29 May 2008

KOTBR #47 | Yay Belgium

For our latest roundtable, four knights met two friends (Matt and Chris) at the home of Matt (of Matt's Beer Blog fame) for a Belgian Beer Style Blowout. So without further ado, on to the reviews.


So the intent of the latest roundtable with Matt and Chris was to try a variety of Belgian-style beers. By complete accident, all the Belgians we sampled were brewed in America. Unlike the previous roundtable, when we reviewed a selection of Danish brewed beers that were American in style. Going from Europeans-pretending-to-be-Americans to Americans-pretending-to-be-Europeans. Completely accidental, but very poetic nevertheless.

In the spirit of Belgians in America , I will review these beers in the most fabulous of Belgian styles: Smurf

Perdition by Russian River Brewing Co. - This Biere de Garde poured with a light brown color and a light smurfy, sweet smurf. There were hints of toffee and coffee, but a very underwhelming beer, leaving me with not much of anything there but aftertaste. A Peewit of a beer. 2.25 smurfs

Lost Abbey’s Judgment Day - This dark brown beer had smurfed of dark fruit covered in brown sugar. Despite the nice smurf taste, the mouth was left dry after. My final written judgment: smurfy, smurfy smurf time! Dubbel my smurf, so to smurf... 4.0 smurfs

Lost Abbey’s Lost and Found - If you had put this smurf in front of me and I didn’t know it was a quadsmurf, I would have smurfed that it was fresh apple cider from looks alone. It had an extra smurfy fruit fragrance with more fruit smurfiness than Judgement Day. Makes me think of Smurfette. It leaves my mouth very smurfy. 3.75 smurfs

Brewer’s Art Green Peppercorn Tripel - I didn’t know what to expect from the label, but I must say, I was happily surprised by this smurf. The nose was all over the smurfin’ place. But not peppery. It looked like a wheat beer with a big pilsner head. The smurfiest smurfin’ beer I’ve ever seen! It looked like a Snork party in a glass! The flavor matched up with the nose, but in addition, it left a peppery bite on the back of the smurf. La la la la la la, la la la la la! 3.65 smurfs

Southampton Grand Cru - Holy smurf! Super sour smurf! It smells like a Gargamel’s taint; or like after Azrael sprays all over the smurfin’ place. It pours cloudy and dark gold. The taste is a bit tart but also has some carmely, buttersmurffy hits, creating a smurfy flavor that doesn’t match up with the nose at all. No smurfing way! 1.5 smurfs

Unibroue Terrible - I don’t know if any other smurfs will get this, but it smells like a Unibroue beer. Lots of dark fruit and plum. Alcoholly and smurfy. But of the Unibroue beers, I find this Belgian Hefty Smurf Dark Ale to be the smurf. 3.55 smurfs

Three Floyd’s Alpha Kong - This beer is the Papa Smurf of Belgian Hefty Smurf Pale Ales. The nose is smurffy and alcoholly, giving thoughts of Laffy Taffy or Big League Chew. The flavor is also smurffy and chewy. Lots of smurf. It is smurfy and thick. A take your smurf away kind of beer. 4.25 smurfs

Barley Island Sinister Minister - Smurfed down version of Unibroue beer. It may be as sinister as Gargamel, but it is about as successful as his attempt to snack on Smurfs. 2.00 smurfs


In honor of Belgium's World Champion and all around bad-ass bicyclist, Tom Boonen, and his 16 year old girlfriend, Sophie Van Vliet, I present 16 word reviews.

Russian River Perdition - Sweat tea color. Sharp nose. Tight front, light, sour on sides of the tongue. All mouthfeel. 2.74 Mugs

Lost Abbey Judgement Day - Nail polish nose, heavy almost syrupy mouthfeel, full of caramel and grape. Grape plus cough syrup. 3.11 Mugs

Lost Abbey Lost and Found - Lighter nose. Sweet candi sugar and grape notes. Nice bubbly front, light but not lingering mouthfeel. 3.24 Mugs

Brewer's Art Green Peppercorn Tripel - Banana / pepper nose, super-lively mouthfeel, top of mouth taste. Banana plus vanilla custard? Tart or bitter? 4.41 Mugs

Southampton Grand Cru - Funky "off" nose, nose carries into front but dissipates quickly, back creamy, tasty, and yet funky. 3.10 Mugs

Unibroue Terrible - Dark milky-ish color, fruity Unibroue nose, balanced, sweet, about what you'd expect from the Unibroue crew. 3.27 Mugs

Three Floyds Alpha Kong - Apple, banana, nail polish nose. Silky mouthfeel. A really great beer from Indiana's Kings of Brewing. 4.78 Mugs

Barley Island Sinister Minister - Malty, inky nose (yes, nose). Watery, malty. Not particularly "Belgian". Subdued. Hard to follow Alpha King. 2.22 Mugs


Russian River's Perdition – Underwhelming. The flavor and nose were just not there in sufficient abundance to make much of an impression. Kind of like the proportion of German speakers in Belgium, less than one percent of the population, yet is still an official language of the country along with Dutch and French, spoken by 60 and 40 percent of Belgians, respectively. 2.2 mugs

Lost Abbey Judgment Day – This one was reddish brown in color. The nose was full of yeast, but the flavors included plum and black bread, which along with salt is a traditional offering to guests in Russia. The Belgian contingent accompanying Napoleon's Grand Armee into Russia (as Belgium had been conquered and annexed by France as part of the First French Republic) in 1812 found no such hospitality, less that 100,000 of the 700,000 strong invasion force made it out of Russia. 3.2 mugs

Lost Abbey Lost & Found
– This was much spicier than its Lost Abbey brother. The mouthfeel was incredibly smooth and the peppery aftertaste lingered for a while. The persistence of this flavor is reminds me of the persistence of plastics in the environment. A Belgian-American named Leo Baekland invented the first commercially viable plastic in 1907, Bakelite. 3.6 mugs

Green Peppercorn Trippel – The nose was a bit footy, which I found somewhat disconcerting. After I got past that though, I detected some banana and I found that it was really a pretty tasty beer. Again, it had a peppery flavor to it and an effervescent mouthfeel. I was pleasantly surprised by this one, not unlike Timecop, which starred Belgian martial artist Jean-Claude Van Damme and Ron Silver who is not Belgian. 4.1 mugs

Southampton Grand Cru
– I said to my self, "I can't wait to drink this one" when I caught a whiff of the dirty laundry coming off the rim of the glass. The mouthfeel and taste can best be described as sticky and sickly respectively. The stomach lurch brought to my mind images from Belgian anatomist Andreas Vesalius' De humani corporis fabrica. Vesalius was among the first anatomists to contradict the models of Galen and Aristotle. His method of suspending cadavers from a rope to allow him to move them around to see their anatomical structures, and his willingness to examine human remains meant that physicians and surgeon barbers had a more accurate understanding of how things work. 2.0 mugs

