17 March 2010

KOTBR #100: Many Thanks

It all started three and a half years ago, when my good friend Christopher posted this:

“Welcome, fellow beer geeks! I've decided to create this blog to advance the good taste of beer drinkers everywhere! Headquartered in the Circle City, we will strive to educate the masses on what good beer really is! Or, we can just say screw all the "Lite" piss drinkers, and keep the good stuff for ourselves!”

At the time, Hoosier Beer Geek was going to be a personal beer diary. One man’s journey into craft beer. But when I suggested that we could invite other bloggers out to drink craft beer, or as I put it, a gathering of the “Knights of the Beer Roundtable”, we had no idea the path we had laid out for ourselves.

Our first roundtable was at Chris’ house. It was Chris, his wife, and myself. Neither Chris nor myself were beer experts, so we stumbled our way through a review of Dark Horse’s Sapient Trip Ale. His wife Colleen, however, didn’t try very hard.

“It tastes good. It tastes like chicken. Chicken is good.”

She was promptly demoted from Knighthood.

We had put out feelers for others who would be interested in becoming knights. The first to answer the higher calling was an author of a favorite blog of ours, “11 a.m. Air Raid”, still one of the best names for an Indianapolis blog ever. His name was Jim. So Chris, Jim, and myself went to the Rathskeller, where we reviewed Spaten Optimator, which was one of Chris’s favorites.

At roundtable #3, held at MacNiven’s, Chris and Jim decided to add a mug rating to their beer reviews. So Three Floyds’ Robert the Bruce has the distinct honor of being the first beer that Hoosier Beer Geek has rated.

Roundtable #6, I introduce some very creative writing to Hoosier Beer Geek: a very long haiku poem in honor of HopSlam, the beer that turned me into a hop head.

It was around this time that the young website started to receive attention. We made it on Indianapolis Monthly’s list of Indianapolis blogs. One of the weekly papers included us on their list of blogs. We were on a podcast. In short, we were on a roll. A bunch of know-nothings being cited by others for our reviews and knowledge on craft beer in Indiana. We had them fooled.

We added Mike at roundtable #15: Bell’s Oberon. It wasn’t too long after this that Mike created our iconic Hoosier Beer Geek logo. A logo that would later lead to dealings with lawyers and a summons to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Gina was officially installed at roundtable #23: New Belgium Brewery. And then we had our first anniversary party. And were shocked to see who all came out. Nearly fifty people. We had no idea that we had that many readers. We gave Dogfish Head 90 minute a perfect 5 mug rating. We’ve received some grief from others since then, but I have no regrets. But it explains why we don’t normally rate beers during anniversary parties: we’re having such a good time, we’d probably rate everything 5 mugs.

We were having fun. We were enjoying the company. And then in January 2008, we lost our founder Chris. He didn’t die or anything. But life was pulling him in multiple directions and he had to let go of something. At that point, what little bit of “Chris’s personal beer blog” that was left was now gone.

From that point forward, Hoosier Beer Geek was its own thing. A Voltron-like creature made up of many, but acting as one, with the sole purpose of slaying macro-brews and defending craft brewing in Indiana.

Our often imitated but never duplicated Six Pack interviews have been around since July of 2007. The first Random Beer Roundup came around in January of 2008. And we helped the Brewers of Indiana Guild with their first Winterfest.

We’ve had other Knights come and go, including Kelly and Matt #1. But we added four more to our group over the summer of 2008: Chris (formerly New Chris), Matt (formerly Matt #2), Rod (formerly, and currently, the weird bearded guy), and Jess (formerly, and currently, the gal with the weird bearded guy).

So now there are eight. And anymore, I see it less as eight individuals making up one being as it is one being controlling eight lives. Hoosier Beer Geek is like an octopus with hand puppets.

I find it amazing to think that three and a half years later, we’ve had 100 roundtables. 100 opportunities to hang out with friends. 100 opportunities to drink different beers. 100 opportunities to share with everyone else.

