28 February 2011

RB Brewer's Dinner - Winter '11

This edition of the Downtown Rock Bottom brewer's dinner featured more meat than usually comprises the menu, but I'm not one to complain. When I saw both a lobster bisque and a duck entree on the menu, I knew this was one that I could not miss. Although to be fair, I hardly miss any of these. 4 beers and 4 courses for $35 is a deal not even Devour Downtown can match!

Apologies for some of these pictures being blurry, the light is low and my lens is not so good.

First Course: Smoked Salmon Stuffed Potato Nest paired with Hop Bomb IPA

Why it worked: If you haven't had the Hop Bomb IPA at the downtown Rock Bottom yet, you need to. This was the last of the current batch and it may not be back for a few months, but this is really one of Indiana's great Double IPAs. The base of this entree was a whipped salmon infused cream cheese that was incredibly decadent and delicious. The immense hop presence in the Hop Bomb helped cut through the creamy texture of the cheese. The cream cheese itself was seasoned with lemon zest and carried a bit of a citrus note as a result, which paired very well with the grapefruit, orange and lemon notes in the beer, while the grassy notes were a nice compliment to the meaty aspect of the salmon. Citrus and grassy notes tend to work well with fish, and when you add a rich cream or cheese in to the mixture (or even a fatty fish like salmon), hops are provide an excellent cleansing ability.

Second Course: Lobster Bisque paired with Raccoon Red Ale

Why it worked: This dish would perhaps be better described as a lobster tomato bisque, as the pureed tomatoes carried a much more dominant role than I had expected. When I saw the description of the dish, I wasn't sure how a sweet, malty red would work with this, but the tomatoes seem to be the answer to the puzzle. The sweet tomatoes and the caramel and nutty malt flavors of the beer paired together very nicely. While they didn't introduce any new flavors together, the well balanced profile of each made for an enjoyable match. When pairing sweet beers with sweet foods, the danger lies in creating a combination that is simply too sweet to be enjoyable, but with the light balance of hops and the sweetness of the soup coming from tomatoes instead of sugar, this was a well balanced pairing.

Third Course: Rosemary Duck paired with Trouble Belgian Tripel

Why it worked: I am a huge fan of duck. Duck provides a wealth of rich flavors with little necessary spices to coax additional flavors out of it. I was quite pleased when I saw that the entree was not one, but two duck breasts. The breasts were on the lean side and even though they were cooked medium well (I prefer medium rare), they were excellent. This was my food highlight of the meal. The Trouble sits on the spicier side of tripels, with a noticeable touch of alcohol in the back. When paired with the duck, something really exciting happened. It was almost as if the clove, cinnamon, anise and rock candy notes in the beer actually seasoned the duck. None of the spices conflicted with the rosemary rub, but they all gave it a nice burst of flavor that was not there on its own. Beer can often provide additional flavors or seasoning to different types of meat, but it is important to note the flavor profile of the beer and ensure that those characteristics are things you would season the meat with on its own. In this case, cinnamon, clove, anise and sugar are all used in different duck dishes, and worked great when provided by the beer.

Fourth Course: Strawberry Mint Spring Rolls paired with Hoosier Ma Stout

Why it worked: The Hoosier Ma Stout rotates its style, and is currently an English stout with notes of chocolate and coffee. If I were to pick a pairing of the evening that fell a bit short, it would probably be this one. English stouts tend to be on the drier side, and the strawberries and their glaze were simply too sweet to work with the dryness of the stout. All was not lost, however. The dish was seasoned and garnished with a bit of fresh mint leaves, which provided a nice cooling mint sensation that paired well with the dry chocolate notes of the stout without overpowering any of the flavors of the beer. Dry beers typically don't work very well with sugary dishes, but they do lend themselves very well to herbal flavors, which worked great here.

Pairing Lessons: Foods that have a relatively high percentage of fat often work well with hoppy beers, due to their ability to cut through thick flavors. You can never go wrong with pairing similar flavors either, providing neither are incredibly intense. Citrus pairs with citrus, sweet pairs with sweet, etc. Try to keep things in check, though. You don't want too much of one flavor going on or the pairing will appear one dimensional. When pairing beer with meat, always choose a beer that has tasting notes similar to things you might add to the meat, whether it be spices or side dishes. Belgian beers tend to work great for this reason. Dry beers can be overpowered very easily, and they aren't sweet for a reason. Focus on creating subtle balance and accenting flavors and avoid drowning the beer out with big sweet or spicy flavors.

