The Oct. 7 parade to kick off “The Year of German-American Friendship” in greater Indianapolis starts at 1 p.m. at Monument Circle and ends at the Athenaeum a.k.a.“Das Deutsche Haus.”
It’s the start of a year-long public diplomacy campaign funded by the German Federal Foreign Ministry and supported by the Goethe-Institute and the BDI [the Federation of German Industries]. Events and exhibitions across the U.S. will cover U.S.-Germany intersections in politics, education, science, business and industry, and culture, according to a news release from Dr. Andreas Goetze, Deputy Consul General at the German Consulate in Chicago.
Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra leads off the arts programming segment at Schrott Center for the Arts/Butler Arts Center, Oct. 13-14, as a collaboration between the Indianapolis Sister Cities International Program, the City of Cologne, Germany and the ICO, for the premier performance of a new arrangement of Bernstein’s West Side Story, by Cologne-based guitarist Lucian Plessner.
The early German imprint on Indianapolis remains visible in all walks of life, not the least being our growing craft beer industry. Brewers of German descent dominated Indianapolis’ brewing industry throughout the 19th century. At this very moment, you don’t need the remotest connection to German heritage to hoist an Indiana-brewed Oktoberfest.
But there’s much more than Oktoberfest on the menu for German-inspired beers, most often designated by style and name for the city or region from which each sprang.
While every Indiana craft brewery—even those at the vanguard of Belgian, English, Irish , Czech-styles—takes a turn at a German-style, local favorite Bier Brewery put itself front-and-center in 2010, choosing the Germanic spelling 'bier' for its branding and leading with a German hefe named Weizengoot and a Kolsch named Special K. Liter House opened this past summer as the self-proclaimed advance guard of Germanic styles in Indianapolis. The impetus started with Liter House’s elder sibling, Big Lug Canteen, branding Flying Horse Kolsch one of its flagship beers.
“We call it a "house" ale, but it is a Kolsch at heart,” says Scott Ellis, brewmaster at both Big Lug and Liter House. “German and American malts and hops give this beer a mild spicy/citrus hop bite with a clean, crisp finish.” [ABV: 5.1%]
Opening three Octobers ago with a beer usually associated with Summer was a gutsy move at Big Lug Canteen in its snug shopping center brewpub alongside the Monon Trail.
Of course, everything has precedent—in this case I’ll lay it at Daredevil’s presumed limited release Vacation Kolsch taking on a life of its own four years ago, and immediately gaining status as a year-round go-to on tap and in cans.
Kolsch, born in the City of Cologne, is a crossover beer imparting an Ale’s full-flavor and a Lager’s refreshing crispness, as good a reason as any for a brewery to make it available year-round. But it’s a beer that tests the brewer’s moxey. You can’t fudge art and craft with a Kolsch, water chemistry being the basic challenge.
With Cologne as Indianapolis’ sister-city, Kolsch easily can be the conversation centerpiece for this year of “Wunderbar” amidst Rock Bottom downtown’s relationship with the firefighters from Cologne, who frequent RB as part of the International Firefighters program that meets annually in Indianapolis. Rock Bottom describes Circle City Light Kolsch-style ale as “light and crisp, with subtle fruit notes, an easy floral hop flavor and all German Ingredients”
Bloomington Brewing gains credence with an all-barley Kolsch; Broad Ripple Brew Pub’s Nice Weiss at 50 percent wheat, 50 percent barley is more mainstream; Indiana City brews Sister City Kolsch “in adherence to guidelines drafted by Cologne brewers; Flat12 creates a spin with Cucumber Kolsch; Saint Joseph serves its “crisp, clean, easy-drinking” CornerstoneKolsch as “a house draught for all occasions”; Field Brewing in Westfield opened Oct. 1, 2018 with Second Wind Kolsch as its flagship beer.
But when Ellis shares what’s on tap now at Liter House and what’s coming up, he pretty much covers the breadth and depth of classic German Ales and Lagers, and opens the conversation for a year-long dip into Indianapolis’ brewing story, 19th Century forward.
“I've got many German style beers to be brewed throughout the [coming] year,” says Ellis, “Including: Dopplebock, Dunkels Bock, Maibock, Zwickle Lager, Dunkelweiss, Weizenbock, German Pilsner, Gose.“
Ellis’ projected Gose plays right into the newly published Brewers Association book: Gose: Brewing a Classic German Beer for the Modern Era. Throughout its 200 pages, author/award-winning brewer Fal Allen spins us back into the Middle Ages to “Goslar, a small town that sprung up near the silver mines of the Rammelsberg mountains in central northern Germany” along the Gose River.
Allen takes us into a time before hops and yeast as we now know them, and into a place of conflicting legends. Allen writes with the deftness of a storyteller, drawing you into the rise, fall and recurring resurrection of “one of the oldest distinct beer styles” that made its entrance at a very turbulent time in northern Europe when “[w]ars and invasions were an almost constant threat, and life was short…but even during the greatest difficulties one need respite.” Gose [pronounced GO-zuh] filled the bill equally for serfs, kings and emperors.
Of course, you don’t have to read a beer’s story to enjoy it, yet now that I’ve made this “tart and fruity journey” with Gose’s twists and turns throughout fateful developments since AD 950, I’m far more attuned to the entwinements of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and its implications with mining of salt, silver, lead and copper. Gose, a wheat beer referred to as the lighter side of Sours, now is served in long, thin glassware named Stange. Allen’s book calls you into a story you won’t forget.
And if you’re looking for something a little more immersive, Ron Smith’s next German Breweries Trip is planned for July 19-29, 2019