30 November 2010

Winterfest 2011 volunteer sign-up

We think you're all pretty cool people, and most of you are probably responsible and reliable too. I bet you'd even be pretty swell volunteers. Here's your heads up that the Winterfest 2011 volunteer registration is open. It's first-come, first-serve, so have at it.


To take care of a couple questions...

Yes, you'll have to work the entire festival.
Yes, you'll have plenty of opportunities to drink while volunteering.
No, you can't get drunk. Well I mean you're physically capable, but we'd urge you to be responsible with your drinking so that you can still help out. And "party starter" is not a volunteer responsibility.
Yes, dinner is provided. For some reason people usually forget to ask about this and just skip straight to whether they can drink.

Even if you don't want to volunteer, we still hope you attend Winterfest 2011 and have a most excellent time! Party on!

Metromix 2010 Local Brewing Guide: Alcatraz Brewing Company

Hoosier Beer Geek worked with Metromix to create their 2010 Local Brewing Guide. It was published in the November 18th issue and we are republishing the interviews we conducted. Enjoy!

Alcatraz Brewing Company, est. 1995
49 W. Maryland Street, Indianapolis
Website: www.AlcatrazBrewing.com
Ph: 317-488-1230

An original Circle Centre Mall tenant, Alcatraz Brewing Company is the third longest operating microbrewery in the Indianapolis area. They are owned by California-based Tavastock Restaurants, which owns over 50 restaurant locations. But despite being a corporate brewery, the beers are the result of local creativity. “To be honest with you, I have pretty much full rein on what I want to do,” says Skip Duvall, head brewer. “I do have to have certain beers on tap, but how they are brewed is up to me. “

Duvall became Alcatraz’s new head brewer in September. But he’s not just new to Alcatraz, but also new to professional brewing. “A little over a year ago, I was sitting at my desk in a corporate sales setting and realized that I hated it. I started talking to Omar [Castrellon, the previous brewmaster at Alcatraz]. After I gave my two week notice, I had an assistant job [with Omar]. I learned from him for about eight months. I moved over to [the Ram] as an assistant for four months. Then Omar’s position opened up.”

A lot has changed at Alcatraz recently. Not only is there a new brewmaster, but also a new general manager, chef, and sous chef. The changes are noticeable with a new menu and a sprucing up of the restaurant. There will be a change to some of the beers, like the Pelican. “We’ll keep the name, but I want to put my stamp on it. [Make it] a hoppier beer that I like, that I want to do. After that, I want to get into the seasonals.”

Other standard beers will remain, like the Rock Bock. “At first, I thought I was going to do away with it,” says Duvall, “but I’ve had too much feedback and I’ve seen how it’s moved; I need to keep the Bock.” Alcatraz is one of the few breweries in Indiana to feature a bock on their regular lineup of beers. Bocks originated in Einbeck, Germany, and are usually a dark lager beer that can have an ABV around 6.5% with a complex, malty flavor and very little hop spice.

Regular Beers (styles in parenthesis): Searchlight Golden Ale (American Light Ale); Weiss Guy Wheat (American Wheat); Pelican Ale (Pale Ale); the Rock Bock; rotating styles of stouts

Seasonals: To be determined; will likely include an amber ale, an India Pale Ale, and winter-style brews.

Events: Quarterly brewers dinners; tapping events.

This Month In Beer Releases - December 2010

The endless variety of limited release and seasonal beers are a huge part of what makes better beer so great. The following are a few releases that we'll have our eyes on in December.


Upland Lambics - If you blink you might miss it - Upland will be taking reservations for their latest - Strawberry Lambic, Blueberry Lambic, Peach Lambic, and Dantalion Dark Wild Ale - at 12:01 AM on Wednesday December 1st at UplandBeer.com.

Bell's Batch 10,000 - The last in Bell's 1000 series, this beer features 101 malts and 60 hops, in homage to Bell's homebrewer roots and end of season "clearing out the homebrewer's pantry".

Sam Adams/Weihenstephan Infinium - This 10.3 percent ABV whopper has been described by Jim Koch as "combining the dry fruitiness of a champagne, the body of a dessert wine and the aromatics of a classic pilsner" and was brewed to Reinheitsgebot rules. Infinium has a really nice bottle as well, perhaps perfect as a Christmas gift?

Sun King Coconut Wee Mac - Not a lot of details on this one yet, but we noticed it on the schedule during a recent visit to Sun King. As fans of Sun King's maltier options, we're looking forward to this new variety of Wee Mac.

You may be the type of beer drinker who casts a bigger net than what's available in just Indiana. The following releases are on our nationwide radar.

Victory Dark Intrigue - What's Intrigue? Victory's Storm King Stout aged in oak barrels that once matured Kentucky bourbon. Although Indiana does have Victory, Dark Intrigue won't make it to our liquor stores.

Deschutes Abyss - We've had quite a bit of experience with Deschutes Abyss, but somehow it's never been officially roundtabled. Deep black, smoky, chocolate, licorice, vanilla - it's all in there. Definitely a beer worth seeking out.

