11 November 2009

KOTBR #90: Medal Winners

For KOTBR #90, Six Knights met in Broad Ripple to get a taste of Indiana's three Great American Beer Festival medal winners. We soon realized that when you mention medals, all sorts of people show up. As is the case whenever we get a majority of the Knights together, you'll find that we have five vastly different stories on the night's events.

It is not very often that you would find me in Broad Ripple at 2am on a Tuesday. But an inability to sleep and a desire to consume a burrito as big as my head pushed me to go for a walk in the Indianapolis neighborhood that never sleeps.

Parking was unusually sparse. And I ended up having to walk farther than normal. It is for that reason that I passed Brugge Brasserie. I was surprised to see someone sitting alone at one of the patio tables, since the gastropub was closed for the evening.

Normally, I would have kept walking, figuring that it was none of my business. But something caught my attention. I was entranced. Like Francisco de Orellana, I was drawn in.

The glimmer that I caught was the moonlight reflecting off of gold dangling from the neck of a tall fellow. But not just any gold. Olympic gold. As in the 14 gold medals won by U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps. Surprised that he had them on.

He was in the middle of devouring eight giant burritos when I decided to say something.

“Hi Michael. My name is Jason. I’m a big fan.”

He mumbled something through the mouthful of beans and tortilla.

“Listen, I couldn’t help but notice that you had your Olympic medals on. Do you normally roam about at 2am with your medals on?”

He swallowed hard, clearing his mouth of burrito. “I just got out of the Snoop Dogg concert. I needed some bling to wear. The bitches love bling.”

“Ah, I see. And all those burritos. That’s a lot of food. I’m assuming you need the calories for training.”

“No,” he said, “I’m on break from training right now. I was just REALLY hungry after the concert.”

“Oh. Right.”

“Don’t tell my mom, though. She grounded me after she saw those bong photos. If she knew I had a case of munchies after the Snoop Dogg concert, well, I don’t know what she would do. She might take my Wii away from me.”

“Gotcha. No problem. It’s not like I write for a blog or anything.” Then I noticed that he had an couple of empty beer bottles and a tulip glass. “So what are you drinking there?”

“Oh, well, this was a bottle of Barley Island Dirty Helen Brown Ale. I tried going to the new Barley Island near the Vogue, but they weren’t open for another couple of days. So I grabbed a bottle out of my cooler in the car.”

“So, you’re a fan?” I asked.

“Oh hell yeah, you don’t have to be a gold medal winner like me to know that Dirty Helen Brown Ale is a winner of a beer.”

“You know that they won a gold medal at GABF this year?”

“No, I didn’t!” he said excitedly, spitting beans at me while he talked. “Maybe they could hire me as a spokesperson! You know that Kellogg's dropped me as an endorser after that unfortunate incident”

“Yeah, I heard.”

“Anyway, I like it. It’s a good beer for everybody. Malty for the malt heads. But hoppy enough for hop heads like me. Did you know that hops and marijuana come from the same family?”

“I think I’ve heard that before, Michael.”

“I, also, had a glass of Bad Kitty from Brugge,” he said, motioning to the dark and dormant brewery and restaurant.

“Really? Were they open after the concert?”

“No,” he said, “but some guy I met at the concert gave me the key to this place. Told me to help myself to anything I like.”

“Wait, you got a key to Brugge? Damn, I’ve been writing nothing but good things about that place and can’t even get the owner to return my calls. Who gave you the key?”

“I don’t know. Couldn’t really see him in all the haze of the club. I thought that concert was suppose to be smoke-free. Anyway, I went in and poured myself a glass. And you know, I’m not normally a fan of sour beers. I usually poo-poo them. But for some reason, this one tasted good to me. It reminded me of a Belgian white but with a strong squeeze of lemon. So it was easy to drink but had enough sourness to grab my attention but not so much that it made me gag.”

“That’s funny,” I said, “I would have said something similar. I see you have an empty bottle of Brugge Black. What did you think?”

“Well, it wasn’t Black! I don’t know what it was. It was sour, but not in the lemony way of Bad Kitty. It was darker in color though. Had a deeper flavor profile, too. There was some writing on the bottle cap.”

I found it on the ground. In marker was written “DK ‘09”.

“I know what this is,” I told Michael. “This is Diamond Kings. You know, you grabbed the two beers that Brugge won bronze medals for this year?”

“No shit? What are the odds of that?” he asked.

“I’m not sure Michael. If I told anybody this story, they would swear I was making it up. A gold medal Olympian drinking the three medal winning beers from Indiana and I was the only person to notice.”

