Waiting for the Winners at the 17th Annual State Fair Brewers’ Cup

The Indiana State Brewers’ Cup is brewing's Tonys, Emmys, Academy Awards rolled into one. We take it seriously. It’s not only about what an individual brewery has accomplished by way of brewing to the highest standards of a style, it’s an affirmation of a community that’s embracing quality craft brews all year long.

This year the Agriculture/Horticulture Building was festooned for a party and for the first time in its 17-year history the general public was invited to attend the closing awards ceremony preceded by a tasting reception from a spectrum of professional breweries led by the Broad Ripple Brewpub, celebrating its 25th anniversary as Indiana’s first brewpub in the modern craft beer era. The others, representing a portion of the over 110 open and pouring breweries statewide, were Bloomington Brewing Co., Brugge, Carson’s, Chilly Water, Indiana City, New Day, Oaken Barrel, Outliers, People’s, QuaffON!, Salt Creek, Triton, Upland, and from Columbus, Ohio, Wolf’s Ridge Brewing.

The homebrew presence at the Reception that I got to visit included Great Fermentations, Foam Blowers of Indiana Homebrew Club, Midwestern Order of Ninkasi [MONK] and Tippecanoe Homebrew Circle [THC].

A first-time Brewers’ Cup attendee quipped at the close of the evening, “I knew I was drinking good beer over the kind I used to drink and now it’s kind of nice to know as a new not-quite-geek I’m in line with expert judges.”

For their return appearance, Gunner from Q95 and Todd from Alt. 103.3 hosted the Awards Ceremony at breakneck speed. I scribbled furiously.

While the homebrew competition winning announcements began with the long-time familiar names from Indiana, the professional category opened with a trio of newcomers.

Winning Gold for Light Lager was Columbus, Ohio-based Wolf’s Ridge, which opened in September 2013. Danny Boy took Silver for Mexicali and Flix took Bronze for Golden. Both newly opened in Carmel, Indiana.

A number of "hmms" arose from all around me.

Sun King took Gold for their Popcorn Pilsner, with a nod to JustPopIn; Cincinnati-based Christian Moerlein took Silver for Push Real Pilsner; One-year-old Chilly Water got an ovation from their tablemates as Bronze was announced for Built to Last Pilsner, their flagship brew.

We settled down to listen for European Amber Lager winners.

Fort Wayne-based Mad Anthony took Gold for Auburn Lager. Thr3e Wise Men’s Antonious 1776 got Silver and Chilly Water was called out for Bronze for Vienna Lager.

With Dark Lager Gold to Chilly Water for Dark Side of the Munich, I started a separate ‘CW tally page.’

Everyone else at the table sensed something afoot too.

Silver went to Christian Moerlein for Barbarossa; Bronze went to Bier for P.M. Lager.

In the Bock style, Wolf’s Ridge picked up Gold for Sustinator; Thr3e Wise Men took Silver for Hot for Teacher Ms Doppelbock; Bier took Silver for Maibock.

I added more names and tallies to the second sheet.

Light Hybrid Gold went to Bier for Special K. QuaffON!’s Yellow Dwarf took Silver, Sun King’s Sunlight Cream Ale took Bronze.

The tallies were getting closer.

For Amber Hybrid, Flix took Gold with Generation Alt—their second win; Latitude 42 in Portage, Michigan got Silver for Mike’s Camaro and People’s Alt Ready to Go took Bronze.

We settled down. Moved back into full sitting-on-chair.

Then for Scottish-Irish Ale Chilly Water got a second Gold. There was a visible jig to salute Dance to the Storm. Grand Junction in Westfield walked up for Silver for Mulligan; Three Floyds’ Robert the Bruce took Bronze.

With American Pale Ale, Gold, Silver, Bronze awards respectively went to Nashville, Indiana-based QuaffON! Trigger Hoppy, Evansville-based Carson’s Red Dawn and Cincinnati-based Rhinegeist Zen.

Heads went up with English Brown Ale for a second Gold for Thr3e Wise Men for Bull Dog Brown.

Gold wins were beginning to tie.

Tow Yard’s Who’s That took Silver; Sun King’s Wee Mac won Bronze.

QuaffON! Owned the Porter style with Gold for Busted Toe and Silver for Broken Knuckle. They were tallying up too. Crown took Bronze for Industrial.