29 November 2010

Metromix 2010 Local Brewing Guide: Broad Ripple Brewpub

Hoosier Beer Geek worked with Metromix to create their 2010 Local Brewing Guide. It was published in the November 18th issue and we are going to republish the interviews we conducted over the next couple of weeks. Enjoy!

Broad Ripple Brewpub, est. 1990
842 E. 65th St., Indianapolis
Website: www.BroadRippleBrewpub.com
Ph: 317-253-2739

When Kevin Matalucci took over as head brewer at the Broad Ripple Brewpub, he had never brewed a beer in his life. He received a five day crash course from departing brewer Ted Miller (now owner and brewer of Brugge Brasserie) and then it was his brewing system to operate. “I have to credit [former Brewpub brewer and current Lafayette Brewing Company owner] Greg Emig,” says Matalucci. “He let me call him once a week with questions.”

It didn’t take long for the Brewpub and Matalucci to create a loyal following of regulars. “For the longest time, we couldn’t keep up with the beer that we were selling over the bar.” But adding more brewing equipment allowed them to keep up with demand. And over the period of a year, Matalucci will brew over 35 different beer styles.

There are six beers on draft at any given time at the Brewpub, and you will find varying styles of ales and lagers. But since it is an English pub, it is not surprising that the house beers are English in style. “The ESB, the IPA, and Porter would be the defining beers of English-style,” Matalucci said. For a more authentic pint of English beer, it is suggested that you try a cask beer.

Draft beer is pressurized, using a light carbon dioxide infusion to force the beer out of a keg or serving tank and through the beer tap. In contrast, a cask beer is served without additional gas pressurization. The Brewpub serves cask beer through two handpulls (also referred to handpumps or a “beer engine”). The handpull uses an airtight piston chamber to mechanically pull the beer from the serving tank through a “sparkler” (which creates a spray, like the end of a garden hose) and into the glass.

“On the handpulls, the sparklers release the aromatics. It gives [the beer] a creaminess from the agitation. We put on some of the dry hopped beers, porters, stouts. Regulars that come in here learn to appreciate [handpulled beers]. I absolutely love the handpulls.”

Regular Beers (styles in parenthesis): ESB (British Extra Special Bitter), IPA (India Pale Ale), Porter, Stout

Seasonals: Over two dozen season and specialty beers each year including Oktoberfest, Pumpkin, Nut Brown, Wee Heavy, Ankle Biter (barleywine), Light Lager, Kolsch, Pilsner, Hefeweizen, Belgian Wheat, a variety of bocks

Upland Lambic Release - Reservations start Dec 1

What's better than Black Friday or Cyber Monday?  The next wave of Lambics will be released in December and reservations start on Wednesday.  Their press release is below...


Charles Stanley
Upland Brewing Co.
350 W. 11th St., Bloomington, IN
(812) 336-2337 ext. 202

Upland Brewing Co. Set to Release Sour Ales

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010
Bloomington, IN

Upland Brewing Co. will release four styles of sour ale this December: Strawberry Lambic, Blueberry Lambic, Peach Lambic, and Dantalion Dark Wild Ale. Reservations for the sours will open at 12:01am Wednesday, December 1st on uplandbeer.com. In the coming days, we will announce on our website how many bottles per style each person may reserve, along with exact dates during which the bottles will be available for pickup at our Bloomington Tap Room.

Upland currently makes nine styles of sour ale. Eight of them are Belgian-style lambics, to which whole fruits are added while the beer is aging in oak casks. The ninth style we produce is Dantalion Dark Wild Ale. Like our lambics, this sour ale is aged for approximately a year-and-a-half in oak casks, but it features a special blend of spices rather than fruit.

And here's a teaser for you: we're also working on a new beer we're referring to as a Sour Reserve. It won't be ready for release this December, but it's something to look forward to in 2011!

For more information about Upland's sour ales, visit uplandbeer.com.

26 November 2010

Random Beer Roundup - The Black Friday Edition

Hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving!

If there is something coming up that is not listed, we would love to hear about it. News, reviews, info, etc., to share for our next Random Beer Roundup can be submitted to hoosierbeergeek@gmail.com. Don't see your favorite craft beer establishment? Let them know you'd like to see them here! Work for an establishment that serves craft beer? We want to hear from you too!

Hoosier Beer Calendar
Events are subject to change

What's Brewing
From Roger at New Albanian Brewing Co. in New Albany:
Bank Street Brewhouse will be closed Friday, open Saturday and Sunday as
usual. The Pizzeria & Public House will observe normal Friday and Saturday
hours (open at 11:00 a.m).

This year, Saturnalia opens on Black Friday (Nov. 26th). A list will be
posted at the web sites and Potable Curmudgeon blog before Friday. The
selections will appear throughout December.

In pre-Christian Rome, Saturnalia was the annual winter solstice
celebration coinciding with the feast days for Saturn (god of sowing and
the harvest), Consus (god of the storage bin) and Opa (goddess of plenty).

