05 Oct Hendricks Co. ‘Hoppy’ Halloween: All Treats, No Tricks, and A Beer Brought Back From the Dead
If you look around the neighborhoods of the cities and towns of Indiana, one thing becomes apparent at this time of year – people love Halloween. Christmas lights might nudge out Halloween decorations for most numerous, might – but there’s no disputing that the Halloween spirit is abundant here. The number of houses that decorate for death day is impressive, but what’s more amazing is the density and variety of decorations when people go all in.
I can’t image how long people plan out their strategy for decorating and the time it must take to complete the build and tear down each year. Perhaps that’s why yards start looking spooky so early; by the third week of September, Halloween season is already in full swing. The holiday itself might just be the one night, but Hoosiers (and I would suspect many Americans) lengthen All Hallows’ Eve and look for as many events as they can to celebrate – any reason to dress up as something sarcastic, humorous, gory, or otherwise esoteric is a great idea.
Craft beer festivals look for these kinds of natural hooks in order to draw people to their event. It may be a blatant attempt to give people another reason to buy a ticket, but when the marketing effort is genuine and the tie in works for both attendees and organizers, then everything works out well. Such is the case with the upcoming 2nd Annual Hendricks County Hoppy Halloween Craft Beer, Wine, and Spirits Festival on Oct. 20th in Plainfield. The festival is connected to Halloween without being pretentious, and has amenities that draw the ticket holders in to the “spirit” of the festival.
This year’s event is being held a week earlier than last year, so there is a better chance of good weather, and the new venue is a huge upgrade from the mall parking lot of a year ago. Just south of downtown Plainfield is the large outdoor event space owned by Chateau Thomas Winery and located right next door to IndyWest Harley Davidson. These two entities have a good working relationship and cross promote many of their events. It just so happens that October is Harley Davidson’s Customer Appreciation Month, and they had been planning some co-events with Chateau Thomas.
When the beer festival had the opportunity to join them in a triumvirate of fun, the already interesting concept for the event grew in size and scope. Harley Davidson is planning to have food for customers who come into the dealership that day; they’ll be showing off some of their bikes during the festival and have activities in the showroom too. Chateau Thomas will have their tasting room open, will host an after party with live music from the Michael Kelsey Band, and their outdoor venue next to the winery is an excellent site for the festival.
The festival space is partially grass, partially paved, with two music stages already on site. There is plenty of space for beverage booths, games and food trucks, and it is set off from the rest of Plainfield by being located down a cul de sac. No more being stuck out in the middle of a retail lot – now we have a place of our own.
The festival itself will start at 1pm for VIPs, with GA ticket holders allowed entry at 2pm, and last call at 5pm for everyone. First the beer starts pouring, then the fun really starts. Costumes last year ranged from the ingenious to the down right gross, sported by both brewery folk and attendees alike. People dressed up as their favorite brewery logos, while several couples’ costumes also worked around the fringes of beer and alcohol – I challenge you all to go farther this year. Do it for fun, but if not for fun, do it to win the costume contest; there will be gift card prizes for the best, funniest, scariest and best couples’ costumes. It’s great entertainment to take in the costumes as you enjoy the beverages from more than two dozen of the areas best craft beverage providers.
The list of all the pouring groups is on the website (here), but to mention just a few, look for breweries from farther away and more rare in this area, like Teays River from Lafayette, Evansville Brewhouse, and Cedar Creek Brewery from Martinsville. Spirits will be represented too, along with Indiana Small Batch, the craft spirits only distributor. Diageo will be pouring for the first time at an Indiana On Tap event. Look for them to bring some high end products, like Crown Royal Vanilla and Apple varieties, and Captain Morgan Jack O Blast and Apple Smash. Finally, one of our hosts, Chateau Thomas will be sampling their wines again this year, along with J&J Winery, Cedar Creek Winery, and PRP Wines.
