OK, gang, I am about to leave for ten days of Medieval Summer Camp where I will be a very very busy bee. Brewing-wise, I’ll be competing in the Interkingdom Brewers’ Guild – international, yikes – striving for Masters status in two categories, and providing delectable beverages for the Queen’s Tea by special request of Her Majesty. (Beer and quick mead for 60? You bet I called in some chips for that one!)
Today is all about housecleaning and getting an entry in the mail for the Maryland State Fair homebrew comp. I’ve always wanted to enter a state fair, but I was no 4H kid. Oh, and I have two articles due when I get back from summer camp, and just queried a third. If I don’t get some blog posts up now they ain’t ever gonna happen.
I have my one and only can of Sun King Osiris in the fridge. It’s all going be okay.
It is a wonderful thing to spend days basking in the glow of lots of breweries who really want your attention. Beer – not just any beer, but really good craft beer – all day for three days straight – what a life!
Jacob Leininkugel Brewing Co. sponsored our lunch at the U.S. Beer Bloggers Conference. Talk about a blast from the past! A million years ago in another part of my life, I was working for Outward Bound in upper Minnesota (cross a little water and we were in Canada). I remember some of the guys going out and getting Leinenkugelcases, and coming back all excited that it was available. I didn’t drink beer, back then, I had no idea what they were so excited about.
Leinenkugel is based in Chippewa Falls, WI, by the Big Eddy spring. On their fifth generation of family guardianship, the extended Leinenkugel family takes their beer quality very seriously – I’m not saying they didn’t always try to put out a quality product, but there seems to be an awareness that wasn’t there in earlier times, they’ve stepped it up a notch; probably a function of the craft movement and general beer analysis added to all those years of family lore. A word about the food: the conference hotel provided food to go with our beers, and it was good and very nicely presented – but nothing’s going to compare to the Goose Island dinner on this trip (see my BBC post #2, in which I go into painful detail). Leinenkugel did a good job coordinating beer with hotel food. That’s all I got on the food.Grant Holtackers of Leinenkugel narrated our lunch. Unfortunately, he was very hard to hear; I got most of the family history but little about the beers. We were given four beers, starting with their Summer Shandy. On a hot day I’d be a big fan. Bright lemony notes in a pleasant-bodied golden beer? Yes, please!I want to say the next was their Classic Amber, but my notes get really hard to read about now. It was surprising, I remember that – I don’t tend to love golden ales, but I liked this one a lot, and will be looking for it; it’s on my List. It was clean, the way very few beers are, and very bright. That must be some water they’ve got up there!
We were served two of the Big Eddy beers, the Russian Imperial Stout , a very big beer (which I liked enough to snag a couple of bottles to come home with), and the Wee Heavy Scotch Ale. I have a sentimental spot for wee heavies, but they’re not my favorite style of beer. No fault of Leinenkugel’s there. The Big Eddy beers are indeed big, and should be treated with respect.Leinenkugel beers are, well, clean and bright, very nicely crafted; I was very impressed, and I hadn’t expected to be. I want to give a shoutout to the rest of the Leinie crew who were with us all Conference: Christina Martin and Elle Krause-Lyons, the Big Eddy women, and Carrie Leum. Thank you for a lovely lunch!Thank goodness, we had a couple more sessions before we decamped en masse to the Indiana
Microbrewers Festival at Optimist Park in Broad Ripple. One was the Spiegelau/Brooklyn Brewery presentation I wrote about in #4, the other by PourPost, a Craft Brew Video Magazine, on video blogging. I’m not quite up to that yet but it sure does look like fun. The Brewers of Indiana Guild generously sponsored all 100+ of us to come to the fest, which was HUGE – I seem to recall 64 microbreweries represented!? And they donate a portion of their profits to charity, this year to my old friends the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (I ran the Country Music Marathon with them a few years back).
Happily we had a head start on the festival from all the beers we’d been introduced to over the past several days. We podded up – clusters of beer bloggers everywhere – and mostly hit up the microbreweries we hadn’t already gotten to enjoy. The upper Midwest is a hotbed of craft brewing creativity and quality – who knew?? (Yeah, ok, anyone who’s been paying attention knew. I gotta get off the East Coast more.)
We walked into a ball park, dry and dusty, with several large tents, and made our rounds. Good representation by quality companies like Upland Brewing, but surely this wasn’t everything? We glimpsed what might turn out to be the food tents through a gate – well, a wide opening in a tall chainlink fence – and lo! There was the rest of the festival! In park space that felt very much like an established college campus, cool and green, with comfortable paths and attractive (and apparently universally climbable) sculptures, we found the rest of the beers – er, breweries. I confirmed that I was impressed with Three Floyds, which has a kind of cult status among beer bloggers, but the absolute most memorable beer I tasted was from Sun King. Sun Kingwas pouring a different beer every half hour, and it was gone in a flash. We had one chance before our bus left; we waited about twenty-twenty-five minutes, and it was worth it. (Sun King Osiris nearly as good, not quite; I didn’t have a chance to go “shopping” before I left Indy and I don’t know how I’d have packed it in my bursting luggage anyway, or I’d have found some more Sun King and brought it East! I’m not sure I can get Sun King out here.)
Oddly, I can’t find a website for the festival that gives a comprehensive list of who-all was there, or I’d share it with you. I’m sure someone published a list beforehand for publicity. Hoosier Beer Geek posted a list that’s mostly complete. Midwest Microbrews and Indiana Beer both have a good calendar, but you can’t search past events. A lot of internet calendars are for forward searching only. Hear me, people: this is a flaw.Boy, what a day, and we weren’t done yet…next up, a few words about some of the speakers we heard, live beer blogging, and our visit to World Class Beers/Monarch Beverage Company warehouse. They were faithful supporters of the conference, and, well, dinner at a beer wholesaler’s…