Many of our contemporary winter holiday traditions derive from
Saturnalia’s pagan roots, including the hanging of wreaths and garlands,
donations to the needy, prayers for peace, time off work to be enjoyed
with family, and of course eating, drinking and merriment.
NABC pays tribute to these ancient pagan origins with Saturnalia, our
holiday draft celebration. Dozens of special kegs from the USA and around
the world – some rare, some seasonal and others just plain festive – will
be pouring at our NABC Pizzeria & Public House at 3312 Plaza Drive.

When the doors open at 11:00 a.m. on Black Friday, November 26, the first
wave of sacrificial MMIX Saturnalia selections will be tapped in the
traditional, ritualistic manner, and the hedonistic pleasures will begin.
The remaining kegs will be deployed as the days pass, and the revelry is
expected to continue throughout December.
From Andrew at the Ram Brewery in Indianapolis/Fishers:
The RAM is tapping a new seasonal, Blue Pride German Pilsner, for your holiday enjoyment! Blue Pride Pilsner gives us a chance to recognize the great offerings that our German forefathers have contributed to the brewing world over hundreds of years. With the finest German Pilsner malt and balanced noble hopping, this premium lager sings out with great, balanced, and easy-drinking flavor. While you are celebrating Thanksgiving, don’t forget to thank the revolutionary brewers that have delivered us to where we are today.

On Sale Now – Both the Fishers and Downtown locations are currently selling a Limited Edition 1 Gallon Growlers to celebrate the RAM’s upcoming 40th anniversary. These unique collectable jugs are going fast, so stop in very soon.

December 1st – Mug Club memberships for 2011 will be available for purchase starting 12/1/2010. Be sure to re-up your membership and tell a friend what a great deal it is to be a part of the RAM Mug Club!

On Tap Now – Downtown and Fishers
Aries American Wheat – Light and citrusy
NUTorious Brown Ale – Deep, dark malt with a strong kick of American Citrus hops
S’no Angel Weizenbock – Rich, bready malt with hints of clove and dark fruit
Blue Pride Pilsner – Traditional German Lager

As always, thanks and see you soon.

At the Bar
From Patrick at Patrick's Kitchen and Drinks in Zionsville:
Hello to the beer world.
We currently are pouring Old Rasputin on Nitro, BBC Pale with fresh hops, Left Hand Warrior...also a fresh hop IPA..., the last of the Dreadnaught will go today, and we are replacing it with Sun King Batch 222 Warrior Princess...The wonderful Bell's Amber is available for those of you who crave something more normal, and forthe record, in the cooler we have a keg of Flying Dog Double Dog Pale, and a keg of Sun King Popcorn Pils.
Happy Days!

Carry Out

From Jeremy at Big Red Liquors (E. 3rd St.) in Bloomington:
New in this week:

*Boulevard Double-Wide IPA

*Bells Winter White Ale & Christmas Ale

*Dogfish Head & Three Floyds collaboration
*Limited Availability!

Celebrate Thanksgiving with Sam Adams
-All packages now on sale!

*Great price on Samuel Smith 18.7oz btls

Need the perfect glass for that perfect pint?
*All beer glassware is now Buy 1 Get 1 1/2 price (equal or lesser value)

From Todd at Keg Liquors in Clarksville:

Here is the latest from Keg Liquors in Clarksville:

25 November 2010

24 November 2010

HBG Classics: KOTBR #92 - Knights of the Thanksgiving Table 2

One of the things we're very thankful here at Hoosier Beer Geek is the fact that we've been able to gather for the past two years to celebrate our very own post-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving Dinner, in which we roll out our most Thanksgiving-like beer pairings, in an effort to remind Jason that it's still not Christmas - even if his lights have been up for a month already.

Yesterday we ran our recap from Thanksgiving 2008, and Sunday we'll gather together once again to eat, drink, and create the content for for our next Thanksgiving KOTBR. Today's classic roundtable comes from way back in 2009.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, and thanks for reading Hoosier Beer Geek.

Similar to last year, we decided to have a big Thanksgiving get-together complete with craft beer pairings. This year we decided to brine the turkey in a beer-based brine, using a bunch of old homebrew Kolsch. We also went with a redeye gravy that featured Dogfish Head Chicory Stout instead of coffee. The Bruery's offerings were an ideal choice since they are both new to Indiana and feature a number of spiced and Belgian style beers.

Over the course of my HBG/KOTBR career my appreciation for certain styles of beer has developed in strange ways. Lately I'll find that before really falling in love with a style, I first fall in love with the idea of the style.

For example, ever since we participated in our beer and cheese pairing with the folks at Goose the Market (thanks again, Gabe - we're thinking about you) and a reintroduction to beer from Brasserie DuPont, I've grown to love the idea of saison - the light, tight and refreshing farmhouse ale from the south of Belgium. To be fair, I'm in love with the idea of anything Belgian right now - from Eddy Merckx and the spring classics to bad weather and waffles. The love of ideas can be dangerous - often times the final result or product behind that love fails to live up to the hype.

