The Trip Inception
The Decadent Life – Nature to Versace. And in that continuum is all types of art. Nature’s art and man made art. Micro brewed beverages are, in my opinion, a mix of nature’s and man made art. Now many will say “I don’t like beer, so I don’t care.” Fine, at least they are honest. It is an improvement over the ones that pretend to like it for social reasons because it’s ‘cool.’ True passions should not be about the quest to be ‘cool.’ But this particular blog entry is about my excursion to visit the very active microbrewery scene in Northwest Indiana. Now I do live in a land of beer that is rich in German heritage and fine beer and we have our fair share of microbreweries here too but not as dense for a small area (although that is changing). But the time was right; I needed a get away, even if it’s only 126 miles away.
So, destination: NW Indiana Microbreweries and a hotel. Now some may (and one did) ask, really, Indiana? As Daimler AG design boss Gorden Wagener said at Pebbles Beach Concours D’Elegance this year, “you have to go somewhere” – that’s how ideas are generated and that’s how you grow. I did have some insight into this undiscovered scene based on my beer connoisseur connection who appreciates such things. His assessment was that there are more microbreweries per capita there than here. Hence making micro brewery hopping easy. This indeed was the case.
Unless you make something a priority, it won’t happen. There are always other demands in life to push back what you truly love. So the beer connoisseur gentleman suggested a few hotels close by. So it was time to make it happen and not procrastinate. In life, like in cycling, unless you keep moving forward, you lose your balance and crash. I can’t take credit for this insight, Einstein and Kraftwerk can.
Take reading material and music – motivation and relaxation.
Take some LaCroix-yes this carbonated water/seltzer water is my European thing but the U.S. is catching on making it easy to buy. And whether it’s for palate cleansing or hydration needed on an active day, it works. For time well spent, you will need it for both reasons.
Take multiple outfits for ‘what if’ scenarios. No, this is not an award show, but wardrobe changes throughout the day happen for various reasons. Better to be prepared than limit what you can do because you didn’t bring the right dress or outfit.
The Trip and Early Check In
So Saturday morning, a fun drive with some motivational music (this is personal), I hit the road. Not much traffic until I hit Indiana, I was able to test out some speeds on my car. No, I wasn’t on the autobahn, but I did my best to have a fun driving experience.. Even driving has to be decadent, not functional. Music of choice and some fun games with your car.
Now a note about #earlycheckin, critical to a good start. I have arrived at hotels early and hoped to check in early. Typically it worked but there was always this question of, “Will I need to argue with someone at the front desk, since check in is at 3 PM?” Well, fear no more, you can call ahead to arrange for this. A friend actually called the hotel on Friday night and he arranged this. His suggestion of early check in took the stress out. This gives you ample time to relax, destress, unwind and get ready to hit the scene. Whatever scene you are hitting. You can’t go straight from a two hour drive to micro brew hopping. You need that unwind time to transition into this excursion. And you can also secure a nice parking spot for your automobile: close to the entrance and visible from your room.
And Now it’s Time to Have Fun
Have an open mind – no agenda. Sure, you hope you have an expert guiding you through it; this removes the stress of planning out everything. I have to control everything in my daily life, so someone else taking charge is heaven sent. I didn’t plan the brew hopping route, where to go first, when to go, where to eat, or anything. That is a great way to disconnect. If you have this capability great, if not, then still go with the flow and some rudimentary plan and be flexible.
So after the well established early check in and before the microbrewery hopping, it was time to unwind.
And At Last, The Micro Breweries
Weather, traffic, some unwinding and even carnivals. can alter a plan, so just go with the flow. If you can, let someone else run the show; literally-it is a get away from your daily responsibilities (and I have too many). Not having to plan where to go first, what to order, etc., etc. helped me disengage from my daily world where I have to plan everything. If it’s the right person doing the planning, they will know enough about your preferences (which is theirs if there is commonality), the subject and the scene you are hitting.
So as we started our adventure in a relaxed way:
- 18th Street Brewery: Hammond, Indiana – I have heard, a lot about this brewery. Its first location is actually in Gary, Indiana’s Miller beach neighborhood. Drew Fox is the Founder and President of the 18th Street Brewery. The new, second, Hammond location is the one we visited.
A tasteful entry makes you feel like you are entering a secret society with artifacts inside. On the entrance side there are no windows. I loved the artwork and atmosphere of 18th Street Brewery.
