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Eric Strader
Eric Strader
Eric Strader writes about the craft beer scene in Indiana and Michigan. He's a dad, husband, potter, soccer coach, special education paraprofessional, who likes to read, bike, hike, and canoe.



Blue Chip Brewfest returns for its fourth year

More than 200 beers from over 50 local and regional breweries will be available for sampling.


Posted on April 4, 2014 at 8:00 a.m.

The 4th annual Blue Chip Brewfest will be coming up on Saturday, April 12, and last week I was able to preview some of the local breweries that will be showcased at this event. More than 200 beers from over 50 breweries will be available for sampling. Some of the larger breweries will actually be represented by their distributor, but many of the smaller local brewers will be there in person.

Because of the popularity of the Blue Chip Brewfest, now in its fourth year, the event will be held in the Stardust Event Center at Blue Chip in Michigan City, IN, and also in an adjacent climate-controlled event tent.

Three ticket packages are available, including the Brewmaster package, which includes a luncheon with Fred Bueltmann of New Holland Brewing and a separate VIP tasting from 1 to 3 pm, a VIP package, which includes the VIP tasting, and the $40 general admission package which includes the main tasting event from 1:30 to 5 pm.

Tickets are $99 for the Brewmaster Package, $75 for VIP admission, $40 for regular admission and $15 for designated drivers and are available at Ticketmaster.com or at the Blue Chip Gift Box in the casino pavilion. Guests must be 21 or older, with a valid state or government-issued photo ID.

VIP ticket holders receive early admission and can attend an additional tasting from 1 pm to 3 pm of barrel-aged beers, sour beers and Firkins. They will also receive a wristband, pint glass, lanyard and t-shirt. Brewmaster Package ticket holders can attend a luncheon with a brewmaster from 12 pm to 1 pm in the Orleans Room, and also have access to the VIP tasting and the general tasting. The Brewmaster Package also includes a wristband, pint glass, bottle opener, t-shirt and lanyard.

General admission ticket holders receive a pint glass and guests with designated driver tickets will receive a wristband, t-shirt, and complimentary soda and water, but are not allowed to sample alcoholic beer.

Blue Chip will hold a silent auction during the event for premium items such as a mini-fridge, coolers and other beer-themed collectibles. Proceeds will benefit the United Way of LaPorte County.

Food offerings available for purchase will include brats, hot dogs and pretzels. All of the Blue Chip restaurants will be open

Here are some highlights that I was able to sample at the preview event.

Jesse Sensenig, owner of the Goshen Brewing Company, came along with me to the preview event, and it wasn't until we were just a few miles away that we remembered the time change. So if you are planning on attending this event, please remember that Michigan City is an hour earlier than here in Elkhart or St. Joseph County.

Since we arrived early, we took the time to chat with Mike Lahti, head brewer, and Neil Davey, sales, from Figure Eight Brewing, Valparaiso. I remember a few years back when their bottled 22 oz. bottles made an appearance in the South Bend area. Some of their bottles are currently available, but they are looking to begin larger distribution in both bottle and draft to Michiana.

With so many beers to taste, I limited myself to one beer per brewery to begin. So I started with Figure 8's Black Corridor (imperial stout, 10.5% ABV) paired with chocolate imperial stout cake. It poured very dark with lots of nice chocolate and roasted malt on the nose and in the flavor. It was brewed with a blend of four grains, dark chocolate and East Kent Goldings hops. I did come back later to sample the Choss (triple IPA, 11% ABV, IBUs 100+). Very nice with lots of floral, citrus and piney-ness from the Citra and Cluster hops and some nice earthiness from Polaris hops.

