Drinking Liberally 

Promoting democracy one pint at a time

Spencer’s Stadium Tavern resides unpretentiously at the corner of McCarty and West, within earshot of the new home of the Colts, and alongside the Institute for Forensic Science. The two-story 1900 brick structure originally served as a pharmacy and doctor’s office.

“It’s been a neighborhood tavern since 1933 where food, drink, sport and fellowship have been served up since the days when the clientele was mostly the factory workers who called this Irish immigrant neighborhood home,” says Spencer Valentine, the affable keeper of “a neighborhood tavern for the whole city.”

Craft beer, featuring the best of Indiana brews and other world-class offerings, appears on a rotating short list. Justin Boyer, Spencer’s general manager/bartender whose resume includes brewing at Rock Bottom, attracts beer-lovers-on-a-quest for what’s new and good. While Spencer’s is inviting for lunch, dinner, televised sports and live music on Saturdays, it’s Thursday’s high-minded conversation group, Drinking Liberally, that intrigues NUVO.

We initially showed up at Spencer’s for their second annual Indiana ReplicAle Tasting on July 26, following Brew Fest at Broad Ripple’s Opti Park. Brewers from Alcatraz, Broad Ripple Brewpub, Ram, Rock Bottom Downtown, Rock Bottom North and Rock Bottom Illinois followed the same basic recipe for pre-prohibition ale, differing minimally by personal choice. Tasting the six brews side-by-side at Spencer’s led to active, knowledgeable debate, especially among a group around an outside table.

Ultimately, personal taste still left the jury out for a top favorite between brews.

“What else do you all talk about?” NUVO asked.

“Current issues,” Jason Borneman said. “Come back and join us.”

Aug. 2 the group of 11 slid from one topic to another: nepotism in government (“Does anyone pay attention?”), changes in vocabulary (“No one uses the word dollop anymore.”), featherbedding (“The bridge to nowhere” syndrome).

“I’ll be interested in who the Democrats put up for governor,” led to, “Let’s look at desired attributes demonstrated by governors elsewhere.”

Then environment, guns, racial prejudice, immigration, presidential candidates, political party strategies, The War — “People are impatient to move on.”

“Some are just resigned.”

Participants got up for a beer or food, to stretch and change seating; dynamics shifted continuously.

Borneman provided the group’s back-story. “We draw people from every occupation across the city. We used to meet in Broad Ripple at Union Jack but we moved because of Spencer’s active involvement with city government. We know the money [for beer and food] is going to a guy who shares our orientation. The food is good, beer rotates and it’s an open, inviting atmosphere.”

Turns out this group “dedicated to keeping abreast and paying attention” is part of an informal, inclusive national trend for discourse while “responsibly drinking quality beer.”

Drinking Liberally began in New York City, May 2003 as a project of Cosmopolite, “an organization which builds progressive communities through social networks and events” (www.drinkingliberally.org or e-mail info@drinkingliberally.org).

Borneman founded the Indianapolis chapter in the fall of 2004. Other Indiana groups are in Bloomington, Fishers, Lafayette, New Albany and South Bend.

If consensus is lacking for ReplicAle, there’s total agreement about Spencer’s: “It’s invigorating.”

Spencer’s Stadium Tavern
802 S. West St.
Indianapolis, IN 46225

Food is hearty, beer list rotates, affordable costs.
Colts fans can buy a season pass to park at the Tavern.

Open until midnight.
Opens Monday-Friday at 11 a.m., Saturday at 4 p.m., Sunday at 10 a.m. during Colts season

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About The Author

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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