07 January 2011

KOTBR writes a "Dear Tom" letter

Dear Tomlinson Tap Room:

We want to congratulate you on your recent opening. The City Market is a special building in Indianapolis and we want to see more residents and visitors use the building and patronize the vendors within.

We appreciate your approach. Having an all Indiana craft beer lineup is wonderful. The mix of breweries and styles are top notch. Some of us visited recently and we found the following beer menu:

Barley Island’s Sheet Metal Blonde, Great Crescent’s Bourbon Barrel Stout, Mad Anthony’s Gabby Blonde, People’s Mr. Brown, New Albanian’s Bob’s Old B-15, Wilbur’s Country Mellow, Upland’s Komodo Dragonfly, Oaken Barrel’s Razz Wheat, Ram’s S’no Angel, Sun King’s Malus Pi, People’s Aberrant Amber, Bloomington’s Double Hopped, Great Crescent’s IPA, Mishawaka’s Four Horsemen, Brugge’s Tripel de Ripple, and Three Floyd’s Cenotaph.

Some beers are easily available in town; some are impossible to get without traveling. Some beers are approachable for those new to craft beer; some are the dreams of beer geeks. Overall, the lineup stays true to the City Market’s historic mission: locally crafted goods. You’ve had some other great beers too, including Three Floyds' Aotearoa, New Albanian's Hoptimus DIPA, New Albanian's Thunderfoot Imperial Stout, People's Hopkilla IPA, and Power House's Diesel Oil Stout.

We also appreciate the sampler option. It is nice trying multiples without fully investing in a pint.

The space is wonderful as well. The use of an antique back bar, the installation of tables by local artisans, all of which overlook the City Market…it is a beautiful space. And being able to carry your beer around the entire market property is a nice option as well.

These are all things that should make you successful. The problem is that not many people know about these perks.

Until we arrived, we had no idea what beers were on tap. Some of the beers, like the Cenotaph (which was a complete surprise when I walked in), would likely have brought in more beer geeks. If it was advertised better on Facebook, Twitter, your webpage, and Hoosier Beer Geek (hint: HBG Gina does the Random Beer Roundup every Friday, which includes news about what's on tap around town; the RBR is targeted at people who would be very interested in what's on tap at Tom Tap), I think your bar would have been full on our visit, not half full.

The space that you have is hard to find. People casually passing the market have no idea you are there. People trying to find you have no idea where to enter. Something needs to be done to invite and direct people to your bar. Something better than word of mouth. Signage. Banners. Anything.

And you should let it be known in your communication that a family can visit and an adult can purchase a beer and take it with them to non-bar areas of the City Market, including the outdoor spaces. I know that some people have not attended because they have kids.

Finally, we want to tell you that your prices are a bit high, with the exception of the sampler (which at three samples for $5 is the best offer you have) and sometimes the Thursday growler refill special ($10 for Razz Wheat? Eh. $10 for Cenotaph? Hell yes!). The pint prices are probably a buck too much. While special out of town beers will probably fetch the premium price, if you are hoping to compete for downtown drinking dollars, you’ll need to reconsider some of your pricing.

We write this not be hateful. We want you to succeed. We are offer constructive criticism in hopes of growing the crowd and the appeal of the Tomlinson Tap Room. We most certainly wish you the best of luck.

The Knights of the Beer Roundtable


  1. Spot on! Having attended a private opening of the Tap I was looking forward to seeing how they handled announcing the beer line-up changes. And then noticed that they don't handle it at all. I'd love to roll in and know what they have on tap but it's not possible as is. I love the place and I just want them to succeed as well.

    And they opened with Nashville's Busted Knuckle on tap and I found my new favorite beer!

  2. I desperately want them to succeed, and something as simple as a current online tap list would guarantee them more of my money. My office is just far enough that I won't go over on a whim, so knowing what's on is crucial.

  3. We have been twice and really enjoyed it. When our friends ask how it is we just say to wait until they figure out their pricing is just unreasonable. Agree w the rest of your suggestions, too.

  4. pricing may be due to the following:
    as a side note i don't know what type of margin this place is trying to achieve.
    1. the rent or lease space might be a little high driving up the product (beer) cost
    2. the insurance program or scheme they have may be high thus requiring the place to raise their prices
    3. the vendors might provide the beers at a very good price till volume or payment terms are improved upon
    i agree that if their prices aren't competitive people will go elsewhere to get their beer fix and this place will cease to exist.
    the craft beer market is competitive - a ton of nice options at various price points. if they aren't creative and competitive they won't be around very long.

  5. I'm pretty sure they just changed their prices to
    5.50 for all pints. So no more weird fluctuating premium prices.

    This includes the $10 growler fill on Thursdays.

  6. Great post! Hope it is nothing but well received. I would add to this SUNDAY HOURS

  7. Just forwarded this to a board member -- hopefully that will get it in front of the City Market Management. Good points for sure. Still haven't been though.