19 September 2010

KOTBR #112 - Flashback at The Northside Social

Far out! Imagine my surprise when I learned that the 70’s have returned! Okay, so only in the Hebrew calendar is it the seventies (Rosh Hashanah marking the beginning of year 5771), but this is enough of an excuse for me to haul out my platform shoes, dust off my polyester leisure suit, drape gold jewelry across my hairy chest, and make my way onto the disco floor.

Studio 54 is long gone. And discotheques are in short supply in Indianapolis. But I had heard of this new Broad Ripple establishment called the Northside Social. So I laced up my blue disco quad roller skates and headed up the Monon. But what did I find? A restaurant full of people, sitting around, talking, enjoying their meals and the extensive craft beer tap list. But where’s the dance floor? Where’s the disco ball? Where are the balconies where I can get my freak on? Nowhere. For those livin’ and lovin’ the disco scene, this place is a complete disappointment.

I couldn’t find any blow, poppers, or Quaaludes at the Social, so I opted for a beer instead. First up, Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale. To put it in Disco-ese, Sierra Nevada is the Bee Gees and Tumbler is “Stayin’ Alive.” This brewery is almost as old as disco itself. But like disco, it proves to be relevant in spite of its age with a wonderful lineup of seasonal and special brews. Tumbler is an example of that. It has a malty base with a slight bitter ending. There was a bitter hit like coffee and a toasty nose. The thin body made it easy to drink and, if I were workin’ up a sweat on the dance floor, the salty sweat would have brought out the maltiness even more. I suppose salty food would do the same thing. But all that food would just get in the way of my dance fever. 3.25 Mugs.

I asked for another beer, something a bit more trippy. What I received was Clipper City’s Loose Cannon IPA. I have to say, this brewery didn’t heed the advice of the Hues Corporation. This Loose Cannon is will certainly “Rock the Boat”. Golden in color, dry in finish, the hops weren’t overwhelming but left the beer with a bit of sweetness. It is a sticky beer leaving a sticky taste in my mouth. Not quite the same experience as the ones I have with my party drugs. But enjoyable none the less. 4.33 Mugs.

Despite the all the great food and great beer consumed at the Northside Social, nobody was interested in joining me by the fire exit, in the bathroom stall, or in the back alley. This boogie man wanted to get down tonight. I didn’t want to stop ‘til I got enough. But this dancing machine couldn’t find anything to cure his night fever. I left the Social. Alone with my thoughts. Pondering if disco could really be dead? What could I do now?

Oh, look, there’s a casting call for “Cats”…

What is it about the unnecessary use of the definite article that lets you know that whatever you're dealing with takes itself a little too seriously? There's nothing like putting the word "The" in front of your title to let us know that you're full of yourself.

I wanted to dislike The Northside Social on that premise alone. Or maybe it was the fact that every time we tried to stop by for a casual visit, the parking lot was full. Or maybe it was the strange choice of location. The Northside Social is an upscale looking restaurant with an upscale looking clientele, more fitting to Carmel than Broad Ripple. Usually I find that the numbers don't add up and that these sorts of places are a parody of what they attempt to be, but The Northside Social makes sure the emperor is fully clothed and serenaded with a crappy upbeat jazz soundtrack.

At this point you're probably thinking I didn't like the place. It's hard to argue with great service, a solid beer selection, and reasonably priced and delicious food, and The Northside Social delivered all three. It wouldn't be my first choice as a night out in Broad Ripple, but that says as much about me as it does about the establishment.

Back to the beer selection, or in this case, our selection of beer: We started with Sierra Nevada Tumbler Brown, a beer I had read rumblings about online. Cola-colored, slightly chewy, with a light front, a very "beery" middle, and a hoppy snap to finish, it's a very serviceable brown. Nothing to go crazy about, but definitely worth your beer dollars. 3.33 Mugs.

Our second selection was Clipper City's Loose Cannon Hop3 IPA, a triple IPA regular old IPA from Baltimore's Clipper City Brewing Company. This beer is not the giant hoppy beast you might expect out of a triple IPA, This beer might be exactly what you'd expect out of a IPA, and is a sweet and malty beer with perhaps a little more balance on the malt side. As much as I love a DIPA or Triple IPA with a malt balance, this one goes just a hint too far in that direction for my tastes. It's not quite hoppy enough for me, but that's not to say I didn't enjoy it - in fact I enjoyed it quite a bit. 3.97 Mugs.

This review was edited after a reader's comment alerted me to the fact that Hop3 is not actually a triple (or double) IPA. The score and my thoughts remain the same.

"Why the hell is the parking lot always so full?" Ooh, I'd love to know the story that prompted the sign on The Northside Social's door to read "Proper Dress Attire Required - Sleeves Required for Gentlemen". Is that a big issue in Broad Ripple? Are roving bands of sleeveless hooligans running amok in the village?

