On the way up to Purdue country, I confessed my desire to ask every bartender we met about their favorite combination for a boilermaker. I mean, Purdue is home to the Boilermakers. Certainly, even the craft beer joints have been asked to make a boilermaker for some annoyingly drunk alum at some point.
What craft beer and what whiskey would go great together, I pondered. I was hoping for some wild suggestions. But of the two joints we hit, neither had been asked to make a boilermaker before. The Lafayette Brewing Company doesn't even serve whiskey at its main bar (they do on the second floor, which is set up for events, concerts, etc.).
A bit disappointing? Yes. Did it stop us from marching on? Not at all. Our first stop: Lafayette Brewing Company (622 Main Street, Lafayette, IN, http://www.lafayettebrewingco.com/), where Greg and company have been producing craft beer since 1993. This is my third trip to LBC; this is the first for Mike and Gina.
Gina commented, "I love Lafayette Brewing Company's cozy atmosphere." When we visited, the restaurant and bar were full of warm colors and wood finishes. The long bar faces an antique back bar complete with mirrors, perfect for people watching. While sitting at the bar, to your left you can watch the brewmasters perform their trade through a set of windows.
You would certainly call this a pub. It has all the feel of an English establishment, but on a larger scale. Families are served from the dining room side of LBC and the entire venue is non-smoking.
Before we talk about the beers (which is the reason we are here to begin with), I want to talk about the people. As we all know, a good bar or brewpub is more than a physical space and a collection of alcoholic beverages. It is also about people.
People behind the bar, like Kelly, who was very friendly and knowledgeable. And people at the bar, like James.
James is a well-known regular. He's Irish ex-pat who is a professor at Purdue. Mention the professor to bar staff or regulars, and they will know who you are talking about immediately. James likes his beers. And his engineering background leads him to do some things many of us don't do.
For example, he carries with him a flexible thermometer. This particular thermometer is designed to wrap around glasses and give the temperature of the contents within. It is normally used by those who enjoy wine. But he likes to use it on his pints of beer.
This particular beer (I believe it to be the "Eighty Five") comes up between 16 and 18 degrees Celsius. That's about 60 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit to you and me. Does that tell us a whole lot? Not necessarily. It's just interesting (and James likes his beer cooler than what you stereotypically expect from an Irishman).
Along with the fascinating quirks, he also was a great resource for identifying beers to try (he recommends blending the Eighty-Five and the Prophet's Rock Pale Ale...unfortunately, the latter was not on tap during our visit) and places to visit (along with Lafayette's Black Sparrow, Knickerbocker, Chumley's, and West Lafayette's Scotty's Brewhouse, he suggested we check out Preston's, which reportedly always has Bell's Two Hearted on tap...unfortunately, we did not hit all of them; a list for a future visit!).
So if you are at LBC, and you see the good professor (and you like to talk to people, like I do), be sure to strike up a conversation with James.
Okay, on to the beers...
Between the regular, seasonal, speciality, and cask conditioned beers, there were around a dozen originals to choose from. We sampled all, but elected to fully explore and review a few. Among them, LBC's most popular beer:
Tippecanoe Common Ale.
So popular, in fact, that they didn't have any on tap. But LBC is bottling two of their beers for carry out consumption. One is Black Angus Oatmeal Stout. The other, thankfully, is Tippecanoe Common Ale. There is a reason why it is so popular: it is delicious. This is one of those beers that are well balanced between hops and malts. But it isn't lacking in Amarillo hops, even in the bottle. I've had the Ale on tap before. There is an ever so slight loss in hops when bottled, but not so much that you really notice unless you are really focused. When the bottled variety eventually makes it way across the state, you will see it in frequent rotation in my beer fridge. 4.0 Mugs
Gina: Poured from the bottle, this easy drinking and exceptionally tasty beer had a nice full-bodied mouthfeel. I am glad we picked some up for home enjoyment. 3.8 Mugs
Mike: The Tippecanoe Common Ale is LBC's best selling beer, and it's easy to see why. Hints of grapefruit-like hops are nicely balanced with a tasty caramel back, giving you a hoppy yet complex and extremely sessionable red ale. We all liked this one, and luckily it's bottled, so we were able to bring some home. 4.2 Mugs
Gina: We had this both on draft and from a firkin. The draft version was a nice balance of a footy hop aroma and tasted quite malty. The firkin was a less footy version with a full body and citrusy aroma and flavor. I enjoyed both but the firkin pour was spectacular. 3.25 Mugs - draft, 3.85 Mugs - firkin
Mike: Eighty-Five is LBC's "American Ale", but I'd say it easily works as an IPA. The beer is heavily hopped with both Centennial and Cascade hops, giving it a big bitter bite and an almost syrupy hop flavor. I like a bit more malt in my beer, but this one was still enjoyable and worth revisiting. 3.3 Mugs - draft, 3.58 Mugs - firkin
Jason: After having publicly proclaimed that I did not like hoppy beers on a popular craft beer podcast almost three years ago, I've done a complete one-eighty. Or perhaps a one-eighty-five? All puns aside, I'm big on hops. And Eighty-Five doesn't disappoint. I liked this so much, I considered buying the LBC '85' hockey jersey. Anyway, the Cascade hops standout in the draft version. The grapefruit/citrus aroma stands out. We were lucky enough to be there when they brought out a firkin of Eighty-Five. It looked of orange juice, with a more concentrated citrus aroma to boot. There were more bitters, but there were also more sour flavors, which I'm not a big fan of (in three years, I suspect I'll be the biggest sour beer fan in the world). 4.15 Mugs - draft; 3.85 Mugs - firkin.
