Indianapolis, July 2012 The format is pretty simple. A room of 120 beer bloggers seated at tables of six to eight people, laptops live. One or two reps from each of five craft breweries. Fifty minutes. Ten minutes at your table, the bell rings, and they move on to the next.
Now, I recall five beers in fifty minutes, and I know this session didn’t last more than an hour, but I have ten beers in my notes. Five minutes per beer?? Really?? It’s either that or we had some Whovian dimensional pan-beer time shifts going on. Beer tasting that bends time and space…I could make a habit of that.
It’s kinda like speed dating for beer bloggers – each craft brewery had mere minutes to present one chosen brew. We beer bloggers had our laptops up, tasting and typing for all we were worth. It’s total focus on the beer experience. We tweeted, we blogged if we could keep up, Untapp’d entries multiplied. Our fearless leader Allan Wright called time and the reps would move to the next table.
I hadn’t had any of these beers before, so this is as fresh a set of impressions as I can offer. I didn’t have time to check websites as we went along, or I might’ve given preference to the brewer-geek sites that give you all the stats – OG, SG, FG, IBUs, all the hops, a little history (I can skip the calorie count).
After this we went to a reception with more craft beer and heavy hors d’oeuvres at the Tomlinson Tap Room. After our high-power hour it was a huge relief to just relax and chat folks up.
Props go to Dan Kopman of Schlafly Beer in St. Louis, who was with us for the whole conference but dressed up in a giant Schlafly beer bottle suit for the live blogging session. Gotta love a good sport. Besides, Schlafly gave us a free beer card (for the next time I’m in St. Louis). Dan brought the most recent bottling of their American IPA so we’d get the most aromatic batch. It’s a pale gold, creamy-headed seasonal beer in a special release series. Simcoe and Centennial hops, and dry-hopped with Amarillo; the hop aroma comes right through. They wanted to showcase the hops, and they did. Next summer they are planning an Export IPA English-style with Tasmanian IPA hops: Galaxy Australian. The American IPA was very sessionable, not too bitter, with big hops overtones. I’m not an IPA fan, but I wouldn’t mind if I were hanging out with a group of friends having a Schlafly, and that’s saying quite a lot.
Barley Island’s founder and brewmaster Jeff Eaton has a brewpub and packaging plant of 8,000 square feet – sounds like a lot until you fill it with fermenters and bottling equipment. He brought us Dirty Helen, a golden strong ale at 8.4% alcohol by volume (ABV). Using Saphir and Herstbrucker hops, it has a citrusy nose with the standard Belgian funk in the background. Some of it has been barrel aged, and Dirty Helen won a medal at the Great American Beer Fest. Right now you can get their beers in Indiana and Chicago only. Around since 1999, Barley Island is working on having a production brewery next year. They are looking for sites now.
Bob Mack from World Class Beer (distributor) stood in for Oaken Barrel Brewery on the south side of Indianapolis in Greenwood. This fifteen-year-old craft brewery (practically ancient in the current trend) makes an Indiana Amber Hoosier-style red ale, with an OG of 13 degrees Plato. It’s only distributed in Indiana, which is a pity for the rest of us. It’s lemony with a citrus note mid-back of the tongue and a lightly Belgian-funky nose, a little cloudy brown with red highlights. I liked it a LOT and brought a couple of bottles home with me.
Flat 12 Bierworks brought their Pogues Run porter. Irish music fans will recognize The Pogues, and the cartoon of snaggle-toothed front man Shane McGowan (meaning no disrespect, I love The Pogues’ music). This is a 5.5% ABV, big coffee roast in the nose, solid roast mid-tongue, robust dark ale (but you’d better like coffee). They also slipped in a New Zealand Kiwi Hefeweizen made with Kiwi hops; it didn’t have a lot of body, though there was plenty of roast flavor.
Magnificent Amber from Triton Brewing in northeast Indy came next. It’s a robust amber at 5.5% ABV, made with Amarillo and Cascade hops. They found the malt in Patagonia, believe it or not, and the Chilean malt is very dark with strong coffee notes. Magnificent Amber is dry-hopped with Cascade, and has a fruity mid-mouth and medium body. Triton is in 2/3 of Indiana, and will be in Chicago cheap phentermine pills next year. They make 6,000 barrels a year, but just expanded.