For Stout, Oaken Barrel’s U.S. Stout garnered Gold, Silver went to Upland’s Teddy Bear Kisses, Bronze to Chilly Water White Room.

Tally now two Gold, three Bronze for Chilly Water at halfway through the award styles.

On to IPA with a whopping 55 entries. San Diego-based Mission Brewery took Gold with Shipwrecked Double IPA; Cincinnati’s Rhinegeist won Silver with Truth; newly opened Indianapolis-based St. Joseph Brewery and Public House won Bronze for Confessional IPA.

German Wheat & Rye earned Fountain Square a Gold for Hero Hefe Jr.; Christian Moerlein’s Se7en Weiss won Silver; Valparaiso-based Figure Eight won Bronze for Dortnarr.

Belgian and French Ale earned Thr3e Wise Men Gold for Agrarian Queen, their second Gold for the evening. Upland’s Vinosynth Red took Silver; and then Chilly Water moved forward with another Bronze, this time for Smash Hit Wit.

We started doing math in our heads for Brewery of the Year.

Sour Ale brought Upland Gold for Paw Paw, Sun King Silver for Cherry Busey and Bloomington-Illinois-based DESTIHL Bronze for Counter Clockwise in their Wild Sour series.

In Belgian Strong Ale, St. Joseph Brewery & Public House paired their Bronze with a Gold for Benevolent Belgian Blond. Oaken Barrel’s Epiphany earned Silver; Indiana City took Bronze for Beast of Laureys.

Strong Ale earned Bier their second Gold for Barley Whine. Lattitude 42 from Portage, Michigan took Silver for Barley Wine 2014. Christian Moerlein added Bronze for Barley Rhine to their one Gold, two Silver wins.

More math.

Tin Man in Evansville stepped up for a Gold in Fruit Beer for their Wired White IPA. Latitude 42 took Silver for Island Fever. With Chocolate Mint Stout Bier now had three Bronzes and two Golds.

Two more to announce – things were getting a bit tense.

Smoke-Flavored & Wood Aged—Gold went to Rhinegeist for Pappy’s Ink; Silver to Carson’s for Bourbon Barrel Foreign Extra Stout; Crown’s second Bronze went to Rauchen Verboten—the name that gets my vote for ‘Most Clever Pun.’

Bell’s trumped Specialty style with Gold for Oarsman and Bronze for Uranus; Carson’s earned their third Silver with Sinner.

End of regular styles; we were getting a bit antsy. “Best of Show” winner could send any one of five breweries home with trophies along with the newly cast Medals representing the new Brewers’ Cup branding.

We listened for the winners in the newly added categories of Mead, also known as honey-wine, and Cider. Both call for a different set of judges. It’s a different palate from the 23 Ale and Lager categories. A note about lumping all Mead and Cider into Gluten Free; be aware many cider-makers add barley in the process of making Cider.

In Mead, Indianapolis-based New Day Craft won Gold for Washington’s Folly and Silver for Breakfast Magpie; Lafayette-based Zanolious Brewing Company won Bronze for Forkin’ Towel Sand. We looked at each other — when did this new brewery pop up? (Note to self: do some research ASAP.)

Peru, Indiana-based McClure’s Orchard &Winery swept Cider with Gold for Jerry’s Cherries, Silver for Spy Candy and Bronze for Bunny #13.

As soon as Chilly Water Dance to the Storm Scottish Ale was announced Professional ‘Best of Show’ we were on our feet. The math was clear.

The snug Chilly Water space at 719 Virginia Ave. now will be snugger with a display of six medals and three trophies for Best of Show, Indiana Brewery of the Year and Grand Champion Brewery of the Year. Bravo to owner Skip DuVall and brewer Dan Krzywicki.

Postscript: About a half dozen years ago then homebrewer Dan brought a bottle of his Imperial IPA to share at a tasting at Kahn’s Fine Wines at 54th & Keystone. It was so well brewed I felt compelled to comment in a Beer Buzz column. This is one of the moments when I wish I clipped and saved.

Along with an in-depth look at Brewers’ Cup beer judges, look for the Homebrewers total recap next week.

Here’s the homebrew headline:

Homebrew Best of Show to Tim Palmer of Fishers, long-time member of Foam Blowers of Indiana (FBI) Homebrew Club. He will be brewing his winning Welcome to Helles at Broad Ripple Brewpub with head brewer Jonathon Mullins. We’ll announce that tapping event.