Those thoughts and questions ran through my head upon entering The Northside Social. As we took our seats and I was able to take in the atmosphere a little bit, I admit that I became a little confused at the vibe The Northside Social is going for. Decor, classy. Menus, classy. The multitude of TVs in the restaurant area, hmmm, interesting twist there. Would that keep me from coming back? Nope, not even close. Especially when the food and service is so good. Plus, whenever the waiter suggests anarchy, that's extra brownie points in my book.

We chose Sierra Nevada Tumbler, and it proved to be very fine, in my opinion. Caramel malty with a clean finish. I would like it to be a little bit sweeter, but that is my taste. 3.12 Mugs

The Loose Cannon from Heavy Seas has a wonderfully huge grapefruit nose with just a little hint of pine. With an aroma that strong, I expected a thicker body than what was there. I appreciate that the same strong citrus aroma also followed through into the flavor. 3.95 Mugs

I wasn't alive during the 70s, so I have a hard time making any analogies. Brown was a predominant color in 70s fashion, and Tumbler is a brown ale, so there you go. FLASHBACK! Overall this is a pretty standard yet solid brown ale. Toasty grains and yeast in the aroma with light caramel, cocoa and pecans in the flavor profile. I would guess Maris Otter might be the base malt. The body is fairly watery, which makes this a beer you'll drink quickly. Not a brown ale to seek out, but certainly a good one. 3.4 mugs

Loose Cannon is a stellar double IPA. Or maybe it's a triple IPA, I don't know. Are pirates retro? Sure, let's say they are. Arrrrrgghh. Tons of grapefruit aroma from the hops with a bit of lemon peel and chamomile. Lots of delicate spice notes in the body, including juniper, dry spruce, orange peel and rose hips. Grapefruit and tangerine hop flavors. This is one of my favorite readily available DIPAs, lots of malt to balance lots of hops. 3.9 mugs

I'll close out this roundtable by returning to Jason's 70s theme because the Northside Social strongly reminded me of one of the 70s most under-appreciated television programs. Before David Letterman hit the airwaves in NBC's post-Tonight Show time slot in 1982, that slot was occupied by Tomorrow. This program, which was a talk show that began airing in 1973, was hosted by Tom Snyder. Snyder's contagious laugh and congenial manner gave the show a laid-back vibe. The show featured just Snyder and his guests having an informal chat as if they were sitting in his living room. And Snyder always seemed to have interesting company willing to stir things up a bit, whether the company was the Clash, KISS, or John Lydon of the Sex Pistols. There was an intimacy to Snyder's interviews, yet they often seemed to skirt the edge of chaos. As you can imagine, it made for entertaining television. Look up the show on YouTube for a more vivid illustration.

The Northside Social gives off the same welcoming yet chaotic vibe as Tomorrow. On the welcoming side are the friendly servers, the muted and contemporary fixtures, and the corner space featuring cushy chairs and sofas. As for chaos, the Northside Social is like a noisy living room, with all the televisions and wall-to-wall clientele. But the high ceilings sufficiently dampen some of the noise, so you can converse yet soak in the lively atmosphere.

The beers that we reviewed rounded out a well-though-out tap list. Sierra Nevada Tumbler Brown Ale is a nice representation of the American Brown Ale style. Tumbler displays notes of sourdough bread, caramel, and malt, conveyed through a medium bodied mouthfeel. 3.50 mugs.

Heavy Season Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale is a beer with which I'm already familiar through my visits to the Corner Wine Bar, where they have it on tap. Loose Cannon is pineapple, citrus, and soap in the nose, along with slight sweaty funk. Its flavor is heavy on the pine notes with a light caramel and molasses back. The mouthfeel on this beer is medium, and I find it a very drinkable IPA. 4.00 mugs.

Sierra Nevada Tumbler Brown Ale
Mike: 3.33 Mugs | Gina: 3.12 Mugs | Rodney: 3.40 Mugs | Jim: 3.50 Mugs | Jason: 3.25 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 3.32 Mugs

Heavy Seas Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale
Mike: 3.97 Mugs | Gina: 3.95 Mugs | Rodney: 3.90 Mugs | Jim: 4.0 Mugs | Jason: 4.33 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 4.03 Mug


  1. Hey no worries, but Loose Cannon is just a good ol IPA. No IIPA or triple. Triple Hopped=
    Primary; Hop-back (wort filtered through a kettle filled with fresh hop flowers before secondary); Dry-hopped.


  2. Imagine my embarrassment. I expect to be this clueless, but Rod, you should know better.

  3. Review edited for accuracy. Thanks, Ryan.

  4. Doesn't Loose Cannon say Hop3 on the logo? What is the 3 for?

  5. Triple hopped, not triple IPA.