"Beer in Colorado" is dedicated to that divine elixir born of the marriage of water, malt, hops, and yeast as interpreted
by those living in Colorado. Follow the author as he visits every brewery in the state, creates experimental homebrews,
attends beer festivals, tries interesting beers from around the world, and spreads the good word of beer. Prost!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Beer Not in Colorado: Homecoming IV -- Back in the Habit

Colorado.  It’s where I live.  It’s where I matriculated.  It’s where I met and married my wife.  It’s where my first child will be born.  It is my home.  However, I, like a good portion of the state’s population, am not originally from Colorado.  I cannot, in good conscious, decorate my car with the ubiquitous “Native” bumper sticker à la the green mountain license plate.  Nay, my roots are in the Crossroads of America, the Hoosier State, the Land of Letterman—Indiana.

Nicole at the Indy Mini expo
My brother is fond of saying, “Indiana is a great place to be from.”  I’ve no desire to live there again but I’ll always hold it in a special part of my heart.  It’s my place of birth, the state that shaped me in my formative years, and its influence on me cannot be understated.  That’s why I feel the need to make a short statement on a recent controversy: the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

The big hubbub surrounding RFRA has died down due to amendments made to the law but residual stigma won’t wash out.  I’m embarrassed my homestate passed such a law.  Do I think RFRA had any real power to significantly harm the gay community?  No, not really; it wasn’t as bad as social media made it out to be.  However, the very statement “wasn’t as bad” suggests it was at least a little bad and any backwards step for LGBT Hoosiers is a damn shame.

Then again, disgusted though I was with Gov. Mike Pence’s decision to pass RFRA, I was equally perturbed by the #BoycottIndiana campaign.  Yes, companies, please do pull your businesses out of Indiana, deny an already poor, working-class state of desperately needed money.  Yes, performers, cancel your Indiana tour dates and withhold the arts from mostly rural communities most in need of entertainment and enlightenment.  Yes, supporters of #BoycottIndiana, punish an entire population for the decisions of a few politicians, politicians who barely feel the sting of your actions whereas the good and honest masses receive the brunt.  There’s no holes in that plan, no sir (gosh, I hope the sarcasm is as obvious as I intend it to be). 

We went to the Colts pro shop; notice anything wrong with the packaging for this helmet?
#BoycottIndiana is a shotgun, not a surgeon’s scalpel.  Precision is lacking, there’s too much collateral damage.  Believe it or not, there are gay Hoosiers and #BoycottIndiana affects them, too.  There must have been some supporters of RFRA in Indiana for it to get passed, true, but you wouldn’t know that by the outcry I’ve witnessed from people living there and that includes—as we get back on topic—local breweries.  Nearly all of them went out of their way to make a statement on their Facebook page rallying against RFRA; usually breweries stay out of such political quagmires because, hey, conservative customers pay with the same money as liberal customers.  This time they felt the urge to speak out.  The issue was important enough to make a stand.  Major kudos to Indiana breweries!  They’re not just makers of great beer, they’re makers of social change 

My favorite anti-RFRA protest; Bier Brewery decided to "turn the other cheek" to discriminatory laws

 In sum, supporters of RFRA and proponents of #BoycottIndiana both really, really suck.  With Hoosier blood flowing through my veins, I choose to be ashamed of my state’s backwards government yet proud of the Indiana people’s backlash towards that reprehensible bill.  But there’s more pride than shame—I’m pretty well used to government officials doing dumbass things, it’s lost its shock value.  But my heart will always swell when the masses make the morally correct decision and spurn homophobic laws.   

Ha! But, in all seriousness, Indy still loves Peyton; they just love Luck more
Did I say earlier that would be a short statement?  Well, enough soapbox pontificating; let’s get down to beer.  Nicole and I were in Indianapolis to run the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon (Indy Mini), the nation’s largest half marathon.  As any runner will say, one must carb-load before a big race.  Know what has a lot of carbs?  Beer.  Thus, the day before the race, we partook in the wares of a few of our favorite Indy beer spots.

