Beating the Heat in Indy

Our friend and native Midwesterner, Dave Ratcliff, reports from
this weekend’s 15th Annual Indiana Microbrewers Festival

There are two things a visitor to a beer festival in the Midwest should know. The first is that an opportunity to sample numerous craft beers from states like Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Illinois, Pennsylvania and beyond is an opportunity to taste high-quality beers from an area sometimes overlooked in the beer enthusiast community. The second is that timing is everything.

Drink (and shop) local

Each summer, the Brewers of Indiana Guild holds a beer festival in Indianapolis. With a little luck and perfect timing, it’s possible to avoid the oppressive summer heat that annually visits this part of the country. This year, though, Mother Nature had other plans.

On a clear and sunny July day in the Indianapolis suburb of Broad Ripple, I attended the 15th annual festival. With the temperature at 91 degrees and the heat index at 97 degrees, a cold craft beer was something myself and the other attendees at the sold-out festival were craving.

Festival time in Broad Ripple

It was no accident that my first beer was a kolsch. Chicago’s Goose Island was perfectly positioned directly inside the entrance and their Summertime Kolsch was the perfect starting beer. While it didn’t improve the temperature, it did reinforce my belief that a well-made beer can make even a very hot day bearable.

Standing in the much-needed shade under one of the tents all the vendors were stationed in, I began to explore the scene around me. While taking a sip from my tasting glass (made from actual glass – something the plastic-loving organizers at other beer festivals could take a lesson from), I learned that the majority of the Indiana-based breweries were grouped together in a separate area.

I headed to that area immediately where Three Floyd’s, Upland, Lafayette and Indianapolis’s own Sun King and Oaken Barrel more than hold their own against breweries in other Midwestern states and beyond. The highlights were the Two Dave’s IPA (no relation) from Columbus’s Power House Brewery, the brilliantly-named Loopy Lupilin from Mishiwaka (brewed in the town of the same name), and the dry-hopped Ol’ Woody Pale Ale from Fort Wayne’s Mad Anthony. With so many good beers to sample, it was an excellent way for myself, fellow craft beer drinkers, and any other hardy souls to brave the unforgiving temperature.

Trying to stay cool...

Although many of my fellow festival goers chose to sample the numerous stouts and porters, I kept it hoppy. A noteworthy exception was my sample of the Bourbon Barrel Smoked Bock from Louisville’s Bluegrass Brewing Company. I visited this brewery about ten years ago and I was happy to know that they are still producing quality brews.

The day’s longest lines were found at Sun King. By maintaining a constant presence in social media and by having its product available in numerous places around Indianapolis, Sun King celebrated its first anniversary by brewing what might be its best beer to date: the 10% ABV/100+ IBU Cream Dream III: The Search for Hops. Special kudos for having an employee pour it to people waiting in line. Keeping people happy with good beer and good customer service are musts for every successful vendor at a beer festival.

After tasting a few more samples, it was time to claim victory for my taste buds and admit defeat against the sun. I left the festival with my glass, a few t-shirts, and a desire  for a tall glass of ice water in an air-conditioned room. I also left with a sense of pride in the heartland’s contribution to craft beer. I hope that all craft beer lovers who usually fly over this part of the country will schedule some time to visit one of the Midwest’s numerous microbreweries and land a well-made beer… no matter what the weather is.