Shelf Ice Brewfest a welcomed winter oasis

Shelf Ice Brewfest a welcomed winter oasis

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By Writing Community Members Noah Amstadter & Jennifer Stojanovich

An outdoor beer festival in February just a few blocks south of Lake Michigan’s south shore is by definition a risky proposition. Passing out winter hats and featuring ice carvers as entertainment is perfectly appropriate. Yet, somehow, for the second year in a row the beer gods smiled on Michigan City’s Shelf Ice Brewfest this past Saturday. With temperatures near 60 degrees, this felt more like an autumn Oktoberfest celebration than an arctic adventure.

The second annual Shelf Ice festival was once again held in the heart of downtown Michigan City’s uptown arts district, just a few blocks east of the Lighthouse Place outlet mall. Approximately 30 breweries refilled glasses all afternoon with a variety of local craft beers.

A unique variety of local beers from Northern Indiana highlighted a great selection. Michigan City’s own Shoreline and Burn ’Em brought out their big guns for the hometown event. Shoreline emptied the cellar with several barrel aged bottles and tasty firkins of Citrus Rilla Rye pale ale and Vanilla Beltaine Scottish ale, along with nearly a dozen beers on draft. Burn ’Em also featured an extensive list, including some unique sours – I’ll Be the Same Berliner Weisse and Come Acai Away sour, brewed with acai berries. Michigan City’s newest brewery, the soon-to-open Zorn Brew Works, debuted at Shelf Ice and poured a few of their early batches, including Red Devil IPA and Genesis Trappist blonde ale. Other nearby breweries in attendance were La Porte’s Back Road and Twisted K8.

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Shelf Ice also provided the opportunity to try a number of rare beers from the northeastern half of Indiana. Granger’s Bare Hands Brewery consistently drew some of the longest lines, with one-of-a-kind offerings like Smokey and the Hambit – a ghost pepper and pork-infused ale – and a Peanut Butter Chocolate Imperial Stout. Goshen Brewery’s offerings included a refreshing Touch and Gose gose. Evil Czech showed off its Luscious Mounds, an oatmeal stout with coconut. Mad Anthony also attended.

Rounding out Northern Indiana’s roster of brewers were all four from Porter County: Valparaiso’s Figure Eight, Four Fathers, and Ironwood, and Chesterton’s Hunter’s. From further west were Crown Point’s Crown Brewing, Griffith’s Pokro, Hobart’s Devil’s Trumpet, and Saint John Malt Brothers. A late addition to the list, Lansing, Illinois’ One Trick Pony, brought along a few special bottles of its Kentucky Mountain bourbon barrel aged old ale for a special 3 pm pouring.

Attendance increased in the sold-out festival’s second year, but the crowd was comfortable and the wait in line for a beer was rarely longer than a minute. Breweries were spread out over three tents, with an entertainment area in the center featuring games, merchandise vendors, bucket musicians and ice sculptors, whose work melted away quickly in the unseasonably warm weather. With a number of food vendors on the south side of the grounds and three separate areas of facilities for beer recycling, the crowd was spread evenly though the spacious festival grounds.

A number of downstate Indiana breweries headed north for the event. Taxman featured a number of barrel aged offerings. Flat12 debuted two barrel aged beers: Bonus Cup, their Pinko imperial stout first aged in rum barrels and then on coffee from Tinker Coffee Co. and The Ryeth, The Twelfth black barleywine aged in a rye barrel. Others making the trip up I-65 included Carson’s, Fountain Square, Lafayette, Triton, and TwoDEEP.

With a number of great hard-to-find local beers, an enthusiastic crowd, engaging entertainment and a number of tasty food options, Shelf Ice is an event any beer enthusiast should mark on his or her calendar each year.

Standout beers: 
Bare Hands Smoky and the Hambit
Bare Hands Space Jam
Goshen All Rye All Rye All Rye
Taxman Qualified
Flat 12 Bonus Cup




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