Destinations by | Oct 2007 | Issue #10

This amateur sports capital packs some world champion beer spots

Indiana’s beer scene is rightly dominated by Chicagoland and Michiana, but that shouldn’t preclude a trip a bit further south to the state’s capital, the Crossroads of America. Indianapolis is fast becoming a popular destination for conventioneers, not to mention its perennial appeal to fans of auto racing, college basketball and the city’s world champion NFL franchise. But where to drink when in town? A rundown of readers’ favorite Indianapolis beer destinations follows.

Begin your trip uptown, in Broad Ripple Village, a destination neighborhood for arts, music and nightlife. Lounge by the canal or stroll around, enjoying the village’s pedestrian-friendly scale, shopping and galleries. The neighborhood is also an excellent destination for beer. When you’ve worked up a thirst, head to the Broad Ripple Brew Pub, a top destination for English-style session beers, or over to Brugge Brasserie, an upscale gastropub specializing in bold Belgians and unapologetically fine food.

In the evening, head further up the city’s north side and swing by Hot Shotz [closed] or the Ale Emporium; both bars feature solid beer lists and killer wings.

Closer to downtown, the Massachusetts Avenue cultural district runs southwest towards the city center at Monument Circle, and is home to the city’s major performing arts venues and public art installations. It’s also home to the historic Athenaeum building, which houses the sprawling restaurant and biergarten, The Rathskeller.

A trio of solid brewpubs—The Ram, Alcatraz Brewing Company [closed] and Rock Bottom—sit in the heart of downtown, making them perfect spots for lunch, dinner or pre- and post-game drinks near the convention center, RCA Dome and Conseco Fieldhouse.

Broad Ripple Brew Pub
A cozy little brewpub sitting just off the edge of a busy drinking strip, Broad Ripple pours their own excellent English-style ales on tap and in cask, and stocks a complementary selection of domestic and imported bottles.

Brugge Brasserie
Don’t come to Brugge for the beer selection: At any time, there are only two or three on tap. Without 97 beers to choose from, you’ll have to make due with award-winning Belgian ales, Tripels and Quads, and mammoth orders of mussels and frites. Poor, poor you.

Alcatraz Brewing Company [closed]
As a prison-themed brewpub in the middle of a mall, Alcatraz likely isn’t in danger of receiving three stars from Michelin any time soon; its value as a pre- and post-game haunt is considerbly higher.

The Ram
The Indianapolis incarnation of this Midwestern/Western chain serves up solid craft brews and reliable pub grub. Burgers… beers… were you looking for something else?

Rock Bottom
Cons: Ubiquitous-feeling and -tasting chain. Pros: Located downtown, just off Monument Circle, convenient to everything. Plus, you’re thirsty, and they’ve got beer. Edge: Pros.

Oaken Barrel Brewing Company
Though outside of town in Greenwood, Oaken Barrel is an easy cab ride from downtown or the airport; make it your first (or last) stop in town, and crush a rack of ribs and a big IPA.

Hot Shotz [closed]
Consensus has this the BeerAdvocate reader favorite. Great service, eleven heavily rotated taps and one incredible wing recipe (served with a Saison bleu cheese ranch) make for one of the best beer bars in the city.

Shallo’s boasts one of the top beer lists in town; they show plenty of love to local brewpubs and regional powerhouses Bell’s and Three Floyds, and stock bottles from across the country that you won’t find anywhere else in town.

The Rathskeller
This pricey, bustling downtown Indianapolis institution stocks the area’s largest selection of German brews, alongside dozens of other European imports you won’t find elsewhere. Munch on some schnitzel, lounge in the bier-garten or rock to the bands on stage.

Beer Sellar [closed]
Often busy and occasionally very loud, the Beer Sellar certainly makes concessions towards the macro-swill market, but they also boast 50 taps and 100 bottles, with Three Floyds’ Alpha King and Bloomington’s Upland Brewing Company leading the way.

Union Jack Pub
The name, beer list and breweriana scream Britain, but Union Jack’s specialty—its deep-dish pizza—is all Chicago. A great stopover for a bite and pint in either Speedway or Broad Ripple.

When downtown and craving some haggis and Scotch eggs, MacNiven’s is your man. While there, browse the Scotch list, and study the several dozen beers in stock; then stop kidding yourself, and grab a Robert the Bruce.

Ale Emporium
A longtime north side favorite, the Ale mixes a solid beer selection with good company (and even better wings and pizza).

Chumley’s Beer House
Loud company, good times and 150 beers on the lively Broad Ripple strip: If there’s more to life, we haven’t found it yet.