Saturday, July 30, 2005

If you missed today's Microbrewers Festival in Indy, you missed an incredible array of craft brews, with nary a can of mass-market swill in sight.

Indiana’s tenth Microbrewers Festival, which is staged annually by the Brewers of Indiana Guild and associated sponsors, and benefits the Northside Optimist Club, was held earlier today at Opti-Park in Broad Ripple in Indianapolis.

Having just returned from South Carolina on Thursday and been forced to work much of the day Friday, I limited my stay at the festival to the three hours immediately preceding the opening of the gates and the arrival of the paying customers.

And, to a dozen or so small samples. Really.

Pre-fest always is the best time to jaw with brewery friends and reps, because everyone’s working to keep their heads above water once the crowd storms the gates, and today was no exception.

While making the rounds, I enjoyed some excellent sips, including the supple, spiced Grand Cru from Indy’s newest brewpub, Brugge Brasserie; an excellent barrel-aged barley wine from Lafayette Brewing Company; and some of the elusive, fuller-than-full, multigrain Breakfast Stout from Founders in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Veronica Sanders was there to boast about Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, winner of the best of show in the 2005 commercial category in the Indiana State Fair judging and inheritor of the title held by New Albanian since 2004. As regional microbrewing haven, Michigan was well represented this year, with New Holland, Dark Horse, Stoney Creek and Arcadia present in addition to Kalamazoo and Founders.

Marvin McKay says that he’s slowly but surely assembling the pieces of his intended follow-up to the late, lamented Chalkie’s, and may be up and running in a yet-to-be-disclosed location early in 2006. Best of luck to him; Marvin’s one of the classiest fellows in the business.

Both Cavalier and World Class distributors brought a boatload of good beers from across the United States – too many to mention here..

Just before leaving to meet Diana and search out a place to celebrate my forthcoming birthday (you’ll just have to guess how old), I had the good sense to say hello to Ken Price, brewer at Oaken Barrel Brewing Company in Greenwood, and Ken informed me that his Saison was on tap at the pub. What’s more, he recommended today’s Oaken Barrel kitchen special, a smokehouse combo of ribs, pulled pork, baked beans and corn on the cob.

Half an hour later, we were at Oaken Barrel’s doorstep. Ken’s Belgian-style Saison is clean and subtly fruity and finishes dry, with the requisite peppery notes. While neither overly complex nor Baroque, there’s still much to tease and tempt the palate, and a better complement to garlic-laced barbecue with a thick, sweet and tangy sauce is difficult for me to imagine … unless, of course, the meal were served in Belgium, not Greenwood. Nothing against the latter, mind you, but I’m funny about geography.

The fruits of today’s festival networking won’t be immediately apparent to Rich O’s patrons, but remember: It’s only nine or so weeks until Lupulin Land Harvest Hop festival.

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Steve Austin said...
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