It all started rather innocently with just one. Then another…and then another. And before you knew it, there were enough craft breweries in one area to actually become a thing. And that’s what it potentially is-The Indy Brewery District.
Not only did Sun King Brewing help ignite the craft beer sensation in Indianapolis in 2009, it was also the first brewery to set down roots in this particular area. At the time, the east end of downtown was stagnant following the implosion of Market Square Arena, as several building proposals stalled. But that has since changed. Seven more breweries (yes, seven!) then opened up nearby, several in the last couple of years, all within a hop, skip and a jump of each other.
Encompassing the inner east and southeast downtown neighborhoods, these breweries from beginning to end make up “The Indy Brewery District”:
Outliers Brewing (est. 2014)
Flat 12 Bierwerks (2010)
Sun King Brewing (2009)
Indiana City Brewing (2013)
Metazoa Brewing (2016)
Chilly Water Brewing (2014)
Fountain Square Brewing (2011)
Not exactly an overnight sensation, this was actually several years in the making though we didn’t know it at the time. There were no plans and no meeting over a beer. And then suddenly…it was. Just as if it had been designed that way.
We know that Indiana may not be the beer mecca (yet) like Portland, San Diego or Denver, but this district beer map of Indianapolis actually rivals those cities with the number of breweries in a confined space. Look at Ohio, Illinois, or even Kalamazoo, Mi., and I challenge you to find something like this elsewhere in the country.
Until recently, these brewery buildings housed other businesses and they were in areas that you mostly drove through or around. But now people are stopping. It may not be the most rugged terrain or receive “The Best Of” in hiking scenery, but there’s something to be said for the adventure in walking urban streets and alleys, going from one stop to the next. Spotting the occasional, conspicuous character only adds to the experience.
Friends Justin, Phil and Erin accompanied me on the brewery district beer trail not long ago from beginning to…well, almost end. We picked up Metazoa brewer Aaron Koerner along the way and though we barely fell short of hitting all eight spots, this really makes its own point-you don’t have to do all eight at once. Get your group together and do “The First Four”, or start at the end and do “The Last Four”, or even start in the heart of it and walk “The Middle Four.” And if you like structure, head out for “The College Av. Four.”
Better yet, tailor the route your own way and take off!
What you can find on the beer trail hike are 100 year-old homes and buildings with ornate features and beautiful architecture, and even one with paint-faded “Indiana” written across its face. Things you’ll never see while driving can be spied by walking.
As the keg rolls, the distance from Outliers to Fountain Square is a teensy two-plus miles and walking the beat from stop to stop is only about 2.5 miles. The very longest distance is .6 mi. and most connections between breweries are less than a half-mile from each other. Sufficient time to work up another thirst.
I made mention of an “Indy Brewery District” last year in a story (Metazoa Brewing) which led to an email chat with Sean Manahan, Brewmaster at Flat 12. Encouraged by this conversation, I contacted City-Council Councilman, Jeff Miller, whose district mostly falls in this area. He endorsed the idea and I later met with the Fountain Square Merchants Association President, Jeff Gibson, who just happens to be a partner at Fountain Square Brewing. Again, a district proposal was met with approval.
Since they kick-started this resurgence, it’s only fitting that Sun King remains the major cog of the district considering its popularity, central location and statewide goodwill it has earned. A conversation with all the breweries involved is anticipated.
A “Brewery District” can be a one-of-a-kind designation that would serve not only the breweries, but also the surrounding businesses by being a cool destination place. Leisurely strolls of friendly groups would create a one-on-one with their city and instill a sense of pride in their neighborhoods.
This kind of distinction is not meant to separate these breweries from their peers but there is no denying the uniqueness of the area. It is only sought to highlight what is happening in this particular area of downtown Indianapolis, because after all, what is good for beer in Indiana, is good for Indiana beer.
Do you agree? Find me on twitter @indybeersleuth