Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Visit to Iechyd Da Brewing

Being from Northern Indiana originally I have been really excited to see the growth of Craft beer in that region of the state.  One of the most interesting spots for me has always been Iechyd Da Brewing (pronounced yah-key-DA).  My family frequently travels to Goshen, IN to visit family, and we are generally so busy that I never have time to break away and go on a brewery adventure.  Iechyd Da had been on my "must visit" list for quite some time.  I was finally invited by my buddy Justin to visit this spot on a recent trip to Goshen and we made plans to visit for lunch and some beer tasting.

Nestled in the heart of downtown Elkhart, you can not miss the red and black dragon sign on the outside of the building, which makes this brewery incredibly easy to find.  Admittedly, downtown Elkhart is not the most aesthetically pleasing areas I have explored, but places like Iechyd Da are going to start re-vitalizing the Elkhart scene....I have no doubt.  Upon walking in you find a seating area to the left with some awesome barrel tables by the large windows.  There are also some modern couches and chairs which really gives the patrons a variety of awesome seating options.
To the left you will find a chalkboard listing the food menu and specials, more tables, decorative artwork, and a few high top tables surrounded by bar stools.

As you scan the rest of the room you are immediately drawn to the bar area, which is where we immediately ventured to.  Several barstools surround the L-Shaped bar top.  Plenty of lighting and friendly faces surround you.  The place is quite inviting and comfortable.  It just feels like a great place for fun, food, friends, and of course....beer.

After selecting our seats, maybe the most impressive attraction of the bar was directly in front of us.  The massive wall of Iechyd Da mugs.  Made by a local potter, these mugs are available to Mug Club members only.  I don't have all the details of the Mug Club, but once it has been established, it's become somewhat difficult to gain a new membership.  The mugs are fantastic.  Each one unique and sporting the symbol of the brewery on the front.  The Dragon.  Justin and I spent quite a bit of time discussing the mugs and which ones we liked the best.  Truth be told, I would be thrilled to have any one of them.  But I don't live locally and so membership to this mug club is likely a dream I won't be able to fulfill. :-(  Here is a part of the Mug Wall.

Justin and I ordered a pizza and appetizer to share.  The food was outstanding.  We had stuffed mushrooms that were loaded with sausage and jalapeno's.  The pizza was full of flavor with garlic, artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella, and goat cheese.  I would eat there any day of the week.

However, the most important part of any brewery is the need of good beer.  Again, Iechyd Da exceeded my expectations.  Of course, I have had a couple of their beers via growler samples previously, but on this occasion I felt that I needed to get the full flight of samplers.  My favorites of the flight were: Big Pit Porter- very robust and flavorful porter; Revolution- a solid IPA ; 13-an American Black Ale loaded with complexity; and the best of the bunch was Gumption- a double amber loaded with citra hop deliciousness. All of the beers were on the good to great level....but Gumption was the head of the class without a doubt.

Overall a fantastic outing to a great spot in a recovering economy.  I love what Iechyd Da has brought to downtown Elkhart.  I also purchased a taster glass and a snifter for the road.  I am very much looking forward to a return trip to this brewery.  If only they could fill a growler with Gumption for me to take with me to Dark Lord Day!!  That would be amazing!!

If you haven't been there....stop what you are doing....and go now.  Seriously.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Blind Taste Test: Coffee Beers

I love a good game.  Put some beer in that game and I will love it even more.  One of the best ways to have a nice little beer related game is to do a blind taste test.  Had a few buddies over last night and I decided to involve them in a little blind taste test experiment.  I decided to go with coffee flavored stouts/porters and see which beers came out on top and which beers didn't live up to their hype.  The 4 participants had 7 beers to taste.  Each person taking notes as they tasted and some of the results were surprising.  Here is a picture of the beers used for this experiment.  And just in case you don't know them, they are:
Troegs Java Head
Terrapin W-n-B (Formerly Wake N Bake)
Founders Breakfast Stout
Tyranena Devil Made Me Do It
Bells Java Stout
Founders KBS 2013
#46.  This was the wild card beer.  It was a homebrew from a buddy of mine in california.  It was a Breakfast Stout clone.
 Each bottle was placed in a brown paper bag and I poured them all a taste of each beer in separate tasting glasses.  I had them rank each beer in order from their favorite to their least favorite.  Each persons best beer received 7 points all the way down to the least favorite beer which receives 1 point.  So here are the results:

1.  Founders KBS: 28 points.
2.  Bells Java Stout: 23 points.
3.  Tyranena Devil Made Me Do It: 16 points
4. #46: 13 Points
5. Founders Breakfast Stout: 12 Points
6.  Terrapin WNB: 11 Points
7.  Troegs Java Head: 4 points.

It was reassuring that KBS was the clear cut winner of the tasting, which is what I figured would happen.  The big surprise was Tyranena Devil Made Me Do It which was consistently in the top 2 or 3 on everyone's list and it trounced FBS and WNB.  A couple guys remarked that they always pass on Tyranena beers and another guy had never heard of them.  Kudos to my buddy Dave for brewing #46 which edged out FBS in total points.  One of my buddies who participated in this was completely shocked that Breakfast Stout was not in his top beers of the test.  He was convinced prior to the reveal that FBS wasn't in the lineup at all.  His pride was shaken a bit.  The Troegs beer was just ok.  It had a very thin mouthfeel and the flavor was overall disappointing, and it was the clear loser of the bunch.

The tasting was quite interesting.  Sometimes hype, rarity, label, and brewery play into what we think of certain beers.  KBS lived up it's lofty billing.  Terrapin WNB and FBS consistently underperformed despite the hype that surrounds them.  I've consistently stated that Bells Java Stout is one of the best coffee stouts I've tasted and that it doesn't get nearly the attention it deserves.  It finished second overall and showed that it's a powerhouse.  The only beer besides KBS to get 20+ points.

Overall we had a great time.  And of course a bottle share broke out afterwards and here is a pic of the graveyard from the night.
Are you surprised by some of the results from the blind taste test?  Have you ever done something like this before?  What are you experiences with this type of experiment?