Thursday, June 26, 2008

Beer: Indiana Beer Week

Just noticed over at the Brewers of Indiana Guild webpage that they've announced details for Indiana Beer Week. This is the first time that they're having a full week of celebration for Indiana breweries, brew pubs and beer bars. The events culminate with the annual Indiana Microbrewers Festival in Broad Ripple on Saturday July 19th.

There's way too much information to fully summarize, so I suggest you go check out the calendar yourself and see what looks interesting to you. A couple highlights:
  • Brugge will be kicking off Indiana Beer Week with the official opening of their upstairs expansion on Saturday, July 12th.
  • Brew pubs and beer bars around the state will be doing a "tap swap" with beers on tap in locations where they aren't normally available. Of note, a couple New Albanian beers will be in Indy -- St. Rategund's English Pale Ale at Brugge and Community Dark at Spencers -- and a Three Floyds beer called Alpha Naught will be available at Brugge. On Beer Advocate, Alpha Naught is listed as a "retired" American Barleywine.
  • A "VIP Brewmaster's Dinner" will be held the night before the beer festival. Chef Greg Hardesty -- until very recently the chef at Elements in downtown -- will be doing the food. No word on the menu yet. It costs $75 and reservations are available by stopping at Brugge Brasserie or Broad Ripple Brewpub.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bike Life: Indiana BikePort

I had to head into downtown yesterday to do some shopping and decided that it would be a good time to try my first bike ride in downtown. One problem: I didn't know where I could park my bike. I've never had a reason to look for bike racks in downtown before, though I'm pretty sure there's one at the mall entrance by the Artsgarden.

I went to google to see if I could figure out where racks are located and came across a service called Indiana BikePort, which provides bike lockers that can be rented. Currently, use of the service is free, though a $5.95 membership is required. The webpage indicates that fees are likely to be charged for a rental sometime later this year, though they don't say how much that might be.

There are currently three locations where you can rent a BikePort in Indianapolis: the National Institute for Fitness and Sport (12 ports), the Indiana Government Center (three locations with 8, 8 and 10 ports), and the Merchants Garage in the center of downtown (8 ports). Yesterday, there were just a couple ports available at each location around 4pm, though today the vast majority of spaces are available. Bike commuters must keep their eye on the weather!

I decided to give it a shot last night and bought a membership. I was a little sketchy about how the service worked, so I decided to go to one of the Goverment Center spaces where at least I knew exactly where the ports would be located. The service is actually surprisingly easy. There are little windows on the ports so you can see if they are occupied (at 6pm, they were all unoccupied). Once you find an open port, you use your cell phone to call the BikePort service. The automated system asks you to enter your member number and then the number of the port you'd like to use and then it gives you a five digit code. You enter that code on a pad on the end of the bank of ports and -- VOILA! -- the port is unlocked for you.

The ports are diagonally shaped, which requires your back wheel to go in first with space for your handbars in front. This shape allows one port to access from the front and another port to access from the back. There are also hooks to hang up your gear inside.

I did my rounds around downtown and in the process located the ports in the Merchants Garage (the garage just to the north of the Hard Rock). The ports are directly on the other side of the the security and elevator area of the garage. If you go through the pedestrian doors, you turn right just as you enter the parking area. If you enter in the vehicle lanes, turn immediately left. A word of warning: only four ports are at ground level. To save space, the ports are double-stacked so the other four will require lifting your bike.

After I was done, I went back to the Government Center and did the same procedure to unlock the port. The process is very simple and I plan to make use of this service quite a bit, though I'll probably go to the Merchants Garage the next time. Highly recommended!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Beer: Brew Ha Ha

This year, I finally made it to Brew Ha Ha, an annual beer festival hosted on the 700 block of Park Ave as a fundraiser for the Phoenix Theatre. For one reason or another, the stars never aligned in previous years (perhaps because this time of year is usually so overloaded with beer events). It rained a little on my walk over there and for about the first 30 minutes -- a nice light rain that cooled me off as opposed to soaking me. That didn't stop people from showing up and it was pretty packed about an hour in when the sun started shining.

There were tables for basically every micro brewery and brew pub in the Indy area as well as a few more from around the state. A couple distributor tables also showcased beers from around the country and world.

