01 April 2018

Resurrection! Or Welcome to Zombie HBG

Jason writes:
When Hoosier Beer Geek was founded 12 years ago, it was about comradery around a common interest: good beer. What we found was almost a decade of enjoyable shenanigans. When we stopped writing, it was at a time where practically everybody was transitioning, either at work or with personal life. The beer community was transitioning too. Breweries were popping up like dandelions. So were other beer-themed media outlets. And it was difficult for all of us to keep HBG going.

Well, three years after we called it quits, we decided to get the band back together. We are in places where we want to have fun together again and share the fun with you. We thought it appropriate to announce the resurrection of HBG on Easter Sunday. No, we have not become religious fanatics. Feel free to refer to use as Zombie HBG.

Folks, we are undead!

We decided to kick it off by sharing what we would resurrect from the bygone HBG era. And no, I am not suggesting we give the Dr. Frankenstein treatment to our old buddy Chris (rest in peace; also, did we ever find his car?). But I think Mr. Maples would agree that resurrecting Deano’s Vino would have to be top on our list.

When you look at our archived history, Deano’s was practically our clubhouse. It was a quaint, quirky little joint that had a cast of characters like Dean and Nick, with an occasional soundtrack provided by DJ Brian Jones. It was the site of our first anniversary party. We hosted a New Year’s Eve party. They let us be fools and have fun and figure out who we are. It would be great to get back there.

Mike writes:
The folks behind Hoosier Beer Geek always had great ideas, but maybe our best idea was Tailgate for Nothing, a event series inspired by the idea that we could get away with drinking in public if we just acted like we were tailgating.

TFNs were about sharing beer, but they were also about coming up with culinary concoctions and showing them off in front of a collection of strangers (who eventually became friends).

Who could forget TFN1's cod dog experiment? Take cod, make it a hot dog-like shape, fry it, and... ok, it's just a cod sandwich.

TFN2 was titled DIPA Dischord, and we forced a full panel of folks to work through 15+ double IPAs to find the grand champion. I'm sure Three Floyd's won. None of them were cloudy.

TFN3: Tricks and Treats was dedicated to Halloween and hookers, and may have been the first time we had a freeloader show up (but no hookers, oddly enough).

TFN4... I could do this a while, we did a lot of these.

One of the things that I think we can be proud of is that TFN was a great way to meet the future of beer in Indianapolis. TFN3 was attended by Josh Hambright (Central State) and Andrew Castner (Mashcraft) before either of them owned a brewery. TFN4 was attended by Flix Head Brewer Chris Knott. TFN5 was our introduction to a group of homebrewers calling themselves Balls Brewery; You may now know them as the owners of Deviate Brewing. TFN7's title was Weiner Time. We got our introduction to the folks who own Black Acre at a tailgate. We met Ray from an upstart called Indiana City at tailgate. We met Jon Rangel from La Margarita at a tailgate.

And we had beer. Beer from everywhere, and not in the stuffy 1oz bottle-share kind of way, but in a comfortable here-have-some-food and a conversation kind of way.

We made friends, we drank and ate well, we helped the culture along a tiny bit... and we did it at a free event, without any major headaches.

Why'd we ever stop?

Matt writes:
Take me home, United Road
To the place, I belong
To Old Trafford, to see United
Take me home, United Road

As I get older I become more and more aware of how quickly time passes. It's a damn short movie, How'd we ever get here? The great James McMurtry said that. Looking back I can't believe how long we wrote Hoosier Beer Geek. I can't believe how many friends we all made, and how many of those still persist to this day. I can't believe all of the incredible experiences we had, beers we drank, festivals we participated in, laughs we had, and trips we took. I can't believe how long HBG has been dead. Those memories are tied to specific moments in my head and moments in time. They were mostly happy times and times that still mean a great deal to me. Beer was the linchpin, but it was what was happening between all the pints that really means the most to me now. I spent nearly a decade drinking pretty damn well with many of the people that are hopefully reading this, but I've forgotten the individual beers for the most part and am now left with the moments and the memories. I can thank beer for that.

That takes me to a specific moment in time and where I was after I had recently graduated from college and moved to Indianapolis. Just three months before this I spent a decent amount of time in England. After a trip to Old Trafford (the Theater of Dreams where Manchester United plays) I became hooked on the English Premier League and my allegiance to Manchester United had been solidified.