“But you won’t tell anybody, will you? You know, ‘cuz if my mom found out what I was doing tonight…”

“Don’t worry, Michael,” I assured him. “I’ll never tell another living soul.”

The thoughts of Hope Solo, U.S. Women's National Team Goalkeeper and Olympic Gold Medalist...

Barley Island Dirty Helen - Now this is what I'm talking about. A gold medal winner just like me. They should have called it Dirty Hope. That would make it better. It's not over the top like me, but it is very drinkable with flavors of slightly bitter coffee, caramel, and malt. I could see myself drinking several after one of my matches, where I am the best goalkeeper ever.

Brugge Brasserie Bad Kitty - Did I mention that I am awesome at goalkeeping? I hear Ted was a goalkeeper. I'm even better than him I bet. Speaking of Ted, Bad Kitty is one good beer. This would be a nice introduction to sour beers to those who haven't had one before.

Brugge Brasserie Diamond Kings of Heaven - Now I understand that this beer took home a bronze medal. If I were judging, there's no doubt in my mind I would have made it win gold. I think this beer is just great. Almost as great as me. The nose is strikingly sour and so is the flavor.

After Hope Solo had settled in with us for our roundtable, we were surprised to see Judas Priest’s Rob Halford walk through the door and approach us. He told us that he had recently become Hoosier Beer Geek fan and decided to come out to join us for the roundtable. This, of course, left us with our jaws on the floor. Our resident metal-head Rod was momentarily left speechless. We all exchanged puzzled looks until we realized that Mr. Halford must have misunderstood us when we put out a call for guest reviewers for a “medal-themed” review. But even though Mr. Halford didn’t really fit in with our theme, we weren’t about to chase him away.

Mr. Halford was gracious enough to leave his tasting notes with me. This is what he wrote about Indiana’s three GABF medal-winning beers—

Barley Island Dirty Helen Brown Ale. I’ve been drinking brown ales since my younger days in Walsall, and Dirty Helen Brown Ale measured up to some of the best beers of the West Midlands. This dark brown ale had a nose redolent of bread, flowers, and metal (that’s right—metal). It was heavier in hop character than the brown ales I’ve enjoyed in across the pond, but in my opinion, heavy is good. The flavor was a pleasant combination of caramel, chocolate, and malty sweetness. There’s no question that Barley Island is delivering the goods with this beer. I predict that it will become the rage in craft beer circles. 3.75 Mugs.

Brugge Brasserie Bad Kitty Leipziger Gose. Brugge Brasserie’s Bad Kitty Leipziger Gose is much different from the beers I’m used to drinking. It poured with a hazy yellow color and smelled of sour apples and must. I wasn’t quite sure if I really wanted to drink it after that smell, but I was ready to put my palate through the grinder. Hence, I sipped and sipped and sipped again. Bad Kitty’s flavor was lemony, spicy, and acidic in a chaotic yet beautiful way. If you think you’re going to hate this beer, you’ve got another thing comin'. 4.00 Mugs.

Brugge Brasserie Diamond Kings of Heaven ’09. I’ve been told that the brewer at Brugge Brasserie puts out Diamond Kings of Heaven in a very limited quantity every year. Moreover, I’ve heard that those who are able to get their hands on this beer guard their bottles very closely, and those who aren’t able to get their hands on it think about breaking the law just to taste some. After drinking some, I could see why. This reddish brown Belgian-style sour ale had an oaky and acidic nose. The flavor was a rapid fire trio of white wine, sour, and oak notes. We were united in our appreciation of Diamond Kings of Heaven ‘09. Indeed, Brugge Brasserie could truly take on the world with this beer. 4.50 Mugs.

Broad Ripple is one of the few neighborhoods in Indianapolis where anything can happen, so I suppose it shouldn't have been a surprise that Rob Halford wasn't our only "Metal Winner" guest of the evening. As we sampled Barley Island's selection I noticed a few other celebrities sitting around a table: NUVO's Rita Kohn, Indiana Beer's Bob Ostrander, and music legends Glenn Danzig (Misfits, Samhain, Danzig) and Glen Benton (Deicide, Vital Remains).

We don't like to miss unique beer reviewing opportunities, so we asked the two Glen(n)s to join us for a beer or three.

"You'd be surprised at how many songs I've written in direct tribute to beer," said Benton. "I'd say I share a spiritual link with beer. And with Lucifer, of course. Take for example a song like 'Lunatic of God's Creation.' When I say, 'Servants of death, enchanter of pain. From the land of no return, you'll kill again, smear the blood on naked corpse, Manson', what I'm really trying to say is, 'Life can really be tough, but hang in there! Go for a pint!'"