Unibroue Terrible – The banana nose and flavor of sweet roasted grain made this a very agreeable beverage. Also agreeable to the small "d" democrat in me is the regrettably brief historical period of the United States of Belgium, which only lasted from January to December of 1790. This effort to modernize the legal and political system came to an end when King Leopold II succeeded his brother Joseph II whose epitaph reads, "Here lies Joseph II, who failed in all he undertook". 3.81 mugs

Three Floyds Alpha Kong
– This beer is a full on assault against sobriety and sanity, a dangerous juggernaut of a beer. It's really sweet and I simultaneously tasted Creme-Savers, caramel, marshmallows, and probably a dozen other flavors that I missed in the hubbub. The flavor and alcohol are huge on this one. Almost as big as the planet itself. A Belgian cartographer named Gerardus Mercator revolutionized the method of showing large portions of the planet while balancing the distortion you get when you flatten out a curved surface. Mercator's model maintains direction and shape over the size of continents, which increase with the distance from the equator. He also devised a method for creating hollow papier-mâché globes, which brought the price down considerably from the wood or gilded brass spheres that had been available until that time. 4.2 mugs

Sinister Minster
– I got a whiff and taste of wheat toast from this one. It also had a nice quick finish. Julius Caesar called the land currently known as Belgium, Gallia Belgica, as it was a northern province of Gaul inhabited by a tribe known as the Belges. He called the Belges the bravest of the Gauls as they lived the closest to Germania and were far away from the rest of the region. 3.88 mugs

* * * * *

KOTBR final averages:

Perdition by Russian River Brewing Co. - 2.40 Mugs
Lost Abbey’s Judgment Day - 3.43 Mugs
Lost Abbey’s Lost and Found - 3.53 Mugs
Brewer’s Art Green Peppercorn Tripel - 4.05 Mugs
Southampton Grand Cru - 2.20 Mugs
Unibroue Terrible - 3.54 Mugs
Three Floyds Alpha Kong - 4.41 Mugs
Barley Island Sinister Minister - 2.70 Mugs

28 May 2008

Guest Post: Rodney Weaver - Rock Bottom Spring Brewer's Dinner 08

Many of you may be familiar with Rodney Weaver and his soon to be wife, Jess, through their regular commenting at Hoosier Beer Geek. Rod and Jess do a bit of beer blogging of their own at the aptly named Rod and Jess' Wedding Blog, from which the following post is syndicated.

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This year's brewer's dinner opened up as a few others have in the past, with an immense number of reservations and a large number of no-shows. That most likely means that the Summer brewer's dinner will likely require a credit card for a reservation. It kind of stinks that people treat reservations for an event like this with such disregard, but such is life. There was still a decent showing with about 30 or so people in attendance.

Spring Brewer's Dinner menu

The menu this year was slightly modified from the menus sent out previously advertising the event. The courses were as follows:

Flank Steak Lettuce Bib Wraps served with Alt Bier
Marinated flank steak grilled to medium rare, topped with almonds, water chestnuts and served with sauteed papaya and coconut cream sauce.

Fresh Fruit Salad served with Belgian Tripel

Grapefruit, mandarin oranges, kiwi and mangos drizzled with tangy honey soy dressing.

Tuna and Salmon Spring Rolls served with Maibock

Fresh Saku tuna and salmon wrapped with sticky rice, pickled ginger, wasabi and sliced carrots. Served with Thai peanut sauce.

Candied Fruit Egg Rolls served with Saison

A succulent fried egg roll stuffed with apples, pineapples, craisins, brown sugar and oats. Served with vanilla ginger ice cream.

A very classy touch compared to the usual brewer's dinners

The decor at brewer's dinners is usually very festival and whimsical, but for whatever reason they decided to make this one a bit nicer. We thought the improved decor was a nice touch. The centerpieces would probably be a nice touch for our mantle.

Flank Steak Lettuce Bib Wraps with Alt Bier

The first course made for a very good appetizer. The medium rare flank steak was marinated in coconut rum and when wrapped with the papaya sauce and carrots inside of the lettuce wrap it paired excellently with the beer. The coconut cream sauce was decadent and very tasty, but it slightly overpowered the beer pairing. The Alt Bier was a great example of the style and was perhaps the best beer of the evening. The flavor profile contained a dominant malt presence with strong chocolate tones, a creamy mouthfeel and accompanying nutty notes. The finish was very light and had a hint of cherry on the back of the tongue. Overall it was a relatively sweet beer and very refreshing. Jerry brewed this style a few months back and both Jess and I agreed this round was noticeably better. When paired with the wraps, the nutty presence was amplified by the grilled beef and the sweet coconut sauce brought out a bitter character.

Fresh Fruit Salad

The second course was somewhat surprising for a brewer's dinner. The salty sweet honey soy dressing did an excellent job contrasting with the fruit while still complementing it greatly. The Belgian Tripel was a 4 month aged version of Jerry's Tripel this past Winter. The beer contained banana, clove and coriander flavors with accents of honey and Granny Smith apple skin. The sweeter fruits in the salad brought out hoppy and wheat characteristics while the more bitter and sour fruits brought out a spicy finish. Jess noted that it tasted a lot like Unibroue's La Fin Du Monde. This dish made me wonder if Unibroue's Ephemere would pair well with kiwi. My initial guess is yes.

Tuna and Salmon Spring Rolls

The main entree of spring rolls really showed off the versatility of the Rock Bottom chefs. We would have never guessed that they could pull of sushi so well. The peanut sauce was real peanut sauce and not the typical peanut butter base you'd normally find at even some Asian-themed restaurants around town. The Maibock was extremely malty and sweet and seemed to have a slightly minty finish, though that could have been brought out by the lingering kiwi flavor on our tongues. The spring rolls brought out spicy notes in the beer and the ginger paired especially well. The peanut was also a nice complement to the sweet, malty character.

Candied Fruit Egg Rolls

Rolls of apple pie! That's exactly what these tasted like. The Saison had an intense banana taste and a very heavy, wheat-like body. There was also a hint of lime that made for a very drinkable beer. After a few bites of the apple pie egg rolls, a matching apple character emerged in the beer and a lactose-like creamy sweetness pulled through.

Overall this was another great beer dinner by the guys at the downtown Rock Bottom. In comparison with other Rock Bottom brewer's dinners, it seemed like the portions were a bit smaller, but the creativity was stepped up a bit. Rock Bottom continues to be one of the best values in town when it comes to beer and food pairings and this dinner did not disappoint. We're going to try to make the north side brewer's dinner in a couple of weeks to see how Liz' pairings compare to Jerry's. We stayed around a bit and talked with Jerry and Iain Wilson of the Orland Park Rock Bottom after the brewer's dinner. Iain pulled our chile beer recipe out of us and said he'd like to try it in a cask up at his location. Watch for his peanut butter beer at this year's Microbrewer's Festival!

