There were high hopes for the organizers of the fund raising beer festival taking place in a quiet Indianapolis neighborhood north of downtown. The beneficiary of the event was the Phoenix Theater, a popular "alternative" venue for many live performers in town. The setting, adjacent to the theater, was unique for its proximity to the neighbors, it was in their front yards! The short, quiet street was blocked off and lined with tables where the local craftbrewers poured their wares mostly from half-barrel or 5-gallon kegs. Many neighbors took advantage of the activity on their sidewalks to park lawnchairs a few feet away and listen to the music from the band playing nearby. Pets and children were plentiful as the crowds gathered to sample local products in a very casual setting. scheduled to run from 1 to 4 p.m., plans changed drastically when the black clouds rolled in around 3 p.m. and the skies opened up. No awnings were set up or available so brewers and customers alike scrambled for cover in the nearby theater. Within an hour it was safe to venture out but little remained of the brewers' beers. Most people finished sampling at the few remaining tables and then walked away in all direction. a very somber end to an event that began with high energy.
Broad Ripple Brew Pub, Indiana's first brewpub, offered their ESB. A clear dark amber, it featured a nice big maltiness matched to a subdued but lasting hop bitterness. Their Lawnmower Ale was amber with a light body and light malty flavor. The Amber from extract brewer Wildcat featured a big mouthfeel accompanied by a dry, almost chewy, malty flavor. Great Fermentations hosted a booth showing the quality beers possible from ingredients sold at their homebrew supply shop. Oaken Barrel poured a good selection of their local beers now being made at both their brewpub in greenwood and their microbrewery acquired from Indiana Brewing Company. The beers get great consumer exposure throughout central Indiana due to the superior efforts of their distributor, who also happens to be the largest Coors distributor in the U.S. From the original Alcatraz brewpub downtown Mike Schreindorfer brought two beers from their standard lineup. The Lighthouse Light was, not unexpectedly, light. Very light in body, the very pale malt flavor led into a dry finish. The Bighouse Red was more medium-bodied with a malty-sweet flavor that finished cleanly. They report their beer very well received by attendees of the cast party after the filming of the movie The Rock. Opened only since December 1999, Barley Island also made an appearance to support the event. Jeff and Vlad were on hand to pour and talk up their brews from Nobelsville.
With nearly 400 paid attendees and 11 brewers, 10 from Indianapolis and one from Chicago, the 48 volunteers did a great job of making the beers available to the local community. In turn, community support comes through from media sponsors such as Time Warner Cable and WTTS-FM as well as print media specialists Dean Johnson Design and Nuvo Newsweekly. Additional support is received from groups like the Indianapolis Ambassadors who support worthy causes around the city. Possible enhancements for next year include more out-of-town brewers, more food vendors, and more live entertainment.
Hopefully the organizers will not let this year's washed out event deter them. The crowd was eager and appreciative and will no doubt return when there's an opportunity. The craft beer industry seems to be coming along in Indiana. This despite some remaining regressive laws that prohibit "Sunday sales" and the sale of cold beer in grocery stores. This event showed that great synergy possible in America when the community at large, the local homebrew club, and the craft brewing industry all come out in support of a worthy cause. Truly a win-win situation.
49 W. Maryland
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204
Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - June 2000
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