17 January 2012

Unsung Heroes of Indiana Craft Beer - Brown Ales

On January 28, the Brewers of Indiana Guild will stage the fourth annual Winterfest, which will of course feature offerings from Indiana's craft breweries. In honor of Winterfest, we've decided to focus most of our posts this month on Indiana beers.

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 third installment of this series, we reveal our picks from Indiana's brown ales.

Barley Island Dirty Helen. Let's face it - when it comes to picking a beer from the menu, many craft beer aficionados don't immediately go for a brown ale. But brewers would do well to have a well-made brown ale in their beer stable for those times when their patrons want something agreeable and sessionable yet flavorful. Barley Island's award-winning Dirty Helen is just such a brown ale. Back in 2009, we sat down with some very special guests for a roundtable that included Dirty Helen. Here's what our guests had to say about this excellent beer:
Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps: "I like it. It’s a good beer for everybody. Malty for the malt heads. But hoppy enough for hop heads like me. Did you know that hops and marijuana come from the same family?”

U.S. Women's National Soccer Team goalkeeper Hope Solo: "It's not over the top like me, but it is very drinkable with flavors of slightly bitter coffee, caramel, and malt. I could see myself drinking several after one of my matches, where I am the best goalkeeper ever."

Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford: "This dark brown ale had a nose redolent of bread, flowers, and metal (that’s right—metal). It was heavier in hop character than the brown ales I’ve enjoyed in across the pond, but in my opinion, heavy is good. The flavor was a pleasant combination of caramel, chocolate, and malty sweetness. There’s no question that Barley Island is delivering the goods with this beer. I predict that it will become the rage in craft beer circles."

Danzig frontman Glenn Danzig: "Woooaahahh Dirrrrty Helllllen. She's a deep mahogany devil."

Crown Brewing Crown Brown. One criticism we often get is that we don't focus enough on beers and breweries from northern Indiana. We think this criticism is a fair one. And as it so happens, one of our favorite brown ales in the state comes from the Calumet Region. The most sessionable of our brown ale picks at 4.1% ABV, Crown Brewing's Crown Brown is what a good brown ale should be: roasty, malty, a bit chocolaty and nutty, with a hint of caramel, backed by the mild fruitiness and woodiness of Fuggle hops. This is a beer that you'll be reaching for more than once in a sitting. We'd love to see Crown Brown more widely available on draft here in Indianapolis.

Sun King Naptown Brown. Sun King has become the big macher of central Indiana breweries. So a fair question may be whether they indeed make any beers that qualify as unsung heroes. We think so. The lone India brown ale entry in our brown ale picks, Sun King's Naptown Brown is a seasonal brew released each February by the brewery in honor of Indy's own Naptown Roller Girls. It carries an enticing chocolate and molasses sweetness balanced by an aggressive pine hop presence. I can't speak for my fellow Knights of the Beer Roundtable, but I would love to see this beer become one of Sun King's flagship beers.

Unsung Heroes of Indiana Craft Beer - Pale Ales & IPAs
Unsung Heroes of Indiana Craft Beer - Lagers

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