27 May 2008

Headed to Rock Bottom tonight? Want to write a beer dinner review?

None of Hoosier Beer Geek's Knights of the Beer Roundtable are headed to tonight's Spring Brewers Dinner at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, but we'd love to hear how it went. If you're planning on attending, and interested in writing a review, we'd love to publish your words and pass on the word to the larger beer public.

If you're up to the challenge, please send us your review (and pictures?) at hoosierbeergeek@gmail.com.

26 May 2008

Beer Run - Kokomo's Brewpubs

Friday night Knights of the Beer Table Kelly, Gina and Mike made a jaunt up to Kokomo to check out the opening of the Brass Monkey Brewpub. While it was certainly too busy for a full HBG review, we did get to sample the beer.

Left to right: Tenacious Apple Tripel, Double Down Brown, Green Tea Pale Ale

Mike, with the Green Tea Pale Ale: On first look I got a sweet but not cloying nose, with hints of green tea ice cream. After sipping a bit the beer seemed to open up to reveal... strawberry milkshake? To be sure I had Gina and Kelly both sample the beer - they didn't pick up the strawberry hints to start with, but after I mentioned it they both saw where I was coming from. A smooth and creamy mouthfeel didn't shake my shake impressions. Thank you, may I please have another. Kelly: "I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE! I DRINK IT UP!"

Gina, with the Tenacious Apple Tripel: Extremely cloudy with a lot of apple-bit goodness floating around. Couldn't think of a good color match, but camel (like the animal) comes to mind. Head was off-white, and not lingering. Mouthfeel seemed lighter than a typical tripel, and with less of an alcohol punch. Enjoyably drinkable.

Kelly, with the Double Down Brown: Notes coming soon...

Notice that the tap handle mounting holes (technical term) continue off into the left of the picture - plenty of room for more beer on tap

A big crowd for opening night

Since we were in Kokomo anyway, we thought it best to also visit Half Moon Restaurant and Brewery on Kokomo's south side.

Despite both Brewpubs being what you might consider "the little guy", Half Moon has the feel of a business looking to grow into the same sort of chain brewpubs as Rock Bottom or Ram in downtown Indianapolis. Everything from the very professional and laminated menus, to the 14 televisions in my direct line of sight, to the furniture seemed to say that this was the sort of place that could grow into something bigger. The only thing that really said "Kokomo" was the names of the beers - particularly the Kokomonster, which I felt had a slight Oreo cookie/chocolate finish. Could have just been the name reminding me of Cookie Monster, though.

A flight of beer: Pre-Prohibition Pilsner, Wildcat Wheat, Stoplight City Red, Old Ben Brown, Elwood's IPA, Cole Porter - plus two bonus beers: the Hefeweisen, and Kokomonster

Shiny laminated beer menu

We shared the flight of beer amongst the three of us, with us each taking in multiple drinks of each in an effort to determine which one stood out above the others enough to be our favorite. In the end, it was a toss up, as each of the beers were quite tasty. We also ate at Half Moon, and were served portions that left us with plenty of food to take home.

So if you've got a free evening or weekend day, and you want to be amazed by the sheer number of chain restaurants and stoplights that one city can have, a trip up to Kokomo's brewpubs is well worth your time. We hope to get back for a full Roundtable sooner than later.

22 May 2008

The Hoosier Beer Geek 6 Pack - Andrew Lewis, Brass Monkey Brewpub

The Hoosier Beer Geek 6 Pack is a feature where we run six questions by the folks behind the scenes at breweries to get a little more insight into what they do and like and how they got their start.

Kokomo, Indiana is becoming another beer hotspot, and so with news that it's about to double its number of brewpubs - and just before their grand opening tomorrow (May 23rd, 4PM) - we've got a little more info from Andrew Lewis at Brass Monkey Brewing Co.

1) Who are you and where do you work?

Andrew Lewis, The Marketplace/Brass Monkey Brewpub

2) What inspired you to start brewing beer? How did you get your start?

I think the main thing that got me going was just a huge appreciation for good beer. I started with a really basic kit I ordered online; I think it was supposed to be a Fat Tire clone. I made it in my kitchen and not only did it taste horrible, but half of the bottles exploded.

3) What's your brewing mission? What are you trying to accomplish with your beer?

My brewing mission is to make unique beers that bring some serious flavor and are still enjoyable to drink. Making something unique is pretty easy to do, all you need is a crazy idea and some unusual ingredients, but that last part is where it gets complicated.

4) Was there a beer that you benchmarked your own against? How did you know your beer was good enough to take to the general public?

I don't tend to look towards just one beer as a benchmark for a style, or I think at best I would just make a good copy of that beer. The first thing I do when coming up with a new recipe is to gather together as many examples of that style as possible. Then I try to pinpoint what it is that I like/dislike about each one. This gives me kind of a starting point for the direction that I want to go in.

5) What beer are you proudest of? Which of your beers is your personal favorite? Why?

The beer that I'm proudest of is the Green Tea Pale Ale. It's got a green tea base and a late kettle addition of grapefruit zest. It goes back to being not only a pretty original idea, but it's also very drinkable.

My favorite beer is Double Down Brown. It's just a very balanced beer with plenty of flavor, my idea of a session beer.

6) Which beers outside of your own do you enjoy? What beer do you wish you came up with? Why?

Bell's, Three Floyd's, Dogfish, Smuttynose, Founders, Hair of the Dog, New Belgium, Dark Horse, Brugge, Barley Island, and tons of others. I tend to be more loyal to certain styles other than specific breweries.

I'd love to be able to say I came up with Three Floyd's Behemoth or Founder's Kentucky Breakfast.

Anything you'd like to add?

Check out brassmonkeybrewing.com.

21 May 2008

Hungry? Thirsty? Well, you're in luck!

A couple of upcoming food and beer events to take note of:

Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, 10 West Washington Street - Downtown, will be hosting a Spring Brewer's Dinner on Tuesday, May 27th at 6:30pm. $35 gets you four beers and four courses:

FRESH FRUIT SALAD with Belgian Wit Ale
CANDIED FRUIT EGG ROLLS with Saison-Belgian Farmhouse Ale

Call (317)681-8180 for reservations.

McCormick & Schmick's, 110 North Illinois Street, will be hosting a Seafood and Beer tasting on June 4th, 2008 from 6:30 to 8pm. A $20 ticket gets you beer and food including:

KING SALMON with Brooklyn Brown Ale
CALAMARI with Bell’s Oberon
CRAWFISH HUSH PUPPIES with Barley Island Barfly IPA
SHRIMP with Three Floyds Gumball Head
AHI TUNA with Spaten Lager
STATE FAIR SCALLOPS with Wabash Valley Hazy Days Wheat

There is LIMITED SEATING available for this event. Please RSVP for this event via email to: ms83@msmg.com or call (317) 631-9500.

