Well Kurt, in this case you know as much as we do. So I forwarded on the email on to Charlie at Brugge.
Hi Mike.
I wish we could answer Kurt's email more specifically, but the best I can do is refer you to our weblog and this new post:

What Happened and What's Happening

He's pretty close on the bottle price. Black, White, Sacre Fleur Saison will have one price point, with Dubbel and Tripel de Ripple a bit higher. Prices will be finalized as soon as the bottling line is up and running.

The "nagging" about availabilty is actually encouraging. We're as anxious to get our beer to you as you are to enjoy it. If the nagging stops, then we're in trouble!


10 January 2008

Wabash Valley On Tap

The word on the street is that Wabash Valley Brewery is getting ready to start shipping, and they're kicking off by distributing a few kegs around town for sampling.

For those of you who aren't familiar with these beers, this article from the Terre Haute TribStar provides details:
The new Wabash Valley beers will be “a little bit toned down, lighter on the body with flavors that wouldn’t offend” consumers who’ve not ventured beyond the big three, said Micah Weichert, the head brewer for the Vigo Brewing Group.

Weichert, along with Brugge mastermind Ted Miller, crafted the recipes for the five Wabash Valley beers.
Deano's is getting a keg tomorrow either of the Gangster Pale Ale or the Wabash Cannonball Porter. Samples are free, pints are $3 bucks. Stop buy and let Nick know what you think about the beer so he can report back to the guys at Wabash Valley.

09 January 2008

"Extreme beers" get some pub

Eric Asimov, wine critic at the New York Times, offers a panel review of several "extreme beers" (basically, all are double or Imperial IPA's) and discusses the hop bomb phenomenon. The panel's favorite? HBG's only beer with a 5 mug rating--Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. For those who prefer pretty pictures to words, check out the multimedia feature that goes along with Asimov's article. And for a previous discussion of the extreme beer genre, see this Beer Advocate article.

08 January 2008

The Hopslam Who-What

If you're like us, you're anxiously awaiting this year's batch of Bell's Hopslam (Reviewed KOTBR #6). Rumor has it that there will only be one batch of Hopslam this year, so with that thought in mind, I sent an email over to our man Bob at World Class Beverages to see what's up.
Hi Mike,

Bell’s is indeed bottling Hopslam later this week, but that likely means that it will not be available for us to pick up until early next week, which means stores will start getting it later next week. As for a second run, I’ve heard that rumor, but I have not heard that confirmed. My fear would be that the hop shortage might create a problem for a second run and I don’t really expect a second run.

We’re expecting a pretty fair amount of Hopslam in Indiana this year (more than last year), and we will be getting all of it next week in one shipment. As to where, I don’t know that I can give you a specific list of which retailers will order it, but all of the usual suspects should have it like Kahn’s, come Crown stores, Parti Pak, some Payless stores, etc.

Draft Hopslam will be available at the same time but the number of kegs is a little more limited than the cases. I would expect about 35-40 retailers total, in the state, to get kegs. Again, some of the usual suspects will have draft. Bell’s definitely likes to reward retailers who sell Bell’s beer year round with Hopslam, so the bigger Bell’s retailers are the people who will get the kegs.

Of course, the Beer Finder at our website will be updated daily with places that have gotten their shipments of Hopslam. By about 9am each morning, it will reflect those stores who got their deliveries the previous day.

I would expect to see a lot of retailers getting onto their shelves the week of January 20th, but some retailers who are ordering sooner will get it sooner. Retailers don’t always order beer every week, so not everyone will have it right away.

Thanks for asking! I’m licking my lips for some Hopslam right now!

Bob Mack
World Class Beverages

06 January 2008

This is what we're here for.

This came to our email address a few months ago...
I just found your website today, and I wanted to make sure you guys knew about the Half Moon Restaurant & Brewery in Kokomo. Not necessarily to rate, just to enjoy, since you're so nearby!

Take US 31 North to Kokomo. Half Moon is on the left, between Center and Alto.

They currently have 8 beers on tap... Not bad for a place that only opened 5 months ago!

The Half Moon Restaurant and Brewery is located at:
4051 S. Lafountain
Kokomo, IN 46902
Call us at: 765.455.BREW (2739)

And this came to our email address today...

I was browsing your blog site, and wanted to see if I could have my store's site added to your listing's of Hoosier Beer. I am in the southern part of the state, so not much a part of the Indianapolis beer scene, but we are part of the New Albany area and are tied closely with Roger Baylor at Rich O's/New Albanian Brewing. You can also check us out on both Ratebeer.com and BeerAdvocate.com as well.

