The Best From the Midwest to New-England.
Bald & Bearded is written half a country apart. Thanks to the wonders of technology, we can write from our couches and desks in Indiana and Rhode Island. While Bald Guy and The Beard are similar men, we grew up in very different places. Bald guy lived his life on the east coast and was raised by New Englanders. The Beard on the other hand was bred in Southern Indiana, or as he likes to call it “God’s Country”. In this vastly diverse country we call home, it was the regional aspects that made us unique. It is our goal to share the things that make our homes great and the local businesses that make them strong. We are happy to give you Corn to Coast: Craft Brew Edition.
The Beard: Indiana
I loved growing up in Indiana. I love living now in Indiana. It’s home to some of the best universities in the country, and the rightful butt of every corn joke you can think of. We have champion sports teams, and champion hogs. The Indianapolis 500, and tractor pulls. World class steak houses, and tenderloin sandwiches bigger than your head. Johnny Cougar, John Cougar Mellencamp, AND John Mellencamp! Hoosier Hospitality is VERY real, people. I grew up in Bloomington, IN, home to Indiana University (go Hoosiers!), and now reside in Indianapolis, IN, aka the Circle City. Indy is great – it’s cosmopolitan meets country. We are a proud people, and want to share our home with you.
Indiana is a resourceful state. We have one of the leading research universities in the US situated two hours south of one of the top science/engineering/agriculture schools in the US. That ingenuity has manifested itself in a lot of places, but especially in our beer. Craft breweries are everywhere now, and Indiana is no exception, with new breweries popping up seemingly every month, totalling almost over 100 craft breweries and brewpubs through the state, and each offering a different take on beer from the ones before them.
There are names recognized throughout the state: 3 Floyds (Munster, IN), Sun King (Indianapolis, IN), and Upland Brewery (Bloomington, IN), which is frequently featured on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.” There are smaller, but just as respected, names like Quaff On (Nashville, IN), Cutters Brewing (Avon, IN), and my neighborhood’s Broad Ripple Brewpub (Indianapolis, IN), Indiana’s oldest brewery, which makes an awesome BLT with braunschweiger.
Beer, especially craft beer, to me is not simply a medium through which you get drunk (though it sure does help!). It is something you have that signifies the end of a hard day’s work, a side item to a perfect lunch, a refreshment on a hot day, and the perfect complement to a story told beside a campfire. It’s also the summation of someone else’s skill, time, and energies, poured into a can or bottle. When you crack open a can of Sun King’s Osiris Pale Ale, you taste satisfaction, clean and crisp, but also someone’s art and passion.
One brewery in the Hoosier State that continues to push the boundaries is Munster’s 3 Floyds. If the other brewpubs are dad rock, 3 Floyds is Iggy Pop and the Stooges, cutting themselves on stage for nothing if not just to see the look on your face. “Scorched earth is our brewery policy,” they say on their website. “Three Floyds refuses to compromise ‘Not Normal’ [the brewery began in 1996 as It’s Not Normal] quality and flavor for our incredibly loyal following.”
Their year-rounds are diverse and expertly crafted. Jinx Proof is a continental-style pils that is crisp on the tongue with surprisingly deep flavor. Bars and pubs across the state send out notices in mass when they receive kegs of the Pale Ale, Zombie Dust, for their taps. Needless to say, it is quite the popular ale.
My personal favorite, though, is their Imperial IPA called Arctic Panzer Wolf. It is hoppy, at 100 IBU, and heavy-handed with an ABV of 9%. It is often hard to find and quick to leave the shelves. It only comes in bomber form, so you must commit to it (I’m definitely not sharing with my friends). It is the quintessential “beer with an attitude;” Arctic Panzer Wolf doesn’t just cool you down on a hot day – it scares the heat away from you. It encapsulates the entirety of 3 Floyds’ mission.
