Drunk Cupcake Sunday with homebrew

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Photo by Matt Callahan

Faithful readers of Bierkultur will remember last winter when I made Valley Forge Black Ration Ale. I made it again this winter, but left out the spruce to keep it from overpowering the malty sweetness I was looking for.

My good friend Alyse keeps a blog of her own, DrunkCupcakeSunday.com, in which she makes cupcakes with alcohol (everything from chocolate stout to bananas foster) and blogs about her baking every Sunday.

This Sunday, she made ginger cupcakes out of my homebrew. I couldn’t be more excited.

Read all about it here, and bookmark her blog.

Bloomington Craft Beer Week: BCBF

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I’ve been writing daily columns for the IDS from Bloomington Craft Beer Week. This is my last one, a dispatch from the Bloomington Craft Beer Festival. Check out my columns here and on stands.

There’s a certain amount of strategy necessary at a massive beer festival like the Bloomington Craft Beer Festival.

There’s no way you’ll have a chance to sample every single beer offered from the more than 50 breweries in attendance.

You can pick a single style and try all the offerings of that style. You can try to just pick Indiana breweries or just go for brews you haven’t tried.

A friend of mine properly described it as “the classiest power hour you’ll ever have.”

Here are some of my favorites from Saturday’s festival at Woolery Mill.

THREE FLOYDS BREWING CO. Toxic Wasteland Russian imperial stout

APPEARANCE Dark black with a thick brown head

AROMA Chocolatey, but with decent hop aroma and slight notes of pine

TASTE Roasted chocolate tones fade into piney hop flavor and bitterness

MOUTHFEEL Very smooth but heavy with a dry finish

OVERALL There were a few of beers at the festival that blew my mind. This was one of them. This is a very special beer.

NEW ALBANIAN BREWING CO. Black & Blue Grass spiced Belgian ale

APPEARANCE I was expecting this to pour dark, but ended up being a hazy golden, like an India Pale Ale

AROMA Very floral, lots of spices like coriander

TASTE Very flavorful, blue agave fruit in the beer comes through and makes it crisp, cool and surprising from the first sip

MOUTHFEEL The blue agave really comes through and gives this an almost menthol character

OVERALL This beer literally stopped me in my tracks with a “woah.” Every sip was a surprise. Novelty outweighed drinkability, but a nice brew nonetheless.

ZWANZIGZ Rauchbier smoked lager

APPEARANCE Dark amber with a nice head

AROMA Smoky with a traditional lager aroma

TASTE Hits the traditional German style on the head perfectly, well smoked and well balanced

MOUTHFEEL Easy to drink, great style execution

OVERALL It’s not often that I see an American brewery pull off a real rauchbier, and Zwanzigz out of Columbus, Ind., does this.

UPLAND BREWING CO. Champagne Velvet pilsner

APPEARANCE Light as light can be and crystal clear

AROMA Little aroma, but clean and crisp

TASTE A decent pilsner, nothing fancy, good “easy drinking” beer

MOUTHFEEL Heavily carbonated, very easy to drink

OVERALL This pre-prohibition revival from Upland will appeal to the macro-drinking audience. It’s a good bridge to introduce non-craft drinkers to the market.

CUTTERS BREWING CO. Empire Imperial Stout aged with bourbon and vanilla

APPEARANCE Dark black with a dark brown head, thick and sticky

AROMA Immediately get the complex flavors you would expect from a bourbon/vanilla combo, oaky, malty, flavorful

TASTE Pulled off the bourbon a little early, it could stand a little more bourbon flavor, but still very nice. Smooth vanilla balances the intense malt bill and oak from the bourbon makes it sing.

MOUTHFEEL Goes down much smoother than the normal Empire stout, otherwise uncarbonated

OVERALL Served on a five-gallon pin, so it was uncarbonated and unchilled, but very satisfying and complex.

BLOOMINGTON BREWING CO. Ruby Bloom amber ale aged in a Chambourcin wine barrel

APPEARANCE Dark red and amber, thin head

AROMA The aroma from the Chambourcin grapes comes through right away, makes it sweet and smooth

TASTE Amber ale characteristics with the grape flavors from the wine barrel and slight oak notes

MOUTHFEEL The wine flavors make BBC’s standard amber smoother than what you’d normally find around town

OVERALL A nice change of pace, smooth while still keeping a little bite from the Ruby Bloom base.

Bloomington Craft Beer Week: A brief history of beer

Ed Herrmann is a German-trained brewmaster who worked as brewer at Upland Brewing Co. for six and a half years.

Thursday evening, he gave a lecture at The Bishop Bar about the history of beer.

“What is beer?” Herrmann said. “And where’s my beer?”