16 May 2008

KOTBR #46 | '80s Mikkeller Marathon

For Roundtable #46, all six Knights of the Beer Roundtable, along with our beloved founder and Knight Emeritus Chris, convened at Jim and the Lovely Redhead's place to commemorate the decade of Reagan, Gordon Gekko, Boy George, and parachute pants: the 1980s.

Now you know the reason for the totally awesome, gnarly, and bitchin' Michael-Jackson's-head-on-Michael-Jackson's-body banner (thanks to Mike and his unparalleled webpage design skills).

As part of our '80s soiree, we reviewed seven beers from Danish brewer Mikkeller. Our choice of beers to review was arbitrary, as there is absolutely no connection between the 1980s and Denmark's resident craft brewer. Rather, Jim saw a stunning variety of Mikkeller beers for sale on Kahn's well-stocked shelves and, given Mikkeller's high scores on RateBeer, proposed a Mikkeller review. Everyone said yes, so there you go: an instant Danish beer extravaganza.

Here was the lineup, in the order we drank them:
Here are our reviews. You might view them as a montage, that wonderful stock device used in many '80s movies (cf. The Karate Kid, Top Gun, Vision Quest, Footloose, Flashdance, etc.).


The beers, as seen through the eyes of an '80s college DJ--

Draft Bear. Golden color. Hoppy nose with a weird funk, sort of like sweaty socks. Pine-like IPA flavor. Little malt presence. Hefty and dry all at once. Musical analog: Red Hot Chili Peppers, who liked to don sweat socks in unique ways. 3.25 mugs.

All Others Pale. Coppery orange color. Metallic nose, with a little of the same sweat sock funk that the Draft Bear has. Very dry citrus flavor, with a metallic finish. Too dry and metallic for me. Musical analog: Iron Maiden. I always appreciated their effort, but was never much of a metal fan. 2.95 mugs.

Stateside IPA.
Beautiful orange color. Sweet caramel nose without the strong citrus hop presence that I expected. Flavor is extremely dry, citrusy, and metallic, but with a small amount of malty sweetness in the finish. Musical analog: Bad Brains. Like the godfathers of hardcore punk, this beer has a brutal edge, yet manages to be graceful at the same time. 3.60 mugs.

Jackie Brown.
Root beer coloring. Big coffee nose. A roasted malt, coffee-like taste with a huge hop bite. I'm not used to brown ales this bitter. Musical analog: The Beastie Boys, circa Paul's Boutique. You put on the headphones expecting more of the same party-boy shtick from before (Licensed to Ill), but you get something different and innovative. 3.30 mugs.

Santa's Little Helper 2007.
Dark brown color. Nose reminiscent of bourbon and coffee. Superb dark fruit flavor, with notes of apple, cherry, and bourbon. An exquisite beer, which was well-liked by the group. One of the best beers we've reviewed, in my opinion. Musical analog: The Clash. The Only Band That Mattered was love at first listen for me. This beer was love at first sip. 4.95 mugs.

Big Worse.
Amber color. Bourbon-like nose with a hint of caramel. Sweet, whiskey-like taste, but not as boozy as other barleywines I've had before. I'm not fond of the barelywine style, but I certainly like this one. Musical analog: Culture Club and Hall & Oates (tie). This is music that I should dislike, but I don't. 4.10 mugs.

Dirty motor oil coloring. Nose is quite boozy, like coffee-infused rubbing alcohol (thanks to party guest Sarah for the nose description). Also get a little bit of cherry in the nose. Flavor follows with intense sweetness, cherries, and coffee. On first sip, it's quite obnoxious. Way too much alcohol in the taste. But I let it sit for a bit, then sip again. Mmmmm. That's better. Third sip--mmmmmm. Even better. Fourth sip--wow, this is fantastic! Musical analog: Sonic Youth. Cacophonous music that grows on you. Eventually, you can't get enough of it. 4.70 mugs.


My apologies to the estate of Keith Haring.


Draft Bear -
Cloudy and orange with a giant rocky head. This one smelled like dishwater and tasted weird. But also kinda good. Weird Science - "It's weird Chet. It's really weird Chet." 3.15 Mugs

All Others Pale -
Metallic, funky nose with a little spice in the taste. Friday the 13th - "More beer? More beer." 3.00 Mugs

Stateside IPA -
Translucent orange with no head. A little malt and a little citrus make up this one. Rad - "How about some applause for our rad dude!" 3.25 Mugs

Jackie Brown -
Clear, reddish brown with a small tan head. The nose is a very wonderful coffee smell and the taste is surprisingly hoppy. Ferris Bueller's Day Off - "It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up." 3.45 Mugs

Santa's Little Helper 2007 -
Dark brown with a tan light head. Tastes sweet, but not alcoholic, which could lead to some trouble at 11% ABV. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure - "EXCELLENT!" 4.50 Mugs

Big Worse Barleywine -
A very strong alcohol nose in this brown-orange and slightly cloudy brew. The alcohol is toned down in the taste, but it still has a good, chewy mouthfeel. Top Gun - "Jesus, this guy's good!" 3.55 Mugs

Black -
Has the look of the Triple Bock. Uh-oh. It certainly lives up to its name in color. It's very, very hard to drink in the beginning. But after a few sips and it warms a little, the taste goes from extremely alcoholic (can't really hide the 17.5% alcohol) to wonderfully sweet and delicious. I couldn't drink a lot, but I could definitely handle a little nip every once in a while. Breakfast Club - "Wouldn't I be OUTSTANDING in that capacity?" 4.25 Mugs


Draft Bear:
A cloudy, dark gold beer with a pleasantly light sweet smell, the Draft Bear looks like a draft beer. And with a nice flavor profile that makes me think of an English beer, like a good ESB or maybe an English IPA. At 8%, it has a surprising amount of bite. But of all the beers from Mikkeller, this might be the most approachable of their beers for craft beer newbies, like Norm and Cliff. I would have loved to see Coach or Woody pour one of these at “Cheers” between 1982 and 1993.

