Bloomington Craft Beer Festival 2013 Review

bloomington-340-200Earlier, Bigger, Better! Well, the last one is really for you to decide, but it’s safe to say the number of people with an educated opinion skyrocketed this year. The 3rd Annual Bloomington Craft Beer Festival moved to April this year and introduced a full slate of lead-up events during the first Bloomington Craft Beer Week. IndianaBeer was well represented at the event and we now present a collection of the thoughts and beer picks from each reporter:

gregsmall From Greg………….

When I reflect on The Bloomington Craft Brew Festival I think of the term “community” of craft brewing. A community of brewers, brewery crews, and craft brew lovers all came together on the sunny Spring day Saturday, for a celebration of brew. From the wonderful historic venue of the Woolery Mill with historic rafters and, when empty echoing of craftsmanship, this fest brought out craft food, special music, craft beer and even some unique attire. This year there were more attendees than last year, more breweries, plenty of porta-potties, and an enhanced fest layout (in my opinion). While a light breeze wafted through the structure and sunlight filtered through, the attendees seemed well behaved and happy. On the positive while VIPs got early access and free frisbees (of recycled material) everybody had access to most of the same beers, which is a criticism of some out-of-state beer festivals. Sure a few beers might have tapped out before some of the regular admission folks entered but the BCBF is set up to allow access to good beer for all, not exclusive VIP access to the most rare beers. There were plenty of firkin beers all day, and some of the brewers did not pour some special beers until later during the festival. After all, while VIPs tend to be craft beer lovers who look for the rare pour, this festival (fortunately) did not seem to attract a crowd that just wants as much free beer as possible. Congratulations to Brewers of Indiana Guild, to Ted and to Lee, for the great layout that kept the crowds moving with the largest brewers anchoring the corners. Congrats to Nathan for the sustainability effort. Thanks to the crowd and to the brew crews who were there to enjoy. The community of craft was thriving and we saw great discussions of beer, of brewing, of yeast, of hops, of beer trades, and we heard of brewers who have taken time to help other brewers with their systems. This is not some ‘trade show’ where everyone thinks their product is better than another. This is the craft community where we see brew crews sharing and commenting… often offering encouragement. We are all proud of our craft beer and we are all proud to sip, talk and reflect. So…. about the beer…. I have personal comments plus I reached out to a few folks I know, from a Master-level beer judge to I.U. students who are very into craft beer. Evil Czech Brewing, Culver, IN – I made this a destination stop when saw Stalin’s Darkside, barrel aged imperial stout at 10.5% and 69 IBU. It did not disappoint. Full flavored and complex. They were proud of their Lucky Dog APA, more of a session pale at 5.2% and very drinkable. Bloomington Brewing Company, Bloomington, IN – 6%, 12 IBU Wine Barrel Aged Ruby Bloom amber. Who would have guessed that one of my home-town favorites would taste so delicious with the richness of wood and wine? Sandy Cockerham, Master BJCP beer judge passed along, “I absolutely loved the wine barrel aged Ruby Bloom Amber ale! Simply awesome.” SunKing, Barrel Aged Maibock, 8.3%, 24 IBU, and you just know I had to get to the SunKing booth at 6:30 for a sample of this. I like Maibock and I pleasantly discovered that the barrel aging added depth and complexity without too much sweetness. Less hop notes but balance. Flat12, Indianapolis, IN – Pinko, and though I’d had a sample this week, I wanted another of this Pappy barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout, 10.3%, 86 IBU. The complexity of this beer is the deep, complex flavor laboring in the hops for balance Enough with the barrel….. how about intriguing? Different? Broad Ripple Brewing, (Do I need to say, in Broad Ripple?) – Strange Broux Brew takes coffee brewed by Strange Brew Greenwood, that is brewed exclusively for Papa Roux restaurant (you know, the place that gave the kid who was walking miles to get a restaurant job, a job there; but I digress), and brewed this coffee called Louisiana Swamp water, into an Oatmeal stout with 5.5%, 27 IBU. Love the story, love the brew, or broux, or…. Whatever, just enjoy! Broad Ripple gets another nod for Bubble Gum lager – So this is considered a flaw when you don’t intend it, but they just must have said, “let’s do this.” And who can argue with the Pope of the Indy beer scene, owner John Hill. Very interesting, John, and I wanted to blow a bubble. Brugge Brasserie, Broad Ripple – Getting Figgy with It, Imperial Belgian Porter brewed with Black Mission figs, Caradamom, and mace – that’s dried fibrous exterior of nutmeg (oh, you knew that). 