Bloomington, Indiana, is a town that’s so easy to fall in love with. Right around 75 minutes south of Indianapolis, the close-knit community is rich with arts, culture, and culinary offerings- including locally made wine, craft beer, and spirits. It’s quintessential essence of the Midwest makes it a fun day trip away from Indiana’s capitol city or a leisurely way to spend a few days.
My visit to Bloomington this summer found me on a giant bus with other travel writers that love the taste and smell of the liquor trinity and wanted to learn more about the process behind it. We were chauffeured to four locally known and well-loved spots to sample and discover the fascinating effort that goes into the brewing, distilling, and vinification.
Not only did I learn about what makes each tick, I came away from my visit knowing what I like about the three styles. What did I learn? You might be surprised.
Brewpubs are popping up all over the place, happily. Refusing to settle with the taste and ingredients of the large scale beer companies, so many of these beer connoisseurs are doing their research, learning about craft brewing, and starting their own businesses.
Upland Brewing Co. is the creation of Marc Sattinger, Russ Levitt, and Dean LaPlante. The Brewery’s name is a shout out to the rolling hills of Southern Indiana and the brews range from traditional IPAs to old school sour ale.
Yep, sour ale. The taste is definitely acquired (think really sour vinegar) but the process is quite fascinating. The brew pub uses oak barrels that previously housed red wine. The brew receives rave reviews from the folks at beeradvocate.com and ratebeer.com and there’s even an autumn lottery for the release.
William Oliver’s fervor for wine making started the company in the 1960’s when he used his basement for the hobby. Fast forward to present day where Oliver Winery is one the largest wineries in the United States. They also boast themselves as “the most modernly equipped winery in the Eastern United States”.
The winery offers all types of wines from dry whites and reds to semi-sweet and dessert wine. The ice wine is delicious and the process involves leaving grapes on the vine until mid-winter when they’re hand picked and processed. 2008 was a great year for ice wine and the Vidal Blanc grapes created a “magical” vintage. I, myself, am a fan of the sweeter wines and adored the taste testing of Creekbend Catawba and the hints of peach and even cotton candy.
Named compliments of Indiana’s state bird, the local craft distillery was started “to increase connections between people” and considers spirits the original internet. Cardinal Spirits has one of its owners in house each day and the staff is happy to answer questions about its creation, the distilling process, and even the traditional cocktails that are offered.
The company’s first ever batch of Black Raspberry Bramble was being bottled as I toured the facility and I was lucky enough to be the first non-owner/employee to sample it. Think of it as a liqueur with a sweet, fruity beginning and just the teeniest kick at the end. However you’d like to label it, I’m calling it delicious.
The fourth oldest winery in Indiana, Butler Winery is located in the Indiana Uplands Viticultural Area. The wine batches are made 350 to 1000 gallons at a time in stainless steel tanks. The winery uses oak barrels for its Terra Rossa style wine, dry Variant, and Chardonel wines, and grows six types of grapes for the task.
I’m a professed lover of sweet wines, so I had no choice but to sample the winery’s Twice– a late harvest wine from the drought of 2012. The wine is a combination of sweet vignole and traminette grapes making the specialty wine “twice as good”. The winery calls Twice “liquid sunshine in a glass” but I prefer to call it molecules of heaven.
Now that you know about the wine, beer, and spirits that Blomington has to offer, what are you waiting for? I know I’m already planning another visit! There’s definitely a craft brew style for everyone’s alcohol-infused fancy and palette.
Special thanks to Visit Bloomington for hosting me this summer to give you fine folks the scoop on what makes the city so amazing. All opinions are my own!