Staying Power & Start-ups in Fishers
Nine and a half years ago The RAM came to Fishers and Dan Bennett has been overseeing the sole craft beer location there until January 2015 when Redemption Alewerks claimed Fishers as their site to brew [license permit pending] at 7035 E. 96th St., and nw Sun King announced plans to open a site on July 1st as has Heady Hollow Brewing Company.
NUVO talked with Bennett as he prepares to celebrate a decade of service since December 2015.
Introducing Dan Bennett, The RAM Store Leader for Fishers at 12750 Parkside Dr.
NUVO: What background do you bring to Store Leader at The RAM Fishers?
Dan Bennett: I'm a restaurant lifer. I grew up in the banquet room of a family owned steak house on the northwest side of Indy. My first restaurant "job," meaning I actually got paid for it, was in 1990 bussing tables at that same steak house. I did every job I was old enough for while working there. I also spent some time in a locally owned wholesale bakery while I was working at the steak house doing everything from cleaning to packaging, baking, delivery— you name it and I dabbled in it. My first leadership position was as kitchen manager at a local Hooters shortly after graduating high school. I spent some time in a few other kitchens as KM before going back to Hooters and getting my first front of the house leadership position. After short stints as an assistant leader in eight Midwestern Hooters I got my first GM position at one in Cincinnati in 2004 then got lucky enough come home to Indy and run the Georgia Street Hooters. I left Hooters in early 2006 and that is when I found RAM; it was perfect for me, it got me back into a more full service restaurant and the best part— it was a brewery that had a great IPA! I guess to make a long story short I was born and raised in the service industry
NUVO: What makes the RAM unique in Fishers? What's unique about your patron base?
Bennett: First and foremost we are an employee-owned company; RAM moved to an ESOP at the beginning of 2014. We have always been privately owned, [however] now, rather than working for a single owner we all work for each other. When we came to Fishers there really was not a craft beer scene here; this made us a destination for many north side beer enthusiasts that did not have many options and it meant we were many people’s first exposure to craft beer. We have had some amazing brewers here in Indy over the years that have made some exceptional beers and built a huge following of engaged craft beer enthusiasts.
NUVO: What do you most want a Fishers RAM patron to experience?
Bennett: We are a little different from many restaurants because we do not have a scripted "experience" at RAM. We want to deliver the experience our guests are looking for and no two guests are alike. I give my team the latitude to figure out how a guest would like to be waited on, then deliver the service they expect. This means that the family of five receives the type of service they would like, and so will the mid 20's group of friends that are here to have a few beers and watch the game.
NUVO: What are the ways The RAM Fishers serves the community outside your doors? Philanthropy? Being a 'good citizen'?
Bennett: We try to support our local schools every chance we get; we regularly host "fundraiser nights" where we donate a portion of our sales for a given date to the schools, and I try hard to accommodate any time they ask us for assistance. An example of assistance they have approached us for, we donated lunch to the Fishers High School special needs class during Istep testing. We've worked with their sports teams, their arts and music departments, the drama program and we offer all Hamilton county teachers a discount on their food purchases. We also try to participate in others community service programs as well; we donate kegs of beer and team members to pour for a variety of organizations throughout the year.
NUVO: What are you doing to celebrate 10 years in Fishers?
Bennett: We are still in the planning stages of this, our anniversary is not until December so we still have a couple of months to plan but whatever our final decision ends up being its gonna be one heck of a party.
NUVO: How does food & beer match up?
Bennett: I always laugh when people get up in arms over someone drinking the "wrong" beer or even the "wrong" wine with their entree choice; if you like it, who cares what anyone else thinks! With that said I am a little different than most when pairing; I prefer a beverage that has opposing flavors from my food; everyone always says how a malty beer pairs well with BBQ but I couldn't disagree more. Give me an assertive IPA to cut through the sauce any day; or people claim IPA's pair well with spicy food. I've never understood this one either. An IPA increases the heat rather than cuts it; give me an oatmeal stout or a nice smooth porter with my Thai to give my meal some balance.
Recapping Events of a Special Kind
St Joseph Brewery & Public House officially opened May 5, 2015. Next week we bring you the full story about Indianapolis’ newest brewery in this historic building.
On a rainy May 16, Upland Brewing Company’s 4th Annual Midwest Sour + Wild + Funk Fest filled the Market Street outdoor patio with an undaunted crowd tasting a wide array of 81 different brews from 27 breweries spanning cross country from Boston, Mass. & Ashville N. Carolina to Denver and Fort Collins, Colo.; St. Louis to Dexter Mich. , with an impressive showing of 15 from Indiana, two each from Illinois and Ohio, one each from Tennessee and Kentucky. Most told me they are in the ‘experimental stage’ and were looking for feedback from patrons.