Thanks for the consideration,


Keg Liquors
617 E. Lewis and Clark Parkway
Clarksville, IN 47129
I've posted both of the emails to let anyone else out there who'd like a little attention from Hoosier Beer Geek to drop us a line - we're more than happy to help.

04 January 2008

Guest Post: Roger A. Baylor, The Potable Curmudgeon - A thread: Can a great restaurant serve mass-market beer?

The Potable Curmudgeon, a blog written by New Albanian Brewing Company headman Roger A. Baylor, is a frequent read for the Knights of the Beer Roundtable. We became smitten with Roger's beers last year at the Phoenix Theatre's Brew-Ha-Ha and the Indiana Microbrewers Festival. We particularly love NABC's signature hop bomb, Hoptimus Imperial IPA, and the NABC Thunderfoot Cherry Imperial Stout, and have plans to visit Roger's establishment in the future to sample a wider variety of his beers.

Roger recently generated some lively discussion among the Louisville area's dining community when he sprang the following question on them:
"Can a great restaurant serve mass-market beer?" We at Hoosier Beer Geek think this is a question worth asking the Indianapolis dining community as well, especially since some of us have gone to a number of Indy's finer restaurants only to be let down by an uninspiring beer menu.

With Roger's permission, we bring you his blog posting on this subject, hoping that it will generate some discussion here. Our thanks go to Roger for allowing us to rehash the subject at HBG.

* * * * *

There's been an interesting thread going at the Louisville Restaurants Forum: Can a great restaurant serve mass-market beer?

Here is one question asked, followed by the answer I provided. It isn't tremendously grammatical, but I was in a hurry.


Can you give me some examples of what would be high quality beers that should be served at a high quality restaurant?

I've thought about this a lot at various times, and the answer tends to change based on recent experiences.

The fundamental thing is to offer a variety of styles, not just a variety of labels/brands. Knowing the difference between styles and labels is the first jumping off point for me.

So ... in no particular order of preference …

Lagers (bottom fermented; clean character)

A true Pilsner with hop character, i.e., Pilsner Urquell; fewer micros attempt this, but if we could get Victory's Prima Pils ...

Dark lager with balls, like Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel. Amber and malty Oktoberfests fit here, too, but probably should be seasonal.

Doppelbock: Rich, sweet, malty, meant for meat. You haven’t lived until you’ve enjoyed Bavarian-style pork knuckle with Doppelbock.

Ales (top fermented; far wider potential flavor spectrum)

Belgian-style Wit (white/wheat), and Blue Moon does not count. Hoegaarden remains serviceable. Citrusy; hint of sourness.

German style wheat: Schneider or Weihenstphaner, although I suppose Franziskaner is acceptable even if the character is too mild for me. Cloves, apples and bananas.

Belgian Trappist (Chimay red or blue, et al) ... dark, bottle conditioned, vinous, complex malt.

Assorted Belgians and French Bieres de Garde. Among the former, sour reds (Rodenbach), eclectic Wallonians (La Chouffe, McChouffe) and wondrous Saisons (Dupont the finsets example); the French beers are criminally underrated and simply wonderful with many dishes. Ask Chef Clancy if you don’t believe me. American examples of both Belgian and French styles include Ommegang Hennepin, Jolly Pumpkin’s line and Two Brothers Domaine Dupage (sic).

Imperial Stout. Thick, black, intense, oily, viscous. Many good microbrewed versions. Functions much like Port with assertive cheeses, and modifies sweet desserts.

American-style hop bombs, double IPA, etc. Bitterness for contrast, and can also be quaffed sans food.

Local microbrews. To me, preferably on draft, and maybe rotating. Louisville is blessed with excellent small breweries (and there’s Alltech, and many more in Indiana, as Shawn noted).


Think in terms of style and the possibilities are endless. I didn’t mention everyday dry Stout of the Guinness mold, which remains beautiful with shellfish, and I’m assuming that there always will be a few yellow Eurolagers around for the plain fearful; as I wrote previously, you simply don’t need Budweiser if you have Stella or Spaten.

The point remains that a very good 15-20 beer list can be constructed from what is available locally, and it will cover most of the contingencies. Seasonals can make up the difference.

Earlier someone brought up Maido as an example of a great beer list, and I agree 100%. Using conventional wisdom, you’re washing down diverse sushi and voluminous wasabi with weak golden lager, but chase them with Stone’s hoppy Ruination Ale and it’s a religious experience, indeed.