Three Floyds Brewing Co. has near-cult status among beer bloggers. I am a convert. Granted, we got to taste the very freshest beer they could serve, and it does make a difference. This brewery is worth tasting as fresh as you can get it. They give terms like “bright” and “clean” a whole ‘nother dimension. The next day at the Indiana Microbrew Festival I got to try their Oktoberfest, and practically heard angels sing. For live blogging they brought us Arctic Panzer Wolf. I never in my life thought I’d like a beer with a name that reaches back to seventh grade (it just wasn’t my favorite time of life). They told us they were bringing their most crushing beer so we wouldn’t be able to taste anything that came after (nice try). Arctic Panzer Wolf is an Imperial IPA, and the pale ales tend to be a little sweeter to bring out the brightness of the hops. This beer is the exception – with a tiny bit of Caramunich (Belgian pale) malt, a little dextrose, a bit of CO2 extract raw alpha bittering, they said “it’s overdone like we do everything.” The last hop addition was all Bravo and Simcoe hops, and then there was massive dry hopping. It’s more of a West Coast style IPA, where they tend to be really dry. At 9% ABV, it’s really fruity and fresh – I loved it. My mind was blown. The name, the style, all indicators were against them for me, I am SO not an IPA fan – I loved their beer anyway. I like the attitude too: Three Floyds uses really sound traditional brewing techniques to make fairly un-standard flavors. They brew for flavor, not to style guidelines, but their German Lagers win medals because they can brew to style dead on when they choose. I admire skill like that, and they’ve got it in spades. Right now Three Floyds is available mostly in Chicago, northwest Indiana, a little bit of Ohio, and Minneapolis. Let’s hope they expand soon; I’d love to get their beer here in DC.
New Belgium Shift pale lager was next; it’s their newest beer, just available as of April 2. They have just started releasing in 16 oz. cans, too. Shift is an end-of-the-work-day crisp, refreshing, very approachable, easy to drink beer with notes of grapefruit or a little citrus. To me it smells of ammonia/catbox, but once I got it in your mouth all was well. I didn’t get a chance to double-check that aroma impression with others, so don’t take my word for it. If you get a chance, try this beer. Besides, you can get it in Virginia.
RAM Restaurant and Brewery (“We’re social brewers”) brought us several things over the course of the conference, and I confess my notes are pretty confused on which one showed up when. I have a note about their Russian Imperial stout, Ramageddon 2012 (named for the Mayan Calendar), with (of course) chocolate and coffee notes. it is not on their website, however. RAM served us Apocalypto barley wine, with a true cofee nose and a nice mouthfeel, full body, opaque; at the end of this year there will be a bourbon barrel reserve available. Apocalypto is made with pale chocolate and regular chocolate malts, Special B, roasted barley, and a little flaked barley for body; Glacier and Nurenberg hops come through nicely. Apparently you can get Apocalypto at their brewpub. Might be worth a trip.
Boulder Beer Company (Colorado’s first microbrewery) – I am amazed that, while I learned to brew mead in Colorado, I didn’t start making beer until after I left; Colorado is now ground central of the U.S. homebrewing movement. they brought us Hazed and Infused dry hopped ale, “a beer you can drink”. It was golden red, with medium body and a good mouthfeel; moderate roast qualities. As their rep said, this is the beer that pays their bills. You can’t have extreme geek beers if you don’t have drinkable ones too. He has a point. I thought it was not a session beer, but would be quite good with dinner.
Wreck Alley , named for the scuba diving area that has many, many shipwrecks (I am not a wreck diver, thank you, too spooky for me) has seven brewpubs in southern California (San Diego, LA, Orange County). They brought us their mighty Imperial Stout – 9.5% ABV but they want it to be drinkable on a hot summer night. It is dark and viscous, with orange/citrus overtones. I really liked it. I have notes about an Ethiopian coffee roaster (the machine, not a person, I think) and cacao nibs and coffee in the bright tank.
All that in under an hour! Whew! Live beer blogging is a blast, and maybe next year I’ll be able to actually get my notes posted as we go. I’ll sure enough try!