19 Apr An Evening of “Everyone in the Pool” and of Reinheitsgebot at Taxman and Primeval
by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap
Walter and I had an errand that took several hours on Saturday, so a long trip to check out some Indiana breweries wasn’t possible. But we did take some time in the evening to make a couple of stops, and the two places we went showed us two very different sides of craft beer. Both were great, both were satisfying, but each had a very different philosophy.
Our first stop was at Taxman Brewing – Fortville, one of the three locations of this brewery and therefore one of the three places that were celebrating the release of Deadline, their once-a-year imperial stout whose timing corresponds with the end of tax season. So what if tax season is a bit later this year, who cares – Deadline is worth celebrating on its own.
The beer now called Deadline has a bit of a story itself. You might not recognize the name, but the spirits of the beer comes from the earlier iterations – Death & Taxes and Evasion. The original beer, Death & Taxes, came out in 2015 as a base beer and a barrel aged version. After a couple of years and the birth of the Death & Taxes Day festival at Taxman Bargersville, a C&D (cease & desist order) came along and warranted a change of the beer name to Evasion.
Evasion came with a bigger ABV than the Death & Taxes version and several more variants. After last year’s cancelation of the festival due to Covid and another C&D, the 2021 stout release took on the name Deadline, along with a lower key release party in Bargersville (bands, outdoor beer spots for the special release, and a goodbye celebration for co-owners Colin and Kirby as they move out west). At Taxman – Fortville and Taxman – CityWay there were special flights of the five Deadline beers and cans for sale, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Walter and I are hoping for a return of the full-blown Death & Taxes Day Festival in 2022.
Walter got a flight of the five Deadline beers, and she was nice enough to share some with me; there was the base beer (14.8% ABV imperial Belgian stout), a maple vanilla variant made with maple syrup and vanilla and aged in maple syrup barrels, a toasted coconut version conditioned on the cocoanut with vanilla added and aged in spiced rum barrels, a variant with conditioned on peanut butter with cocoa nibs and vanilla and then aged in bourbon barrels, and finally a variant conditioned on chili peppers with cocoa nibs, cinnamon, vanilla, and aged in bourbon barrels.
The beers paired well with our food; pork cheeks with a blueberry reduction for me and striped bass with mango chutney for her. You could tell that different ingredients weren’t in short supply when making the beers, but they seemed to meld well and didn’t overwhelm our food. We also tried the CiTrust, a gin barrel aged imperial saison with meyer lemons, another beer that took advantage multiple additions to add to flavor.
But this list of beers doesn’t mean that Taxman can’t make more classic beers. I started our move to the second portion of our evening by getting a bottle of the lambic-style beer called Sour Broker. Lambics often include fruit to sweeten the sourness and funk of the lambic, and this one used apricot.
This was a great, classic beer and launched us into our second visit of the evening. We drove about Primeval Brewing in Noblesville. This is a brewery where European beer traditions reign supreme. In a way, they are a modern throwback to the heyday of Reinheitsgebot, which defined what could be contained in beer made and sold in Bavaria.
The Reinheitsgebot decree came about in 1516 from Ingolstadt, Germany and was the law of the land for centuries. The reason behind the statute was three-fold: “to protect drinkers from high prices; to ban the use of wheat (and rye) in beer so more bread could be made; and to stop unscrupulous brewers from adding dubious toxic and even hallucinogenic ingredients as preservatives or flavorings.” (source here)
While Reinheitsgebot started in the south of Germany, it filtered north over time, and by 1902, it was the law of the entirety of the area we now know as Germany. It stated that beer must be made with three ingredients, water, barley, and hops, because at that time the role of yeast in fermentation was unknown. Brewers knew that something was turning the ingredients into beer, one example of “donum dei” a “gift from God,” but just what did it was unknown. Brewers even knew how to manipulate their brews by saving leftover “stuff” (zeug in German) which was actually yeast that had propagated during fermentation, but they didn’t have any idea that it was a living organism or how it worked.
It wasn’t until after Antonie van Leeuwenhoek used his microscope to first see yeast cells in 1680 and after Louis Pasteur connected those yeast cells to the fermentation and souring of beer in 1857 that yeast were added to the list of acceptable ingredients in beer, the fourth member of the Reinheitsgebot decree. The wheat restriction was relaxed in Bavaria in the late 1500s (eventually it stated simply that “grains” could be used), while other changes have taken place in recent years. With the advent of the EU, it was determined that Reinheitsgebot was an unfair trade burden on foreign brewers, so beers with other ingredients were then allowed to be sold in Germany, and now Germans are making beers with many more flavorings and ingredients.
Therefore, nowadays there are few breweries that use Reinheitsgebot as their rule, but some breweries do keep the idea of the decree close to their brewing heart. No brewery in Indiana holds it as dear as does Primeval Brewing in Noblesville. They’re not wedded to Reinheitsgebot, but it certainly influences what they do in the brewhouse, holding them to their philosophy of being a “classic European-inspired brewery.”
Walter immediately went for the Maxwell IPA, a slightly fruity American IPA that has at least one of its feet in Europe. It uses both El Dorado and Hallertau blanc hops, so you get the mixing of old world and new, along with light malts and an English ale yeast. No lactose, no fruit puree, no pounds of hops added in the fermentor – just a straight up great IPA. I went for the smoked beer called Rauch My World. This is a beachwood smoked lager and is simply excellent. It’s hard to believe, but Noblesville actually sports two fantastic rauchbiers, the other being across the courthouse square at Barley Island Brewing – so much smoke.
After the smoked ager, I had a traditional dry Irish Stout called My Pretty Irish Girl, and the Walter and I split a doppelbock called the Chompinator. There are just so many classic European beers at Primeval, it’s so refreshing. Though it is nice to try things that push the edge, it’s also nice to be reminded about what can be accomplished with just grain, water, hops, and yeast. A saison, a Helles lager, a hefeweizen, and English porter – it’s great to drink beer that tastes like beer.
Both experiences of Saturday were worthwhile. Both breweries know how to make beer on all ends of the spectrum, but our two stops brought home the different ways people present beer and the different philosophies that make craft beer so exciting. We’re lucky to live in an area with two great examples of the craft.