By Liz Joss
The Brewers of Indiana Guild pulled off another successful Winterfest Saturday, with 102 breweries serving 6,000 attendees. The Guild wisely doubled the floor space this year without selling more tickets, so there was less jostling but just as much fun.
The biggest change I noticed this year wasn’t the beer, but a heartening sign that we may have learned from experience that you have to counter all that drinking with some food. The ubiquitous pretzel necklaces have been improved upon by necklaces bearing boxes of Cheez-Its and baggies of Goldfish, string cheese and beef jerky, and what appeared to be homemade biscuits. (The woman sporting necklaces strung with Froot Loops and Cheerios had a very sticky neck.)
On the other hand, we may never learn. Many people still don’t know when to say when: the gaggle of girls who, long after last call, kept roaming from brewer to brewer begging for beer. The youngish man who appeared to have lost his official festival tasting cup, but kept looking for it—in his wallet. The guy covered in brewery stickers, slumped against the wall, apparently abandoned by his friends. If you have the official two-ounce pour from each of the 102 breweries on hand, that’s nearly 13 pints of beer. And some breweries brought 20 or 30 beers. If you’re out to get drunk, a brewfest isn’t your most efficient choice, but plenty of people manage.
Lots of breweries (especially some of the newer ones) presented lots of really weird beers—perhaps trying to imprint their brand on people’s memories. The oddball that I liked best was Here Gose Nothing Wild Sour from Destihl, citrusy with coriander and sea salt. It tasted like SweetTarts pot pie. The beer that disproves my younger-breweries-try-harder theory: Dogfish Head Chateau Jiahu, an 8,000-year old formula that, according to the brewery’s website, combines “orange blossom honey, muscat grape juice, barley malt and hawthorn fruit” and is then fermented with sake yeast.
Keeping in mind that I like girly beers, my other favorites were:
- 18th Street Brewery’s Berliner Weisse. This Gary brewery and Three Floyd’s had the longest lines all day long.
- Tin Man Damascene Apricot Sour
- Triton Hometown Hero Golden Ale
- Falls City Red Rye Lager
- Black Acre boysenberry saison, Boysen da IRV
- Books & Brews King Lear’s Fool, a Belgian-style golden ale with lemon peel
Attire is almost as much fun as the beer. My favorite t-shirts were “You can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning” and “In dog beers, I’ve only had one.”
Best promotional item: canned water from iCan Solutions, showing off its to-your-door canning operation.
I was also glad to see all the Winterfest Eve parties and tap takeovers that showcased hard-to-find beers and newer breweries the night before the sold-out main event. There’s really no excuse for drinking bad beer in Indianapolis, especially on Winterfest weekend.