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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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..
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
Thank God for talented friends.
My good friend and beer-minded partner in crime, Rabi Abonour, recently got a photo internship with the Brewers of Indiana Guild. Along with the internship, he got two VIP tickets to Winterfest in Indianapolis, and he promptly snagged me one.
One of the biggest festivals I’ve been to, and filled with majority Indiana brews. Very nice mix of stuff. Belgian styles were definitely the theme of the festival for me, but it started with a special treat.
I got to meet the father of craft beer himself, Mr. Jack McAuliffe at the Boston Beer Company’s booth. The makers of Sam Adams have famously revived the beer that was first brewed by McAuliffe in 1976, an American pale ale.
The Sam Adams New Albion is a mild 30 IBUs with Cascade hops. It’s flavorful and smooth, remarkably drinkable. I was a big fan. With that solid foundation, it’s easy to see how the American craft movement has been able to grow so much.
Speaking of growing so much, 70 breweries were at the Winterfest. Here’s some of the highlights…
Velvet Fog Sun King — Exceptionally smooth quadrupel, dark brown in color with slight fruit and bourbon notes. Exceptional.
Rauchbier Zwanzigz — Every time I see Zwanzigz at a brewfest, I realize I need to head to Columbus, Ind. sometime. Their rauch uses more than 50 percent smoked grains, which means this lager gets the complete smoke that I love out of a really solid rauchbier.
Old Stock North Coast — With a whopping 11.9 percent ABV, this old ale packs a punch. The high alcohol comes through but there are nice fruit and wood notes that I liked.
Shotgun Wedding Vanilla Brown Country Boy — Served on a cask, this is smooth and malty, really solid. Medium bodied with some nutty and chocolate notes, along with vanilla. I’m looking forward to see more from Country Boy, out of Lexington, Ky., in the future.
Brandy Half Cycle Flat 12 — Not to be too much of an awfully snobby hipster, but bourbon aging is so two years ago. I’m always like finding when brewers age in bourbon, wine, tequila, cognac, etc. barrels. Flat 12’s brandy-aged IPA is spicy and bitter from 104 IBUs, yet balanced from the smooth brandy. Packs quite a punch, but I like it.
Gilgamesh Upland — It was a real treat when Upland busted open a few bottles of Gilgamesh. I’ve had a lot of sours and Belgians lately, but Gilgamesh was the tipping point for me. It’s official… I like sours. Sour but not vinegary, very nicely tart with notes of red oak, berries and a hint of brown malt. If you can get your hands on one of these, get it and save it for a special occasion.
I also got to catch up with my good friends at Cutters Brewing Co. They are up and running in the new brewery in Avon, Ind., producing with a 60 bbl capacity system. They tell me that coming soon is more barrel-aged stout for sale in stores. Looking forward to whatever comes next from those folks.
Once I was back in Bloomington, I ran into Bloomington Brewing Co. to grab a growler for the Super Bowl. I picked up their Replicale Belgian Pale Ale. As it turns out, the Brewers Guild bought grains for any Indiana brewery who wanted to brew the same beer to bring to festivals. Every brewer is using the same grains, yeast and hops to experiment how equipment, water and other differences change the beer from brewery to brewery. I’m looking forward to April’s Bloomington Craft Beer Fest to try all the Replicales.
About a year ago, I visited the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas. Just after my visit, the German-style makers of Shiner Bock (one of my go-tos for cookout six-packs) released their newest creation, Shiner Wild Hare Pale Ale.
Indiana has limited Shiner distribution, so when I came home to Illinois for the holidays and saw it on the shelf, I knew I had to finally get my hands on a Wild Hare.
The impetus behind Wild Hare is simple; American craft beer drinkers love their hops. The malt-kings of Shiner needed something to keep up with the growing pale ale crowd.
That tradition rings through in Wild Hare. Munich and cara malts create a really strong malty backbone that ultimately outweighs the only 28 IBUs coming from Bravo and US Golding hops.
I love me a pale ale with a meaty malt backbone, but this just didn’t do it for me. I would have liked to see more bittering hops to crank it up a few more notches to balance the caramel notes. It’s a very solid brew, but nothing special in my book.
APPEARANCE: Out of the bottle, Wild Hare pours a deep golden with a quick-to-recede bubbly head with continuous carbonation bubbles streaming from the bottom of the glass.
