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Monday, April 25, 2011

Drink (Socially) Responsible

As long as I can remember, the Indiana brewing community has been more socially responsible than many corporations without announcing it. You never hear of a brewery patting themselves on the back and making a big show about all the charitable and environmentally friendly things they do. It is just part of the culture. Many breweries are taking tremendous steps to become more environmentally friendly, and in some cases at great personal cost to their business. Many breweries use a tremendous amount of energy with everything from refrigeration used to keep finished product cool; all the way to energy used to heat thousands of gallons of water daily. Some steps taken to offset energy usage include switching metal kegs to plastic, giving away spent grains used in the mashing process to local farmers as an additive to animal feed, and using their heat exchanger to heat water for the next boil as they cool water from the previous one. Although breweries will never fully be able to eliminate their carbon footprint, some breweries, like Goose Island, have taken great steps to conserve valuable water and reducing waste.

Charities have long used breweries as a medium for fundraising. What attracts more people than an opportunity to taste beer for a few hours and still raise money for a good cause? In my book that's a win-win. Every year there are numerous festivals across the state. Although no actual numbers have been recorded, hundreds of thousands of dollars are raised every year by my estimate.

The Indiana Microbrewer's Festival that takes place annually in July is one of the largest charity-oriented festivals in the state. Quickly outgrowing its current venue at Optimist Park in the Broad Ripple Village, the Indiana Microbrewer's Festival, or Beer Fest as I like to call it, boasts ticket sales of 6000. Over 200 brewers from all over the country travel to this festival to showcase their beers for visitors. In fact, this festival has grown so quickly, the Brewers of Indiana Guild, who hosts the event, has annexed part of the property of the Indianapolis Art Center which is located just north of the park.

Growth of this industry in Indiana will not only mean more tasty beers at the fingertips of a thirsty market, but will act as a conduit for charities, like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, who need the funding to continue the work they have started.

Cheers,

Nate

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

If beer were a mall...

I like to think of the craft brewing movement that is sweeping Indiana as if it were an anchor at a mall surrounded by small shops. Those of you who have worked in the retail industry may know what an anchor is. For those you who have not, an anchor is usually a larger store that is surrounded by 10-15 smaller stores. Typically the majority of the smaller stores' customers are generated because of the anchor itself. Imagine, if you will, a person walks into a mall with the specific intention of going to one of the larger stores, but they may stop at all the smaller stores on the way to, or from, their destination. This is why the "mall format" has been relatively successful. This analogy, although a stretch, is exactly what Sun King and Upland are to Indiana. People may be turned on to craft beer by a larger brewery like Sun King or Upland, but along the way, or as a result, discover there are so many other options in this city. Like anchors in a mall, breweries like Sun King or Upland don't need the smaller breweries to survive and thrive. Despite that, it is an amazing result for the rest of us. Variety is the spice of life, right?

I don't want you to assume by the paragraph above that Sun King or Upland were the originators of the new wave of craft breweries popping up all over the state. There has been a long standing, albeit overlooked, tradition in Indiana for top notch craft breweries. Although, these breweries have turned a whole new crowd of people on to craft beer. This, in turn, has created a "renaissance" of sorts, and sparked some exciting developments in the world of craft beers.

Because of these two giants we have seen exceptional new breweries like Flat 12 and Bier Brewery popping up around the city; a renewed interest in older breweries like Oaken Barrel, Broad Ripple Brewpub, and the Lafayette Brewing Company; and new breweries still to come like Triton Brewing Company, Blue Republic, and Fountain Square Brewing Company. I have a feeling this "beer revolution" is far from over.

Cheers,

Nate

Monday, April 18, 2011

Yats baby!