25 February 2011

Random Beer Roundup - The Still Snowy Edition

We are excited to be giving away 2 VIP tickets to Crown Brewing's Illiana Mayfest.  Have you entered for your chance to win?

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

From the Brewers:
From Jeff at Barley Island Brewery in Noblesville/Broad Ripple:
Thursday, March 3rd 6:00 pm tapping of a new beer, Whose Ear Double Red Ale, at both Barley Island locations. This big, malty double red ale features Summit, Cascade and CTZ hops. To enhance the aroma it was dry hopped with Cascade and CTZ. About 9.3% ABV and still in fermenter at press time so available in goblets and growlers (to go). This beer fits with our tavern theme in that Whose Ear?, as voiced while cleaning up a tavern floor, may have been the origination of the term Hoosier.

We finalized the beer lineup for Founder's, our guest brewery at Barley Island Restaurant & Brewhouse in Broad Ripple. John Host from Founder's will be on hand Wed March 9th 6:30 pm. Tapping: 
* Nemesis - a surprise brew each year, the last keg available in Indiana
* Double Trouble, an Imperial IPA, 9.4%, 86 IBU's
* Red's Rye PA - 6.6%, 70 IBU's

From Bob at Flat 12 Brewery in Indianapolis:
Friday: Tap Room 2-8p; B'zzz Bomb. Plus West Coast Tacos. Plus Live Music.
Sunday: Bierituality 12-3

From John at Half Moon Brewery in Kokomo:
I'm finally getting around to tapping the ReplicAle on Thursday, 2/24 here at Half Moon. Until now it has only been sampled at Winterfest and the LBC's Winter Warmer, as well as a beer dinner here at the moon.

From New Albanian Brewing Co. in New Albany:

From Andrew at Ram Brewery in Indianapolis/Fishers:

Hey Homebrewers - there is only one week left to register for the 2011 RAM Small Ale Competition. The deadline is Thursday, March 3rd at midnight. Check out https://sites.google.com/site/ramsmallale/ to get more information and to register. We are looking forward to all the great entries!

On Tap Now – Downtown
Aries American Wheat – light w/ wheat malt and citrus hop notes
Ole St. Mick’s Irish Red – caramel, toffee, and a hint of roast
Batch 999 In Hops We Trust – Imperial IPA with heavy doses of American hops

On Tap Now – Fishers
Blue Pride Pilsner – Traditional German Lager (Almost Gone L)
Ole St. Mick’s Irish Red – caramel, toffee, and a hint of roast
Coo Coo for Cocoa Stout – Rich, decadent Chocolate Stout (Almost Gone L)
Batch 999 In Hops We Trust – Imperial IPA with heavy doses of American hops

From Clay at Sun King Brewing in Indianapolis:
Today we are brewing our final brew on our original system! It will be decommissioned in stages today as we finish with each vessel... The brewhouse floors are being professionally coated this weekend and our new system arrives on Monday. It is a 30 bbl brewhouse specifically designed for Sun King by Newland Systems Inc. (the same folks who built Ninkasi's new brewhouse) out of Abbotsford, BC, Canada. Production will be down for a week, but we have been preparing for this over the past 3 months, so there won't be any lapse of product.

We are very excited about the new system and thankful the the people of Indianapolis have embraced our beer and allowed us to grow so rapidly!

Upcoming events:

Ring of Dingle Tapping at the Rathskeller
March 4th, 2011 8:00 p.m.
Winner of the Sun King/Indianapolis Indians Naming Contest will be announced

Petite Chou / Sun King Beer Dinner
March 9th, 2011 6:00 p.m.
Four course beer infused dinner, each course paired with a different beer
Call 317-259-0765 or email rachael@cafepatachou.com for more information or reservations

New Brewhouse Party at Sun King
March 10th, 2011 6:00 p.m.
Left Lane Cruiser performing live and food from Fat Dan's

From Lauren at Thr3e Wise Men Brewery in Indianapolis:
 St. Patrick's Day
When: March 17, 2011 5:00pm to Midnight

Where: Thr3e Wise Men Brewery

What: There will be a $5 cover. $4 Pints of Bunny Blonde, Centennial Martyr Double IPA, Golden Zoe IPA and Two Lucy's Blackberry Wheat. A new brew called Saint Slaters Irish Stout will be available inside Thr3e Wise Men.

