30 November 2011

Beer and Cheese Club - November Edition

For our November selection, we visit beer from Canada and cheese from Italy. The beer, Unibroue's Blanche de Chambly, is a Belgian-style witbier, which Unibroue claims was the first bottle-fermented white ale crafted in North America (in 1992, if you're wondering). The cheese, Caseificio dell'Alta Langa La Tur, is a cheese made of cow, sheep, and goat's milk that the cheesemaker describes as "delicate and harmonious, fine and tasty". The cheese is produced northwestern Italy - Bosia - in a modern facility, using antibiotic-free milks, and using old world recipes.

If you're a member of the Beer and Cheese Club at Goose the Market, your November installment is likely ready for you to pick up right now. If you're not a member, the club is $99 for 4 months. This month's selection includes four bottles of Blanche de Chambly in addition to a small wheel of cheese that the three of us managed to accidentally eat all at once. Either of these items would be great experiences on their own, but we feel they are even better when consumed together.

Blanche de Chambly from Unibroue is a witbier with the kind of effervescence that shoots right up into your brain. Strong and spicy nose with a lighter body and finish.

La Tur - This comes from a wine region in Italy and is often paired with a bit of bubbly, or a bubbly witbier in this case. This cheese was butter soft and arrived in a paper cup inside a plastic tub. The outside was pretty near a liquid consistency, but the middle was a bit more firm. One website said the cheese was like "ice cream served from a warm scoop," and that description is perfect. The cheese had a funky, musty aroma that carried through to taste. It had a huge farmy, grassy-like flavor that I couldn't decide if I liked or didn't.

The pairing was a harmony of both, neither overpowering the other. The bright flavor of the beer cut through the earthiness of the cheese. It subdued both of the more intense flavors and let through more subtle counterparts.

Thanks again to Goose for another great offering in the club.

Blanche de Chambly - nose is light fruit, apple, lightly tart, light body, finishes chewy/tart

La Tur - Creamy up front, funky in the back, savory in the middle. Very farmy, grassy. The cheese starts off sweet, almost like an icing, and then after a couple seconds.. wait for it... an explosion of grassy yet not overwhelming funk.

The combination of the two functions as the fizziness of the beer wipes the palate clean - not really a meld in the middle, though the flavors don't clash; rather they sit together nicely, in an apple tart sort of way.

In any case, the cheese was ridiculously delicious.

This is my first time reviewing a Goose the Market beer and cheese club offering, but I’m not stranger to pairing beer and cheese. I love washing down my nachos with a lager. And the beer and cheese crocks found at pubs are fantastic too. But the Goose beer and cheese pairing is not your standard stadium or sports bar fare. Of course, the Goose’s basement bar Enoteca is not your standard bar. I can tell you that the “Red Beer Salumi Cheese” is a fun beer concoction (beer and Hoosier Mama’s Bloody Mary Mix served on ice with meat and cheese; chorizo and provolone were the offerings this time) and the steak tartare was lovely.

But the main reason for my attendance was to try the La Tur formaggio affinato with Unibroue’s Blanche de Chambly. Velveeta and Budweiser this is not. The soft white cheese is at times creamy and gooey and other times slightly dry. I could taste the grass that the cows, goat, and sheep consumed. It has a nice earthy aroma. And if finished with a dry, buttery mouth feel. It was really nicely spread on a baguette.

The yeasty Blanche de Chambly ale on lees played well with the cheese. The bubbly, golden beer pops with flavors, and it is the citrus flavor in the beer that really worked well with the grassy notes of the cheese. A nice pairing to have as we head into winter, together they remind one of a bright spring day. I’ll have to remember that in February, when winter seems never ending.

To join the Beer and Cheese Club at Goose the Market (in conjunction with Hoosier Beer Geek), check out this PDF and then either call Goose the Market at 317-924-4944 or stop in the shop at 2503 N. Delaware St.

29 November 2011

Cheap Bombers Found in Ohio

This is The Brew Kettle's Four C's.

This bomber was 2.99 at Jungle Jim's.  When I saw it on the shelf at that price, I assumed I was signing myself up for a trainwreck of a beer.  But I ventured forward, knowing that I had to prove to Matt that reasonably priced bombers did exist - and I'm glad I did.  This is a beer I would have bought at twice the price.  The "Four C's" name refers to the common Pacific Northwest hops of Cascade, Centennial, Columbus and Chinook.  All 4 hops were well represented.  The Centennial hops immediately made me think of Bell's Two-Hearted.  Cascade provided a hefty grapefruit character, with Columbus backing it up through the introduction of other citrus flavors.  Chinook rounded everything out with an earthy pine flavor.  Really this was just a great example of how well these 4 hops work together.  And just to top things off for my personal tastes, there was enough of a malt backing to prevent this from being over-the-top bitter.

And even better, it was 2.99.  Next time I'm at Jungle Jim's I'm buying more of these.  It's not the best IPA I've ever had, but at roughly the equivalent of 9.50 a six-pack, it's certainly worth the money.

28 November 2011

What Next? The Indianapolis Beer Market In Adolescence

If there's any proof of how far better beer has come in Indianapolis, you only need to look at the tap handles at popular establishments around town. Where there once was a better beer wasteland now lies fertile ground where new breweries add their wares to the mix on what seems like an almost monthly basis.

But as the market grows, so does the competition. Whereas your local brewery may once have owned three taps at the bar, entries from newer breweries mean that the market for tap handle real estate has grown more competitive, even allowing some bars to move from beyond a local/regional tap list to one that focuses on beer from breweries within a few mile radius.

