08 February 2010

KOTBR #98 - Black Biscuit and Ranger IPA at Shallos

This roundtable marks the fourth time the Knights of the Beer Roundtable have settled in for a few pints at Shallos (8811 Hardegan Street, Indianapolis, (317) 882-7997) the southside bar recently named as one of Draft Magazine's Top 150. We reviewed two beers: Founders Brewing Company's Black Biscuit Old Ale and New Belgium Brewing Company's newest offering, Ranger IPA.

Because I'm a southsider, Shallos is a regular haunt for me. And I think it's time we talk about what makes it great.

First off, Shallos has about 40 taps. 90% of those taps pour something you'd be happy to drink, and ordering from the other 10% gets a sneer from the bartenders. Secondly, Shallos has a huge cooler filled with bottles from anyone you can think of. They work with all the distributors in town, so you get a chance at anything available in Indiana. Next up, they've got cabinets filled with all sort of bottles--far more bottles than you'd ever think they could possibly be selling. But stop in a few times and you'll notice that those bottles are rotating out. Who bought 12 bottles of Mikkeller Black? Hell if I know. I do know that they were there once, and now they're gone.

Shallos doesn't need to advertise when they've got a special beer on--sure, they recently started a twitter account--but for the most part they know that their audience is going to drink whatever they get. When we were lucky enough to stop in for a tapping of Upland's 23-Year-Old Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Barrel Aged Teddy Bear Kisses Imperial Stout back in December, we learned that the keg ran out that night. With no advance warning, they went through the keg in something like 5 hours.

Admittedly, Shallos isn't perfect. The printed beer list is often wrong or out of date, and picking out a beer can be like Russian roulette--if you don't ask about the price you may be in for a surprise. The food menu is quickly exhausted if you visit often. They have three varieties of chicken sandwich, a very similar three varieties of hamburgers, really good chips and onion rings, wings, a few other random sandwiches... the fact that I could name everything on the menu if I thought about it might be a bad thing. But it's something I'm more than willing to overlook.

During the Colts' first playoff game, Gina and I stopped in at Shallos for some wings and beer. The bar was occupied by all sorts - folks drinking Stone's, folks drinking Bud Light - it's always a mixed crowd at Shallos. A fellow a few seats down from us switched from his domestic beer to something a little stronger: Thirsty Dog's Old Leghumper. As he started to drink from the bottle, the bartender started to chide him - "Put that in a glass! What's wrong with you?"

It's exactly that sort of thing that makes Shallos so endearing to us. Because it's the sort of thing we'd like to say, but can't and wouldn't say.

I bet it made his beer taste better.

Black Biscuit

I definitely enjoyed this beer. Indeed, I enjoyed it so much that I focused on enjoying the beer instead of taking many notes. I can fondly recall the chocolate, vanilla, and bourbon nose even though it's been a few days and I've been longing for that rich, bourbon flavor on these past few cold nights. We thank Shallos for having this extremely rare beer on tap, and we hope to see more small batch beers available from them in the future. 4.75 Mugs.

Ranger IPA

If you get a chance to meet a New Belgium Beer Ranger (the sales folks at New Belgium are called Beer Rangers), you'll probably find a pretty cool individual. This is definitely the case with Mike Emrie, Beer Ranger for Indiana, and he was nice enough to sit down with us to let us know about some exciting things coming soon from the brewery: Ranger IPA, packaging changes, and a line of bottles coming soon to Indiana.

First is Ranger IPA, made with 3 different hops (Cascade, Chinook, and Simcoe) for bittering and aroma. Ranger IPA is dry hopped with a heavy dose of Cascade. Traditionally, New Belgium has not been known to closely follow style guidelines in beer recipes, but when the Beer Rangers requested an IPA, the brewery obliged. We are pretty happy they did and we think this beer will be quite popular among beginners and hopheads alike.

Preferences for hop profiles among the Knights of the Beer Roundtable vary widely, but this beer seemed to please all of us. What I liked about this beer is how the hops are met with a sweetness to balance the flavor. I appreciated that the dryness in this beer led me to crave each sip. I would not hesitate to bring this to a party, and I look forward to sharing this at our summer cookouts. 4.00 Mugs.

Also, if you are looking for Ranger IPA in the traditional New Belgium packaging, you might miss it. New Belgium has broken their beer offerings into a different categories: Folly, Explore, Seasonal, Lips of Faith, and Collabeeration. The Ranger falls into the Explore series along with their Mothership Wit, Abbey, and Trippel. The packaging on these beers features two-color packaging in earth tones. The Seasonals follow a similar style to the Folly series and the Lips of Faith series is a mix of styles.