By the way, it’s a little known fact that bears actually don’t like bear piss beers, but prefer the hoppier scents and flavors of IPA’s. It makes them think of a pine forest.
3.25 Mugs

All Others Pale:
This orangish colored beer has a fresh, piney hop smell and flavor. I originally thought about the show “Taxi”, which ran from 1978 to 1983. You know, little pine tree air fresheners hanging from the rear view mirror. But the more I think about, the more the orangish color makes me think of that Melmacian native “Alf”, which ran from 1986 to 1990. And, I’m sure that Gordan Shumway would spray his furry self down with pine air freshener to cover up the smell of him snacking on…cat. 2.78 Mugs

Stateside IPA:
Another nice malt/hop balanced IPA. It doesn’t have the IPA hop kick in the nose like you expect from this style, yet it is not overly malted. It has a nice butterscotchy, caramel something to it. So what would be the television equivalent of two opposites coming together in a nice balance? “Bosum Buddies” (1980-1984)? “Perfect Strangers” (1986-1993)? How about “Diff’rent Strokes” (1978-1986), in which case, I propose renaming this beer “State Pen IPA”.

What’choo talkin’ ‘bout, Jason?
3.33 Mugs

Jackie Brown:
This is not your typical brown. It is full of surprises, like a fair amount of bitters. And a strong amount of fresh-roasted coffee in nose and flavor. It’s like being drunk at Starbucks. Or perhaps like Dr. Johnny Fever, whom I imagined was constantly suffering from a hangover while on the air at “WKRP in Cincinnati”, which aired from 1978-1982. That’s why he was always drinking coffee in the studio. Booger. 3.55 Mugs

Santa’s Little Helper:
While sampling this, I imagined that I was drinking a Cherry Coke (which made its national debut in 1985) and scotch. It was spicy with whiskey flavors but sweet with cherry and caramel flavors. It is sure to brighten any dysfunctional family holiday gathering. I’m sure that Nicole Bradford wished she had a stash of this syrupy beer hidden in her room from 1987 through 1990. It certainly would have made tolerating her “Two Dads” more bearable year round. What was Judge Margaret Wilbur thinking?!? 4.67 Mugs

Big Worse Barleywine:
This is a big frickin’ barley wine. Brown sugary bourbon. It is sweet and alcoholly. It is a knock you on your ass beer. It will show you “Who’s the Boss” (1984-1992).

Yes, I know, it’s lame. Both my joke and the show.
4.12 Mugs

This thick beer has no carbonation, and at 17.5% ABV, it is very alcoholly to the point that it smells sanitary. Perhaps they could use this beer to sanitize their instruments at “St. Elsewhere”. But the appeal of this beer makes me think of the “The Cosby Show”, which ran from 1984 to 1992. Why? Because both are very good, both are popular with the Hoosier Beer Geeks, and…there was some reason why I correlated Black beer with the Cosby Show, but it escaped me.

Oh yeah, if you drink enough, you too will start doing that silly ass Bill Cosby dance.
3.87 Mugs


Draft Bear –
Though this is billed as a lager, it has a rather persistent bitter hoppy flavor, cloudy appearance, and alcohol taste that I hadn’t expected. It attempted to be a Transformer of my understanding of what a lager is. Instead, it was more of an aberration, an attempt to tread where others have found success. Not an IPA, not really believable as a Lager. I call it the Go-Bot beer. 3.00 mugs

All Others Pale Ale –
It smelled to me like the ThunderCats’ lair, by which I mean cat pee, of course. As a minion of Mumm-Ra, this smell is anathema to me. I overcame my initial fear to give it a taste and found hoppy bitterness and a clean finish. All the same, the smell reminded me of Lion-O’s fury in battle, of which I have been the recipient many times. I just couldn’t get past that. 2.80 mugs

Stateside IPA –
This was one of my favorites of the evening, or as I like to think of it, Mama’s Family in a glass. The hops this time were both floral and bitter, like the dresses and acerbic humor (respectively) of Thelma Harper. The malt provided a more effective balance on this beer, not unlike the good-natured dopiness of her son Vinton. I even had the good fortune to have a second pour, in which I detected some caramel in the nose. Maybe that could be Vint’s wife, the flirtatious, sweater-off-the-shoulder-wearing Naomi, but this analogy is getting pretty thin, so I think I’ll move on. 3.60 mugs

Jackie Brown –
This was another nicely balanced and complex beer. I found no shortage of flavors and aromas to challenge me both mentally and physically. It reminded me of all the times I wished I could be a contestant on Double Dare. It’s the perfect test of one’s academic and athletic mettle, not to mention one’s tolerance for super sloppiness. When I tasted the brown sugary, hoppy, malty, and coffee flavors I felt like I had indeed won a Huffy bicycle and a telescope for pulling an orange flag out of a giant nose and successfully navigating the giant ant farm. 3.50 mugs

Santa’s Little Helper –
This had an interesting combination of flavors and, surprisingly given the slate so far, none of them was hops. Cherries, apple cider, and whiskey abound, but there was nary a mote of hops to be found. Generally, I like hops in my beers. This time their absence made me appreciate everything else all the more. You don’t have to see or hear Vern to realize that he’s the perfect foil for Ernest P. Worrell. The fact that he’s invisible and mute allows us to appreciate the physical and character driven comedy of Jim Varney. I should know, I’ve seen every Ernest movie ever made. Betcha didn’t know that Ernest went to Africa or joined the Army…Didja?! 4.30 mugs

Big Worse –
I’m not crazy about barleywines, but this one wasn’t programmed to injure me like the most barleywines and the military drones at NOVA Robotics are. This was the Johnny 5 of barleywines. Like all of Johnny’s terrifying hardware such as a laser and ridiculous robot strength, this barleywine has the requisite sweetness and alcohol taste. Where Johnny and Big Worse diverge from the norm is in their true strengths: a hoppy nose, self-awareness, caramel, a sense of humor, bourbon, and fear of disassembly. 3.40 mugs

Black –
Maybe I was just burnt out, a beer too far if you will. I didn’t write down a whole lot about this one. I recall finishing it somewhat reluctantly, unfortunate given my usual liking for imperial stouts. I think of it the same way I think of Big Top Pee-wee. I loved all of his previous adventures, but this one just didn’t work for me. Pee-wee is a farmer? A medicine-tasting stout? Pee-wee is a scientist too? A stout dominated by sweetness? Pee-wee is engaged? WTF? Maybe I’ll give the beer another shot by itself, but Big Top Pee-wee will stay on the shelf. I’m holding out for Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Movie. 3.35 mugs

KOTBR final averages:

Draft Bear - 3.20 mugs
All Others Pale - 2.85 mugs
Stateside IPA - 3.70 mugs
Jackie Brown - 3.48 mugs
Santa's Little Helper 2007 - 4.66 mugs
Big Worse - 3.84 mugs
Black - 4.16 mugs

15 May 2008

KOTBR #45: If saying "Dale" or "Gordon" gives you a chubbie, you are either a fan of NASCAR or Oskar Blues...or both

I had mentioned in my beer diary that I had been gifted some delicious Oskar Blues beers and, being the greedy son-of-a-bitch that I am, kept them for myself. I drank them all. It was dishonorable for a knight.

