2016
07/22

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Drinking in a heady father-son adventure: Road trip to savor craft beer in Des Moines, Chicago, and Muenster strengthens bond, brew-tasting list

Drinking in a heady father-son adventure

Thousands of beer enthusiasts stand in line in the rain awaiting entrance to Dark Lord Day at 3 Floyds Brewing Co. in Muenster, Indiana.

Thousands of beer enthusiasts stand in line in the rain awaiting entrance to Dark Lord Day at 3 Floyds Brewing Co. in Muenster, Indiana.


Road trip to savor craft beer in Des Moines, Chicago, and Muenster strengthens bond, brew-tasting list

 

By John H. Ostdick

 

MUENSTER, Indiana — The cold, dreary rain that softly pelts my son, Hunter, and me seems apt on something called Dark Lord Day.

Austin transplant Jake DeHart and friends share craft beer offerings they’ve brought to drink while standing in line at 3 Floyds Brewing Co. in Muenster, Indiana.

Austin transplant Jake DeHart and friends share craft beer offerings they’ve brought to drink while standing in line at 3 Floyds Brewing Co. in Muenster, Indiana.

 

 

Yet, the weather is doing little to dampen the good vibe flowing among the thousands of beer lovers standing in a Muenster, Indiana, queue awaiting entrance to 3 Floyds Brewing Co.

 

The 20th annual Dark Lord Day release-date extravaganza of the brewing company’s Russian Imperial Stout, which attracts fans around the world, is the focal point of our father-son, road-and-beer trip. A couple of months before, Hunter, beer manager at Pogo’s Wine & Spirits in Dallas, texted me to hold this weekend open and then plunked down the $200 apiece that reserved us a spot in this sudsy circus.

A Dark Lord Day veteran sports a knitted cup holder.

A Dark Lord Day veteran sports a knitted cup holder.

So here we are, 1,200 miles later, after a detour to craft-beer-rich Iowa, road stops along the way to pick up impossible-to-get-in-Texas craft beers and a Cubs game at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

 

The craft beer explosion has exponentially increased the number of craft breweries worldwide. In 2012, there were 97 craft breweries in the United States (craft breweries fall under a small brewery designation, which means they have annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less), according to the Boulder, Colorado-based Brewers Association, a not-for-profit industry trade group). By 2015, that number had jumped to 178, a 31.9 percent increase from the previous year (the total number of U.S. breweries — regional craft, microbreweries, brewpubs, and both large and small non-craft breweries — was 4,269 in 2015).

 

Craft-brewed beer accounts for 20 percent of the U.S. beer market share by dollars and a 12.2 percent share

As the morning stretches on, the empties of shared product are left by the curbside as the line to enter moves forward.

As the morning stretches on, the empties of shared product are left by the curbside as the line to enter moves forward.

by volume in 2015, according to Association figures. That translated into a $22 billion business in 2015.

 

The following for 3 Floyds Brewing Co., birthed in 1996, is almost cultish. Three Floyds lives up to the brewing company’s “It’s Not Normal” slogan in strictly adhering to “the Samurai code of the German beer purity law.”  Dark Lord, an Imperial Stout brewed with coffee, Mexican vanilla, and Indian sugar, packs a punch befitting its heavy-metal label imagery.

 

The $200 ticket (strictly issued, no transfers, ID required upon entry) grants holders entrance to the festival

Once inside the 3 Floyds grounds, lines form during assigned product award times for the four bottles of 2016 Dark Lord Imperial Stout and one bottle of a rare Dark Lord variant that comes with the admission fee.

Once inside the 3 Floyds grounds, lines form during assigned product award times for the four bottles of 2016 Dark Lord Imperial Stout and one bottle of a rare Dark Lord variant that comes with the admission fee.

grounds, four bottles of 2016 Dark Lord Imperial Stout, one bottle of a rare Dark Lord variant, and a commemorative tote bag with $40 worth of food and drink vouchers for food fortifications and a bevy of brews on tap inside. For me, this adventure is a lark; for Hunter, it is lark, passion, and professional fact-and-taste gathering.

