13 July 2011

Twenty Tap: Kevin Matalucci's Meridian-Kessler Bar

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.


  1. Very cool, looking forward to trying this.

  2. We just went to the gyro place to the south of that spot the other day. Excited to try this place out.

  3. Definitely looking forward to this place opening up. Good luck.

  4. To clarify,while i have worked at the restaurants mentioned, I have ate a ton at H2O Sushi but have only helped out there a few times.John Adams is a great chef though and a big inspiration.I think I was talking about the style of food I enjoy eating and cooking but I guess after a few pints all my words go in the direction they want.Thanks again for coming in again HBG.See you guys soon.
    Rob Coate

  5. Way to go guys! Good luck, you are an inspiration yourselves.

  6. Thanks Rob, I'm sure I misheard you. The article has been corrected/amended to note my mistake.

  7. Mr Kevin, for you sir I will probably have a keg or two for your new place. Give me a call.

  8. I know Kevin said he'll still work at the brewpub, but will he still be the head/only brewer?

  9. Dynamite! Looking forward to dropping in.

  10. Thanks for covering this story Hoosier Beer Geek. Saw the sign go up the other day and the open sign in the window. Now I'll have to check Twenty Tap out next week!

  11. Twenty Tap is a great addition to all the fabulous craft beer destinations within a short walk of my house.


    54th & College is in Meridian-Kessler, not Broad Ripple.

  12. Sorry, I didn't see any "Welcome to Meridian-Kessler" signs. Or border fences.

    And Meridian-Kessler is the least imaginative neighborhood name ever. Meridian-Kessler is an intersection, not a neighborhood.

    AND Broad Ripple Avenue is closer to Twenty Tap than the intersections of Meridian and Kessler.

    And this is completely ridiculous.

    I'm sure you're right, though.

  13. Yeah, you're right.


    It's all Broad Ripple to me.

  14. I'm sorry. I was very tired yesterday.

  15. I've even corrected the post title. Thanks, nameless stranger.

  16. Mike,

    I understand being tired. Happens to me all the time.

    Yeah, I agree that Meridian-Kessler is a very unimaginative name. But it is what it is...

    For those of us that do actually live in Broad Ripple, it's a distinction.

    Many call the 54th & College area "SoBro"

    Thanks. I enjoy reading what's up about beer in the Indianapolis area

  17. I had a delicious lunch today at Twenty Tap. The Pressed Cuban sandwich was moist and well-seasoned, and the three bean salad was an unexpectedly tasty side, flavored with garlic and cilantro. My companion enjoyed her Onion burger, with the juices literally running down her chin. The ambience is a bit stark, but the great food more than made up for a lack of tchotchkes. I can't wait to go back for one of the craft beers on tap.