Foam Blowers of Indiana (FBI) earned honors as Indiana Homebrew Club of the Year and the Bill Friday Club Award.

The Golden Growler Award went to longtime Indiana Brewers’ Cup Committee Chairman Tom Stilabower.

More than 1,300 entries were submitted from brewers across Indiana and in Michigan, Ohio, California, Massachusetts, Illinois, North Carolina, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Pennsylvania.

The Indiana Brewers' Cup is a Master Championship of Amateur Brewing qualifying event as well as a Midwest Homebrewer of the Year Circuit event.

Growing the craft beer industry is a one-person-at-a-time adventure and what’s happening at the and with the Indiana State Fair is perhaps the significant 2015 ‘winner.’

Craft beer, wine cider and mead will make a return appearance at the Indiana State Fair in the Grand Hall, August 7-23, noon-9 p.m. daily and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. weekends. A rotating roster of breweries and wineries from across the State will pour samples and servings and brewers will be present to chat with patrons.

“To acknowledge the achievements of the Brewers’ Cup Champion, Chilly Water Brewing Company will be featured every day at the Beer & Wine exhibit in Grand Hall during this year’s Indiana State Fair, August 7-23,” states a State Fair news release.

For more information on this year’s Indiana Brewers’ Cup Competition, visit indianastatefair.com.

Naming rights

“As of July 14, 2015, Sanctuary Brewing Co. will officially be known as Metazoa Brewing Co. The name change is taking place due to a realization of the cluttered nature of the word Sanctuary in the beverage marketplace,” said Cynthia Roush, Head of Communications and Marketing

“Metazoa Brewing Co. was chosen to remain consistent with the company’s goal of helping animals and making great beer. Metazoa is a term for the animal kingdom. Aside from the name of the brewery, nothing about the business will change.

“It’s a fun, unique name that will help set us apart in the marketplace,” said Roush. “Our beer will stay delicious, and animals will always be our cause. Business will continue to operate as usual and any partnerships, events, or purchases will carry over and be honored by Metazoa Brewing Co.”

Metazoa Brewing Co. is set to open this fall at the intersection of College Ave. and Georgia St. with five percent of profits going toward animal sanctuaries.”

New brews

Thr3e Wise Men stepped out of their comfort zone to brew a style new to both head brewer Keely Thomlinson and Assistant brewer Ian Galloway.

Beginner Weiss Sour Ale, 3.5%, 7.8 IBUs, is a refreshing, light sour wheat ale.

“People who come don’t normally expect this from us, so we wanted to make something approachable,” said Galloway.

“People will know it’s a sour ale, but it’s not off-putting,” added Thomlinson.

“As we branch out, break out we’ll add a Flanders Red or Brown,” offered Galloway.

Balance is the key for both brewers, along with “keeping craft interesting.”

They both called the brewing process “a challenge” preceded by a lot of research.

The other new Thr3e Wise Men brew is Day Walker Ginger Beer, an American Cream Ale with the extra kick of fresh ginger, lime leaves and citrus hops clocking in at 5.6% ABV, 18 IBUs. “I wanted to do something different from other cream ales,” offered Thomlinson. “Not too hoppy or sweet, as an alternative to a traditional Shandler or Raddler. ”

I thought of sipping it while munching a square of extra dark chocolate as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

The server thought I should have a parting taste of the all-time standard favorite, Two Lucys.

“We’re planning a one-off change-up for Two Lucys,” said Thomlinson, before she rushed off to check on a brew-in-progress.

Galloway only would let slip it’s a part of a new “What If…” series.

I was reminded to stop in more often and to tell everyone to “Bring an unwrapped new toy to Thr3e Wise Men Brewpub or any Scotty’s Brewhouse as part of Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital Toy Drive. Bonus gift to anyone who shares is a free order of Scotty’s 'world famous' dill chips.”

Flat 12 Runaround is reported as “The big brother to our Walkabout Pale Ale. We doubled the grain and the hops and ended up with 9% ABV 80 IBU Double Pale. Same rich, malty backbone supporting the same passionfruit hop character... just bigger,” according to head brewer Sean Manahan.

“E.S. Beavis is part of our 12 Gallon series,” reports Valerie Green, Flat 12 media outreach. “Cellarman Will Green and Packaging Specialist Sean Lamb collaborated on their first all grain brew. This traditional ESB boasts a rich caramel malt character supported by English hops.”