Long Lines Couldn’t Shorten A Great Time at This Year’s 5th Annual Valpo Brewfest
The change of seasons in Northwest Indiana is marked by a beer festival. Each spring, we flock to Dark Lord Day at Three Floyds and Crown Beer Fest in Crown Point. The summer brings Pints in the Park in Highland. The Valpo Brewfest in downtown Valparaiso last Saturday, Sept. 27, marked the opening of the fall drinking season.
In its fifth year, the Valpo Brewfest is one of the most popular events in Northern Indiana. The 3,000 tickets sold out in minutes, including a limited number of VIP tickets that offered festival-goers an extra hour of sampling, a special gift bag, and a special food-and-beer pairing from New Belgium, which featured rare beers such as their La Folie sour and Grätzer collaboration with Three Floyds. Situated in Valparaiso’s Central Park Plaza and extending into closed sections of Lafayette Street and Indiana Avenue and a nearby parking lot, festival-goers arrived to find ample parking in nearby garages (the Porter County Courthouse is just across the street), and the event was just feet off of the Lincolnway business district, home to the area’s most popular bars and restaurants.
Twenty-two Indiana brewers were represented among the more than 70 brewers pouring, including Valparaiso’s own Figure 8, Four Fathers, and Ironwood. Four Lake County brewers made the trek east to Valpo as well — Three Floyds, 18th Street, The Devil’s Trumpet, and Crown Brewing. Other Northern Indiana brewers were Chesterton’s Hunter’s Brewing and Michigan City’s Shoreline and Burn ‘Em. Mishawaka’s Evil Czech and Elkhart’s Iechyd Da crossed into the Central time zone for the afternoon.
Figure 8 cleared out its cellar for its hometown fest – featuring collaborations with Burn ‘Em, Hunter’s, Ironwood, Michigan’s Tapistry Brewing, and Latitudes restaurant. Consistently drawing rave reviews and boasting the festival’s longest line was Burn ’Em, whose exotic offerings included Boomerango IPA brewed with Mangoes, PRIDE barrel-aged imperial stout, and two varieties of Mr. Tea tea beer, one brewed with raspberry and another with blueberry.
Evil Czech poured its Patton’s Pilsner, which the Mishawaka brewery began selling in 16 oz. cans in early October. Evil Czech is working with Michigan Mobile Canning and was quite excited to show off the brewery’s first packaged offering (see photo).
We were pleased that several downstate brewers caravaned up I-65 to duneland. Flat 12 Bierwerks featured Big Black Snow Dog, a barrel-aged rye stout and Hinchtown Javadown, its golden ale infused with Kiririma coffee from Stone Cutters Roastery. Bloomington Brewery’s Barrel-aged Ol’ Floyd’s Belgian Ale aged in a Buffalo Trace barrel was one of the afternoon’s top beers.
We normally like to end our reports with a listing of the festival’s top beers, but doing so for the Valpo Brewfest would be difficult. The ratio of brewers and beer lines to attendees resulted in 10-minute-plus long lines at nearly every brewery much of the afternoon, so we missed several of the beers we had checked off to try in the festival’s handy app. But the area’s growing beer scene offers potential to right this ratio in future years if festival organizers can resist the urge to sell more tickets. Absent from this year’s festival were several breweries located within an hour’s drive, including Whiting’s Bulldog, LaPorte’s Back Road and Twisted K8, South Bend Brew Works, Granger’s Bare Hands, and Southwest Michigan’s Tapistry – not to mention dozens of upstart brewers in Chicago and Southwest Michigan.
Despite blinding, burning sun and some frustration with the crowd size, a good time was had by all. Live zydeco music and a young crowd made for a fun, entertaining atmosphere. Food offerings – ranging from $1 pizza slices from Dominoes to fresh baked Ben’s Pretzels to sandwiches Beverly Shores’ award-winning Bartlett’s restaurant – were amongst the best we’ve seen at a beer festival. All things considered, it was a great afternoon to toast autumn’s arrival to Lake Michigan’s south shore.
Bloomington Brewing Company’s Barrel-aged Ol’ Floyd’s
18th Street Backstabber IPA
B. Nektar Meadery The Zombies Take Manhattan
The Devil’s Trumpet 10,000 Years
Flat 12 Hinchtown Javadown