03 January 2008

There's always room for improvement

Now that a few days have passed and we've finished patting ourselves on the back over the success of the New Year's party, we'd like to "open the floor" to our readers, party attendees, big car sampling colleagues, or anyone else, and ask "what can we do to make Hoosier Beer Geek better?"

Anything is fair game here - from the site and review writing, the events, the beer we're sampling - everything but the site design, which is completely perfect. Ok, even the site design is open for scrutiny.

What would you like to see from us? What can we do to make your visits to the site more worthwhile? What sort of events would you like to see us put on? How can be better beer geeks?

* * * * *

And while you're pondering these questions, check out some NYE photos over at Indy.com's Party Crasher.

01 January 2008

Sint Sylvester Vooranvond - A HBG Commemorative Ale - The Day After

Last week when Gina and I were in St. Louis, after our tour of AB, we stopped in at Schlafly's Tap Room. We've been to the Tap Room twice, and had a great experience both times - and while we were there we picked up a growler of their Coffee Stout. The stout was a fantastic Christmas treat, but we were really after the growler; I knew we had a free half barrel of Brugge's Sint Sylvester coming at our New Year's Party.

In case you missed the party last evening, we gave away that entire half barrel of beer as a special New Year's surprise - Thanks to Ted and the folks at Brugge, of course - and Gina and I walked out with a growler-full for later contemplation.

As you can see in the picture, this is a cloudy orange brew, with no head and a sweet sharp nose. There's a hint of alcohol in that nose, a dry, tight front, and a smooth mouthfeel with a bit of alcohol bite. It reminds me of Bell's Winter White - a beer we reviewed just a week or two ago. Mild, extremely drinkable, but not the sort of knock out punch you might expect from a Brugge beer. A highly agreeable drink, and one we're proud to have our name on. It's my understanding that this beer is currently on tap at Brugge - so if you want to give it a shot, stop by the restaurant, and let us know what you think.

Exceeding all expectations

As it appears that I'm the first of us awake on this first morning of 2008, I'll also be the first to offer my thanks for the amazing generosity shown to us at last night's New Year's Eve party at Deano's Vino. Before I do that, however, I think my colleagues would agree with me when I say that we had an incredible time at the party and were truly heartened to see so many people turn out to celebrate the arrival of the new year with us (and sorry about the lack of live blogging last night--we figured no one was at home reading anyway, and we couldn't get the wireless to connect).

My thanks go to--

- faithful Hoosier Beer Geek readers and fellow beer geeks who came out last night. You are the reason we do what we do here at HBG, and we are extremely grateful for your camaraderie and support.

- my fellow Knights of the Beer Roundtable. I feel truly blessed to have become friends with you over the past year. Whether it's an argument with Jason over whether The Breakfast Club is a chick flick, a geeky chat with Matt about our mutual zombie movie fetish, a talk with Mike and Gina about Fulham Football Club, a discussion with Kelly about the best indie rock acts of the year, or a soliloquy by Chris on the finer points of a certain kind of cinema (ahem), you all keep me endlessly entertained. As Chris is fond of saying after having a few, "I love you, man!"

- Deano, Jody, Paul, Nick, Laura, and the rest of the Deano's Vino crew for hosting us. Your hospitality and, shall we say, unpredictability (in a good way, of course) always keep us coming back to you for more fun. And thanks especially to Deano for not showing his ass to the crowd as he did at Oktoberfest.

- Ted, Charlie, and everyone else at Brugge Beer for the Brugge swag and the phenomenal Sint Sylvester Vooranvond Ale. We all marveled at the silky and mellow drinkability of this outstanding blonde Belgian ale. A beer geek couldn't ask for better beer friends than you guys. You are brewers par excellence and a huge asset to the Indiana craft beer community.

- Bob Mack of World Class Beverages, who was our beer savior last night when he was able to procure more Delirium Tremens and Bell's Two Hearted Ale after the first kegs of these beers were blown. Bob, we owe you big time.

- DJ Brian Jones for spinning his trademark '80's punk and new wave hits for us and for packing the dance floor with partygoers. I think all will agree with me as I now dub Brian, "The Official DJ of Hoosier Beer Geek" (TM).

- lastly, Tyler Durden and Project Mayhem for providing us with the tagline for the night ("Welcome to Fight Club!"). Don't ask me why this became the tagline. I still don't understand it, but ask anyone who knows us or who has read our reviews and they'll tell you that we're bizarre like that. Maybe Kelly, who was the progenitor of this catch phrase, can give you some reason why we shouted this when people walked into the bar last night.

And of course, I've just broken the first two rules of Fight Club ("You DO NOT talk about Fight Club.").

May you all have a prosperous and sweet New Year!