"Savoring craft beer with good food and stimulating conversation is a delight in any season, yet the experience seems heightened in the fullness of summer when the brew is the culminating self- or shared-gift for mowing the lawn, re-arranging clutter in the garage, polishing the car, hauling kids and equipment for whatever, finishing a novel in one sitting, even lolling in the shade to reconnect with the minutia of nature’s sounds. That’s when you might opt for a visit to your favorite brewpub for a glass of the special on tap or to the nearest store for a bottle or more of a microbrewer’s summer label. Or you might have foreseen the need and put in a supply. In that case you’re already heading for the refrigerator.
Here’s what to expect from your master brewers as they salute Indianapolis’ diverse population with brews emanating from a cross-section of ancestral places worldwide.
Omar Castrellon at Alcatraz (40 N. Maryland St., 317-488-1230) is back with summer favorites — a flavorful, refreshing English-origin Pale Ale to go with any food, including rich desserts, and a hoppier India Pale Ale best with spicy food and strong cheeses. He’s adding a copper-colored aromatic German Alt that’s firm-bodied, bitter and a perfect match with Alcatraz’s exciting burger line.
At Rock Bottom Brewery (10 W. Washington St., 317-681-8180), Jerry Sutherlin is tapping Indy’s German sister city signature Kolsch (Cologne), the refreshing golden brew with a light, fruity taste. July’s special is “American Dream IPA” to toast American Beer Month. August, start your engines for “Checkered Flag Pilsner,” a brew with complex character running the gamut from an aromatic, flowery start to a dry finish. Pilsner originated in the Bohemian Czech town of Pilzen.
Clayton Robinson is supplying both Ram Restaurant and Big Horn Brewery locations (140 S. Illinois St., 317-955-9900 and 12750 Parkside Drive, 317-596-0079) with over a half-dozen specials. His British ESB (Extra Special Bitter) promises complex malt, fruit and hops flavors while the amber-red Vienna Lager’s “new-mown hay” aroma is traditional for bottom-fermenting styles. His Belgian Wit, 50 percent wheat and 50 percent barley with added spices, promises a stomach-calming effect. The Sausalito Summer Ale emanates from “a little place in California outside of San Francisco.” It’s a brew new to me, too. Robinson will close out with a Red Harvest Rye Lager of Russian, Finnish, German heritage that is grainy, slightly smoky, fruity and spicy with a bittersweet rye character.
Broad Ripple Brew Pub’s Kevin Metalucci also is planning a nod to our sister city with a Kolsch, adding Pilsner, Extra Pale Ale and a nod to South America with De Sol Red Lager, which can be expected to have a mellow smoothness. His real treat will be a Heffeweizen, an unfiltered wheat beer from Bavaria of malted wheat and barley malt fermented with special ale yeasts for a fruity bananas and bubble gum aroma. Bottle-conditioned, expect effervescence in this complex brew that’s worth savoring alone or with any menu item. (840 E. 65th St., 317-253-2739)
Expect a late summer “guess beer” from Jon Lang at Barley Island Brewing Company (639 Conner St., S.R. 32 directly east of the White River bridge in Noblesville, 317-770-5280) along with a new IPA, Ale and a Belgian Wit. Wheat Ales, lighter and more refreshing than other ales, are thirst quenching and perfect with lighter foods including poultry, salads and fruit/cheese plates. Belgian Wit gets its fruitiness from Curacao orange peels, and its citric, minty, peppery flavors from spices, especially coriander seeds.
Brugge Brasserie (1011 E. Westfield Blvd., 317-255-0978) is the mother lode of Belgian beer. Ted Miller is offering a full menu including Blonde Ale, Grande Cru, Saison, Wit, Tripel and Dubbel. “Belgium is the land of beer,” states Brian Glover in The World Beer Encyclopedia. “No [other] country offers such a rich variety of styles from wild, spontaneously fermenting brews and fruit beers to spiced beers and blessed Trappist ales still produced in monasteries.” Brugge beckons the adventurous.
Miller tipped us off about the “absolutely super Lambic Ale in the works at Upland Brewery.” Penn Jensen concurred, speaking on behalf of head brewer Caleb Staton. This unique Belgian top brew of wild yeast has been aging for over a year in casks from Oliver Winery.
“It adds nuance,” Jensen says. A limited edition of 300 bottles each of four fruit flavors will be available in stores following a July release party. NUVO will keep you posted.
The Oaken Barrel Brewing Company (750 E. Main St., Greenfield, 317-887-2287) is heir to Indianapolis’ original brewing company shut down during Prohibition. Kurt Vonnegut’s maternal family won international ribbons for their early brews. Go as much for the historic context as for the summer brews, including a German Uberhefe Weizn, a honey light ale named “Sassy Kasi” and a Scottish Ale.
Beer originated in Africa for its nutritional value — it’s liquid bread — and craft beer has continued to engage the palate of discerning gourmands since Mesopotamian times. Pop a top or ask for a pull for a special summer taste treat with food to complement the brew. "