Sam King will take the stage at 5:30-6:30 and The Last Goodyear take stage at 7:00pm

Bagpipers from 10:30pm to 11:00pm

From Charles at Upland Brewing Co. in Bloomington/Indianapolis:
Ard Ri left the brewery this week, so be looking for it in 22s and on draught soon!

Join us at the D'vine Winter Wine and Beer Festival this Saturday in Columbus for beer and wine sampling, and help support Developmental Services, Inc.!

Break out the boil kettle - UpCup is just around the corner! Our 3rd annual homebrew competition and AHA Rally will be held on our Bloomington brewery grounds on May 21st. Homebrew entries are due by May 14th. Check out the UpCup event page more info.
At the Bar

From Tomlinson Tap Room (City Market) in Indianapolis:
Most recent tap list is here.
From Lauren at Scotty's Brewhouse (various locations):
Scotty's Brewhouse Muncie:
Tyranena Doubly Down 'N Even Dirtier

Scotty's Brewhouse Downtown Indy:
Two Brothers J Series Resistance IPA

Scotty's Brewhouse North Indianapolis:
Sam Adam Revolutionary Rye

Scotty's Lakehouse:
3 Floyd Behemoth

From the Stores

From Joe at Crown Liquors (US 31 S.) in Indianapolis:
Friday, February 25, from 5-8PM we will be tasting:

BAVIK - Wittekerke (Belgian-Style White Ale) (New!)
TYRANENA - Down and Dirty Chocolate Oatmeal Stout (Sweet Stout) (New!)
PETRUS - Aged Pale Ale (Wild/Sour Ale) (New!)

and maybe a few surprises...

Other new oat sodas include:

AYINGER - Alt. Dunkel
BELL'S - Consecrator Doppelbock
BROOKLYN - Lager (Now in Cans!)
DARKHORSE - Too and Tres (Back in Stock)
J.W. LEE'S - Harvest Ale (Vintage 1997(!))
SCHLAFLY - Hefeweizen
STONE - Old Guardian 2011, Old Guardian BELGO (These are both super limited!)

From the Distributors/Reps
From Greg at Cavalier Distribution in Indianapolis:
New In Stock:

Ambar Especial 4/6 - NEW Spanish Beer
Breckenridge Lucky U IPA 4/6 CANS!! - NEW ITEM
Bockor OMER Belgian Blonde Ale 12/750 - NEW ITEM
Clipper City Black Cannon 4/6 - Seasonal, Limited
Ed Hardy Premium & Light 2/12 Cans - NEW ITEM
Founders Imperial Stout 6/4 - Allocated special release
Lakefront IBA (India Black Ale) 12/22's - NEW ITEM
Lakefront Bock 4/6 - Spring Seasonal, Limited
Lammsbrau Organic Dark Lager 6/4/11.2 - NEW ITEM
Left Hand Stranger APA 4/6 - NEW ITEM
Lexington Brewing Co. Kentucky Bourbon-Barrel Ale - NEW ITEM; Draft Only For Now
Mad River Serious Madness 6/4/12 - Seasonal, Limited
Nethergate Old Growler, Augustinian & Audit Ale 12/16.9's - Back, Now Everyday Items
Tyranena Down 'n Dirty Chocolate Oatmeal Stout 4/6 - Seasonal, Limited
Urthel Samaranth Quad 12/750's & Saisonerre 6/4/11.2's - Now everyday beers, limited
Wolters Pilsner 4/6 - NEW ITEM

Upcoming Cavalier Events:

02/26 - New Day Mead Tasting featuring Owner(s) of New Day @ Parti Pak Liquors; 4:30 - 6:30

03/01 - Birdy's Monthly Beer Tasting ; 6-8pm ; $10

03/04 - Arnold's Tavern Beer Tasting ; 8-10pm

03/04 - Parti-Pak Lq; Spring Craft Beer Tasting; 4:60 - 6:30

03/08 - Monon Food Co. Dinner featuring Left Hand Brewing Co. ; 6pm ; Price $25

03/09 - Barley Island Broad Ripple / Founders Tapping ; 7pm

03/18 - Union St. Liquors Cav Beer Tasting, Mishawaka, 5pm

03/24 - Chalet Middlebury Cav Beer Tasting

04/28 - Chalet Elkhart CR 17 Cav Beer Tasting
Upcoming Beer Dinners:

