21 September 2008

KOTBR #55 - Beer and Progress with the Urbanophile

We might as well call KOTBR #55 "Evel Knievel wannabes take over Broad Ripple Avenue." For those of you who are unaware, last Thursday night saw Broad Ripple Avenue between College and Guilford get shut down for some freestyle motocross. Dudes on bikes flying off ramps. Rad. While that might have been visually stimulating, this event also made the already difficult parking situation in Broad Ripple even worse. Your friendly HBG curmudgeon here got lucky, however, and snagged a parking place next to Brugge Brasserie (a good strategic move, as you'll see shortly).

For our last roundtable, Chris, Mike, and I ended up at Chumley's Beer House (838 Broad Ripple Ave, Indianapolis, (317) 466-1555) to check out what has become a formidable draft beer selection. We were joined by the Urbanophile, who writes one of Indianapolis's most popular urban affairs blogs. Since almost all of the KOTBR live in or spend a lot of time in downtown Indy, we enjoyed chatting with the Urbanophile on his views about Naptown's growth and progress.

As for Chumley's, the place isn't much on atmosphere. If you're in your twenties and enjoy drinking a few Buds while taking in the big game on television, this is your sort of bar. That's not a knock on the place; it's just that this sort of establishment is about 15 years past its sell-by date for someone in my age bracket.

As for the beer list, it is fairly impressive. There are a good number of quality craft beer selections on tap, including Bell's, Left Hand, Magic Hat, Brugge, Victory, and Founders brands. We opted for Two Brothers Oh Brother!, which is a Belgian tripel style ale. This beer pours with a cloudy orange/amber color and very little head. While you expect a tripel to be served in a tulip glass, Chumley's opts for pint glasses, which is fine if you're used to drinking this type of beer but not so great if you want to get a good impression of the nose and if you don't know that you should sip instead of gulp (this is an 8.5% ABV beer). The nose is not unusual for a Belgian--musty and slightly malty. The mouthfeel is pleasantly creamy, and the taste bears notes of cloves, candi sugar sweetness, and malt. For a tripel, it's also very smooth and hides its alcohol content well. The smoothness of the Oh Brother! makes the beer easy to drink very quickly. A solidly made and well-balanced tripel - 3.50 mugs from me.

We left Chumley's after finishing our feature beer and headed to Brugge for one more round, courtesy of the Urbanophile. Ted has two seasonals on tap at the moment--a Helles and a Strong Dark Ale. Mike went with the Helles; Chris and I went with the Strong Dark Ale. The Dark was just as described: strong and dark. A lot of malt and kick in this one. If we were officially reviewing this beer, it would garner at least a 3.25 mug rating if not more.


It was quite the show last Thursday for the Red Bull TNT Freestyle Motocross on Broad Ripple Ave. On this particular night, though, these were not things I was looking for. Well, I might have been interested in hairless monkeys, but I just made that one up. That would have been awesome, though. Who wouldn't like watching hairless monkeys performing daring motorcycle jumps?!

I digress. This evening was about beer and we were drinking at Chumley's. In college, Chumley's would have been my kind of bar. My friends and I played a LOT of pool and darts. And who knows, the wide and impressive selection of beer on tap might have advanced my love of good beer a little faster. These days places like Chumley's get on my nerves. I much prefer to hear the chatter of my companions over the noise of jukebox selections, especially when we've got someone as interesting as The Urbanophile sitting in on this roundtable.

As for the beer? I love tripel. Probably my second favorite style after IPA -- I even attempted a homebrew tripel that turned out drinkable. Two Brothers Oh Brother! is a well done version of the style with a creamier/slicker mouthfeel than many I have tasted. I had a hard time smelling much from the beer but there was at least a hint of banana. That showed up more prominently in the taste, where it linked up with clove, familiar friends in tripels and other Belgian styles. For drinkability, I'd describe this as dangerous. So dangerous that I got ahead of the table and decided to also get a pint of Double DeBockEl, a brand-new beer out of Sierra Nevada. It's an interesting take on dopplebock, with a hoppier bite than many mellower, maltier versions I've had.

