I love, LOVE, the brewery scene in the area where I live. I am a couple hours north of Indianapolis, a place I visit regularly, and the Craft Beer scene there is phenomenal.
But, like someone who decided to use Tinder for the first time, sometimes you need to see what else is out there. That’s why the CANvitational Saturday was so great!
Breweries from literally all over the country came to Indy to offer samples of a few of their beers. Without knowing the numbers exactly, I’m pretty sure there were at least 50 breweries represented, with only a small portion of them being from the Hoosier state. (There were just as many breweries from California and Arizona as there were from Kentucky and Ohio from my perspective.) Try as I might, I was unable to sample everything everyone had to offer. And I wanted to focus on the beers from places further away than a day trip would allow. They were standing in the rain just like I was (and, oh, did it rain). I hope it was worth their efforts. Plus, any Hoosier brewery that was there I have either been to before or can easily do so in the future.
So having said all that, I wanted to provide a list of the Top 5 non-Indiana Beers that I sampled at the CANvitational. Without further adieu, here is the list. (From 5-1 in an effort to build suspense.)
5. Or Xata (The Bruery – Placentia, Calif.)
A brewery from a city in California came strong with a very unique blonde that hits you immediately with cinnamon, then adds subtle notes of vanilla.Not overwhelming at all with a 7.2% ABV, however I’m not sure I could drink more than 2 at one sitting, and not sure how it would do at room temperature, but as a taster, it was phenomenal. Think of cinnamon applesauce if you don’t drink. Think of Horchata if you do. A much better fall option in my opinion than any pumpkin offering. (I have very strong anti-pumpkin takes if you are interested.) Also, shout-out to the far-away breweries who brought very different beers to sample. Don’t come with your IPA that probably tastes like most other IPAs.
4. Dark Secret (Brickstone Brewery – Bourbonnais, Ill.)
Aside from beer, my other favorite alcoholic beverage is Bourbon, so when I learned that an Illinois brewery brought an imperial stout aged in an ELIJAH CRAIG BOURBON BARREL, I had to sample it. While the ABV is naturally pretty high (at 11%) and it was really malty (to the point that it kinda smelled like beer jerky), it was a very cool creation.
3. Green Zebra (Founders Brewing – Grand Rapids, Mich.)
Full disclosure: Founders might be my favorite non-Indiana brewery. They implement fruit into their beers better than almost any brewery I have been to (and I tend to like sweeter beers, so that appeals to my sensibilities). So when I saw they were offering a watermelon gose with hints of sea salt, I had to give it a try. I was definitely in a porter/stout mood Saturday, but this pale offering (with a very manageable 4.4% ABV) was a phenomenal change of pace.
2. Black IPA (Helton Brewing – Phoenix, Ariz)
Speaking of IPAs that don’t taste like other IPAs, I present to you the Black IPA from Helton Brewing Company.
As I mentioned earlier, MOST IPAs are similar tasting. But this American-style Dark Ale looks like a stout but tastes like a (not super hoppy) IPA. However, like most IPAs, it has a high enough ABV (7.5%) that enough of them would definitely have an effect. But I am an absolute sucker for beers that don’t fit the traditional craft beer mold.
1. Shotgun Wedding (Country Boy Brewing, Georgetown, Ky.)
If you are going to advertise yourself as a vanilla porter, you better offer a TON of vanilla flavor. I’m talking “taste like cream soda” levels. And boy did this brown ale deliver.
With a mild ABV of 5.2%, it is a very smooth drink, without being cloyingly sweet. It absolutely hit that sweet spot (no pun intended). It was so good that I had to ask the pourer if they distributed to Indiana. It can be found in various locations in Southern Indiana, but make no mistake, for someone who lives in the northern part if the state, it is worth the trip to find.
Also, shout-out for the most creative looking can I saw, courtesy of Madtree Brewing in Cincinnati. Do not flip the image.
If anyone else was there, I would love to hear what I missed out on. It was a great event that I hope to see continue to grow on a national level.