But along the way we visited some other friends: Oaken Barrel, Bloomington Brewing Company, and Upland. Remember, we did this for you.
Oaken Barrel, Greenwood, IN - We've been here before. A lot of times, actually. Since we live on the southside, it's almost our home brewery. We're pretty happy with that.
Oaken Barrel Gnaw Bone Pale Ale - For the past two weeks I've had a craving for a beer flavor that I couldn't put my finger on, but I suspected I'd be able to fill that need at Oaken Barrel.
The flavor I was looking for? The sweet malty note that comes from a well-balance pale ale. More bready than fruity, OB's Gnaw Bone still finishes bitter like a pale should. Great mouthfeel on this beer as well, which is a trademark of Oaken Barrel's beer.
Oaken Barrel Surprise Series Cherry Porter - When brewers Mark and Andrew aren't out winning Brewery of the Year awards, they are brewing some beers. Some of them are regulars and some are like this Cherry Porter, a surprise. This nose on this beer is like chocolate covered cherries. If you were blindfolded you may think there is a jar a maraschino cherries under your nose. The medium mouthfeel has a nice malty finish. The cherry flavor lingers long after you've finished the sip.
If you don't get south very often, Oaken Barrel's beer is worth the drive.
Big Woods Brewing Company, Nashville, IN - The scene: Seating for 40ish, rustic Brown County cabin, log furniture, wood floors, feels clubhousey and comfortable. Wood ceilings, a nice stop after a hard mountain bike ride (or shopping for arsty/crafsty trinkets). The building is basically a two car garage (the kitchen) with a restaurant built on front (but much nicer than that sounds. A lot nicer). The place is hidden in an alley, kinda. Be sure to check out the directions on their site first.
The problem: They've run out of beer. Victims of their own success, they only thing they have to offer is some unfinished wheat samples. We tried them, but reviewing an unfinished beer isn't something we're in the business of doing.
The chili was nice, though. The beer is back on now, according to my sources. They're working on a backup plan should this ever happen again.
Lennies/Bloomington Brewing Company, Bloomington - As we're not a Hoosier State natives, we haven't spent all that much time in Bloomington. As a result, this was our first stop and Lennies/Bloomington Brewing Company. After our GPS attempted to get us to drive down an IU campus walking path, we figured out the correct way to find the brewery/restaurant.
Bloomington Brewing Co. Stout - Campfire marshmallow is the first thing that came to mind. Nose is smokey meat, front is ashy campfire, a sweet liquid camping trip, a different approach than most, more smoke than chocolate or coffee, burping up burnt plastic, I didn't finish the pint.
Perhaps it was just me - I know they're better than this - they've got a wall full of medals to prove it. We should have tried something else but we were driving, and had another stop to make.
Upland Brewing Co., Bloomington, IN - It took us forever to finally make a trip to Bloomington to visit Upland, and now I feel a craving for the fine vegetarian food about once a month. I'm not a vegetarian - the food is just that good.
Upland's Imperial Stout (Teddy Bear Kisses) is a fitting intro to colder months. A nose of syrupy dark chocolate and then a deep, sweet, rich, full-bodied chocolate flavor dominates the palate. Finishes bitter and chewy (a little bit hoppy, really), rich and creamy.
I was thinking "Dark Lord" when I passed the glass to Gina to get her thoughts, and she immediately said "Dark Lord". Not quite as deep or sweet as Indiana's most famous beer, and finishes a bit drier, and a little more sessionable - if any 11.5% ABV beer is sessionable.
Indeed, I thought the front of the beer was very reminiscent of Dark Lord. It bit the front of the tongue with flavors of dark fruit and alcohol heat. The finish was deceptively mellow considering the amount of alcohol.
Good news - if you're in Indy, Teddy Bear Kisses is coming very soon to the new Upland Tap Room. It won't be cheap, but I think you'll find it worth the price.