Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Bike Life/Beer: A Trip To Evansville

I decided that last weekend would be a good time to take a trip down to Evansville to visit my wife. Without a car, this presented a challenge. I looked into several options for getting down there, including plane, bus and train. Flying was nixed because of expense and a lack of direct service. Bus was nixed because of an absurd NINE hour travel time each direction. Unfortunately, train isn't even an option! Evansville is NOT well-connected to Indianapolis.

I was hoping to avoid it, but the only other option was renting a car. Luckily, Avis and Budget operate car rental agencies in downtown so I was able to just walk to an agency to pick up a car. I rented a compact to try to get better fuel economy, but not too surprisingly my gas expenditure still came out higher than my rental rate!

The generally preferred route from Indy to Evansville is to drive west on I-70 to Terre Haute and then take Highway 41 south to Evansville (this was the rejected no-new-terrain route for I-69). An alternate route is to take I-65 south to Louisville and then I-64 west to Evansville. That route is about 40 miles longer but eliminates all traffic lights, so it takes basically the same amount of time. It also happens to take you right past New Albany, the home of up-and-coming brewery New Albanian. Needless to say, that's the route I chose.

Evansville is about three hours away, with New Albany almost exactly halfway. That puts New Albanian about an hour and a half from Indy, not a bad distance for a day trip. I stopped in very briefly, just so I could grab a growler of Hoptimus and get back on the road. The place is a little confusing. First of all, there are actually two separate areas: one is a pizzeria and the other is a public house. I made the mistake of going into the pizzeria first and while you can get New Albanian beer in there, there is no bar.

Once I got into the public house, I was confused yet again because there's no obvious bar area. The arrangement is very interesting and eclectic, but not very user-friendly on the first visit. It seems to be one part restaurant, one part "coffee house/lounge" and one part bar. After winding through a couple areas, there actually is a bar area of sorts in the back. There are two small bars, maybe large enough for three people to stand at. In addition to a half dozen or so New Albanian beers on tap, they also have several guest beers on tap. I stepped up to the bar and ordered my growler, chatted with a guy enjoying a pint at the bar, and then got on my way. At some point, I'm going have to head back there so I can really experience the place.

I pulled into Evansville right around dinner time, so we headed out to eat almost immediately. Our destination was Turoni's, a locally-owned brew pub and the only one in Evansville. People in southern Indiana must really love their craft beer with pizza because, again, this beer destination is also a pizzeria. We split a very tasty thin crust pizza and I tried their Wit's Up and their IPA. Both were very good, but nothing amazing. I don't think it was on tap while we were there, but courtesy of the tap swap for Indiana Beer Week, you can try Turoni's Helles Bock at The Ram starting Monday, July 14th. Like all Indiana breweries, they'll also be at the Microbrewers Festival.

The next night, we went out to the other must-try Evansville beer stop, Gerst Bavarian Haus. Think Rathskeller, except with more taps, fewer bottles and a much smaller outdoor seating area. The menu features standard (and delicious) German fare and an excellent selection of beers. I went with "Frank Hefe" which I'm assuming was Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse. Very tasty, though I still have to go with Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier when I've got a hankering for real German hefe. For dessert I decided to go with what they told me was a Schlafly Milk Stout. It was very good, with a strong chocolate presence up front and a nice creamy finish. The thing is, I can't find any mention of the existence of a Schlafly Milk Stout anywhere. It was definitely brewed with lactose -- the non-fermentable sugar that's the hallmark of milk stouts -- but the milkiness wasn't as strong as Left Hand Milk Stout, the only major milk stout I know of. I wish I knew what it was so I could recommend it!

All in all, a very fun weekend trip and of course, it was wonderful to see my wife after being apart over a week. All the beer stops I mentioned are highly recommended!

(I also recovered my camera, which accidentally made the trip down to Evansville, so you can expect to see photo features return this week.)


Kevin said...

I can't believe in all my travels around Indiana that I've never visited Evansville. I like the sound of the places you visited.

Imagine if the stupid I-69 project was a passenger rail line instead. Le-sigh. Oh well, I guess 4 dollar a gallon gas won't change a thing...

Mike said...

coulda rode a bike down there... i've got a route plotted out to new albany already. it's only 120 miles.

anyway, i think i'm gonna do that later this summer.

Anonymous said...

How can you visit Evansville on Freedom Fest weekend and not go see the boat races and air show?

CorrND said...

mac, I certainly did those things! The air show was cool, but B-2 Stealth Bombers are always a sight.

There was a lot of stuff that didn't make its way into this post in order to keep it at a manageable length. I made the decision to frame it around my travel decision and the beer stops I made.