"The Ram in two locations marries beer with food
Craft-brewed selections entice the palate at Ram in downtown Indianapolis and in Fishers. Each has the down-home comfortable ambiance with furnishings and memorabilia carrying forward the chain’s history-centered, western feel and look. Televisions throughout dining and bar areas are tuned to different programs so a customer can choose a location to watch whichever, or simply opt for a table or booth and no TV. That conscious choice, and the muted music and acoustics, allows for good table conversation at either location.
A mid-day chat with brewmaster David Colt at the long-familiar Ram downtown centered on the specially craft-brewed food selections currently on the menu; we were there too late to enjoy Big Horn Oktoberfest, which has gained an annual fan base throughout Central Indiana. Colt said he brewed twice as much as last year and still ran out within a week. The brew’s rich, malty, full-bodied smoothness requires a longer than usual fermentation, so it’s not easily replaced.
We were compensated, however, the following evening when we had dinner at Ram in Fishers. Driving north for a 7 p.m. reservation was pleasant, and on-site parking is always a welcome boon.
The wait staff was knowledgeable and patient as we ferreted through a tempting menu of starters, entrees and desserts and, at each instance, compatible beers.
After we decided to concentrate on food cooked with beer we started with a taster curl ($2.99) of six 3-ounce samples of ales and lagers that are shipped to Fishers weekly in half-barrel kegs from the brewery downtown.
“Ram’s brews are always fresh,” our waitperson assured us.
After a bit of taste testing, we felt the richer-bodied 71 Pale Ale was a better companion than the recommended Big Horn Blonde with an ample appetizer of Amber Ale rock shrimp and cheese dip ($10.99), served sizzling in a wrought iron skillet. We scooped onto pita bread meaty shrimp surrounded by a melt-in-your-mouth cheese sauce perfectly balanced with pleasant hints of cayenne pepper, fresh cilantro, green onions and garlic that surfaced at different moments.
We were curious, however, about a Rosette sauce listed as an ingredient with other starters, so we were given a small bowl to taste. We found its hints of horseradish with a tomato base most pleasant and decided to save it for a dip for the fries with the entrée of Big Red BBQ Baby Backs ($15.99). Slow roasted in ale and flame grilled, the meaty ribs were nicely basted with a sweet sauce. It all went perfectly with Total Disorder Porter (Ram craft brews: 18-ounce pint glass $3.50 — special $2 Thursdays — or 24-ounce mug $5). Sides included a compilation of five beans blended, slaw of green and red cabbage and carrots in a mild vinegar sauce and crisp fries.
Our other entrée was Brewers 8-ounce steak ($15.99). Being marinated in Total Disorder Porter must have resulted in its tenderness. It was good. Really good, and grilled to a perfect medium/rare. Topped with crisp golden onions and sides of baked potato and seasonal vegetables, including green and yellow beans and carrots, this meal was savored with Buttface Amber Ale.
For dessert, we shared bread pudding ($6.99) topped with vanilla ice cream and served in a wrought iron skillet bubbling with caramel sauce. Because we asked about the Ram-made root beer, we got a sample and found it nicely blended — not too sweet, not overly carbonated. It went well with the bread pudding, though we felt the Big Red I.P.A., with its assertive citrus flavor, was a good contrast for the caramel. (Root beer by the glass is $2.49. Buy a half-gallon growler for $3 and fill it for $5 to take home and bring back to refill.)
On your way in or out take a moment to enjoy the vintage photographs, remark about the awards for craft brews on display and maybe consider enquiring about the Ram’s Mug Club, which alternates meetings between downtown and Fishers to taste and learn about new Ram brews and become better acquainted with craft beer in general. The next Mug Club gathering is at the downtown Ram on Nov. 29 at 6:30 p.m. Brewmaster David Colt will tap Old Jack’s Blizzard Ale, his full, robust version of an Imperial E.S.P. For December’s new beer, Colt will tap a stout “along the lines of Belgian Pale Ale, with a nice color.” He promises “it’ll be funky strange, spicy, warm, pretty big.”
Ram Restaurant and Brewery Downtown
140 S. Illinois St.
Sunday-Wednesday: 11 a.m.-midnight; kitchen closes at 10:30 p.m.
Thursday-Saturday: 11 a.m.- 2 a.m., kitchen closes at midnight
12750 Parkside Drive, Fishers (126th Street and U.S. 37)
Sunday-Thursday: 11 a.m.-midnight, kitchen closes at 11 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 11 a.m.-2 a.m., kitchen closes at 11 p.m.
Food: Four stars
Atmosphere: Three stars
Service: Two stars