As a South sider I am very happy bringing out this edition of the six pack interview with Ben Russell. I've been shopping at his store, Crown Liquors on the corner of 31 and Shelby, for many years, and in the last six months the stores selection for craft beer has exploded and is only getting better since Ben took over at that location. Ben is a fantastic guy to work with as well as you are meandering around the beer selection.
1. Who are you, and where do you work?
My name is Ben Russell, and I work for Crown Liquors on US 31 South (7621 US 31 South Indianapolis 46227 to be exact.)
2. What got you into the beer business?
It was kind of a fluke really. I was a full time student (for the second time in my life) and I seriously injured my ankle playing softball. I didn’t have health insurance, and being the poor college student I was, I ended up on crutches for about three months. With the price of school, and medical costs, I really, really needed a full-time job. I’ve always had a passion for beer, and a friend of mine referred me to the famous Mr. Sprinkle. Mike hired me and the rest is history (Thanks Mike).
3. What are your short term and long term goals at your new location?
Well, the short term goal is rather simple. I just want to get to know the crowd, and see how my fellow beer geeks operate on the south side. I spent a long time in Fishers, and built quite a few friendships with my regular beer enthusiasts, and I’m hoping to do the same here on the south side.
Long term goals are going to be a little more difficult, but definitely the most rewarding. I just added three, 8 ft. sections of shelving dedicated to the wonderful world of craft beer. I want to bring in all the hard to find, allocated, tasty treats along with the classics of the craft beer genre. Plus let me not forget or neglect the wonders from across the pond. Goal number two is to try and change your average domestic beer drinker, into an American Micro lover. With the recent sale of Budweiser, it seems to me it could only be considered patriotic to at least help out the little guys, and taste some really good beers at the same time.
4. What are your favorite beers that you bring into your store? Favorite beer you wish you could get in your store?
This is a really tough question. But if I have to be specific I might as well list by major styles. Pale Ale…. Mikkeller's All Others Pale, light on alcohol, heavy in flavor, IPA….. Dreadnaught, nuff said, Porter…… Olfabrikken’s porter, get it while you can, distribution is really slowing down, Stout…… Stone Russian Imperial(currently out of stock boo!) a broad Belgian selection….. Rochefort 10, Saison DuPont Farmhouse, Cantillon Organic Gueze to name a few, I could go on and on.
Beers one could wish for……Russian River Pliny the Younger, Black Albert, hey, hey, hey, Alesmith Speedway Stout, Lost Abbey Angel’s Share, Cuvee de Castleton, once again the list could go on, and on. There are so many it would be impossible to name them all.
5. What are some of the trends you are starting to see in craft beer buyers?
The only trends I’m seeing, is just an overall growth of interest in the craft itself. The rare and seasonal beers are becoming harder to come by, which of course is good and bad. Bad because with certain beers, I only receive certain amounts (Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Darklord etc.), and sometimes not everyone gets a chance for a taste. Then again, with the increasing demand, hopefully it will allow a greater production, and help keep the small guys competing with their inexpensively priced domestic competition.
6. What beers would you like to see come to your store or Indiana in general?
I would love to see Fat Tire, and Yuengling brought into Indiana. By far these are the two most requested beers that I get asked about. Plus there perfect bridge-gapping beers for the person who is unaware of how good craft beer can be. For me personally, I would love to see Pizza Port brewing, or the Lost Abbey, Russian River, Alesmith (to name a few again), come into Indiana. I’ve only been privy to a few from each brewery, but I’d really like to check out their entire lines.
Bonus: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Once again, I’m still in my infancy when it comes to craft beer. I welcome everyone (21 and over) to come see me, and rap about tasty beverages. I’m at the store six days a week, and have tastings every Friday night. I’m always wanting to learn more about beer……and always wanting to try new things, good or bad, so I’m looking forward to meeting some south-siders, and A special thanks for these guys at hoosierbeergeek.com (I’ve met Matt, and Jason… cool guys) for helping beer geeks across the state find spots for the true beer lovers. Cheers and I hope you’ll come see me.
A big thanks to Ben for answering our questions, and if you are on the South side or a South sider, stop in and see Ben to pick up some of your favorite craft beer singles, bombers, six-packs, and more.