We then moved on to chat with Steve Murray, founding father of Burn'em Brewing, Michigan City. They had some great music inspired names, including ZZ Hop (double red ale, 9.7% ABV) brewed with Zues and Zythos hops, and paired with sharp bleu cheese. Murray was a bar tender at Greenbush Brewing where he became interested in brewing. After creating a recipe for the brewer (it is still loved, brewed, and bottled by Greenbush today), he was promoted to a brewing position. He did make it known that his wish was to open his own brewery at some point. So, recently, when Greenbush purchased a new brew house, they offered Murray the chance to purchase their old equipment for his start up, Burn 'Em brewing.

General manager, Tim Jongsma was pouring beer for Shoreline Brewery, Michigan City. Jesse and I split on our first tasting at this table, he sampled Sum Nug (American IPA, 7% ABV), while I chose World Beer Cup medal winner Beltaine (Scottish Ale, 4.7% ABV). Generally, I'm not a big meat eater, but since this was paired with seared duck breast with grilled figs and pistacio mostardo-sweet potato hash, I just couldn't resist. It was cooked nice and rare to medium which was great with the sweetness of the beer, along with some molasses and toffee flavors, and a slight bit of traditional Scottish “peaty-ness” associated with this style.

We later returned and got Tim to open (without much urging) the two wax capped bottles – 3 Sum (imperial IPA, 9% ABV), and Curse The Goat (Dopplebock, 10% ABV). These are both part of their Big Bourbon Series, which means that they settled for 6 months after they were brewed, aged for 12 months in bourbon barrels, then conditioned another 6 months in the bottle. So, the 2011 release is their most recent vintage of these beers. You can find older vintages in this series at the brewery and other Michiana bottle shops.

Eighteenth Street Brewery was named Indiana's #1 New Brewer for 2013 by RateBeer.com. Their Nubian Overlord (imperial IPA, 8.8% ABV) was a great example of why they were chosen as such. Brewer Drew Fox is not timid with his hops! This was a very balanced beer with plenty of citrus, mango, floral, bitter, bready, character. It was paired with a mini pork belly burger with a spicy grain mustard. I was also intrigued by the artwork on some glasses that they had brought for display that featured the label from Hunter (sweet stout, 8% ABV). This was not available at the preview, but the brewery is part way through releasing their Hunter vertical series which includes eight variants – coffee, vanilla, cherry, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, and cider to just name a few. I look forward to enjoying more of Drew's beers in the future!

Twisted K-8 Brewing will be releasing their I Don't Remember (7.2% ABV) key lime beer at the Brewfest. Brewer, Michael Boshaw told me that the name came from their favorite Key West bar where the slogan was “I came, I drank, I don't remember”. Almost a full pound of lime zest was used to “dry hop” this beer, and the citrus definitely came through, much like an IPA citrus flavor. This beer is often compared to a shandy, and seemed like a good refreshing summer beer. It was appropriately paired with a tuna lettuce wrap – great for a warm sunny day.

Next, to a brewery that's been around since 2008. Crown Brewing brewmaster, Steve Mazylewski, was pouring up their World Beer Cup award wining Crown Brown (American Brown Ale, 4.1% ABV). It was brewed with imported English hops and malt, and being one of their flagship beers, is always on tap at the brewery. With a low ABV and low carbonation, the good nutty, roasty, biscuity flavors were allowed to shine through. Excellently paired with beer battered fish and chips.

“Good Beer, Crafted for hard working people” is the slogan for a brewery located in Whiting, between Gary and Chicago. Kevin Clark is the head brewer for Bulldog Brewing, and he was on hand to pour some of his beer. I sampled his oatmeal stout, which is served on nitrogen at the pub. There was some roasted malt and chocolate flavors, that were not overshadowed by over carbonation. It was nicely paired with a rich Tiramisu. By day, Kevin is a steel worker, and in his “time off” he is a brewer.

Hunter's Brewing, is a one barrel nano brewery, owned by Justin Reisetter and Amy Gentry. The brewery is located in Chesterton, Porter County, and they have cleverly named their porter, Porter County (5.7% ABV). It had some pleasant smoky and sweet caramel flavors. The chef used Porter County to create a wonderful BBQ sauce to compliment his BBQ pork.