Danzig chimes in. "Check this out, I'm writing a song about Dirty Helen, here it goes." He starts to sing. "Woooaahahh Dirrrrty Helllllen. She's a deep mahogany devil."

All of us at the table are impressed. Benton: "It's like, no one's even going to know that song is about beer, they're going to think it's about this chick, probably like a hot chick in a leather bra and maybe later she'll make out with you and then you can go do evil together."

"Yeah, it's evil and romantic sorta. What I try to do with my music is charm the ladies - show them my romantic side - but also to let them know that when you're with Danzig, things are gonna be evil. Like maybe we'll kiss and stuff, but we're also gonna talk about skulls."

"So what do you two think of the beer?"

"I get a hint of a bunch of things, but there's nothing that really grabs me," says Danzig.

"I dig the mouthfeel. Really creamy... this is just a nice balanced mild sort of beer," said Benton.

3.5 Mugs

Barley Island was just the beginning of our night, though. Having enjoyed their insight, we invited the Glen(n)s to join us at our second stop of the night, Brugge Brasserie.

"You know, walking over here, I felt a true presence of evil," said Benton.

"I've done shows in castles in Denmark, ripped a chicken in half in a video... but this Broad Ripple Avenue? I think this stands up to any of that," said Danzig.

We settle into our seats and order a round of Brugge's Bad Kitty. Benton and Danzig dig in.

"Check this out, I'm writing a song about Bad Kitty, here it goes." He starts to sing. "Woooaahahh Baaaaaad Kiiiiity. She's a deep apricotish devil."

"What's an apricotish devil?" asks Benton.

"You know, it's like an apricot. But maybe it looks like an inverted cross."

"Oh man... that reminds me, check this out." Benton picks a butter knife up off the table and carves an inverted cross into his forehead.

"How many times have you done that now?" asks Danzig.

"Like a hundred," Benton replies "I'm trying to do it six hundred and sixty six times, and then I'm gonna probably be the devil. I think. I think that's how it works. I read it on the internet."

Danzig pulls out his iPhone. "What's that address?"

"So what do you guys think of the beer?" I ask.

"I already said it's a deep apricoty devil," says Danzig.

"Yeah, it's an apricoty devil, duh," says Benton.

4.4 Mugs

We order food and finish our beers, and decide that it's time to try out our final beer of the night, Diamond Kings of Heaven. Danzig is nowhere to be found.

"How long has Glenn been gone?" I ask.

"Oh, he's in the bathroom," says Benton. "He takes a flashlight in there and turns off the light and then flashes the flashlight up from under his face and sings into the mirror. It's totally f*cking evil."

"Can you go get him?" I ask.

"You just gotta knock on the door six times. He thinks it's Satan answering."

* * * * *

"Wait, is this... wait.. we gotta make a call," says Danzig when he returns to the table.

He pulls out the iPhone again.

"Kim, you doing anything?" he asks.

"We gotta wait for Kim," he says. "He'll be here in a minute."

* * * * *

Ten minutes pass and we begin to get antsy, but we look up to suddenly see a man in white facepaint standing next to our table.

"Woah... I didn't see you even walk in!" says Benton.

"I didn't walk, I flew in the window," says our guest.

"Guys, meet King Diamond," says Danzig.

"I heard they named a beer after me," says Diamond.

"Well... um.. yeah, yeah they did," I reply.

* * * * *

"Check this out, I'm writing a song about King Diamond, here it goes," says Benton. "Woooaahahh King Diamond. She's a deep apricotish devil."

"Dude, that's awesome," says Danzig.

"Yeah, that's great," says King Diamond. "What's apricotish?"

* * * * *

"What do you think of the beer?" I ask.

"The nose on this thing is huge," says Diamond. "It's practically jumping out of the glass - like my nose is two inches away from the glass and I can already pick up how funky and sour it's going to be."

"Yeah, it's a really full sour flavor too. It's just rich and oaky, a little vanilla," says Benton.

"Yeah, oak," says Danzig.

"So is this evil?" I ask.

"Well, for a beer named after me... King Diamond's Heaven... yeah, it's evil. How can it not be?" says Diamond.

"Actually, it's Diamond Kings of Heaven," I say.

"Whatever," says Diamond.

4.75 Mugs

Ted Miller here, multiple GABF medal winner. I was going to get my smoke on with Snoop Dogg but instead these Hoosier Beer Geeks begged me to go drink beer with them. I mean WTF guys. Do you really think I can just drop whatever I'm doing to go drink with you? Well, maybe with you Jason. You keep me warm at night.