Four years ago with about ten breweries on site, I tasted from each. Doing the same this year I’d have been flying with Peter Pan [that evening’s next work slot at Beef&Boards] so I settled for listening to other people’s favorites and their reasons why and on my own tasted a handful. About 15 year ago Indiana homebrewers pioneered this special niche and shared their brews so when Caleb Staton brought forth Upland’s first batch many of us were palate-ready for the different taste. Originally brewed in 2006 with fresh fruit from Huber Orchards in Starllght, Ind., and white oak barrels from Oliver Winery, the 2007 launch event was at Upland’s 10th Street Bloomington Brewpub—every bottle sold and national attention came.
Daredevil represented a lot of what was going on—taking a flagship brew to another level. Lift off IPA, Brett Project #2 transforms a San Diego influenced bracing brew into barnyard harmony as a Sour. “This is what I do for fun,” said Michael Pearson, unaccountably calm in the midst of moving brewing operations from Shelbyville to Speedway. Expect a July 17 Grand Opening with 24 taps and a diverse Daredevil lineup for part of the 24-tap bar.
Three Pints brewer Kyle Malone shared Reclassified Pale Ale with a perfect blending of rhubarb, kumquat, guava pineapple.
I tasted Central State and Flat 12, testing the profiles and concluded that while there’s a consistent fine quality for each brewery, the profiles are distinctive. That brewers move on to do their own thing proves a truism here.
Brugge Madeline-La Framboise equally proves a 4.5% abv packs a lot of flavor and when I closed out with Figure 8 Wild Devil’s Funk at 12% I knew this Belgian Tripel aged in Chardonnay barrels with Brett was going to linger in taste for a long time—typing this on Monday the layering remains magically balanced.
Along with talking with brewers from elsewhere about their choices for brews—including Destihl in Normal, Ill., my homeplace for many years –it’s special meeting the patrons, including Rebekah Bailey who helped establish the new NorthEast Indiana Girls Pint Out. GPO had its birth in Indianapolis and now is nationwide.
Many of the breweries were doing triple duty with May 16 also being Crown BrewFest in Crown Point, and RiverRoots 2015 in Madison.
Jerry Cork is the winner of Three Pints’ First Annual Homebrew Contest. The prize was brewing his Cherry Thunder Wheat on the 5 bb system in Plainfield where this Black Cherry Honey Wheat is now on tap
Bravo to Preserve Greater Indy for their initiative to spotlight breweries who have preserved old buildings. From the very beginning 25 years ago when John Hill repurposed an automotive repair shop into the feel-at-home Broad Ripple Brewpub, the precedent was set to build and rebuild community with the warm atmosphere and life of quality craft beers, food, conversation and the arts and culture neighborhood by neighborhood. More at: https://www.facebook.com/PreservIndy
Matthew Kriech Owner & Brewer of Wabash Brewing at 5328 W 79th St reports on the growth since being the first new brewery to open in 2015
NUVO: Who is stopping in?
Matthew Kriech: We have a mix of just about everybody. We have a pretty good set of regulars (especially our Thursday night group), but also folks dropping in for a pint and growler after work. A lot of work groups of 3-5 chatting after the day is over. We are getting more that come to hang out now that we have tables and places to sit. Lots of moms on the way to and from school as well. We have good representation from the neighborhoods that are close by. Also getting folks coming through the door that saw us at the brewing festivals. We love the folks that drop by on their bicycles from the local area. We have dramatically updated our taproom, expanded our hours for the taproom, hired our first full time employee to work the taproom.
NUVO: What is the runaway brew?
Kriech: In no particular order are fast moving beers are Rocket Ryde IPA, Baconface Brown, and Mugga Smash Cherry Blonde (followed very close by our regular Blonde). Pretty equal split of pints and growlers. We also are on tap at Yats now as well District Tap. We have about 15 recipes at the moment and in general have between 8-10 beers on tap any given day. We like variety. Have a new one coming off today Rocket Re-entry. It is a 2nd runnings beer using Rocket Ryde as a base but with added Honey and a different Hop profile. Should be a nice session IPA or Pale depending on how the IBUs come out. We have about 15 recipes now with 9 or so on tap at any given time. I really like our Rocket Ryde Rye IPA.
