Cups of Christmas cheer

Forget about the wine – local microbreweries are turning out some fabulous flavored beers perfect for seasonal sipping and pairing with special holiday meals.

Here’s what’s on tap:

Bier Brewery – Brewmaster Darren Conner is cranking through a whole bunch of enticing seasonal quaffs including a pumpkin ale — or as Darren calls it, “liquid pumpkin pie” — brewing now through December; a chocolate stout; and a winter porter spiced with star anise, juniper berries and sweet orange. Check out his web site for availability and get ‘em while you can. This nanobrewery only concocts small batches and when they run out, so does your luck.

Triton Brewing Company – Seek out the new Gingerbread Brown, redolent with all the spice of this classic holiday treat and tapping this Wednesday just in time for Thanksgiving. Also noteworthy, Mike DeWeese says Triton’s Magnificent Amber and Deadeye Stout are both aged in bourbon barrels and spiced with the season-appropriate flavors of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Sun King Brewing Company — Dave Colt and Clay Robinson are cooking up Malus Pi, a tart and tangy wheat beer infused with crabapple juice. Late frost is making it difficult to pin down a definite release date, but the beer should be out sometime during the holiday season.

Das Bier Big Dawg Brew Haus — Richmond’s newest brewing operation has plans for a delicious-sounding dark chocolate peppermint stout to release on or around December 10. With beer this scrumptious, who needs dessert?

Flat 12 Bierwerks — Last year, these porter hounds introduced a glazed ham variation that I’m hoping will make a return engagement this season. Yes, I said glazed ham. Flat 12’s drinkable incarnation conjures hints of allspice, coriander and brown sugar. Keep your eyes peeled…

Upland Brewing Company — This SoBro tasting room is pouring some interesting brews, including Winter Warmer barleywine, a dark and malty English quaff perfect for chasing the chill out of cold snowy nights. Upland has also aged a little bit of last year’s Winter Warmer in three-year-old barrels from Kentucky’s Buffalo Trace Distillery to re-release as Bourbon Barrel Warmer. There’s also Teddy Bear Kisses to consider, a soon-to-be-released velvety Imperial Russian stout with roasty bittersweet chocolate notes.

I’m sure there are plenty more local seasonal beers out there worthy of a holiday dinner. Feel free to add a comment with additional suggestions. This Thanksgiving, I’m toasting to you, fair readers!

Come on, get hoppy

Last night, hubby and I headed downtown to sample the wares at one of the more recent additions to the thriving Indianapolis microbrewing scene — Flat 12 Bierwerks.

We’re well familiar with Sun King and Thr3e Wise Men has become one of our regular Broad Ripple hangouts, but I must admit, I didn’t know a great deal about Flat 12 going in. Hubby’s enjoyed the beers on several occasions at pubs around town, but this marked my first taste of the product.

Flat 12 is located just east of downtown on Dorman Street, and you really have to know where you’re going to find it. It’s across the street from the new Goose the Market Meatery enterprise, but otherwise, there’s not much going on in this industrial neighborhood ‘cept for a couple of really cool-looking modern condo buildings. We saw a glut of cars angling for street spots before we’d actually glimpsed the Flat 12 building, and figured we must be in the right neck of the woods.

Flat 12 Bierwerks exterior

First impressions – the facility itself is really attractive, exposed brick walls, high beamed ceilings and good merchandising. Nicely done, y’all. You flash your ID when you walk through the door and get your hand stamped, then you’re given five free drink tickets for tastes of your choice.

the Flat 12 tasting room

On to the important stuff. They really had a decently big selection available to taste during our visit, including eight or nine year-round classics and nearly half a dozen seasonal/specialty offerings.

Flat 12 beers for the tasting

My favorite beer of the night was probably the Grain Wave American Wit, a straightforward wheat beer with a hint of citrus. A good all-around entry-level microbrew for a go-to domestic beer drinker like myself. I liked the Upside Down Blonde too, but found the wit a little more flavorful.

I managed to ask one of the busy servers what he’d consider the “signature” Flat 12 beer/s. He said the porter and the IPA. I usually find IPAs a little too hoppy for my taste, so I passed on the Half Cycle IPA and ordered a swig of the Pogue’s Run Porter, a dark but still mellow beer that I really liked. I was curious to try the Tangerine Porter as well to contrast and compare flavor notes, but alas, it had run out. Instead, I followed up with the Lacto-Matic Milk Stout. Wow, does this baby pack a punch. Imagine a beer-flavored shot of espresso and you’ve kinda got the right idea. It even looks like espresso in the cup. A little too much for me. I couldn’t finish it.

Flat 12's Lacto-Matic Milk Stout

My tasting concluded with a sip of Walkabout Pale Ale, made with Galaxy hops from Australia. Didn’t like this one, the flavor was just a little too funky for me.

Flat 12's Walkabout Pale Ale

The Flat 12 roster on the web site details several intriguing seasonal beers that I want to keep my eyes peeled for. Namely a German-style Karousel Kolsch (I learned to LOVE kolsch during our visits to Cologne within the past few years), the Bloody Blonde made with blood oranges and ruby red grapefruit (I enjoy fruity beers), and a Glazed Ham Porter (!) redolent with holiday spices.

One small complaint about the tasting room service… the guys who were pouring seemed a little on the gruff side. This being our first time at Flat 12, I’d kinda hoped to ask a few questions about the beers and the business. The answers I got were short and borderline curt. I guess maybe “serious” might be a better word to describe the personalities here. I’m sure they’re probably perfectly lovable guys when you catch them outside a tasting rush. In any event, one gets the feeling they don’t mess around when it comes to their beer.

Overall, we really enjoyed our Flat 12 visit. Good selling points— if you find a beer you really like while tasting, you can purchase a pint to enjoy on site (or a growler or half-growler to take home). And you can even grab some grub and make a meal of your visit thanks to the Byrne’s Grilled Pizza food truck parked outside in the side lot. We saw some of said pizzas flying around to the scattering of tables both indoors and out, and they looked and smelled damn tempting.

Glad to finally make your acquaintance, Flat 12. I’m sure we’ll be seeing each other again.

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