Michiana beer releases: Keep an eye out for brews from Bare Hands, Crooked Ewe, Evil Czech and more

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By: Eric Strader
ericstrader69@gmail.com

Photo supplied/Crooked Ewe Brewery

Michiana is a great place for beer lovers, and recent local beer releases are proof of that. Just a couple of weeks ago, Founders released Blushing Monk (Belgian raspberry ale, 9.2 percent ABV) as part of the Backstage Series, and plenty of bottles are still around if you haven’t had a chance to pick yours up yet.

On Saturday, March 14, Bare Hands Brewery in Granger released Galaxy Imperial (imperial IPA, 9.5 percent ABV). Whether you are a Star Wars fan or not, if you are a hop head you will enjoy this beer.

If you missed out on the bottle release party, you are still in luck. Not only is it on tap at the pub, but bottles are still available. Often I am not a big fan of imperial IPAs because the hops tend to get muddled under the huge malt bill. However, brewer Chris Gerard did a great job with this one to balance the flavors.

Our friends at Crooked Ewe Brewery have been taking their beer around South Bend, with a recent tap takeover at Fiddler’s Hearth and a tasting at the downtown South Bend City Wide Liquors Store.

Two local breweries, including Crooked Ewe, have repurposed older buildings, but remodeling can bring lots of challenges. So, the brewery has decided not to set an exact opening day yet to avoid disappointing loyal fans in case it gets postponed.

In the mean time, it has set up an online account where you can order a mug club membership.

If you haven’t seen it, Founder KBS (bourbon barrel-aged imperial coffee stout, 11.2 percent ABV, IBUs 70) hit Michiana this week as well.

Unfortunately, because of the hype behind this beer, just about any amount of distribution is too little. Most bottles barely hit the shelves before being bought up, so chances are most people probably didn’t see it.

This beer is close to the top of many, many best-of lists, and for good reason. It is a full-bodied beer full of rich flavors of coffee, chocolate, bourbon and vanilla, and it can be enjoyed fresh or aged. Just for fun, I opened a bottle from 2010. Much of the coffee flavor had faded, but it still had a good boozy flavor.

Of course, with the coming of spring and baseball, Bell’s Oberon (American wheat, 5.7 percent ABV) has popped up all over. But this beer will be around all summer, so no need to rush right out.

Last year Bell’s released four packs of 16-ounce cans, and the big news for this year is 12-ounce cans packaged in 12-packs. They will feature the same look as the 16-ounce cans, just a bit shorter.

“Cans can go more places than glass, and it’s a much more convenient packaging option — we believe our fans will really enjoy this new option,” said Laura Bell, Bell’s Brewery’s vice president. An exact date has not been released, but look for them in time for summer pool and beach parties.

18th Street Brewery in Gary has been making some really great beer. I had the opportunity to meet head brewer/owner Drew Fox at last year’s Blue Chip Brewfest Preview. Recently, the brewery collaborated with Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co., 2013’s “Best Brewery in the World,” to brew Sophomoric Saison (French saison, 7.2 percent ABV), which is brewed with limes.

It pours a very cloudy and hazy orange with aromas of citrus and funky yeast. The huge citrus presence enhances the taste of the hops as well. It’s an interesting and fun twist on this style. Six-packs of 12-ounce cans are available at Chalet Party Shoppe.

The Sour Note Brewing is a gypsy-style side project of the 18th Street Brewery that focuses on Brett and Sour beers. Chalet Party Shoppe got a surprise shipment of the Flanders Red in capped 750 ml bottles.

I shared one today with the Goshen Brew Co. crew and thought it a very nice beer. It had a good tartness that faded quickly, with a dry finish. I think this is one that will develop more complexity over time, so I have put another bottle down for a couple of years.

Cans of Evil Czech have made their way into local distribution as well. Lucky Dog (American Pale Ale, 5.2 percent ABV), Bobblehead American Wheat (5.1 percent ABV), Voodoo Vanilla Rye Porter (4.6 percent ABV) and White Reaper White IPA (Belgian IPA, 7 percent ABV) are all available in four-packs of 16-ounce cans.

Lastly, Goshen Brewing Co. has its first four beers in the fermenters: Scotch ale, coffee porter, wee heavy and a Kölsch. An Ethiopian coffee roasted by Chris May from DIY Coffee and Ale Supply will be used in the coffee porter. I think we are getting mighty close to counting down the days to our first full-fledged brewpub in Goshen, and I’m looking forward to bike rides down Goshen’s Millrace Trail with stops at Goshen Brewing Co.

 

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