But I didn't care. I was drunk. And happy.

But then I was able to obtain some more. And this time around, I decided to share with my fellow knights. Hopefully this will make amends for my previous greed. No longer will I feel the shame of being selfish. And some other dramatic phrases that you can fill in for yourself.

On with the reviews...

Dale's Pale Ale

Mike: Cloudy orangey-gold color, with a sweet malty nose, and a hint of fruit. A front-and-back beer - not a lot of middle to the flavor of this. Really smooth, hint o' hops, great balance, and a chewy hop aftertaste. Sweet, balanced, tasty. 3.25 Mugs - probably the highest score I'd give a pale ale.

Jim: Gold-amber color. Bready, biscuity nose with a big-ass citrusy hop back. Taste follows suit. This beer really sticks in the mouth with a strong hop aftertaste. Dry, not malty. Somewhat chewy. Pretty good for an American Pale Ale, but doesn't blow me away. 3.10 mugs.

Gina: Malty and lightly hopped nose turns into a lightly malty and highly hopped flavor that really hangs around in the back of the throat for a while. The persistently dry aftertaste was a downfall, I feel, but the full mouthfeel was pleasant. I thought it was a pretty good Pale Ale. 2.5 mugs.

Jason: I will only add that it had a stronger hop bite than I remembered. And that the smell and taste of the beer doesn't match up. But still good. 3.33 mugs.

Old Chub

Mike: Dark Brown/Red woody sort of color. Nose of straight-up chocolate milk. Front was smoky chocolate milk, a milky mouthfeel on the front. watery on the back, with a nice little kick. Notes say "right between 2% and skim". Not a particularly "big" beer, just really well done and drinkable. This beer would go very quickly at my house. 4.3 Mugs.

Jim: Mahogany color with substantial tan head. Brown sugar/molasses nose (just like the Cannonball Porter). Sugary chocolate flavor. Mouthfeel is surprisingly watery. I've had better Scottish Ales. Still, good quality suds. 3.10 mugs.

Gina: Malty aroma again, but also molasses and chocolate milk? (Thanks, Mike.) There's something about this that I like very much. It's has a little thinner mouthfeel than I might prefer, but I could still drink a lot of this. 3.55 mugs.

Jason: I found this to be sweeter the second time around. The sweetness started upfront, and then made its way all around. It now moves its way up on my Oskar Blues list, beating out Dale's Pale Ale. 3.5 mugs.


Mike: Cloudy copper color with a sweet orange hoppy nose. Jumps the front of the tongue and works middle and back. Nice hop bite - we'd heard this compared to Dogfish Head 90 Minute, but I wouldn't go that far - Gordon doesn't have the fuller mouthfeel of 90 Minute, nor the same balance. 3.92 Mugs.

Jim: Beautiful red coloring. Metallic flowery nose with a citrus/pineapple back. Reminds me a lot of Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, but without the sweet malty finish. Nice, hefty mouthfeel. Not an absolute stunner, but still close to top shelf stuff. 4.00 mugs.

Gina: Flowery, citrusy aroma. This also reminded me of DFH 90 and if we were picking between the two I would go with the latter. 3.75 mugs.

Jason: The sweet, hoppy smell makes me think of Gumballhead's aroma. It is not as malty as DFH90, and I say that as a good thing. The hops were able to come through. Since I like this as much, if not more, than Dogfish Head 90 minute, my score should reflect it: 5 mugs. How about that for throwing the curve?

13 May 2008

Six Pack Interview with Mat Gerdenich of Cavalier Distributing

It's been a while since we got our often imitated/never duplicated "Six Pack Interview" on. Today, it is our friend Mat Gerdenich, whose company is the local distributor for such great beers as Mad Anthony, Warbird, Founder's, and Left Hand.

1) Who are you and where do you work?

Mat Gerdenich - Cavalier Distributing

2) What inspired you to get in the beer business? How did you get started?

There was some consolidation with craft beer distribution a while back in Indiana and some of the beer I liked was no longer available in Indiana. I was basically an unhappy consumer. My brother in law was / is a craft beer distributor in Ohio so I asked him what was going on and it became clear that there was opportunity in Indiana. Here we are now in our 6th year in business.

3) What are your personal and professional missions? What are you trying to accomplish in the beer world?

I am working hard to build a successful small business and doing what I can to quench the craft beer thirst of Hoosiers.

4) When selecting beers to distribute, do you have a beer that you benchmark all the others against? How do you know when a beer is good enough for you to distribute?

No Benchmarks. It has to make sense from a pricing and logistical standpoint. We are constantly asked can you get this beer or that beer. Those questions help to gauge if there is a demand in Indiana. I am very open minded as everyone's pallets are different and sometimes quality and personal taste get confused. I look for a well made beer that I feel will sell.

5) What is your favorite beer that you distribute? What beer line brings you the most pride? Why?

I can be kind of of moody, my favorite depends on what day it is or what I am eating or what season it is. I am proud of all our beer. It has been very rewarding to bring many brands to Indiana and watch them grow as well as take over brands that have not been successful in Indiana in the past and build them into viable brands.

6) What beers outside those you distribute do you enjoy, both domestic and imported? What beers do you wish you were distributing?

I really enjoy Alaskan Smoked Porter and Rodenbach Grand Cru. I would be happy to distribute Dogfish Head and or Bells.

Bonus: Is there anything else you would like us to know about you and your business?
I am really proud to be the only truly independent beer distributor that covers the entire state of Indiana. I like to say that I am the little guy with all the cool stuff. I would like to thank all the Indiana consumers of craft beer as they are the ones fueling our growth. I also would like to thank everyone who is working for Cavalier Distributing or has worked for us in the past as they all have been a big part of getting quality beer out to all of our retail partners.

09 May 2008

R Bistro/Three Floyds beer dinner follow up: Neal from L'Explorateur weighs in

After posting my thoughts on the recent Three Floyd's/R Bistro beer dinner, I left a comment on the blog of Chef Neal Brown of L'Explorateur, seeking out his thoughts on the differences between his Indiana Craft Beer Symposium and the Three Floyds dinner.

Neal was kind enough to weigh in with his thoughts on his blog, Babelfish Tartare. He points out the difficulties in working with a distributor when doing a beer dinner, and gives a nice bit of insight into the whole process. It's easier to appreciate and understand the difficulties in putting together a beer dinner when given some background.

One point Neal makes: "American beers, in my opinion are way to assertive to be very food friendly...Three Floyds being an excellent example."

I'm not sure I agree with him there. Hopefully he can join us for a roundtable sometime, when I think we could prove that American beer has the ability to work just as well as those from out of country.

08 May 2008

KOTBR #44: From the brewery on the Wabash, far away

If I were to ask you what the state song of Indiana is, what would you reply?

