Where to Drink in Indianapolis, Indiana

Destinations by | Oct 2013 | Issue #81

Illustration by Sam Brewster

For decades, Indianapolis fit the stereotype of a perfectly nice, but decidedly bland, Midwestern city. It was even evident in the city’s beer choices: Miller Lite was king, and it was often hard to find a bar serving even Sam Adams on draft.

But over the past five years, that’s changed. As Indianapolis has distanced itself from its former nickname (“Naptown”)—hosting a Super Bowl, nurturing exciting new bicycle and art scenes—the journey has been increasingly fueled by craft beer. Although there were a small handful of microbreweries, like the Oaken Barrel, during Indianapolis’ darker days, it wasn’t until Sun King tapped its first kegs in 2009 that craft beer exploded in the city. Now not one, but two different bus tours will ferry you from brewery to brewery, and even the diviest of dive bars has Stone Ruination IPA on tap alongside Pabst Blue Ribbon.

With new microbreweries and craft beer-focused bars popping up seemingly every week in the metro area, there’s never a shortage of cutting-edge brews to try.

Triton Brewing Co.
Launched two years ago, Triton just opened a second taproom in Broad Ripple, and plans are underway for a brand-new brewhouse. Six beers, including the signature Deadeye Stout and Sin-Bin Belgian Pale Ale, make up Triton’s core line-up, with rotating special creations alongside. Look for the B-Java Brown; brewed only a few times a year, the coffee-infused beer sells out quickly.

Tomlinson Tap Room
For a true sample of the state’s beer scene, a trip to Tomlinson Tap Room, located in downtown’s historic City Market, is a must. Tomlinson constantly rotates its 16 taps with only the finest Indiana-brewed beer, including Lake County’s Crown Brewing Company and the up-and-coming New Albanian Brewing Company.

Flat 12 Bierwerks
Named after the 12-cylinder engine that powered many of the early racecars in the Indianapolis 500, Flat 12’s taproom is only open Thursday through Sunday for pint sales and growler fills, with massive crowds gathering for special events or tappings. Master brewer Rob Caputo is known for his creative brews, including a Cucumber Kölsch, kiwi juice-infused Weisse and the seasonal Bleeding Heart IPA, a blood-orange-infused version
of their popular Half Cycle IPA.

Located in the South Broad Ripple neighborhood affectionately known as SoBro, the popular TwentyTap is routinely filled to capacity with folks wanting to sample a few of the 38 rotating beers on tap. In addition to Hoosier favorites like Three Floyds, People’s and Sun King, TwentyTap’s expansive list also features farther-flung US breweries.

Red Lion Grog House
The Red Lion aspires to be an upscale pseudo-English tavern, but remains a little rough around the edges, befitting its Fountain Square location. The crowd skews toward the tattooed twentysomething set, but young parents and the occasional downtown office worker are common sights as well. Draft selection is limited, but mostly local, with $3 pints offered Monday nights.

The Rathskeller
Located in the historic downtown Athenaeum, The Rathskeller menu relies heavily on sausage and schnitzel. Find six German classics on tap, six rotating seasonals and more than 20 other imports and American micros in bottles. Although Germans are known for their Pilsners, The Rathskeller’s house beer—brewed locally by Sun King—is a malty Amber.

Broad Ripple Brew Pub
Founded in 1990, one of Indianapolis’ original microbreweries is beloved among residents as much for its location, right off the popular Monon Trail, as its beers. (Grabbing a seat outside can be nigh impossible.) The Brew Pub has six of its own creations on tap (think English and German standards), plus two house-brewed cask ales, with an extensive list of imported bottles.

Black Acre Brewing Co.
Black Acre is a modern take on an olde English pub. The pull list rotates constantly, with Black Acre’s beers (a coffee-infused IPA, Rye Stout, et al) next to guest taps from North Coast and Schlafly. The taproom also offers a host of bottled brews imported from Belgium at a premium price.

Sun King Tasting Room
Cans of Sun King’s Wee Mac Scottish Brown Ale and Sunlight Cream Ale cans are ubiquitous throughout Indianapolis. Especially after Sun King cleaned up at the GABF the past two years, the brewery’s tasting room, open Thursday through Saturday, gets crowded quickly—but you can get growlers filled every day of the week, save for Sunday.

The Aristocrat
The expansive draft list features a wide mix of Indiana beers, as well as nationally renowned brews. In addition to its great beer selection, The Aristocrat is known for its fried tenderloin sandwiches, a Hoosier delicacy. Tuesdays, pints are only $3.50.

Fountain Square Brewing Co.
Located in a former auto body shop, the brewery has quickly become one of the top attractions in the artsy enclave of Fountain Square. The Hop for Teacher Pale Ale is a citrusy treat that will make you relive your days sneaking beers behind the football bleachers, while the Preacher’s Daughter Amber Ale will make you think of … other things.

Brugge Brassiere
Indianapolis’ Belgian-style brewery is insanely popular, but the beer—including the Tripel de Ripple and dark-malt Black—makes the wait for a table more tolerable. Brugge only taps four of their own small-batch beers to go along with the half-dozen guest taps, but sells more than a dozen bottles from its European inspiration.

Bier Brewery
Tucked away in a nearly vacant strip mall across the street from an industrial complex, Bier Brewery is the Indy beer scene’s hidden gem. Open five days a week, Bier Brewery serves individual pints only one of those days; the others are growler and bullet sales only. A taste of their PDG Pale Ale and the Farm Gal Saison justifies the medals decorating the walls.

Ale Emporium
With the majority of their 44 taps devoted to microbrews like Founders and Three Floyds, the Ale Emporium is a popular destination among beer aficionados for their frequent pint specials. They offer more than 100 bottles from around the world, and are also known for their wings.

Upland Carmel
Just over the border in the ritzy suburb of Carmel, Upland Brewing’s pub is a close cousin to the Bloomington flagship location. The locally sourced salads, sandwiches and pasta dishes pair well with Upland’s seven standard beers. Upland also has a tasting room farther south, in SoBro, that sells beer and relies on food trucks.

Union Brewing Company
With their 64-gallon brewhouse, this newcomer-brewery introduces a new beer every week. Stop by the taproom to sample one of the unpasteurized cask ales they pride themselves on, like the highly recommended King of Hop Black IPA.