Biergarten at The Rathskeller
First, we popped into Scotty’s Brewhouse, a downtown hangout near Bankers Life Fieldhouse.  Popular for its large patio (which, due to crowds, we could not enjoy), Scotty’s isn’t actually a brewery but is among the many satellite taprooms associated with Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Co. (the guy who started the company’s named Scott Wise); it’s kind of like the Ale House at Amato’s/Breckenridge Brewery of Indy—a non-brewing beer bar operated by a brewery.  The beer selection at Scotty’s is good but, as an out-of-towner, I’d appreciate more local options.  Then again, I understand I’m not their target demographic, repeat local customers are what keep the place in business, people who might want to taste beers from far-flung lands.  Sure, Indiana beer is a special treat to my Colorado palate but it’s the norm to those living in Indy.  But, I almost always drink local so I had a couple Taxman Brewing Co. beers (a brewery that’s been highly recommended to me several times; I’ll visit the facility one of these days) and headed for the next destination.

Biergarten at The Rathskeller
In the Denver-area, we have the German-American Chamber of Commerce—Colorado (GACC-CO), a great organization that puts on fun events such as the Christkindl Market and Biergarten Festival.  What Colorado doesn’t have, though, is the Midwest’s history of German immigration.  Of course, those of German descent are everywhere in America, they’re the largest European ethnicity in the nation.  But, historically speaking, places like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana are where our Deutsche ancestors first settled.  The GACC-CO has to forcibly interject German joviality into Colorado culture, in other parts of the country it’s just the natural state of things.  That long-lasting and pervading aura of German heritage is why something as cool as The Rathskeller exists in Indy.

Indy skyline from Rathskeller's biergarten
An enormous and ornate beer hall, restaurant, and biergarten, The Rathskeller has operated since 1894; it is and was the place for German-Americans to hang out, socialize, and party.  It’s essentially the German Elks club.  I visited the place briefly several years ago, never seeing The Rathskeller’s crown jewel—the biergarten.  I wasn’t about to make that mistake twice.

I can say with all honesty, I’ve been to Munich and The Rathskeller’s outdoor drinking area is on-par with its Old World counterparts.  A vast, open space with endless rows of picnic tables, an amphitheater, medieval flags flapping proudly in the breeze, a view of the Indy skyline—there’s plenty to prost about!  I enjoyed the house beer, Rathskeller Amber, by local brewers Sun King Brewery—was there ever a more appropriate beer for me, a German-American-Hoosier, to drink?

They don't cite their source on the banner so it's probably a self-appointed title; doesn't mean it's wrong, though

The spectrum of beer at The Rathskeller; that's the Sun King one in the middle 
After Rathskeller, we ended the evening at Tomlinson Taproom.  It’s not a visit to Indy for me without having a beer or two at one of the best unknown beer bars in America.  Tucked in the mezzanine of the historic City Market building, Tom Tap, as the cool kids call it, serves nothing but Indiana-made beer making it possible for out-of-towners such as myself to taste the flavor of the state, to “visit” may Indiana breweries without driving through miles of cornfield.

Looking down on the floor of City Market from the mezzanine
Tom Tap is in the mezzanine of the City Market building
Tom Tap was followed by a meal at Iozzo’s Garden of Italy where we further raised our carbohydrate levels for the next day’s run.  It was my seventh time participating in the Indy Mini and it was my second-worst time—so, I wasn’t super happy with my results.  It was definitely Nicole’s slowest time because she had to walk, pregnant as she is.  But, hey, our times might not have been what we were looking for but there’s nothing quite like beer to soothe one’s wounded ego.