From Rachael at Petite Chou in Broad Ripple:
We are holding a beer dinner in collaboration with Clay Robinson, owner of Sun King Brewery, Wednesday, March 9 (6:30pm). The cost of the dinner is $65/person, which includes tax and gratuity. We focus on providing high quality often organic and locally sourced foods prepared with love, care and consideration of culture for our guests. Our executive chef, Tyler Herald, has worked with Clay to prepare a four course menu that includes a Sun King beer as an ingredient in each course and is paired with a Sun King beer.
From Kelly at Monon Food Company in Broad Ripple:
Monon Food Company Left Hand Beer Share
March 8th at 6pm, tickets are $25
*Space is limited. Call 722.0176 to reserve space or stop in and get tickets

Left Hand Beer Share Menu

1. Sawtooth Ale
~ Meet & Greet ~

2. Polestar Pilsner
~ Goat Cheese Napoleon ~

3. 400lb Monkey
~ Yucatan Marinated Mahi Mahi Baked In Banana Leaves With Jicama-Orange Salsa ~

4. Black Jack Porter
~ Maple Glazed Pork Loin Stuffed With Apples, Bacon And Spinach ~

5. Milk Stout
~ Chocolate Tiramisu ~

6. Stranger Pale Ale to follow

Here is a link to the info on our the site - http://www.mononfood.com/announcements/bells-beer-dinner
*I know the url says "Bells"

Upcoming Events
History Behind the Pint: The Local History Behind Craft Beer Names
March 3, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
History Reference Room, Indiana State Library
If you've enjoyed a Mishawaka Four Horseman Ale or Backroad Brewery Belle Gunness Stout, there's a story behind these names. Learn the local history behind the names of some of the state's brewed beers.

24 February 2011

Illiana Mayfest ticket giveaway, courtesy of Crown Brewing

Thanks to Crown Brewing, we are giving away a pair of VIP tickets to the second annual Illiana Mayfest, which will be held on Saturday, May 21st at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Crown Point. To register, leave a comment in this post, include your name and either an email address or a Twitter handle. You have until 5pm EST on Thursday, March 3rd to register. We will then randomly select a winner and contact you to get a mailing address.

If you don't win, don't worry; tickets are on sale now at www.IllianaMayfest.com. General Admission tickets are $30; VIP are $45; and designated drivers are $5. Illiana Mayfest occurs during American Craft Beer Week and will feature breweries from Indiana and Illinois.

Calling All Video-types

Hoosier Beer Geek (well, Mike) is looking for someone to shoot high quality video for a new monthly series. We can't pay - if we could we'd buy equipment and learn ourselves - but we can (probably) introduce you to fun and exciting people who are making Indiana better. That's the plan, anyway.

Interested parties can send an email to knights@hoosierbeergeek.com and we'll go from there.

Beer and Cheese Club - February Edition

For the February edition of the Beer and Cheese Club, things have taken a quick turn toward adventurous.  This month's beer is an Oyster Stout from The Porterhouse Brewing Company.  Haven't heard of them before?  That's odd because they claim to be Ireland's largest genuine Irish brewery (Guinness is a bit international).  I don't know exactly what that means, but it does mean they're from Ireland!  This beer is quite literally brewed with oysters, so I hope we don't have any vegetarian friends currently enrolled in the club. 

The cheese that has been paired with our mollusk infused Irish stout is an interesting one from Westfield Farm simply named the Classic Blue Log.  The Classic Blue Log is a 4.5oz log of aged goat cheese that is both the flagship cheese of Westfield Farm and a first prize winner at the 1999 American Cheese Society Annual Judging.  One of only a few blue chevres in the world, it can easily be identified by its Roquefort rind and striking color.  In fact, its exterior color and texture may even be slightly off-putting!

If you're a member of the Beer and Cheese Club at Goose the Market, your February installment is likely ready for you to pick up right now. If you're not a member, the club is $99 for 4 months. This month nets you 2 bottles of Porterhouse Oyster Stout and 2 logs of Westfield Farm Classic Blue. Either of these items would be great experiences on their own, but we feel they are even better when consumed together.