Perhaps that's why The Bruery's Saison Rue was so pleasing - a light flowery nose, a subtle front and then a full flowery fruit finish were exactly what I had in mind. The light mouthfeel and delicate balance of flavors throughout were good enough to put this near the top of my list of favorite saisons. 4.20 Mugs

After meeting my expectations perfectly with the first round, The Bruery's Autumn Maple was a sort of let-down. The description reads as follows:
Brewed with 17 lbs. of yams per barrel (in other words, a lot of yams!), this autumn seasonal is a different take on the “pumpkin” beer style. Brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, molasses, and maple syrup, and fermented with our traditional Belgian yeast strain, this bold and spicy beer is perfect on a cold autumn evening.
With all of that going on, my expectations were extremely high - I was hoping for a sort of sweet potato superbeer. Instead what I got was a similar pumpkin beer nose - spicy cinnamon and red-hot candies, followed by a heavier-handed pumpkin-ish flavor. Had I just expected a pumpkin beer (and had I not looked all over town before I found the beer (at PartiPak)), my rating might be higher. A lovely pumpkin beer - but not what I had hoped for. 3.24 Mugs

Our final Bruery beer of the evening was Two Turtle Doves - a beer obviously meant for the Christmas season. Notes of licorice and chocolate came from the nose, but upon first sipping my thoughts immediately turned to tobacco. Warming and yet balanced, earthy and slightly fruity - it's a beer that might benefit from age - or it might be perfect right now. In either case, it's one that I think I'd enjoy. 4.20 Mugs

Giving thanks for...

...things spicy and peppery. Big and bold and spiced. Like the pepper bacon in the brussel sprouts dish that Mike and Gina brought. When I tried the Saison Rue, I thought maybe I still had some pepper in my mouth. Nope, that's just the way this golden slightly sour beer rolls. 3.49 mugs.

...things sweet and starchy. Sweet potatoes are a must have at my Thanksgiving table. My grandmother fries sliced sweet potatoes in butter and brown sugar. So really, the potatoes are just a vessel to carry other flavors. Much like the Autumn Maple. The sweet potato beer (think pumpkin beer) is best used for carrying the sweet flavor of maple syrup. I think this copper colored beer with a filmy mouthfeel needed another shot of maple syrup. 3.24 mugs.

...things dark and hot. Like hot chocolate that has been "Irished up". Two Turtle Doves offers a beer of spiked hot cocoa. It is dark like coffee and has a dark chocolate nose, but isn't overwhelmed with chocolate flavor. Because of its high ABV, this beer is very "hot", perfect to take along while wassailing this yuletide season. 3.95 mugs.

I had been cooking and baking for the past two days prior to this event, so I was a bit out of it before our little get together. Don't take that wrong; I'm not complaining. I actually volunteered our house to host and I do a huge Thanksgiving meal for Jess and me every year because I love cooking that much. But two full days really takes it out of you. I hope my notes are coherent...

Saison Rue
Basic saison style nose with brett, lemon and a hint of spice (perhaps cinnamon?). This is actually a very good example of the Saison style. It begins fairly light and champagne-like with slightly sour notes and a bit of lemon. A lot of spices are present, such as sage, coriander and black pepper. Saisons, including this one, typically finish dry which make them excellent for pairing with food.

Pairs well with turkey and stuffing.
4.0 mugs

Autumn Maple
Fruity and sugary up front with a lot of cinnamon. Although the more I think about this, the more it makes sense; this beer really tastes like a good pumpkin beer. Notes of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and maple syrup all round out a solid pumpkin or butternut squash style sweetness.

Pairs well with sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie (kind of obvious).
3.8 mugs

2 Turtle Doves
Not a lot going on in the nose besides cocoa and molasses. I get the impression of spicy imperial stout up front and the beer definitely follows through. Lots of dark chocolate, molasses, honey and bourbon. The strong roasted malts almost have a burnt marshmallow-style carcinogen character. I'm also getting some cherries in here but I'm not sure why. After I read the description on the bottle I started to pick out some toasted nut flavors as well. I would like another bottle of this to lay down for their Vertical Epic-style aging experiment.

Pairs with most desserts rich in cream, butter and chocolate.
4.1 mugs

I'm the backup when Rodney is in the kitchen so my notes are a little less discombobulated. I have a sweet gig going here; he makes the food and I get to eat it. That does mean I get to clean all the dishes though so maybe he has the sweet gig of making a mess and I clean it up?

Saison Rue
Mr. Rue pours out cloudy and dark golden with a contrasting stark white head. The nose on this bad boy is very lemony and when I take a sip I get lemon and brett in the first taste. On second taste I let it roll around my mouth a little more and I get maple syrup and just a hint of roast beef. I think I need to give more Saisons a chance but they all end up tasting like either meat or flowers. I give this 3 mugs.

Autumn Maple
This was the one of the three that I was most excited for as I love all things sweet potato. I don't know what I was expecting though because it just ended up tasting like a pumpkin ale. It poured out looking like very thin maple syrup and had a very spicy, orange peel nose. The flavor there was a very sugary pumpkin pie. Almost tasted like candied pumpkin. I'd drink it again for sure though, giving it 4 mugs.

