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Northwest Indiana has joined the ranks of regions capitalizing on craft beer mania. This compact area has nearly 20 microbreweries and more established craft breweries, all producing a broad range of fine stouts and ales. Spending a weekend visiting the Northwest Indiana breweries on the South Shore Brewery Trail is a popular weekend activity.
Brewers in Northwest Indiana have embraced their surroundings, namely water from Lake Michigan. Crown Brewery’s Brewmaster, Steve Mazylewski, told me that Lake Michigan water is some of the finest in the world, which is why he brews here instead of another location. In fact, throughout the region, I encountered brewers embracing the terroir and focusing on local ingredients whenever possible.
Historically, when it comes to the Midwest, beer drinkers and even craft beer lovers have come to have modest expectations. Certainly, the region has perfected the Pils, Hefeweizen and a plethora of wheat beers. But beer aficionados can take heart that the region produces a slew of bold hop-heavy, West Coast-style IPAs and other ingenious brews.
Northwest Indiana Breweries
I spent a weekend exploring the South Shore Brewery Trail and here are a few of my favorites—
The regional heavyweight is located in Crown Point in an annex of the former Lake County Jail, where John Dillinger escaped in 1934. Some of the beer names, such as the Kill ‘Em Ale, pay homage to that time. The subtly mellow Industrial Porter is a perennial favorite here, taking a Bronze in the 2010 World Beer Cup. This Porter has a very mellow hoppy bitterness layered with sweet caramel.
But, on a hot day, I fell in love with the Apricot Weiss, a German-style Hefewizen with a heavy fruit nose and a lingering finish. This was the perfect pairing to the chunky Italian sausage pizza from Carriage Court Pizza (conveniently co-located in the same building). Not to be missed is the tour of the Beer Vault, where the brews are aged.
Figure Eight Brewing
One of the great Northwest Indiana breweries is Figure Eight Brewing in the college town of Valparaiso. I embarked on the ambitious 13-beer tasting tour – this is not for the faint at heart. The Twist of F8 was delicious – a Bavarian-inspired Pilsner with a soft, sweet touch of watermelon.
But the real winner at Figure Eight is the Raven Tor – a deeply complex oatmeal stout with a Nitrogen Pour. I’m not exaggerating when I say this is quite simply the best beer I’ve had all year. It’s a full-bodied malty brew with subtle sweetness. Raven Tor was amazing! For the kids, the Foothills RootBeer is delicious!
Four Fathers Brewing
One of the recent upstarts in the Northwest Indiana brewery scene is Four Fathers Brewing. They specialize in mostly seasonal brews and I enjoyed The Gadget – a deliciously delicate mango IPA that is fruit forward and lightly kissed with bitterness.
The tasting room at Four Fathers is tiny, but packed with a mixed crowd and friendly people. There was a really great brew-centric vibe here and a pitmaster grilling up specialties from his truck in the parking lot.
3 Floyds Brewing
Perhaps no brewery generates as much buzz as the 3 Floyds Brewing company and their annual Dark Lord Day. The brewery produces a beer that is available on a single day in such limited quantities that it generates huge demand, a lottery system, and rationed supply. Access to Dark Lord Day comes with security pat downs, a corral system and long wait times (reported by hop heads to be in the 1-3 hour range). I would love to come back to the South Shore Brewery Trail to be part of the Dark Lord Day phenomena. It’s clear that 3 Floyds has certainly mastered the marketing hype for The Dark Lord.
While I haven’t had the opportunity to sample The Dark Lord, I did try the Zombie Dust – an explosively bitter, West Coast-styled IPA that started boldly and finished tired. I didn’t get the flavors and complexity I was hoping for with it. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to do a full sampling at 3 Floyds, so perhaps another brew would have suited me better.
Any visitor could easily spend a weekend exploring the Northwest Indiana breweries on the South Shore Brewery Trail! (There’s also a lot of other things to do in Northwest Indiana!)
Visitor Information for Northwest Indiana Breweries
Figure Eight Brewing, 150 S. Washington St., Valparaiso, IN 46383. Hours are Wednesday-Saturday 11:0am-10:00pm; Sunday 11:00am-9:00pm; closed on Monday-Tuesday.
Four Fathers Brewing, 1555 W. Lincolnway, Valparaiso, IN 46385. Hours are Thursday 4:00pm-9:00pm; Friday 4:00pm-9:00pm; Saturday 12:00pm-9:00pm; and Sunday 11:00am-6:00pm.
3 Floyds Brewing, 9750 Indiana Parkway, Munster, IN 46321. Hours are Monday-Friday 11:30am-2:00am; Saturday 12:00pm-2:00am; Sunday 12:00pm-12:00am.
A very special thanks to my hosts at the South Shore CVA for introducing me to the magic of Indiana’s craft beer scene.