First came the bottles, which have pretty much the coolest caps I've ever seen.  Pull-tab pry-off caps!  I don't know why anyone hasn't done this before!  Before I tried the beer, the cheese was placed down in front of us and I have to admit that I was a bit bewildered.  I'm typically very adventurous with cheese, but the thick, fuzzy, blue-green rind looked a bit more like felt and not so much like cheese.  Regardless, I wasn't going to let that stop me.

I poured a glass of the Oyster Stout and took a whiff.  Lots of ash, charcoal and cocoa were present, all of which I associate with a good Irish stout.  Things were looking good.  At first, chocolate and roasted barley notes filled my mouth, but they were quickly met with an interesting brine-like salty note.  Obviously the brine was from the oysters, but I don't know if I'd be able to tell that if the bottle didn't tell me so.  The brine quality certainly balanced the stout very well.  At the finish, I picked up a noticeable floral hop character that I don't normally associate with Irish stouts but I found very complimentary to the briney flavor.

The cheese, while completely caked in a thick bloom rind, was incredibly soft with a cake-like center.  The rind was surprisingly mild, offering only slight musty blue cheese-like notes.  The cakey center was characteristic of the typical goat cheese tangy flavor and the soft surrounding was very creamy.  Really a very nice cheese, especially if you like goat cheeses.  When matched with the beer, the brine quality really paired with the bloom rind and the creamy cheese layer greatly intensified in sweetness.  Overall the cheese felt much more rich than on its own and the beer became more sweet and brought out chocolate and root beer flavors.  A very nice pairing for two very unique products.

Beer - cola-red colored, cloudy lacing. Sweetness in nose, you can definitely tell there's going to be a sweet element in the beer. Front is sweet, finish is chewy and a hint smoky

Cheese is wet/creamy, with a grassy light funk

Beer + cheese brings a saltiness (oysters!). Middle cakey cheese brings out ice creamy vanilla - milk shake? Ice cream soda float? Root beer float! Coffee tiramisu?

I suppose this is exactly what a beer and cheese club is all about: oyster stout, a style I'm not exactly familiar with, paired with a bleu goat cheese? Well, I'll try anything once. The beer starts with a nose of brine and charcoal and the taste follows the nose, with an additional hint of chocolate. Taken together with the creamy, funky cheese -- less salty and smoother textured than your average crumbly bleu cheese -- I found a noticeable sweetness in the beer, with an accentuation of the briney flavors. Additional brine with your cheese doesn't exactly scream "Try Me", but this pairing worked very well. It's safe to say that I never would have thought to select this pairing on name alone, but thanks to the Goose, I'm glad I got to try it.

To join the Beer and Cheese Club at Goose the Market (in conjunction with Hoosier Beer Geek), check out this PDF and then either call Goose the Market at 317-924-4944 or stop in the shop at 2503 N. Delaware St.

23 February 2011

ReplicAle Tapping at Tomlinson

A great crowd of people came to the Tomlinson Tap Room on Wednesday night to sample ReplicAles from nine different Indiana breweries. Sun King's Dave Colt has been a long time shepard of Indiana's program for the past several years. This winter's recipe was a recreation of Ackerman's Imperial Double Stout, a beer brewed in the 1930's in New Albany. New Albanian's Jared Williamson suggested the recipe and led it's development. Both spoke briefly to the TomTap crowd. Sixteen breweries brewed the beer for Winterfest; nine were represented on Wednesday night. We look forward to tasting this summer's recipe at the July 16th Indiana Microbrewers Festival.

NABC's Jared Williamson taps into a lively cask of ReplicAle.

The beautiful people. The beautiful people.

The suds slingers at the TomTap were busy beavers. They were serving ReplicAles from New Albanian, Sun King, Crown, Great Crescent, Barley Island, Broad Ripple, People's, Rock Bottom College Park, and Upland.

The IndyBeer Meetup group were well represented. Ross was amazingly well behaved without his better half.

The crowd listening in as Dave Colt and Jared Williamson talked about ReplicAle.

The crowd at the TomTap, enjoying themselves at the City Market.

(FYI: 3 Days In Paris Crepes serves fantastic savory and sweet crepes. Grab a couple before going upstairs to drink.)

21 February 2011

Dark Lord Day 2011 | No ticket, no attendance

If you attended Dark Lord Day 2010, this is probably what you remember:

And this:

Dark Lord Day 2010 Crowd Panorama (11:00 a.m.)
Click for a larger version

This year, it appears that Dark Lord Day's double-tailed line may be a thing of the past because, according to the FAQ page for the Dark Lord Day website, a big change is in store: a ticket will be required to enter the premises to attend the event. The same ticket will also get you your bottle allocation (however many that will be).