Somewhere, it seems like someone loses out. Be it the long running macro that no longer has an audience, the established craft brand that suddenly has local competition, or the new brewery that can't find tap space in suddenly crowded market, there must be a saturation point.

Are we there yet?

"New breweries haven't had an affect on our sales," said Sun King's Clay Robinson. "We are a proven seller in the market and have a really solid fan base, so our tap count has not just remained steady, it continues to climb as more people discover Sun King and craft beer. I would assume that new breweries are getting tap handles from national brands that are also available in bottles, because it really doesn't matter when it comes to mass produced domestics whether you have it in bottles, cans or on draft."

Then perhaps it's the regional craft brands that have taken a hit? Brands from surrounding states once had almost free reign over tap handles in better beer establishments. Are distributors seeing the hit on sales?

"An increase in local craft sales very much benefits out of state sales," said Bob Mack of the local/national beer distributor World Class Beverages. "Especially in our situation in Indiana where we are still well under the national average in terms of craft as a percentage of overall beer sales."

So what about a brand like Bell's, who had a very strong tap presence and very little local competition until recently?

"Bell's is, in fact, still up," said Mack. "They do have fewer taps in some places as competition is squeezing some of those taps out, but the velocity (rate of sale) on existing taps is getting higher as more and more people ask for craft beer. So we are seeing greater sales on a single tap than we used to see. Also, there are more taps overall in the market than there were a year or two ago, so there are more to go around."

But do World Class' salespeople find it harder to push their bigger brands to bars that are just hopping on the craft wagon?

"Maybe, but there are many more opportunities today versus a year ago or further back, so business for Bell's is still very good - even better than it is for some local brands," said Mack. "Of course for many World Class customers, Bell's is closer to home than many Indiana brewers, so it is still local to many consumers."

"Overall, we're up dramatically on regional, non-Indiana brewery sales. So I don't see the growth of local brands being a problem for them. There are case by case situations where they lose lines to local brands, but overall their number of lines is not reduced. They are picking up lines in other places where there was no craft beer previously and the lines that are out there are selling faster than before. In my opinion, the regional and local brands can complement each other."

So perhaps the real story is the continued and growing success for everyone involved with better beer? Not quite. As is the trend nationally, imports are losing market share.

"I suppose that is going to happen given the large number of American brand selections now versus what it used to be," said Mack. "Additionally, a lot of good American craft brewers are making excellent examples of Dubbels, Tripels, Oktoberfest, and other traditional foreign styles. We are somewhat cushioned in sales of brands like Spaten but retailers are looking first for new placements of craft brands and not so much for imports."

So imports are down, but what's it like for our newest breweries? Fountain Square Brewing recently opened and has secured a fair amount of taps in their short existence, including a very strong presence in their backyard of Fountain Square.

"Getting into bars and restaurants has been fairly easy," said Fountain Square's Skip DuVall. "We have a sales person taking samples out and people have received our beer well. We sometimes need to wait until a tap opens, but our success rate is pretty good."

Sun King's Robinson echos the sentiment. "What I found from the early days of Sun King was that the slowest seller is the beer that loses its spot, which can be frustrating because a new brewery has to wait for it to sell out before changing over," he said.

"It seems that we have replaced some semi-mass produced beers like Stella," said DuVall. "Our porter has taken off and I think that is because of the timing of the seasons changing."

How does a new brewery set itself apart in a market that's not only crowded with local breweries, but also repetitive styles?

"We have been talking a lot about what we want to do with our beer and who we are," said DuVall. "I am leaning on towards doing a series of Imperial beers on a seasonal basis - IPA, Stout or even an Imperial Lager of some sort."

One thing that may be forgotten by those of us in the middle of the craft beer movement is that while these styles seem repetitive to us, to new drinkers, they're a whole new world. "You've got to remember that a lot of folks are coming from a background where beer is only one style," said Sun King Head Brewer Dave Colt.

If you look at it from the other side of the argument - that we've got an overabundance of the same styles - Colt also has a theory.

"For many of the folks behind new brewery efforts, they look at what's available locally and say, 'Well everyone's doing a porter, so we've got to do a porter.' Or 'IPAs seem to be really popular locally, so we should do an IPA,'" he said.

Regardless of where you stand on the style issue, the market for everyone continues to grow.

"We have less brands this year than we did last year (WCB lost both Dogfish Head and Avery recently, while Flat 12 has been added to their lineup) and we are still going to finish the year up at least 20% in sales over last year," said Mack. "I dare say that some very mature markets, like Portland, might be tough for outside brands because so much of the beer sold there is local – as much as 30%," said Mack. "But with Indiana brewed beers still being around 1% or less of overall Indiana beer consumption, I think we have a long ways to go before hitting that sort of ceiling."

So if demand is up, tap numbers are up, variety is up, and the number of breweries is up, what challenges await?

"A challenge that I see for brewers based on the rising tide of demand is their ability to increase capacity," said Mack. "It is most definitely not cheap to build and increase capacity and it often requires brewers to take out loans based on the idea that growth will continue. With more brewers coming into the market, growth may not continue for everyone as they plan it to, making it tough for them to meet financial demands."

From the distribution standpoint, it's brewery inventory and production that provides the biggest challenge.

"Small brewers are much more subject to out of stocks and inventory fluctuations than larger brewers, so we continue to have a somewhat frightening out of stock rate on products that people order a lot of, but that's the nature of the craft industry," said Mack. "Of course, some brewers are solving that problem for us and for themselves by pulling out of states to better manage their inventory levels, but it's unfortunate that it has to come to that."

While we've lost certain well-respected brands in Indiana before, the lack of availability of drinkers' favorite beers doesn't seem to be hurting the overall business. The better beer audience seeks variety. Indianapolis' better beer drinkers can rest assured that if they lose a regional favorite, there's a newer and more local brewery waiting to fill the void.

