‘Indiana’s Next Hop Model’ Event Walks Bigger, Better and More Audacious in Second Year
The King is dead, long live the King! Of course, the new King is the same as the old King. The winner of Indiana’s Next Hop Model, the icon of beer fashion (tongue planted firmly in cheek) was re-crowned in the Egyptian Room of the Old National Center in Indianapolis. Dan Gohr, head brewer at Redemption Alewerks, repeated his triumph of last year’s inaugural event.
Last year’s event was such a success that the organizers increased all the numbers this year; the beers served, the space available, the number of contestants, and the number of attendees. This bigger and better version of the evening included even more audacious performances demonstrating the importance of craft beer in the lives of the beautiful people. King Dan knew he would have to pull out the stops if he wanted to retain his title. He delivered.
A prime time beer festival run in association with a humorous attempt at beer fashion – where does an idea like that come from? And more importantly – who heard that idea and said, “Yep, that sounds great!” Obviously it wasn’t me; what turned out to be one of the most innovative ideas in Indiana craft beer to come along in the last few years would have died on the vine if I had been in charge.
Next Hop Model was the brainchild of Indiana On Tap looking to find an inspired way to highlight craft beer in a way not seen before. As I will highlight in next week’s sketch Floyd County Brewing Company, humor is an under-represented niche in craft beer (beyond some hilarious beer names, that is). As such, a mock fashion show would be just the thing to bring in a segment of the population that had long been ignored in craft beer – people who like to watch craft brewers embarrass themselves in public.
Justin Knepp, president and founder of Indiana On Tap, took all this into consideration and came to the conclusion that Indiana was the perfect place to bring Zoolander to life. If so, plenty of beer was going to be needed – so they incorporated a tasting festival into the “fashion” show. And since nobody wants to take the blame if an idea goes south, Indiana On Tap partnered with Nuvo News Weekly to put on the first show in 2016. – suckers.
However, since the event turned out to be a huge success, I guess they were all a lot smarter than me. The breweries saw the wisdom of the idea right away, they came on board quickly and the first show had 650 attendees and thirty “models” for the contest. More than forty people walked the stage this year, with more than 900 people cheering and jeering them on.
This catwalk extravaganza for craft beer was the headline event of Indiana Craft Beer Week by design. Many of the events for the yearly celebration take place at individual breweries, so it was a nice thought to cap off the week by bringing everyone together for a beer and to blow off some steam by making fools of themselves. The catwalk itself was located in the west end of the Egyptian Room, with rows of VIP seats on each side – just like a real fashion show. Higher on the sides were tables that could be purchased for a small price (and everyone one of them sold). From here, attendees had servers to fetch them beer during the show, and each table came with a growler that could be filled and taken home at the end of the night.
The Egyptian Room was a great place to have the event. Popularity and space demanded that they move from a warehouse attached to the Foyt Wine Vault in Speedway last year. Being a writer of Indiana and Indianapolis history, it was a little strange to find myself in this venerated theatre when it was being used for such a purpose. This was definitely a different vibe than the Muncie Brewfest the weekend before (see this article). Muncie was held in a former Masonic Temple, and they highlighted the arts and art education. Next Hop Model was also in a former Masonic Temple, but in this case we laid waste to an entire industry.
The breweries were laid out across the second floor of the Old National Center, with some in the Egyptian Room in front of the stage, and others in the foyers with the giant stained glass windows, old wooden bar, and the guys from Blind Pig Confessions and Indiana On Tap Podcast. Everyone who attended was fortunate to find the first beers ever from Sean Manahan’s Kopacetic Beer Factory in Monticello (outside of that great pRYEm collaboration he did with Wabash Brewing). His Rye Saison was the hit of the festival, blowing the keg by 9 pm; I personally had a lot to do with emptying that half barrel so soon.
Sean also brought a cherry wood smoked rye amber, a cream ale, a porter, an IPA, and a pale. Walter and I tried them all and were very impressed. It was unfortunate that he didn’t have more time to talk to the attendees, but his ensemble for the fashion show was rather intricate and took a lot of preparation. A guy wants to look his best you know; there’s a lot on the line. Of course, his character (a “hopped” up version of Hansel from Zoolander) could cruise around on his scooter, so he did get to visit many of the booths and his many friends.