12% Whoa! Complex, love the deep fruit. One of the female I.U. students I queried listed this as a favorite and noted the deep taste of fig coming through. Brugge Brasserie, Broad Ripple – Ted Miller, owner/brewer had this beer available earlier in the week and I had to have another sample! Released after 1 year in a barrel (here I go again) sour… nice light ‘off the hook’ funk, in a golden color beer that comes in at about 5%. Zwanzigz, Columbus, IN – Ghost Pepper Imperial Stout, a beer I had with excellent brewer Mike initially, had again at Winterfest, and not only made a point of getting a sample, I took a bar-owner friend over to have it. Not a burn your mouth off, but a nice wonderful, flavorful “I love the flavor” stout. Upland, Bloomington/Indy – Gilgamesh. Flanders Red, addition of flaked maize, fruity Belgian yeast, some wild micros, slight bourbon barrel aging produces this 10.5% beverage. Thanks to Upland (Jackson, Andrew) for sharing. Actually the very first beer I tasted for this fest! When I complemented Upland Head Brewer Caleb Staton on the excellent production of sours he was nonchalant and humble. Caleb poured me Upland’s Teddy Bear Kisses, Oatmeal Stout with chocolate, pale, and roasted malts adding organic dark chocolate coming in at 11.5% and 80 IBUs for complexity. Upland had the new 15th anniversary Champagne Velvet at this event and while we’ve already written about it I agree with Master judge Sandy who, "…found it pleasantly grainy and crisp." A clean pre-prohibition celebration of historic Indiana beer. And for the newer and further away…. Bare Hands Brewing, Granger, IN — located in an off-the–beaten path industrial park (wait, that works for a Northern Indiana brewer with a 3 in their name) and deciding to come at the last minute, this brewery got acclaim at Winterfest and was the one brewery singled out by one I.U. student who has become immersed in craft beer. To quote him, “Their Pineapple Pale, Imperial Coffee Stout, and Rice IPA, accomplished the two things I get most excited about when tasting a beer I’ve never tried. All three were surprisingly original/unique tastes to me, but more importantly, all three were damn good.” I stopped by for the ThaiPA as one of the more unusual beers I’d tried before and had to have again. I then agreed the Rice IPA was a close second in the unusual and hoppy category. Haw Creek, Hope, IN – 4 Founders Wheat satisfy the craving for discovering one of our newer Indiana brewers. This is a solid wheat beer for a place that opened in the Fall. Nice people; we’ll have to visit! Daredevil Brewery, Shelbyville,IN — Rip Cord IPA, this delivers a massive amount of American hops with a very solid malt underpinning. This builds very nicely on the Daredevil family reputation! Big Dawg Brew Haus, Richmond, IN – Thistle Sitter Smoked Scotch Ale. I love the style, I love the smoke. Big Dawg… Shroyer’s English Bitter is an award winning British style session beer that I could drink a lot of. Iechyd Da (say Yacky Dah) Brewing, Ekhart, IN – Kiss Me I’m Stout, wheat stout. I love the brewery name (cheers or “good health” in Welsh), I love the fact that this is a female-owned brew pub, I love the beer name, I love the fact that this is organic ingredients. Then I love the nice spice of the wheat grains underlying a serious stout! 6% Figure Eight, Valparaiso — Pimp Slap Imperial Pilsner, at 9%, 63 IBU, interesting malt character, our brewer buddy Mike Lahti was about to explain it to me when he got a call so I’ll just say interesting and worthy. And finally… It seems everyone should have had to walk past Flat12’s booth (Flat12 Brewing, Indy) for the science of brewing lesson which allowed comparison of two beers with different yeast strains and four beers with different hops to aid sensory perception! In the white lab coats and serving these experimental beers they really stood out. We appreciate all who came out, all who gave me their opinions, and all who made this year BCBF a big success, who added to the great community that is craft beer. Greg Kitz

