Indiana Microbrewers Festival Review

The 18th Annual Microbrewers Festival wrapped up a huge week for Indiana craft beer, beginning with the Indiana Brewers Cup competition, and bridged by a boat load of special beer events during Circle City Beer Week. Our staff suffered through another long day of hanging out with friends and drinking great beer to bring you the following pictures and individual thoughts and beer picks. If you don’t see your favorite listed, give them some love in the comments below. Cheers!

gregsmall From Greg………….

A record was broken by 4:45 on Saturday, July 20, when over 6400 tasting glasses had been given out at Broad Ripple’s OptiPark for the Eighteenth Annual Microbrewery Festival. Cooler weather and huge sampling selection seemed to have combined to pull people out to taste beer! A number of attendees commented that though there were plenty of people the lines did not seem ridiculously long and there were certainly plenty of samples to be had. What stood out and what did I try? It is impossible to sample all so the best you can do is start with an idea of where you want to go and then keep asking others what they most enjoyed so far. With such a large venue it also is best to sample by area or by tent, and I regret that I did not make it back to a few breweries I missed. It helps when a brewer has a particular beer they want to share. Thanks to Dave Colt of SunKing for making sure I got some of the Lonesome Dove Barrel Aged Tripel! So let’s start with that. SunKing, (Indianapolis, IN) LoneSome Dove Barrel Aged Tripel. Spent months in the barrel and delivered vanilla and oak from the bourbon, initial sweetness that moved to a dry finish of the tripel. Absolutely delicious. From the brewery that just won Brewery of the Year from the Brewer’s Cup. SunKing served a special beer every half hour! Zwanzigz Brewery, (Columbus, IN) I just had to try two! I went for the Barrel Aged Ghost Chili Pepper Stout — a triangulation of Imperial Stout with roast and toast + nice spice (not intense burn) from the world’s hottest pepper + a solid taste of bourbon (not hot, but flavor). And a Barrel Aged Scotch Ale delivered the gentle sweetness of that beer style with the flavor of a rye barrel and came in at 13% abv. Holy scotch and rye, Beerman! Against the Grain Brewery, (Louisville, KY) Boom Gose the Dynamite (yep, GOSE) — German style Gose, Brewer Sam shared that this is his favorite from what is currently on tap down at the brewery delivering a very sessionable ("drink all afternoon") 4.2% abv beer brewed with wheat and barley, seasoned with pink salt, coriander, and hops and fermented with lactobacillus to give a slightly sour, slightly citrus delicious hot afternoon drink. Destihl Brewery, (Normal, IL) Saint Dekkera reserve lambic sour single barrel spontaneously fermented, slightly sour, refreshing and highly interesting beverage. Bare Hands Brewery, (Granger, IN) offered TEN beers. Mango Habenero 574, spice, fruit and lots of heat — this baby really delivered on the Scoville units but with nice fruit flavor. Just had to try the Bare Hands Mosaic double IPA and the triple performance (aroma, bittering, flavor) gives this single-hop IPA wallop of flavor. Mosaic delivers some citrus, some pine and some herbal and this beer showcases that well. I’ve read some out of Chicago are now making tiny little Bare Hands, located in an industrial park outside of South Bend, IN, a destination for beer! Flat12 Bierwerks (Indianapolis, IN), offered TWELVE firkins and barrels! Barrel Aged Pogue’s Run Porter was my first choice, since I really appreciate this Porter it was interesting to see what the Corsair whiskey barrel brought to it with nice notes of vanilla, spice, and hint of leather to add to this roasty bier. Though I don’t like cucumbers the Flat12 Gin barrel aged Cucumber Kolsch was recommended to me. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this resulted in a bit of the Juniper berry and botanicals tangled with malty refreshment. Sorry I did not get the Flat12 Cask Conditioned Brazilian Coffee Chipotle Vanilla Porter! Iechyd Da! Brewing, (Elkhart, IN) The name means Cheers and is pronounced Yacky Da in Welsh but I went for one beer and was swayed by another! Afternoon Delight Rye PA was recommended to me by a beer connoisseur friend and it was spice, pine, and rye bread in a glass. I originally stopped for the Iechyd Da Breakfast Cookies and Milk Stout. It did not disappoint, though a sweet stout. Triton Brewing (Indianapolis, IN) French Toast Saison. You get maple syrup, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla and sugar sweetness on a biscuit malt using a replicale (old school) base! Thought I would not like it — I did! I mean, come on! We’ve heard "beer, it’s not just for breakfast anymore…" but seriously? Breakfast french toast in beer? That should not work! But it certainly did! Figure8 Brewing (La Porte, IN) Brewer friend Mike Lahti offered his new Pirate’s Pils which had a nice ibu bite to it and was very refreshing! Thr3e Wisemen (Indianapolis, IN) Two Lucy’s Blackberry Wheat, an interesting beer for a Summer day! A gentle taste of blackberry (from Oregon) come through in a surprising 6% beer. A beer I had not tried and was glad I did! By my count Omar, Keely, and crew walked away with at least 4 awards from Brewer’s Cup this year! Some Surprises! Hunter’s Brewing Company, (Chesterton, IN) Northwest Indiana has yet ANOTHER new brewery since February. I loved the name: Porter County porter (yes, they are in Porter County, IN) and I loved the roast and toast in a 4.5% beer from this newcomer. Operating a one barrel brewhouse, they offered only two beer, the second being a very nice Steel Town Girl saison where all spice flavor came from the yeast. They currently are running 9 taps at the brewpub. Owner/brewer Amy Gentry was very sociable and truly enjoyed chatting about this hobby-turned-vocation. New Boswell Brewing, (Richmond, IN) has historic roots! The first tiny brewery in Richmond was apparently owned and run by Ezra Boswell, who learned brewing in England, brewed in North Carolina, and built a frame structure in Richmond, Wayne County, IN, about 1817. The NEW Boswell brewery was started as an entrepreneurship project via the I.U. East Center for Entrepreneurship as owner/brewer Rodrick Landess was getting a degree. The current establishment opened in Spring, 2010. Landess offered Maelstrom Imperial Stout with peat smoked malt and Maris Otter malt at 10% and the smoke flavor enthralled me. Planetary Brewing, (Greenwood, IN) Another one of our newer nano breweries, was proudly serving their Apes#!t IPA — which I will reveal I did not have time to try, but one festival attendee was so excited and going Ape…. well, you get the picture, so I thought it worthwhile (seriously, true story) to mention! Broad Ripple Brew Pub (Indianapolis, IN) My last taste at this Microbrewer’s Festival is perhaps appropriate for two reasons. First, it was from the ground-breaking BR Brew Pub. I mean we were in Broad Ripple, steps from the Brew Pub! John Hill brought the concept to the area back in 1990 and it flourishes today. Second, this is a beer with a story! Each year the Brewer’s Cup Homebrewer’s Best of Show beer is eventually brewed at the BR Brew Pub (most locals just call it, "the Brew Pub")> In 2012 Homebrewer Shaun Kaus won Best of Show with a cream ale that was jalapeno infused. This Holla Jala Jalapeno Cream was my last sip. It offered a clean, crisp beer (as a cream ale should) and a solid flavor of the pepper, more than a hint in my opinion, a burn but not a big burn! This was the 3rd pepper beer I’d had at this Fest and I could recommend any and all three! All in all a very nicely organized, never push-and-shove crowded, great meeting of great brewing friends supported by wonderful weather, wonderful sponsors, and the Brewer’s Guild of Indiana. Just wish it was a 3-day event so we could sanely and soberly get to more great beers! Thanks to all and ‘next time’ to those I did not get around to!

