Fest draws craft beer lovers
By Anthony D. Alonzo Post-Tribune correspondent May 13, 2013 3:50PM
Sam Smith of Valparaiso washes his tasting glass at the water station at Blue Chip Casino's Brewfest in Michigan City on April 13. The venue's Stardust event center hosted more than 50 microbrewer beer vendors. | Photo by Anthony D. Alonzo for Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 13, 2013 3:50PM
There’s a time and a place to enjoy nationally distributed beers that are brewed on a large scale. And many among a crowd of more than 1,400 visitors at Blue Chip Casino’s recent Brewfest believed that the event did not fit that bill.
In its third year, the event hosted at the Michigan City casino on April 13 remained a celebration of craft beer, a unique beverage that is prepared on a modest scale by increasingly recognizable microbreweries.
More than 50 vendors — several from Northwest Indiana — set up booths at Blue Chip’s Stardust event center and served samples of ales and lagers. They gave away logoed coasters and matchbooks or sold brewery-themed T-shirts.
Twin brothers Blake and Steve Murray of LaPorte greeted samplers.
“It looks great so far,” said Blake, co-owner of Burn ‘Em Brewing. “We’re trying to do as many tastings and giving out as much beer as we can till we’re licensed.”
The gregarious 24-year-olds gleaned their brewmaster skills while working at Greenbush Brewing Co. just across the state line in Michigan. They’re currently constructing a taproom at their late father’s business in Michigan City.
“As soon as that goes down we’ll be using Greenbush’s old seven-barrel system and be brewing 10 to 12 kegs at a time,” Steve explained.
The Murrays were all tapped out halfway through the three-hour fest as their five-gallon heads supplying Biervana pale ale, Hop Parade IPA, Joey Wheat coffee wheat, Hopkick Dropkick double IPA, and Gluttony smoked maple porter ran dry.
Whiting-based Bulldog Brewing Co. had brought industrial-sized tanks and offered not only ales, but also their less-hoppy 11 Mile Lager. Bulldog treasurer Bob Fausto and brewmaster Kevin Clark described the lager as “medium-bodied starting with six-row malt and enhanced by our special blend of American hops.”
Shoreline Brewery, which operates a brewpub just blocks from the casino, offered several of its brews. Another LaPorte County product, Back Road Brewery’s Chuck Krcilek served three brews backed by his 14 years of beer-making experience.
Porter County was represented by Valparaiso’s Figure Eight, a microbrewery founded in March 2010.
On a guys’ getaway with friends, Chesterton resident Todd Matuska came in search of undiscovered libations. He was also looking for inspiration for his home brewing.
“I make them up as I go,” said Matuska. “I kind of grew up on Three Floyds so I kind of use the practice of over-flavoring bold, out-there, kind of crazy stuff.”
Matuska’s manipulation of water, malted barley, yeast and hops has yielded beers such as his Jonah and the Ale. One day he wishes to expand his Weeping Man Brewing.
Though about 80 to 90 percent of Brewfest attendees were men, that still meant there were a large number of women beer samplers. Portage restaurant servers Roxanne Krieg, Kandi Gutierrez, Jacqueline Lazar and Jessie Reeder said their interest in rare brews drew them to the event.
They said fest servers and guests seemed to be “cool, upbeat people.”