He found his Bell’s Brewery Two Hearted Ale and explained beer’s backbone. All you need, he said, is crushed grain, yeast and water.

Additives like hops, fruits, spices, berries, herbs and more flavor the beer and give different, complex profiles.

One of his favorite additives, Herrmann said, was a medieval tradition that made beer clearer as glass drinking vessels became more popular. Bird feathers, early brewers found, helped collect particulate to clarify beer.

“They thought a great way was to throw in some feathers,” he said. “It kind of worked and they got to the point where they’d throw in a whole chicken.”

The most popular additive in today’s beer is hops. Hops, Herrmann explained, are flowers with glands full of acids that have bittering properties that manipulate flavor to balance the natural grains’ natural sweetnesses.

The earliest known fermented beverage was a rice-based beer product from the Henan Province in China, as old as 8500 B.C. In Sumer, “consuming beer was the custom of the land.”

That early influence on the importance of fermented beverage has continued through human history.

In 1516, the Bavarian Purity Law, or Reinheitsgebot, stated that beer can only contain hops, grain and water.

When the pilgrims of Plymouth came to the New World, they stopped in what is now Massachusetts because they ran out of ale, an important purifying agent for their water.

And today, beer drinkers celebrate the craft in a growing market that extols the old styles while still exploring new ways to create new brews. It all goes back to the rise of early civilizations and their development of fermented beverage.

“This took place right as people were settling down from mobile hunter gatherers,” Herrmann said. “They were living pretty good.”

BEER OF THE DAY Three Floyds Brewing Co. Robert the Bruce Scottish Ale

APPEARANCE Very dark brown with a slight ruby characteristic, not for the faint of heart

AROMA Malty sweet with slight notes of dark fruit

TASTE Caramel tones with low notes of chocolate, dark bitterness

MOUTHFEEL Bitter and biting, heavy and syrupy

OVERALL Tasty, the caramel notes on this one make it sing, one of the best Scottish Ales in Indiana

Bloomington Craft Beer Week: Craft beer takes Kirkwood

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This week, I’m writing daily columns for the IDS from Bloomington Craft Beer Week. Check them out here and on stands.

The Cutters have taken Kirkwood Avenue.

Along with Upland, Bloomington Brewing Company and other craft breweries from Indiana, Cutters Brewing Company has taken over taps at Bloomington’s most popular bars for the collegiate crowd.

At Kilroy’s on Kirkwood, the three Bloomington breweries (Upland, BBC and Cutters) have launched a Battle of Bloomington Beers. It’s a friendly battle between the brewers to see whose beer can run out first.

The Cutters spent $2 Tuesday at KOK, promoting beer and munching on KOK’s finest pub fare. At Scenic View Restaurant, the Cutters gave out a pint glass for every two pints bought, going through just about a whole case.

Wednesday night, they went to Nick’s English Hut for a tap takeover. Along with the usual slate of macros like Guinness and Pabst Blue Ribbon, Cutters served Floyd’s Folly Scottish Ale, Monon Wheat Ale, Lost River Summer Ale and their new Belgian Pale Ale.

Co-owner Monte Speicher   tells me that KOK has a keg of their brand new Sour Brown Ale. I’ve heard good things, so keep an eye out for it.

At Nick’s Hoosier Room, the Cutters, otherwise known as Speicher, his wife Amanda, Ian Hunt and Hayes Cooper, sat with Pete Mikolaitis, a manager at Nick’s, eating stroms and sipping on Belgian Pales and Monon Wheats.

They talked about what’s next for the nanobrewery, the youngest and smallest Bloomington brewery that recently relocated production to a larger space in Avon, Ind.

There’s a double IPA in the works, Monte said, which will be named Full Court to match their Half Court IPA.

Right now they are putting special pin tappings all over town, from The Atlas Ballroom to Yogi’s Grill & Bar. These five-gallon containers are not carbonated but allow the brewers to craft special blends and be creative in flavor blending.

When Mikolaitis pointed out that a large table down the bar had already ordered four pitchers of Cutters — two Belgian pale ales, one summer ale and one Scottish ale — Hunt and Cooper jumped up and headed toward the table.

“We heard you are drinking Cutters,” Hunt said. “Well I’m one of the brewers for Cutters, and we brought you a pint glass and a shirt.”

That’s what the Cutters are up to now. They’re going table to table, bar to bar, introducing new folks to their “Hard Working Beer.” As they expand — Speicher said they hope to be in the Chicago and Cincinnati markets soon — they’ll keep these roots close to heart.

What’s next? “Anything and everything,” Amanda said.