jake_small From Jake………….

After waking up to a dreary Saturday morning, the Microbrewers Festival ‘13 had better weather than the last couple.  I’ll take some light rain over 95 degrees every year.  This year the Brewers of Indiana Guild started the VIP Experience, and I grabbed one right away.  I had no idea what this was going to consist of, because no one had heard anything about it.  In the build up to the festival I was able to talk to a few people and get a feel for what this VIP tent was going to entail.  The basic idea was pretty good, a tented area to sit down, relax, and get some really rare beer.   An email was sent out explaining that there would be two tapping times for the VIP experience tent and that absolutely no one without the special VIP wristband would be let in. So 2:50 hits and  my phone alarm goes off to let me know to start heading that way.  I got to the tent and the volunteers weren’t quite ready to serve the beer yet.  To help you relax there was an air conditioned bathroom, and some light food pairings and fruit. Sadly I missed out on the food pairings, but the bathroom still had quite a bit of a line most of the time. After a brief wait of 5 or 10 minutes we were let in and got to sample from the first tapping of beers.  The food line grew very large so I headed to the beer line, naturally. With the relatively well available lineup of Brugge’s Peony, Three Floyd’s Dreadnaught, among others I was starting to doubt if the VIP experience was worth it at this point. A few pitchers to pre-pour the beer and some more chairs probably would have been nice, but otherwise the experience ran pretty well.  The five o’clock tasting had quite a few interesting beers.  The offerings included Triton’s Batch #1, Lafayette’s 14 year old Big Boris Barleywine, and a 4 year vertical of Shoreline’s Scotch Ale from ‘07 to ‘10.  All of these were great, however by far the best beer at the festival, and one of the best beers I’ve ever had for that matter, was Pappy Fog.  This batch of Sun King’s World Beer Cup gold medalist Belgian Quadruple was aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels and it is truly a spectacular beer. I enjoyed the rest of the festival as well, with some entertainment provided by Flat 12’s cosmic bowling themed casks and Black Acre’s togas or maybe they were ghosts.  I missed out on most of Flat 12’s beers, even though I didn’t mean to, but Black Acre’s Coffee Cat was one of my favorite beers all day.  Sun King’s booth was tapping a new specialty beer every thirty minutes, which actually worked out quite well for them and it was great beer too. After the five o’clock beers I would have to say that the VIP experience felt worth the money.  It certainly needs some improvements, but at the end of the day its all about the beer.  Congratulations to Clay, Rob and the rest of the Guild on a great festival and a big thanks to all the volunteers.

cooksmall From Jason………….