Grand Junction Brewing brought along several nice beers, including the Spicy Nanners, a fantastic roggenbier of the classic style. Look for more of these types of offerings when they celebrate Rock the Junction in May. Walter’s favorite beer of the night was the Irish coffee from Round Town Brewery – surprise! she liked the coffee beer best. My favorite of the festival was the Flanders red/brown from Taxman Brewery; no Flanders-style for them, this one had acetobacter vinegariness (I just now made up that word), Pediococcus, and Brettanomyces all evident in the finished beer.
Aaron Koerner brought some of the new Tow Yard recipes he has been working on since taking over the head brewer position in February. The Impound IPA was very nice, with layers of flavors brought out by a nice hop list, and a healthy gypsum addition to bring out those hops. We look forward to seeing more of his unique water profiles and what he can do with them. Finally, we stopped at the Wooden Bear Brewing booth to try their hefeweizen and ask about their taproom in Geist, located where Fall Creek Blvd. meets the reservoir (down the way from Mama Bear’s). Katelyn told us that they are having great success at Geist; it was a smart idea to open up this new venue halfway between Scarlet Lane and Four Day Ray. Then Katelyn had to run off to get into costume for the fashion show.
There was also merchandise for sale from each of the breweries and from the online apparel store United State of Indiana. This was a great way to get the attendees into the act of promoting Indiana craft breweries with their attire, and then taking these fashion statements out to the public. Wearing your passion and advertising craft breweries and Indiana beer is one of the best way to keep educating the public. Henry Robison from United State of Indiana told me that sales Friday night were amazing, and several of the breweries were also doing a brisk merchandise business. Walter even picked up two new shirts.
A little after 8:30 pm, the contestants took the runway one by one, giving their best walks and showing off their inventive outfits. I know that fashion is a multi-billion dollar business in which thousands of people make their living, but this wasn’t that kind of fashion. There was no evil intended, but this was definitely meant to be mock of Fashion week in New York, Paris, or Milan. If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then what is outright sarcasm?
Fifteen groups from the breweries had outfits, skits, and themes to dazzle the crowd. Bier Brewery showed the life saving properties of their craft beer by having the “BeerWatch” lifeguards save a man (Jerry Connor himself) who had unfortunately consumed a Budweiser tallboy. This was followed by Flat 12 Bierwerks and their the bros and chicks on the beach, complete with a keg stand. Round Town included Max and couple of other young ladies dancing back up for their fur-coated rapper. Quaff On! included some guys in daisy dukes (why not, it worked for Dan last year) and one gentleman wearing nothing but a beer keg!
Hosts Nikki Reed (from Smiley in the Morning on 99.5 WZPL) and Ed Wenck (former radio personality and managing editor of Nuvo) kept the crowd hyped for each group, and clicked off some very funny one-liners in response to each performance. “Fur coat dude” as he was dubbed, “smelled like baby powder and desperation” according to Ed. Aaron Koerner from Tow Yard became known as “tight pants” for the evening and the suggestive dancing from Katelyn’s furry alter ego from Wooden Bear is giving the owners serious pause in consideration of a new brewery name, “Twerkin’ Bear Brewing.”
But the star of the evening was again Dan Gohr of Redemption Alewerks. If Sports Illustrated can bring us topless, body-painted models, than why not a brewer with a big blue Milwaukee Blister? His lighted mash paddle and layer cake style lighted hat were good enough to win, but the choreography and the big red lips painted on the right cheek of his shorts made the winning choice fairly easy for the crowd. By popular acclimation Dan was declared the winner, and he can now retire as an undefeated Next Hop Model. He says it is time to pass the baton on to a new generation. Well, their going to have to work hard to beat his act.
In all, the 2017 Indiana Next Hop Model was a slick production, from the tasting festival to the haute couture contest. The music and lighting were just like a real fashion show (hey! I watch television, I might know what they look like). Walter is always talking about how much of a community craft beer in Indiana is, and this event goes a long way to demonstrating that camaraderie. The patrons know their breweries and are loyal to Indiana beer. The brewers value their patrons and get to know them individually. Without that link between breweries and their drinkers, an event like this couldn’t be successful.
Walter’s Words Of Wisdom – There is no five-second rule when you drop your tasting glass on the bathroom floor of a beer festival.