2 Turtle Doves
This pours very dark and thick with very little head and lots of oomph. It's not as thick as Dark Lord but has a lot of the similar notes. I get a LOT of booze on the back end of this and it would definitely stand up to some aging. I made the comment that it was like someone mixed Dark Lord with cherry cough syrup. Lots of nutty chocolate notes but also a hint of cherry syrup. I'd give it 3.6 mugs only because of how boozy it was.

Overall Mug Scores
The Bruery Saison Rue: 3.67 mugs
The Bruery Autumn Maple: 3.57 mugs
The Bruery 2 Turtle Doves: 3.96 mugs

Special Request Updates: Bier Brewery and Tomlinson Tap Room Grand Openings

Just got a direct twitter message demanding that I post the tap list for Tomlinson's opening this evening. You only get one, Ms. Crook...

Tonight it one of the biggest drinking nights on the calendar, so it's only fitting that today marks the grand openings of Indianapolis' newest brewery and Indianapolis' newest craft beer bar. Get out there, people! Celebrate our growing beer culture!

Bier Brewery and Taproom
5133 East 65th Street
Between Allisonville Rd and Binford Blvd. on the south side of 65th Street
From their website, twitter, and various other sources):

Bier will be open Wednesday before Turkeyday from 3-7pm.
We will have 7 different biers on tap:
Pale, Belgian Blonde, German Wheat, Kolsch, Brown, Porter, Oatmeal Stout

More about Bier Brewery at BrewIndy.com

Tomlinson Tap Room
Indianapolis City Market Main Hall Upstairs (Southwest Corner)
Wednesday-Friday: Noon - 8:00pm-ish
Saturday: 11:00am - 5:00pm-ish
Closed Sunday - Tuesday (available for private events)


Name of Beer, Location

Ram S’no angel Weizenbock, Indianapolis
Mad Anthony Gabby Blonde, Fort Wayne
Three Floyds Aeotearoa, Munster
Lafayette Brewing Tippecanoe Common, Lafayette
Big Woods Brewing Busted Knuckle, Nashville
Sun King/Broad Ripple Brewpub Sun Ripple ESB, Indianapolis
Brugge Triple de Ripple, Indianapolis
Upland Komodo Dragonfly Black IPA, Bloomington
Oaken Barrel Indiana Amber, Greenwood
Barley Island Dirty Helen, Noblesville
Broad Ripple Brewpub ESB, Indianapolis
New Albanian Hoptimus, New Albany
Crown Brewing Brown, Crown Point
Rock Bottom College Park Blitzen Black IPA, Indianapolis
Power House Diesel Oil Stout, Columbus
People's Pilsner, West Lafayette

23 November 2010

HBG Classics: KOTBR #62 - A Very Special Hoosier Beer Geek Thanksgiving Roundtable

One of the things we're very thankful here at Hoosier Beer Geek is the fact that we've been able to gather for the past two years to celebrate our very own post-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving Dinner, in which we roll out our most Thanksgiving-like beer pairings, in an effort to remind Jason that it's still not Christmas - even if his lights have been up for a month already.

Tomorrow we'll run another recap of Thanksgiving from 2009, and Sunday we'll gather together once again to eat, drink, and create the content for for our next Thanksgiving KOTBR. Today's classic roundtable comes from way back in 2008.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, and thanks for reading Hoosier Beer Geek.

A while back Matt R. (I think) made a suggestion that we might want to try doing a Thanksgiving beer pairing, complete with courses and beers to match each. We all agreed that that sounded like a good idea, and we laid out a menu of traditional Thanksgiving foods - carrot ginger soup, turkey, sweet potato pie, sweet potato casserole, cranberry relish, cranberry sauce, stuffing, green beer casserole, corn casserole, rolls, pumpkin pie..

One thing I learned from the Turtle/Rabbit/Squirrel beer paring was to not overdo it - but a full cast of Knights (short Jim - who is a Jewish Vegetarian Lawyer (and those people are weird)) meant that if anything, there would be more than enough beer.

Because coordinating a write-up between a cast of nine is usually a trainwreck, I laid down one rule: No one leaves until we're gotten everything written up. While doling out responsibilities, the question was asked: "Are we reviewing the parings? The beer? The spirit of Thanksgiving?" "Yes, Rod, we're reviewing the spirit of Thanksgiving." What follows is out of order in more ways than one. And so..

The Spirit of Thanksgiving

Once every year, the ghost of Jesus rises from the dead to feast on the souls of the living. Every year we survive this atrocity, we celebrate our safety for another year through the holiday of Thanksgiving.

Back to Mike: When we decided to do a Thanksgiving pairing, I immediately turned to Garrett Oliver's The Brewmaster's Table for turkey pairings, and came across two full paragraphs expounding upon the virtues of Biere de Garde and Thanksgiving foods. A sample:
The French have yet to discover this food match, so let me be the one to tell you - biere de garde is brilliant with turkey. And not just with turkey - it is also brilliant with the turnips, the stuffing, the cranberry sauce, the potatoes, the whole darned thing.
That's a fairly convincing argument, right?

