11 May 2009

The Sun King Rises Over Indy, Part 2

A little over a week ago, the rainy April weather had us yearning for some rays of sunlight. So we paid a second visit to Clay Robinson, the man responsible for the newest addition to Indianapolis's craft beer scene, Sun King Brewing Company (you can read about our first visit here). While at the brewery's new digs on College Avenue, we were treated to a couple of samples of Sun King's wheat beer prototypes. We also received an update on the progress Clay has made in getting the 15 BBL brewery up and running. Clay told us that he plans on officially rolling out Sun King's beers in July. The beers should be available at a wide variety of places in the city, as Clay currently has 20+ establishments around Indianapolis interested in offering the brewery's beers. As for Sun King's lineup of house beers, Clay is taking a democratic approach to establishing that lineup, allowing Sun King's fans to provide input on which beers will be offered on a full-time basis. In the meantime, Sun King will produce seasonal beers, such as the wheat beers we sampled, and specialty brews.

Since our last visit, Clay and company have installed their fermenters, cleaned the brewery floors, and were busy installing their new walk-in cooler over the past weekend. Moreover, Clay has finally been joined by his brewing partner, Dave Colt, who recently left Ram's Indianapolis location to join Sun King. And this Tuesday, May 12, Clay will co-host a craft beer dinner at Spencer's Stadium Tavern in honor of American Craft Beer Week.

To keep up to date on Sun King's progress, become a Facebook fan of the brewery or follow Sun King on Twitter.

On to the thoughts of my fellow KOTBR--

Some of you may be wondering how Clay was able to get money to start this venture. We thought it was remarkable that he was able to get investment in this economic climate. To the contrary, he remarked that the recession actually worked in his favor when it came to outside investment. Because the craft beer market is so robust--one of the few sectors of the economy still growing right now--his investors view his brewing operation as a safer bet than the stock market.

Since about month six of my Hoosier Beer Geek experience, I've been plotting: What would my brewery look like? What kind of beer would I brew? Where would I want the brewery? Where could it all go wrong? What's the difference between beer that people like and beer that people love?

The first problem I foresee is that I don't brew beer. The second problem is that I don't have any money. The third problem is that although it all sounds like a lovely idea, I don't have the balls it takes to try to pull it all off. I'm ok with that, and now that I've visited Sun King, I know that there's someone out there taking the chances I wouldn't take. Seeing the results without the risk (or the rewards) is going to be fun for me.

Clay gave us his whole brewery story; he looked in the places I would have looked, he'll brew styles with input from the general public, and he'll have a tasting room just like those intimate spaces we found when we visited Colorado. His ideas seem brilliant because they're like my ideas. He plans to involve the community, which is a great way to create a sense of ownership in the beer. He's open, enthusiastic, and communicative.

All of that means squat if the beer isn't great. Tastes change, and there's a ton of competition, even locally. The beer we sampled was encouraging--tasty, interesting, and perhaps most important (at least to me), the mouthfeel was dead-on. Our samples showed an attention to detail that some small breweries miss.

With no offense meant to our Brewers of Indiana Guild friends, none of the locals have (of yet) stepped up to become THE Indianapolis brewery. I've seen it in action at Schlafly in St. Louis, and it's a powerful and amazing sort of animal. I can't help but be excited to see how it all turns out for Clay and company. I have a feeling I'll be a regular visitor. I'm certainly rooting for them.

The brewery's progress was definitely noticeable since our last visit to Sun King. It wasn't noticeable in the sense that it looked like a full production brewery, but the concrete trenches were filled in, the concrete pads were poured, and the old excess machinery had been removed. All that remained to be done was the setting up of the brewery equipment and the tasting room.

We sampled two types of wheat beers: a regular wheat and a Saison-style wheat. The regular wheat was enjoyable, with a creamy mouthfeel on the lighter side and noticeable banana notes, but still fairly light and summery. This was a good American wheat with just enough Hefeweizen character to make it interesting.

The Saison wheat had a lighter, more watery mouthfeel with a nice tart twist in the finish. It also had a few spicy notes, but the tart twist was a pleasant surprise. I would definitely drink this on a hot day.

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely could not agree more that none of the BIG brewers have yet to step up to become THE Indianapolis brewery, and I too have been longing to see someone do it. So often when you visit cities, they have a local micro that is as ubiquitous in local bars as the macros (well almost). The best example I have seen is Boulevard in Kansas City. What's great about Boulevard, and I would love to see Sun King do, is that they make a standard line of good above average, but not shocking beer, and then have a limited specialty line, the Smokestack Series, that is really exceptional. So I too am rooting for Sun King and looking forward to hearing more as their launch approaches.

    Thanks Knights,