I enjoy tripels so much that in my exuberance at trying a new one, I wanted to give Oh Brother! 4.1 mugs. Thinking about it more, I think 4+ scores need to be reserved for the best of the best tripels and this is definitely not one of them. I still think it's interesting and worth ordering again but I'm revising my score down to 3.8 mugs.

Since motorcycles and motocross are my brother's scene and bicycles and two wheeled transportation are my scene, I wasn't as bothered with the motocross explosion happening on Broad Ripple Avenue as Jim was. As it turns out, I saved my lack of enthusiasm for the review.

It wasn't the beer or company that set me off. Those were both quite lovely. First off, the Two Brothers Oh Brother, a beer from Two Brothers' "Artisan Series". Their words:
The artisan beer series is an outlet for our creative/artistic side. These are beers we have been itching to brew but have a hard time getting to while brewing all our regular beers. Most of them are unique in one way or another. We may or may not brew them again at some point, but these limited run beers are all are [sic] fun and fantastic.
Fun and fantastic? Sign me up.

The beer: Sweet (what Belgian tripel isn't?) and bit peppery on the lips and front of tongue. The usual tripel elements of banana and clove come through, and the beer finishes tight on the tongue, dry, and slightly bitter. Not bad. Not good.

I can easily think of two tripels - Brugge's Tripel de Ripple and Victory's Golden Monkey - that are able-bodied competitors, and more likely to end up in front of me the next time around. All told, Oh Brother wasn't bad... I just wasn't memorable. 2.95 Mugs.

I haven't mentioned the bar, have I? Chumley's the every(college)bar. Girls, pool tables, horrible reggae cover versions of police songs coming from the overloud stereo, dudes in baseball caps, a girl drinking alone and texting, 800 televisions, and the added bonus of a clueless waitress. And I quote "do we have that on draft?" Yes. Yes you do.

In her defense, she was new. In our defense, so were we.

This place is as advertised, and I think most people know what they're in for in any Broad Ripple Avenue bar. If you're in college, of legal age, looking to pick up girls and get them drunk, there are plenty of big and tasty beers on draft that your special lady might never suspect are 6 to 9 percent alcohol by volume. Or if you're just looking for somewhere to play pool, and actually have the option of decent beer, this just might be your place.

It isn't mine.

Jim: 3.5 Chris: 3.8 Mike: 2.95
Total Avg Score: 3.41 Mugs


  1. Thanks for letting me in as a tyro on your beer geeking. I'm always up for a good brew. I agree completely with a lot of the above. Chumley's has some great beer, but does anyone in it appreciate it? Perhaps we were there on a bad night with the MotoGP crowd.

    Thanks so much for your hospitality. It was great to meet Jim and Mike for the first time, and hopefully you'll let me crash your beer tastings in the future. I"m always up for a good brew.

    BTW: I just drank a 750 of BBC (Bluegrass Brewing Company) Professor Gesser's IPA from Louisville. I picked it up at the Goose. It's a solid entry in the moderately hopped category, but not up to the top tier. But since I grew up near the 'Ville, I've got a weakness for it.

    You might be interested in a Louisville take on Brugge Brasserie here:


  2. I completely agree with your assessment of Chumleys.. Way too freakin' loud and filled with people who aren't ordering any of the quality beers on draught. It makes me wonder how many of those kegs get finished while still in their prime.

    I was told that they had gotten the Sierra Nevada DeBOCKel as well as another specialty keg from Sierra and was disgusted. I really wanted to try those, but I just can't bear to spend time at Chumley's anymore. We need a mature version of Chumley's, maybe limited to about 25 taps if you ask me.

  3. I think J. Gumbo's is the more mature version of Chumleys.