We're not sure what precisely this change means at this point. Our best guess is that Dark Lord Day will end up being more similar to a traditional beer festival. Otherwise, DLD logistics appear to be the same so far. Tickets tentatively go on sale on St. Patrick's Day (time TBA), which is when they went on sale last year. If you were lucky enough to snag a golden ticket last year, you probably remember being glued to Twitter all day on March 17, waiting for the tweet announcing that ticket sales had commenced. Ticket sales will again be announced on Twitter, followed by announcements on the Dark Lord Day website, RateBeer, and BeerAdvocate. Ticket sales will be online only.

Dark Lord Day 2011 is on Saturday, April 30.

Summer 2011 Indiana ReplicAle

The last big hurrah for the Winter 2011 Indiana ReplicAle is this Wednesday (details below). The next ReplicAle event will coincide with the Indiana Microbrewers Festival in Indianapolis on Saturday, July 16th. The Brewers of Indiana Guild are working on the Summer 2011 Indiana ReplicAle recipe.

Hoosier Beer Geek wants to know: what beer would YOU like to see the Indiana brewers tackle? The past two ReplicAle recipes have been reproductions of historic Indiana beers. Do you want to see that trend continue? Is there a particular style that you would like to see? What would excite you most and push you to hang out at the ReplicAle tent during the Microbrewers Festival? If you are a homebrewer, do you have a favorite recipe?

Leave a comment if you have any thoughts. We will share them with the festival's organizing committee.

There will be a tapping of Indiana Winter 2011 ReplicAles on Wednesday, February 23rd at 6pm at the Tomlinson Tap Room in the City Market, 222 E. Market Street, Indianapolis. The recipe is a recreation of the Imperial Double Stout that was brewed by the defunct Ackerman’s Brewery in New Albany. Jared Williamson from New Albanian Brewing Company will be on hand to talk about recreating historical beers.

Along with tapping a firkin of New Albanian’s Ackerman’s Imperial Double Stout, other versions will be on tap, including: Broad Ripple Brewpub, Crown Brewing, Great Crescent Brewing Company, People’s Brewing Company, Rock Bottom Brewery and Restaurant – both College Park and Downtown, Sun King Brewing Company, Upland Brewing Company, and other Indiana breweries to be confirmed.

The Indiana ReplicAle program is presented by the Brewers of Indiana Guild with support from Brewers Supply Group and Briess Malt & Ingredients Company.


Ackerman’s Imperial Double Stout recipe, as recreated by Jared Williamson and Jess Williams:
Original Gravity: 20 degree Plato
Alcohol By Volume: Circa 8%
International Bittering Units: 35 – 40

Grist Bill: 80% Rahr 2-row Pale Malt
5% Briess Aromatic Malt
5% Briess Dark Chocolate Malt
5% Briess Roast Barley
2.5% Briess 80-degree Caramel Malt
2.5% Briess Cherry Smoked Malt

Hops: Single addition at boil of your choice of hop, to achieve 35 - 40 IBU

20 February 2011

KOTBR #120 | Two Places, One Beer - Dogfish Head/Three Floyds Poppaskull

November through January is always a busy time for the Knights of the Beer Roundtable. While we'd like to be writing more about our roundtables, the holiday season and Winterfest planning always take up a lot of our time. As a result, some of the roundtables inevitably slip through the cracks. Last year's "lost roundtable" was our review of Founder's Porter. This year, it's our review of Dogfish Head and Three Floyds' collaboration beer, Poppaskull.

Our first sit-down to review Poppaskull happened way back on November 18th, when Brugge Brasserie had a tapping party upon Poppaskull's initial release. We had a second sitting with Poppaskull back in mid-January, when we reviewed a trio of Vermont beers at the only Church's Chicken in town that serves beer.

Because Poppaskull is still available at a number of locations throughout town, we went with the "better late than never" mindset and decided to go ahead and get this lost roundtable up for you, even though many of you have already experienced the lusciousness that is Poppaskull. So take it away, Rodney and Mike...