The participating breweries, wineries, and craft distillers will be bringing their best fall offerings, but the beer goes even farther than that. Brew Link Brewing from right there in Plainfield is creating a special beer in conjunction with Indiana On Tap that will only be for sale at the festival. Four packs of 16 oz. cans with the unique label art will be available for purchase and some sampling, but there’s a limit of only one four pack per attendee. The beer is called Just One S’more – can you guess what the flavor components are? It’s an imperial stout chock full of specialty grains and with a big ABV; the graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallow are right there in the beer.
The beer is great, but the story of its creation is even better – it’s like a Halloween nightmare and a Frankenstein creation all rolled into one. The brew day for Just One S’more started about 6am on a Friday (no, it wasn’t the 13th). The mash in took something over an hour, with bags of grain added to the mash tun little by little as more water was piped in. Owner/brewer Ruari Crabbe and new head brewer Mike Hess got wide eyed as the mash tun started getting more and more full. Would there be room for everything – they got the paddles out and started pushing everything down. And this was before the 22 lb.s of graham crackers – yes, you saw that number correctly – were added on top of the mash.
In the end, there was just enough room to get the hatch on the mash vessel closed and dogged down. Ruari said he had never had the tun that full before. With it that full, the effort to hit their target temperature and keep it there while they re-circulated the mash (to better extract the sugars and other compounds) was much more difficult, but they came out exactly on the nose. This is where the feel for the system comes in to play, brewing isn’t all science, it’s a feel thing too. What they couldn’t account for was what happened next.
Just as it was time to start moving the wort over to the boil kettle and sparge the grain bed down, there was a huge flash of light, and big boom, and then….darkness. We walked out the open garage doors at the brewery to see a dump truck with its bed raised and a power line, two transformers, and portions of two utility poles wrapped around it. It had driven right through the line and taken out power to the entire block. Great – he murdered our beer. Without power, there was no way to pump the wort into the kettle or to heat the water for sparging or boiling. It was like some nasty Halloween trick that was threatening to destroy everyone’s treat.
Ruari and Mike called around to see what could be done. Could we get a generator and keep going – no, while a generator to pump the wort was no problem, no easily obtained generator was big enough to run the kettle. Could they get more specialty grains and try again early the next week? Could they perform some sort of Frankenstein experiment and convert this beer into something else? It looked bleak.
They did move the wort over to the kettle and sparged by hand using a portable generator, and then they just sat, waiting for either the power company to perform a miracle or to watch their batch beer go down the drain – literally. Brew days are long affairs in the best of cases, but here you had an unexpected down time that was dragging things out. Luckily, the Duke Energy workers were in the Halloween spirit and restored the power after only five hours – a small miracle to be sure, considering the damage we saw. The brew went on, and very much like Frankenstein, this s’mores beer was brought back from the dead – It’s Alive! Alive!
Luckily, the rest of the brew day went off without a hitch, it just got done much later than everyone expected. The wort went into the fermenter to undergo its dark and mysterious transformation into beer at the hands of the diabolical yeast. It wouldn’t be pulled out until just before the festival to be canned. However, there was an addition of pounds and pounds of chocolate and marshmallow into the beer. This s’mores creation comes with everything but an old stick for roasting.
If this story doesn’t convince you that you need some of this beer, then the spirit of Halloween is dead in you – or you hate s’mores. Wait, nobody hates s’mores. Hoppy Halloween will be your only opportunity to get this beer, so take advantage of your good fortune. Is that not enough for you in a good Halloween festival? We how about a Thriller flash mob? At some point in the afternoon, a spontaneous dance of the undead will break out. Nobody knows exactly when it will occur, but keep your eyes out for zombies wearing a single glove.
Costumes, beer, music, wine, motorcycles, food, spirits, games, dances, contests, an after party…..all with a theme that people embrace anyway. Tickets for Hoppy Halloween are selling fast, so go to the Hoppy Halloween On Tap Tickets page and get yours right away. This is will be a treat for everyone, no tricking.