jake_small From Jake………….

While I didn’t get to try all the beers I wanted to, I did get to try quite a few great beers. After trying ZwanzigZ Brewing’s Ghost Pepper Imperial Stout at Winterfest, I knew I needed to get another sample. This great beer comes in at 8.8% abv with a moderately strong spicy character that blends with the full flavor of the stout to make it a must try at beerfests. I was told they have yet to put this on at the brewpub so there aren’t a lot of places to try this one. Another Imperial Stout makes my top list with Evil Czech Brewing’s Stalin’s Darkside. This 10.5% beast is aged in bourbon barrels. Flavorful doesn’t quite describe this sweet alcoholic, but not overly hot, velvety beer. If you are in the Culver, IN area, a little west of 31 between Kokomo and South Bend, this 7BBL brewhouse is a must try. From the firkin table I was able to try many tasty samples. New Albanian Brewing’s Eastern Front caught my eye. My first question was what the he!! is a Russian Imperial Pilsner, but with it being New Albanian it was of course a fantastic brew blending the two theories behind the styles. Next up at the firkin tent were two Flat 12 Hello My Name Is French Oak & American Oak. These two amber beers aged with the different oaks really help highlight the differences that each one can offer. Continuing on with Flat 12 at their table, I tried all four experimental hop beers. I’ve heard some of the Great Fermentations employees raving about these hops, and they are quite good. I got a citrus orange/grapefruit from one that I particularly remember enjoying. Next up at were the experimental yeast beers, one had a very nice belgian banana ester character while the other was certainly more of an American style yeast. I also finished off the day with 12 Penny a Scottish 60 style beer which is really quite good, for a session beer. I have some thoughts on session beers, but there is no time for that now so stay tuned in the future for a discourse on this new trend. Lastly I was able to try Daredevil Brewing’s Rip Cord double IPA, which has lived up to their high expectations and is a classic example of a double IPA. I didn’t make it to very many out of state breweries, but I made it a point to try DESTIHL Brewery’s Antiquity Rye Wine. This rye wine was almost as spicy as the ghost pepper imperial stout, albeit in a different way. I saw the idea of an Indiana beerfest being exclusive to Indiana breweries being discussed on twitter. I really like this idea and I think it is quite obvious that the Indiana breweries could support this. We will see how this idea develops, but adding another beerfest to the Brewers of Indiana Guild’s calendar sounds like a great idea to me.

cooksmall From Jason C………….

My list of craft beer events attended isn’t terribly impressive. My general tendency is to just attend the same ones from year to year and not stray very far from my native habitat. Being a first time attendee of the Bloomington Craft Beer Fest, I’ll state for the record that my range for attending beer events has now expanded. Fantastic selection of breweries and eateries, scenic & unique setting, and good organization are a few of the key factors that made this event a must attend for me in future years. While the number of attendees caused a bit of gridlock at times, it really didn’t seem to stifle one’s ability to get your next beer in a timely manner. Only drawback (at least in the opinion of this blogger) was the insufficient number of restroom facilities that nearly caused yours truly to break out into my best James Brown dance moves at one point. Hey, nothings perfect, but overall I’d highly recommend attending this event in 2014. And now for the beer. Of the different breweries that I managed to make it to, the ones that either newly or continued to impress me are: Bare Hands, Big Dawg, Crown, Figure Eight, Flat 12, Iechyd Da, New Albanian, and People’s. As for individual beers, I list the following: · Iechyd Da – Gumption Double Amber (calling this one my favorite of the day) · Flat 12/People’s – Hoosier Brown Rye (close 2nd) · Bare Hands – Double Thai PA & 574 Pineapple Pale · Crown Brewing – Baklava Java Porter · Against the Grain – Citra Ass Down American IPA · New Albanian – Black & Bluegrass Spiced Belgian · Big Woods – Imperial Red (unsure about a name for this one, it was getting late) So there you have it, general observations, opinions, and preferences from my first Bloomington Craft Beer Fest. Had a great time, drank some great beer and managed not to wet myself so I’d say it was a successful day. Cheers Bloomington! Jason C.

kathleensmall From Kathleen………….

