August 20, 2011 is a day that Melissa Uhte is not likely to forget. It is a day that a fire destroyed her beloved Aristocrat Pub and Restaurant but, like a Phoenix, the Aristocrat was reborn, more beautiful than before. On October 20, 2012, following a long fourteen month rehab, customers returned to find the same, comfortable Aristocrat, but only better.
Quaintly situated in SoBro (South Broad Ripple area) at 5212 N. College Av., the Aristocrat originally opened in 1933 but moved to its present location in 1986. But, this is not your father’s Aristocrat. Though plans had been in place to change the structure of the bar, timing was out of their control because of the fire. Much care was given to the remodel, which is obvious when you first enter the establishment. A large bar area was moved and placed in the middle of the west room, where numerous TV’s line the upper walls. The dining area was reconfigured, as tables and booths provide both intimacy and togetherness.
General Manager, Melissa Uhte, who has spent the last thirteen years at the Aristocrat, says affectionately, “this is home.” She proudly states that the Aristocrat is probably “the ‘greenest’ bar in Indiana”, and a recent beer/food pairing with highly decorated Bier Brewery and follow-up visit, allowed her to show off the pub.
The entire restaurant is handsomely decorated with dark wood-paneled walls and ceiling, with some brick wall accents. The walls and tables are all reclaimed wood, and beautiful teakwood recovered from an Eli Lilly boardroom, are featured in the upstairs Oxford room, suitable for receptions and celebrations. The restaurant is illuminated by LED lights and it uses totally energy efficient equipment.
“A love for craft beer fueled this,” she said, as she nodded towards the 59 craft-only beer taps and one root beer tap.
Antiques are appropriately placed throughout the pub which all plays off the new concrete floor. Melissa said 2,000 lbs. of crushed beer and wine bottles were used in the mixture to provide a striking, glimmering effect. Additionally, a large garden sits squarely in front of the pub opening, making outdoor seating a perfect choice for spring or summer lunches or dining. The comforting interior is sure to make the cold fall and winter nights warm and cozy.
And now, onto the beer. Melissa politely but unabashedly calls herself a beer snob and her passion quickly shines through.“A love for craft beer fueled this,” she said, as she nodded towards the 59 craft-only beer taps and one root beer tap (“this is a family establishment”). I assume one of the “hazards” of her job is having the pleasure to hand-choose the beer that makes it onto her taps. The beers rotate frequently so it is hard to keep the beer list up to date, and a visit to the beer cooler showed that other beers are awaiting their chance. (Bottled beer is available from “Big Beer” too. I suggested she charge double for those).
On this day, Melissa was serving beer from as far away places as Mission Brewery, Green Flash, Stone, Smuttynose, Sixpoint, and Victory but the feature is the 19 Indianapolis beers, as well as other Indiana beers. Six beers from 3 Floyds were prominently displayed along with multiple local selections from Bier Brewery, Sun King, Fountain Square, Flat 12, Outliers, Tow Yard, Upland, Indiana City and Scarlet Lane. Look for your favorite brewery but look often, Melissa hinted at sometimes tapping some prized selections that go quickly.
Further proving Melissa’s commitment to and interest in craft beer, she plans to make local beer and food pairings a regular monthly event, and possibly even bi-monthly. While Melissa is not a homebrewer, she said that her husband is and he has even thrown out the idea of starting a homebrew club within the Aristocrat. (I’m guessing her lucky husband gets to “advise” on the bar beer selection).
As mentioned, the beer pairing on this night was with Bier Brewery, a northeast Indianapolis brewery that has won numerous world, national and statewide awards, including the prestigious Indiana State Fair Brewers Cup in 2011 and 2012. The featured beers were:
- Special K Kolsch
- Good Pils pilsner
- Dred Brown porter
- Chronic Pale Ale
- Summer Marzen
- Redrum Irish Red
- and to wrap a bow around the prize, DFG Imperial IPA paired with Key Lime pie.
I was especially intrigued by the Chronic Pale that Ryan from Bier said is brewed with caliente hops. This was a very nice and smooth pale ale with some very subtle pepperiness. All of the samples of awesomeness provided by Bier were perfectly paired with the salads, bread and cheese dip, crab cakes, soup and dessert.
I had not been to the Aristocrat since before the fire, so I was hugely impressed by the new look. Stop in and say hi to Melissa, and enjoy the “new” Aristocrat.