25 November 2011

Random Beer Roundup - The Black Friday Edition

Hoosier Beer Calendar
Events are subject to change

From the Brewers
From Skip at Fountain Square Brewing in Fountain Square, Indianapolis:
Once we are open we obviously want everyone to come by the tasting room, but regardless come to Fountain Square to try a bunch of great beers.  White Rabbit, La Revolucion, Radio Radio, Brass Ring , Red Lion, La Margarita and Imbibe are all serving great craft beers on tap and in bottles.

From Clay at Sun King Brewery in Indianapolis:
Westy and Colt's 444 are On Tap in the Tasting Room this week. We will be releasing Wee Muckle, our 2011 Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal Winning Scotch Ale, on Thursday, December 1st in the Tasting Room with food from the Indigo Duck in Franklin, IN and Music from the Leisure Kings!

Malus π is due to be brewed soon and will be available in time for the Holidays, plus Million Dollar Brewski will be tapped at the Rathskeller on Thursday, December 8th with music from Bigger than Elvis. We have been working with Broadway Across America to create recreate the type of classic American lager that was popular during the days of the The Million Dollar Quartet ( which consisted of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis for those that were not aware). The show will run at the Murat Theater from December 13th - 18th in case the previous artists are up your alley...

Thursday, December 1st  6-9 p.m.
Wee Muckle Tapping
Sun King Tasting Room
Food by Indigo Duck / Music by The Leisure Kings

Friday, December 2nd 5-9 p.m.
1st Friday at the Harrison Center
1505 N. Delaware St. Indianapolis
Fresh•Local•Beer and Art

Saturday, December 3rd
NUVO Cyclocross Race
Lake Sullivan Sports Complex
(Major Taylor Velodrome)
3649 Cold Springs Road
Cyclocross, Food Trucks & Fresh•Local•Beer

Thursday, December 8th 6-8 p.m.
Sun King, Homespun & Yelp Present:
Yelp's Totally Bazaar at Indy City Market
40 Local Stores and Vendors PLUS Fresh•Local•Beer

Thursday, December 8th 6:30 p.m.
Million Dollar Brewski Tapping
The Rathskeller
Live Music from Bigger Than Elvis

Christmas Week Hours
Tues/Wed: Noon-6:00 p.m.
Thurs/Fri: Noon-7:00 p.m.
Saturday: CLOSED

New Year's Week Hours
Tues/Wed: Noon - 6:00 p.m.
Thurs/Fri: Noon - 7:00 p.m.
Saturday: 1:00 - 4:00 p.m.

From Andrew at Ram Restaurant and Brewery in Indianapolis/Fishers:
Be sure to stop by the RAM during this holiday season. Not only do we have S'no Angel Weizenbock and Amber Waves Farmhouse Ale on tap right now, but look out for a Black IPA, Aries American Wheat, and Java Disorder coming to a pint near you. Come see us for a couple holiday beers soon!
From Ryan a Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Co. in Broad Ripple, Indianapolis:
Join us at Thr3e Wise Men this coming Tuesday November 29th for our next seasonal creation, Hubbard & Cravens Porter, tapping party! The tapping starts at 6pm! Get here early for some free samples and food.

From Charles at Upland Brewing Co. in Bloomington/Indianapolis:

Leftover Turkey Trail Run and Novemberfest. Saturday, November 26th, 3-7pm. Eagle's Crest—Eagle Creek Park (Indianapolis)

A 5k, 10k, and 1 Mile Group Loop (for those that like to take a break and drink a beer while running with friends) followed by an all-inclusive party with food, beer, and live music. More information and registration at 

At Bars and Restaurants
From Jordan at Beer Sellar in Castleton:
Upcoming Events  December 5th -
Whiskey, Cigar and Beer Tasting. $15 starts at 7pm

December 12th - 23rd - 12 Days of Sun King. A new Sun King beer will be tapped each day for 12 days.
From Ryan at Scotty's Brewhouse in Various Locations:
Scotty’s Brewhouse Bloomington is now serving Rivertown Oatmeal Stout! It’s a great beer from Rivertwon Brewing Company from Cincinnati, OH. Come enjoy it on Thursday Pint Night for only $3.50!
Scotty’s Brewhouse 96th street Indianapolis is now serving a new rotating tap, Great Divide Fresh Hop! You can enjoy this great beer on Wednesday evenings on our pitcher special night for $9.00!!
For Carry-out
From 21st Amendment (62nd and Keystone) in Broad Ripple:
Holiday Tasting at 21st Amendment in Broadripple (62nd and Keystone) Friday November 25th from 4 - 6pm

We will be tasting a few winter and Christmas ales to bring on the holiday joy. A few that will be sampled are:
Breckenridge Christmas
Bell's Christmas
and Winter White
Sam Smith Winter Welcome
And More!!
From Jake at United Package Liquors (SR 135 S) in Greenwood
Thanksgiving Hours: 9am to 7pm at all UPL Locations New in stock:

Sam Adams The vixen – Chocolate Chili Bock
Sam Adams Tasman Red – IPA
Sam Adams Third Voyage – DIPA
Sam Adams Griffin’s Bow – Oaked Blonde Barley Wine Ale
Founders Breakfast Stou
Founders Backwoods Bastard – Limited Quantities Remaining
Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter – Limited Quantities Remaining
Flying Dog Raging Bitch Belgian IPA – Limited Quantities Remaining
Bells Winter White Ale
Boulder Never Summer Ale
Sierra Nevada Estate
Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Harvest
Great Divide Hibernation Ale
Duchesse De Bourgogne Gift Set with Tasting Glass

Growlers: They're not just for jug bands

You hear that sound? That’s your belly. It’s hungry for a beer. Not just any beer, but a small-batch craft brewed concoction that can only be found at your favorite microbrewery. But they don’t bottle or can this beer. And you don’t have draft equipment at home. What can you do?

