Lafayette Brewing Company's Winter Warmer once again connected some 130 people with the triad of community service, civic pride and big - as in high alcohol - craft beer. While the event isn't in the best interest of sampling everything from each of the 19 breweries represented, it is possible to connect one-on-one with the brewers in the intimate setting of LBC's upstairs bar/banquet room.
Barleywines, Imperial Stouts and Belgians abounded along with barrel aged and fruit prominent brews, all bringing to mind hearty food pairings and sipping companions during long conversations.
Winter brews draw us out of our lairs. LBC owner/brewer Greg Emig guesstimates "a high percentage come back year after year" not just for the "awesome collection in one spot," as one patron put it, but also to support Laura's Kids, a fund in memory of Laura Williams "to make an impact with small organizations that don't see the big money" for programs serving children throughout greater Lafayette and West Lafayette, according to Emig.
In keeping with what I can safely handle, I tasted 15 of the 75 on tap. Comparing fruit beers, Mad Anthony's 2012 GABF Gold winning Ruby Raspberry Wheat delights my tastebuds. Flat 12's RazzPutin equally retains a fresh summer nose, with a bolder taste-grab. Black Swan's Imperial Blueberry Stout steps up the alcohol yet is perfectly balanced for 'easy sipping.'
Honey infuses Back Road's Honey Bacon with warmth and Half Moon's Kokomonster with even more warmth. Stouts rose to the finest with Figure 8's Black Chocolate Imperial, Crown Point's Barrel Aged Russian Imperial and Twenty Tap's Milk Stout.
Union Brewery scored with a fine Rye; Cutters with its Barleywine. Belgians shone with New Albanian's Tunnel Vision; Brugge's Hibernal Black. Comparing different batches of the same recipe was the challenge at Barley Island, BRBP, Triton and LBC tables.
Missing 60 others is sad, but one has to make choices. It's a compelling reason to travel to the brewery.
At Flat 12 this week: Feb. 13, Reel-to-Reel eclectic program of short films by local filmmakers; view and hear about Flat 12's newest art installation from artist Todd Bracik. Feb. 15: USA vs Russia Hockey Party with Indy Fuel, Indy's newest ECHL hockey team. On tap: Pin of Winter Cycle on Toasted Cedar w/ Juniper and Simcoe/Saaz Dry Hop; Bleeding Heart IPA.
On tap at Sun King: Ring of Dingle, Timmie Imperial Stout, Dr. of Style, Chocolate Cake.
On tap at Indiana City: Crimson Bombshell, a Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Amber Ale and Beast of Laureys, Belgian Strong Ale.
On tap at Rock Bottom Downtown: Moonlight Porter a deep black, robust porter, smooth and rich, dominated by dark chocolate flavors from roasted malts.
On tap at Oaken Barrel: Java Stout brewed with fresh ground coffee from Greenwood-based Strange Brew Coffee Co.
New on tap at Thr3e Wise Men: Daddy's Juice Session IPA an easy drinking light bodied beer that has a substantial tropical and citrus hop flavor. Old 59 Barley Wine is in limited release; Golden Zoe IPA with Citra Hops is on current handpull.
News from Nashville-based Quaff ON!: American Barleywine won a Bronze at the Best of Craft Beer Awards in Bend Oregon. Small batch release is scheduled for March. Bourbon Busted is now available in Indianapolis.
Easley Winery's locally-made Traminette wine was awarded Best of Class at the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Easley winemaker Jeff Martin comments, "I grew up working in Indiana vineyards, so bringing home this honor for grapes grown in Indiana makes this award even more meaningful." Traminette's 2013 wins include White Wine of the Year, Best of Class, and Double Gold at the 2013 Indy International Wine Competition and holds three other 2013 Gold medals from prestigious competitions across the country.