The colors are very magnetic yet airy. You don’t feel like you are in a crowded place. I spent the first five minutes looking around and taking the ambiance in. I do this everywhere I go, and there was plenty to take in. There is a table section, the bar and you can see some of the micro brewery. The atmosphere was very friendly. Microbreweries are not pretentious, but instead a very down to earth friendly atmosphere; it’s about decadent beer. The patrons share a common love of fine brews and the brewers, servers, enthusiastically inform you of the differences between the different flavors.
There is also great food being served. I chose a cuban sandwich as it went well with beer. I didn’t want to get overly full with food, but did want to eat just enough so I can drink and sample (if I eat nothing and drink it’s not the desired outcome).
The beer options were also phenomenal and unique but we were micro brew hopping so I couldn’t max out my ability for alcohol and flavor in one place. Remember that when you sample micro breweries, it’s about being decadent and not about maximizing your intake. Decadence of fine flavors and varieties. Micro brew pub hopping is not about maximizing the impact of alcohol-so you do have to pace yourself. You want to taste and sort of analyze what you are drinking. It’s about flavor and taste buds. You are there to sample the flavors, much like wine, chocolate or fine food. It’s about the full senses – the whole experience – smell, flavor and of course how it affects you. And of course good conversations that go with it. I was really interested in trying Lawrence of Arabia ale. I had a small sample and it was delicious, but I already had some other ones, so I had to stop. Again, a feast for the senses…the eyes, the nose and the tongue (taste buds)… I didn’t want to over bloat, so I only finished half of my Cuban sandwich. There was a slight mishap in the car and even a further mishap with my heels and the Cuban, but oh well. I chose to stay decadent and enjoy the experience. The 1/2 Cuban saw an untimely end.
Time to move on to the next brewery.
2. New Oberpfalz Brewing: – Downtown Griffith, IN. I strongly encourage you to read the websites of these breweries because their passion and specialties come through. New Oberpfalz Brewing takes its name from a district in Bavaria called the Oberpfalz. This brewery specializes in German ales and lagers and they do a FINE at job at it. The tap room is very modern but with it being summer, we chose to sit on the patio. The tables are set up in community style which encourages conversation with people you don’t know. This brewery is also close to a bike trail. Because of the open atmosphere outside (we managed not get attacked by bugs), while sampling the fine ales, we ended up conversing with a local couple about many things. With my love of German ale (I am from Europe), I ended up picking up the growler of Elucidator Dopplebock for consumption at home. This made the joy last longer. Here is a description of the Dopplebock from their site:
Elucidator Doppelbock Showcasing the lighter side of the Doppelbock style, Elucidator packs a sweet malty flavor profile and a warming alcohol burn that finishes with a whisp of noble German hops. Suitable for cellaring for up to 6 months. 8% abv 31 IBU
It was delicious. Needless to say this went fast-one summer evening on my deck. Now I have an empty growler and need more…..
After a few fine other choices, it was time to move on to brewery #3.
3. Wildrose Brewing – Griffith, Indiana. Again it’s best to check the site out to let the brewers tell their story, their way. Now at this point, we had a few….. We did skip Pokro Brewery (heard a lot of good things about this one too) because of some carnival in progress. But maybe three was meant to be the optimal number; four might have been too much. The choices were flavorful. Don’t think of it as just beer…this is decadent beer, art beer, flavorful beer to combine with experience. The place had a pretty lively atmosphere too. There was also a list of all the micro breweries in Indiana by region. I took photos of it and will need to reread it. We hit this place fairly late and people were happy. The place had a party feel. I got to meet some of the brewers, the wives and they are true artist.
Being a culinary creator, my ultimate achievement is appreciation from the consumers of my creation. They were the same way, when I told them how much I loved some of items, they were extremely appreciative. That is a sign of true artists. One of my favorites here was the nitro with a coconut undertone.
Maybe I haven’t been to enough microbreweries, but I never had a nitro with coconut undertones. I wish I would have bought a growler or some bottles from here too…a way to make it last longer. Interstate trade with microbreweries is complicated and I cannot get these beers in Wisconsin. I should have brought some from each brewery.
After a few ales and conversations it was time to conclude the micro brewery hopping part of the day. I think we visited the right number and had the right amount of beer. You really don’t want to get ‘wasted’ on fine micro brews; just an optimal level of ‘feeling good feeling great.’