"Hot Shotz Ale & Grill has been building a convivial atmosphere since its Feb. 19 opening, where the food and beer menu may change weekly but the quest for quality remains constant. Owner Brian Graham knows it’s always long hours and sometimes short revenue when building up a new eatery, but he was eager to take the chance for a “neighborhood, non-smoking gathering place” in the former Dick’s Bodacious BBQ space at 4705 E. 96th St.

“I’m passionate about craft beer. I want to help people feel comfortable about trying quality craft beer instead of going for the usual, and making quantity the measure of being a beer drinker. We offer a low level of risk to expand taste levels. We invite ’em to try every beer on tap. And if anyone doesn’t like a bottled beer we recommend, we’ll replace it with another that is more to the customer’s taste.”

Touting “best Northside craft beer selection: bottles and draft,” Hot Shotz’s list currently includes 80 domestic and foreign choices. “Every Thursday we post on our Web site what’s new and what’s available for that week,” Graham explains.

“Wine has always had respect. At Hot Shotz we want to educate customers so they recognize beer actually is better with food, it’s not as acidic as wine is. My point? Wine drinkers, wake up to beer.”

Beer and beer making are so much more complex and challenging, Graham explains. “Eighty-six esters have been identified for wine. Over 700 are in beer,” Graham avers, who has been a home brewer for a decade, and was the 2000 Indiana State Fair homebrew winner for a Belgian Whit.

“You should be able to interchange beer and wine with a meal. We have one or two suggested beers with each menu item. We want to awaken essential taste elements.”

Cooking with beer is the other part of the Hot Shotz reputation Graham wants to build. During a recent visit, Stout not only flavored, but also carried the rich beef brisket with vegetables soup of the day. Scotch Ale and brisket made the chili distinctive. Brown ale lent an awesome aroma to the beer soup combining Munster, Monterey Jack and cheddar. Main dishes and dressings all have beer incorporated into them.

“We make everything fresh with fresh produce. We pair tomatoes with Bell’s Two-hearted — acid versus the sweetness — and we pair roasted butternut squash with Stout. I had the gastro pub movement in mind,” Graham offered, “with familiar food we could do well. We start out with smoked brisket, for example, which changes the taste of chili, and makes it distinctive.”

Adding your own “hotness” with an array of spices is the third part of Hot Shotz, “for people who really want it hot.”

Chris McClary was introduced as the “man behind the soups and everything else on the menu.”

If McClary’s love of beer is the common ground with Graham for the food part of Hot Shotz, it’s head bartender Hans Maldonado’s expert knowledge of craft brews that’s the solid ground for what Graham intends Hot Shotz to become: the coolest bottle and tap beer place.

“We’re now a watering hole,” Graham says, “but we will be a destination place.”

Hot Shotz Ale & Grill

4705 E. 96th St.

317-818-9510, www.hotshotzgrill.com