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.
Fort Benjamin Harrison
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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1. Black Acre Brewing Co.5632 E Washington St, Indianapolis
2. New Day Craft1102 Prospect St, Indianapolis
3. Daredevil Brewing Company1151 Main Street, Speedway
4. Big Lug Canteen1435 E 86th St, Indianapolis
5. Scarlet Lane Brewing Company7724 Depot St, McCordsville
6. Bier5133 E 65th St, Indianapolis
7. Brugge Brasserie1011A E Westfield Blvd, Indianapolis
8. MashCraft Brewing1140 N State Road 135, Greenwood
9. Flat12 Bierwerks414 Dorman St, Indianapolis
10. Broad Ripple Brewpub842 E 65th St, Indianapolis
11. Triton Brewing Company5764 Wheeler Rd, Indianapolis
12. Chilly Water Brewing Company719 Virginia Ave Ste 105, Indianapolis
13. Fountain Square Brewing Company1301 Barth Ave, Indianapolis
14. Sun King Brewing Co.135 N College Ave, Indianapolis
When a group of friends decided to ditch law school to make beer, Indianapolis gained friendly neighborhood brewpub Black Acre, where the lineup is always changing and the brewers love to experiment, so you can try something unique every time you visit. Located in Irvington, it's a small, three-barrel operation that focuses on specialty and seasonal ales, and offers a food menu with crostini and charcuterie plates and paninis that all use meats from the Smoking Goose and other local, independent suppliers.
A favorite Fountain Square hangout, New Day Craft is a bright and stylish tasting room that features local art and live music, and specializes in craft meads (honey wines) and ciders that are sweet, crisp, and refreshing. We'd highly recommend the Breakfast Magpie, a black raspberry mead infused with coffee beans, or, if you like Prosseco, the Johnny Chapman hard cider. There are bites from local purveyors, too, including Goose the Market and Best Chocolate in Town.
Located just minutes from downtown and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Daredevil is an immense, industrial-style brewery that exploded onto the craft beer scene with its successful and well-balanced Liftoff IPA. In addition to its expertly brewed ales and stouts on draft, there's a rotating roster of small-batch beers, including the Carnival Saison and the Char Smoked English Porter. Post up in the sunny tasting room with one of these brews, and either have food delivered, or snack on Daredevil's charcuterie boards and artisan sandwiches, like a gourmet grilled cheese.
Get a fish taco, drink it with a Boner Pils (a German pilsner), and eat your way through a meal that delivers as much on flavor as it does adolescent humor. Even without the smirk-inducing names, both the food and the beer at Big Lug are always amazing, whether you’re hot off the Monon with a voracious appetite, or you just want a few wings to go with your pint of beer- or cocktail!. PSA: You must be 21+ to enter.
Residents of Indianapolis are quick to complain about the trek to McCordsville, but if they're smart, they know traveling to this friendly brewery and tasting room is worth it for the Dorian Coconut Stout alone. The staff will set you up with this coconut- and espresso-infused treat or another of the brewery's handful of robust IPAs and hoppy pale ales on tap either inside the dog-friendly, bare-bones space, or at the outdoor fire pit. Note: food isn't served on-site (except the occasional food truck), but the menu lists what local restaurants deliver to the brewery.
Despite its humble, strip-mall surroundings, the Bier Brewery is anything but cookie-cutter, offering expertly brewed small-batch beers inside a laid-back, twinkle-lit space with mismatched wooden tables, live music, and Bier merch. Each person gets three free samples when they arrive, so test out what you like before grabbing a pint (our favorite is the exceptional German Weizengoot) and cozying up on one of the comfy couches in the living room-style space. You can soak up all those suds with snacks from one of the food trucks that pull up outside.
Brugge Brasserie's a friendly, European style bar and restaurant in Indianapolis's Broad Ripple area. The riverside spot brings in the crowds with their wide variety of ales, lagers, and vino, plus a solid selection of weekday happy hour deals. Order a Tripel with your moule frites and you'll be a happy camper, indeed.
Ask any fan of MashCraft what they love most about the industrial-style Greenwood brewery and they'll tell you the ever-changing selection of American and Belgian brews, and the super-friendly staff who are more than happy to point you in the direction of your new favorite. It's these staffers that give the otherwise bare-bones space (concrete floors and picnic tables) a warm and inviting feel, as does the upbeat but not overwhelmingly loud live music. Pro tip: pick up a pizza or another beer-friendly snack on the way and bring it in with you (there's no food menu, and they welcome outside eats).
The friendly staff at hip Holy Cross brewery Flat12 will make you feel like a regular as they chat with you about what creative craft beer you'd like to try, which you can sip inside the exposed-brick, dog-friendly taproom or on the twinkle-lit outdoor patio. You're free to sample as many brews as you'd like, but if we were to recommend one, we'd have to say the hearty Pogue’s Run Porter. You can even pair it with a Philly-style hoagie or soft pretzel from sandwich shop Hoagies & Hops, which is housed inside Flat12.
Broad Ripple lays claim to being Indiana's first brewpub, and pulls inspiration from the owner's home of Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, designed to resemble a classic English-style pub with dark wood paneling, a cozy fire place, and cask ales that are served warm and with low carbonation. For the full UK effect, order the Premier League Pale, which uses traditional English malt and hops, or the robust ESB Extra Special Bitter. The kitchen offers a vast menu of wings, salads, sandwiches, burgers, salads, and pizza to please any palate, English or not.
Head to this warehouse-style brewery in Fort Benjamin Harrison for its extensive selection of craft beers on tap, particularly the fan-favorite Deadeye Stout, and the rotating roster of food trucks that bring their treats on-site. There are weekly tours of the 10,000sqft facility, too, where you can witness the science behind its popular IPAs, stouts, and saisons. Some other standouts on the roster? Triton's tart, Belgian-style sour ales, and its top-notch root beer floats for the kids (OK, and the adults, who are we kidding?).
Indianapolis’s Chilly Water Brewing’s taproom ditches the muted hues of traditional breweries and instead exudes cheeriness with its bright blue walls and warm wooden floors. Located on the cultural trail, Chilly Water is a convenient destination both for people watching (especially on the orange and chrome outdoor patio) and for spending an afternoon watching the game. While you’re sipping on the Built to Last Pilsner, the flagship lager, fill up on savory menu options like paninis and quesadillas, or enjoy Skip’s Balls: cookies and cream cheese hand dipped in a variety of flavors.
The owners of Indy’s Fountain Square Brewing Company are self-proclaimed left-brainers who cut their teeth in microbiology, chemistry, and automation. Thus, while the flavor profiles of their beers, like the Workingman’s Pilsner, are astutely measured to achieve subtle, malty sweetness, the brewery relies heavily on the community for décor, showcasing local artwork on its salmon and cerulean walls. Cuddle into one of the space’s large couches; the ceiling above resembles burnt sheets of tinfoil plastered together, reminding you of your hunger and nudging you to order some delivery to the brewery.
At Sun King Brewing Company, you are literally entrenched in the production of Indy’s most ubiquitous craft brews, including house staples Sunlight Cream Ale, Wee Mac Scottish-style Ale, and Osiris Pale Ale. Tables and chairs sit cheek-by-jowl with the vats that produce the liquid gold, and with rotating seasonal and unique specialty beers on tap, Sun King still manages to feel like a small-batch brewery, despite its mass production and distribution. The large, hangar-like space injects its slate-gray walls with pops of bright red-orange, and the amusement continues with an impressive array of board games.