First up, Barley Island. I like the place Jeff. Lots of taps, nice finishing touches. Now get out of my neighborhood. HA. Kidding, you know we're glad to have you in Broad Ripple. Anyway, Dirty Helen. I've had this beer a million times, can't believe you guys made me review this. What can I say, this is a straight up American brown ale. It's got that lightly nutty, creamy sweetness with hints of chocolate in it. I'd tell you guys what hops are in it but you probably can't even taste them. What a bunch of drunks. Anyway you've got your caramel, your cocoa, your brown sugar and it all just comes together into this really well rounded brown ale. No wonder you got a gold for this Jeff, now if only these morons could understand what good beer is all about. I'll give it a 3.8 because while it's good, it's not a Belgian beer. And I am totally balls out crazy for Belgian beers.

Can we go to my bar yet, guys? I want to drink for free. Okay, first you're going to try Bad Kitty. I know you get all kinds of retarded for sour beers, so you'll probably like this too. Like you even know what you're drinking. It's a Leipziger Gose. Don't even pretend like you know what that is. I'm not even wasting my time with you. It's sour and it's German. Shut up and drink it. I started drinking this style years ago at the Gosenschenke Ohne Bedenken but you probably don't even know where that is. Anyway, this is sort of like the White but it has some wild fermentation funk to it, a bit of apricot and lemon comes out of the yeast. It's not in your face like a Berliner Weisse, the tartness sneaks up on you in the back. I like this, but it's not Belgian, so I'll say 3.6 mugs. I like to think of this as a starter beer for people who don't like sours. Like you Jason, what is wrong with you? I'm serious...

Ok, I guess as long as you turds are forcing me to drink with you, I'll get out something I actually want to drink. Yeah, this is the Diamond Kings from this year. Yeah, I won a bronze for it this year. I have a bunch of it tucked away but mainly so I can tease beer dorks like you with it. No, you're not getting any more than this. Deal with it. You're all so needy. I might as well tell you what you should get out of this since you're not going to be able to figure it out. This is subtle and complex, sort of like a good wine. You should smell cranberries, plums, apples, pears, and chardonnay grapes in there. No that's not acetone, don't be stupid. You're going to get a kick in the teeth out of this one, just bam sour right there. It's nice and dry, tart but not puckering. You taste the lime and apple in there? Yeah that's the easy stuff. Roll it around a bit and I bet you start to feel the dryness from the oak, maybe a bit of pine and juniper. Even rosemary. It's there. Just wait for it. This is the champagne of beer. F*ck Miller High Life. This is what I've been telling you about. 4.4 mugs right here.

Now get out of my bar, I want to go home.

Barley Island Dirty Helen Brown Ale
Jim: 3.75 Mugs | Mike: 3.5 Mugs | Jason: 4.0 Mugs | Gina: 3.75 Mugs | Rodney: 3.8 Mugs | Chris: 3.2 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 3.66 Mugs

Brugge Bad Kitty
Mike: 4.4 Mugs | Rod: 3.6 Mugs | Chris: 4.2 Mugs | Jim: 4.0 Mugs | Gina: 4.0 Mugs | Jason: 3.3 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 3.91 Mugs

Brugge Diamond Kings of Heaven 2009
Chris: 4.5 Mugs | Jason: 3.5 Mugs | Mike: 4.75 Mugs | Rod: 4.4 Mugs | Jim: 4.5 Mugs | Gina: 4.5 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 4.35 Mugs


  1. That Ted Miller bit is just spectacular. I mean, I couldn't have done a better job impersonating myself. You guys are a hoot!

    No, you can't have anymore Diamond Kings.


    We also made a new one for next year. Spider King X will be unveiled along with the DKX next summer. Then you can have more.

  2. Maybe if I work there another three years I will get to try the fabled Diamond Kings. I mean besides the .001 oz (I think that almost qualifies as residue) that Ted left behind in a glass after a gathering upstairs a few months ago that we all passed around.

  3. Uh....nobody so as not to self incriminateNovember 11, 2009 5:40 PM

    One last little comment. Rather huge jab at your pathetic rating system which is pretty much the same as all of the other consumer rating systems, which is to say, they are hilariously stupid. You have Brugge Black rated higher than DK '09. Are you guys still smoking crack? Other than that, I really love you guys.

  4. If you click on that link that review is from 2006. I am pretty sure that the beer was brewed inhouse at the time. I remember when the Brugge first opened I thought the Tripel was the best tripel I had ever had in my life, but when Terre Haute opened up it wasn't the same beer anymore. I think that is what happened here.