It has been an incredibly fun ride that shows no signs of stopping. And I’m looking forward to seeing what will change during the next century of roundtables. I want to thank everybody who has ever read our website, attended our events, or volunteered at a festival. I want to thank everybody who has invited us into their home, into their work, into their bars, into their breweries, to share their beer and their stories. And I want to thank my fellow Knights, active and retired, for their hard work and their friendship. You have no idea how much all of this means to me.

So…what are we drinking at roundtable #101?

A little less than 10 years ago I jumped in a car with a buddy and picked out a southside apartment in Indianapolis, a city I knew absolutely nothing about. A month or so later my girlfriend joined me. And for something like six years after that, we spent weekends either driving back and forth between St. Louis and Indy to hang out with old friends, or in the aisles at Target. That was our social life.

Somewhere in that six year window I started blogging, found Jim's blog, and somehow we struck up some sort of regular online conversation. Eventually he invited me out to join him and a couple other blog people to drink some beer. I was apprehensive, but Jim had turned me onto Brugge Brasserie. He seemed trustworthy enough.

A little bit nervous, I decided to join he and his friends. Surprisingly enough, Jim looked nothing like Rafa Benitez.

A couple weeks later, I introduced myself to a small but growing audience:
Somewhere between the sort of reviews that the other folks write and "Man, I was so trashed last night" lies a sweet spot, where those of us who don't know hops from barley live. I'm going to attempt to write from that place, because I've really got no business writing about beer anyway.
Three years later I was interviewed by the Indianapolis Star about Super Bowl food and beer pairing.

A conversation that always sticks with me is one I had with Aaron Renn (otherwise known at The Urbanophile). Over a pint at BW3's downtown, he talked about the differences between Chicago and Indianapolis.

"You couldn't do what you guys are doing in Chicago," he said. "The culture is already created. You can live in Chicago and enjoy the cultural opportunities that someone else created, and there's nothing wrong with that. But in Indianapolis you can create the culture."

I don't know if we can create the culture, but we can shine a light on it. And maybe it's a naive thing to think you can enrich someone's life just by drinking and writing about beer. But I know that once upon a time I was on the outside looking in, and it sure as hell worked for me.

Thanks for the help along the way.

I wish I could express how much it means to me to be in this group. It wasn't supposed to be that way in the beginning, but the first sip of Oaken Barrel's Snake Pit Porter and conversation about 80's movies with Chris, Jason, and Mike and I was hooked. I couldn't (and still can't) get enough. I've learned so much about beer in the past three years, and I feel that for every new bit of information there are a hundred new things just on the horizon. I can't wait to spend the next hundred roundtables with the Knights learning about all of them.

Thanks to everyone who made these three+ years possible. Thanks to everyone who was kind, offered guidance, support, and the occasional beer, of course. Thanks to everyone who participates in and reads the Roundups on Fridays. Thanks for reading our content and laughing along with us.

Thanks to Colleen, Dani, Annie, Sarah, and Claire for not thinking we are nuts. At least not too often.

Digging up 11 a.m. Air Raid? Wow, I didn’t think we were on an archeological expedition, but thanks for resurrecting one of my many dead blogs. Oh, and five dollars to the first person who can tell me who Rafa Benitez is without consulting Google or Wikipedia.

Okay, I have no way of really telling if you Googled Rafa Benitez. But what I can tell is that these 3 ½ years of membership in the Knights of the Beer Roundtable have been a truly rewarding experience for two reasons. First, I know a lot more about craft beer than I used to. On that summer night in 2006 at the Rathskeller, when I first met up with Chris and Jason, I wasn’t conversant in beer topics like styles, hop varieties, IBUs, original gravity, firkins, hand-pulls, mouthfeel, etc. But I knew that I liked flavorful beer and enjoyed conversation with like-minded people. I was confident that my affinity for those things might lead somewhere interesting, valuable, and fun. And that it did.

Second, I’ve forged some wonderful friendships with all of the past and present KOTBR. These are friendships that I didn’t anticipate, but they are perhaps the biggest and best reward that’s come out of being part of Hoosier Beer Geek. To be sure, Jason likes Grover Washington Jr.’s music a little too much for my taste, and he thinks that The Breakfast Club is a chick flick, but I forgive him for both of those transgressions. And while Rod tends to frighten small children when we’re out at roundtables (just look at him in the background of this picture and you’ll understand why), we still like having him around. Thank you, my fellow Knights, for your treasured camaraderie. You bring this old man much laughter and joy.