Would you start singing that oh so familiar tune that Jim Neighbors sings to start most Indy 500's, "Back Home Again In Indiana"?

You would be wrong. It is the most widely known and popular song about Indiana. But it is not the official state song.
That honor goes to the song "One the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away", written by Paul Dresser. Never heard of it? You're not alone. I only know the name because they forced that information on me in fourth grade.

So that you'll be even more well informed, the chorus goes like this:

Oh, the moonlight's fair tonight along the Wabash,
From the fields there comes the breath of new mown hay.
Through the sycamores the candle lights are gleaming,
On the banks of the Wabash, far away.

Don't ask me how the tune goes, because I don't know.

So you figure that when a new beer brand takes the name "Wabash", and you are from Indiana, perhaps you should sit up and pay attention. Which we did.

We educated you on "Wabash..." the state song. We will now educate you on "Wabash..." the brewery.

Wabash Valley Malt Beverage Company is the other beer brand made in Terre Haute. In fact, it is made in the same brewery as Brugge's line of beers. But don't be mistaken: they are not one in the same. They have 5 beers available. Along with the three that we review below, they also have Limestone Lager and Hazy Days Wheat.

First up is Harvest Amber:
Jim: Amber color (not surprising, given the beer's name). Finger and a half head with soapy lacing. Caramel malt nose. Slightly sweet, caramel malt flavor. Moderate hop presence. A quality session beer, fine for an after work, summertime kick-back. 3.25 mugs.

Mike: Cloudy amber color, thing lacing, a beery-beer nose. The beer has a full flavor and a really nice balance. Smooth, extremely agreeable and drinkable. My first thought was "Fat Tire" minus the off-putting elements. I suspect this is a perfect beer for fans of Fat Tire.

My notes also said "Wouldn't buy this for myself, but would definitely buy for someone new to craft beer." After having one last night with supper, I might just buy it for myself. Great summer beer. 3.13 Mugs.

Matt: Not much head. It is indeed amber in color. Malty, slightly bitter flavor. Very drinkable. Persistent hop taste. 3.5 Mugs.

Jason: It is a standard beer. A good beer to introduce to those new to craft beers. It has a thick, white, bubbly, soapy head. It smells like beer (which sounds weird, but you know what I mean). It has a little sweetness to it with a bit of a hop/bitter aftertaste. It has a bit of a "ting" (a bit of a metallic bite to it). I'm giving it an even 3.0 mugs.

Next up, Gangster Pale Ale:
Jim: Golden color. Macrobrew nose. Hop bitterness, but not huge, with lingering bitter hop aftertaste. Are you Sam Adams in disguise? 2.25 mugs.

Mike: Transparent golden color, ghostly head, lil' lacing. Interesting nose - wet dog/wet carpet, hint of pretzel, hint of fresh vegetables/green beans. Bitter on the back end, but not really "hoppy" so to speak - more drying really. Not particularly bad, just not good. No thanks! 1.75 Mugs.

Matt: Goldish color. Metallic finish. Chemical bitterness. 2 mugs.

Jason: What is that smell? Funk? Corn? Watery flavor and mouthfeel up front with a "suckin' on pennies" sensation int he back. Bitter, but not hoppy. Pales in comparison to other beers (did you catch that play on words? Nevermind.) 1.95 mugs

Finally, Cannonball Porter:

Jim: Dark brown color with thick, tan head. Lots of lacing. Brown sugar/molasses nose. Flavor has a mingling of dark fruit and hickory-smoked barbecue. Very dry. A good beginner's dark beer. 2.5 mugs.

Mike: Dark brown color - red light showed through the glass. Nose of brown sugar - really nice. Lingering but not cloying smoke flavors, light and drinkable. 3.09 Mugs.

Matt: Explosive head. Dark (duh). Roasty molasses flavor. Dry charcoal. 2.8

Jason: A dark beer with a tan thick head. Very bubbly. It smelled of soap, brown sugar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, and plum. It tastes of Worcestershire sauce, smoke, and horseradish. It's not malty sweet, making the package label a liar! But it isn't bad. I'm going with 2.45 mugs.

Final Scores
Harvest Amber: 3.22 Mugs
Gangster Pale Ale: 1.98 Mugs
Cannonball Porter: 2.71 Mugs

07 May 2008

R Bistro/Three Floyds beer dinner versus the First Annual Craft Beer and Fine Food Symposium: Mike's Thoughts

My first thought was to just shut up and enjoy it for what it was. But that wouldn't be me. So I'd like to add a few thoughts on last night's Three Floyds beer dinner at R Bistro (produced with help from World Class Beverages). Hopefully pointing out some weaknesses can be a good thing, and perhaps can serve as a tool for improvement the next time around.

I'd agree that the dinner was very good - it's just that a (perhaps impossible) standard has already been set, and I now know what's possible. Our previous beer dinner at L'Explorateur was so mindblowing that I was left wishing the R Bistro dinner was a little more thought out.

Consider the beers paired with the first three courses - after the aperitif of Gumballhead (which was fine), we had Dreadnaught (big hoppy IPA), Pride and Joy (big hoppy "mild ale"), Alpha King (big hoppy American Pale) - granted, this is Three Floyds, and big hoppy beers are par for the course, but I think a little more variety could have been a good thing.

The courses that succeeded for me were those in which we took a few steps outside of the Three Floyds wheelhouse. The lamb sausage paired with Gorch Fock Munich Helles was surprising in that the light Munich-style beer held it's ground against the lamb, and the Behemoth Barleywine proved to be an equal match to at least one of the cheeses (hint: not the one that tastes like wet dog* or "dirty underwear" (as said by the woman at the table next to us)). Finally, the use of Robert the Bruce against vanilla ice cream and banana cake seemed to be an odd choice - we had figured they were going stout, or perhaps even Alpha Kong for the banana notes - but the ice cream's sweetness did wonders for the beer, and left a hint of coffee on the back on the palate.

In a way, the use of Three Floyds beers paints the parings into a corner. Consider the variety of beer at the meal at L'ex: Frank Boon Geuze, Brugge Black, Krusovice Imperial Czech Lager, Ankle Biter Barleywine from Broad Ripple Brewpub, and Brugge Tripple de Ripple - beers that jump all over the map (the Belgian Map with stops in the Czech Republic and England).

Another concern was the feeling that the chef didn't really seem to have a lot of thought about the beer - and maybe I'm wrong here. But it seemed as though she presented a food menu to the World Class folks and then sort of stepped out of the way. All in all, the meal worked well - but Gina noted that perhaps we were seeing the difference in a beer dinner put together by a distributor versus a beer dinner put together with the help of a brewer. I think she may have a point.

