Beer Buzz, 4/15/2015 


Timely Taste & Talk

April 7 was the 82nd National Beer Day to mark the first day since Prohibition that beer could legally be bought, sold and drunk. At Rock Bottom College Park brewer Nathan Scruggs was describing his newest brews. As we sampled, patron Julio Tierno posed a broadband question.

“How can you be creative and unique while brewing within a tradition?” asked Tierno.

Scruggs didn’t jump in with a ready reply. We waited while he thought it through. “What I do know about traditional beers is what I research,” Scruggs offered, describing how he gets the ‘standard’ by which a style is judged into his head and palate so he is certain he can brew to expectation. If he wants to go beyond the basic recipe he adjusts ingredients for a difference that’s still within the parameters of what “is expected.” He concluded that’s probably what every brewer does, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask others.

It’s like being a visual artist, concurred Tierno. And this reminded us of Picasso who was a master of the basics of drawing and painting before he stretched the expected and developed his own style. On a recent visit to the IMA Contemporary European galleries on the second floor, Tierno was conducting a tour that included Picasso’s 1913/1914 "Ma Jolie" identified by Tierno as “the name he called his lover and a popular song at the time.” A viewer readily recognizes Picasso a part of the collage is depicting a bottle of Bass beer, but not as ordinarily perceived.
Picasso’s painting is vastly different in composition and technique from Manet’s “A Bar at the Folies-Bergere” painted in 1882, yet in each we know the ubiquitous red triangle represents a bottle of Bass no matter if it’s represented as Realism or Cubism.

And so Tierno, who likes a hoppy beer above all styles, knows what he’s drinking right now is a Pacific Northwest IPA, but he discerns a difference. And this is when Scruggs suggests factors other than a brewer’s design can be at work in craft brewing, and something of which patrons need to be aware. Beer ingredients represent a strong affiliation with place and time. Scruggs perceived that recently harvested Centennial Hops, a major taste factor especially in Classic American IPA’s, are imparting a different profile.

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“Customers are asking ‘What are you doing different?’ Scruggs tells us. “And I tell them, ‘Nothing. I haven’t changed the recipe or the process.” After some research Scruggs determined this batch of Centennial Hops is asserting a different character. Craft beer represents a living entity, he says. That’s what makes it worthy of sipping and talking about.

However, over the next several months Scruggs expects to be making some recipe changes to the standard lineup and he recognizes patrons will need to be consulted because many have their favorites and they expect the same taste every time. Tinkering with the regular house beers isn’t always welcome.

“Specialties and seasonals are a different story,” he offers. “People like to be able to taste and talk about the merits of a seasonal and a special.” For a style that might be new to most patrons at RB College Park Scruggs is aware the wait staff will have to be attentive about describing the featured Saison DuRoche. It’s Scruggs’ first Saison, a French-Belgian inspired Farmhouse Ale I found deliciously close to those I’ve enjoyed while traveling in Belgium. The Belgian yeast strain that dominates with intense fruity esthers and spicy phenolics is nicely balanced against the soft malt character for layers of flavor and a refreshing dry/tart finish.

The other three new brews on the board are equally up for conversation. Brick Top’s Brown is a hearty English Porter featuring a trio of malts—dark caramel, brown and chocolate—balanced with English Hops. 317 Pale Ale is number one in a projected series. Expect the second in time to salute May. He’s brewing a series to determine the right direction for a house hoppy beer.

When Scruggs enthuses about brewing Lagers we’re on a different brwing path. All of the above are Ales. You brew and wait a few weeks for the ingredients to mesh into the right taste. Lagers take months to mature. He’s been lagering a German Amber since January. “Its subtle finesse and delicacy is due to the yeast balance with German toasted and nut-like malts against German Noble Hops for a crisp dry finish,” explains Scruggs. The new Bock’s name honors “long-time server Veronica Winternheimer.” When asked about the celebrity of Winternheimer Bock, she was modest about it, simply recognizing she’s been with RB College Park since the opening in 2005.

We raised our glasses to a double tenth anniversary along with an 82nd.

