By Will Carroll
Go ahead. Try and count all the breweries in Indiana. There’s a bunch — so many that even the most ardent and ambitious beer drinkers around probably haven’t tried half of them. You could plant yourself at Twenty Tap, Tomlinson or another local bar that serves local beer and even on rotation, you’re going to miss some.
That’s not a bad thing. As I discussed a few weeks back, there really isn’t a “saturation point” for local beer, largely because it’s local beer. There’s a Texas beer I really like, a kolsch from a small brewery called Fredonia. The owner is German and gives a great tour, but makes a better beer. It’s simple and the place is small but nice, but the chance of having it in Indiana anytime soon? Next to zero. (Though if anyone is passing through DFW soon, please pick me up a sixer?)
The same is true here. There are the “big” breweries like Sun King and Upland and tiny breweries like Planetary and Black Acre. Some are growing and some of the small will get big (as we’re seeing with growing new brewery Daredevil.) We’re getting to the point where there seems to be a brewery on every corner…but maybe that’s the way it should be.
A few years ago, Budweiser had a campaign that said “fresh beer tastes better.” I immediately thought that this was the best advertisement ever, just for craft beer. There’s no born on date for your craft beers. They’re made in back and drank out front. Oaken Barrel jokingly says they brew it, they drink it, and they sell what’s left, which is true!
Craft giant Stone made a beer recently that was so hopped that it needed to be consumed quickly. They changed the name, but refer to it as Enjoy By IPA, with the date filled in. You hopefully take that growler of beer and drink it quickly, so it doesn’t go flat. That’s local and that’s fresh. And yes, it does taste better.
Budweiser changed their campaign and now let you see the brewmaster who made it by typing in a code. I have no idea who’s bored enough to do that, but hey, I don’t fault the people who make Bud. It’s a mass market beer with lowest common denominator taste. It’s not bad; it’s just beer. At your local brewery, you can meet the guy and have a drink with him.
Budweiser could never make a beer that’s weird. Maybe I didn’t like the idea of a crawfish flavored beer like Flat 12 made recently. The hush puppy beer didn’t sound much better, but good on them for trying. Someone might like a mudbug beer, but I guarantee you that we’ll never see Bud Light Lobster.
As craft beer continues to expand and more people try it, there’s more of a chance to be a bit bigger, a bit broader and yes, a bit weirder. That’s the joy of it. You can find the beers you love and rely on, and you can find the beer that you’ll tell your buddy about while making a funny face. There’s just more of a chance that you’ll find more of both, and that’s a very good thing.
The big news in Indy breweries is the shift of Daredevil from Shelbyville to a new facility in Speedway’s Main Street district. While Daredevil will produce at both facilities, it’s clear that the new one in Speedway will be a possible tourist draw and is being built with far more capacity and access. The Main Street district has seen a lot of buildup over the last few years, adding restaurants and shops to the race team headquarters and the exception factory of Dallara Racing. Adding beer to the mix will be huge, especially in May. I expect Daredevil will become a race week favorite at the track and hope that we’ll see more craft beer in the mix at IMS.
With news of a possible hop shortage due to the craft beer explosion, maybe we’d better drink up all these tasty IPAs now! Thr3e Wise Men, the brewery owned by Scott Wise of Scotty’s Brewhouse, has a new session IPA up now called Daddy’s Juice. I’m not sure where they got the name, but I expect daddies and mommies around town will enjoy this light, citrusy IPA. It’s light and not terribly bitter, allowing even hop newbies to enjoy this without being attacked by hops the way that some “special” beers do. While super-bitter, four-tons-of-hops beers are popular, they’re not a beer for most. Daddy’s Juice won’t be around long, so it’s worth a trip to one of Scott’s restaurants to try it.
Next week will mark the first anniversary of my heart attack. The heart attack is nothing to celebrate but being alive is. I may be a vegetarian now, but beer is vegetarian — unless you get one of those weird bacon beers! I’ll admit that I savor beer now that it’s my treat, when before I took it and a lot of things for granted. I’ll toast the anniversary this week with some friends, some beers and a Garrison Brothers bourbon. (Yes, it’s that good.) I hope you’ll all raise a glass and be sure that you’re taking care of your health. Don’t make your next beer your last, but don’t make your next beer a bad one because it might be!