What do you get when you pour 40+ hungover beer bloggers onto a big touring bus at 8:30 am and carry them five hours across country? A subdued but cheerful, chatty bunch of not-blogging beer geeks, getting to know each other (and check out the new guy, whose plane came in too late the night before to join the pub crawl). Our fearless leader, Allan Wright of Zephyr Adventures, closed his eyes and nodded off. I tried to do some work, but balancing a big laptop on my small lap on a moving bus was no fun and I was half-listening to conversations anyway; the only person I saw actually getting work done was Randy Clemens of Stone Brewing, who has a new book coming out and had an editor’s deadline on Monday. He dropped out of sight a couple of times over the weekend. Funny and responsible.
Somewhere around 12:30 our big bus pulled off the highway and we all perked up. I swear I thought we were lost (shades of a memorable Chinatown Bus trip to NYC to see Spamalot); we wandered on what were clearly neighborhood streets for a while. Soon we emerged into Lafayette, IN‘s downtown, a clean, charming area with buildings mostly dating to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, enough new, small businesses with interesting event flyers taped in the windows to give it a lively feeling. We were ushered into Lafayette Brewing Co., housed in a marvellous old building with dark wood floors and ceilings, lots of exposed brick, and plaster
walls with wonderful faux paintings of brewery activity and giant bottles by local trompe l’oeil artist Randee Rankin. We went down a long, narrow hallway (with faux cracks painted on the plaster), and up a wonderful sweeping staircase with a great carved and faceted newel post at the bottom – really handsome woodwork clearly original to the building. Upstairs was a gigantic open loft – I’ve lived in plenty of apartments less than a quarter of the size – big glass windows, more faux painting (commercial beer fermenters this time), a stage and soundboard at one end and a horseshoe-shaped bar at the other. It was a wonderful space, again all dark wood, exposed brick, and faux’d plaster. I immediately thought contra dances, and bounced on the floor a little – it did not bounce back, it’s hardwood on 12″ joists. Very solid, like the rest of the building. There were tables scattered about and a Beer-B-Q lunch waiting for us – pulled pork, smoked brisket, and for the vegetarians/vegans among us a Greek stuffed pita (I took a bit of the stuffing, it was really good). They had three beers in pitchers waiting for us – not intended as pairings, but just to savor – straw, amber, and cognac: their Tippecanoe Common Ale (which kinda defines the word “sessionable”), Gypsy Pilsner (very nice and a lovely medium amber), and Black Angus Oatmeal Stout (which I flat out loved). Thanks to Indianabeer.com, whose picture of Lafayette’s beers I have borrowed here. The Black Angus malt was used to make the creamy Kathy’s Kandies truffles we had for dessert, paired with Big Boris thirteen year old barleywine. Talk about feelin’ the love!
Lafayette is Indiana’s second oldest brewing company, and the first to take advantage of a new-ish small brewers licensing in Indiana that allowed breweries to sell beer over the bar by the drink – an obvious plus for microbreweries. Lafayette owner Greg Emig is the VP of the Brewers of Indiana Guild, the organization that supports craft beer in Indiana and hosted the 17th Annual Indiana Microwbrewers Festival, which we attended a day or so later – more on that to come! (I was impressed that he could be running a microbrewery, hoppin’ restaurant, be VP running a festival with 63 microbreweries, and still have time and the wits to make us a nice lunch and welcome us personally.)
The pictures I tried to take of Greg Emig and the marvellous second floor space where we ate came out poorly (seemed like there was plenty of light at the time), and I regret to say that there aren’t any pictures of the murals on Lafayette’s website. They’re worth seeing, very enjoyable backdrops to many pleasant evenings. Maybe Lafayette just lucked out on the space, but the building is airy and solid and a really great setting for a restaurant and brewpub – and the beer is mighty tasty.
A few of us stretched our legs walking around downtown for a bit, then we all piled back on the bus for Indianapolis. Next up, the 2012 Beer Bloggers Conference registration and opening speakers! Julia Herz of the Brewers Association; Garrett Oliver of Brookly Brewing; live blogging with presentations by five breweries in fifty minutes; dinneer at the Tomlinson Tap Room and an Indianapolis pub crawl.