Monday, February 13, 2006

Another fine beer weekend in Indianapolis.

Over at NA Confidential, a brief consideration of the Valentine’s Day pro basketball game between the Indiana Pacers and the San Antonio Spurs is provided.

Back from a fine weekend in Indianapolis, and the best hoops in the world.

There was no beer on Sunday, primarily because opportunities were many for scientific sampling on Saturday, beginning with another excellent lunch at Oaken Barrel Brewing Company in Greenwood, Indiana (located just off I-65 south of Indianapolis).

Diana chose the pasta special with sun dried tomatoes, jalapenos, artichoke hearts, garlic and mushrooms, tossed in extra virgin olive oil, while I had three medium rare beef medallions topped with mushrooms, bacon and blue cheese. A baked potato and two of brewmaster Ken Price’s house beers accompanied my meal.

Ravenswood Red is a seasonal, with a full, sweetish malt body reminiscent of Scotch Ale, and very good with the beef. Gnaw Bone Pale Ale is a longtime Oaken Barrel offering, and I believe it is more balanced now than during the previous brewing regime. The waitress provided a small sample of Old No. 10 Barley Wine, which proved to be a fitting nip at the end of an above average meal.

We met Joe and Karen at the Broad Ripple Brewpub, where I had a 10-ounce portion of Poor Richard’s, brewer Kevin Matalucci’s version of the Benjamin Franklin birthday ale. In spite of NABC’s conscious recipe tweaking, there’s a strong resemblance between the two, which perhaps is testament to the flavors given to the Colonial-era revival by molasses and corn.

There was also a clean, light-bodied and dry-hopped Amarillo Red Lager, which might have sufficed as a prime session beer given the right time and place (and warmer weather). I finished with Broad Ripple’s signature ESB.

Apologies to Ted, creator of the great Belgian-style ales at Brugge Brasserie; by the time we finished cocktail hour at Broad Ripple Brewing, it was time to coordinate vehicles at Joe’s and plan the evening meal at Barley Island Brewing Company in Noblesville, and we didn’t have time to stop by the Brasserie.

Barley Island’s on the historic main courthouse square in Noblesville, a county seat that slowly is being transformed along the unapologetically exurban principles that long ago consumed and enriched nearby Carmel and Fishers.

Strangely, Barley Island has yet to really benefit from the proximity of a microbrew friendly target demographic, and this seems not the fault of brewmaster Jon Lang’s ales, which are tasty and well made, and aim for the middle of the stylistic target.

The brewpub is located in a historic building, and to be honest, the renovation is somewhat schizophrenic – not a bad thing when leaning toward eclectic, but sometimes just confusing. There’s a bar and a stage, a section reconstructed with the help of a pub interior left over from a defunct Irish pub down the road, big and rather forlorn meeting rooms, and a tidy brewery area.

My Reuben was good; D’s salad was not. It happens. Fortunately, Jon’s taking chances with a bourbon barrel aged Stout and Porter, and the brewery has its beer in bottles in area supermarkets. Still, far too many customers were drinking Miller Lite from longneck bottles, sans glassware, and as most readers know, that’s as profound a red flag as a brewpub can fly.

Brewpubs exist to be radical, because that’s what they are. When they veer from that, it’s usually a bad thing. Brewpubs fail not because they’re too innovative given their surroundings, but because they’re not innovative enough.

A final note: At Conseco Fieldhouse, just to the right of the main concourse that begins after the turnstiles, there is a portable draft (nitro) Guinness dispensing station.

That’s progress. Wonder if the AAA Louisville Bats will have a single good beer on hand this year? More on that as the season draws nearer.


See a previous account of lunch at Oaken Barrel, and also this description of One road trip, three Indiana breweries.

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