December 19, 2013
One of the many nice things about so many new breweries popping up, is if you decide to head out of town to check one out, you can usually find one or two more not too far away to make your trip that much more advantageous. Since I tend to plan my out-of-town adventures just that way, on my recent trip to visit Three Floyds, I decided to check out Crown Brewing on the way back. I was familiar with them through their one beer, Crown Brown, which had been on tap locally for a short time and was pretty well done. I wanted to check out more.
My first impression of the bar at Crown was it was very cozy. There is a nice display of their swag as soon as you walk in the door and a large chalkboard which tells you which standards and specialty beers are currently on tap. The bar isn’t overly large, but it’s very comfortable. A light made out of dozens of beer bottles provides most of the illumination, casting a nice warm glow that adds to the intimate ambiance. In addition to the small bar, there is a very large family room that appears to be a local favorite hangout. There is also a good-sized outdoor patio that was beautiful – and quite busy – when I was there this fall.
The bartender immediately greeted us with a friendly hello, which is always the first step in winning me over. Despite serving the bar and the patio, she was very attentive and helpful in choosing beers. Staff is so key; I simply cannot stress that enough. I was extremely pleased with the service.
I decided to start off with a flight. I always find it interesting how different bars and breweries present their flights. Some are very creative, some resourceful, some with very little attention or presentation. Crown uses a simple tray with a laminate wipe-off sheet on which to write down the different beers. I really liked this; it made it easier for me to keep track, and I liked that there wasn’t added waste of paper that would eventually get thrown away. Crown’s flight was six 3-oz. pours. I went with the IPA, Imperial Red, Saison, De Railer, Java Porter and Cream Ale. I went with both styles I have a high bar for (Saison, Java Porter) and styles I’m more ambivalent about (Imperial Red, Cream Ale).
I’ll start with the Saison. I’ve had some really top notch Saisons, and they are one of my favorite styles. My favorite is Saison Dupont, the flagship beer for Dupont Brewery in Tourpes, Belgium. Saisons were originally brewed as a summer ale, with a much lower ABV than current styles (more likely in the low 3 percent range). Typically referred to as Farm House ales, these were often brewed in the fall and winter as a way to keep farmhands employed through the slower winter months, and in the summer months the beer was used in the field to keep those same farmhands hydrated – a safer alternative, due to lack of potable water.
The Americanized version tends to have a higher ABV (typically 7-10 percent) and is brewed with a more fruit and spice influence. One of the best out there is Tank 7 by Boulevard Brewing.
Crown’s version of the Saison was not bad. It wasn’t terrific either – drinkable but without any kind of wow factor.
As I went through the rest of the beers, I kind of had the same feeling. They were all pretty good, but none of them made me say. “Oh wow, now that is amazing.” The Java Porter was probably my favorite and to me, the beer that was the most true to style and well crafted.
That said, one of the most interesting things to me is the sheer variety of beers Crown is brewing. If you follow them on Facebook, you know they are really good about posting when a new beer is being released, and a lot of them sound really intriguing. Currently, according to their Facebook page, they have a Pecan Pie Java Porter, a Milk Chocolate Stout (which I’m assuming is different than a Milk Stout) and a Marshmallow Cream Java Porter. I have to give some props to breweries that are willing to extensively experiment and offer beers that you simply aren’t going to find in a package store. The counter to that is whether or not they are giving themselves the time to refine their beers. This is a line of thinking that gets talked about a lot: brewing quantity of beers over a handful of beers really, really well. Some breweries do it well (think Drangonsmead in Detroit that brews close to 50 all pretty amazing beers on site) and some are still refining the process.
Either way, I would definitely go to Crown again. I’d really like to go now after reading the new beers they have on tap.
To me, one of the most important things to keep in mind, is that supporting your local brewer is important. Some are going to have outstanding beers. Some are going to have good beers. Some are going to occasionally put out something less than perfect. But they are all better than a majority of what the macro producers are producing – and you are supporting local business. So get out there and explore what’s available.