So I suppose that one of us should say something about Roundtable 100, eh? Well, let’s just say that our bus trip to New Albany was a fantastic experience. And so, we come to the Oscar part of our program—

We had several benefactors for the bus trip down and back, and we owe them our thanks. First, a thank you goes to Clay Robinson and his comrades at Sun King, who supplied us with beverages to whet our appetites for the beer to come in New Albany. Second, thanks to the fine gentlemen from A Taste of Philly, who supplied us with delicious Philadelphia-style pretzels (lightly salted, in chains of three; in other words, pretzels done up the proper way). Third, thanks to auteur extraordinaire Simon Pegg, who provided us with the entertainment as we watched Shaun of the Dead on the way to New Albany and Hot Fuzz on the way back to Indy. And finally, a thanks to our bus driver Dale, who was a great sport through the whole trip.

For our New Albanian Brewing Company experience proper, we’d like to give a heart-felt thanks to Roger Baylor and the rest of the NABC crew, who treated us like kings and queens, providing us with delectable cuisine and NABC’s fine house brews at the Bank Street Brewhouse and high gravity home runs at the Public House (I suggest that you order the 2007 BFM Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien while it’s still on tap). Roger and Co., your beers never disappoint! We also extend a very special thanks to our server at the Public House, Sarah, who had a heavy burden to carry with 50+ beer geeks to take care of, but she did it with aplomb.

Many, many thanks to my wife, Annie, for allowing and encouraging me to indulge in this little beer hobby of mine. While she may not have a love for craft beer to the extent that I do, she certainly understands my need to explore that world. Babe, I cannot thank you enough.

Thanks to all of you fellow beer geeks who accompanied us on this trip. We hope that you found the trip worthwhile and pleasing to your palates, and we hope that we can do similar events in the future.

Lastly, thanks to our readers, who help keep this HBG boat afloat. Without you, we'd be screaming our love for craft beer into the void.

By the way, in case you were wondering, Rafa Benitez is the current manager of Liverpool FC (but probably not after this current English Premier League season given Liverpool’s current form).

I've been there since almost beginning following Hoosier Beer Geek, and I attended many events before I was asked to in HBG. All I knew was that I loved great beer, and I am very honored to have been asked to be in such a great group of like minded beer people. I really didn't think I would forge such great friendships with the other knights as I have, but once again the power of beer has brought us all together. It has been exciting watching more and more people come to craft beer events, and I am ecstatic over the success of Indiana brewers. The craft beer community has no where to go but up in Indiana, and watching craft beer grow with this group of people is something I very much look forward too.

I just want to say a huge thank you to the craft beer community in Indiana. They have been more than generous to us as a group, and it feels like everyone is on the same page to get more people into great beer.

Thank you to Clay Robinson and Sun King for the beer on our trip to New Albany, a big thank you to Roger Baylor for letting us come to Bank Street (get there if you haven't) and for taking great care of us at the Public House.

Readers of this blog, volunteers, and people who support craft beer in Indiana a huge THANK YOU! I hope to keep meeting more and more people that want more from their beer, and hopefully you will come and share a beer with us when you have the chance before Roundtable 200.

I don't even know why I'm here. My only blogging experience is writing for Jess and I's wedding blog, that just happened to include trips to GABF, articles on brewer's dinners and other miscellaneous beer happenings and news. In retrospect, I'm surprised that my Grandma kept reading it. I'm convinced that by attending the Neal Brown and Ted Miller Craft Beer and Food Symposium I defaulted my way into the group. Outside of being one of the few regular commenters on the blog, I think that was my first experience with the Hoosier Beer Geeks. By the way, you guys were totally anti-social. Luckily Chris and his wife Claire sat at our table and were very friendly. Surprise, Chris is a Hoosier Beer Geek now too! I like to tell myself that we're all slightly less anti-social today. Oh, and do I have to return my 2008 World Class beer calendar I won in the comments since now I'm a part of the group and technically ineligible to win our prizes?