As I mentioned before, we sampled other LBC beers, but did not rate them at this time. A sinister excuse to come back up for another roundtable. But here are our notes for your consideration...
Piper's Pride - The Piper's Pride Scottish Ale poured a woody amber color and had roasty malt elements that brought to mind smoke and oreo cookies. While that might not sound like an appetizing combination, the thinner mouthfeel meant that this was an extremely easy to drink and tasty brew.
Piper's Pride - This beer made me think of smoke (like hickory, not cigarettes) and gingerbread cookies. The bitterness in this beer jumps up as it warms. This would be a great winter beer.
Weeping Hog IPA - On draft, this seems like a light version of an IPA. The Eighty-Five is definitely hoppier. But the cask version is very tasty. Like most places, if there is a cask conditioned version available, get it!
Dog Days - LBC's version of a summer lager, it was named for the public art display in Lafayette and West Lafayette. This has a fuller flavor and mouthfeel than you would expect from a lager. This is better than most that I have had and serves well, even at room temperature.
Ouiatenon Wit Bier - A very nice and wheaty beer that could stand up to the hottest of summer days. We had a discussion about the name of this beer, and I asked if it had anything to do with yes and no, but wikipedia says no...the name "Ouiatenon" is a French rendering of the name in the Wea language, waayaahtanonki, meaning "place of the whirlpool".
Black Angus Oatmeal Stout - A smoky English-style stout beer with plenty of oatmeal and chocolate hints.
Weeping Hog IPA - This reminded me of a peach soaked in vodka in the best possible way. Really nice! We also tried this on cask and I believe Greg said the IPA's were made with different malts.
After LBC, we moved down the street to the Black Sparrow Pub (223 Main Street, Lafayette, IN, http://www.blacksparrowpub.com/). Bar manager John has been regularly submitting tap updates to our Random Beer Roundup, and we've been nothing but impressed. The Black Sparrow opened in 2007 and has become a favorite of beer geeks, foodies, and fans of classic cocktails. John and his bartender Brad (don't call them "mixologists"...they're bartenders) will shake up a number of quality classic cocktails. When I say classic, I mean they searched out recipes from before Prohibition. Drinks like the Aviation, the Bourbon Flip, the New York Sour, the Sparrow Sidecar, and the Tequila Swizzle. Even if you aren't ordering up one of these drinks, sit at the bar and watch them work. It is an art in itself.
The tap menu is constantly changing, as the chalkboard shows. And there is a large selection of bottled beers as well. There is some overlap between the clientele between LBC and the Black Sparrow (in fact, we bumped into John earlier at the LBC bar), but as the night goes on, the crowd changes a bit from the downtown worker and dweller crowd (like Diane, Esq.) to a younger, hipper cocktail crowd. The bar also allows smoking after 10pm.
From the eight excellent taps, we opted to review two beers. First up...
Three Floyds Munsterfest
Mike: How glad I was to see this on tap. The only problem I have with Three Floyds beers is that taking a chance on a $10+ bomber of them can be risky. Even if I'm paying $7 for a pint (and I have no idea what we paid for this one, but I'm guessing it wasn't cheap), that seems much more reasonable.
I picked up a combination of green apple and milk in the nose of this beer, elements that were echoed when taking a drink. A creamy mouthfeel, with sweet and syrupy apple cider elements... this is probably a beer better suited for cold weather. This is also pretty mild for a Floyds beer - but I'm not complaining. 3.10 Mugs
Jason: I get a sweet combination of apple flavors and aromas, making this, for me, an apple cider-flavored beer. Which is great. This is a fall or harvest season beer. It was also lacking that big, huge punch of alcohol and hops that you usually expect from Three Floyds. 3.45 Mugs
Gina: Those cocktails look like fun. I want to review a cocktail. What? We're reviewing beers? You're no fun. 3.0 Mugs
Great Divide Belgica:
Mike: Great Divide Belgica is classified as a Belgian-style IPA, and lives up to that description. The beer has a saison-like peppery start, with the trademark Belgian complexity and flowery elements. But the beer finishes not too bitter, reminding you of its IPA roots. My notes say "a tongue twister". 3.70 Mugs
Jason: This is by far an interesting hybrid beer. It is appropriately listed as Belgian first and IPA second. It was enjoyable, with tons of Belgian beer flavor and nose, but I was disappointed by a lacking in the IPA department. If they didn't call it an IPA, would I have rated it higher? Maybe. But it is worth trying anyway. 3.4 mugs
Gina: You guys suck. I want a cocktail. 3.15 mugs
LBC Tippecanoe Common Ale (bottle)
Jason 4.0 Mugs Gina 3.8 Mugs Mike 4.2 Mugs
KOTBR Score - 4.00 Mugs
LBC Eighty-Five (draft)
Jason 4.15 Mugs Gina 3.25 Mugs Mike 3.3 Mugs
KOTBR Score - 3.57 Mugs
LBC Eighty-Five (firkin)
Jason 3.85 Mugs Gina 3.85 Mugs Mike 3.58 Mugs
KOTBR Score - 3.76 Mugs
Three Floyd's Munsterfest (draft)
Jason 3.45 Mugs Gina 3.0 Mugs Mike 3.1 Mugs
KOTBR Score - 3.18 Mugs
Great Divide Belgica (draft)
Jason 3.4 Mugs Gina 3.15 Mugs Mike 3.7 Mugs
KOTBR Score - 3.42 Mugs