16 May 2012

American Craft Beer Week - Shallo's Annual Spring Tasting

Shallo's Restaurant and bar has been a Southside institution for over thirty years. From the outside, it's unassuming facade hides the beery goodness inside.  Mike and I have frequented this place for as long as we've lived in Indiana and we've enjoyed many of their craft beers.

Along with their usual offerings, they also host a beer tasting twice a year, in the spring and fall. Most recently, they hosted their Spring tasting on Monday evening.  While we checked out the offerings, I had a chance to talk to Paul Zoellner, one of Shallos' owners, and he told me this was his 30th tasting event.  The number of people vary, and Monday's event held around 50 or 60 people.  "I've seen it with as many as 100-110 people," Zoellner said, "but 50-60 seems like a comfortable amount".

This time around, the tasting featured representatives from New Albanian Brewery, Fountain Square Brewery and New Day Meadery, as well as distribution representatives from Cavalier, Monarch, World Class, and Zink.  These folks poured samples of 40+ beers, ciders, and even a couple Bloody Mary mixes.  There was a nice spread of snacks for responsible sipping as well. 

Most of the offerings were served from bottles and cans, along with samples from four of their draft lines.  Draft pours included Zombie Dust, a well loved pale ale from Three Floyds, House of Shandy Traveler, and two brews new to Indiana from St. Louis and the good folks at Urban Chestnut Brewing.  The two beers we'll see around town and the two offered at the tasting were Winged Nut (literally nutty, as it is made with finely milled chestnuts), and Zwickel, an unfiltered German Lager.

A feature of Shallos' tastings is they offer a beer list and a pencil so you can make notes.  It appeared that a majority of people, at least early on, were doing that.  Another perk is a raffle held at the end, where I am pretty sure that everyone in attendance went home with a prize or two (Mike and I picked up Fountain Square Brewing tasting glasses).  There had a wide variety of prizes including t-shirts, beer signs, and beer glasses of all shapes and sizes.

Thanks to Doug, barman extraordinaire, and all at Shallo's for putting on a fun event and for letting us be a part of it!

To end the night, we sampled some tasty test batches from Planetary Brewing (coming soon to Greenwood) and spoke to owner/brewer, Andrew Groves.  Andrew and Doug have been working hard to get everything set up and ready.  Look for them late summer/early fall.

With this being a beer tasting event, I did what I normally do, and took tasting notes:

Urban Chestnut

Urban Chestnut Zwickel - True to Germanic roots. Banana and bread, finishes dry.

Urban Chestnut Winged Nut - Toast and Pretzel nose, followed by burnt unbuttered popcorn. As bad as that sounds, it's actually kind of interesting and worth checking out.

I think Urban Chestnut may find an audience here because they're doing something completely different than anyone in town.  

New Day Meadery

New Day South Cider, Cherry Mead, and Johnny Chapman - Perhaps because I've been so buried in beer, it took my a while to come around on meads and ciders. These were tasty examples.

I think traditional meads and ciders tend to be lacking in the sort of three distinct phases (front, middle, and back) that you find in better beer (and I could be completely wrong here). What I like about what New Day is doing is that they're incorporating craft beer techniques - stuff like dry hopping and barrel aging - into their meads and ciders, giving them completely unique character.

I talked with New Day's Brett Canaday about his process, and he believes that (along with Michigan's B. Nektar) New Day is among the pioneers in the use of these techniques in mead making.

Keep your eyes out of a barrel-aged version of Johnny Chapman.

Fountain Square Brewery

Fountain Square Bigger Nugget - Huge grapefruit nose, middle follows through big on bitter, medium body. Rich flavor reminds you that you're drinking a double IPA, but an easy drinking DIPA, if there is such a thing.

Fountain Square Cranberry Wheat - There's just hint of cranberry on the nose, followed up by light vanilla on front. Then an explosion of cranberry tartness dries out the finish.

I've really liked what the guys at Fountain Square are doing, and have yet to notice any of the usual hiccups that come along with the opening of a new brewery.

New Albanian Brewing Company

New Albanian Tunnel Vision - "Have I not had this?" Immediately likable. A glass of caramel apple popcorn. Lively chouffe yeast finish, and even though this was my third beer of the evening, I immediately knew it would be my favorite. It is a bit rich - a sharing bottle, perhaps.

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