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South Bend BrewFest draws a crowd and offers unique beer selections

The last thing you want to hear about South Bend BrewFest, if you missed South Bend BrewFest, is that a good time was had by all. But evidence points to a pretty decent time.

“I had a ball,” said Fort Wayne resident Jordan Southwick, who worked the festival for Lagunitas in addition to sampling beers. “Brew Haven is considered Fort Wayne’s largest. I’d definitely say this was a step up from it.”

Still, a couple of the 1,500 people at the Century Center in downtown South Bend might not have had the best time from 1 to 4 p.m. Jan. 23. The food options were a bit limited, and the range of beer styles might not have satisfied everyone. And of course there’s the fact that the festival is over. Real bummer.

The good news is you can still drink some of the great beer that was on display at the event. Following are five highlights of South Bend BrewFest that you can (mostly) drink now.

Central State Ottermelon Gose

Central State Brewing Company out of Indianapolis was the talk of the festival with its refreshing take on the sour-salty gose style. The “watermelon gose was on point,” Southwick said.

Tinged with watermelon, the gose is the perfect warm temp guzzler, and that’s no coincidence — the few kegs that are still floating around are left over from last summer’s batch. “We do it with ‘kettle souring,’ which speeds it up and allows us to do different funky things,” brewery co-founder and president Jake Koeneman said. “Our whole goal with this was it was summer, and we were thinking about salted watermelon, so a gose with watermelon.”

Where to get it: Central State is planning several gose varieties for warmer temps, and you’ll get one more chance to try Ottermelon at Bleachers in Mishawaka (4609 Grape Road) at a tap takeover on Feb. 5.

Four Fathers Western Sunrise

Four Fathers does a lot of packaging for its size, which means folks can crack cans of India pale ale The 26th or Belgian pale Father’s Beer throughout Michiana. The standout from the festival, though, was Western Sunrise, an IPA brewed with brettanomyces, a wild yeast strain that when used in beer fermentation produces a range of funky flavors sometimes likened to band-aid or barnyard. The funk isn’t terribly strong in Western Sunrise, making it accessible for brett newbies.

Where to buy it: Four Fathers is available at liquor and specialty stores in Valparaiso, Michigan City, Portage and South Bend. It’s also on tap at the brewery in Valpo.

Iechyd Da Breakfast Cookies

If there was a winner at BrewFest, it was Iechyd Da. Elkhart’s craft beer darling pushed creativity to the limits by stuffing casks of their Breakfast Cookies milk stout with all manner of dessert treats. That’s right, they literally put chocolate, pecans, coconut and other sweets directly in the beer, let it steep and poured it up for festival goers. The results, if a bit sweet and sometimes literally chewy, drew some of the longest lines at the festival. “You got to” go all out for these events, co-owner Summer Lewis said.

Where to get it: You can’t try the variants of Breakfast Cookies Stout right now, but you can get your hands on the base beer at the brewery in Elkhart.

New Day Washington’s Folly

South Bend BrewFest featured a number of selections intended to keep even non-beer drinkers happy, and the mead offerings from New Day were some of the best. It drinks a bit like wine, a bit like a well-crafted cocktail and ever so slightly like a beer. Washington’s Folly brings cherry to the party, the sweet-tart fruit mixing nicely with the honey ale for a drinkable beverage hiding an 8 percent ABV.

Where to buy it: Belmont Beverage outlets throughout Michiana carry rotating New Day ciders and meads. Call ahead to ask about specific labels.

South Bend Brew Werks Dead Bodies in the Beer Cellar

SBBW owner Andrew Elegante has focused a lot on the charitable business model at the brewery. But the brewing novice is improving with every batch, and the latest incarnation of the Dead Bodies imperial stout (“now with more dead bodies!”) is testament. Look for more improvements in the coming months as Elegante brings on a full-time brewmaster.

Where to buy it: Dead Bodies in the Beer Cellar is currently on tap at the brewery.


Shea Gibbs is a freelance writer for Flavor 574 covering South Bend and the surrounding area.

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