Anyone that follows me on Twitter knows I like craft beer. I even write a beer blog, which I consider an excuse to drink. As if I needed an excuse to drink. Beer is good. Craft beer is even better, and as the scene begins to grow, I can honestly say that I was on board before it got popular. I am not a hipster or anything… I just love craft beer, and enjoy talking/writing about it. I like a lot of different styles, and the cool thing about craft beer is that your enjoyment is extremely personal. You might like something that I hate, and vice versa. From pale ales to oatmeal stouts, there are also a lot of different styles to choose from. India Pale Ale (IPA) is my favorite style… but as my palate changes, that could change over the years as well.
Here in the Valley, there are tons of places to get a beer. I LOVE Four Peaks Brewing Company, and while the brewery is located in Tempe, they have a restaurant and brewpub right here in north Scottsdale. There is also Sonoran Brewing Company and Papago Brewing Company. I enjoy Papago, and while their prices seem a little bit high, the atmosphere is incredible. We are also finding new places to drink from Nimbus Brewing Company near Old Town to O.H.S.O. eatery + nanoBrewery over on the west side of town. O.H.S.O. is fantastic. They have a great concept, tons of space, and their beer selection is good. Basically, in the future you will be able to come in, brew a batch of beer, and then when it’s ready put it on tap for others to try.
When we travel, we always try to find places to drink good local beer. One of my favorite breweries in Indianapolis is Black Swan. It’s right by the airport, so if you are in Indy and have some time to kill, check them out. I like Black Swan for several reasons, but mostly because they don’t serve domestic beers. They only serve their beers. They do have some guest taps from time to time, but mainly just their own beers. Good thing most of their beers are pretty great. The last time I was there, I ordered a flight and tried all ten of their beers. They also were celebrating their two-year anniversary, and had three imperial beers that were only available for the anniversary celebration. The beers that I tried are listed below. Thanks to a handy tasting sheet they provided us when we sat down, I also list the ABV (alcohol by volume), the IBU (international bittering units), the malt profile, and the hops they used in each beer.
IPA • ABV 6.0% • IBU 90
Malt: Pale, Carared
Hops: Nugget, Caascade, Summit, Pilgrim, Palisade
Description: A hop-full American IPA, and easily our hoppiest beer. Did we mention it has hops in it?
Cream Stout • ABV 7.3 • IBU 37
Malt: Pale, Dark Crystal, Belgian Chocolate, Roasted Barley, Lactose
Ruby Ale • ABV 4.3% • IBU 12
Malt: Pale, Caracrystal Wheat, Honey Malt
Description: Toffee and rich caramel dominate the flavor with hints of honey in the nose. This beer is easy to drink and well balanced.
Blonde • ABV 5.5% • IBU 10
Malt: Pilsner, Wheat Malt, Crystal
Description: Golden yellow, mild and smooth.
Scottish Ale • ABV 8.1% • IBU 53
Malt: Pale, CaraRed, Roasted Barley
Description: One of the strongest beers in our regular lineup, slightly sweet with hints of roasted and crystal malt dominating the flavor profile
Fuggles Mild • ABV 4.9% • IBU 25
Malt: Pilsner, Red Wheat, ark Crystal
Description: A Black Swan takes on a British mild. A nice handful of fuggles hops make this beer aromatic, easy to drink, and delicious.
Summit Cascade Double Pale Ale • ABV 5.7% • IBU 75
Malt: 2 Row Pale, Dark Crystal
Hops: Summit and Cascade
Description: Our double pale ale recipe switched up with summit and cascade hops with a healthy cascade dry hop. Very bold hop aroma with a slightly dry finish to accentuate the hop flavor.
French Country Ale • ABV 6.8 • IBU 12
Malt: Pale, Crystal
Description: A simply malt bill allows the unique character of the French saison yeast to stand out. This beer is very exciting and develops with every sip.