AROMA: Malty with slight hop aroma. Lightly floral with caramel notes that aren’t expected on an American pale ale.
TASTE: Strong caramel and Munich malt backbone with Goldings flavor and bitterness. The German-inspired malt character really comes through strong past the hop flavor.
MOUTHFEEL: Much like Shiner Bock out of the bottle, it’s very bubbly and highly carbonated. Goes down smooth, however.
OVERALL: Interesting interpretation of an APA. Not traditionally over-hopped. The Munich backbone comes through, tipping the balance toward the malt and away from hoppiness.
The brewers of Upland Brewing Co. are paying homage to Indiana’s most beloved beer of all time, Champagne Velvet, in order to celebrate their 15th anniversary and the bright future for craft beer in Indiana. And you can help decide the look and the taste of this heritage beer.
The growth of local beer in Indiana in recent years is a great cause for celebration, but local beer is not something new; in fact, it is our heritage. Though most of us are not old enough to remember the last time that the beer in someone’s hand was brewed just down the street, beer was once the sole province of local breweries. Though the craft beer movement might seem new, it is actually as much about looking to our past as it is moving into the future.
“We’re heading into our 15th year of operation on the heels of a massive brewery expansion, and the next few years are going to be very exciting,” says Upland’s President, Doug Dayhoff. “But we think the best way to celebrate the success that local breweries like us are having is by paying tribute to Indiana’s most successful local beer in history.”
Champagne Velvet is a German-inspired lager that was the flagship of the Terre Haute Brewing Company during its heyday, from the turn of the 20th century until the late 1950s. If you were living in Indiana during this time, it was the beer you and your friends would raise to celebrate the end of the work week, that you’d take with you on a weekend fishing trip, and that you’d serve at holiday get-togethers. Champagne Velvet defined beer in Indiana for over fifty years before the Terre Haute Brewing Company fell victim to the rampant practice of consolidation that characterized the brewing industry in the latter half of the 20th century. CV lost its home and identity, and eventually fell out of production altogether.
But that was not the end for Champagne Velvet. Inspired by the hand written brewing notes of the Terre Haute Brewery’s assistant brewer, Walter Braun, dated to 1901, the brewers at Upland are resurrecting Champagne Velvet, much as it might have been in its early pre-prohibition years. The men and women of Indiana will once again taste the smooth and flavorful lager that is their heritage in bottles and on draught beginning in April 2013.
And Upland wants you to be a part of the revival. “The Champagne Velvet Heritage belongs to everyone,” says Dayhoff, “so we want to let everyone be a part of this process.”
The branding of Champagne Velvet changed during its 50+ years as Indiana’s favorite beer, and Braun’s recipe notes are intriguingly incomplete, giving Upland’s brewers the opportunity to get a little creative. They want your help in deciding exactly what the beer should look and taste like.
The first step is deciding on the look. To help with that, go to the CV Art Survey between December 5th and December 8th and have a look at several CV labels from different periods in its history. Rank them in order of preference, and Upland use the winning label as the foundation for the new CV artwork.
CV also featured a number of slogans during its first life, and the Upland team has come up with a few new ones we like as well. Help them choose which one to use during the week of December 17th (details coming soon).
The final – and most important – step is the recipe. The brewers are making several pilot batches based on Braun’s recipe, and they want your help deciding which one will ultimately go in the CV bottle. By participating in either of the surveys mentioned above, you will enter yourself in a random drawing to be part of the CV Tasting Panel. If you win, you will receive email, and in January 2013, the Panel will gather at the Upland Brewery in Bloomington, IN to taste the different pilot batches and decide the future of CV.
The Upland team is looking forward to a great 15th anniversary and celebrating Indiana’s brewing heritage with local beer lovers.
For more information about Champagne Velvet, visit www.champagnevelvetbeer.com.
UPDATE: I talked to the good folks at Upland for the IDS for more details on the CV revival.
“We’re making it as authentic as we can,” said Charles Stanley, Upland’s strategic projects manager. “It was a German-inspired lager that did use flaked corn, and we will be doing that, as well. It’s really keeping with that drink local idea and paying homage to the most popular beer in Indiana history.”
But times have changed, Stanley said. New brewing techniques and equipment means the century-old recipe needs a 21st century update.
To do that, they’ll brew a few versions of the original recipe and bring in a taste test panel to pick the final brew.
“The variables will be yeast, amount of flaked corn used and the hop varieties,” Stanley said.