Find Indy's Best Pints at These Breweries
Indianapolis has become a boom town for brewers looking to open up shop on their own, and you can’t swing an empty pony keg in this city without hitting an independent craft brewery. Many of these locations will have food trucks lined up in the parking lot ready to serve you, while others are packing kitchen heat of their own. Or you could ask the guys at Sun King why they serve the most expensive Hot Pocket in the state.
When a handful of friends decided to brew beer instead of becoming lawyers, Indianapolis gained a great brewery. The lineup is ever-changing and the brewers love to experiment, meaning you might not have the same beer twice, even if you went every day. Gourmands and beer nerds alike rejoice in this Irvington gem of highbrow food and beer in a blue-jeans setting, and get their fancy food and craft beer in an accessible neighborhood format. We recommend the citrus-hopped Natural Liberty (Natty Lib to the locals) for a glass full of hoppy sunshine.
Do you ever experience those very tough days when it’s hard to choose between juice, beer, or coffee? Imagine if you didn’t have to. That’s kind of what Breakfast Magpie, a black raspberry mead infused with coffee beans, tastes like. Now, New Day offers plenty of great fizzy mead and cider numbers to treat your tongue, but the BMP is always going to be our top pick. If you like prosecco, try the Johnny Chapman hard cider. Or spend an afternoon in the tasting room figuring it all out on your own.
The three-man brewing team at Central State is doing something only a handful of other breweries are doing in the US: turning out only Brettanomyces beers. This funky formulation lends each brew many layers of aroma and a unique finish that you’ll really like if you’re into farmhouse/saison-style beers. You can try all these brews at the Koelship, the beer bar owned by the brewers with the best tap lineup in the city. Each beer is complex and interesting and, probably, like nothing you’ve drank before.
Daredevil made a big name for itself with the massive success of its Lift Off IPA, a refreshing take on a genre that groaned with breweries trying to cram as many IBUs as humanly possible into their beers. Instead, Daredevil came out with one of the most well-balanced IPAs on the market, available for easy drinking by way of a robust canning run. You should visit the gorgeous brewing facility in Speedway if you’re in town for racing purposes, or grab a six-pack at any local liquor store.
Bless ye, the Sahm's family of restaurants, which now boasts a great microbrewery and restaurant concept slinging really good food and beer on the Northside. Big Lug is not afraid of experimentation, with a menu that includes international takes on poutine and burgers, and a playful beer lineup with a variety of styles and names that don’t take themselves very seriously. The Topanga, a citrus- and Mosaic-hopped blonde and a beer named after Cory Matthew’s lifelong love on Boy Meets World, is a complex and effervescent beer -- a spot-on homage to the character.
Scarlet Lane kicked off in a major way for a young brewery, and it's already getting major buzz and bottling most of its beers. While it’s a bit of a drive to get to brewery HQ, you can find bottles and bombers at 21st Amendment, Big Red, and local spots like Bottle Shoppe. But, we beg of you, get the Dorian Coconut Stout (ideally on draft at your local pub). It’s like winter in summer, or summer in winter. Like snow skiing in Bermuda shorts. Or tanning oil on a Yukon lumberjack. Or… it’s good. It’s really good.
It might have humble surroundings in a strip mall, but Bier does a great job of making consistently delicious microbrews by carefully conditioning even the water it uses to brew. Taste a textbook Belgian dubbel or feel very British with a pint of traditional ESB, though your best bet is Bier’s outstanding German hefe, Weizengoot. You can get a couple of varieties in six-packs at a handful of local retailers, but nothing compares to taking home a growler or two from the taproom, or getting it on draft at a Fuel game.
As part of the craft-brewing lineage of Shannon Stone and Ted Miller, Brugge features a consistently outstanding --albeit limited -- lineup of Belgian-style beers. The Trippel de Ripple, a spicy, clean-finishing Belgian tripel, is probably its most famous brew, followed by the puckering Pooka sour. The balanced beer makes for great drinking along with the authentic Belgian menu, which features mussels prepared a dozen ways, crepes, waterzooi, and its famous frites with all the dipping sauces you could want. For best results, bring lots of friends, pass around glasses, and get a L’Enorme of frites with every possible sauce.
Mashcraft secured its success when it snapped up Oaken Barrel head brewer Andrew Castner to captain its brewing program. While we will always toast a glass of Oaken Barrel brews, MashCraft is bringing together 16 of the hoppiest beers around for its annual Hop Bonanza happening on Nov 5th. Get tickets now and secure tastes from many of the brewers mentioned elsewhere on this list, along with MashCraft’s own brews.
Right across the street from Smoking Goose Meatery (one of the best meat shops in the nation) is one of the best breweries in the state. Canadian IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe liked the beer so much that the brewery made him his own pale brown ale to say thanks for all the love. Although we’re fans of racing and Hinchcliffe, we’d recommend the hearty Pogue’s Run Porter over the Canadian-friendly brew.
Though many brewpubs exist, in Indy, “Brewpub” is universal shorthand for the 25-year-old Broad Ripple Brewpub, which tells you just how iconic it is to our local craft beer movement. Enjoy the vibe of this English pub, which also offers a cask program, with brews that get the full barrel treatment. These brews come out of the casks a little warmer with less carbonation (as they are poured via traditional beer engine), giving folks from the UK a little taste of home. The kitchen isn’t about to be outdone by the brewing program, with a menu that draws from global influences, from Morocco to Mexico.
Triton was an early adopter in Indy’s small-brewery craze, and the city was rewarded once again with a crazy-good lineup of house beers. More than likely, you’ve seen Railsplitter on a local menu (because it’s everywhere). Recently, Triton announced that it is expanding operations to make room for a higher production volume. Good thing, too, since it's already serving brews everywhere: at sporting events, at the brewery, and at the taproom in Broad Ripple.
Yes, the hippest, hottest food neighborhood in Indy even has its own award-winning craft brewery, because of course it does. No shade on the work of the brewers here, whose round-up of house beers varies from a light but flavorful kolsch that you can knock back for hours, to heady oatmeal and java stouts. Chilly Water also tops the list of great places to go when you want a crunchy, hot panini to go with your brew.
If you can’t decide between getting beer-buzzed or milkshake-buzzed, split the difference with a Count Nibula. The rich, malty chocolate notes satisfy a host of cravings. There are a lot of great beers on tap here, and this is definitely one place where the tasting flight is a must. Put it on your list of First Friday visits when the neighborhood comes alive with bars and open galleries.
This list wouldn’t be complete without the brewery that proved craft beer could be not only possible, but profitable in Indianapolis. It's gone from funky small-batch brews to sophisticated barrel-aged beers that add to a list of now-iconic house beers. Sun King is so huge in Indiana that it had to scale back production until state legislators changed the legal ceiling on how much beer could be produced and distributed in the state. It was the first to risk it all on craft beer in Central Indiana, and thus paved the way for almost everyone else on this list. Well done, guys.
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