Indianapolis is a 4.5 hour drive from Cleveland. So when the weather is perfect for a road trip (sunny, blue skies, but still cold enough where you can’t reasonably be outside for any length of time), why wouldn’t you make that 8 hour round trip? That is the question we asked ourselves one empty Saturday. And of course the answer was, “Let’s do it,” which leads up to you reading this review.
Upland Brewing is located in Indiana. There are multiple locations throughout the state. There’s a brew pub, the production facility (both in Bloomington), a tasting room (in Broad Ripple), and a tap house (in Carmel). Upland is known for its sours. Their lottery system is an easy way to potentially score yourself some of their unique and delicious sour options. Just use an email address to sign up for the lottery. Sometimes you can request one bottle, sometimes you can request multiples. A few weeks later, an email arrives telling you whether you have won the ability to purchase any bottles, the flavor, and the total number. All winners are required to purchase their bottles at the tasting room in Broad Ripple. However, Upland is pretty laid back about this. They allow friends to pick up winning bottles as long as they have an identification that matches the name of the winner. Our friend lives in Indianapolis, so when we haven’t had time to pick up our bottles, we send him copies of our id and he ships them out to us. This last time, our calendar was completely empty, so we decided to make the drive ourselves.
The drive was pretty uneventful. There was a lot of snow-covered farm land to view out of the windows. But the day was beautiful. The sun was out (which isn’t a given for February in Ohio/Indiana) and the sky was the bright blue of a summer day. It was very deceiving since the temperature was around 12. But, I digress. We arrived in Indianapolis around 12:00 and decided that we were hungry. Fortunately, Steve had done his research and had found an authentic tamale place, ironically called The Tamale Place, a few minutes away from our first beer destination. If you are traveling to Indianapolis, you really need to pre-load on the tamales and guacamole. There are tons of options for tamales (vegetarian, spicy, banana leaf, chicken, chorizo, and sweet flavors), as well as tacos and tortas. We had 3 different tamales and all of them were fantastic, so you can’t go wrong there. I also recommend that you get the spicy guacamole and the medium-sized bag of tortilla chips. I have had some fantastic guacamole in my life, but that may have been the creamiest and one of the most flavorful “plain” varieties that I have ever tasted.
We then traveled less than 5 minutes to Sun King. Sun King is interesting. When you walk in, you are handed 3 tokens and 3 tickets for free. Then you walk into the brewery, which is just a wide-open space with a long bar on one end, 2 small gift-shop cases near the exit, and production tanks filling up the majority of the building. With each ticket you could go to the bar and receive a 1 oz. pour of their three house beers. The three tokens are for the specialty beers that are on that day. Once you use your tickets/tokens, that’s it. You cannot drink glasses of beer inside the brewery. In fact there are no glasses. All you can do when finished sampling is decide whether to purchase a growler or grenade. You can’t consume the growlers or grenades on premises either. So, at that point, it’s time to leave. I believe that we were there for a total of 20 minutes. And that included the time it took to buy 2 grenades and 2 four-packs of beer. There are tours, so you could potentially stay longer if tours are your thing. One of the reasons to go is the price. We didn’t bring any glass with us, so we had to buy the Sun King grenades. Since that is the only way Sun King makes money at the brewery, I assumed they wouldn’t be cheap. I was wrong. The grenades were $2.50. A growler was only $4 and the flip-top really nice growlers are only $5. And the fill is cheap too. $3 for a grenade and $6 for a growler. I don’t know how they make money, but I’m not complaining. Their Osiris Pale Ale is a good clean pale. It was exceptional fresh. The cans we brought back had faded a bit, so it is best if you can get it at Sun King and drink it in the next day or so. We were also fortunate that one of the specialty beers was Chocolate Cake. We had heard a bit about this porter and it did a good job living up to expectations. It wasn’t overly chocolatey, considering they describe it as being brewed with “copious amounts of bittersweet chocolate,” but I prefer it that way. Because it is a porter and not a stout, it was thinner than I would have liked. I think if it had been thicker, it would have been more like its namesake. But it was good enough that we brought home a grenade of that for sharing.
Next it was on to a bottle shop where we found some beers that we don’t get in Ohio. Jester King is apparently distributed in Indiana. This is one of our favorite breweries so we had to buy a Commercial Suicide and a Mad Meg. And it is very possible that I discovered the best named beer of all time. Against the Grain makes a beer called…wait for it…Brett the Hipman Hop. I have no idea if it will be good and I don’t care. I am super excited to try it with those who will appreciate it the most.
Upland was our next stop to pick up our sours (2 Raspberry and 2 Strawberry). The Broad Ripple location is where the sours are sold. Entering the tasting room is sort of surreal. There was a loveseat, four 2-seater tables, two 4-seater tables, and a bar with 3 stools. That is it. There is a tiny back room with a few more stuffed chairs, couches, and some board games where the restroom is located. Upland itself calls it a hole in the wall, and I concur. It is very cozy though. There are 6 beers on tap, although their non-sour offerings are usually just average. I had the Coast Busters, which was a surprisingly good West Coast Double IPA. Our Indy friend met us there, otherwise we might have only stayed about 30 minutes. Instead, we were there at least 2 hours. Even though it is tiny, it was a great place to catch up with a friend.
We then headed to Triton. Triton has some beers that make it to Ohio and everything we have tried has been average. However, since we were in Indy, we decided to stop at the tap room and see if the beers on tap were better. The bar was nice and not crowded on a Saturday night. I got the sampler which included 6 beers. There are two options for the sampler, which is great for the customer. One is made up of the 6 house beers and the other is a make-it-yourself style. I picked beers that we aren’t able to get in Ohio. There happened to be a Barrel Aged Old Ale on tap that day which was their best offering. It was a bit boozy, but the earthy, leathery flavor of an old ale cut through and mellowed it out a bit. The other beers were average. In all actuality, the best thing I tasted at Triton was their homemade root beer, which is not alcoholic. What we really liked about Triton though was the people. The bartenders were extremely friendly and open. They talked to us about beer, our trip, TV, whatever. And they brought us other samples of things that they thought we might like as we sat their longer. We also talked to a regular who was sitting near us and the brewer sat down next to Steve after we had been there about 30 minutes. It was great to have a conversation with him about his beers and the choices he makes when brewing. He was a genuinely nice guy. We were lucky to meet him.
And that concluded our trip. We left our house at 8:15AM and arrived home at 12:30AM. We packed as much as we could into one day and enjoyed ourselves. That being said, there are cities that you feel you need to return to. Either because the places you went were memorable and exceptional or because you weren’t able to hit everywhere you wanted to go. Indianapolis may be a one and done for us. We went everywhere we wanted to and the places we went were fine. But fine doesn’t always get a return visit. Unless we win another sour lottery or go to visit our friend!
Cheers Regular Sean!