Schlafly Biere de Garde

We probably served this beer a little too cold to start. The bottle specifically says cellar temperature ("51-55 degrees F") and we served it straight out of the fridge. Later samples definitely showed a bit more fruitiness. Not that that necessarily would have helped with the Thanksgiving meal pairings.

As for specific pairings, I thought the beer went particularly well with the green bean casserole. It was more of a contrasting pairing as opposed to a complimentary pairing. The fruitiness was interesting counterpoint to a dish full of green beans and mushrooms, though the caramelized onions linked up perfectly with the caramel malt flavors in the beer.

Mike: 3.5
Gina: 3.5
Rod: 3.47
Jess: 2.8
Chris: 3.3
Matt R: 3.8
Matt E: 3.0
Kelly: 2.0
Jason: 2.5

Schlafly Biere de Garde Average: 3.09 Mugs

Troegenator Doublebock - Troegs Craft Brewery

The nose starts out with a bit of a raisin sourness with chocolate and caramel toffee notes. It has a nice dark caramel color that resembles caramel ice cream topping. Taking a sip of this 8.2% ABV brew is a bit misleading as it warms the palate and tends to meander through the malt sweetness. As it warms to room temperature you tend to taste the lightly toasted caramel malt and it balances out. For being a fairly boozy brew, this has a great balance to misrepresent the ABV.

In regard to our Thanksgiving pairings, this worked really well with the sweet potato pie. It brought out the maple syrup notes and complimented the toasted pecans on the top. There is a great pairing with the oyster stuffing with bits of salty mushrooms and the malty sweetness of the beer. Overall, this works quite well with the majority of dishes for the Thanksgiving meal.

Matt R: 4.0
Chris: 3.1
Rod: 4.1
Jess: 4.2
Matt E: 3.75
Jason: 3.66
Kelly: 3.8
Gina: 3.3
Mike: 3.5

Troegenator Doublebock Average: 3.71 Mugs

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron

This is supposed to be a brown? We picked up a black liquorish nose, with hints of vanilla, smokeless tobacco, bourbony alcohol, soy sauce, molasses, and almond extract. A deep black/purple/marron-maroon color filled the glass and left no lacing. This is an all out beer, with little in the way of subtlety. Black liquorish, sassafras, molasses, some cough medicine I had and hated as a kid (someone else said Dimetapp, bourbon, and toasted wood all came to play.

We all agreed that this beer would be interesting with some age on it, but would it be good?

Mike: 3.0
Gina: 2.1
Matt. E: 2.175
Matt R: 2.0
Jason: 2.5
Jess: 3.1
Chris: 3.1
Kelly: 1.7
Rod: 3.8 (Who also noted: "You guys are jerks. If this was aged, (my score) would be even higher)

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron Average: 2.60 Mugs

Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar

Jason brought out this beer and it wasn't really paired with anything, but just went along nicely in between dinner and dessert. Is that a new meal time? Rouge's take on the brown ale adds some nutty complexity with the traditional brown ale base. The mouthfeel is a little lacking in carbonation, but it still cleared the way for pumpkin pie quite nicely. This is beer is neither offensive or something to really write home about, but it is of good quality and worth your time.

Jason: 3.5
Matt R: 2.5
Matt E: 3.6
Kelly: 2.5
Gina: 2.3
Jess: 3.75
Rodney: 3.2
Mike: 2.0
Chris: 2.6

Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar Average: 2.88 Mugs

Sorachi IPA

For lack of a Left Hand Juju Ginger, we paired the carrot ginger soup with Chris' homebrew Sorachi IPA. Named after the Sorachi Ace hops, this IPA carried a very refreshing lemon flavor. Citrus and pine filled out the background but this IPA was noticeably lighter than others, while maintaining a very prominent bitterness. When paired with the ginger and black pepper flavors of the soup, a very floral character emerged and created a chamomile and heather flavor profile which blended nicely with the soup. The finish was a bit overpowering, as the hops quickly cleansed the palette of creamy squash and carrot. I think the lesson that we learned here is a citrus pale ale with a bit of a floral character would be a good pairing for ginger spiced squash or carrots.

Ps. Thanks to the folks at Goose the Market for their great brining instructional video and for all their help with the bird. Even I managed to make an tasty and tender turkey, which is no small feat.

22 November 2010

Rock, Scissors, Paper . . . Figure Eight

We at Hoosier Beer Geek tend to focus our coverage on central Indiana. But craft beer lovers in this state know well that the northwest corner of Indiana has exceptional breweries, including Three Floyds, Crown, Shoreline, and Backroad.

