By Will Carroll
National Beer Day is on a Monday?
Okay, that seems a bit odd and let’s face it, these national days really don’t mean much. No one’s getting the day off, and if you really need an excuse to drink a beer on any day (responsibly!) then you’re doing it wrong. There’s a waffle day and a wine day and probably a taco day, but that’s not going to stop anyone from having any of those when they want, right?
Awareness is a nice thing, and I’m sure the lobbyists and trade groups like these sorts of things as an excuse for…well, press releases, I guess. But what interests me is not the day, but the beer, so I got things started off this past weekend, checking out some of the best beers from just outside Indy.
I started with the nice drive from my southside headquarters down to Bloomington. Bloomington Brewing Co. is finally bottling one of their beers, an IPA they call Rooftop, and was giving out samples and signed bottles at Big Red in Bloomington. With the Bloomington Craft Beer Fest this coming weekend, it was good timing to have the beer ready and get a little focused attention.
There was a nice turn out and setup there. The beer was solid as well, hoppy and refreshing. It wasn’t too strong or astringent, which would make a bottle of this a good spring beer, assuming it ever actually warms up. Rooftop will be limited in distribution to Bloomington and Indy for now, but their brewers said that they hope to get down to Louisville and maybe Cincinnati, though they might have to expand their small operation to do so consistently.
From Bloomington I made a quick trip over to Nashville to grab some lunch at Big Woods Brewing Company. The downtown Nashville hot spot is expanding again and on a Saturday at 2:30 p.m., there was still a wait for a table, so they could use the space. They’re also expanding their beer list as well, which is always welcome. Big Woods brews the Quaff On beers there on site, led by former Oaken Barrel brewer Mark Havens.
Since I’d started with an IPA, I figured I should stick with an IPA, so I had Quaff On’s Hare Trigger. This is a very solid IPA with a bit more bitterness than BBC’s, but despite this, it’s got more depth than a single-note hopfest. The beer is reminiscent of Oaken Barrel’s classic Superfly IPA without quite the alcohol punch (6.5% vs Superfly’s 7.5%) and a bit more complexity on the finish.
I haven’t had a bad Quaff On beer, so despite the awkward name, it’s well worth a try. The Busted Knuckle is a very nice one, though about as far from an IPA as you can get.
From Nashville, it was a short jaunt over to a brewery I hadn’t been to before. I knew Power House Brewing Co. was in downtown Columbus, but I knew little else. The place is a bit tough to find; the sign doesn’t actually say Power House, though the door does, so beware. Inside, it’s an old-style bar, a bit dark even at midday and very old school in every way.
Staying with the IPA comparisons, I went for their Love Nugget. It’s not a classic IPA, relying instead on Nugget hops for the flavoring. Nugget hops aren’t one of the more well-known varieties of hops, but for this kind of dry-hopped beer, it works well, adding a lot of aroma as well as the expected bitterness. While it was slightly bitter for me, the popularity of Three Floyds’ Zombie Dust shows there’s a big market for precisely this. If you’re a fan of Zombie Dust but can’t find the suddenly hot beer after the name change, maybe Love Nugget would hit the same spot for you.
I finished up at one of my favorite drinking spots — my house! A mini beer tour like mine shouldn’t involve too much drinking without a driver, so I elected to stop back in and grab an Oaken Barrel Superfly IPA out of the kegerator. This is one of my go-to beers, obviously, and the balance of hoppy and refreshing never fails me. It’s not as complex as some IPAs you can find, but for a sit back and watch a game beer, it’s one of the best.
My IPA tour reminded me of just how much variety we’re seeing in the Indy beer market. Even within one style and one side of town, there’s something for everyone, and a bit of variation can change things drastically. It’s great to see how well things are growing in an area that many take for granted. With a couple new breweries popping up in coming months, especially Mashcraft Brewing in Greenwood, my next tour will have even more choices. Someone want to be my driver?
Quick notes on a couple things around town. As I mentioned above, Bloomington’s Craft Beer Festival is this weekend and well worth the trip. Jolene checked out the unveiling of the new look for one of the area’s best known breweries, Upland. Her notes on the event are here.