  5. I'll be the first to admit that the rating scale is highly flawed, BUT I do stand by the fact that the beers on the higher end of the scale are worth investigating.

    There's so much that goes into the scale anyway - not just the beer but the overall experience. Would we all give 90 Minute a perfect score now? It's unlikely. But was the 90 Minute we reviewed at that time absolutely perfect in that situation? Absolutely.

    Lastly, you've got to take into account the fact that when we started writing this site, our frame of reference was tiny. I gave Three Floyds Fantabulous Resplendence a 1.0! I gave Gumballhead a 2.5! There's no way that would happen now.

    But it did happen then, and instead of running away from that, we're leaving the score up, linked to the review, and you can figure out if you want to agree or not yourself.

    I think it's better that we handle things that way then try to pretend we know everything.

    Nobody likes a know it all, anyway.

  6. So.. what we'd really like to know is if people enjoy reading these extremely long and unusual reviews or if you just gave up after the first 6 paragraphs.

  7. Well, to be honest, I'd rather have a Brugge Black than a Diamond King.

  8. I was going to say--it's all Jason's fault.

    Whooooooooooaah, Jaaasooon, you're a non-sour-beer-lovin' devil...

  9. fwiw

    i gave up...
    then as I scrolled down, noticed that some of the spurious themes were dropped and started reading again

    I say keep sprinkling in the footloose and fancyfree


  10. Jeez - I was just kidding.

    Rating anything is almost impossible. It has been said about art and music and easily could apply to beer that talking about art is like dancing about architecture. (I'm sure Jason can probably do one heck of a Macerena inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, however.)

    And whoever "Anonymous" is, you are so far off the mark. Yes, small scale beers do change when brewed in different locations, but I could whip you up the best damn Black that I've ever made(see: Hibernal Black on tap now)and it still isn't even in the same cellar. You can take a keg of the Black to parties. You give it to your dad. It's sitting next to the anchovy paste in my refrigerator. DK is hidden in my Mom's basement ( leave my mother alone) under lock and key with very specific instructions to not give even me any. She fails miserably all of the time, but it is at least another step that must be taken to get my grubby little paws on just one bottle of the stuff. I hope that might help explain what I really meant.

  11. *amendment to my preceding comment*
    Once upon a time a girl was in search of a special beer for a special occasion, a Russian River Beatification for her SO’s birthday.

    He’s a beer geek extraordinaire, and one day not long before she’d taunted him with a text message about getting a taste of this beer from some generous souls while working a bar shift upstairs at Brugge. It’s one of few beers on the small list of the SO’s that he wanted to try but hadn’t.

    But of course Russian River isn’t distributed here, so getting it wasn’t going to be easy. Girl checks eBay. Sanctification and Consecration, no Beatification. Emailed some sellers, but no good news. She’d had a ratebeer account for years, but no trading history.

    In desperation, posted a pathetic damsel-in-distress plea to the trading forum anyway.

    Enter Ted Miller: “I’ll make some calls.”

    In the meantime, to her surprise, a kind heart on ratebeer took pity and offered to get the goods. “Healthy Spirits,” the trader said, “check out their blog/beer list, it’s a great shop – I’ll go up there this weekend.” A few days pass, it’s getting close to the big day. The Saturday morning the trader is to go to the shop, the girl compulsively checks their blog. Lastest headline: BEATIFICATION SOLD OUT.

    Oh noes! All seems lost. But wait: she was underestimating The Power of Ted, of course. Fast forward - Tuesday night at work. Message from Ted: go pick out your bottle of Beatification from the walk in. And no, you don’t owe me anything.

    Fast forward to yesterday. Said girl, being such a girl, caves after reading yet another story of the glorious and renowned but elusive Diamond Kings, and has the nerve to publicly whine about its absence from her life, forgetting all that Ted and His Powers have done for her.

    And being the the wise beer crafter he is, Ted knew the best way to punish the ungrateful girl was to shine upon her with the magical elixer. Moral of the story: Ted is awesome. Thank you Ted!

    *My apologies to the Geeks for using your blog as a forum for my own selfish purposes of self-inflicted public shaming and retribution. It was worth it for the DK, though, I’m sure you understand. Likewise, I do enjoy your use of creative license in your reviews :)

  12. Actually the whole reason we write this blog is so that more people can exploit Ted and his beer stash. Congrats on getting a taste of the diamond kings!

  13. Ha ha thanks rodney, actually I haven't tried it yet...because then I won't have it anymore :) Ironic isn't it?