The Natural History of Beer
Text and photos by Shannon Kelley Gould
In case you didn’t know, October is Beer Awareness Month (a brown-ribbon campaign is surely in the works). And I am a big fan of beer. While local brewers certainly don’t get the acclaim enjoyed by our area’s vintners, they’re heroes just the same, and the Museum of Natural History gave them their due recently at its Natural History of Beer event.
The Sunday afternoon affair got rolling with a little intelligentsia, in the form of educational talks punctuated with the frequent refrain “Let’s drink!” Local brew gurus (gubrews? brewrus?) offered adoring fans their insights: The Brew House’s Pete Johnson spoke about the history of beer; Paul Wright of Island Brewing Company talked about the brewing process; and the Santa Barbeerian Brew Club offered its home-brewing tips. Some say a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, but in the right hands, it’s pure hoppy heaven, as we found out a little later on, touring the museum’s beautiful grounds while tasting (and I use that word generously) dozens of expertly brewed beers.
My taller half and I started our tour early, stopping first at Telegraph Brewery, where we offered our congratulations to owner and brewmaster Brian Thompson on his rapidly expanding empire (look for bottles soon). We sampled his ale (with which we’re already on very familiar terms), as well as his new porter, which was a perfect specimen.
Our glasses half full (I’m nothing if not an optimist), we wandered over to the DogHouse booth, where Tony Debok was busy assembling their fantastic pulled-pork sandwiches. We couldn’t help but laugh as we watched the white-smocked gourmands stopping by with their considerably fancier fare, sheepishly offering a trade for a taste of the DogHouse’s goods. Around that time, my husband ditched me in an attempt to dine
his way through every single food item on offer, while a thirsty crowd began to fill the shady outdoor reaches of Beer Boulevard and Indy columnist Joe Woodard’s polka band, Headless Household, kicked into action, knocking out perennial faves like their timeless ditty, “Here’s to the Heimlich Maneuver.” More tasting ensued, and then a rumor reached me: beer ice cream! Could it be? I collected my husband, now teetering dangerously on the brink of a full-blown food coma, and made a beeline for The Brew House’s stand, where we found that the rumor was indeed true. Brilliant! My new heroes, Ryan Cox and Pete Johnson, offered me a taste of not one but two varieties, made from The Brew House’s potent elixirs: one from their stout, one from St. Barb’s Trippel. My favorite, as it turned out, was a fluke. Though they’d prepared the stout version beforehand, when they arrived, they realized they didn’t have enough, so, innovative blokes that they are, they doused a batch of vanilla ice cream with the St. Barb’s ale, and voilà! Being in the presence of such genius was humbling.
To quote Benjamin Franklin, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” And beer ice cream? I’m a believer.