Marketing director for Greenbush Brewing, Jennnifer Piotter, was pouring beer for her brewery. It is sad to say, that at an event with so much beer to taste, I chose to not sample any of the Greenbush beers, since I have had them all previously. Jen was pouring Closure (American Pale, 5.8% ABV), 1825 (Belgian Strong Pale, 9.3), and Anger (American Black Ale, 7.6% ABV). Greenbush will however, be debuting a new beer to Indiana- Looner Eclipse (Belgian Wit, 6.2% ABV) which has been available at the tap room. It is brewed with lemon, coriander, and cumin – great for the warmer weather that is on it's way. Another new-ish beer that they will be featuring at the fest will be Star Chicken Shotgun, a West Coast style IPA brewed with five different hops. See image with label artwork by Ken Holecyznski.

Here is a full list of Participating breweries:

Tenth and Blake Beer Company, Milwaukee, WI

18th Street Brewery, Gary, IN

Three Floyds Brewing Co., Munster, IN

Back Road Brewery, La Porte, IN

Barley Island Brewing Company, Noblesville, IN

Coors Batch 19, Golden, CO

Belakus, College Station, TX

Bell’s Brewery, Kalamazoo, MI

Blue Moon Brewing Co., Golden, CO

Boston Beer, Boston, MA

Boulevard Brewing, Kansas City, MO

Brooklyn Brewery, New York, NY

Bulldog Brewery, Whiting, IN

Burn ‘Em Brewing, Michigan City, IN

Crispin Cider Company, Minneapolis, MN

Chapman’s Brewing Company, Angola, IN

Crown Brewing, Crown Point, IN

Dark Horse Brewing Co., Marshall, MI

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE

Drewry’s Brewing Company, South Bend, IN

Evil Czech Brewery, Culver, IN

Figure Eight Brewing, Valparaiso, IN

FLAT 12 Bierwerks, Indianapolis, IN

Miller Fortune, Milwaukee, WI

Fox Barrel, Colfax, CA

Goose Island Brewery, Chicago, IL

Great Lakes Brewing Company, Cleveland, OH

Green Flash Brewing Company, San Diego, CA

Greenbush Brewing Company, Sawyer, MI

Hunter’s Brewing, Chesterton, IN

Iechyd Da! Brewing Company, Elkhart, IN

Killian’s, Golden, CO

Lagunitas Brewing Company, Chicago, IL

Leinenkugel, Baltimore, MD

New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins, CO

New Holland Brewing, Holland, MI

North Coast Brewing Company, Fort Bragg, CA

Oskar Blues Brewery, Longmont, CO

Pabst Brewing Company, Milwaukee, WI

Redds, Milwaukee, WI

Rogue Ales & Spirits, Ashland, OR

Round Barn Brewery, Baroda, MI

The Saint Louis Brewery, St. Louis, MO

Shoreline Brewery, Michigan City, IN

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Chico, CA

Smith & Forge Hard Cider, Memphis, TN

Southern Tier Brewing Company, Lakewood, NY

Sun King Brewing Co., Indianapolis, IN

Triton Brewing Company, Indianapolis, IN

Twisted K-8 Brewing, La Porte, IN

Unibroue, Chambly, Quebec, Canada

Upland Brewing Co., Bloomington, IN

Veteran Beer Company, Chicago, IL

Victory Brewing Company, Downingtown, PA

Virtue Cider, Chicago, IL

Woodchuck Cidery, Middlebury, VT

Here are the details:

Saturday, April 12 1:30PM – 5:00 PM

Blue Chip Casino, Michiana City, IN

to purchase tickets - http://www.ticketmaster.com/Blue-Chip-Brewfest-tickets/artist/1687532

for full details visit the website - http://www.bluechipcasino.com/whats-new/events/4th-annual-blue-chip-brewfest




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