Kevin Matalucci has been brewing in Indianapolis for a long time. As the head brewer at Broad Ripple Brewpub, he's made a lot of friends in the Indiana brewing community. So it may seem natural that as he watches old friends shuffle from working for others to owning their own, the inclination to join the brewer/owner club might have tickled his fancy.
"I always knew that I would do something, and I'm still going to work at the Brewpub," he said. "I love making beer, but I always knew that I wanted to do something else. I've always talked about doing something and then opening up a brewery never seemed to fit the bill. Then with so many opening, it was like 'Well, now they need a place to purvey their products.'"
He'll provide that place when he opens up Twenty Tap (5408 North College Avenue), in the space formerly occupied by Northside News. He hopes to open the bar by the beginning of August, if not sooner, as the space (entirely built by Matalucci) was nearly finished when we visited. "It's just buttoning everything together," he said, "most of it is pretty much taken care of."
In addition to twenty taps, plans call for a menu featuring locally sourced food. "Kind of an offshoot of a gastropub, I guess - good pork, good oysters, good burgers. Fresh and local ingredients, everything you would expect with good beer," said Chef Rob Coate, who patrons may recognize from his previous stints at Pizzology, L'Explorateur, and Elements.
Matalucci added, "It'll be sandwich based opening up - like a fried balogna sandwich, stuff you don't see anywhere. We will have ribbon fries like you get from King Tater's at the state fair. Different funky burgers - Ted (Miller, owner of Brugge Brasserie) and I have been.. Ted's really the inspiration. He gets these ideas - 'We're making these tonight'. We had this African spiced lamb burger with apricot chutney, with goat cheese on top and arugala. Just different combinations. Rob is good with different combination, and we're trying to get the kitchen done here so we can experiment."
Getting crazy with the image stitch program
Of course Twenty Tap's focus will be on beer - "My competitive advantage is the personal relationships I have with all these people," said Matalucci. "Mostly I just plan on featuring regional product. But mostly it will be (beer from) the people that I know."
What's different about Twenty Tap than other bars? "Well, it's the kind of bar I want to come to," said Matalucci, "and there's lots of those, don't get me wrong. But I like a big long bar (space) with nothing else in it, and that's what this is. I only went with twenty taps because I want to go through the beers. I don't want anything getting old or stale, I want it to be fresh all the time."
"It kind of weeds out the sports crowd," said Coates, "there's no banners or televisions.."
"We will have a tv," said Matalucci, "but it's kind of like (the television at) the (Broad Ripple) Brewpub - minimal."
"It's for people who are going out to get a good beer, instead of just going out to drink," said Coates.
Matalucci has spent the past 18 years working at Broad Ripple Brewpub. What spurred him to open Twenty Tap now?
"The space became available, and I just knew that I wanted to do something. This has evolved over time. I always knew that I wanted some kind of beer bar that people weren't really doing."
"It's just the next phase in life," he said. "I'd love to continue brewing (at Broad Ripple Brewpub), but it's just the next phase. I can't be idle for real long. All my home improvement projects are pretty much done, it was time for me to work on something else. This space opened up and it just seemed like the right fit at that time."
He started the project in May of 2010. Originally going by the name "Firkins", it was going to be a brewery where all the beer was served firkin-style. What did Broad Ripple Brewpub owner John Hill think of the idea?
"He's always been very supportive," said Matalucci. "Starting your own place, like he did with the wine bar - he worked all day at his other job, and then built the Corner Wine Bar. When I busted out the (Twenty Tap front) window, he came over here to help me lay this out."
"He's been very supportive," he said, "very generous with talking with me about how they've organised their businesses, and how to set up the financials - both he and Nancy have been very generous with their time and knowledge."
Of course Matalucci is still a brewer at heart. So perhaps the space won't be just a bar forever.
"At some point I'd love to have a brewery (at Twenty Tap). I've even got a spot in the basement for it, and I will pursue that once this is open. But that's just kind of a side note."
I made in an earlier version of this article - Rob Coates never worked at H20 Sushi. The article has now been corrected.