Historic add on: RB Downtown will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2016, as the oldest downtown modern era brewpub. The RAM opened in 2000, marking its 15th anniversary during 2015. [Alcatraz opened in 1995 and closed in 2011]


Growing Northward

Sun King, Indiana's second-largest craft brewery, is opening the Sun King Tap Room and Small-batch Brewery at 7848 East 96th Street in Fishers early- to mid-June. The 6,000-square-foot space in the North by Northeast Shopping Center will be home to a three-barrel brewing system and a taproom featuring an event space for community and private events.

The new taproom is a half-mile from land that will be developed into a destination brewery and event center over the next few years.

"Many northside residents already enjoy Sun King beer, and we're excited to bring it closer to them, while introducing new fans to our fresh local beer," said Clay Robinson, Sun King co-founder. "This new brewery will also give us the opportunity to produce more small batch, one-off and experimental beers than we can in our full-production facility in downtown Indianapolis."

Last year Sun King announced plans to build a second production facility in Fishers; however, because of uncertainty in the Indiana Legislature surrounding a bill that could increase Indiana's small brewery production limits, planning for that facility has been put on hold.

"As we approached our production limits in Indianapolis, planning a second full-production brewery in Fishers was the next logical step for Sun King's growth," said Dave Colt, head brewer and co-founder of Sun King Brewery. "However, we need to wait until we have the full consent from our state government to produce more than 30,000 barrels of beer each year. We continue to remain optimistic that the limit will increase, which would boost the local economy, create more local jobs and provide more local craft beer to enthusiasts."

The first keg of Sun King beer rolled out the door for delivery in July 2009.

Arts Tie-in: April 19, at 4 p.m. Lilly Library on the IU Bloomington campus is hosting a free Lute recital by faculty member Nigel North. First on the program is “Music for the Sun King,” dedicated to Louis XIV in 1682 by composer Robert de Visée.


New Brews Now

Half Moon in Kokokmo is pouring All Day Session Ale, light bodied, golden hued and lower in alcohol than a traditional IPA.

Oaken Barrel’s seasonal King Rudi has re-appeared. This German Hefeweizen served with a wedge of fresh lemon is a great summer thirst quencher. OB’s multiple award-wining Super Fly IPA won the Hop Cat March Hop Madness customer nod. It’s a regular in multiple locations.

All Upland retail sites are now serving Sours by the glass as a once sample, six ounce pour, and a Sour flight. The styles now available include: Vinosynth White, Vinosynth Red, Blackberry and Blueberry.

Upland annually celebrates Record Store Day April 18 with a new seasonal beer inspired by local musicians to help support local record stores. 10% of all profits from Vinyl Tap supports Girls Rock! Indianapolis. Upland’s brew team reports, “Vinyl Tap is a classically composed American Pale Ale with Pale and Munich malts providing the bass with notes of biscuit, honey, and spicy rye malt filling in the harmony. Topped off with the lyrical melody of citrus and pine from a blend of four American hop varieties, Vinyl Tap is music to your mouth.”

In celebration of Bloomington Craft Beer Week and Festival, Upland Brewing Co., along with fellow Bloomington Breweries Function Brewing, Bloomington Brewing Co., Quaff On Brewing, and The Tap, collaborated and brewed a drone hopped beer dubbed Hopstrike! Hop Strike is a dank India Pale Lager, packed with Chinook, Cascade, Centennial, Simcoe, Mosaic, Galaxy, Amarillo, and CTZ hops. This almost absurd combination of hops, including some dropped into our hopback from a drone, offers rich tropical aromas and a dank, fruity character. A traditional lager yeast strain and weeks of cold conditioning provide a clean, crisp finish. (For more, see the last entry in this week's Beer Buzz below.)


April 15: RB Downtown, 6-8 p.m. Firkin Night features one-of-a-kind beers

April 16: RB Downtown, 6-7 p.m. brewmaster Jerry Sutherlin is tapping Three Pepper Ale to benefit Miracle on Washington Street—RB’s annual Christmas Holiday treat for those in need. $1 of every beer sold on April 16 supports the event. Three Pepper Ale is the 2014 American Beer Festival Silver Medal Winner in the field beer category.

