The history of Cutters Brewing Company embodies the spirit and passion of aspiring artisans from all walks of life. The project started in 2010 in Bloomington with two friends brewing on a small two-barrel system on the weekends. Beers were bottled by hand into bombers and distributed to a few local liquor stores and bars. Things have developed quickly for the brewery in a few short years. Today, the Cutters brewing operation resides in Avon with a 30-barrel brewhouse and automated bottling line. The beers produced by this operation are now distributed statewide in Indiana, and Illinois distribution was launched this past October. In short, if you’re reading this blog, there is a good chance of finding Cutters beers in your local market. Cutters produces five year-round beers along with a rotating list of seasonal offerings and special releases. Kathleen had the pleasure last July of walking through the facility, getting a tour and trying some beers. Thanks to our friends at Cutters, we had the opportunity to work our way through a full lineup and pass some thoughts along to you. Everyone’s tastes are different, so we decided to split the beers between Kathleen and I to offer two different perspectives on each one. Here are the notes on each beer, personal rankings, and overall recommendations from two beer drinkers with different tastes: Lost River Blonde Ale – A crisp, refreshing summer ale with spicy hop notes and a thick white foamy head.
|Kathleen: The last on my list was Lost River, Cutters blonde. It has a slight resemblance to a light lager. I wish it had more flavor, creaminess or at least something that would draw me in for more. It was drinkable, but it was definitely not my favorite.
Kathleen’s Rank: 8th
|Nathan: Light colored with some diacetyl* in the aroma. The malt character is light and sweet with a balanced touch of spicy, floral hop character. The dry, crisp finish and slight lingering bitterness fit the profile for a refreshing summer beer. Some hints of diacetyl continue to show up in the flavor. (* – Diacetyl is described as a butter or butterscotch flavor that usually indicates a fermentation issue. Some people like the flavor, but it’s generally considered an off-flavor when evaluating beer.)
Blonde Ales aren’t my favorite style, but this had some promising qualities to make me think it could be above average for the style. The diacetyl issue can be corrected, and may have just affected the particular batch I tried. But it was enough of a distraction to make this my least favorite of the group.
Monon Wheat – Our refreshing Belgian style Wit beer is powered by the memories of the Monon Railroad and brewed with lemon peel, orange peel, and coriander for a crisp, tart finish.
|Kathleen: Once you have had a beer straight off the tank it is hard to talk about the taste of it from the bottle. Monon Wheat however, is a good solid beer. Going with a witbier instead of a typical wheat ale or a hefeweizen, this golden colored ale is nice and creamy. It’d be my session beer of choice.
Kathleen’s Rank: 2nd
|Nathan: Light sweet malt, lemon, and orange peel in the aroma. Light colored with a slight haze. The wheat malt gives a nice bready impression upfront, balanced well with orange and lemon flavors. The clean, tart finish and low bitterness contribute to a very refreshing beer. I don’t get a lot of coriander character, but that’s not much of a complaint as coriander can be pretty unpleasant in beer if overdone. Everything else is exceptionally well balanced and pleasant here.
This beer really impressed me. Spicing in beer is challenging and unforgiving for a brewer, and Cutters did a great job here. Highly recommended.
Half Court IPA – Half Court IPA, containing 70 IBUs, is made up mostly of Cascade, Centennial, and Summit hops and a solid malt backbone.
|Kathleen: The next beer I felt a little less in the pack. Still a nice IPA, I really prefer the Full Court, its Double IPA cousin. It has what you could always want from an IPA though. A slight hop scent, followed by a faint citrus taste on the tongue. To me it is a nice standalone beer if you only want to drink a pint, or two. I did run an experiment on this beer by added blood oranges to it. The tangy juice from the orange gave it a nice pop in my mouth.
Kathleen’s Rank: 5th
|Nathan: Hazy with slightly low carbonation. Classic American IPA aroma: grapefruit, tangerine, and a bit of malt sweetness. Kudos for not using a skunky/garlic/onion hop profile that will hopefully be a short-lived trend in craft IPAs. The hop flavor profile matches the aroma, balanced by more malt character than would be expected in a West Coast-style IPA – but still very drinkable. There is a significant lingering bitterness in the aftertaste, which is appropriate for the style.
The craft IPA market is very crowded these days, but this is a good one. More carbonation would enhance the hop aroma and flavor and take this beer up another notch.
Floyd’s Folly Scottish – A roasty and caramelly Scottish that drinks incredibly smooth for an 8% abv beer.
|Kathleen: The Pentagon Porter and Floyd’s Folly Scottish Ale were two ales that I felt were ok, but held nothing special to me. I typically like my Scottish ales more chewy like a Wee Heavy. This one was lighter, a slightly caramel flavor but nothing that draws me back for another bottle unless I want a lighter example of the style.
Kathleen’s Rank: 7th
|Nathan: Strong malty aroma, grainy with plum and chocolate notes. Along with chocolate and raisin flavors, caramel malt is more evident in the flavor than the aroma. Full-bodied and sweet throughout but dries out enough in a roasty finish to welcome going back for another sip. Finishes with a warming sensation down the throat, but goes down very smooth for a malty 8% ABV beer. The moderately low carbonation is perfect for this style. Just wonderfully tasty and easy-drinking overall.
I’m a huge fan of Strong Scotch Ales and good examples have been pretty sparse in the local craft scene. It’s pretty daring (but awesome) to have a big beer like this as one of your flagships. I tried this side by side with one of my homebrewed Strong Scotch examples. In comparison, Floyd’s Folly trades a little complexity in favor of drinkability, but that’s a good choice for a flagship beer. Highly recommended.