See the pedal bar parked in front? In Indy, it's actually legal for you to drink alcohol while riding; in Denver, you have to be sneaky about it
First stop after the race: Tow Yard Brewing Co., the closest brewery to Lucas Oil Stadium.  Built on the ground level of an old brick building, Tow Yard’s ample parking is, according to my parents, a primo spot for Colts tailgate parties, a cash-cow for Tow Yard given the fact Indianapolis law allows for open containers; tailgaters can order a beer at Tow Yard, have it poured into a plastic cup, and walk right back outside to the party in the parking lot.  It’s odd, Indiana has some of the most bass-ass-backwards liquor laws in the country (liquor stores closed on Sundays, no brewery can sell beer without also selling food, no minors allowed in the bar area…etc.) and yet, in one regard, its capital city is among the most lenient, on par with the lax liquor enforcement of Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Key West.  Supposedly, the open container law was always on the books but nobody knew it was legal until the city hosted the Super Bowl.  Event organizers started researching what they could get away with and, lo and behold, an open container wasn’t illegal to begin with!  It always pays to double-check.

Tow Yard boasts a decent-sized patio, a spacious taproom with two bars and a whole deli in the back called The Larder!  The beer’s pretty tasty, too; I enjoyed The Wrecker, an IPA, and The All Seeing Rye, a rye pale ale.  It was also at Tow Yard where we met up with our friend-through-beer and two-time Beer Bloggers Conference acquaintance Tamre.  I mention Tamre because her presence has a significant impact on the next part of my story.

We left Tow Yard and followed Tamre’s car to the hipper-than-you’d-think-for-Indiana Fletcher Place neighborhood and Chilly Water Brewing Company.  There, we met yet another friend, Andy, a high school pal of mine (funnily enough, it turned out he and Tamre were practically neighbors and didn’t realize it).  The space is cool and modern-looking, the One Hop Wonder Mosaic IPA was lovely, and yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever—it’s a fine establishment but my memory of the place is dominated by something other than the beer.

Andy and I were catching-up, re-hashing the good ol’ days, when a dude walks through the front door wearing a t-shirt, board shorts, and a poodle on his head i.e. a glorious drape of thick, curly hair.  We stop our conversation, glance over quickly, and laugh to ourselves.  “That guy looks like Kenny G!”  We go back to our conversation, look again: “I’m actually being serious now, I’m pretty sure that’s Kenny G!”  By this point, he’s walked back outside and seated himself on the patio, right on the other side of the window from our table.  Another patron sees us taking quick, not-so-inconspicuous peeks through the glass.  “Guys!” he says, “were you wondering if that’s Kenny G?  I looked up his concert schedule; he’s playing in Indy tonight!  That’s f**kin’ him, man!”  The whole time we’re animatedly conversing, Mr. G is looking through the window and rolling his eyes—he knows he’s been recognized (you can’t just walk around with Kenny G hair and expect not to be recognized!).  Tamre couldn’t resist, she snapped a photo with the smooth jazz saxophonists:

The G-Man himself (I'm technically in this picture, too, if you look closely)
After Chilly Water, we set out for Indiana City BrewingCo. in search of Michael Bolton or Yanni.  No luck on the adult contemporary front but plenty of luck on the beer front!  Like Tow Yard, Indiana City is in a building dripping with character: old loading dock, weathered wood and brick, big, roll-up doors.  The factory ambiance is lovingly preserved while still offering a space of comfort.  While there, I drank Regulate, a single-hopped session IPA.  They have a whole Regulate series featuring different hops but, for the life of me, I forget which one I had.  Well, I remember it being pretty good, anyway.

Indiana City
Inside Indiana City
Inside Indiana City
With a dinner at Harry & Izzy’s Steakhouse later that night, Nicole and I concluded our Indiana beer odyssey.  However, having been born and raised in the Hoosier state, I guarantee it won’t be the last time we venture into the Circle City, hunting down the best and newest breweries in town.  Perhaps, if we visit once again for the Indy Mini, I’ll carb-up even more and surpass this year’s lackluster performance.  If not, I’ll console myself with some of the best beer the Midwest has to offer!  



I enjoy the fact that Indiana City's official vehicle is an old church van

1 comment:

  1. Warm beer is better than cold beer because cold temperatures also up the carbonation in beer, giving tasteless stuff a pleasant tingle.