Early on most of the feedback was that folks were surprised we had such a large breadth of beers that all where of good quality, especially for such a young brewery. Folks also loved to see the taproom evolve from the 4 walls and 2 folding tables we started with to our custom built Indiana barn wood barn and tables. I lot of people are very grateful someone opened up on the NW side of Indy.
We have dramatically updated our taproom, expanded our hours for the taproom, and hired our first full time employee to work the taproom.
NUVO: You started with a goal to make “Custom Beers” for customer special events?
Kriech: We have 3 requests right now for custom brews. We haven't advertised this as hard as we’d like but my guess is once we do it will really take off. Wanted to have everything in order before we jumped in too far.
NUVO: What is happening with the art.?
Kriech: This part has been fun. We have sold quite a few pieces [guest artists have hung]. Our goal is to have a larger variety as the year goes on. We would like to request local artists to reach out to us. There is NO cost to the artist, just a place to showcase their work.
Introducing Michael Cheek, Wabash Brewing Taproom Manager
NUVO: Why the lure to manage the taproom?
Michael Cheek: It was an opportunity to get out of Corporate America and work in an industry in which I am very interested. I also saw this opportunity as a way to help my friends grow their small business. I have 15 years of sales and customer service experience working for companies such as Defender Direct, AT&T, and Heritage Environmental.
Interacting with customers is definitely the most fun part of the job.
NUVO: What’s the most challenging part?
Cheek: Not drinking all the beer. Seriously, I haven't figured out the challenging part of the job, yet. I'm hoping there isn't one
Spencer Mason, assistant brewer at FLIX Brewhouse, talks about starting out:
NUVO: What was special about Great Fermentation for acquiring art, craft and confidence for professional brewing?
Mason: Great Fermentations is a hub of beer knowledge. It was great working there because everyone had his or her area of expertise. I basically became a sponge alongside my friends and learned from them.
NUVO: What has been the learning curve for professional brewing at FLIX?
Mason: I'd say getting used to the volume (7 BBL's is quite a jump from 5 gallons) and using the professional standards like measuring in Plato for gravity.
NUVO: Is there a special style of beer that calls to you to want to brew?
Mason: I would love to brew a coffee stout. It's my wife Lisa's favorite style of beer and she has been nothing but supportive of me. So it would be my tribute to her.
NUVO: How do you assist Chris as head brewer?
Mason: I do whatever Chris tells me to do. Be it cleaning tanks or stacking grain or transferring beer. I'm looking at this job as an apprenticeship and I have no problem doing the dirty work.
NUVO: What particular assets do you bring to FLIX as part of the brewing team?
Mason: I'd say that I bring the enthusiasm of a homebrewer who finally got his break. Everyday is a learning opportunity for me and I'm stoked to be here.
Nick Davidson, President of Tin Man Brewing Company reports, “We’re still distributing to Alberta and British Columbia. It’s mostly Warnog that we distribute up there, but we send some Tin Man stuff every once and awhile as well.”
Mad Anthony Brewing Company’s first canned beer release is their seasonal ale Summer Daze Wheat, in 16oz cans. It’s a golden nectar brewed with a blend of wheat, honey, caramel malt, and various natural aromatics; slightly sweet with notes of honey, spice and citrus at 5.4% ABV.
May 20: Bier Brewery partnering with Angry Ape Creative for their first Wednesday of each month networking event, 5:30-7:00 p.m.; open to the public it’s a relaxed networking environment with potential guest speakers.
May 22: FLIX Brewhouse tapping Generation Alt: a Dusseldorf Altbier German session ale; well balanced between malt and hops
May 22: Bier Brewery at Prairie View Golf Club Groovin' on the Green, 7-10 p.m. walk-ins are welcome; reservations at (317) 816-3100.
May 22: Bier Brewery at Lino's Coffee Carb Day event featuring an 8-tap takeover at 5:30 p.m.
May 22: Bier Brewery presents Chris Burch, an Indiana-based song-writer/singer; 6:45 p.m. no cover and $5 pints..
May 23: Barbecue and Brew at PanAm Plaza, 11 a.m -8 p.m.More at: www.tasteofindy.com
May 23: Indiana City two year celebration, 2-10 p.m. at 24 Shelby St. more here.
May 23: Upland Bloomington Brewpub, 350 W. 11th St., Bloomington 3-11 p.m. WFHB’s Acoustic Roots festival is a fundraiser for Bloomington Community Radio, focusing on the rich heritage of American acoustic roots music. It is a great showcase of local and regional acoustic roots artists $20 advance, $25 at the door tickets at: http://uplandbeer.com/event/wfhb-acoustic-roots/