Three thousand-plus craft beer adventurers set the precedent for exuberant and thoughtful approaches to the big and warming beers at the first Indiana Microbrewers' Winterfest! at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Presented by the Brewers of Indiana Guild, the event featured cask conditioned and barrel aged replicale firkins, along with other specialties brewed at 21 Indiana breweries and brewpubs, and by breweries nationwide presented by Cavalier Distributing and World Class Beverages.

A festive air prevailed throughout the 3-7 p.m. event. Fully two-thirds of the patrons arrived within the first hour, and half of those already had downloaded the listing from IndianaBeer.com and knew where they wanted to head for the 10 token tastings. Friends gathered in groups, comparing, evaluating and rating.

I decided to concentrate on the Russian Imperials and concluded that Indiana brews stood up to and sometimes exceeded the better known Russian Imperials from microbreweries elsewhere. Particularly noteworthy was the tapping by Broad Ripple Brewpub of Aaron Evilsizor's 2008 Indiana State Fair Best of Show in the Homebrew division. Warbird Brewing of Fort Wayne introduced a sampling of a new brew to taste test. We await word on its destiny. Three Floyds of Munster shared their Oatgoop, an oat wheat wine made in conjunction with Mikkellerr of Denmark, and the homebrew club in Columbus, Ind., brought their inspirations.

Everyone, including a spirited group of volunteers, definitely had a good and fruitful time, prompting the B.I.G. folks who organized the event to wear ear-to-ear smiles. Mark July 18 for the outdoors Microbrewers Festival at Opti-Park in Broad Ripple. Find more at IndianaBeer.com and BrewersOfIndianaGuild.com.

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