Valparaiso, my hometown, is home to the newest addition to northwest Indiana’s craft brewery roster: Figure Eight Brewing. Located just outside of downtown Valpo in a small strip mall, Figure Eight is owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Tom and Lynne Uban. Tom is Figure Eight’s brewmaster; he’s also a software engineer and consultant by trade who spent time working as a pinball machine programmer with Williams Electronic Games in Chicago. A homebrewer since the mid-80s, Tom’s inspiration to open a commercial brewery came in part when a friend of his opened a microdistillery in Colorado. And after visiting Backroad Brewery in nearby LaPorte to get a close-up view of how a commercial brewery works, Tom finally decided to open Figure Eight.

Figure Eight is a small but impressive operation. Tom brews on a seven-barrel system, and the brewery has a tasting room that seats about 16 to 20 people. He’s also a rock-climbing enthusiast; this passion serves as the main theme for the brewery. A rock-climbing course scales one wall near the brewery entrance, leading from the floor to a storage area on the balcony. A rock-climbing axe whimsically serves as the toilet paper holder in the restroom. And the names for Figure Eight’s beers are all related to rock climbing. For instance, Figure Eight’s flagship beer, Ro Shampo, is named for a rock-climbing route in Kentucky that somehow got tagged with a misinterpretation of the name for the rock-scissors-paper game (actually called Rochambeau). Graphic artist Greg Freres, who Tom worked with at Williams Electronics and who Tom hired to do the brewery’s graphics, used rock-scissors-paper as an inspiration for label and artwork design. Freres’ work generated Figure Eight’s unofficial mascots: the chimps that appear on some of the brewery’s merchandise.

I visited Figure Eight on a Saturday afternoon, bringing my mom along so I could get a non-beer geek’s perspective on Figure Eight’s beers. We arrived when the tasting room opened at 1 p.m. Soon thereafter, the tasting room was full of patrons. They lined up at the Dutch door which functions as the brewery’s serving station, keeping Lynne busy at the taps, where she doled out pints, growlers, and sampler flights.

After my mom and I settled in at a table (complete with complementary pretzels for palate cleansing), we ordered a sampler flight. Lynne quickly brought us our flight, which consisted of nine samples. The only beer missing from the flight was Figure Eight’s nut brown ale, Camp 4, which had recently run out. The rest are listed below in the order in which we tasted them:

First Ascent (4% ABV). Figure Eight describes this beer as a “Belgian Honey Lager.” Crisp, clean, and slightly lemony, First Ascent possesses the “clover nose” described in the brewery’s tasting notes. As a fan of good lagers, I enjoyed this beer very much. It proved to be a good beer with which to lead off.

Crash Test Blonde (6% ABV). This is a Belgian-style Blonde Ale brewed with candi sugar and noble hops. It’s a bit floral and grassy and is pleasantly sweet. This beer earned Mom’s seal of approval, primarily due to her sweet tooth. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree because I quite enjoyed Crash Test Blonde too.

Where Lizards Dare (4% ABV). This is Figure Eight’s IPA. It is very flavorful yet blessedly sessionable. Centennial and Cascade hops produce a flowery and piny nose backed by an almost bone-dry flavor. The beer is bitter, but not so bitter that it prevents a multiple-pint sitting. I’m pretty sure that Where Lizards Dare would make our man-in-search-of-good-session-beer Matt very happy. As Matt has noted, standout session beers are hard to come by. Where Lizards Dare was a standout, so I ordered a pint after we finished our flight.

Harvest Ale #1 (7% ABV). This is the brewery’s wet hopped ale (we’re talking Cascade hops). I’m accustomed to harvest ales coming in the pale ale or IPA style, but Harvest Ale #1 is an ESB. This was a pleasant surprise and served as a great example of Tom’s innovative deviation from brewing convention. The result is a copper-colored brew with a heavy brown sugar nose that leads to an unexpectedly dry, peppery finish in the taste.

Ro Shampo (7.5% ABV). Ro Shampo is an imperial red ale. As I noted above, it’s also Figure Eight’s flagship beer. This is unusual, at least when considered in light of beers from other Indiana breweries. While I haven’t sampled every Indiana beer, I can think of only one other in-state brewery that counts an imperial red among its regular beers: New Albanian, which offers an imperial red called Elector. Like Elector, Ro Shampo is a well-balanced beer that evokes notes of caramel and toffee. However, it’s a bit drier than Elector and also carries a whisky-like character. Given this flavor profile, it’s no surprise that Ro Shampo has become Figure Eight’s most popular beer.

Offwidth (8.3% ABV). We next tackled Figure Eight’s double pale ale, Offwidth. When have you ever run into a double pale ale? I know that Flying Dog does one, but I’m unaware of other brewers doing a DPA. Though most beer geeks might expect a DPA to be a hop bomb, Offwidth is a malt-forward beer. To be sure, the citrusy hops are there in the nose and flavor. But sweet malt wins out in the end.

Snake Pro (9% ABV). Snake Pro is the brewery's double IPA. In contrast to Offwidth, which is malt-forward, Snake Pro contains the intense malt/hops balance that one would expect from a DIPA. Bold, fruity, malty, and piny, Snake Pro fits well within the DIPA style.