Empire Imperial Stout – With over 270 pounds of molasses added during the boil, this malty beer is black as night and tastes like dessert in a glass.
|Kathleen: The base to the Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout is the most obvious place for my number 4 spot. Slightly sweet, almost in the same instance of a milk stout, however it was still high on my list because I tend to favor sweeter stouts. I’d much rather have a flavor resembling lactose, or chocolate, or caramel then something dry and robust.
Kathleen’s Rank: 4th
|Nathan: Big roasty malt aroma with coffee, black licorice, and a moderate hop aroma. Very thick, chewy mouthfeel with flavors of coffee, molasses, toffee, raisins, and black licorice. The molasses comes through more in flavor than aroma and tones down the roast character. A significant lingering bitterness helps to clean up the residual sweetness initially, but the thick sweetness of the beer outlasts the bittering offset. This is a sipping beer to be sure.
While I think the addition of molasses scores high for creativity, it creates an excessive sweetness for my personal tastes. On the other hand, Poppi loved this beer, so this may be the choice for you if your preferences lean toward richer, sweeter beers.
General Brown Sour Brown Ale (seasonal) – A Flanders-style sour in which we used the malt bill similar to our Scottish ale before infecting this batch and eventually aging on oak.
|Kathleen: Brownish red, slightly sour finish, this beer was a close relative to a Flemish red ale. I’m a little biased when it comes to rating because this beer already had a one before I even opened the bottle, but even after all the beers I would still rate this 1 out of 8.
Kathleen’s Rank: 1st
|Nathan: The aroma is fairly subtle and pleasant, with sour notes accompanied by a bready, nutty malt character. The flavor has a significant acidic sour character upfront which gradually fades as notes of caramel, chocolate, and oak tannins come in. Good carbonation level helps add a refreshing quality at the end. As I go back for another sip, the upfront sour character continues to dominate the overall impression of this beer.
OK, so I have a confession. I’m not a huge sour beer fan (cue the craft beer torches and pitchforks……), so you can take this opinion with a grain of salt. When it comes to sour beers, subtlety is a virtue in my glass. General Brown was nowhere near the most sour beer I’ve tasted, but it was still too heavily balanced toward that aspect for me.
Nathan’s Rank: 7th
Pentagon Porter (seasonal) – A small yet flavorful porter which we consider a miniature version of our Empire, roasty malt flavors and just a hint of molasses combine in our favorite fall beer.
|Kathleen: This is a very drinkable porter with a nice color, but I found it a little tame for the Robust Porter style.
Kathleen’s Rank: 6th
|Nathan: Significant roasty aroma for a smaller porter with notes of cocoa and chocolate. Very subtle hop character in the aroma and flavor. The molasses comes through more in flavor than aroma – caramel character is also very pronounced in flavor and lingers into the finish. Full-bodied mouthfeel and smooth, sweet finish. Good carbonation level for the style, but just seems a bit heavy for a smaller Porter.
Probably the most difficult beer in the field for me to slot. I love the Porter style and this one is pretty well executed from a technical standpoint. But there’s something here (I would assume the molasses) that gives a heavy impression and limits the drinkability I prefer in a smaller Porter. Chalk up another one to personal preference.
Bourbon Barrel Aged Empire (seasonal) – Our Empire aged in bourbon barrels from a local Indianapolis distillery for seven months, was bottled in October and released at the brewery.
|Kathleen: Number three is easily the bourbon barrel Empire Imperial Stout. Not too overpowering with the bourbon after taste as many heavy bourbon barrel aged beers can be. I found it to actually have a chocolate kick in the back of my throat after each sip. There is also a significant coffee undertone. The bottle adds that a coconut flavor should be present but I didn’t get any of that in the taste. The beer also seemed to improve as you continue to sip on it.
Kathleen’s Rank: 3rd
|Nathan: Intense bourbon aroma with subtle vanilla and oak notes. Thick mouthfeel with molasses sweetness upfront in the flavor. Bourbon flavors come through more in the finish, followed by a moderate bitterness that seems to outlast the molasses sweetness this time. The barrel character and bitterness help dry out the beer and provide a nice balance to the molasses. The barrel character dissipates a little as the beer warms, allowing some of the coffee flavor noted in the regular Empire to start coming through. Everything is smooth and blends together well throughout the drinking experience.
I’ve tried quite a few barrel aged beers where the bourbon flavor overshadows the original beer, rather than serving in a complementary role. The Barrel Aged Empire is a well balanced example of barrel aging delivering a marked improvement over the original beer. Fans of the regular Empire will definitely want to seek out this one.
Overall Comments Kathleen: Overall, I’m still a fan of Cutters Brewing. Monon Wheat is one of my go to, summer night 6 pack pick up beers, and with warmer weather coming I’ll be looking forward to having more. Nathan: There are a lot of options out there for your craft beer dollar, and it will only get more crowded in the next few years. Everyone has some good beers. So the question is – does a brewery produce any that you would specifically seek out among the myriad offerings at your disposal? In the Cutters lineup, I would answer yes to both Floyd’s Folly and the Monon Wheat. Both are great beers and also styles that have not been well-represented in the local market to date. Upland Wheat is surely the best known Indiana-brewed Wit (and is a fine beer in it’s own right), but I found the Monon Wheat to be more flavorful with a better use of spicing. Although I’m still partial to Floyd’s Folly, Monon Wheat was the clear winner when combining our two rankings. Thanks Cutters! Best wishes for your continued success! Kathleen and Nathan