 

Festivals championing the craft beer movement are mushrooming. Beerfestivals.org recorded 1,478 such events in 2015, and the numbers keep climbing. The 2015 annual Great American Beer Festival in Denver drew 60,000 participants, who had access to product from 750 breweries. The festival is celebrating its 35th year October 6 through 8.

 

One of the early pioneers in the craft beer movement, Samuel Adams founder Jim Koch, forecast a heady

Participants move through tastings much quicker than through various lines during the Dark Lord event.

Participants move through tastings much quicker than through various lines during the Dark Lord event.

future for his industry in a 2009 interview: “Fifty years ago, a handful of California winemakers started making great wine and changed the way Americans think about U.S. wine and wine in general. Now it has a lot of respect and nobility.
“Beer is having the same metamorphosis. Twenty-five years ago, a handful of small American brewers started making world-class beer and changing how Americans think about beer. And 20-somethings are adopting beer in the same way their boomer parents adopted wine. It’s not just something they slug down — they want to sample it, know about it.”

 

That awakening is out in force in Muenster.

 

We’ve Uber-ed (parking is extremely limited) from our nearby hotel, where the desk clerk informs me that

Dark Lord tasting cups and beers come in various styles.

Dark Lord tasting cups and beers come in various styles.

founder/president Nick Floyd hung out in the lobby with fans the previous night.

Jake DeHart, his brother Josh, and some area friends — millennials all — are just ahead of us in the line waiting admittance. As we wait, they offer plastic cups and pours from the brews they have brought with them in backpacks. The products run from high lobs to baseline smashes for our taste buds. Super, thick and sweet is followed by light, sour alternatives. One guy keeps walking the line offering taste of the brews he has brought — Jake describes one heady alcohol content beer that packs a cough-medicine sweetness as “diabetes brew.”

 

Hunter Ostdick compares thoughts on various regional beers while he waits for his Dark Lord product time.

Hunter Ostdick compares thoughts on various regional beers while he waits for his Dark Lord product time.

This is Jake’s fifth Dark Lord Day, although he had to travel a bit farther this year than previous ones — he had moved to Austin, Texas, some months ago. He and his friends offer insider tips on how best to maneuver once inside — get beers to taste, food and merchandise as warranted, then seek refuge from the rain in the large concert tent until about 30 minutes before for your product time slot, when you line up again. Then taste to your heart’s content.

We do just that in cold rain, tasting brews and munching on slightly misted chorizo link sandwiches with guacamole, feta, and cilantro.

 

John and Hunter offer a selfie toast during their damp father-and-son Dark Lord Day.

John and Hunter offer a selfie toast during their damp father-and-son Dark Lord Day.

Although the crowd trends youngish and male, there are plenty of females and codgers sprinkled in. Everyone is friendly, bubbly, and into uber-sharing — of regional beer knowledge, differences in product, and their own story. I gather a deepened appreciation of how well Hunter knows his business in the process.

 

By the time we shuffle through the line to collect our 3 Floyds product, my saturated clothes are starting to meld. Hunter has indicated he’d like me to pick up Conquistador de la Muerte, a seasonal Milk Stout aged for one year in bourbon barrels with ancho and guajillo, as my variant selection.

 

Principal Park in Des Moines, home to the Chicago Cubs AAA baseball team, offers a view of the state Capitol beyond the right field fences.

Principal Park in Des Moines, home to the Chicago Cubs AAA baseball team, offers a view of the state Capitol beyond the right field fences.

Among much clamor around me, I am the sole customer for a tall, bearded staffer who stands behind the Muerte station. He smiles broadly at me in my bedraggled state, hands me a bottle, and says, “I love you, brother. Enjoy.”

 

We don’t hang in the screaming tent to listen to the lineup of six heavy metal bands playing all day. We don’t even make it that far into the wet afternoon, as Hunter has to catch a plane at Midway Airport to get home and I am meeting my brother, who happens to be hiking in Indiana, for a few days of brother bonding.  But we feel that we got our money’s worth.

 

The primitive exterior of el Bait Shop, a thriving downtown Des Moines bar that offers more than 236 drafts, cans, and bottles, camouflages the great atmosphere inside.