I must say that I'm glad I'm here. I've been fascinated by craft beer ever since I turned 21, and I feel like I learn more every year. From homebrewing to food pairings, I strive to educate myself on every possible aspect of beer and Hoosier Beer Geek gives me the privilege of sharing that education with the rest of the internet. Plus the opportunity to hang out with a lot of brewers. I think the mix of personalities creates an incredibly dynamic group, and our diverse tastes prevent that 90 minute fiasco from every happening again; mostly in part to Jason hating sour beers. We have one of the greatest collection of readers I have ever seen and every time we meet up at events I am reminded of that. Beer really does bring awesome people together.

Now that we've hit 100 roundtables, I look back at the way the blog has evolved over the years and I don't think it's too arrogant to say that we've really created something unique. In a sea of beer blogs, we've struck some kind of weird balance between casual craft drinkers and geeked out beer nerds. It seems that we provide a little bit of something for everyone, whether you like long-winded reviews, weekly updates on the latest beer happenings in Indiana, or simply a nice bad haiku. I'm proud to say I'm a part of the greatest crap blog about beer I've ever read.

I think my experience is similar to Rodney's in that we were writing our wedding blog that somehow started being about homebrewing and all the beer dinners we were going to and then one day we got this e-mail from Mike asking us to be a part of that crap blog we commented on about beer.

Growing up my dad always had a keg of Hudy Delite (we're from Cincinnati) or Miller Lite on tap so it wasn't always about craft beer for me. As my tastes have changed though, I've gone from drinking Brigade Light from a can (and thinking a keg of Honey Brown was the "good stuff") in college to falling in love with Rauchbier at the source in Bamberg (Germany). I'm glad I've had this experience to join up with like minded individuals and try many more beers than what I would have had access to on my own.

Thanks to all the other beer geeks for broadening my horizons; to all of their significant others for putting up with all of our nights out and to all of our readers for putting up with this crap blog over the last couple of years.

My path to writing for Hoosier Beer Geek began at a Deano's Vino party. Hoosier Beer Geek was one of my favorite blogs and I was a frequent early commenter, so when they announced they were having a public party, I had to attend. At one point I finally got the courage to speak to Jason, whose Circle and Squares blog was also a must-stop for me. He asked what my posting name was and if I had my own blog. Sheepishly, I said no, as if that made me less of a geek than the rest. It didn't really matter -- Jason was just being conversational. But a seed had been planted. Why didn't I have a blog? If I started one, what the hell would I write about? I liked beer....I liked following construction projects....and I liked electronics....DIG-B was born.

I wrote about lots of stuff, almost daily for a while, and most posts were pictures of construction projects or about beers on tap at bars that I went to far too often. Somehow, people were actually interested in reading that combination. Eventually, Hoosier Beer Geek decided it was time to pull a Microsoft and kill off all the local beer blog competition by absorbing all the competition. For some reason, they were even interested in a blog that was only one-third-ish about beer. How monopolistic!

Thanks to my fellow Knights for the good times and their friendship. It's a funny thing that such a personal experience as logging thoughts on the web can produce such meaningful relationships with other people. Another strange power of beer.

Finally, thanks to everybody who puts up with our crazy, frequently long-winded posts. In marking this occasion, you'll have to forgive us this particularly long one! But how's about this: if you actually make it to this sentence, let us know in the comments if you have any favorite memories of past HBG events or posts and we'll give away a prize to one lucky commenter.


  1. My favorite HBG blog was #90 when Rob Halford, Glenn Danzig and King Diamond were drinking in Broad Ripple!

  2. I almost cried reading the first paragraph because it was sounding like a farewell letter. Don't ever do that to me again. My favorite HBG moment (thus far) was pouring from the firkins at the outdoor beer garden this winter and at one point all the people in line and all the pourers doing the "Ziggy Zoggy" chant.

  3. my favorite HBG moment was just now, reading about y'alls good, sincere times