BEER OF THE DAY Cutters Brewing Comapny Belgian Pale Ale

APPEARANCE Dark golden with a nice thick head

AROMA Slightly dry, but citrusy with slightsour aroma

TASTE Light, refreshing with a little bite, very drinkable

MOUTHFEEL Wellcarbonated at Nick’s, very drinkable

OVERALL It’s a very solid, drinkable spring beer, perfect for a Saturday afternoon on the porch.

Follow me on Twitter today for a chance to win a free ticket to the Bloomington Craft Beer Festival in a craft beer trivia contest.

Bloomington Craft Beer Week: craft vs. crafty

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This week, I’m writing daily columns for the IDS from Bloomington Craft Beer Week. Check them out here and on stands.

Tuesday was a perfect day to drink beer.

The sun was out, the wind was blowing, everything about it said spring and for someone like me who cut their beer-drinking teeth at the biergartens of northern Bavaria, it was a perfect time for a beer.

As the Germans would say, “Gott sei Dank it is Bloomington Craft Beer Week.”

Tuesday night, The Tap on North College Avenue hosted a Brewer’s Workshop with head brewers from four Indiana breweries of various sizes. Bloomington Brewing Company founder Jeff Mease led Brugge Brasserie’s Ted Miller, Flat 12’s Rob Caputo, Sun King’s Clay Robinson and Black Acre’s Justin Miller in a conversation about the state of brewing in Indiana and their own backgrounds in brewing.

“I found naming the brewery the hardest thing to do,” Robinson said. He said before settling on Sun King, he had tried out “Solstice” as a reflection of the idea of the passing of seasons, as Sun King produces a changing slate of seasonal brews.

The brewers also discussed the changing market and how new struggles remain on the horizon for the industry. As more macrobreweries like Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors start producing so-called “crafty” beers like Blue Moon and Third Shift, more of the craft market is threatened. Even with the expanding beer market, only 2.9 percent of all beers sold in Indiana are craft brews, Ted Miller said.

All of the beer commercials in Super Bowl XLVII, Robinson pointed out, had ties to the big corporations. Corporations have looked at everything from beer names to logos and packaging of small breweries to emulate them on their larger-scale projects.

“Craft beer has soul,” Robinson said

So what’s next?

“Sessions,” Ted Miller said.

American brewers have had their love affair with pale ales and are now trending toward sours.

The market has already been saturated with heavy-hitting experimental ales that reach 10, 11, 12 percent ABV and beyond. What drinkers need now, the brewers agreed, is a solid group of low ABV beers that are easy to drink, yet remain full-bodied and flavorful.

“I want to drink beer because I love it,” Robinson said. “I don’t want to drink a beer I can only have three to five ounces of or only one of. I want to sit down and drink beer for three hours and hear all the crazy stories you have.”

He said he’s working on a collaboration for his upcoming wedding this summer with Oskar Blues Brewery in Denver that will be low ABV and hoppy, so he can drink a lot of it and still get the flavor he enjoys.

“It’s a lot easier to make an 11 percent than a good four percent,” Justin Miller said. “For us, we’re trying to bring back the lunch drinking, which is an art which has been
lost.”

BEER OF THE DAY: Sun King Skulking Loafer English Strong Ale

APPEARANCE: Dark golden brown in color yet crystal clear with a thick, foamy head.

AROMA: Malty, with a slight tinge of dryness

TASTE: Strong malty sweetness, well balanced

MOUTHFEEL: Dry from 7.5 percent ABV but goes down smooth

OVERALL: Smooth, tasty, I’ll definitely come back but not for a beginning drinker

Bloomington Craft Beer Week: Day 1

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This week, I’m writing daily columns for the IDS from Bloomington Craft Beer Week. Check them out here and on stands this week.

Three years ago, the Brewers of Indiana Guild decided to expand its bill of beer festivals.

The standard bearer of Indiana beer festivals was already Winterfest in Indianapolis, which brings thousands of hopheads to the state fairgrounds every January. There’s also Dark Lord Day in Munster, Ind., hosted by Three Floyds, Hoosier Hops & Harvest in Brown County and a gaggle of others.

To hit a new, growing market of southern Indiana brewers and the college community of Bloomington, the Guild brought a beer festival to the historic Woolery Mill on the southwest side of town.

Today, the Bloomington Craft Beer Festival brings in brewers and craft beer drinkers from all across the state to talk about the craft and sample some damn fine brews.
The Guild has extended the events beyond the Saturday festival to a week-long celebration of hops, yeast and grain. The inaugural Bloomington Craft Beer Week offers a variety of events for the casual drinker and the full-out beer nerd.

ALL WEEK

  • 15 percent off all Bloomington beers at Sahara Mart on East Third Street.
  • Battle of Bloomington Beers at Kilroy’s on Kirkwood. A friendly competition between Upland, Bloomington Brewing Company and Cutters. The first brewery to blow a keg wins.