Despite my best efforts to infuse some sort of clever, witty opening commentary summarizing my experience at this year’s Indiana Microbrew Festival, I came to realize that this reflection will most likely end up mirroring my day of beer tasting. Looking back at the day, the breweries I visited, and the beers I sampled, the only word that accurately sums it all up is random. Just about the only conscious decision that I recall making was to hit the Hopapalooza tent upon entering. Beyond that, just about every brewery visited was either the result of following a friend to where they were getting their next sample or just running out of beer and hopping into the closest beer line. Ok, where am I? Victory? I’ll try the Summer Love Blonde. Against the Grain? The Kentucky Ryed Chiquen sounds interesting. The only negative thing about not having an itinerary is realizing that you missed out on a few favorites along the way. Not only that, but one of those favorites, People’s from here in good ol’ Lafayette, had a pretty kick-ass jukebox tapper featuring all of their #1 hits. Personally, I’m big on the Space Cowboy and Amazon Princess but, for this day, my randomness just didn’t find my feet taking me in their direction. I will say this about my beer tasting exploits for this day, there were some damn fine beers for the tasting. I’m no beer judge and I’m not about to start breaking down specific characteristics that made the following list of beers enjoyable. So I’ll just say this and get on with the list; they were very, VERY enjoyable! So, in no specific order (I suppose that makes this….random?) I give you my IMF favorites for 2013.

  • Grapefruit Jungle IPA – Sun King
  • Black Note Stout – Bell’s
  • Doom 2013 Imperial IPA – Founders
  • Ghost Pepper Imperial Stout – Zwanzigz
  • Barrel Aged Strong Scotch – Zwanzigz
  • Saucy Intruder Rye PA – Black Acre
  • Plead the 5th Imperial Red – Crown
  • Mt. Lee California Common – New Albanian
  • Hop Head Red Ale – Green Flash

I really don’t have many other observations for the event this year. Rain stopped just in time and the temperatures were a welcome relief compared to last year. Everything seemed pretty crowded yet it never seemed like too long of a wait for your next tasty offering. Overall, couldn’t have gone much better from my perspective. Well done Brewers Guild, see you again next year.

kathleensmall2 From Kathleen………….

It’s been two years since I last volunteered for the Microbrewers Festival. I’ve helped out at Winterfest and other events, but this festival is one of the biggest festivals put on by the Indiana Brewers Guild. Being a volunteer gives me a different perspective on the festival, it also limits my drinking time. Let’s start with my thoughts on the festival and wrap up with the fun stuff aka the beers I did get to try. Overall, I thought this festival was one of the best ones. Things were more organized, chaos did not ensue.  I’m not sure if the VIP tent was a good new feature or not. None of the volunteers were allowed in and the people I helped checked in who paid the $100 to go to the VIP experience didn’t seem to understand themselves what it was all about. (Which I found interesting considering how much they paid to be there). Lines this year at the booths weren’t extremely long, even with General Admission roaming around, I’m not sure if that was due to not selling out or the brewers were just getting them in and out faster than before. My only two thoughts / issues I had with the festival was first seeing around 5:30, with an hour and half left of the festival, that there were empty booths, or that most of the beer was out from the brewers. It was a mixed feeling to be happy that people loved certain breweries so much that they ran out of beer, but it was also sad that the breweries weren’t more prepared for everyone to enjoy their beer. Secondly, and I know the Microbrewers festival is getting bigger and bigger, but I didn’t like that all of the Indiana breweries were crunched into the Riverfront, the Lawn or the Allee and all of the distributors and out of state breweries had the free reign of the fields. I’d almost like to see if that could be flipped somehow. Or at least give more room to the Indiana Breweries instead of the out of state breweries. Now.. Onto the Beer! I didn’t get to try everything I wanted. (I’m looking at you – Zwanzigz – with your Imperial Stout infused with Ghost Peppers), but I did get to a few ones and some that weren’t on my list that I tried were great. These are my highlights – Great FermentationBerliner Weiss – I was surprisingly delighted by this one. If the lines weren’t crazy in the Alley I would’ve gone back for more. Flat 12 Bierwerks Brazilian Coffee/Chipotle/Vanilla Porter – This was on the top of my list to try. I think I’d like a little more vanilla than coffee, but everything blended together beautifully. So much so, that it was the only beer I took a picture of on Saturday. Broadripple BrewpubJalapeno Cream Ale – This beer was interesting. Not on the original line up, but you get the cream first and then the jalapeno heat to follow. I felt like I was drinking a jalapeno popper.. (maybe they should add some bacon into the brewing process) Hawcreek Brewing Co.Wildberry Wheat – I really liked this one. I’ve had some fruit mixed wheats were the fruit kind of tastes heavy along with the beer, but this made it nice and light and not overpowering with the berry flavor. Against the Grain Boom Gose the Dynamite – a Sour, of course I was destined to like this one. It was my first choice Black SwanSour Cherry – this is a cheat, I’ve had this a few times at Black Swan’s Brewpub. Still delicious and tart everytime. Brugge Brasserie Harvey – I’m very happy that Brugge brought back Harvey. I still remember the first time I had it, back in 2011- First Annual Bloomington Craft Beer Festival. This beer is one of my loves. (which means I had multiple glasses of it) I hope everyone had a great time at the festival, that you were nice to the brewers and volunteer staff, that you found a new beer to love or a brewery to follow and that you come back next year!