Many times with collaborations, the breweries involved will take turns brewing the same beer at each of their locations. With the name similarities between Popskull and Poppaskull, I thought that's exactly what Three Floyds and Dogfish Head had in store for us. Boy was I ever wrong. Popskull was something of an imperial brown, aged with some of the trademark Palo Santo wood that DFH is known for. Poppaskull is much lighter in appearance, coming across almost as a Belgian tripel. Spicy notes of cardamom, cinnamon and clove linger in the aroma. Absolutely nothing like its Popskull brother. At first taste the huge array of spices jumps to the front. Tons of cardamom, cinnamon, anise and clove all shock the taste buds - something of a pumpkin spice beer without the pumpkin. After a few sips I became used to the huge amount of spice and the brown sugar-like sweetness started to round the beer out. I'll admit, at first I didn't think I would be able to finish this beer, but as the spices mellowed, the beer became a very pleasant sipper. Not sure what the ABV is on this, but I'm guessing it is deceivingly high. Poppaskull tastes like it should be big, but doesn't really leave any alcohol burn in the finish. Overall this spicy beer certainly took me by surprise, but in the end I enjoyed what Three Floyds and Dogfish Head have come up with this time around. 3.90 Mugs.

From my first taste of Poppaskull I knew it was a beer I was in love with. Arriving around Christmastime, the beer seemed to reflect the holiday (despite not being a "Christmas beer"). It's all in that cardamom nose, the milky vanilla Oreo middle, and the creamy mouthfeel.

Christmas beers (again - this isn't one) can be cloying, screaming out CHRISTMAS SPICES, hitting you over the head like a stocking full of coal. This beer isn't that. Balanced, light, extremely drinkable - my notes say "a strange combination for two breweries known for over-the-top weirdness". My notes also say "we need more subtle beers from Floyds, because they know what the fuck they're doing". I wrote all of that thinking this was a 5 - 6% ABV beer. It drinks like one. The only problem is that it's actually 10%.

In any case, what a great fucking beer. 4.66 Mugs.

Dogfish Head/Three Floyds Poppaskull
Rod: 3.90 Mugs | Jess: 4.20 Mugs | Chris: 4.30 Mugs | Mike: 4.50 Mugs | Gina: 4.20 Mugs | Jim: 4.75 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 4.31 Mugs

Beer Diary #21 - Mike and Gina Visit the San Francisco Bay Area

Prior to our trip to San Francisco, Gina and I did some research. What were the can't miss breweries? What bars should be on our list? What does California offer that Indianapolis doesn't?

Our first taste of San Francisco beer came at Pizza Orgasmica Brewing Company - a place that wasn't on any recommended list, but just so happened to be within walking distance of our hosts' home.

Pizza Orgasmica offers a house lineup of six beers - golden ale, IPA, amber ale, peach pale ale, 4-grain hefeweizen, and porter. On our visit the IPA and amber was sold out, so we settled into a flight of the remaining four. Our favorite was the golden ale, as there were some obvious beer-judge-type flaws in the others. In any case the beer was serviceable (it did contain alcohol, after all), but we weren't off to the best start. Coming off beer and pizza from Thr3e Wise Men the day before, I'm not afraid to say the beer beginnings of our trip weren't off to the most exciting start.

The next day we took a walking tour to Coit Tower (which was closed for maintenance), but eventually found ourselves at Rogue Ales Public House. Although Rogue is based in Newport Oregon, they have set up shop in a few places, San Francisco among them.

I'll be honest in saying that while Rogue makes fine beer, it's a brewery that never really did much for me. In any case, the Public House's 40 choice tap list was impressive, and the Double Mocha Porter was calling my name. I was not disappointed.

As I made my way through the beer, my thoughts turned to Indiana. While most Indiana breweries have their own bar (Mad Anthony and New Albanian have more than one), could there be a time when we'll see an Indiana brewery with an out-of-state public house? My guess is that we're a long way from that point - there aren't many Indiana breweries with the sort of name recognition (or distribution) that Rogue enjoys. In any case, we do have similar bars in Indianapolis - though not exactly the same style as Rogue, Barley Island's Broad Ripple location is not all that different in practice; multiple taps, a full list of house beer, and a nice selection of guest taps thrown in.