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April 20-26: Mad Anthony Brewing Company is celebrating the 17th Anniversary of their first keg tapped at their downtown Fort Wayne location, at the corner of Broadway and Taylor, and is inviting the community to join in celebrating this milestone at all their regional taprooms. “The week is filled with all the things that have made Mad Anthony a Northern Indiana favorite: from one-of-a-kind beer releases, to food specials the family will love,” says co-founder and president Blaine Stuckey. “The highlight of this celebration week is the release of our special Anniversary Ale— a huge American style Imperial IPA brewed with a simple grain bill allowing the copious amounts of American grown Amarillo hops, with pronounced floral and tangerine notes, to take center stage. Hopheads rejoice, but beware, this brew clocks-in at a powerful 9.4% ABV.”

Mad Anthony Brewing Company was opened in 1998 after three years of planning by Todd Grantham and Blaine Stuckey, “old friends with similar interests who decided to turn passion into vocation,” cites Stuckey. In 1999 they teamed up with friend Jeff Neels, who headed-up restaurant operations, to create what Stuckey calls “a truly unique brewing/dining experience.” They bought Fort Wayne’s Munchie Emporium with the goal of creating a brew house. Mad Anthony now brews more than 2,100 barrels of beer annually from the tanks located on-site and operates locations in Auburn, Angola and Warsaw along with their BBQ concept Shigs in Pit located at the corner of Fairfield and Taylor, downtown Fort Wayne. More event information at or

April 22: RB Downtown, 6-7 p.m., Beer & Cheese pairing


(EDITOR'S NOTE: Rita would like to welcome a guest Beer Buzzer with a few notes from Casey Parmerlee on Bloomington Beer Fest. Casey's also a NUVO media consultant.)

April 11 Bloomington Beer Fest Roundup

The day could not have been more perfect; sunshine with a perfectly blue sky without a cloud in sight and a temperature to please. The location, The Woolery Mill in Bloomington, served as a great setting indeed with plenty of room for 53 breweries, plus a meadery and winery, food vendors and live music. The atmosphere was perfect to chill out and chat with fellow beer lovers. The event sold out the day before and you could tell. The space was filled— vendors lined just about every inch of wall space and beyond. Breweries spilled outside and into a second building which made the general 'traffic flow' much more fluid.

I'm not sure I could pick a favorite; this place was packed with breweries bringing their best, but if there had to be a 'belle of the ball' I might give it to Function Brewing who brought a whopping 27 beers. Ben and I stopped at their downtown Bloomington taproom after we left the event to grab a bite before hitting the road home. The line was so crowed at the brew fest and they were so busy it was hard to sample and chat with them, so we were able to talk with some of the bartenders who spoke about the special brews brewer Steve Llewellyn brought. They were the most excited about the Stouts (Milk Stout, Coffee Milk Stout, Sour Milk Stout, Sour Milk Stout with Cherries, (Mayan) Spiced Stout, Chipotle Stout, Orange-Vanilla Stout) and hoped Steve would have some left over after the event so they could sample.


I did notice fruit beer being a little more prevalent, whether it was raspberry, blueberry, cherry, or a citrus fruit many breweries had at least one example of a beer style brewed with fruit. Among those I tasted were Taxman's Cherry Picker, a Belgian Cherry Dubbel; The Tap's Bluebeard, a Blueberry Berliner Weiss; Crown Brewing's 2013 Barrel Aged Grand Cherry Poobah, an ale aged with over 84 pounds of sour cherries; and of course New Day's Breakfast Magpie, a black berry and espresso mead which is normally a winter seasonal, however I have been seeing it more often lately.

If fruit beer was not your thing, there were certainly plenty of other options with just about every style under the sun. I would say most breweries brought anywhere from five to 12 brews to sample.


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Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn has been covering craft beer and the arts for NUVO for two decades. She’s the author of True Brew: A Guide to Craft Beer in Indiana.

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