beer, History

Indiana: Restart Your Engines

This week, we are commemorating the December 11, 1816 admittance of Indiana into the union as the 19th state.

Prohibition was hard on the brewing industry. After the repeal of prohibition, only about 300 out of 1100 breweries remained in operation. Then to make things worse, the years after prohibition saw mergers creating huge brew houses while shrinking the number of breweries even further to about 50 breweries operating by 1980. This era lead to a mass market beer that was void of quality and character. And it would take a grassroots initiated resurgence in the late 1970s to slowly turn things around.

This turn around has its roots in the homebrewing revolution. Fed up with the state of American brewing, and a longing for beer styles no longer available, homebrewers started to experiment on their own. By relearning the skills once prevalent in our towns and communities prior to prohibition, the homebrewing movement slowly reintroduced the American public to long lost styles of beer full of flavors and characteristics unlike anything the industry was producing at the time.

Another factor considered as a major influence to the craft beer revolution was the advent of affordable airfare. When air travel became accessible to more people in the late 70s and early 80s, Americans were bringing back knowledge, and more importantly, a desire for the great food and beer they discovered and enjoyed during their European travels.

As the homebrewing movement spread across the country, each state slowly lifted old prohibition laws that made homebrewing illegal.

With the passing of the 21st amendment to the Constitution, prohibition was repealed in 1933. However that amendment did not repeal the prohibition of homebrewing that was written into the 18th amendment, where homebrewing was made illegal. It wasn’t until 1978, when President Carter signed new legislation allowing beer production for personal and family use that homebrewing was again legal at a federal level.

While now legal at a federal level, as part of the 21st amendment, each state held the final word on alcohol regulation. As a result, the ability to (legally) home brew beer has slowly progressed from state to state since 1978. In Indiana, beer enthusiasts would have to wait until 1985 for home brewing to become legal in their state. (While 7 years might seem like a long time, it wasn’t until last week that Alabama made homebrewing legal, bring all states into the homebrewing era.)

At the time of homebrewing legalization, Indiana had two breweries in operation, however since 1985, we would see that number grow to more than 38 operational breweries today. By allowing individuals the ability to practice and hone their craft without legal ramifications, an entire industry has sprung to life again, producing new and interesting beer for a welcoming audience.

Part of this homebrew enthusiast turned brewing entrepreneur is Three Floyds Brewing in Munster Indiana. Setting out … to be a departure from the fairly bleak craft brewing scene in the region, Three Floyds has developed a reputation for brewing high quality, highly sought out beer. If you look at the Beer Advocate Top 250 Beers list, Three Floyds has two entries in the top 10. Or if you prefer the RateBeer Top 50 list, they have three brews in the top 10. Very Impressive, and we were fortunate to get our hands on one of these brews for this week.

This week was a week were I couldn’t locate any beer locally. Getting beer from Indiana in Massachusetts is apparently not possible. So I went the trading route, and received a nice selection of beer from Upland Brewing, Oaken Barrel Brewing, New Albanian and Three Floyds to represent Indiana.

Indiana Craft Beer

Indiana Craft Beer

We started this week with a Helios Pale Ale from Upland Brewing. Located in Bloomington, Upland has been in the business of brewing beer since 1998. Named after the sun god Helios, this Pale Ale from Upland was well liked across the group. With “a slight bitterness to the taste, but nothing off-putting“, in the glass this beer was “more golden than expected” for one taster, but over all, it was a keeper. I could sit back and enjoy this beer at anytime.

From the Helios, we moved on to the Indiana Amber from Oaken Barrel Brewing. Listed as “Indiana’s premier, must-visit brewpub“, Oaken Barrel, located in Greenwood has been producing craft beer for 14 years now. The Indiana Amber is an American Amber that truly lives up to its name. With a deep amber color, this beer had a nice, sweet caramel smell in the glass. The caramel smell, from the malt, transferred straight into the taste of this beer, where there was a nice combination of hoppy bitterness with sweet caramel undertones.

Strange mix of caramel and bitter, but it works!

The next beer up in the queue was from Three Floyds. Typically, we do these tastings on a Friday evening, however due to a Little League game and a few missed text messages, this weeks tasting didn’t happen until Saturday afternoon. Because of that missed opportunity, I spent Friday night reading the lastest issue of Beer Advocate. In this issue, there is an article by Martin Cizmar about his attempt to try all of the top 250 beers on the Beer Advocate list. The article was an enjoyable read, and while I often frequent the Beer Advocate site for references while writing these posts, I somehow never managed to stumble on the top list. Until Friday night. What was somewhat surprising to me was that I had not had any of the beer in the top 100, though I have heard of many. The second big surprise came to me as I was scanning the list. Thanks to Redditor Zugunfall, I had in my possession, two bottles of Zombie Dust from Three Floyds brewing. This beer is currently sitting at number 7 on the top 250 list, and I didn’t even know what I had.

Indiana Craft Beer

Three Floyds Zombie Dust

With its comic book inspired label, a quick search of the beer trade forums will show you that this is a much sought after beer. Listed by the brewer as an “intensely hopped and gushing undead pale ale,” this beer would be the final beer of our afternoon. The others would have to wait until Sunday.

Right from the pour, I knew this was a special beer. It had a wonderful citrus and pine smell that immediately put me back at our mini-beer summit and the opening of the bottle of Treehouse IPA. This beer was Delicious. With its wonderful aroma, and excellent taste, this beer was an excellent end to a great tasting. There have been many great words already crafted about this beer, and I would have to agree with them all. This was one of the best beers of this project so far.

 

On the following day, over an inspired mothers day meal (including mussels steams in Abita Amber,) we had a Komodo Dragon Black IPA and a Double Dragon Fly Imperial IPA, both from Upland. Again two really enjoyable beers, showing that Indiana is here to play in the craft beer world.

Next week, we head south to Mississippi.

 

 

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