08 May 2008

KOTBR #44: From the brewery on the Wabash, far away

If I were to ask you what the state song of Indiana is, what would you reply?

Would you start singing that oh so familiar tune that Jim Neighbors sings to start most Indy 500's, "Back Home Again In Indiana"?

You would be wrong. It is the most widely known and popular song about Indiana. But it is not the official state song.
That honor goes to the song "One the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away", written by Paul Dresser. Never heard of it? You're not alone. I only know the name because they forced that information on me in fourth grade.

So that you'll be even more well informed, the chorus goes like this:

Oh, the moonlight's fair tonight along the Wabash,
From the fields there comes the breath of new mown hay.
Through the sycamores the candle lights are gleaming,
On the banks of the Wabash, far away.

Don't ask me how the tune goes, because I don't know.

So you figure that when a new beer brand takes the name "Wabash", and you are from Indiana, perhaps you should sit up and pay attention. Which we did.

We educated you on "Wabash..." the state song. We will now educate you on "Wabash..." the brewery.

Wabash Valley Malt Beverage Company is the other beer brand made in Terre Haute. In fact, it is made in the same brewery as Brugge's line of beers. But don't be mistaken: they are not one in the same. They have 5 beers available. Along with the three that we review below, they also have Limestone Lager and Hazy Days Wheat.

First up is Harvest Amber:
Jim: Amber color (not surprising, given the beer's name). Finger and a half head with soapy lacing. Caramel malt nose. Slightly sweet, caramel malt flavor. Moderate hop presence. A quality session beer, fine for an after work, summertime kick-back. 3.25 mugs.

Mike: Cloudy amber color, thing lacing, a beery-beer nose. The beer has a full flavor and a really nice balance. Smooth, extremely agreeable and drinkable. My first thought was "Fat Tire" minus the off-putting elements. I suspect this is a perfect beer for fans of Fat Tire.

My notes also said "Wouldn't buy this for myself, but would definitely buy for someone new to craft beer." After having one last night with supper, I might just buy it for myself. Great summer beer. 3.13 Mugs.

Matt: Not much head. It is indeed amber in color. Malty, slightly bitter flavor. Very drinkable. Persistent hop taste. 3.5 Mugs.

Jason: It is a standard beer. A good beer to introduce to those new to craft beers. It has a thick, white, bubbly, soapy head. It smells like beer (which sounds weird, but you know what I mean). It has a little sweetness to it with a bit of a hop/bitter aftertaste. It has a bit of a "ting" (a bit of a metallic bite to it). I'm giving it an even 3.0 mugs.

Next up, Gangster Pale Ale:
Jim: Golden color. Macrobrew nose. Hop bitterness, but not huge, with lingering bitter hop aftertaste. Are you Sam Adams in disguise? 2.25 mugs.

Mike: Transparent golden color, ghostly head, lil' lacing. Interesting nose - wet dog/wet carpet, hint of pretzel, hint of fresh vegetables/green beans. Bitter on the back end, but not really "hoppy" so to speak - more drying really. Not particularly bad, just not good. No thanks! 1.75 Mugs.

Matt: Goldish color. Metallic finish. Chemical bitterness. 2 mugs.

Jason: What is that smell? Funk? Corn? Watery flavor and mouthfeel up front with a "suckin' on pennies" sensation int he back. Bitter, but not hoppy. Pales in comparison to other beers (did you catch that play on words? Nevermind.) 1.95 mugs

Finally, Cannonball Porter:

Jim: Dark brown color with thick, tan head. Lots of lacing. Brown sugar/molasses nose. Flavor has a mingling of dark fruit and hickory-smoked barbecue. Very dry. A good beginner's dark beer. 2.5 mugs.

Mike: Dark brown color - red light showed through the glass. Nose of brown sugar - really nice. Lingering but not cloying smoke flavors, light and drinkable. 3.09 Mugs.

Matt: Explosive head. Dark (duh). Roasty molasses flavor. Dry charcoal. 2.8

Jason: A dark beer with a tan thick head. Very bubbly. It smelled of soap, brown sugar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, and plum. It tastes of Worcestershire sauce, smoke, and horseradish. It's not malty sweet, making the package label a liar! But it isn't bad. I'm going with 2.45 mugs.

Final Scores
Harvest Amber: 3.22 Mugs
Gangster Pale Ale: 1.98 Mugs
Cannonball Porter: 2.71 Mugs


  1. I'll have to grab some of the Amber. I tried the Pale and Porter a while back and my impression was about the same as yours. Porter better than Pale, but neither of them all that great. I specifically remember the metallic, "suckin' on pennies" aftertaste of the Pale. I definitely won't be back for that one.

  2. I think too often I end up buying bigger beers because they're just too tempting when I see them sitting on the shelf. Then I end up looking for something nice and light to go with supper and all I've got is a fridge full of 9% Belgians or Imperial Stouts. So the amber is a nice alternative to that. Just a nice, easy drinkin' beer.

  3. though I didn't officially review these, I really like the Porter. It's my go-to beer at home.

  4. I only had the porter when it was on tap at Deano's. It was an ok gateway beer.
    FYI, here is a You Tube of some quartet singing the state song. My sound card died so I cannot attest to their musicality.

  5. I had to serve these at the Wines Over the Wabash event in Lafayette a month or more ago. I agree for the most part with your reviews, although I personally was not very impressed with the Amber. I have not looked for these beers on my own yet, but have heard it is running $8 or so for a six pack. Sound about right?

    An interesting aside about this brand. At the tasting event, which was 90% a wine event with 3 beer tables, I saw a lot of interest in these beers. I was actually kind of surprised by how well received they were by the wine crowd. So quite possibly they are on to something with their versions of gateway beer.

  6. I agree with your comment, Mike.

    Every time we're at the liquor store, these huge beers jump out at us and the lure is just too great. Then a month later I look in the fridge and everything is really heavy and strong. Luckily everything we've homebrewed works great as a session beer so it balances things out quite nicely.