How are these interconnected? Beer, Manchester United, and good memories? A place at 51st and College Avenue that I think about more than I care to admit. I'm talking about Rob N' Jay's Chippy. I can't remember how I heard of it or why I first went into this shop. I imagine it was a Union Jack that peaked my interest. I can still remember the interior vividly. It wasn't the biggest place, but it was very comfortable and I remember the red and white tables. One of the owners is from Manchester and the decor and memorabilia had a very heavy and distinctive Manchester bend to it. I was pretty happy about that. I had found my first place in Indianapolis that I could claim was "mine" so to speak. Three or four TVs were playing football and I ordered fish and chips with a pint of beer. I hadn't even had a bite yet and I knew I was at a place I was going be coming to again and again. At the time in Indianapolis this was really the only place showing EPL or other European football games on a regular basis. We have multiple places now in Indianapolis, but this was it back in 2004. This place was important to me at a very important time. I couldn't get enough of the people there, the food, the football, and the beer. It was my home away from home, and a piece of Indianapolis that endeared me to the city. I thought for sure I was going to work in Indianapolis for just a year or two before bolting to a bigger city after graduation. Along the way I came to love the city of Indianapolis, the people in it, and the experiences I was having here. The very first place that did that for me was Rob N' Jay's Chippy. It may sound silly to wax poetically about a fish shop (seriously the best fish and chips in the city and wasn't even close at the time), but this was so much more than that. It was a relevant experience and one that I am forever thankful for to the folks behind the operation. I'd give about anything for some Shepherd's pie and a pint of Young's Double Chocolate Stout while watching Manchester United again. I think I just want to experience that feeling and that moment again. It's a damn short movie, How'd we ever get here?

Jim writes:
Back in the day, Indianapolis beer-bar owners loved the letter z. There was Hot Shotz on East 96th Street, a place that literally got *too* hot when it suffered a business-ending fire.

Then there was BadaBoomz. BadaBoomz was built on the ashes of downtown Indianapolis's first BW3, nestled on Maryland St. across from the Wild Beaver Saloon. The food wasn't anything special, nor was the space. The draft lines were sometimes not cleaned promptly. The beer was sometimes a little, uh, aged, and not in a good way. The owner was—er, nevermind.

But if you were looking for one of the widest selections of craft beer in Indianapolis in the mid-to-late Aughts, you went to BadaBoomz. Bell's stellar lineup on tap? Check. A place to regularly get Gumballhead and other 3 Floyds classics when they were hard to find elsewhere? Check. Founders beers galore? Check. Rare European beers, especially Belgians? Check. Unpretentious patrons? Check.

On this Easter Sunday/April Fools Day, a day about resurrections and hi-jinx, the ghost of BadaBoomz looms.

Or would that be "loomz"?

08 November 2015

The Norwegian Blue

When Hoosier Beer Geek started in 2006, the beer community lacked a voice for the novices. Founder Chris Maples and I knew there were great beers to be had, but we did not know how to begin our craft beer journey. We had great resources in NUVO’s Rita Kohn and IndianaBeer.com’s Bob Ostrander, but we were looking for someone to join in the journey. We put out a call for others to join us in the Knights of the Beer Roundtable. We had some great friends along the way in Jim, Renee, Kelly, Mike, Gina, Matt E., Rod, Jessica, Chris, Matt R., Kristin, Jake, Meg, and many others who opted to travel with us.

As part of the journey, we reached out to the brewers and publicans that made a living in beer. We found a community of professionals who were passionate about their work and enjoyed that we at Hoosier Beer Geek were passionate about improving the conversation in Indianapolis. Folks like Deano, Bob Mack, Ted Miller, Clay and Dave, Tracy Robertson, Jon Rangel, Justin-Holly-Jordon-Steve, and many others that let us do silly events because it was fun. We did tailgates, breakfasts, tastings, pairings, and parties that didn’t always make sense but almost always made people happy.

We returned the favor by helping the industry with its events. We assisted the Brewers of Indiana Guild launch Winterfest and the Bloomington Craft Beer Festival, and expand the Indiana Microbrewers Festival in Broad Ripple. We brought our own unique skill sets and perspectives to the events and made them better.

But at some point, we were dedicating a lot of time to our hobby. And as anybody that is reading this knows, it is an expensive hobby. We had to either scale back our efforts or ramp up and figure out how to get paid. We opted for the latter.