Okay, so if you are one of my readers that only reads this blog for the description of beer, navigate away from this page. I just wanted to talk a little bit about my favorite, albeit simple, Cajun restaurant in Indianapolis. Of course for those of you who know me, I'm talking about Yats. For those of you who haven't spent an extended period of time in Indy, you may not be familiar with Yats. This restaurant is a Cajun style restaurant that offers a variety of dishes, from gumbo to jambalaya. No sandwiches, no boils, just delicious rice smothered in a variety of, well, for lack of a better word we'll call 'em soups.

This has to be the best business plan of all time. Essentially, upon entering the restaurant, you will notice several food items written on a chalk board. You order either to stay, to go, or pints and quarts of "soup." You then are given enough food to feed a family of four, for around three pieces of pocket lint, just kidding. Although this place is cheap. The average meal price is around $6, and the variety is outrageous.  I have never seen the same combination twice. There are several standby options that have made Yats famous over the years. One of which, my wife and my personal favorite, is the chili cheese etoufee. This item, which upon traveling to New Orleans I have yet to come across, is a nod to the roots of the owner's wife who is from Wisconsin.

The owner, Joe Vuskovich, is a New Orleans native who owned an operated several successful restaurants in both New Orleans and Louisville, KY, where Yats was born. It is described on their website as a no-frills, back to the basics restaurant. That is exactly what it is.

Where in the heck did they get the name Yats? Yats comes from the popular saying in Cajun country, "Where Y'at?", meaning, "You hungry?" Around my house, this has been boiled down even further to just, "Yats?" Among anyone who has ever eaten there, which I am convinced is every single person in the greater Indy Metro Area, I have never heard anyone that has ever complained they don't like the food. It will be a sad day in Indy when this place closes. Which I hope is never.

Where y'at? I bet you are now!

Nate

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dark Lord Day

It's that time of year again folks. That's right, Dark Lord Day. I guess I should probably mention this wonderfully, delightfully, absolutely sold out annual event that I will NOT be going to. I hope that last statement didn't come across as bitter. Although that is what I am, bitter. This event sells out quicker than a Justin Bieber concert in a town full of teenage girls. I tried to get tickets 18 hours after they went on sale. Nothing. Absolutely nothing left for sale. They limit the event to 5000 tickets for obvious reasons, but I am still bitter. I digress.

Dark Lord Day is the only day that you can buy Three Floyds' Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout. I have had the opportunity to taste this wonderfully dark beer. My father, who is a huge fan of dark beers, would probably put me up for adoption (just kidding Dad) for the chance to get this beer. At the event one could enjoy live music, barbecue, and will be able to bring in their own beers and share with other event goers. A word to the wise though. Don't go overboard with the beer, or they won't let you in. Just saying.

As Russian imperial stouts go, this one is a real whopper. This beer, with its dark chocolate complexion and rich caramel head, would bring a tear to the eye of the most grizzled b'dasses. Made with Indian sugar, Mexican vanilla, and Intelligensia coffee, Dark Lord is one of the most sought-after beers in the Midwest.

I myself have never been to Dark Lord Day. The only way I was able to sample it was at the annual Indiana Microbrewer's Festival. I had to get in line one-and-a-half hours early to even get the opportunity to sample. One word, delicious! By the way, if anyone reading this has a ticket that they don't know what to do with, comment and I will get a hold of you. At this point I just sound desperate. Sorry.

Alright, that's all I got! GO CUBBIES!!

Cheers!

Nate

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Brie and Pickles

Yesterday evening I was treated to another spectacular showing of Chef Nick at Black Swan Brewpub. I have never been disappointed by Nick and last night was no exception. My wife and I went in for an early dinner after a meeting I had with Lora the manager. While I was in the meeting, my wife ordered a couple appetizers. At this point some of you may be saying,"Two apps Nate, was that really necessary?" To that I say, probably not. But, it was delicious and I have no regrets.
She couldn't decide between the baked brie and the fried pickles, my usual standby. By the end of the meal, my taste buds loved her, but my stomach, which was probably distended, did not.