The question on my mind yesterday was – why go to a beer festival? What is it really all about?  Between the 35 in state breweries and the 15 out of state, the majority of the beer offered there is offered any time in their tap rooms, in local bars, or in local liquor store bottles. Some breweries do take festivals to the next level and make special beers, or save up highlights from the brewing seasons to bring out and share with those hardcore fans who pay the $50/$40 ticket to come out and spend 3/4 hours talking, drinking and having a good time. That is what craft beer festivals are for me, is trying those special beers, finding a new brewery who just opened and trying their product, talking with the brewers and or generally just having a good time. Bloomington Craft Beer Festival on its third running was all that for me and more. I actually went to the first Bloomington Craft Beer Festival. It was right before I joined The turn out I believe then was only 1,000 people. Held outside of the Woolery Mill. It was never crowded, real easy to talk and hang out and the tables. I even ended up taking Ted Miller back to Brugge due to a ride fall out. I believe it was where I fell in love with Brugge’s Harvey, a blackberry infused sour ale. This year I brought a friend I’m trying to help grow into trying new beers. It was fun to see him try new beers and what his thoughts were on some of my favorites. In the past I usually do a big run down of beers that I tried and the ones I really liked. This time I’m only going to mention a few of my beer tasting highlights but show much of the story that was the Bloomington Craft Beer Festival with pictures. Hopefully it shows you readers what a good time can be had. Onto my highlights – Traveler’s Beer Co – Tenacious Traveler Shandy – An unusual brew, but nice and light. I particularly liked the ginger flavor. It reminded me of Scratch Truck’s Ginger Lemonade. Bier Brewery – Trippelle – Yes, this is a fairly regular offering by Bier, and I may be biased, but it is damn good. Cutter’s Brewing Co – General Brown’s Sour – I was excited because I had recently tried New Belgium’s La Folie, and it was my first sour brown ale ever. This one was very nice and light. I think it could’ve been a little more sour. Brugge Brasserie – Gettin’ Figgy With It – I love the play of flavors here. It isn’t strong, I feel it is well blended and warming. Three Pints BrewPub – Cherry / Blackberry Wheat – I’ll come out and say it, if I’m going to Plainfield for beer, I’m going to Black Swan, I’ve just never been impressed with Three Pints, until.. this beer got me. I like the little bit of cherry and blackberry sweetness with the wheat. I like that it was freshly infused with a Randall the Enamel Animal 🙂 I may have to pop in and try more at Three Pints. Zwangzigs – Ghost Pepper Infused Imperial Stout. I don’t need to gush about this beer. I did it at Winterfest I’m just going to say.. I’d buy many many many bottles of this and save it, if they actually bottled it. Besides the beer, I thought the location was great but may need to expand next year. Having in April was a great idea. To give the readers another point of view, I asked my writer friend, John Kennedy,  for his insight. Bloomington Craft Beer Festival was his second beerfest: "I enjoyed myself and got to try lots of great beers, including the Ghost Pepper infused Imperial Stout from Zwanzigz. There were plenty of people offering Scottish Ales, which is my favorite style. I loved the Floyd’s Folly Scottish Ale from Cutter’s Brewing Co. I also enjoyed Dog Day from 450 North Brewing Co, which was a good, heavy beer. The band was a little loud, which took away from being able to talk to the brewers and others about the wonderful beer." Thanks again to B.I.G., the Breweries and Brewers, Nathan for his environmental task force!, and all the volunteers.  Big thanks to those who let me take their pictures! – Cheers! Kathleen

nathansmall From Nathan………….

raccoon As the staff member in charge of our recycling and composting programs, I’m the freak who spent more time digging through the trash than tasting beer on this April afternoon. Oddly enough, I did turn into a raccoon the next day==> Anywho, I can tell you that after about 1300 people attended the event in 2012, the festival committee was dreaming big and wondering if we could possibly draw 2000 this year. When word started circulating that we were approaching sellout status, there was a great deal of excitement and quite possibly a bit of panic. After the dust settled our early estimate puts this year’s crowd in the range of 2600-2800 (no estimate on the number of fake moustaches, but let’s just set it at “too many”). Anytime you double the size of an event and people generally seem to leave happy, I have to call it a good day. The holding area that allowed attendees to work through the ticket process prior to opening time was brilliant and ensured that nobody had to lose valuable festival time trying to get through the line. The restroom situation left something to be desired, but this is already on the planning committee’s radar which is a good sign for future improvement. Kudos to the crowd who were very patient, courteous, and in the right mindset to have good time from my observation. Note for attendees: Any (preferably constructive) feedback you have on what you liked and what we need to improve would be welcome in the comments below. I can relay your thoughts to the planning committee when we hold our wrap-up meeting. Since I tried a limited number of beers and did not have the chance to take notes, this section will be brief. The single beer that stands out in my mind was the Flat 12/People’s collaborative Hoosier Brown Rye. Three Floyds Toxic Revolution Stout and Iechyd Da Gumption Imperial Red would also be in the mix. I do want to offer another word of thanks to the Brewers of Indiana Guild and the festival committee for their support of this year’s environmental initiatives. Special thanks to Salt Creek Cycles for sponsoring the valet bicycle parking and Jeff Mease/Bloomington Brewing Company for accepting our compost at Loesch Farm!