New Albanian was easily the star of the show (word is that they were last year as well, though I didn't go). They were about the only brewery that brought something really special, the kind of thing that's limited availability and given a special tapping time. What did they bring, you ask? A cask of "Flat Tyre", an amber ale aged for 3 months in a Calvados cask. Simply delicious, and I'm not generally a very big fan of amber ales. A couple new beer buddies and I talked them into giving us extra large samples of the Flat Tyre if we bought pint glasses from them (I was probably going to buy one anyway). I had their Hoptimus Double IPA when it was on tap last year at BadaBoomz, but across the board I was very impressed with their beers. New Albanian needs to start bottling pronto.

It seems that my camera also took the trip down to Evansville, so you'll have to see a photo of the cask over at Indiana Beer. Check out the rest of their collection as well.

Barley Island also had some of their Bourbon Barrel-Aged Oatmeal Stout on tap. Unfortunately, it must have either been a very limited quantity or very popular because it was gone when I went back for more later in the afternoon. They also had what was apparently their first attempt at a Double IPA on tap. It was quite tasty and well balanced, in my opinion the key ingredient to a good DIPA (no, not hops, hops, hops).

I ended the day by spending some time behind Alcatraz Brewing Company's table. Of the three brew pubs in downtown, this is the one I hit least often, which is a shame. Brewmaster Omar Castrellon is really doing some interesting things and the other employees I talked to -- including what I think was the general manager -- are very psyched about the future at Alcatraz.

Bring on the next festival!

(Secondary thoughts: I just reread this post and realize that some of it comes across very generically, as in very little about the taste of specific beers. Apologies, but that's the nature of the beast. If you can remember the details of a beer festival better than this, you've got a better liver than I!)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bike Life: The Commute

Some would probably laugh at me, calling my home to work travel a commute. More like a pleasure trip. Google maps says it's 0.6 miles and 4 minutes:
0.6 miles in 4 minutes is about 9mph, which is the equivalent of a pretty leisurely biking pace. I've experimented the last couple of days to come up with the best way to get to work by bike. I tried just riding a couple of my typical car routes and they're pretty terrible. I'm assuming this is fairly typical of city streets, but you can barely get up to speed before you've got to stop at an intersection. And there are quite a few big, busy streets on my route that aren't all that hospitable to bike riding or crossing.

I also tried taking the canal from my complex down past the museums and then riding up Blackford to Michigan (where my building is). That's a longer route but it cuts down street crossings to one: Blackford at New York, which is pretty manageable. Unfortunately, the canal is essentially worthless for biking. There are several choke points that are barely wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side. Even a single person makes it almost impossible to ride past them. And even in wide areas, pedestrians typically walk as wide as possible, taking up the whole walkway. Yesterday, I encountered a summer camp group and had to simply get off my bike and walk through the group. Scratch that option.

For now, I think it's going to be walking. On foot, I can take an "as the crow flies" route that's actually very short and fast:
When you factor in the time to cross all the streets with a bike as well as parking and locking up the bike, it barely takes any more time to walk this route. I'll save the bike for my longer trips.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bike Life: One Month Without A Car

Starting today -- and proceeding for the next 23 days -- I will be embarking on a little experiment: living in downtown Indianapolis without a car. As some of you know, my wife is enrolled at IU Medical School and she has just begun her third year. Third year is defined by "rotations" in which students are exposed to the many different medical fields, typically for about 4 weeks per rotation. My wife's first rotation is "family medicine" which happens to be one of the few rotations where "they" can randomly decide to ship you around the state. In her case, she's going to see what life in southern Indiana is like, stationed at Deaconess Hospital in Evansville.

The kicker here is that we share a single car. Sharing is made possible by the fact that I work on IUPUI campus so we're able to commute to campus together (or walk during nice weather). Unfortunately, with her stationed in Evansville, that one car has to go with her. That leaves just a few options for me: buy another car (NO), rent a car for a month, or try to make a go of life without a car. I'm frugal, I live less than half a mile from where I work, and I like a challenge, so I chose to buy a bike and go completely car-less.

So, for the next couple weeks I'll be using the "Bike Life" topic area to keep you appraised of how things are going. You can expect to see updates about where I've biked, how shopping at a grocery store works when you've only got a bike to bring things home, what it's like trying to ride on city streets, etc. This should be quite an adventure -- if nothing else, I should be in much better shape at the end! Wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Beer: Fireside Brewhouse

While we intended to get some wings at Shallos on the southside last night, instead we ended up at Fireside Brewhouse, a locally-owned independent restaurant that just opened a little over a month ago (they also own Blu and The Pub). Getting off I-65 at County Line Rd., my wife pointed across the road and said, "what's that place?" The name immediately jogged my memory of a post Matt put up a while back and we decided to pull in and give it a whirl.

