I don't know what the Indianapolis beer scene was like twenty years ago. I didn't live in Indy then. Hell, I wasn't even of drinking age then. But considering how far the city has come over the past five years, the difference between today and when the Broad Ripple Brewpub opened must be astounding. And while there are dozens of exciting places in Indy (and Broad Ripple really), I find myself returning to the comfort of the Brewpub.
John Hill has create a venue that is one part English pub, one part artist colony, and one part family dining room. The menu, with a mix of standards and specials, is always full of delicious options. And the beers, which are carefully crafted by long time brewer Kevin Matalucci, are consistent quality creations.
When I go to the Brewpub, the first thing I do is examine the chalkboard menu above the bar. The beers on the hand pull beer engines are generally my first choice. Typically, you'll find traditional English styles that are high on flavor and low on carbonation and cold. Tonight's options were the ESB and the Monon Porter. Both are stellar choices.
But tonight, I went with other selections. Ones that are more "summer" in style. I started with the Red Bird. This dark, copper colored English mild isn't my typical beer of choice for a humid Indiana summer, but I suspect it would be a good choice for a summer evening in the English countryside. I wouldn't know, though, because I haven't been. But if John Hill wants a drinking buddy during one of his trips home, he knows how to reach me. The Red Bird was malty without being heavy, refreshing without being light, and balanced without being boring.
I followed the mild with a decidedly non-English beer: the Hefeweizen. The cloudy wheat speaks to my desire for a crisp beer to balance the crackling heat, but does not go so far as to be over the top with banana and clove. It's more German immigrant than true Deutschland, but I'm good with that.
I finished with the Limping Mallard. Okay, so at 7.7 percent, it doesn't scream summer. But it's not like wearing white after Labor Day; this strong ale never goes out of style. The caramel, biscuit, and dark fruit flavors compliment a full mouthfeel. It is probably close to an Old Ale in style. Or, for the summer weather, I could say it is a SLIGHTLY lighter version of an English barleywine. All I know is that it is delicious.
I could have selected any of the other beer options and probably would have been just as pleased with my evening. The fact is that after two decades, the Broad Ripple Brewpub is a comfortable option for many. And comfortable doesn't mean boring. I think Indianapolis is comfortable, but it has been anything but boring in recent years. Comfortable just means that you know you will be happy anytime you choose it. It may be an English pub. And John Hill may look like a member of The Who. But the Broad Ripple Brewpub is as Hoosier as pork tenderloins, sweet corn, basketball, and debates over time zones. And it is never wrong to return.