Also worth noting was the crowd last evening. Perhaps I'm assuming, but based on our survey results, I think it's fair to say that this wasn't a Hoosier Beer Geek sort of crowd. First off, many of the folks in attendance seemed to be older than our demographic, and judging from reactions and question, entirely new to craft beer. To introduce those folks to Three Floyds, World Class' Matt Clapseattle painted the story of the reclusive and shy Nick Floyd - a humble brewer slaving away up in Munster, creating world renowned beers and hiding in corners with a hat pulled over his eyes. Though I doubt it was intentional, Matt failed to mention the death metal and tattoos.

While I'm certainly not a food critic, when we left the question I had floating in my head was "would I go back for the food alone?" I think I would. After the dinner at L'Ex, I was ready to kidnap Chef Neil (and staff) and lock him in my kitchen. I think that might say something.

* * * * *

*A taste that still lingers in the memories of my mouth

06 May 2008

R bistro marries Three Floyds - a recap of the beer dinner on Mass Ave.

Tuesday night's dinner at R bistro was a beer dinner featuring a lineup of beers from Three Floyds Brewery.

To start the evening, an aperitif of Gumballhead was enjoyed. After the capacity crowd arrived and was seated, Chef Regina Mehallick and crew devised an amuse bouche of beef tongue. It was spectacular and the texture was reminiscent of a tuna fish. Our Gumballhead was long gone before we got our little bite, but all was good.

Next up was the Dreadnaught paired with a beer-battered shrimp and radish slaw. I felt that the spiciness of the freshly grated horseradish mellowed the Dreadnaught out.

Second course brought a guest recipe from Chris, owner and chef at Goose the Market. His dish of porchetta with giardiniera paired nicely with Pride and Joy Mild Ale. The strong flavors in the vegetables really brought out a citrus in the beer that I didn't notice before.

The third course of Chickpea and vegetable curry paired with Alpha King was the one I was most looking forward to. I was surprised that I got a smoky cedar campfire nose from the beer, something I don't recall from drinking an Alpha King on it's own. The nose wasn't like the bacon beer campfire nose, but something much more pleasant.

Fourth course featured a lamb sausage, mustard mash & sweet onion confiture. The beer paired with this course was the amazingly light Gorch Fock Munich Helles. We were most surprised at how much flavor was packed into this remarkably light beer.

Fifth course was a certainly interesting pairing of Beermat & Uplands Pleasant Ridge cheeses with Behemoth Barleywine. Now I hope that I can get some foodies here to tell me just how a cheese that smells like cat butt can be pleasing, even desirable. I do understand that sometimes it is an acquired taste and I hope someone can shed some light on that for me.

Finally, dessert was a malt beer float (not quite the Cherry Root Blatz that Mike was hoping for, but one even better. Homemade vanilla bean ice cream floated in a glass of Robert the Bruce Scottish Ale. On the side was a very nice banana cake.

Thanks to Chef Regina and crew at R bistro for providing a great meal. Also thanks to Matt and Bob from World Class.

04 May 2008

Photo Recap: Carbonation Day Tasting at Big Car

Once again we had a nice crowd out for our beer tasting at Big Car Gallery in Fountain Square. The sampled beers - Bell's Lager, Bavik Pilsner, Birra Moretti, Zatec Pilsner, Spaten Lager - provide a surprising amount of variation on tastes. A piece of art being shown featured a very loud buzzer, which lead to us doing "shots" every time someone hit the switch.

Probably not the best idea. Anyway...

03 May 2008

Five Great Gateway Beers: The Hoosier Beer Geek Alternative

For someone new to craft beer, advanced topics like styles and ingredients can be a little overwhelming. Even a trip to your local craft beer seller can seem like a test. What's with all the weird beer names? What's the difference between ale and what I normally drink? Where does all this beer come from?

Believe it or not, we're not here to make fun of what you drink - we all started where you're at now. But if you're really looking for a way in, you best bet is to start by just drinking better beer. Here's Hoosier Beer Geek's list of five proven and readily available "gateway" craft beers to make the adjustment as easy as possible:

A Beer Geek alternative to Budweiser, Miller, or Coors:

Brooklyn Lager - If you've tried craft beer before you may have been struck with how different it tastes to the beers you grew up on. With Brooklyn Lager you won't have to worry about that - it's the same Lager style beer you grew up on, except with a fuller, more flavorful taste.

See also: Sam Adams Boston Lager, Sierra Nevada Summerfest, Schlafly American Lager

A Beer Geek alternative to Guinness:

Goose Island Oatmeal Stout - If you're a fan of the roasty flavors of Guinness, other beers in the stout family might be right up your alley.

Goose Island's Oatmeal Stout is a nice second step into the stout family - the same sort of roasty flavors you'll get from a Guinness, with the addition of oatmeal to the beer to give it a little more heft. Don't worry, this isn't the slimy soupy stuff of breakfast - the oatmeal used is (usually) no more that 5% of the total composition of the beer. You'll notice that the beer has more body, but you probably wouldn't know it came from oatmeal if it didn't say so on the label.

See also: Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout, Left Hand Milk Stout, Barley Island Brass Knuckles Oatmeal Stout

A Beer Geek Alternative to Blue Moon:

Bell's Oberon - If you're drinking Blue Moon, you've already made a step towards beers with a hint more spice and fruit flavors. Bell's Oberon is a light and crisp ale with hints of orange and wheat. Oberon is a seasonal beer, available from late March through October, and is a fantastic summer day companion.

See also: Harpoon UFO Hefeweizen, Three Floyd's Gumballhead, Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat, Brugge White (Indiana)

A Beer Geek Alternative to Killian's:

Rogue American Amber - Killian's drinkers have already taken a deliberate step away from the big three American lagers (Bud, Miller, and Coors) toward a beer with a bit more taste. But you can take an even bigger step with Rogue's American Amber - a beer brewed in Oregon. Rogue's beer has even bolder amber flavors, features hints of coffee, and finishes clean and refreshing.

See Also: Bell's Amber, Baltika #4 Dark Beer, Wabash Harvest Amber Ale (Indiana)

A Beer Geek Alternative to Newcastle:

He'Brew Messiah Bold - As with the other beers on this list, Messiah Bold is a fuller flavored beer. You'll experience full balance flavors - fuller roasty malts, a slight hint of nut, chocolate, and caramel, and a little bit of a bitter bite on the back end from the use of hops to balance out the beer.

See Also: Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale, Bluegrass Brewing Company Nut Brown Ale, Avery Ellie's Brown Ale

Final Thoughts:

No one would claim that the beers listed above are the best beers in the world. But craft beer aficionados would claim that they are much better than your everyday brew. By being stylistically familiar to what you currently drink, they can serve as a bridge into the bigger Craft Beer world. Craft beer is about fuller flavors, bigger mouthfeels, and stronger scents. With a proper start we're confident you'll be a craft beer geek in no time.