Making money from social media and internet content is a tricky business. The most common way for websites to make money is through online advertising and sponsorships, but whenever the Hoosier Beer Geek collective approached the subject, we all felt the same way: selling advertising on the website felt dirty. It felt like we were selling out and bamboozling the public. In online advertising, unique views drives the money. We did not want to let the desire to drive up numbers impact how we wrote. Writing for web clicks is a dirty way to be a journalist, if you can call it that. We did not want to cheapen our writing process.

We opted to pursue compensation through two channels: event operations and contract journalism. We convinced the Brewers of Indiana Guild, Sun King, Black Acre, and others to hire us for their beer event management. While I feel that we were successful with everything we did (with one exception that showed me that beer geeks think differently than foodies), we were still a part-time operation. Everybody had their real jobs and family. In spite of the compensation, we were still hobbyists. And while the events grew, we could not. The Guild, at one hundred members, needs someone who can be dedicated to the Guild’s cause. We can’t provide that. They hired an events manager and Hoosier Beer Geek was no longer needed.

We also wrote for the Gannett publications for a while. It was great working with Neal and Amanda, but as craft beer became more mainstream, Gannett needed a writer that could address this new mainstream market in the Gannett way. And if you have seen our writings, you know that our writings are not the Gannett way. The opportunities to write dried up as Gannett hired someone to cover the craft beer beat.

We sought to improve the craft beer community. You can argue what impact we had, but the community is better now than when we started in 2006. But it outgrew Hoosier Beer Geek by leaps and bounds. There are numerous other voices and organizations that are better able to connect with the mainstream audience.  Hoosier Beer Geek has become stubborn in its old age, unwilling to compromise its integrity. And we no longer have the endurance to remain dependable and enthusiastic in the community.

We are no longer proclaiming “I’m not dead yet.” We are instead the Norwegian Blue parrot. We are dead. Bleedin’ demised. Passed on. No more. Ceased to be. Expired and gone on to meet our maker. A stiff. Bereft of life, we rest in peace. We are pushing up the daises. This is an ex-beer blog. 

01 November 2015

Broad Ripple Brewpub's 25th Anniversary

On Saturday, November 14, 2015, Broad Ripple Brewpub will celebrate its 25th anniversary:

The Brewpub celebrates its 25th Anniversary on Saturday, November 14th with music from popular local bands The Upright Willies (3 – 5:30pm) and Gypsy Moonshine (7 – 10pm), kid related activities – face painting etc., 25th Anniversary merchandise giveaways, and lots of one of a kind beers brewed especially for the occasion – two in particular to look out for are the Celebration Ale, an English style Barley Wine, which will be bottled, a first for a Broad Ripple Brewpub beer (and a major collector’s item for craft beer enthusiasts) and Last Day Of Camp, an ale that was created using 25lbs of fermentable grains donated by 25 different Indiana breweries – a truly unique endeavor.

For newcomers to Indianapolis, it is probably hard to believe there were no brewpubs in Indy 25 years ago and other three breweries in the state. The only local brewery was the now defunct Indianapolis Brewing Company. Broad Ripple Brewpub is the ground zero of the current Indiana brewing scene. English expatriate John Hill opened the brewpub after Indiana statutes were changed to allow on-site consumption and sell distribution. The auto repair shop-turned-English pub was the starting point for other Indiana favorites, such as Lafayette Brewing Company, Brugge Brasserie, and Twenty Tap/Twenty Below. And while many breweries require non-compete agreements, John Hill has been active in building the community. He encouraged Ted Miller to open Brugge just a few blocks from the Brewpub so that he could keep an eye on Ted. And he let Kevin Matalucci open Twenty Tap and the basement nanobrewery Twenty Below while still brewing at the Brewpub.

Beyond his own brewery, John launched the Indiana Microbrewers Festival, the original beer festival that operated in the nearby Opti Park and Indianapolis Arts Center until this summer. He has been a champion for craft brewer interests through the creation of the Brewers of Indiana Guild.

It is amazing that Broad Ripple Brewpub has endured over 25 years with little change. From beer to food to décor, the Brewpub has remained consistent in quality and resistant to follow the fads. The Brewpub is the soul of the Indiana brewing industry. Every beer fan should pay homage to Broad Ripple Brewpub and its founder John Hill.