Arctic Panzer Wolf is also special to me for a sentimental reason: my very first trip to Fort Wayne, IN to visit my good friend Chris, we decided to brave the snow storm and hit a few local bars. After some absolute disasters, we ended up walking over a mile in the cold to a watering hole named the Brass Rail, recommended to us via Yelp. What essentially was a small room with a smaller stage became our haven that night. As hardcore music became the backdrop for our night, APW became the drink of choice. I can’t tell you how long we stayed or the names of the bands that performed, but that night will always stick out to me as the night I found my favorite bar AND my favorite beer. Anytime we get together, there is always Arctic Panzer Wolf bought and drank. To me, that is beer. You don’t always need beer to make a situation into a good one, but it sure helps make a situation a GREAT one.
The term “flyover country” does not sit well with Hoosiers. Our state and our people are proud of who we are and what we do. In the words of the former-NFL star Ray Lewis, we’re “pissed off for greatness.” We have so much to share and give that we will beat you over the head until you recognize it. 3 Floyds is the embodiment of that. With middle fingers in the air, they scream, “Look at us world. This is what you’ve been missing. You want a beer?”
Bald Guy: New England
New England is a place like no other. It is independent, seasoned, and tough. We brought you things like the lobster roll, L.L. Bean, and American freedom. New England is defined by Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and of course, the smallest of the bunch, Rhode Island. I am not a Rhode Island native, but I am happy to call Newport my home.
In Rhode Island, (especially on Aquidneck Island) people to don’t like to travel far. And why would we – everything thing we need is right here. If it’s not made here, grown here, farmed here, or pulled out of our ocean, we probably don’t need it. As the “runt” of the litter, Rhode Island has a chip on it’s shoulder and is not afraid to go toe-to-toe with any of the bigger boys. It’s that spirit and tenacity to prove themselves that give Rhode Island its character. Our beer is no exception to the rule. Rhode Island is the smallest state in the union, but it boasts 11 craft, micro and nano breweries that in my mind can take on the best in the country. Like the film Rocky, they might not beat Apollo Creed, but they sure as hell won’t back down from the fight.
Beer to me is more than taste, nose, and color. It is about principle. Does the brewer stand for something? Is there a passion, a character and identity that drives them?
Foolproof Brewery in Pawtucket, RI is that brewery. This craft brew team is making classic worldly beers with a subtle New England finish. Beers are often crafted by brewers for a certain season or to be paired with a certain meal. For Foolproof, each brew is crafted for a moment, each beer created for a specific experience. Looking for a session brew that is easy drinking and full of unique flavor? Go “down cellah” and grab a Barstool American Ale (or 6) and kick back and watch the Sox game. Out grilling with your buddies and want something that enhances the experience of good company, smoke, fire and meat? Grab a Backyahd IPA, an aggressively hopped American style IPA that delivers those great floral hoppy notes on the nose and a finish that as my dad says “tastes like another.”
But my favorite brew coming off the line from Foolproof is brewed for one of my favorite moments, the first beer after a long day of work. Whether you are working the 9-5 in front of spreadsheets, or tilling the land with dirt under your nails, Le Ferme Urbaine (LFU) is your perfect beer. LFU is a classic, dry farmhouse ale with some classic New England roots. Inspired by a Belgian Saison, Le Ferme Urbaine has a cloudy straw color and a nose with elements of clean grassy, light fruit and really good bread. The taste is clean refreshing and complex. With great pale malt, wheat and rye flavors up front and clean spiced finish, this beer is perfect for the late spring/early summer.
Farmhouse ales are a part of New England’s past and present. Originally, these farmhouse beers were created as payment and refreshment for the men who worked the hot spring days in pastoral New England. Since the water in Colonial New England would probably kill you, these hardworking people thrived on the low-alcohol dry farmhouse ales. LFU is a taste of our history. While there might not be a lot of farms in Pawtucket, Le Ferme Urbaine is keeping this New England tradition alive.
(oh yeah…I forgot to mention. It only comes in cans)
Happy Friday, y’all