Bourbon Aged Rye Knot (7.2% ABV). Another innovative beer, Bourbon Aged Rye Knot is a Baltic rye porter aged with vanilla beans in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels. Because I’m not a bourbon drinker, I tend not to like barrel aged beers that are heavy on the bourbon side. Rye Knot is not that type of beer. I’ve had other beers aged in Buffalo Trace barrels (I’m looking at you, Sun King), and these barrels consistently produce a soft bourbon note in the beer, accompanied by a butterscotch character. Bourbon Aged Rye Knot had these flavors, but also featured the vanilla beans quite well. This was Mom’s favorite beer of the bunch. It won me over too.

Black Corridor (8.5% ABV). This beer is Figure Eight’s imperial stout. Many imperial stouts contain pronounced chocolate, coffee, vanilla, and/or brandy notes. In contrast, Black Corridor is quite mellow and drinkable for an imperial stout. The chocolate notes are there, but the dominant character from the beer is dark fruit. Because this beer goes down easily for a “big” beer, I imagine that it might be a bit sneaky if one is not careful.

In addition to being available at the tasting room, Figure Eight beers are currently featured on draft at a few local establishments, including Pikk’s Tavern in Valpo and Beer Geeks Pub in Highland. Figure Eight’s tasting room service also includes Sunday carryout. But while Figure Eight is a small operation, Tom and Lynne are not resting on their laurels because four Figure Eight beers will soon be available in bottles. “We did a small test run of bottling last week and plan to run 30 cases of 22 ounce Ro Shampo bottles this week,” said Tom. “We have the Ro labels in house, and First Ascent and Where Lizards Dare labels are at the printer. The Snake Pro labels are in the government approval process and then off to the printer as well. So, hopefully in the next three to four weeks we should be able to bottle the four styles.”

When I asked Tom whether Figure Eight would maintain only a local focus with their bottle distribution, he said that he hoped distribution could be more widespread. “Our distribution plans are to sell bombers (22 ounce bottles) in as many stores, bars, and restaurants in our local area . . . as we can. Once we have a feel for the demand and if we can keep up with it, we will expand as possible. The Lafayette area seems like a likely direction as does Indianapolis, assuming there is room for another brand there, what with the booming growth of new breweries.”

As a brewer, Tom Uban has a simple yet important philosophy. “My mission is to make great beer,” he said. “I want to continue to develop new brews that push the complexities and reward the palate. I love waking people up to the possibilities of craft beer.” With continued hard work by Tom and Lynne, many more Hoosiers will be rubbing the sleep out of their eyes to see some fantastic beer possibilities.

Figure Eight Brewing Company
1555 West Lincolnway, #105
Valparaiso, IN 46385

Regular tasting room hours:
Thursday & Friday, 5 to 8 p.m.
Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m.
Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Special Thanksgiving week hours:
Friday, 1 to 8 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

19 November 2010

Sneak Preview: Tomlinson Tap Room at City Market

Wednesday marked the soft opening for Tomlinson Tap Room, an Indiana-only craft beer bar that is partially owned by the Brewers of Indiana Guild and set in Indianapolis' City Market. Tomlinson is the latest idea in what has been a very long and costly effort to turn around the fortunes of the City Market, and there are reasons to be skeptical about its success.
"We're going in a direction that we haven't gone in before," said Jim Reilly, City Market's executive director. "We're getting kind of creative here.

"We just think it's the way to go," he said. " Quite frankly, over the past 124 years, nothing else has worked. We're being proactive here." Indianapolis Star, October 28, 2010.
Is a bar the answer for 124 years of failure? I'm not so sure. But there are reasons for craft beer fans to be excited about Tomlinson.

First among those reasons is the availability of beer that doesn't make its way to Indianapolis all that often. The opening lineup included lesser seen beers from the likes of Mad Anthony, Lafayette, Big Woods, New Albanian, Crown, Peoples and Powerhouse, as well as a very special small batch offering from the likes of Three Floyds - Aotearoa. The 16 tap lineup is filled out by the likes of perennial Indianapolis favorites such Brugge, Sun King, Upland, Ram and Rock Bottom, giving not only locals but visitors a full selection of what Indiana has to offer.

If the lineup alone isn't enough reason to visit, growler fills of any beer in the lineup might be. Because the bar is owned by the Brewers Guild - and subsequently the breweries that make up the guild - Tomlinson will be the only place in town where you can get a growler filled from as many as 16 different breweries.

The success of the space might rely heavily on the continued availability of rare and one-off beers - there are certainly no lack of options when it comes to your beer dollar downtown. The space has always been great, and craft beer has certainly been a hot commodity recently. Here's hoping Tomlison can finally help the City Market find a winning formula for success.

Tomlison Tap Room
Grand Opening Wednesday November 24th
Indianapolis City Market Main Hall Upstairs (Southwest Corner)
Wednesday-Friday: Noon - 8:00pm-ish
Saturday: 11:00am - 5:00pm-ish
Closed Sunday - Tuesday (available for private events)