TUESDAY

  • Cutters Brewing Co. at Scenic View Restaurant, pint glass giveaways and sample tastings. 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Brewers Workshop at The Tap, meet brewers from Sun King, Brugge, Black Acre and Flat 12 . 630 p.m.
  • Yogi’s Beer School with Indiana beers. Free samples and beer talk at 7 p.m..

WEDNESDAY

  • Girls Pint Out at The Tap, hang out with the women of GPO Indianapolis chapter, hosted by Cutters.
  • Restaurant Tallent pairing with Bloomington Brewing Company. Call Restaurant Tallent for reservations.
  • Triton Brewery Tap Takeover at Max’s Place, 6 to 9 p.m.
  • Cutters Brewing Tap Takeover at Nick’s English Hut with new Sour Brown Ale and Belgian Pale Ale, 7 to 10 p.m.
  • Cheap Pint Night at The Bishop, all Indiana breweries have $3 pints.

THURSDAY

  • Lecture at The Bishop, free lecture from Ed Herrmann of the IU Department of Anthropology on the history and production of beer, 6 p.m.
  • Upland release party of Champagne Velvet at The Tap, taste the historic “beer with the million dollar taste,” back on the market for the first time in decades.
  • Tap Takeovers: Fountain Square at The Owlery, Flat 12 at Max’s Place, BBC at Nick’s.

FRIDAY

  • Special tapping of Cutters blend of Empire Stout and Floyd’s Folly Scottish Ale at Yogi’s, 7 p.m.
  • Bloomington brewers (Upland, BBC, Cutters) will be at The Video Saloon for beer tastings, 11 p.m.
  • New Albanian and BBC tap takeover at The Tap, 7 p.m.

SATURDAY

  • Bloomington Craft Beer Festival at Woolery Mill, tickets available at brewersofindianaguild.com, 4-7 p.m.
  • After-parties at Historic Fell Building at 415 W. Fourth St., The Tap, Nick’s and the Atlas Ballroom.

STAY CONNECTED
Follow my findings (@cscudder) and Bloomington Craft Beer Week (@BtownBeerWeek) on Twitter and use #BCBW. Keep reading the IDS this week and checking Bierkultur for reviews and columns from the hottest spots for Bloomington hopheads.

REVIEW: Macro’s move into micro

Last time I went to the store I picked up two new brews: Third Shift Amber Lager and Budweiser Black Crown. Third Shift because I hadn’t seen it but was intrigued by declaration on the box, “GOLD MEDAL AWARD WINNER.” Black Crown because, after seeing the Super Bowl commercial, I’d been interested in at least trying it once.

I was pleasantly surprised by both. Third Shift is a great craft brew, a solid go-to for a quality lager. Black Crown is cheap, tastes like a macro, but is a pretty good premium macro. I was doubly surprised when I check into Untappd and found that Third Shift is made by Coors Brewing Co., like their Blue Moon products.

It’s all part of macro’s inevitable push into the micro market. The two brewers take different approaches to breaking in. Coors creates new brands with no trace of macro branding (Third Shift is made by a “Band of Brewers,” according to the labeling), while Budweiser embraces their recognizable marketing in order to sway mid-market costumers.

THIRD SHIFT AMBER LAGER“Gold Medal Winning Beer Brewed By A Band Of Brewers Whose Passion For Brewing Doesn’t Stop When The Day Shift Is Over”

APPEARANCE: Dark copper, with a thicker head than Black Crown. Clear, but not suspiciously crystal like other macros.

AROMA: Aroma of a malted lager, smells well crafted. Everything about this points to a craft brew.

TASTE: Copper lager with a soft bite. Again, no signs that this isn’t a craft brew.

MOUTHFEEL: Bottle carbonation is a little rough, but is to be expected.

OVERALL: A fine Vienna-style lager. Very possible go-to, like a Shiner Bock for me. Well-priced, solid craft.

BUDWEISER BLACK CROWN “We challenged our 12 Budweiser brewers to come up with a new masterpiece. Six unique beers were crafted and sampled across America. One was chosen. This amber lager’s toasted caramel malt notes and smooth finish earned it the Black Crown.”

APPEARANCE: Light copper, but not yellow like their mass-market products. Not as dark or full-bodied as Third Shift.

AROMA: Very little, if any, aroma comes from this one.

TASTE: It tastes, simply, like Bud-premium. The big difference between this one and Budweiser is a malted barley taste, not rice. This could be the only recipe change between the two brews, and it does make a noticeable difference.

MOUTHFEEL: Gotta say, it goes down smooth. Better than Bud for sure, but just about any craft product on the market is a step above.

OVERALL: I was pleasantly surprised. On a college-sized budget, this could be a go-to for cheaper beer. Best of the mass-markets that I’ve had.