You hear that sound? That’s your belly. It is offering a solution: get a growler.

Weekly Growler Specials
Monday: Rock Bottom College Park
Tuesday: Barley Island, Ram Downtown and Fishers, Thr3e Wise Men
Wednesday: Upland Indy Tasting Room
Thursday: Barley Island, Oaken Barrel, Tomlinson Tap Room
Friday: Black Swan, Ram Downtown and Fishers, Sun King, Thr3e Wise Men
Saturday: Ram Downtown

Indianapolis Area Growler Breakdown

Barley Island
639 Conner Street, Noblesville, IN 46060
(317) 770-5280
New Growlers: $14 filled; $18 barleywine
Refill a Growler: $9.50; $14 barleywine
Growler Specials: Tuesday & Thursday - $7.50 Refill (except barleywine)

5133 E. 65th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46220
(317) 253-2437 or 253-BIER
New Growlers: $4 empty; $2 bullet empty (1/2 growler)
Refill a Growler: $8-$16
Growler Specials: Quanity discounts - 4 growlers 10% off; 6 growlers 15% off; 8 growlers 20% off

Black Swan
2067 E Hadley Road, Plainfield, IN 46168
(317) 838-7444
New Growlers: $12 filled
Refill a Growler: $8
Growler Specials: Fridays - $10.50 New Filled, $6.50 Refill

Broad Ripple Brewpub
842 E. 65th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46220
(317) 253-2739 or ALE-BREW
New Growlers: $12 filled (glass or plastic)
Refill a Growler: $11
Growler Specials: No growler specials

Flat 12 Bierwerks
414 N Dorman St, Indianapolis, IN 46202
(317) 635-2337
New Growlers: $4 empty; $2 empty bullets (1/2 growlers)
Refill a Growler: $8.00 House Lineup, $12 Specialty/Seasonal
Growler Specials: Special fill prices on underappreciated holidays, such as Presidents Day

Fountain Square
1301 Barth Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46203
(317) 493-1410
New Growlers: not yet
Refill a Growler: not yet
Growler Specials: not yet

Oaken Barrel
50 Airport Parkway #L, Greenwood, IN 46143
(317) 887-2287
New Growlers: $12
Refill a Growler: $9
Growler Specials: Thursdays - $9 New, $5 Refill

Ram Downtown
140 South Illinois St, Indianapolis, IN 46225
(317) 955-9900
New Growlers: $14.99 House Lineup, Specialty/Seasonals $15.99
Refill a Growler: $8.99 House, $9.99 Specialty/Seasonal
Growler Specials: Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday - Growler Refill Specials - $5.99 House beers, $6.99 Seasonals

Ram Fishers
12750 Parkside Drive, Fishers, IN 46038
(317) 596-0079
New Growlers: $14.99 House Lineup, Specialty/Seasonals $15.99
Refill a Growler: $8.99 House, $9.99 Specialty/Seasonal
Growler Specials: Tuesday and Friday - Growler Refill Specials - $5.99 House beers, $6.99 Seasonals

Rock Bottom College Park
2801 Lake Circle Drive, Indianapolis, IN 46268
(317) 471-8840
New Growlers: $12.50 house beers; seasonals may vary
Refill a Growler: $9.50 house beers; seasonals may vary
Growler Specials: Monday - $5 Refill of house beers

Rock Bottom Downtown
10 W. Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 681-8180
New Growlers: $13 house beers; seasonals may vary
Refill a Growler: $10 house beers; seasonals may vary
Growler Specials: No growler specials

Sun King
135 North College Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46202
(317) 602-3702
New Growlers: $10.50 House Lineup, Speciality releases vary
Refill a Growler: $6.50 House Lineup, Specialty Releases vary
Growler Specials: Fridays - $9 New, $5 Refill on house lineup beers

Thr3e Wise Men
1021 Broad Ripple Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46220
(317) 255-5151
New Growlers: $13 house beers; seasonals may vary
Refill a Growler: $8 house beers; seasonals may vary
Growler Specials: Tuesday & Friday - $6 Refill house beers

Three Pints
5020 Cambridge Way, Plainfield, IN 46168
(317) 839-1000
New Growlers: 11.5
Refill a Growler: 7.5
Growler Specials: Pints Plus Club Members ($25) receive a shirt, glass, and growler, and get $1 off all growler fills for the year

Tomlinson Tap Room
Mezzanine Level of the Historic Market House, south west corner, 222 East Market Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 423-2337
New Growlers: $17 for standard lineup, $21 for specialty/seasonals
Refill a Growler: $12 for standard lineup, $16 for specialty/seasonals
Growler Specials: Thursdays - $10 for standard fills, $15 for specialty fills

5764 Wheeler Road, Indianapolis, IN 46216
(317) 735-2706
New Growlers: $3
Refill a Growler: $10
Growler Specials: No growler specials

Indy Tasting Room, 4842 N. College Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46205
(317) 602-3931
New Growlers: $4.25
Refill a Growler: $8.75 regular; $9.50-$17.50 seasonals
Growler Specials: Wednesdays $7 regular
Special Note: Uses a pressurizing system to fill growlers, making the beer good for up to five weeks as long as it has not been opened

24 November 2011

The "What's on Your Thanksgiving Table" Open Thread | 2011 Edition

Every year since 2007, I've asked the same question of our readers on Thanksgiving:

What beer are you drinking today?

