For too many folks the state of Indiana does not necessarily evoke images of great craft beer or micro breweries. There is a tendency for fellow, and sometimes a bit too arrogant, Illinoisans to think of Indiana as that state between Chicago and Ohio, or Chicago and Michigan, or Chicago and most anywhere else east. I’ll confess to that a time or two as well. If pressed it is the land of John Cougar whatshisname, who did that song about a debutante in his backseat or something. But great beer? Not so much.
Brian and I have had beers from all around the world. I have cracked a bottle of Sarajevo Beer on the frontline of a war, argued politics with a drunken Russian at a brew pub in Budapest and imbibed freshly brewed Weiss beer in a Bavarian castle, but ask me to name an Indiana Brewery and I am momentarily stumped.
Three Floyds is a member of both the Brewers of Indiana Guild and the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, so it’s easy to make that mistake. Add to my retinue of Indiana beers, Lost River Blonde Ale from Cutters Brewering Company in Avon Indiana. Deep in the heart of Indiana, you’d practically have to be lost to find this place, hidden in the shadow of Indianapolis. But in that shadow someone has learned a thing or two about brewing very pleasing and accessible beers.
Lost River poured golden and clean, with a sturdy snow-white head. The head settled within a few minutes. A really beautiful lacing clung to the sides of the pint glass. I found it nicely balanced with a slight sweetness, contrasting a grapefruity citrus bitterness. There was a breadiness that reminded me of a good pilsner, but it was hardly overwhelming. And finally, this was a really refreshing beer, bearing in mind that drinking beer in the Midwest is different than other places. A beer needs to be refreshing and casual for the average Midwest drinker, but still offer the layers and levels sought after by craft aficionados. It has to work at a ball game, at the barbeque and be conversational at the bar too. So far Lost River Blonde Ale is two for three. I’ll have to try it at a ball game sometime to see if they can go three for three.
For food, the wife and I did something simple and homey; grilled Chicken thighs, roasted potatoes and a tomato, onion and cucumber salad with olive oil and vinegar. I recommend a bit of spice with this beer. The gentle warmth of a bit of hot paprika, pepper, a touch of Giardiniera oil and basil roasted with the chicken was perfect. Keep it simple with this one. In pairing I’d recommend marinades and dry rubs for a light to medium heat rather that heavy sauces or really heavy flavors. BBQ sauce would overwhelm this beer. Brats with a pickle and a rustic stone-ground mustard would also be a fine match.
Cutters Brewing Company’s Lost River Blonde Ale makes my list of the top summer beers in the Midwest. Now, I’m looking for their Monon Wheat. I’m a sucker for a good Belgian Style Wit beer. Anybody?