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Neighborhoods and small communities are coming together throughout Greater Indianapolis with the growth of craft beer brewed and served on-site at brewpubs and taprooms around the city. Established breweries are opening satellite locations. Home brewing keeps growing; award-winning homebrewers are at the forefront of newly emerging brewpubs.

There are now more than 80 craft breweries in Central Indiana; part of a resurgence that can be traced back to its origins in Broad Ripple nearly 30 years ago.

Broad Ripple Brewpub opened along the newly established Monon Trail in 1990 and established the neighborhood model as a gathering place to enjoy food from local sourced ingredients; to converse and join together to benefit community, arts, and culture. Newspapers still are at the front door and books are on the shelf on the way to the “loo.” BRBP introduced darts and trivia nights, philanthropy events, pet, and family friendly. Sit at the bar or pop in for a take-home growler.

Every other craft brewpub in Greater Indianapolis basically is building on that beginning 28 years ago. The decor may differ, the emphasis may veer from English to German, Belgian, Czech, or Irish styles or lean to the eclectic. Beers might be malt-centric, hop-centric, yeast-centric; vegetable, fruit or herbal-spice centric. Basically, the pattern is for Seasonals and Specials to spark a year-round line-up.

BRBP set the baseline for cooperation as a community of brewers working together for the greater good. Co-owner Nancy Hill is a Master Gardener and, along with flowers at the brewpub, she planted hops—so we know what they look like. And there’s been an old-country habit of fostering a habitat for yeast, even though the emphasis is on persnickety cleanliness. The newest trend for wild yeast has history here. 

The ongoing story of craft brewing in Greater Indianapolis gets richer with the re-telling. Craft beer represents the community in which it is brewed. In the beginning, nary a BRBP brew sat on a shelf in a store; off-premise sales did not exist.

Oaken Barrel established the first brewpub in Greenwood in 1994, taking us southward; in 1999 Barley Island Brewpub opened in Noblesville for a northward trek. The concept of “Greater Indianapolis” got traction. So did sales of their beers in bottles. Artists created fetching labels.

Alcatraz opened in 1995 as the first brewpub anchoring the rebirth of Downtown Indianapolis, it lasted until 2011. Rock Bottom came in 1996 The RAM in 2000. Sept. 20, Downtown Indy’s 25 years of “Shining Moments” has its kickoff on Georgia Street at Pan Am Pavilion. Craft beer is part of the party.

IUPUI is marking its 50th anniversary. A decade ago Omar Castrellon inaugurated IUPUI’s beer history and sensory class; Ron Smith continues to grow the program and its graduates now are brewery owners.

Brugge opened in 2005, inspiring a precedent for Belgian beers and food.

Bloomington-based Upland opened Broad Ripple Tasting Room in Spring 2009, as a foodless satellite to hang out, sip a pint, play a board game, carry out a growler.

Sun King Brewery in fall 2009 created Indianapolis’ first modern craft production brewery, setting into motion a collective mantra: fresh and local; beer in cans, on store shelves, and on tap in taverns and restaurants all around Indianapolis; release parties for every new beer became a must-attend event up and down College Avenue.

Brewers of Indiana Guild’s Tomlinson Taproom came to the refurbished City Market in 2010 with 19 rotating taps and coolers of bottles and cans representing Indiana craft statewide. Annually, in early December, a Prohibition Repeal Party in the Catacombs is a tongue-in-cheek nod to historic Tomlinson Hall having been the site of the 1892 National Prohibition Convention.

Black Swan opened in 2010, in Plainfield as the first Hendricks County brewpub.

In 2013, Indiana City Brewing reclaimed the only extant building from Indianapolis’ internationally-renowned pre-Prohibition brewing industry.

Daredevil built Indy’s first modern craft brewery from ground up in Speedway, in 2015, adding to the refurbish, reuse model, yet remaining true to the impetus to revitalize a neighborhood and a community.

TwoDEEP opened at 714 N. Capitol Ave. in 2014 with the Indianapolis Cultural Trail at its doorstep.

Central State Brewing opened in 2015 as Indiana's first 100 percent Brett-focused craft brewery.

When Round Town Brewery opened west of the White River in 2016, in an underserved neighborhood, a new era of growth also launched for Morgan, Hendricks, and Boone counties.

Johnson County spurred craft growth into Shelby County; Hamilton County spurred growth into Madison County. Eastside craft brewing is emerging in Hancock and Shelby counties.

Throughout all this activity, support businesses for Indiana craft breweries have taken on a life of their own, including hops growers and a maltster, along with branding and artist studios, mobile canning, and specialized banking and insurance.

With nearly 100 niche-oriented brewpubs, breweries, and taprooms in Greater Indianapolis, the culture surrounding craft beer is part of where we live, work, refresh, commune—marking a return to how it was before Prohibition, when taverns were part of every neighborhood and small town as the gathering place for individuals and families to enjoy good food and entertainment while building good community life.

Beer brewed and food cooked on site were the impetus for new settlers to stop in at McCormick’s Tavern in 1820. They came to build the new capital from the ground up, on sites where the Lenape/Delawares sojourned throughout the 18th century, and until 1820 before forcible removal. As we look to our 2020 bicentennial, past, present, and future intertwine; beer made here is central to our collective memory.

While preparing this year’s guide to neighborhood brew, I received this Vince Lombardi quote from a brewer that suits our theme: “Individual commitment to a group effort—that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

On the eve of its opening, Mayfair Taproom added this Samuel Johnson quote to the wall of taps:

“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.”

Both apply to the communities craft beer is reviving all around Indianapolis.

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