The primitive exterior of el Bait Shop, a thriving downtown Des Moines bar that offers more than 236 drafts, cans, and bottles, camouflages the great atmosphere inside.

Hunter allows that he “didn’t have a bad beer the entire trip.” We thoroughly enjoyed the AAA game we saw in Des Moines (go Iowa Cubs!) and a Cubs win at Wrigley.

 

The road time we’ve spent together has allowed me to further appreciate who Hunter is, more intimately see how his adult mind works, and how easily he interacts with strangers. That leaves a taste better than the most mellow of lagers.

 

 

 

A lunch customer eats at the bar of el Bait Shop in Des Moines.

A lunch customer eats at the bar of el Bait Shop in Des Moines.

THE ROAD TRIP SCORECARD

 

A look into our Stop/shop/taste bag:

 

Bier Station

Kansas City

Good beer selection, farm-to-market pretzels, Bavarian, potato rosemary, jalapeno-cheddar style, served warm with a choice of dipping sauce

www.bierstation.com/

 

The draft craft beer selection at el Bait Shop in Des Moines is staggering, in volume and quality.

The draft craft beer selection at el Bait Shop in Des Moines is staggering, in volume and quality.

Michigan-based Bell’s Brewing Co.’s Oberon Ale (a pale wheat scheduled to begin distribution in Texas in 2017)

 

Brooklyn-based Evil Twin Brewing’s Aun Mas Todo Jesus stout

 

Denver-based Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project’s Progerator, a Wild American ale with a lemony tartness

Exile Brewing Co. in Des Moines, which opened in 2012, only distributes its product on draught and in bottles throughout Iowa. California-based Zester’s Daily placed Exile fifth on its "America's 10 Best-Selling New Craft Beers" ranking in 2015.

Exile Brewing Co. in Des Moines, which opened in 2012, only distributes its product on draught and in bottles throughout Iowa. California-based Zester’s Daily placed Exile fifth on its “America’s 10 Best-Selling New Craft Beers” ranking in 2015.

Missouri-based Crane Brewing’s Grapefruit Gose, the salty, sour gose of Leipzig with an American touch of grapefruit zest

 

Ingersoll Wines and Spirits

Des Moines

Downtown location, good selection of craft beers.

http://www.ingersollwine.com/

 

Some of Chicago’s famous Old Style (to share with Dallas friends)

Hunter Ostdick enjoys a traditional Old Style beer at Wrigley Field in Chicago. First brewed in 1902, Old Style is a Chicago staple and deeply ingrained in the history and culture of the Upper Midwest.

Hunter Ostdick enjoys a traditional Old Style beer at Wrigley Field in Chicago. First brewed in 1902, Old Style is a Chicago staple and deeply ingrained in the history and culture of the Upper Midwest.

Iowa-based Toppling Goliath Brewing Co.’s pseudoSue, an American Pale Ale that is the state’s most sought-after brew

 

 

Iowa-based Peace Tree Brewing’s Kiss from a Gose, a tart golden ale twist on a classic German gose

 

Exile’s American IPA, a smack of fruity and floral aromas

 

 

John and Hunter Ostdick are able to check Wrigley Field off their list of stadiums to visit and toast a Cubs 6-1 win over the Atlanta Braves with an Old Style.

John and Hunter Ostdick are able to check Wrigley Field off their list of stadiums to visit and toast a Cubs 6-1 win over the Atlanta Braves with an Old Style.

El Bait Shop

Des Moines

An incredible beer-packed neighborhood dive, packed with a lunch crowd, many tables brewless, a testament to the quality of the food. The broasted chicken was excellent. We could have made a career out of the 236 drafts, bottles, or cans listed on its printed beer list. A list is updated weekly online (elbaitshop.com/beer-menu).  The Miller High Life Lounge, immediately next door, is a 1960s homage bar.

http://elbaitshop.com/

 

Des Moines-based Exile Brewing Co.‘s The Gigi, a smooth caramel dark lager

Hunter Ostdick records each of the new beers he tastes. The Pogo’s Wine & Spirits beer manager has tasted about 1,100 different beers to this point.

Hunter Ostdick records each of the new beers he tastes. The Pogo’s Wine & Spirits beer manager has tasted about 1,100 different beers to this point.

