Spencer's Stadium Tavern was the place to be on July 23, not only for the regular gathering of Liberal Beer, where good conversation about current topics crossed the patio table amidst the flow of traffic, or for the deserved bar stool stopover from work to home, and assuredly not only for the high-pitched celebratory party with refilling buckets. "The Main Event" for Foam Blowers of Indiana regulars (and wannabes ) AND brewery/brewpub brewers was the annual RelicAle comparative tasting of eight variations of brewmaster Dave Colt's original recipe.
Side by side, we could line up this year's challenge: Altbier, a traditional Dusseldorfer and Munster top-fermented creamy, copper-colored beer typically brewed with dark malts, very well hopped, offering an aromatic, slightly fruity, bitter-sweet taste with a gravity of 12.5 degrees and alcohol content of 3.5 percent. It's served in small cylindrical glasses, only slightly chilled. Well, from Colt's Sun King Brewery's unexpected opaque-blonde to Omar Castrellon's Alcatraz shimmering copper, we experienced tastes as varying as color. Colt's seemed chewier, somewhat early, though a table-mate pronounced it "just fine." Castrellon's delivered boldness and Tom Stilabower declared it "a serious beer" along with Liz Laughlin's Rock Bottom North balanced dry-finish version. Jon Lang's Barley Island sunny yellow matched its light fruitiness. Kevin Matalucci's Broad Ripple Brewpub opaque bronze, hops-up-front with dry finish elicited "delicious" from Sammy Smith. John Templet's Half Moon copper translucency bespoke "lots of character -- citrusy, fruity, spicy, roasty malt backbone, not as dry as Liz's' [Stilabower]." Jon Simmons' Ram was copper and citrusy. Jerry Sutherlin's Rock Bottom downtown was copper and distinctively cognac-like in mouthfeel and finish. You can still experience the variety and subtleties by following the brewpub/brewery trail. For more, log on to IndianaBeer.com and BrewersOfIndianaGuild.com.