Our next stop brought us to the highly recommended Toronado, where we were greeted by a roughshod interior and limited seating. Luckily we were invited to a table by a white-haired gentleman in a leather jacket by the name of Chuck, and our adventure began. Opened in 1987, Toronado is the sort of place where the rarest of guest kegs magically appear (Pliny the Younger, for example), and our visit lived up to the hype. I started the day with Deschutes Abyss (because Russian Imperial Stout is the perfect party starter), and also made my way a chicken and cherry sausage from Rosamunde Sausage Grill, which provides food for pub patrons from its next door location.

What really made the visit great was the company of Chuck, who - despite my initial reservations about sitting next to the weird guy in the pub - talked us through his favorites from the lineup, Toronado etiquette ("Don't go up there not knowing what you want," he said. "They're not friendly to people looking for Budweiser."), his recommendations for the neighborhood and our visit to San Francisco, and told us a little bit about himself along the way. "I'm pimping my city," he said at one point. It's conversations like the one we had at Toronado that can leave a lasting impression on tourists, but it takes both a willing host and an interested guest who's willing to take a chance on conversation with a stranger.

Can we offer all these factors? A gritty bar with a ton of character, an unrivaled lineup, and talkative and friendly patrons that are willing to "pimp our city"? I think so, but it's rare that all those things come together. One of the elements of a great beer bar are the beers you can find that you can't find at home, and we've got plenty of bars that carry the internationally known Three Floyds, with lineups that can awe in their own ways. As far as I know, we don't have any bars that combine all these things with a playlist that includes old Metallica and Slayer. And Toronado put up our sticker, so it was hard not to fall in love.

Our next stop required the use of a rental car, as we made our way out of San Francisco and across the Golden Gate bridge to Healdsburg, where we paid a visit to Bear Republic's Brewpub. Because this was to be a short stop, I only had one beer - Peter Brown Tribute Ale™ - a brown that had me immediately thinking of Oreo cookies dunked in milk. Gina had Racer X (ON DRAFT!) and Hop Rod Rye.

The Bear Republic space - an open room that contained everything from racecar hoods to custom bicycles - was fun and welcoming. Our bartender, Ryan, was a great big teddy bear of a man, and came across as immediately friendly and obviously happy to be there. Another nice touch was the brewhouse just five feet beyond the end of the bar - not the usual wall separating bar patrons from the brewing process - just a half wall to keep folks from wandering into the work.

Can Indiana do what Bear Republic does? Sure. It's all in the tiny details. And the tasty beer. (As a side note, we tried to stop at Lagunitas, but their tasting room was closed for the day.)

We hopped back in our rental and headed back towards San Francisco - Santa Rosa and Russian River Brewing was next on our list.

As this was our first visit to Russian River, and we tried to keep our excitement to a minimum. There is nothing worse than building someplace up in your mind then being let down. Upon our arrival, the bar was full (a little disappointing) so we took a seat at a table by the door. One thing I noticed in our bar experiences so far is that there are no printed lists anywhere. All beer menus are located on boards behind or near the bar, making it somewhat difficult to be informed while not being in the way or weirding out the person sitting in front of where you are standing to look.

But it is what it is, so we decided on a couple beers ending in -ation. Can't really go wrong there. The awesome thing about Russian River beer is that it always somehow exceeds expectations, even when your expectations are already high.

The food was good, the beer was amazing, but it just didn't feel quite right sitting at the table. We asked our server what our chances of getting a spot at the bar if we came back around 8:30 (it was about 6:30). He said he wasn't sure. So we crossed our fingers that later would be better and headed a few blocks away to Third Street Aleworks. Even though the vibe wasn't quite right, the beer was still incredibly impressive. Third Street had an entirely different (younger) vibe, but anyone brewing award-winning beer is ok in our book.

Third Street Aleworks was a recommended to us by Ryan from Bear Republic and I am glad we made the effort to stop. They had quite a few beers on tap, including their GABF medal winning Irish Stout and IPA, which we started with. Another beer on tap that was of interest was their Cherry Springer, a wonderfully surprising beer. It reminded us of New Glarus Belgian Red, but with a lighter mouthfeel.

We decided it was time to visit Russian River again. We got a spot at the bar this time and made our way through more of the menu - Supplication, Consecration, Temptation, not to mention Pliny the Elder. The beer was amazing, and we got to chatting with a few locals, which of course, made the evening better. We often have this much fun here in Indiana, but there is a reason that Russian River beer is held in such high regard. No one is doing this a menu that covers as many bases as well as Russian River - the trip was definitely worth making.

To be continued..