What's your answer this year? Leave us a comment below and let us know.

23 November 2011

Beer Diary #24 - Jim | The Beeroes of Harkenwold

In the five-plus years I've been writing for this blog, I've had the fortune of meeting and befriending wonderful people. That we share a love of craft beer is no surprise. The environments in which I've met these people--restaurants, bars, brewpubs, homebrew groups, beer enthusiast groups, beer festivals--made this shared love a given.

But I also discovered that some of my fellow craft beer enthusiasts share a love with me that I didn't expect at all: Dungeons & Dragons.

While this sort of geekery may make some snicker, I think that the craft beer and fantasy role-playing game worlds intersect naturally. Both pursuits are outside the mainstream, beloved by a select group of "off-center" people. What's more, the enjoyment of craft beer offers a respite from the troubles of everyday life. It gives you the opportunity to forget your cares and worries for a while and just revel in the company of good friends. Playing fantasy role-playing games provides the exact same thing.

I was an avid D&D player in high school and college but stopped playing when the responsibilities of adult life set in. Like others I knew, I was a bit ashamed of this nerdy pastime and figured that it was something that grown-ups simply didn't do. But then last spring, some of my craft beer friends were chatting on Twitter about getting together to play D&D. Nearly 20 years had passed since my last D&D session, and I felt a tug back toward the game. I had great memories of the late night gaming sessions, with all of us players laughing, hopped up on RC Cola and wading through massive bags of Cheetos and Ruffles.

What I remembered most was the camaraderie that my fellow gamers and I had. I knew that I was ready to jump back in to the game. So I let my craft beer chums know that I wanted in.

Since then, we've met one Saturday a month to immerse ourselves for six hours or so in the world of the Nentir Vale. Our gracious Dungeon Master opens his home to us. We bring our Player's Handbooks and our dice.

We bring choice snacks, mostly of the carb-laden kind, to graze on through our adventures. And of course, we bring beer to share. Sometimes, the beer particularly fits the occasion.

We are an eclectic group of adventurers. We are a paladin, a fighter, a cleric, a druid, and a ranger. We are a dragonborn, a dwarf, a deva, an elf, and a human. We are a veritable United Nations of the Nentir Vale.

We roam the Barony of Harkenwold, seeking help from its citizens to free the Barony from the tyranny of the Iron Circle. We've fought many skirmishes. We've lost comrades and gained allies. In our last adventure, we recovered some historical scrolls stolen from the Woodsinger Elves of the Harken Forest, winning the Elves to our side as we move toward a final confrontation with the Iron Circle.

And we drink fine ale, raising our tankards to those who would join us in the quest for freedom.

22 November 2011

RB Brewer's Dinner - Fall '11

When Rock Bottom and Gordon Biersch merged, the fear of losing all local recipes at our local Rock Bottoms was a very real one.  The 6 main styles at each of the Rock Bottoms in Indianapolis were replaced with 4 corporate recipes.  The new beers weren't bad, but much of the adventure in craft beer is the variation of recipe interpretations.  Luckily, this Brewer's Dinner pushed aside those fears, and offered up 4 seasonal and one-off recipes.  From the long standing Rock Bottom seasonal, Rocktoberfest, to a new recurring seasonal, White Wheat, with a variety of Jerry's creations in between.  Starting off the meal with Jerry's Hop Bomb certainly had me in a good mood.

First Course: Pumpkin Flower Empanadas paired with Rocktoberfest

Why It Worked: Rocktoberfest is typically brewed as a malt-forward Vienna Lager, a style well known for its versatility with food.  There is no beer style that can be paired with a more diverse selection of food than Vienna Lager.  The sweet, caramel malts, the light hop presence and the smooth lager finish make the beer both neutral and complimentary.  In this dish, the natural sweetness of the creamed corn sauce lent a familiarity to the sweet malt.  While a good dose of salty mozzarella cheese attempted to steal the palate, the crisp body broke it up nicely.

Second Course: Gorgonzola and Pear Salad paired with Pumpkin Ale

Why It Worked: The Pumpkin Ale at the downtown Rock Bottom is traditionally brewed with oats to help keep the body in balance without becoming too heavy.  Squash sweetness and spices remain fairly equal.  The salad included sliced almonds that had been cooked in cinnamon and sugar, which really brought out exactly what you're looking for in a pumpkin beer pairing - the sensation of pumpkin pie without the richness.  The spicy arugula provided a peppery compliment to the clove notes in the beer and the sweetness of the malt and pumpkin mellowed out the pungent Gorgonzola.

Third Course: Turkey Pot Pie paired with Terminal Stout

Why It Worked: This was certainly an adventurous pairing.  The Terminal Stout, a big dry-hopped, milk chocolate stout, is not exactly what comes to mind when you think of pot pie.  Then again, neither is serving the pie in a kabocha squash (that's a Japanese pumpkin for our squash-illiterate). After the first taste, it was clear that these two were going to play nicely.  The dryness on the finish, thanks to the dry-hopping, did its anticipated job of cutting through the rich cream in the broth, but without any of the typical citrus or herbal flavors you would expect to accompany the hops.  Just a clean slice through the fat.  The broth was heavily spiced with cloves, and when combining a bit of the kobucha in the broth with the beer, the chocolate notes completed the pairing and transformed the dish into a savory chocolate pumpkin pie.  Unexpected, yet the flavors built on each other in the way you hope to find within new pairings.