nathansmall From Nathan………….

The 18th Annual Indiana Microbrewers Festival was a nearly flawless event from my viewpoint. I know that’s a pretty boring opinion and the good people working behind the scenes could probably tell you 30 things that went wrong off the top of their head. But here’s what matters for an attendee: we got in quick, all the breweries we saw were setup and ready to roll, and we had great beer. Congrats to the Brewers of Indiana Guild, Hoosier Beer Geek, World Class Beer, and all the breweries and volunteers on another great event! They’ve been around this block a time or two and know how to put on a good show. The Microbrewers Festival is a huge event, but with a completely different layout and feel than Winterfest. While things can get fairly crowded in “The Alley”, the massive outdoor layout never quite induces the same claustrophobic panic sensations as trying to walk down one of the main aisles of Winterfest at 4pm. The beer lines do get a little long, but I’ve seen worse at the Michigan Summer Festival and GABF. This year was also blessed with cooler weather that did not inflict the wrath of “swamp crotch” on attendees. However, as Poppi noted, this meant you weren’t sweating out all the liquid you consumed and lead to longer restroom lines. Some random observations:

  • Browsed through the Zwanzigz website and could only find info about their pizza (which is supposed to be pretty good), and nothing about the brewery. They really need to start bragging about the beer! This is the one brewery that comes to mind who has consistently produced an unexpected standout (see picks below) at every festival in recent years.
  • It’s always a subconscious goal for me to hit breweries whose beer is not readily available in the Indianapolis area. The aforementioned Zwanzigz, along with Bare Hands, Crown, and Iechyd Da have been consistently impressive at these events. You can’t hit every brewery and Figure 8 (normally on this list) was one of my regrets this year, but fortunately their bombers have become more prevalent in better craft stores around the city.
  • While I don’t recall it interfering with any particular brewery I was determined to try, the number of breweries who shut down early was definitely more noticeable than I can ever recall. Do you blame that on poor planning or credit the insatiable thirst of our crowd?
  • I’d hate to be accused of promoting irresponsible behavior, but time management is critical if you have 2pm entry for this event. We spent way too much time holding empty glasses and talking with friends during that hour. You end up regretting that. There will be plenty of time for talking later while you’re standing in line.
  • If you buy a ticket for 3pm entry and for some reason feel it’s vitally important to show up at the gates before 2:00, don’t mix in line and try to sneak in early. It doesn’t work (I’m talking to you, couple who tried to enter in front of us). Better yet, spend a few more minutes at home with a good book and enjoy your Saturday. Staff will get you in efficiently if you show up a little later.

On to the beer picks…….. Nathan’s Pick of the Day: Zwanzigz Barrel Aged Scotch Ale – Intensely malty with a nicely balanced bourbon character, ridiculously smooth for a beer weighing in at 13.4% ABV. Honorable Mention:

Against the Grain Citra Ass Down IPA
Bell’s Black Note
Black Acre Saucy Intruder (Rye IPA)
Carson’s Psycho Pagan (dry-hopped Pale Ale)
Crown Brewing 5th Anniversary Imperial Red
Daredevil Rip Cord DIPA
Iechyd Da Big Pit Porter
New Albanian Mt. Lee California Common
Oaken Barrel King Rudi Hefeweizen
Urban Chestnut Zwickel

2 thoughts on “Indiana Microbrewers Festival Review

  1. It was definitely an excellent festival with great beers, breweries, volunteers and attendees. And thanks to all those behind the scenes. Nice write up!

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