Saturday, August 26, 2017

THE BEER BEAT: A late August compendium of links about local and regional beer.

There was a time when the general rule of thumb was to wait a bit before reviewing a restaurant or brewery, this representing a tacit understanding that while no one excuses bad food, beer or service, it usually takes a while to put things into place. Curve balls are common at the start, and even boomerangs.

Of course, at the same time, we all want to patronize the new joint on the block, because if we don't, it might not be there when we finally get around to dropping by. That said, LEO's Syd Bishop offers a "review of Gravely Brewing Co.’s first 7 beers" and finds them excellent.

Congratulations to Louisville's newest brewery, which opened a week ago, and as a side note (maybe a coda), if you like Gravely's musically-themed vibe and offerings visit Chilly Water Brewing Company the next time you're in Indianapolis. As an example, two current Chilly Water ales are Barley O'Riley Barley Wine and Blood on the Tracks Blood Orange IPA.

Some observers suggest that we've entered an era of beer festival fatigue. Speaking only for myself, once a year works just dandy in my world, but other regional fests seem to be persisting in my absence amid a few mixed signals.

The Brewers of Indiana Guild's festival slate is thriving, and now it is expanding.

BIG's biggest annual event (and the primary fundraiser for guild operations) remains the Indiana Microbrewers Festival in July, held for two decades at Opti Park in Broad Ripple.

While I was still serving on the board, we made a difficult decision to move this event to Military Park in downtown Indianapolis, where logistics could be better managed, accommodating ever greater numbers of breweries and attendees, and linking them more efficiently to hotels and non-driving transport options.

It was the right thing to do, but we didn't like vacating Broad Ripple, which had proven so loyal for so long. At the time, the board bandied returning to Opti Park for a smaller, more customized autumn festival, which will come to fruition on Saturday, October 28.

Broad Ripple Beer Fest: The intimate event will feature 45 Hoosier breweries and guests, cask beers, and 10 small-batch specialty beers featuring unique ingredients like local hops, seasonal fruit, and candy.

Note also that the 2018 BIG festival in Bloomington is shifting locations to the center of town. More on this another time.

There's another festival change closer to home, with the Louisville Independent Business Alliance ("Keep Louisville Weird") announcing the demise of the popular Louisville Brewfest, which became best known during its residency at Slugger Field.

LIBA bids farewell to the Louisville Brewfest

LIBA has been honored to be part of the amazing growth of Louisville’s craft beer industry since we hosted our first Louisville Brewfest in 2009. It featured all the local breweries at the time, which totaled a whopping 5! The industry has been so successful that there’s now a plethora of breweries and beer festivals to choose from in our fair city, and craft beer is widely available – from gas stations to church picnics. LIBA has also experienced incredible growth and change, and it’s time for us to close the book on the Louisville Brewfest. We’ve had some amazing times at the Brewfest, and we give a great, great big thank you to all the folks who have supported and enjoyed the event over the years. We’ll miss it, but we’re glad all of us have so many new and good local choices for beer festivals. We are in the early planning stages for another public event (in addition to our Buy Local Fairs) that will give folks another chance to come together to support local businesses and connect with fellow Louisvillians, which is so important to strengthening our community. In the meantime, cheers to keeping the craft beer flowing, and keeping those dollars local!

Many Louisville area beer fans will miss Brewfest, but I believe the explanation makes very good sense.

An hour west on I-64 in Ferdinand, there'll be a new September weekend festival at St. Benedict's Brew Works, which is located on the grounds of Monastery Immaculate Conception, home of the Sisters of St. Benedict.

St. Benedict’s Brew Works opened on October 15, 2015, and has carved out a niche for itself in the year and a half since Vince Luecke and Andy Hedinger leased the building and opened the brewery.

Note that Jasper, Indiana is just a few miles down the road from Ferdinand, and is the home of the legendary Schnitzelbank Restaurant and its house brewery, Schnitz Brewery & Pub. You can make a weekend out of it, folks.

Finally, regular readers are aware of my fondness for linking local beer with local issues. It long has been apparent that the growth of craft beer is a positive factor for urban areas, and as the years pass, data becomes more voluminous, and research yields new insights. In short: good beer is good for your burg, as one of the big names explains.

Can Craft Breweries Transform America's Post-Industrial Neighborhoods?, by Richard Florida (CityLab)

A new study tells the story of craft beer’s astonishing rise and geographic clustering.

... The study takes a deep dive into the locations of craft breweries or micro-breweries and brew pubs in ten cities: Austin, Charlotte, Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle. Of these ten cities, seven can be said to have distinct brewery districts. Using a Ripley’s K analysis, which is an equation for measuring the clustering of point data, the researchers found, “the strongest predictor of whether a craft brewery opened in a neighborhood was the presence of an already existing brewery in that neighborhood.”

I've also used the example of John Hickenlooper, who I'm fortunate to have met back when he was "just" a brewery owner.

Of course, in many places, microbreweries and brew pubs are seen as harbingers of gentrification. But microbreweries tend to be located in old industrial areas where few residents actually live. “Many of the brewery districts that are emerging in U.S. cities tend to be located in parts of the city that were once bustling with manufacturing and warehouse activity,” the study reports. These are the types of districts that have been hit hardest by de-industrialization, and brewing can fill some of that vacant manufacturing space.

Perhaps the craft beer revolution will transform more than just neighborhoods. Stretching back into American history, taverns and beer halls have helped mobilize many political movements. Wynkoop Brewing Company, a brewpub that catalyzed the branding and revitalization of Denver’s LoDo neighborhood, was founded by former Denver Mayor and current Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, who is said to be a leading Democratic candidate for President in 2020. Maybe a catalyst of the craft beer movement will steer the next political revolution.

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