Fourth Course: Apple Cranberry Cobbler paired with Winter Wheat

Why It Worked: At first taste, the Winter Wheat was way more candied orange and way less clove and nutmeg than I expected.  Thankfully, the cobbler presented all of the flavors I thought were missing from the beer.  Alone, the cobbler may have bordered on having too much cinnamon and mace, but when mixed with a strong wheat ale, they shared the stage and balanced both items out.  The orange flavors in the beer with the apples and cranberries created flavors similar to cranberry relish / sauce on Thanksgiving day.  I wasn't a huge fan of the beer alone, but the dessert pairing as a whole was a great finish to the meal.

Pairing Lessons:  When in doubt, reach for a Vienna Lager.  It goes with most anything, provided the food isn't too imbalanced.  For pairing a pumpkin beer, remember to think of all aspects of the beer and don't just assume it's pumpkin pie in a bottle.  Most pumpkin beers have real pumpkin in them, which means that should always be in mind when selecting a food pairing.  The spices, while probably the most prominent thing in the beer, should be balanced through the food, while the pumpkin should be coaxed forward.  Dry-hopping atypical beer styles (things that aren't IPAs, Pales, Ambers, etc) can lend the same effects of cutting through fats and other heavy flavors as their hoppy-tasting counterparts, but without the same amount of hop flavor.  Chocolate doesn't have to be relegated to dessert, just ask the Sicilians.  Sometimes if you feel a flavor is missing in a beer, you can make up for it by providing that flavor through food.  Your tongue won't know the difference.

21 November 2011

Seasonal Beer Overload

This time of year is the best for seasonal beers hitting the store shelves. It is my favorite time of the year for many reasons and great seasonal beer is just another thing to look forward to this season. The problem is that they are beers I want to stock up on, but they separate me and my money in an accelerated fashion.  I would say that November and December are my most expensive beer spending months of the year.  Too much awesome beer hits the shelves this time of the year.

Here are some of the beers I always look forward to each year:

Three Floyd's Alpha Klaus Christmas Porter - I love porter and this combines the wonder hop profile that is Three Floyds calling card with a delicious porter base. They do an outstanding job with dark beer and I would love to see a dark beer from them in six pack year round format (i.e. Hells Black Intelligencer).  This beer just hit town last week and will move pretty quickly.

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale - It isn't the holiday season unless I've bought  a six pack of this tasty seasonal IPA.  It just hit Indy a few weeks ago and for the price is an outstanding six pack for the season.

Deschutes - The Abyss Imperial Stout - I traded for a bottle of this beer several years ago and now it is the only beer I buy an entire case of bombers per year.  You can buy it online if you are fast enough, but trading for it is much easier.  It is not available to purchase in Indiana.

The Bruery's Four Calling Birds - I've enjoy this series based on the 12 Day of Christmas.  I usually buy two and drink one now and save one for the vertical.  This just hit Indy as well.

Goose Island Bourbon County Stout - I don't think there is a better bourbon barrel aged beer out there for the money.  This is usually easy to find but last year it was tough to find, and I hope it will stick around a bit this year.  The coffee bourbon county stout should be out soon as well.  This should hopefully hit town in the next few weeks.

Boston Beer Company's (Sam Adams) - Old Fezziwig Winter Warmer - It only comes in the holiday sampler pack, but I buy the 12 pack just for this beer. It isn't really a winter warmer to me, but however you want to categorize it the beer is delicious.  This is out around town right now.

Bell's Expedition Stout - This was the first beer I ever put in my beer cellar.  I don't like this beer fresh, but getting a new sixer of it each year when it comes out is a tradition.  Expedition turns into one of the finest imperial stouts available after a year of age on it.  This is one of the best beers you can buy without any type of shit show associated with trying to find some of it.  Last years batch is still out on the shelves right now and this years batch will be along soon.

Wild Card -

Goose Island King Henry Barleywine - I had this at the festival of barrel aged beers a few weeks ago and thought it was outstanding. Goose Island is having a black Friday event to begin selling the beer, but I hope we see some distribution to Indy.

What seasonal beers do you look forward to drinking?


Pairing gobblers and growlers

As all good Hoosiers know from their grade school days, the Pilgrims set sail on the Mayflower to flee religious oppression. But rarely did the teachers tell their pupils why the Pilgrims, instead of continuing their voyage to Hudson's River, settled at Plymouth Rock… they were running out of beer.

Well, not just beer. But as William Bradford noted in his manuscript "Of Plymouth Plantation" in 1630, "…we could not take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beer…" In short, they were low on supplies. Especially beer.

William Bradford is commonly credited as the founder of the annual American tradition known as Thanksgiving. While there is no conclusive evidence that beer was served at the first Thanksgiving, the chances of it being served are greater than that of wine. This is one of the reasons why beer should be a guest of honor at your Thanksgiving feast.

"As far as pairings are concerned," says Ted Miller, brewer at Brugge Brasserie, "turkey is a relatively neutral protein." A wide variety of beers work with turkey, from a clean and crisp pilsner to a dark and malty dopplebock to a sweet and complex Belgian strong ale.

Saison: A saison is a highly carbonated Belgian ale with fruity and spicy characteristics. "A saison and a turkey sound lovely. Probably is good with Brussels sprouts too," adds Miller. It also contrasts well with yams cooked with brown sugar. When available, Bier Brewery (5133 East 65th St.; www.bierbrewery.com) serves a saison named Farmgirl that is slightly tart, slightly peppery, and slightly sour. When unavailable, many craft beer stores carry bottles of Hennepin, with hints of coriander and giner, from Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY.

