Monday, October 1, 2007

Beer: Weekend Fun at Oliver, Three Floyds and Upland

I had a rather full weekend, starting with a trip to Bloomington on Wednesday. My wife is in her second year at IU Medical School and she recently finished a round of exams -- 5 exams in 6 days! -- after which she got a 4-day long weekend to recover. She and a friend decided to start recovering by doing some tasting at Oliver Winery, so I came along.

We had a really nice time at Oliver -- I wouldn't call them a great winery, but I'm always impressed by something they're serving (this time: Shiraz 2004 Reserve) -- then took the quick trip down to Bloomington. We parked just off Kirkwood, one of Bloomington's main college-towny drags, and walked around a bit. I love used CD stores, so I headed into one and walked out with 3 (influenced by a combination of the wine and the 10%-off-3 sale). Then we headed out to dinner at Cafe Django (an interesting Asian Fusion restaurant) and made the trip back to Indy.

Thursday night we drove to Evanston, IL to spend the weekend with my brother, sister-in-law and their almost 6 m/o baby. Along the way, it occurred to me that we could stop off at Three Floyds Brewery for dinner. It's just a couple miles off 80/94 and I had briefly been there once before so we could pick up a growler of Alpha King for a party. If you've never been, it's situated in the middle of an industrial park in Munster, IN and you're SURE you're going the wrong way the first time you visit. Trust your map/directions and look for the water tower!

We sat down at a table in the bar area with Beetle Juice playing on the wall and a group of 20-somethings were having a joyous time over bow-ties of Dreadnaught. Blow-ups of their wacky beer labels are hanging all around the bar. Taking a look at their beer selection I was very impressed with the number of beers they have on tap, not only their own (about a dozen right now) but a handful of "friendlies," a number of which they also serve in bottles. We decided to stick with 3F's, specifically beers that you can't get anywhere outside of the Brew Pub. My wife went with the Alpha Khan -- a mongolian-style pale ale served in a standard pint glass -- and I went with the Gorm Noire -- a Belgian black which arrived in a tulip glass. I loved the Alpha Khan: to my mouth, a hoppier, less citrusy version of Alpha King, more like an IPA. The Gorm was a wonderful spicy black with clove and an almost creamy finish. We got a pizza that was tasty, but not spectacular and headed out.

As we got back in the car, I thought "why haven't we thrown on any of the 3 CDs I bought yesterday?" They were not with the rest of the CDs we brought and after 5 minutes of throwing things around looking for them in the car, I realized that I had left them at Cafe Django in Bloomington! Slightly depressed, we continued up to Evanston where we had an awesome weekend with my oh-so-cute nephew.

While we were there, I confirmed with Cafe Django that they had found my CDs. Then it struck me: we could skirt Indy on the way back on Sunday, head down to Bloomington for the CDs and also hit up Upland Brewing Co. for a late lunch! I just had to convince the wife, which didn't take too much effort, though we realized the timing would likely require listening to some of the Colts game on the radio. Small trade-off.

We managed to tear ourselves away from the nephew and my wife tore-ass down to Bloomington, stopping us briefly at Cafe Django (YES -- they still had them!) before settling in at Upland around 3. The Bears were getting spanked by the Lions on all 3 of their small TVs. The place was only about 1/10th full, but I bet they could draw a good Sunday crowd if they just installed a couple decent football-watching TVs. Oh well, I understand and appreciate that their focus is the beer, not what's on the boob-tube.

We'd never been there before, so we went with the sampler tray. I was thinking the sampler was going to be four or five small samples, but this is a full-on Upland experience: seven 5 oz samples! They arrange them on a tray in the recommended order of consumption, with the names under the glasses: Wheat, Pale, Amber, IPA, Porter, Saison, Maibock (there was also a Weizen space, but they must have been out).

The tasting didn't start out well. I'd had the Wheat before and knew I wasn't a fan -- though to be fair, I'm not a fan of wheat beer in general. This wheat is a GABF Gold Medal Winner, though, so I would recommend wheat drinkers definitely try it; several groups in the bar had pitchers of it. The Pale is a very weak example, with an unpleasant aftertaste (this is the type of thing you might not notice with a whole pint, but becomes especially apparent when you're hopping around different beers and you can compare). The Amber was decent, but again, I'm not a huge fan in general. I've also had the Dragonfly IPA in bottle and it's passable, though definitely not one I actively seek-out.

Thankfully, the second half of the tasting was much better. The Porter is a wonderful chocolatey, creamy version. If it were a colder day, I might have gotten a pint of that. The Saison is one of their seasonals and was definitely my favorite, with it's heavily spiced Belgian taste. It was so refreshing that I ended up adding a pint of that to go with my lunch. The final tasting, the Maibock, is a seasonal that must be left-over. There were signs up around the bar advertising 6-packs for just $4.99, though we couldn't take advantage of that on Sunday. Their seasonals schedule indicates that it's usually available from April to June, so it's been around a while and they're undoubtedly trying to move it. I thought it was pretty darn tasty, though I don't have much experience with the style. My wife got a pint of it to go with her lunch.

After eating our very tasty burgers and fries for lunch, we headed out, threw the Colts game on the radio and headed back to Indy to relax with what little was left of our weekend.


Shout-out: Matt over at Matt's Beer Blog also just posted his own review of Three Floyds! He was there on a Saturday and took the brewery tour so he's got more in-depth info about the brewery that's definitely worth a read.

UPDATE: Matt just so happened to order the exact same beers we did at Three Floyd's. He's a much better beer reviewer than I (plus he's got pictures) so I recommend checking them out:

Gorm Noire
Alpha Khan


Matt said...

That sounds like a heck of a weekend man. Good post.

We had the exact same two beers starting out. I should have gotten a growler of Alpha Khan. That was great stuff.

Do you plan on hitting up Tuxedo Park on the 13th? I am really looking forward to that.

CorrND said...

We actually tried to get a growler of Alpha Kahn. Strangely, they only do growlers for Alpha King, Robert the Bruce and Pride and Joy. We can get those all over Indy, which kind of defeats the purpose!

I'm not sure about next weekend yet. I may be going to South Bend for the ND vs. BC game. If I'm in Indy, I'll definitely try to get to the Tuxedo Park party.

Kevin said...

I love Upland. Oliver Winery a nice place to spend some time as well. Basically, I love Bloomington.

CorrND said...

I really like the outdoor space at Oliver. Too bad 31 is so close by and you can hear all the cars.

I had a friend that lived in Bloomington for a year or so after college and I got to experience it sort-of as a college student. Now I'm rediscovering it and noticing all the wonderful things they've got down there.

If only it were closer.

It's just close enough that you can say "what the hell, let's go!" but just far enough that, more often than not, we end up saying "or we could just go to Mass Ave."

CorrND said...

I mean "too bad 37 is so close..."