Sun King Brewery’s 5th CANvitational beer festival rolls around again Saturday, September 9, 2017, and it can’t come any sooner. Ever humble, Sun King bills CANvitational as the “largest canned festival in the midwest”, and it is, but I’ll take it even further. CANvitational is the best beer festival in the midwest and shortly, I’ll tell you why. I’ll also highlight some breweries you’ll need to visit.
But first, let’s talk about Sun King. I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: Sun King is the best looking person in your group of friends that becomes only more attractive because of their personality. Forget for a moment their awesome beer and large stockpile of awards, Sun King is an unselfish community leader that truly is Indiana’s brewery. (That story will be told later.)
Co-Founder Dave Colt said this about the genesis of CANvitational. “For patrons, it’s all about the beer and the different breweries, but for us here at Sun King, it’s about seeing old friends. It’s more about the colleague-to-colleague kind of thing. We also want to take care to represent Indianapolis in a great light as well.”
See, this isn’t about Sun King. They courageously took a financial hit the first year in order to build something special for us, and every year since, numerous charities have received 100% of the proceeds. Dave said, “We want to throw a heckuva party, bring in friends from out of town and let somebody benefit from it.”
Core Strength and Cans
By now, we’re all aware of the positives of canning beer so there’s no need to go it over but there are other fun things. Beer cans are much like vinyl album covers of the past – or present – because of their body art and the ability to tell stories. This brings a sense of intimacy. (However, cool as they are, cans might not have the dual effectiveness of album covers in having things rolled on them.)
Also, physical fitness gurus extol the virtues of a strong “core” to help maintain personal health but when I hear the word, I don’t think about fitness, or values or even education. I think about beer. Because like your body, the strength of any brewery is with its core.
Those are the beers that signify what the brewery is about, the beers that show off their quality, the beers that are paying off the bank notes. And what beers are put into those cans? The core beers.
Owners, brewers and employees will represent the breweries at CAN-V instead of local distributors (not that there’s anything wrong with that), allowing some personal conversations with guests. The small number of breweries, the limited tickets and the wide open space at Georgia St. and Pan Am Plaza aids in that.
Must Visit Breweries!
At CANvitational, there will be nationally famous breweries (Oskar Blues, Firestone Walker, Bell’s, Cigar City, etc.) the best regional breweries (Warped Wing, Mad Tree, Rhinegeist, Braxton, Destihl, Half Acre, etc.), as well as our wonderful Indiana breweries. But the most desirable to me are the ones that are scarce in these parts.
Please allow me to recommend these breweries, though certainly there are others as well:
- Beavertown Brewing – London, England
For a brewery that travels all the way from the U.K. to attend CANvitational, it’s only polite to highlight them first.
Owner/Founder Logan Plant gave up his music career when he started brewing in his U.S.-inspired barbecue joint in London. Named the Supreme Champion Brewer and U.K. Brewer of the Year at the 2015 International Beer Challenge, Beavertown has collaborated with the likes of Stone and Firestone Walker.
A muffed-up named and cool, colorful cans has helped Beavertown find some fans but their IPA’s are as good, or better, than any others that you like. Gamma Ray American Pale Ale, Lupuloid IPA, Bloody ‘Ell blood orange IPA (a Dave Colt suggestion) helped pave the way for their newly released, Humuloid DIPA. I cannot wait to get blown away again this year!
Fun fact: You may have heard of Logan Plant’s father, Robert…he was in a pretty good band.
- Snake River Brewing – Jackson, Wy.
Wyoming’s first brewpub, Snake River has twice been awarded the Great American Beer Festival Small Brewery of the Year (2000, 2001), and is a perennial visitor to CANvitational. Pedigree alone, this is reason enough to visit them but I’m here to tell you, try them and you’ll wish they were closer to us.
Two years ago at CANvitational, I struck up a conversation with a gentleman pouring beer for Snake River after I repeatedly returned, like I had an amusement park fast pass. Volunteering for his brewer son (Cameron), the man told me his name was “Mark Hieronymus.” Wait, you mean like (famous beer author) Stan Hieronymus? “Yeah, he’s my brother!” Mark will be back this year, stop by say hi!
Fun fact: In the blood? The Hieronymus family is related to Sun King co-founder, Clay Robinson.
- Melvin Brewing – Jackson, Wy.
