When I learned that we would be sitting down with Andrew Castner of Ram Restaurant & Brewery for a roundtable of his beers, I was thrilled. After all, Andrew is pure class. The guy is passionate about what he does and is one of the coolest people in the Indy craft beer community, as we quickly learned almost three years ago when we roundtabled with him when he was the assistant brewer at Oaken Barrel. To call him a gentleman brewer would certainly be fitting. What's more, I think that some corporate brewpubs unjustifiably get a bad rap; therefore, I was looking forward to an experience at Ram that would prove the naysayers wrong. I'm happy to say that any beer geek would have been more than pleased by what we tried.
Being the gent that he is, Andrew rolled out the beer red carpet for us. We sampled a lot of Ram's beers (nine in all). Some of them are currently available, and some are not. Therefore, if you're interested in trying what we drank, ask your server or bartender whether the beer is currently on tap.
Here's the beer gauntlet that we ran with Andrew:
Spring Fever: A blonde ale brewed with lemon peel and jasmine flower. The lemon was there in full force, but I didn't pick up much of the jasmine. Refreshing. Nice lawnmower beer. 3.00 Mugs.
Old St. Mick's Irish Red: A Ram spring seasonal beer. Nutty and malty nose with a pear-like character floating in the aroma as well. Smooth and malty. A sessionable ale. 3.00 Mugs.
Big Horn Maibock: Ram's classic springtime bock. Brewed with Vienna and Munich malts. Grapes and pears in the nose. Soft and malty. I could drink this one all day. 3.85 Mugs.
Glacier Peak Pale Ale. An APA brewed with Cascade and Glacier hops plus Warrior for aroma. Peppery, citrusy, and with a pear-like character yet again (I must have had pears on the brain during this roundtable). Dry, hop-forward. Good stuff. 3.70 Mugs.
Mask IPA. Base beer for this one is Ram's Big Red IPA, which is one of Ram's house beers. Big pine and bubblegum nose. Dry, citrusy hop character. Amarillo and Centennial hops dominate. An excellent beer. Up there with the best American IPAs. 4.25 Mugs.
Anaheim IPA. Big Red IPA brewed with Anaheim chili peppers. The peppers dominate the nose and are also there in the flavor, though they don't overwhelm the beer like they do in other chili beers that I've tried. And amazingly, there's no heat, just the pleasing green chili flavor. An outstanding chili beer. 4.30 Mugs.
Batch 999: In Hops We Trust. Imperial IPA. Dry pineapples pineapples pineapples. 3.90 Mugs.
Java Porter. This is Ram's Total Disorder Porter brewed with B-Java coffee beans. The coffee nose on this beer is beautiful, backed with a sweet, roasty coffee flavor. A true coffee beer, in welcome contrast to too many other coffee beers that taste like burnt espresso. Loved it. 4.50 Mugs.
Black Widow. A one off stout infused with Hubbard & Cravens French roast coffee and vanilla beans. Siiiiiiiillllky smooth. Sweet coffee and vanilla flavors. I don't typically like flavored coffees, but this beer really shines. Again, a true coffee beer. Andrew really has the coffee beer thing down pat. 4.50 Mugs.
Spring Fever - Lemon peel, jasmine. Light up front, nose is outdoorsy but light, reminds me of saison - flowery, earthy, belched well. Perfect for spring. First commercial beer I've had that used Sirachi Ace hops that I liked. 3.25 Mugs.
Old St. Mick's Irish Red - Malty sweetness, but light. No faults, no particular strengths, a standard amber. Not a style I normally drink. 2.95 Mugs.
Big Horn Maibock - Big sweetness evident in the nose. Green apple, with a sweet wine-like character. The sweetness carries throughout, finishes with a warm sensation down the gullet. As the beer warms, a grainy sweetness comes through. 3.30 Mugs.
Glacier Peak - Extremely drinkable, light and hoppy. Just missing that extra oompf. Then again, I'm generally a malt guy myself. 2.75 Mugs.
Mask IPA - Big nose! (Big enough to deserve exclamation points). Great malt back, finishes chewy, Amrillee Amarillo Amarillaa. Even better as it warms. 4.00 Mugs.
Anaheim Chili IPA - The nose is outrageously peppery, enough so that blind you might not realize you're smelling beer. The beer is all like the lingering flavor of jalapeno, minus the heat. When warmer it gets milder, and even better as it goes. It's a chili beer - how do I score that? Would there be a better chili beer? I can't imagine one I'd like more. 4.00 Mugs.
Batch 999: In Hops We Trust - Grapefruit, dry and powdery finish, all hop, more malt for me please. 3.65 Mugs.
Java Porter - The nose on this one is like dipping your nose into a can of coffee. Iced black coffee throughout, perfectly balanced, hint of cream in the finish, yeahhh, put this on! 4.39 Mugs.
Black Widow - Coffee again, but this one seems "whiter" off the front, creamier, which echoes through in a big way. Sweeter. A little heavier in the cream than I'd prefer in my cup of coffee. 3.65 Mugs.
Spring Fever: My kids watch the Disney Channel. They’ve been advertising a movie called Lemonade Mouth. What the hell is a Lemonade Mouth? I mention it only because in reviewing my notes, I wrote “Lemon-Back-Mouth” and I thought I wrote Lemonade Mouth. Whatever. That movie for tweens has nothing on this blonde beer. Lemon and floral notes are abundant, yet balanced. 3.30 Mugs.
