As part of this focus, we thought it would be a good idea to shine the spotlight on Indiana beers that are overlooked or underrated--the unsung heroes of Indiana craft beer, if you will.
Admittedly, our methods in picking these beers were not scientific. Indeed, some of the beers that we'll talk about have won awards, so calling these beers "unsung heroes" might be a bit of a stretch. Moreover, our list is going to focus on only one beer from each Indiana brewery we discuss, and we may have omitted breweries who brew beers worthy of unsung hero status. So leave us a comment noting any beer that you think should have been included in the list.
In our second installment of this series, we reveal our picks from Indiana's pale ales and IPAs.
Broad Ripple Brewpub Lawnmower Pale Ale. Some craft beer aficionados tend to overlook English-style beers because of their mellow flavor profile. But sometimes, an in-your-face hop bomb simply doesn't suit the occasion. Brewed by the granddaddy of Indiana craft breweries, Broad Ripple Brewpub's Lawnmower Pale Ale is an easy-drinking brew that is admittedly tailor-made for those new to drinking craft beer. But if you're looking something sessionable, flavorful, and subtly citrusy, you cannot go wrong with this beer. Perfect for the pub's patio in the July and August heat.
Flat12 Bierwerks Walkabout Pale Ale. This beer originated at the Indiana Microbrewers Festival last summer as part of the ReplicAle program. Under this program, all participating breweries brewed a single-hop pale ale according to the same recipe, but each brewery chose a different hop. For its ReplicAle, Flat12 chose Galaxy hops, a high-alpha hop from Australia--hence, the name "Walkabout." Walkabout was so well-liked that Flat12 decided to brew it again after Winterfest. You'll undoubtedly be seeing more of it around town. We'll have a more detailed write-up on Walkabout soon because we recently reviewed it at a roundtable. For now, know that the citrus and passion fruit notes of this sessionable beer will leave you craving more. We wouldn't be surprised if this beer becomes a local favorite.
Three Floyds Pride & Joy. You may be wondering why a Three Floyds beer is on a list of underrated beers. Doesn't the brewery get enough attention already? Mike recently enjoyed a Pride & Joy on draft at the Tomlinson Tap Room. He explains why we've included this beer as an unsung hero of Indiana craft beer--
While Three Floyds certainly needs no hype, Pride and Joy seems to be an often overlooked selection from their stellar lineup. It's probably no surprise that if you stick your nose in the general vicinity of the beer, a pungent hop aroma jumps out at you. Despite being a "mild ale", the beer has all the big and bold characteristics you'd expect from Three Floyds, but like Gumballhead or Zombie Dust, it rewards the drinking sip after sip, providing full flavor without ever overwhelming the palate.
Pride and Joy slots in between Alpha King and Gumballhead on the IBU scale, and if you're a fan of Floyds in general, the beer won't let you down. I've heard that the bottled version isn't as great - probably due to traffic/freshness if anything - but on tap it's a beer with very few competitors. If Pride and Joy were the only Floyds beer you knew, it would still be worthy of the throne. It's odd to think that the recipe may be 14 years old, and yet the beer is still unique and sort of aggressively yet agreeably great.
While it's hard to call any Floyds beer underrated, Pride and Joy is surely often-forgotten, despite the fact that it's as good or better than many other breweries' flagship beers.
Mad Anthony IPA. When you think of IPAs from Indiana, Mad Anthony is probably not the first beer that comes to mind. Yet we like this beer quite a bit. We tend to think of Mad Anthony IPA as a "workhorse" IPA--steady, dependable, never disappointing. Indeed, it's probably one of the most well-balanced IPAs produced in the state; it toes the line between malty sweetness and citrusy, bitter hoppiness quite nicely. Take it from us: you should not turn your nose up at this beer.
Oaken Barrel Superfly IPA. A 100+ IBU explosion of citrus and pine hop character supported by a toasty and sweet malt backing. What's not to like about this beer? Along with the brewery's Snake Pit Porter (which also could easily be classified as an unsung craft beer hero), Superfly is our go-to beer when we visit Oaken Barrel. If you dig this beer as much as we do, make sure you get a growler before you leave the pub. We've never reviewed Superfly, but that's going to have to change soon.
Rock Bottom College Park Simcoe IPA. Unfortunately, chain brewpubs sometimes get a bad rap. People automatically assume that if it's corporate, it's not worth having. Definitely not so with Rock Bottom. Among the other beers she brews, Rock Bottom College Park's brewmaster Liz Laughlin has a gem with her Simcoe IPA. Yes, we realize that Simcoe IPA is an award-winning beer, so maybe we're cheating by calling it an "unsung hero." And yes, we realize that the beer is a seasonal beer, so its availability is limited and you probably can't get it right now. But we wanted to emphasize that just because it's corporate doesn't necessarily mean that it's not worth having. In other words, you should order this beer when it's on.
Here's what we had to say when we reviewed Simcoe IPA back in 2010:
Mike: A sweet nose with just a hint of candy grapefruit elements gives way to a middle that's lightly woody, piney, and perfectly balanced. The beer finishes chewy and bitter, but with a subtleness that begs for repeated drinking.
Rod: The first thing that jumps out in this IPA, as with most IPAs, is the strong hop bitterness. Strong bitterness, yet moderate for the style. Caramel and sugary sweetness round off the edges of the hops and a soft carbonation level gives it a creamy mouthfeel. Grapefruit and lemon zest are the most prominent, and probably most expected bitter flavors in this beer. Pine and juniper hints give it a pleasantly spicy compliment.
Gina: One whiff of this IPA and I was in heaven. The super strong nose of pine and grapefruit gave way to a sweet, chewy mouthfeel reminiscent of a Double IPA. This beer was big but the flavors playfully remained balanced. There is a line at which hop flavor goes from complex and flavorful to harsh and bitter and this beer seems to walk right up to that line without crossing it. By the time I finished my sip, I was already looking forward to the next.Previously: Unsung Heroes of Indiana Craft Beer - Lagers