Porter: Named for the English laborers that carried luggage and freight at the docks, the porter is an English ale that carries roasty, malty flavors. Often described as having caramel, chocolate, nutty, and biscuity, porters are a versatile style that pair with numerous foods. It pairs with ham and dishes that contain bacon or ham, such as green beans. Porters also work with desserts like pumpkin pie. Pogue's Run Porter is a house beer at Flat 12 Bierwerks (414 N. Dorman St.; www.flat12.me). It has flavors of cocoa, brown sugar, raisins, and dates.

Wheat: Beers brewed with wheat in addition to or instead of malted barley vary widely. In Germany, the Weissbiers have flavors of bread, banana, and clove. In Belgium, the Witbiers finish with crisp notes of citrus and spice (like coriander). And American Wheats have a clean finish and flavor, often making them perfect beer for fruit infusions. At Oaken Barrel (50 N. Airport Parkway, Greenwood; www.oakenbarrel.com), Alabaster (a Belgian Witbier) and Razz-Wheat (a raspberry-infused American Wheat) are available in six packs and growlers. Both beers would work well with salads with dried fruits, fruit salad, and fruit desserts.

Brown: Another beer style from England, Brown ales traditionally have a dry finish and nutty flavors. They pair well with the woody flavors of mushrooms and dishes with mushrooms, such as dressing and gravy. Brown ales are also a good fit for desserts like pecan pie. Earthy and nutty notes can be found in Four Barrel Brown, a year round beer found at Triton Brewing Company (5764 Wheeler Road, Fort Benjamin Harrison; www.tritonbrewing.com).

India Pale Ales: American-versions of India Pale Ales (or IPA's) are infused with hops that impart citrus, floral, or piney aromas and flavors. The flavors and bitterness of this popular beer style can often overpower subtle flavors in foods. But it can work with turkeys that have been smoked, blackened, or flavored with a spice rub or injection. It can also be paired with a meat and cheese appetizer platter. IPA's can be found at many breweries including Three Pints Brewpub (5020 Cambridge Way, Plainfield; www.threepintsbrewpub.com) where they serve Izzy's IPA.

Hoosier Beer Geek wrote this article for the Nov. 17, 2011 Indianapolis Star

18 November 2011

Random Beer Roundup - The Mid November Edition

Happy Anniversary to Tomlinson Tap Room this weekend.  They will be celebrating with a party on Saturday from 2 - 4.  $25.  More info on their Facebook page.

Tonight is Tonic Ball in Fountain Square.  $25 benefits Second Helpings and allows you to see bands on 3 stages (Fountain Square Theatre, White Rabbit Cabaret, and Radio Radio).

Hoosier Beer Calendar
Events are subject to change

From the Brewers
From Skip at Fountain Square Brewing in Fountain Square, Indianapolis:
Our tasting room should be open within the month having all 4 house beers and hopefully 2 seasonals as well….an IPA and Oatmeal Stout.  We will be open Thursday thru Sunday with Sunday being our $5 growler refill day.

From Clay at Sun King Brewery in Indianapolis:

We are releasing Westy, our California Common that was named in honor of our original VW delivery van, this week in the Tasting Room... We also have some Java Mac and Colt's 444 On Tap. 
We brewed a fresh batch of Wee Muckle, our 2011 Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal Winning Scotch Ale, a little over a month ago and will be releasing it in December (Details to come, but we're not releasing it until it's ready). We finally had a hard frost, which sets the sugars in Crab Apples and will allow us to brew this year's version of Malus π, which we'll also release in December. We're also working with Broadway Across America and have crafted the Million Dollar Brewski in honor the upcoming show, The Million Dollar Quartet (which pays homage to the Sun Studio recordings of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis) at the Murat Theater from December 13th - 18th. 
Thanksgiving Week Hours: 
Tuesday: Noon-6:00
Wednesday: Noon-7:00
Thursday/Friday: CLOSED
Saturday: 1:00-4:00

Upcoming Events:
Friday, November 18th
Tonic Ball 2011 Benefiting Second Helpings
Fountain Square Theater, Radio Radio & White Rabbit
Enjoy Live Music and Fresh•Local•Beer

Friday November 18th
John Hiatt Private Concert
Sun King Studio 92
Become a 92.3 VIP for a chance more Info:

Saturday, November 19th
Zipp Cyclocross Race
Lake Sullivan Sports Complex
(Major Taylor Velodrome)
3649 Cold Springs Road
Cyclocross, Food Trucks & Fresh•Local•Beer

Friday, December 2nd
1st Friday at the Harrison Center
1505 N. Delaware St. Indianapolis
Fresh•Local•Beer and Art

Saturday, December 3rd
NUVO Cyclocross Race
Lake Sullivan Sports Complex
(Major Taylor Velodrome)
3649 Cold Springs Road
Cyclocross, Food Trucks & Fresh•Local•Beer

Thursday, December 8th 6-8 p.m.
Sun King, Homespun & Yelp Present:
Yelp's Totally Bazaar at Indy City Market
40 Local Stores and Vendors PLUS Fresh•Local•Beer

Thursday, December 8th
Million Dollar Brewski Tapping at The Rathskeller
Details TBA

From Ryan a Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Co. in Broad Ripple, Indianapolis:

Join us at Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Company on Wednesday nights and have anyone of our amazing beers for only $3.00 for a pint. Currently we are pouring our newest seasonal the Hoggy Style Amber.

From Mike at Triton Brewing Co. in Lawrence:
Triton Brewing Company is tapping it's Gingerbread Brown Ale Wed. 11/23 at 3pm. Growlers are $15 a fill. Take some home for Thanksgiving. Sign up for our "Pint for a Pint Blood Drive" 12/4 at michael@tritonbrewing.com. 1pm-5pm in 15 minute increments. Free pint of beer for a pint of your blood.