The baked brie was topped with an onion and cherry compote and then wrapped in a puff pastry. Chef Nick added a generous pile of crostini, and it all was accompanied by a side of dry roasted almonds. OH MY GOD!! Both my wife and I agreed that this was probably one of the best appetizers that we had ever ordered, hands down. The pickles, however, were pretty good, but not great. As I mentioned though, this is not a critique on local businesses. I would say this is still a victory for Nick, just not as clear as the brie.

For our entrées, my wife and I both settled on sandwiches from their new spring menu. I took Nick's variation on a "Juicy Lucy-style" burger, and my wife decided on their pork bahn mi. The burger, stuffed with American cheese, was very juicy as the name suggests. The only critique that I could possibly have is the lack of toppings. I would have loved for him to "run it though the garden" as my dad would say. As for my wife's bahn mi, which is essentially a sliced pork loin sandwich topped with Asian slaw and a delightful marinade, she absolutely loved it. I felt like if we hadn't gotten two appetizers at the beginning of the meal, I am sure she would have gotten it down before I had a chance to sample it.

One more thing, I don't know if I mentioned it before, but they have pretty killer fries at Black Swan. Last night my wife was able to sample the truffle oil and parmesan cheese tossed fries with a sun dried tomato aioli. I had the barbecue fries, which were more like a sweet cajun, with a papadew (hybrid pepper bred with the honeydew melon) aioli. Overall, both meals were winners.

Some of you may be wondering, "Hey Nate, where's the beer come in?" "I thought this was supposed to be a blog about beer." Well ladies and gents, it is. I guess I have digressed for long enough. Black Swan goes by the motto "16 Taps and No Crap". I definitely believe this to be true. I was fortunate enough to have the first pint of a keg of Three Floyds' Gumball Head wheat ale. Gumball Head is an American style wheat ale spiced with Amarillo hops. I attempted to clone this beer at home, but failed miserably. Gumball Head has probably the most complex hop and malt profile of about any wheat beer I have ever had. It borders on an American pale ale. The Amarillo hops are wonderful for this beer because they are a very versatile hop used for both flavor and aroma. They provide citrus and floral notes.

My wife, not being a huge beer person, got the Wyler's Pear Cider. I am not usually a fan of most ciders, but I was not NOT enjoying this one. It was sweet, that's for sure, but there was a dryness about it that I could appreciate. That's all I'll say...

Good drinking,

Nate

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Food and Beer (together at last) 2nd edition

As I mentioned in my previous post, Indiana State Law prevents a micro brewery from serving pints unless they are able to serve food. There is a way around this, though. In order to avoid this pesky little rule, the brewery has one of two choices. Either they must shut their doors to the general public and host a private party, or they must provide a catered meal. At this point they will be able to serve pints. I know of at least two breweries here in Indianapolis that do private parties, one is Bier Brewery and another is Flat 12. They will host private events for you, just ask and schedule in advance.

Another brewery that does it is Sun King, but they do it a little differently. They will actually send out messages on social media, ie. Twitter, Facebook, etc. At that point they will invite the general public, have food catered in from one of many local business around the area, and have local musicians playing. Having gone to one of these parties, they are pretty awesome. It should be mentioned that Sun King has something that the other two aforementioned breweries do not have, and that is space.

My hope is that soon the law will change, and we will be able to see pints in every brewery across the state. If history is any indication of events to come, we are in for a treat. Recently Sun King got together with Three Floyds and appealed to the State Assembly to change the limit size of a craft brewery. An amendment to current state law was unanimously voted into effect. Oh my the power of beer!!

Cheers,

Nate

Food and Beer (together at last) 1st edition

I should probably point out now that I am a huge foodie. As many of my friends, and my wife, will tell you, I love my food. (Insert fat joke here). Honestly there is nothing better than a home-made burger on the grill and an ice cold beer, but when it comes to dining in and around the Indianapolis area, I have many opinions that I will express throughout this blog.