Their beer list is pretty safe, if you can call 16 taps and over 100 different bottled beers safe. The hard-core craft beer fan is not going to find the more exotic selections that you might see at Hot Shotz, J. Gumbo's or Shallos, but it's very solid and you're sure to find something to enjoy. Lots of Bell's, Three Floyds, Upland, Samuel Smith, Brooklyn, etc. The bottles are generally $4-5, though some are a bit more. Some of the more adventurous beers available include 22s of Hoppin' Frog IPA ($13) and Double IPA ($14), Anchor Old Foghorn ($7) and Lindemans Framboise. I'm having a hard time remembering many of the taps, but I know they had Bell's Two Hearted and Oberon and that 16oz pours are generally $5, with 22oz for $6.50.

The entres are mostly in the $10 range, with standard brew pub fare like thin crust pizzas, burgers, and steaks. I think the most expensive item on the menu was a fish special for $15 (there may have been a more expensive steak). We ordered a Luca Brazzi pizza (sausage with peppers and an asiago/mozza blend) and a bowl of chili. The pizza ($9.95) was pretty tasty, while the chili ($4.50) lacked much of a punch. Could have been an off night or still working out the kinks, who knows.

The restaurant has ample seating in multiple different spaces with an interestingly shaped bar that would allow several friends to gather for close conversation around one of the points (sorry, I didn't bring my camera or I could have shown you). There are also quite a few large, well-placed HDTVs for sports viewing. If we lived closer, I could see us hitting this restaurant fairly regularly. With as many bottled beers as they have, I'd expect the selection to switch up frequently. Relative to downtown, however, Shallos is just a hop, skip and a jump from there and I'd be hard pressed to pull off at Fireside over Shallos, especially when we've got a craving for Shallos wings. . . .

Monday, June 16, 2008

San Francisco Roundup

San Francisco is one of my favorite places to visit. It never gets old, even the tourist traps! My wife and I have gone there for three consecutive springs and if we go back one more time, I think we're going to have to start calling it a yearly pilgrimage. We were there just long enough to work out the jet lag from the time change and now we're trying to work back to normal. Going there isn't too bad, we usually just stay up progressively later each night. And having your body clock tell you to get out of bed at 6 or 7 local time is a nice thing when you want to get a jump on the day. Coming back sucks: invariably there's some reason I'm forced to get up at a time that feels like 4 or 5am. Oh well, I can take it!

Going out to eat is always a treat in San Francisco. Not just because the food is fantastic and there's incredible variety, but the beer lists are almost completely different than the midwest-centric selections we're used to in Indy. Here's a list of beers I got to try for the first time out there:

Carmel Wheat (tap)
Rogue Chocolate Stout (cask)
Rogue Old Crustacean (tap)
Lagunitas Pale (bottle)
Pyramid Hefeweizen (tap)
Lagunitas IPA (bottle)
Trader Joe's Hefeweizen (bottle)
Russian River Pliny the Elder (tap)
Lagunitas Pils (tap)
Hoegaarden (tap)

We also spent a couple days up in Sonoma County doing wine tasting. If you ever get a chance to do this, I highly recommend it! The scenery is gorgeous and getting to taste wine right next to where the wine was crafted and the grapes were grown (possibly) is quite an experience. If you go to a big-name winery, you'll generally get big-name, flashy service in a room with a gorgeous view and perfectly manicured gardens. If you go to a smaller winery, you can run into some very interesting, energetic people doing the tastings. Some of these people may even be directly involved with the production of the wine, which makes them great sources of information. There are pluses and minuses to both kinds of wineries and we like to mix it up to get a little bit of both. Here's a list of places we were able to hit on this trip (about half new and half return visits, and about half big and half small wineries):

Gary Farrell
Alexander Valley
David Coffaro
Rosso & Bianco (Francis Coppola)
Clos du Bois
Rodney Strong

The bad news for wine aficionados is that many wineries in Sonoma took a hit from a frost this spring. Some described it as possibly the worst frost in 30-40 years. Hopefully things aren't that bad but they won't know fully for a while yet and the financial hit could be bad at harvest time. We'll keep our fingers crossed for now.