This group of beers is something we are really looking forward to seeing more of locally. We've been fortunate to try several Lips of Faith beers like La Folie, Biere de Mars, and the Transatlantique Kriek, and hope that some of the others make their way to our glasses very soon. We hear that distribution of this series is on the horizon. We'll keep you posted.

Black Biscuit

I was really excited to see this one on tap. I had a friend who tried this beer at the Festival of Wood Aged beers in Chicago and had some really good things to say about it. I honestly think that no one does dark beer better than Founders. I was surprised we got a pint glass of this, and as I went to take my first sip I was greeted with the scents of wood and maple syrup with just a touch of vanilla in it. I was trying hard to get this beer to warm up and the booze and roasted grain became the main focus. The flavor profile can be summed up in three words: oak, bourbon, and maple syrup. I thought this beer was really great for about 10 ounces, but after that it is was almost cloyingly sweet. I still really liked this beer though. 4.50 Mugs.

Ranger IPA

I will be honest about New Belgium. I didn't really care when they came to town, and I don't know if I would have ever tried this beer if I had not met Mike the Beer Ranger from New Belgium. I like their bigger beers, but I haven't really given much of their regular lineup a great deal of attention. This IPA poured a nice copper color with a fairly large white head that left good lacing on the glass. It has a very respectable nose of pine, grass, and lemon peel. The flavor profile is bright and hoppy with pine and citrus flavors from the hops and a solid balance of bready malt. We were told that this beer will be line priced with their other offerings, and this will be a really solid IPA for around $8 bucks a sixer. I am sure I will be at a few BBQ s this summer with this beer in tow. 3.95 Mugs.

Black Biscuit

Like the rest of the KOTBR, I was surprised and delighted to receive a full pint of Black Biscuit. I hadn't heard much about this beer besides what Doug, the friendly beer manager at Shallos, had told us the week before. Anything I've had from Founders in a maple barrel has been very good. The aroma of this beer is everything you would expect: vanilla, maple syrup, and light bourbon. This one started out thick and heavy, though not quite as heavy as I expected. The mouthfeel was very slick and slightly syrupy. Overall, it is a very smooth beer with a pleasant warm alcohol sensation that soothes instead of burns. Bourbon and maple syrup are probably the most prominent flavors, though hints of black licorice and molasses lace the back. This is a very sweet beer with big brown sugar notes and an interesting flavor combination that seemed to remind me of oatmeal raisin cookies. I thoroughly enjoyed this beer and would like to have more. 4.65 Mugs.

Ranger IPA

I hadn't heard much about Ranger IPA, though I do hold a fairly high opinion of New Belgium beers thanks to the impressive Lips of Faith series and even seasonal surprises like 2 Below. Mike the Beer Ranger certainly set us up with high expectations as well, making claims that when New Belgium decided to take on the IPA style, they would do it in a way that the brewers would be proud to call their own. To be honest, my expectations were so high that I really expected to be disappointed by this beer. To my surprise, I wasn't. The nose was purely grassy hop pellets. It reminded me of opening up a bag of hops for homebrewing and just taking in the pleasant scents. The taste was summery with lemon, grapefruit, and a dry, grassy bitterness. Thanks to the unfiltered version of the beer we tried (the market version will be filtered), the mouthfeel was slightly wheat-like. It had a crisp, dry finish and a delicate tartness. This will make an incredible summer cookout beer. I guess the best description that comes to mind is Upland Wheat meets Stone Levitation: hops, citrus, and a dry finish that leaves you craving another drink. 4.01 Mugs.

Founders Black Biscuit

Mike: 4.00 Mugs | Jim: 4.6 Mugs | Gina: 4.75 Mugs | Jess: 4.60 Mugs | Rod: 4.65 Mugs | Matt: 3.80 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 4.40 Mugs

New Belgium Ranger IPA
Mike: 4.02 Mugs | Jim: 4.00 Mugs | Gina: 4.00 Mugs | Jess: 4.00 Mugs | Rod: 4.00 Mugs | Matt: 4.10 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 4.02 Mugs

Disclaimer: During this roundtable, Mike Emrie of New Belgium Brewing Company provided us with a round of Ranger IPA. We were under no obligation to review the beer if we so chose, nor were we under any obligation to write a positive review in return for the beer.


  1. Why would you waste such a great bar on the Southside? Just joking don't lynch me. Maybe this is a good enough reason to go to the South.

  2. As someone who lives on the southside there is much to be desired, but I really do enjoy the southside. The stigma it gets is unwarranted.