Unfortunately, some breweries are not known for their food. As far as some brewers are concerned, and to some extent I share this sentiment, beer first, food second. This may be the case now, but I have a feeling it is about to change. Case in point, Black Swan Brewpub. These guys decided to flip the "beer first, food second" notion on its frothy little head. I had the opportunity to eat there a few weeks back, and let me tell you the experience was nothing short of divine. Chef Nick's version of the classic ham 'n' cheese was kicked up a notch by black forest ham, havarti, arrugala, all on a pretzel bun. Simply delicious. He didn't stop there, though. Oh no! Then there were the truffle oil coated frites. I simply could not stop eating them. FANTASTIC! If their beer is as good as their food, owner DJ McCallister has absolutely nothing to worry about.

Salud,

Nate

Flat 12

These guys are currently the new kid on the block, but they are no dummies. I like a couple things about this brewery. One, they offer four great regular brews including an amber, an IPA, a porter, and a blonde that would all please even the most refined pallet (which I am not).

If I had to pick a favorite, it would probably be their Amber Ale. I say this not because I am a fan of smooth amber-colored "marzen" style beers. SIDE NOTE: This is actually not a marzen-style beer, but in the "off Oktoberfest season" it will do. Anyway, I say this because it is probably the most balanced of all the beers. What does balanced mean, you ask? Balanced could probably best be summed up by saying that the malt profile well complements the hop profile, and vice versa. Essentially meaning it's not too hoppy and it's not too sweet. This creates a beer that is both drinkable and versatile. I say versatile because it could potentially be paired with any number of foods. From hot dogs to filet mignon, this beer would complement them all.

The other thing I like about this brewery is the fact that they serve pints. Due to Indiana Law (BOO!) a brewery is not allowed to serve pints unless they have food available to their patrons. In some cases this could be as simple as a hot dog or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Ok, I understand why the law is there. Heaven forbid some drunk idiot should drive off half-hammered from one too many pints and not have the opportunity to have his PB&J or his Hebrew National with extra mustard.

ANOTHER SIDE NOTE: I am going to rant from time-to-time. I have nothing against Flat 12, and I think they are a good brewery with lots of potential to be great.

Cheers,

Nate

Indianapolis Breweries

This is a great time to be in Indy. Not only do we now have one of the state's top three breweries Sun King, but by the end of 2011, we will have nine in total...amazing! I frequent a few of the breweries around town and the one that continues to amaze me over and over again is Bier Brewery. Run by Darren and Jerry Connor, this "nano brewery," as it is sometimes called, is able to provide a level of variety that most larger craft breweries only dream of.

Of the many beers that catch my eye, two stand alone.The first is a variation on a traditional rye pale that absolutely knocked my socks off. In fact it is called simply "Rye Pale". I love the dryness of rye beers and this one does not disappoint. They have other rye-based beers, but this one just stands a smidge above the rest.

Second is the Belgian Blonde. This beer has everything you need in a Belgian beer. Not only does it have notes of clove and orange, but it has a light floral character that doesn't overcrowd the senses. I realize that this is probably a higher calorie beer, as most Belgian beers are, averaging probably in the neighborhood of 300 calories a pint, but I really don't care. I could drink this beer all day, everyday.

Because Bier Brewery has such a variety of flavors, you may be hearing about them in future posts.

That's all for now,

Nate

I have planned to do this for a while.

Let me formally introduce myself. My name is Nate Shultz. I am an avid craft beer drinker (my wife and gut would agree) and a home brewer. I am originally from Brookston, IN, but relocated to Indianapolis for a job and a woman. One of two good things happened from this move. I married the woman, my beautiful wife Stacy, and lost the job. Oh well, can't win 'em all.

The purpose of this blog is to chronicle my experiences not only within the Indiana brewing community, but eventually nation and world wide. This is not going to be a review of beer. Rather, it will be an account of the things I see, the things I like, and the things...well...suck.

Cheers,

Nate