Beer, burgers & beyond 

Alcatraz arresting better taste buds

Conviviality is the mantra at Alcatraz in a menu makeover to match “the great beers Omar brews with the kinds of food Hoosiers most prefer,” affirms Jay Hinton, newly named gastropub chef.


“It’s a pub with better than typical pub fare,” Hinton explains.

Translate that as “making a burger classy” so as to better fit the expanded taste profiles of the beers surrounding craft brewer Omar Castrellon’s hand-crafted beers. Castrellon points out that while it’s fun to “push the envelope” and experiment with varying elements (translate that as ingredients), he has to be conscious of where customers are taste-wise and how, bit by bit, his brews can help bring consumers first to enjoy complexity and eventually more complexity in their preferred class of beer.

It disappointed him that his winter/early spring full-bodied Imperial wasn’t a runaway best seller. It’s a beer that explodes with a range of colors from the bright sweetness of Peter Rabbit pastels to the dark gutsiness of Sopranos, depending on what food it’s interacting with.

“This beer has qualities to enhance any number of combinations of food,” Hinton agrees. “I look to my beverage to enhance my food. I’m playing with a whole mouth feel. It’s eating with a whole palate. As I build a burger, for instance, I’ll counteract the sweet sun-dried tomato aioli with spicy pungent homemade wasabi. It’s our job to have all the components perfectly balanced.”

Hinton’s menu, featuring “This” (salads), “That” (entrees) and “The Other” (sides and desserts), is meant to interact adventurously with the qualities of Alcatraz’s half dozen regular brews and seasonal specials. His aim is “to grow” Alcatraz patrons who enjoy more than cheese on a burger.

According to Castrellon, Alcatraz’s best-selling beers are Searchlight Golden Ale and Weiss Guy Wheat. The ale is lightly hopped with a crisp, clean taste. The wheat, also lightly hopped, is a bit more challenging, yet while each is invigorating and pleasant, neither exactly produces a “pow” effect. Castrellon weighs in for the pow.

“What I see happening now is microbreweries trying to come out with the cleanest beer possible. They are cleaning out their beers so much they are streamlined,” Castrellon avers.

Cleaning out? Streamlined?

“As opposed to complexity in a beer,” points out Castrellon. “Flavor is perception of taste.”

Hey, what about that conviviality thing?

“Conviviality is the history of beer,” Castrellon concludes. “It’s the beverage of good conversation, relaxation.”

Alcatraz Brewing Company
49 W. Maryland St. (Circle Centre Mall)

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Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn has been covering craft beer and the arts for NUVO for two decades. She’s the author of True Brew: A Guide to Craft Beer in Indiana.

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