Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bloomington, Indiana - one great beer town

Bloomington, Indiana is a town that most people may not associate with beer. With Munster (3 Floyds) and Indianapolis (Indy breweries listed here) leading the way for beer in Indiana, it is easy to ignore the contributions that Bloomington continues to make to Indiana's beer industry. Luckily, early last month I was able to visit Bloomington to visit family and pay a few of Bloomington's breweries/beer outlets a visit.

My Bloomington visit started with Indiana's second largest brewery, the Upland Brewing Company, which calls Bloomington home. (1)

Besides the 20+ beers they release throughout the year,  Upland has become known for their sours. Their sour lineup runs the gamut from lambics, a barrel aged flanders red (aka Malefactor), a gueuze, and a wild dark ale (aka Dantalion).

Upland's brewpub
My visit to Upland was quite enjoyable. It began with the acquisition of a few bottles of Sour Reserve and a bottle of Malefactor. This was followed by a chance meeting with and gifting of beer from the brewery I work at to Caleb Staton (Upland's head brewer). This was followed by a Caleb led tour of the Upland brewpub for my wife, sister in-law, and I. After the tour ended, we enjoyed an Upland beer sampler (that my wife ordered before tour) and samples of this year's cherry lambic. All were quite enjoyable. 

Upland's barrel room
Upland's sampler
Later that same day, my family and I visited a new brewery called Salt Creek Brewery. Salt Creek Brewery exists in a repurposed auto mechanic garage with bits of cars, license plates, etc all over the inside and outside of the brewery. 

As for the beer, there were twelve different beers on tap at the time of our visit. They ranged from a schwarz beer, a pale ale, to a pumpkin ale. I enjoyed them all but I think they are still trying to get their feet under them.

Salt Creek sampler

A few days later, my wife took my on a tour around Bloomington (it's where she went to college). During our walk we came upon a brewery in the making called Function Brewing. We also came upon a bar called The Tap.

At the time of our visit, the folks at Function Brewing were doing some in-house construction work on their floors and walls of their space. I spoke with one of their team members about their plans, and I was informed that they are going to be a brewpub and they hope to open before the end of the year. I am looking forward to hearing more about them as they get closer to opening.

The Tap was a lovely bar that just opened late last year and already appears to have quite a following. Granted, my wife and I stopped in during the early afternoon (i.e. there were not many people at the Tap during our visit), but our bartender expressed a great deal of beer knowledge, appreciation, and the belief that Bloomington is a town that really appreciates craft beer.

Tap list at The Tap the day of our visit

Beerwise, Bloomington is definitely a beer town on the rise. It has a lot of up-and-coming breweries that are making great beer, and a populace that is embracing local craft beer. Should you ever be in the area, consider spending some time in Bloomington enjoying the breweries mentioned above as well as the Bloomington Brewing Company.

Fun facts from my Bloomington, IN trip:
  • During the tour we learned that Upland's sours are brewed at the brewpub
  • Our favorite beers from the Upland sampler were the porter and the pale ale. 
  • Caleb, Upland's head brewer, spends most of his time brewing at the brewpub
  • Caleb felt the cherry lambic was too sweet
    • I thought it tasted great but I am no lambic expert
  • The wine barrels used by Upland are from an Indiana winery (Oliver Winery I think)
  • Upland is considering coming to Chicago


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