Toppling Goliath’s Golden Nugget, a golden, medium-bodied IPA

 

Peace Tree Brewing’s No Coast IPA, a grapefruit-kissed brew with a brooding bitterness

 

 

Fong’s Pizza

Des Moines

Asian-inspired pizzas & appetizers, where we devoured Sesame Chicken pizza and Pizza Rolls (handmade in egg roll wrappers, filled with pepperoni, Graziano sausage and mozzarella, served with marinara)

http://fongspizza.com/desmoines/

Hunter Ostdick lays out the product he brings back with him. He will savor, share, and trade the bottles of various brews.

Hunter Ostdick lays out the product he brings back with him. He will savor, share, and trade the bottles of various brews.

Iowa-based Confluence Brewing’s Des Moines IPA, a citrus-infused, piney American take on India Pale Ale

 

 

Exile Brewing Co.

Des Moines

Exile Brewing Co. in Des Moines, which opened in 2012, only distributes its product on draught and in bottles throughout Iowa. California-based Zester’s Daily placed Exile fifth on its “America’s 10 Best-Selling New Craft Beers” ranking in 2015.

Brews and a fairly extensive menu

http://exilebrewing.com/

 

 

Hannah, Bavarian Wheat and malt with citrus, banana and clove accents

 

Beatnik Sour, a tart and acidic Berliner-style Weisse

 

Blood Orange Bohemian, a fruit sour ale

 

 

Binny’s Beverage Depot

Chicago

32 Chicago locations

Good selection of craft products.

https://www.binnys.com//

 

 

3 Floyd’s Brewing Co. Alpha six pack, a bold yet balanced American Pale Ale with slight caramel sweetness and aggressive citrus hoppiness that the brewery considers its flagship beer

 

3 Floyd’s Brewing Co. Gumballhead six pack, an American wheat beer with a refreshing, crisp citrus finish

 

 

Principal Park

Des Moines

Home to Cubs’ AAA team has better craft beer offerings than Glove Life Park in Arlington.

http://iowa.cubs.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t451

 

 

Peace Tree Brewing’s Sound Check Session IPA, easy-drinking, light hop-forward India Pale Ales; portion of each sale goes to growing music scene in central Iowa

 

Iowa-based Boone Valley Brewing Co.’s Hallagan Porter, a low-bitterness porter with slight chocolate flavors

 

Iowa-based West O Beer’s CocO Chocolate Stout, hints of chocolate, plus coffee and oats

 

Wrigley Field

Chicago

 

Old Style draft to go with our Chicago Dog

 

 

3 Floyd’s Brewing Co.

Dark Lord Day

Muenster, Indiana

Wildly unusual brews and one heck of an annual celebration

www.3Floyds.com

 

 

Standing in line (we missed the name of some walk-by pours)

 

California-based Lagunitas Brewing Co.’s Waldos Special, a honey citrus hops bomb

 

Minnesota-based Steel Toe Brewing’s Dissent, roasted malt with hint of coffee

 

Austin-based Jester King Brewery’s Foudreweizen, collaboration with Austin’s Live Oak Brewing Co.

 

Inside

 

Gumballhead, American wheat beer with a crisp citrus finish

(“brewed with boatloads of Amarillo hops”)

 

Zombie Dust, intensely hopped and gushing Pale Ale

 

Yum-Yum, a Pale Ale with just the right malt backbone to support an explosive juicy hop profile

 

Dark Lord, Russian Imperial Stout brewed with coffee, Mexican vanilla, and Indian sugar

 

Deesko, a Munster-style Berliner Weiss — a tart, summer brew

 

LazerSnake, an old-fashioned Indiana Pale Ale, brewed with special Bavarian hops

 

 

Midway Airport bar

 

Chicago-based Revolution Brewing’s Anti-hero IPA, a four-hop blend that imparts bitterness and massive floral/citrus aromas

 

 

FOR FURTHER CONSIDERATION

 

Searching for your adventure at beer-related events?

 

Check out:

http://www.ratebeer.com/events.asp

or

http://www.beeradvocate.com/events/calendar/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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