Old St. Mick’s Irish Red: Obviously, St. Mick is the patron saint of biscuity, caramelly beers. Why else would you name this beer in his honor? I want to see Andrew make an Irish-German hybrid beer and name it “My Kraut-Mick Friend”. 3.60 Mugs.
Big Horn Maibock: The spring season means Maibocks. Every season should have a beer style. Actually, I think every season does have a beer style. Anyway, this Maibock had an alcohol nose and a caramel flavor that you would find in a bourbon. May in Kentucky… 3.65 Mugs.
Glacier Peak Pale: If glaciers smelled this good, more people would do something to save them from climate change. Lots of hops in the nose. It has a bite to it too. 3.20 Mugs.
Mask IPA: The name references the movie starring Cher; the reality is that it is more like Frankenstein. A fantastic nose and flavor. Big hops, lots of citrus, I think HBG Matt said it made him think of Alpha King. Not a bad comparison. 4.30 Mugs.
Anaheim IPA: This is what I will compare all other pepper beers to. This is the new measuring stick for me. There is no heat but it has all the flavor and aroma. A beautiful combination. If this were a corn based beer, it would be like drinking nachos. 4.50 Mugs.
Batch 999, aka In Hops We Trust: Why I have “Go the fuck to sleep” written next to this, I can’t remember. Somebody must have said it. The Imperial IPA has a huge nose. I’m wondering how much it has been tamed since it was first tapped. 3.75 Mugs.
Total Disorder w/ B-Java Coffee: There is a difference between iced coffee and cold coffee. All too often, coffee beers taste like old, cold coffee. Andrew does it right. The porter and coffee combination is fantastic. 4.25 Mugs.
Black Widow: This stout received the same coffee treatment, except with Hubbard and Cravens French Roast. Vanilla beans were also added. Smooth mouthfeel. Vanilla was front and center. 3.70 Mugs.
Spring Fever - The nose on this is something!! Fresh floral and citrus scents, creamy mouthfeel, and a dry finish. Quite lovely. 2.99 Mugs.
Old St. Mick's Irish Red - This reminds me of a plate of dried fruit and nuts. The finish is drying like the Spring Fever. 2.98 Mugs.
Big Horn Maibock - Grape! Bubble Gum! The apply nose is similar to a cider. 3.00 Mugs.
Glacier Peak Pale - I could drink this ridiculously fast. Cascade, Summit, Glacier Hops with Warrior for bittering. Yes please. Thank you. 3.25 Mugs.
Mask IPA - This was entered as the Brew Bracket IPA from Ram, and the process Andrew went through to make it was pretty intense. This beer smelled fantastic and the bitter and citrus flavors melded beautifully. 4.30 Mugs.
Anaheim IPA - Like Jason said, this is the new benchmark for pepper beer. Most of the time when a beer has a striking nose, it can be disappointing when the flavor doesn't match. In this case, if the flavor matched the intense peppery nose, I still wouldn't be able to taste anything. The nose was HUGE, and had a sweet heat. I really thought this was going to be difficult to drink, but it was absolutely fantastic. All of the aroma, without any of the heat. 3.80 Mugs.
In Hops We Trust IPA - This is an awesome beer. Nose is super resiny and it tastes of fresh pineapple. Love, love, love this. 4.10 Mugs.
Java Porter - Now, we all know how I feel about coffee and beer. I want to drink this all of the time. 4.40 Mugs.
Black Widow - Coffee...and vanilla.... Is it possible to have a crush on a beer? This is an iced vanilla latte with booze. Heaven help me. 4.60 Mugs.
Jim: 3.00 Mugs | Gina: 2.99 Mugs | Jason: 3.30 Mugs | Mike: 3.25 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 3.14 Mugs
Old St. Mick's Irish Red
Jim: 3.00 Mugs | Gina: 2.98 Mugs | Jason: 3.60 Mugs | Mike: 2.95 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 3.13 Mugs
Big Horn Maibock
Jim: 3.85 Mugs | Gina: 3.00 Mugs | Jason: 3.65 Mugs | Mike: 3.30 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 3.45 Mugs
Glacier Peak Pale Ale
Jim: 3.70 Mugs | Gina: 3.25 Mugs | Jason: 3.20 Mugs | Mike: 2.75 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 3.23 Mugs
Jim: 4.25 Mugs | Gina: 4.30 Mugs | Jason: 4.30 Mugs | Mike: 4.00 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 4.21 Mugs
Jim: 4.30 Mugs | Gina: 3.80 Mugs | Jason: 4.50 Mugs | Mike: 4.00 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 4.15 Mugs
Batch 999: In Hops We Trust IIPA
Jim: 3.90 Mugs | Gina: 4.10 Mugs | Jason: 3.75 Mugs | Mike: 3.65 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 3.85 Mugs
Jim: 4.50 Mugs | Gina: 4.40 Mugs | Jason: 4.25 Mugs | Mike: 4.39 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 4.39 Mugs
Black Widow Stout
Jim: 4.50 Mugs | Gina: 4.60 Mugs | Jason: 3.70 Mugs | Mike: 3.65 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 4.11 Mugs