While we were up in Sonoma I also made a very brief stop at Russian River Brewing Company, picking up some bottles of Damnation, Supplication, Beatification, and Temptation. I knew they made some great beer out there, but I didn't realize until I got home that the last three in that list are currently #20, #23 and #31 on the Top Beers on Planet Earth list according to Beer Advocate. I also got to sample Pliny the Elder which is an absolutely phenomenal DIPA that checks in at #9 on that list. With a whopping seven beers on that list, you might say that Russian River knows what they're doing.

We checked a couple cases of beer and wine on the flight back to Indy, luckily skipping the new American Airlines baggage charges that apparently go into effect this week. Hopefully we'll make it back again next summer but for now we've got some great wine and beer to enjoy!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Despite record gas prices and crazy baggage charges by the airlines -- luckily, I'm slipping on American before their new first bag charge takes effect -- it's time to get out of town for a while. I'll be out in lovely San Francisco for a little over a week, including a side trip up to Sonoma County. The main goal in Sonoma is wine tasting, but I'm going to try to plug in some quick stops at Russian River Brewing Company and Bear Republic Brewery.

So, unless the mood really strikes me, DIG-B will be on hold for the next week and a half. I should be back with a brand new topic area to talk about on June 16th.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Beer: Rathskeller Wine & Brew Fest

Description: Indy’s Wine & Brew Fest at the Rathskeller. Sample from over 200 of the world's finest wines and beers. Tickets are $30 in advance and $40 at the door. Tickets can be purchased at any United Package Liquor location.
Date: Friday, June 20, 2008
Time: 6:00pm-10:00pm

This is getting's a list of beer events in Indianapolis in June (that I know of):

June 4th McCormick & Schmick Seafood and Beer Tasting
June 5th Rock Bottom American Dream IPA Tapping
June 11th Rock Bottom North Brewmaster's Dinner
June 11th St. Elmo's Anheuser-Busch Brewmaster's Dinner
June 19th Ales for Adoptable Tails (Humane Society)
June 20th Rathskeller Wine & Brew Fest
June 21st Brew Ha-Ha (Phoenix Theatre)
June 28th Indy Pub Crawl
June 28th Hops for Pops

Photo: Old Indianapolis Peaks Out

Beer: St. Elmo's Anheuser-Busch Brewmaster's Dinner

From Indianapolis Monthly's The Dish:

Wednesday, June 11
St. Elmo Steak House (127 S. Illinois St., 635-0636) hosts an Anheuser-Busch Brewmaster's Dinner, with passed hors d'oeuvres; a first course of pan-seared applewood-smoked Dueske bacon with baby spinach, gouda crisps, and cider dressing, paired with Beach Bum Blond Ale; a second course of Main lobster with roasted corn and potatoes, paired with Budweiser; a third course of marinated hanger steak with roasted garlic-and-mushroom polenta, and grilled carrots, paired with Michelob AmberBock; and vanilla bean shortcake with fresh blueberries, peaches, and lemon whipped cream, paired with Wild Blue lager for dessert. Reception at 6:30 p.m. $75. Call for reservations.

(Biting tongue...)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Beer: Bell's Harry Magill's Spiced Stout

Has anybody ever heard of Harry Magill's Spiced Stout?
I was in J. Gumbo's over the weekend and the bartender slapped down a Rate Beer printout with a description of this beer. He said some guys were checking out Mike DeWeese's basement stash recently and came across some bottles of this beer. They estimated that it was 2-4 years old, but looking at the reviews on Beer Advocate, I'd estimate more like 6 years (the label certainly looks it, though unfortunately it doesn't have a back label with a batch number). There are a couple reviews from 2001 to early 2002, but there are a flurry of reviews starting in November 2002 that probably indicates the official release (or maybe a second, larger release). My lovely wife decided that we had to try it and surprised me by ordering a bottle while I was in the bathroom.

The smell of the beer was all chocolate and raisin and those characteristics followed through in the taste. The raisin/dark fruit flavor was pretty dominant and in my limited experience, this seems to be a very common flavor in aged beers. In the aftertaste I got some caramel and then a creamy/vanilla flavor right at the very end. It was pretty tasty and easy to drink, though honestly, I didn't find any of the spice that the name (and BA reviews) indicate. Those flavors must have faded out to nothingness over time.