Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Will travel for Beer: Indianapolis (Sun King Brewing & Tomlinson Tap Room)

Last weekend my fiancee and I headed to Indianapolis to visit and stay with some grad school friends. Accidentally (but fortunately) it ended up being a weekend of Indiana beer. I took a bunch of pictures so I thought I would share them here.

After visiting their Winter Farmer's Market on Saturday morning (which, by the way, was really cool) and having brunch at Mesh (which was delicious), we decided to stop at Sun King Brewing. Sun King is a local Indianapolis brewery which had opened a tasting room just around when I was moving to Cincinnati. I really had been wanting to go since then and finally got my chance.

Sun King has a really cool business business model. They only can and keg their beers (no bottles) because of environmental and personal preference reasons. They very, very strongly push growler refill sales. In fact, on Fridays you can refill your growlers for $5.00. You can't beat that deal. They are also very active in the community and work with my friend's bike advocacy organization, INDYCOG. They often provide the beer for the organization's events.

When you walk in to the place, you're handed tickets to taste samples of any of the beers they are distributing for growler refills. Because of state/local (?) law, they are not allowed to sell beer to drink there and you can not open your growlers in the brewer, but you can try the free samples. The space is largely open, with the production space roped off from the tasting/milling around space.

Growler refill stations

Back end of the growler refill station

I got to taste four of their regularly distributed brews (Osiris Pale Ale, Sunlight Cream Ale, Bitter Druid ESB, and Wee Mac Scottish Ale) and a seasonal dry stout which name I can't remember at the moment. My favorite was the Osiris, but I'm a pale ale / IPA kind of guy.

Sunlight Cream Ale and Osiris Pale Ale

We were also luck enough to be able to do a tour of the brewery with one of their employees. They said that the first twenty could go, so we hustled on over so we weren't left out.

He first explained how beer was made and passed around the grains so we could taste the difference between the different levels of roasting. He then showed us where the grains were measured and milled.

They had just recently acquired some new brewing tanks. These bad boys were BIG and there were a number of them. I believe the above was one of the fermentation tanks.

As I noted earlier, Sun King does not use bottles. This is their canning machine. He explained how it worked and what the benefits of canning versus bottling are. What really stuck out to me was how expensive this piece of machinery is. If I remember correctly, it was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Lots and lots of cans waiting for be filled

Storage containers in the refrigeration room

Unfortunately my camera died right before the coolest part of the tour, the bourbon barrel room. They have invested a good amount of money on various types of barrels which previously held bourbon. They were aging beer in these barrels. None of these beers are for sale yet, but when they are, I will definitely be purchasing some. If you enjoy bourbon, you would have thought the smell of the room was heaven. They were also aging one of their beers (I can't remember which) in a port barrel. Very cool.

We were very lucky to be able to get to go on the tour and would recommend it to anyone in the area. It was very neat to see the inner workings of a local brewery. The staff was friendly and was happy to answer any question about their beer or brewing in general.

Sun King Brewing on Urbanspoon

Afterwards, we stopped at the Upland Brewing Tasting Room (they're out of Bloomington, IN) and had a flight of six of their beers. Then we headed home for a recharge (in my case, an hour nap).

To cap off the night, we headed to the Tomlinson Tap room, a bar in the City Market which serves only Indiana-brewed beers. I got a chance to try beers from several smaller breweries which I likely wouldn't be able to otherwise. My favorite was definitely the New Albanian Hoptimus, an aptly named super-hoppy imperial IPA. Very, very good. The bartender, who happened to be a friend of a friend, allowed me to snap some pictures behind the bar.

What's on tap

Indianapolis has a newly emerging, rapidly growing local craft beer scene that was only barely present even a year ago when I moved away. Since I moved Sun King has really come into their own and another brewery (Flat 12) has recently opened. Seeing this happen in Indianapolis really gives me hope for what can happen here in Cincinnati. We certainly have the demand for good tasting, locally brewed beer. Just ask Greg Hardman.

What an absolutely wonderful weekend. The only thing better than being able to spend time with good friends is being able to do it while drinking good beer. I was able to do both this weekend, so I would certainly say mission accomplished.


  1. I personally don't drink but seems I'll recommend a trip to Indianapolis to a buddy of mine.

  2. Nice posting, and thanks for stopping by the brewery!

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