Guest Taps:

Alltech Kentucky Bourbon Ale
Oaked Arrogant Bastard
Sun King Grapefruit Jungle
Goose Island Pere Jacques
Harpoon Leviathan
Rivertown Helles Lager
Oaken Barrel Razz Wheat
Founders Dirty Bastard

Check our website www.tritonbrewing.com to find our beers on tap in the area.

From Charles at Upland Brewing Co. in Bloomington/Indianapolis:
Leftover Turkey Trail Run and Novemberfest. Saturday, November 26th, 3-7pm. Eagle's Crest—Eagle Creek Park (Indianapolis) 
A 5k, 10k, and 1 Mile Group Loop (for those that like to take a break and drink a beer while running with friends) followed by an all-inclusive party with food, beer, and live music. More information and registration at http://tinyurl.com/leftoverturkey.
At Bars and Restaurants
From Jordan at Beer Sellar in Castleton:
Upcoming Events 
December 5th - Whiskey, Cigar and Beer Tasting. $15 starts at 7pm 
December 12th - 23rd - 12 Days of Sun King. A new Sun King beer will be tapped each day for 12 days.

From Patrick at Patrick's Kitchen and Drinks in Zionsville:

Here is BIG NEWS!!
Patrick's Kitchen is moving the end of Nov. to 175 South Main Street, Zionsville,and will keep the same phone number of 733-8755.
Same great beers, but this time the place looks like a bar....and for the summer will have outdoor patio seating.
It is currently a bed and breakfast and will remain so, just have us to make the food and sell the beer!!!
Our tap list right now is Founder's Breakfast Stout, Great Divide Hercules double IPA, Breckenridge Small Batch 471 IPA...Sun King Cream Ale and Boulevard Tank 7, a Saison style farmhouse Ale.

From Ryan at Scotty's Brewhouse in Various Locations:

Scotty’s Lakehouse is now pouring Old Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale! Come get it in one of our 24oz Mugs on Thursday night for $4!

Scotty’s Brewhouse Muncie has just tapped their newest rotating tap, Founder’s Backwoods Bastard Ale. Come enjoy this delicious beer by the pint everyday of the week for $5.50.

Scotty’s Brewhouse Downtown is now serving Widmer Borthers Pitch Black IPA!! If you have not tried this amazing beer you should come by and enjoy this on Wednesday nights for $9 for a 48oz pitcher. Come get it while it last.

Scotty’s Brewhouse West Lafayette is now pouring People’s Rail Jumper Stout! A very delicious beer to enjoy this time of year. Stop by on a Thursday night and get a pint for $3.50.
From Kristin at Tomlinson Tap Room in City Market, Indianapolis:
Friday 11/19 ~ First Anniversary Celebration -  2pm-4pm.
($25 gets you tasting food in market and brews along mezzanine...bar open for regular business too!) 
For Carry-out
From Jake at United Package Liquors (SR 135 S) in Greenwood
Thanksgiving Hours: 9am to 7pm at all UPL Locations

New in stock:

Sam Adams The vixen – Chocolate Chili Bock
Sam Adams Tasman Red – IPA
Sam Adams Third Voyage – DIPA
Sam Adams Griffin’s Bow – Oaked Blonde Barley Wine Ale
Founders Breakfast Stout
Founders Backwoods Bastard – Limited Quantities Remaining
Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter – Limited Quantities Remaining
Flying Dog Raging Bitch Belgian IPA – Limited Quantities Remaining
Bells Winter White Ale
Boulder Never Summer Ale
Sierra Nevada Estate
Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Harvest
Great Divide Hibernation Ale
Duchesse De Bourgogne Gift Set with Tasting Glass

From the Distributors/Reps:
From Jen at Cavalier Distribution:
Baladin Noel - Belgian Drak Strong Ale; limited seasonal release; 750ml bottles only
Clipper City Winter Storm - ESB; limited seasonal release; 6 packs and draft
Clipper City Smoke On the Water - Imperial Smoked Porter; limited seasonal release; 22oz bottles only
Clipper City Yule Tide - Belgian Triple Ale; limited seasonal release; 22oz bottles
Corsendonk Christmas - Belgian Strong Dark Ale; limited seasonal release; 750ml bottles and gift packs with a glass
Tyranena Sheep Shagger - Scotch Ale; limited seasonal release; 6 packs and draft
Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs of Christmas - Winter Warmer; limited seasonal release; 6 packs and draft
Affligem Noel - Belgian Strong Dark Ale; limited seasonal release; 750ml bottles only
Berghoff Winter - Winter Bock; limited seasonal release; 6 packs only
Two Brothers Northwind - Imperial Stout; limited seasonal release; 6 packs and draft
Bison Gingerbread Ale - Spiced Holiday Porter; limited seasonal release; 4 packs only
Lakefront Holiday Spice - Spiced Winter Warmer; limited seasonal release; 6 packs only
Lakefront IBA - India Style Black Ale; 220z bottles only
Schneider Nelson Sauvin - Special Edition Bottle Conditioned Weizen Bock; limited release; 750ml bottles only
Dupont Monk's Stout - Dry Roasted Stout; limited winter ale; 750ml bottles only
11/29 - Craft Beer App Launch at Rocky's in Jeffersonville 5pm
12/6 - Birdy's Monthly Beer Tasting ; 6pm-8pm ; $10
12/6 - Stone Special Tapping at Chatham Tap Fishers; (ALL DAY) music starts at 8pm
12/14 - NABC Special Tapping at The Sinking Ship ; 7pm
1/31/2012 - Binkley's Super Founders Bowl Beer Dinner ; Tuesday, 6:30pm ; $75.00, tix at Binkley's