I have no idea what is happening in Jackson Hole – and I can’t wait to see for myself – but just a few miles away from Snake River is Melvin Brewing. Announcing their presence with authority, Melvin took gold medals for Melvin IPA and 2X4 Melvin DIPA at the 2012 GABF, and they were awarded the 2015 Small Brew Pub and Small Brew Pub Brewer of the Year at GABF. 2X4 is the only DIPA ever to win gold at GABF, Alpha King Challenge and World Beer Cup.
Fun Fact: Head Production Brewer Dave Chichura, brewed at Indy’s brewing breeding ground, Rock Bottom, before becoming Head Brewer at Oskar Blues.
- Brickstone Brewery and Restaurant – Bourbonnais, Il.
Perhaps overshadowed by the Chicago-land beer scene is Brickstone Brewery, located just one hour south in Bourbonnais. The brewery has received awards from GABF, World Beer Cup and North American Brewers Association. Brickstone is known for its APA, Hop Skip double pale and Russian Imperial Stout.
Fun Fact: Brickstone’s APA grabbed gold at the 2012 GABF over that other, more celebrated pale ale. Yep, Zombie Dust took bronze.
- Rahr & Sons Brewing – Ft. Worth, Tx.
Rahr again returns to Indy, which I’m very happy about. The brewery has taken over 60 awards from GABF, World Beer Cup, U.S. Open, and this year they received three awards at the North American Beer Awards (Dopplebock, Schwazbier, Coffee Beer).
Fun Fact: Rahr also captured four medals this year at the Can Can Awards, a competition exclusively for canned beers.
- Marble Brewery – Albuquerque, N.M.
In the last several years, Marble has received over a dozen medals at GABF and World Beer Cup, including multiple awards for its Pilsner (Kellerbier) and Double White. Topping it off, Marble was awarded the Best Small Brewery and Small Brewery Brewer at GABF in 2014. (Personally, the Pilsner will be my first beer of the day.)
Fun Fact: Mable beer has appeared in the hit show Breaking Bad, and actors Bryan Cranston and Jonathan Banks have visited the brewery. Marble cooked up Walt’s White Lie and Heisenberg’s Dark, white and dark IPA’s, to honor the show.
- Three Weav3rs Brewing – Inglewood, Ca.
One of L.A’s fastest growing breweries, Owner Lynn Weaver heads up this female-led operation. Alexandra Nowell, Los Angeles’ first female brewmaster, received two GABF medals at a previous stop before catching gold with Three Weav3ers at the 2016 World Beer Cup for Blood Junkie, red imperial ale.
Fun Fact: Alexandra did an internship at Sierra Nevada.
- Offshoot Beer – Placentia, Ca.
Kind of the alter-ego of the famed Belgian and barrel aged producer, The Bruery, Offshoot makes IPA’s that owner Patrick Rue said he would never do. Having just opened in April, 2017, they apparently are making a name for themselves very quickly.
Fun Fact: Fashionably Late, Offshoot’s first canned IPA, was voted the #2 IPA this year by PASTE magazine.
- Lord Hobo Brewing – Woburn, Ma.
Lord Hobo was recently named the Fastest Growing Regional Brewery in the U.S. by the Brewers Association, after increasing from 3,000 bbl’s in 2015 to 15,400 in 2016. Led by Boomsauce IPA (or is it a DIPA?), LHBCo is available all over New England, as well as New York, Delaware, Florida and Colorado. Glorious pale ale was recently released to huge acclaim.
Fun Fact- Lord Hobo will be hanging out at various central Indiana locations for several days after CANvitational.
- Other Half Brewing – Brooklyn, N.Y.
If you’ve spent any time in New York City, you noticed that good, local beer can be difficult to find. Other Half seemingly is doing everything it can to change that. With forever-changing IPA’s that make up about 85 percent of its production, only Other Half IPA is brewed year-round.
Fun Fact: Other Half has made four collaborative beers with noted brewery, Trillium.
Calling CANvitational just a beer “festival” is unfair to Sun King. It’s more like a relaxing backyard music party they throw for their best friends, featuring classic, funk, hip-hop, country and all sorts of influences from each coast, and everything in between. Only that it happens in the heart of Indianapolis.
That’s just what Sun King does.
Sun King Brewery is located at 135 N. College Av., in downtown Indianapolis.