Belgian Strong Ale • ABV 8.5% • IBU 25
Malt: Pale, Dark Crystal
Hops: Palisade, Centennial
Description: A big Belgian style ale brewed with special yeast strain from the Ardennes region of Belgium. Very spicy, estery, and complex.
Cherry Wood Smoked Porter • ABV 5.9% • IBU 30
Malt: Pale, Crystal Smoked Malt, Chocolate, Black
Description: Our base porter recipe with the addition of cherry wood smoked malt. This beer is elegantly balanced between ark roasted malts and the beautiful aroma nd flavor or smoked malt.
Wheat IPA (Wippa) • 7.1% ABV • IBU 90
Malt: Pale, Wheat, Pale Crystal, Caracrystal Wheat, Carafa III
Hops: Nugget, Palisade, Cascade
Description: A different take on our house IPA using malt, Carafa for color and new hop blend. A big Palisade dry hop gives this beer a great aroma to fir the flavor.
The three imperial beers included the 2001 Roggenwein, the BackBone Barrel Imperial Brown Rye and the BackBone Barrel Oatmeal Stout. They didn’t have tasting notes for these three, since they are a limited release. But all three were good. They are more expensive, but they are three solid beers.
As with every beer that I drink, I tracked them all on Untappd. You can visit my profile to see my thoughts on all of these different beers. I also had a sandwich while visiting the Black Swan Brewpub. I ordered a turkey and Brie apple sandwich that was served on wheat bread with a side salad. It was as good as the beers!
I have only been to Black Swan twice, but I was very impressed with both visits. Their beers are better than I remember, and I was excited to try a flight of their regular beers and their anniversary imperial offering. The barrel aged imperial stout was the best, but they are all good. Even the blonde. I asked the server to pass my information along to the brewmaster. I would love to interview him here on the blog and learn more about his time spent at Black Swan and his process for making beer and building the recipes.
Guest Beers on Tap
Black Swan has an impressive portfolio, but they also feature some guest taps from time to time. Right now they have the Wyder’s Berry Cider on tap. I must admit, I am a “cider guy”, and while I didn’t try the Wyder’s Berry Cider, I wanted to! You can get a half pint for only $2.75 or a full pint for $5. Not a bad price for a guest beer. You can also get a growler filled up for $8.00. (If you don’t already have a growler, you can get one filled for only $12.)
They also have a few bottled beers available. They offer Samuel Smith’s Winter Warmer, Red McGregor, and the New Planet Off Grid Pale Ale. That beer is gluten free, and they mention that on the menu. My buddy Ken will appreciate that! The beer actually isn’t bad, but since I am not gluten free I don’t usually order that one. Sorry guys, no Bud Light or Coors Original! This is a place intended for craft beer drinkers. Local craft beer drinkers, at that!
After 1001 Bottles
Our 1001 Bottles project is off to a great start, and I am always excited to research and review a new beer. But even though we have over 750 beers left to drink, I am already thinking about what is next for us. Unless I have a change of heart, I think I want to write my own book. With Sheryl’s help, of course. I just hope she likes the ideas that I have been tossing around. Basically I want to travel the world, hitting at least one brewery in every state in the United States of America, and then several across the world. From Belgium to Germany, I want to see what breweries are like across the pond.
In the book, we would sample/review several (or all) of the beers they currently have available, taking pictures of the brewery and the beers along the way. We would also learn about the brewery, the history of the brewery, and what other special releases they make each year. Imagine writing a chapter on Three Floyds in Munster, Indiana. We could visit on Dark Lord Day and highlight the super rare Dark Lord that people travel from all over the world to buy. On top of featuring and reviewing the beers, we would also interview the brewmaster, and pick one beer from the portfolio that we would feature in the chapter.
Anyway, that’s a LONG way from now, but is something I am already thinking about. Visiting places like Black Swan helps me realize why we would do this. The work that goes into making a single beer, let alone making a lineup like this that actually tastes good. Craft beer is a growing industry, and I can’t wait to see what’s next. I can’t wait to try my next beer. Do you have a favorite style? Until your next beer drinking experience, bottoms up!