Boredom + berries = bravos 

Upland Brewery in Bloomington

Burnout pushed Upland’s head brewer over the proverbial ledge sans a safety net. Caleb Staton, nevertheless, is garnering praise for his audacity and accolades for four authentic lambic brews that were uncorked Aug. 22 in Bloomington, Ind.

Aficionados of the ancient Belgian brew and novices to the upfront tart-taste-attack, alike, flocked to the squat building flanked by a garden of hops in front and a hillock of trees in back. Under a half moon and within earshot of the laudatory imbibers seated at tables in the Biergarten, Staton talked about the 18-month-long process and what in the world compelled him to master a recipe no one else ’round these parts has undertaken.

“It’s a lot of things, boredom from brewing the same menu of beers. We’re fanatical about our core beer offerings and seasonal brews. But I wanted to do something different. Other brewers throughout the state are into taking chances so I thought, why not!”

Somehow wild beers began to intrigue Staton. Belgian beers are in the ascendancy as drinkers of craft beer expand their collective palate. He started with Jeff Sparrow’s’ Wild Brews: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition.

“And then I did research on my own. It was a day-to-day thing keeping up with the regular work and keeping them separate from a brew that depends upon fermentation by wild yeast and bacteria.”

In a comment on the book, Jeff Sterns, a regular reviewer of books on beer, stated, “This is not a book for a beginning home brewer. Brewers will find it nearly impossible to copy a style because of the unpredictability of wild yeasts and bacteria.”

“It definitely could have been a beer that never was,” agrees Staton, acknowledging the challenges of cultivating and controlling the right organisms for a quality brew.

“I began in the spring of 2006 by brewing 300 gallons of top-fermented beer using wild yeast to create a Belgian-style lambic. We conditioned the beer in American White Oak casks from Oliver Winery and initiated a secondary fermentation using whole fruit from Huber Orchard in Starlight, Ind.”

The result, he says, is the desired tart beer balanced by the aromatic and distinct qualities of the whole blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries that were added for a second fermentation. Bottled in 750-milliliter champagne-style bottles, the inaugural edition is in limited quantity and selling fast.

Ted Miller, owner of Brugge Brasserie in Broad Ripple and an internationally recognized expert on Belgian ales, taste-tested prior to the bottling. “Upland’s lambics are as true to the style as any I have ever tasted in Belgium. They’d win medals in Belgium.

Upland Brewing Company
350 W. 11th St.
Bloomington, Ind.

Upland’s already award-winning bottled brews are available throughout greater Indianapolis in better stores, taverns and restaurants. Wheat Ale is their “signature beer” and Indianapolis native Ron Smith’s 2005 Beer Geek award-winning Castle Rock Irish Red Ale has been a strong summer thirst-quencher since its premiere appearance in 2006 at Kahn’s Fine Wines & Spirits at 5369 N. Keystone Ave.

Equally popular are Upland Valley Weizen, Amber Ale, Pale Ale, Bad Elmer’s Porter and Dragonfly IPA. Other seasonal brews include Fall’s Oktoberfest, Winter Warmer and Chocolate Stout, Spring’s Maibock and Summer’s Bumble Bee Saison. The specialty lambics will appear again in 2008 at this season.

Upland serves well-made fare prepared with and paired with their beers. Upland’s buffalo burger, with a side dish of plump French fries or their specialty potato salad, is about the best anywhere for lunch or dinner, and their health-conscious vegetarian dishes are hearty.

You can call ahead for a tour, learn who’s on for live entertainment and what the specials are, or you can log on to to experience a virtual tour online.

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About The Author

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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