Monday, February 4, 2013

The Scene: Winterfest Wrap Up

The Indiana Brewers Guild Winterfest was held on January 26th at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. This was my first Winterfest and as someone who only recently started attending beer festivals, I was both impressed and bemused. For those that have never attended, walking into a building that only holds memories of holding animals or farm equipment for the fair was odd. This feeling only lasted a second or two as the scene of dozens of brewers’ stations, efficiently filling the place, excited me and set the mood for the rest of the evening. Now, at this point I have to jump back for the first time goer and say this: dress warmly. The VIP line (an extra hour in the fest) started forming over an hour and a half before the doors opened. Very shortly thereafter, the general admission line formed. There was only room for a few people from each line inside the vestibule of the building and the rest of us stood in a line that wrapped around the building and beyond. Once inside a coat check was available with the tips going to a good cause. Don’t forget to retrieve your coat. I did.

For those who had a VIP ticket, the early access really allowed a frantic festival pace (if you so chose) to run around and sample the old favorites (Founders, Upland,etc) along with new favorites, (Finch’s:Chicago,IL,Evil Czech and Brewery:Culver,IN). While the shorter line was nice, it also allowed for a more relaxed environment to talk to the brewers and vendors. In my case, I really enjoyed the opportunity to try the brews and discuss them with the fine folks who made them. It’s a great way to not only learn more about the process and meet some fellow beer lovers, but also discover some new brews you might have otherwise missed.

Once the general admission crowd was let in, the lines grew longer, moving through a crowd got a little slower but everything still remained accessible and friendly. I was taking pictures for the blog and as often happens when I take photos as events I end up talking to security of one sort or another for one reason or another. This time, I ended up talking with a veteran police officer (off duty) who was a volunteer. We talked beer and crowds for a while and then I moved on. When we made eye contact throughout the night we’d compare notes. I shared my favorite beers and he’d tell me how the crowd was. At the end of the night only one person had to “have a talking to” which was brief. That’s for the whole night folks. It was a fun and awesome crowd. Oh, and the beers were pretty awesome too.

Three Wisemen Brewing sponsored  Jack McAuliffe, the father of craft brewing in the United States to visit and talk with fans. So, for the beer history fan and beer lover alike, it was an awesome opportunity to meet and say “Thank You” to the man who helped make it all possible. I was able to try the “New Albion Ale” inspired by the temporarily out of retirement Mr. McAuliffe - tasty, tasty, tasty. Thanks to Scott Wisemen for help bring a legend to Indianapolis!

The list of beers I could go through would be too much for even you intrepid reader so I will only choose three that stood out, for their own reasons. In no particular order:

John The One Eyed, Belgian Style Dubbel
Evil Czech Brewery, Culver. IN

I walked up to Evil Czech Brewery’s table for a few reasons. First, their logo of an angry looking, half-horn-helmed Czech caught my attention. Second, I saw that they were from Culver and I’ve had some good times in that area. Third, there was no one in line there (this was during VIP hour and MANY places had no line!!). Lastly, the friendly staff’s smiles and welcoming manner entreated me. Now that the logo artwork looks like some of my friends best Dungeons and Dragons fan art is not a negative to these fine people. There’s a an honest passion in the artwork and vibe that comes through into the beer. When I spoke to one of their staff as to which was their favorite, they recommended me their John The One Eyed Belgian style Dubbel. After taking a drink the man behind in line tapped me on the shoulder and asked me what I’d had. Before I could answer he said that the reason he asked me was because of how wide-eyed I was and how big my reaction had been. Folks, this might have taken the crown for my favorite Belgian and that’s all within the first sip. Subsequent tasting only confirmed my first reaction. Truly a rich, smooth and flavor packed golden... oh, please just go and try it. You will not regret it.

Secret Stash Stout
Finch’s Beer Co, Chicago,IL

My favorite beers are stouts and porters. Oh, I loves me a good IPA, Scottish Ale or Belgian but buy me stout or porter and we’ll be fast friends. I also happen to have a sweet tooth and have spread the gospel of stout (and bourbon) shakes and float from one end of this country (and Canada too) for years. If you enjoy a beer that is so rich, sweet and filled with flavors as to convince you it’s not in fact beer, but a milkshake that happens to look exactly like beer, well then you my friend have found the chocolatey, vanilla bean, coffee hinted sweet heavenly dessert in a glass. If there was someway this beer could be infused with the right nutritional content I may have found my perfect diet food or at least the answer that ever persistent question, “if you were on a desert island and had to eat only one food...”.

The Stout
Tuxedo Park Brewers Indianapolis,IN

Now I have to say that this third beer falls into a category all it’s own because it’s not from a brewer at all. It was the magically delicious stout from the brewing supplies and spreaders of the home brewing gospel from Tuxedo Park Brewers. Along with the stout, whose name was written with a Sharpie and hung on an index card that has escaped me, was a buffet of recipes, all available at their store and all available for us mere mortals to brew ourselves. If I ever achieve the ability to brew this stout at home, I might not ever leave except for supplies, and to go to another Winterfest!

With all the wonder brew aside, there were other things I enjoyed about my first Wintefest; the people! There was an overwhelming sense of comradely that one can feel on small scale at one's favorite water hole. However, at Wintefest it seemed to  fill the entire space and overflow into the beirgarten.
Mustaches are all the rage.
It's surprising how many wonderful new beers you'll discover!
Even if your freezing you can still have a good time with your friends.
Some random guy pushed past me in line at Upland..
Friends, beers and pretzels. Wasn't that a movie?
Lederhosn dude.
Always remember to smile.
At the end of the night everyone had a smile on their face.

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