21 September 2012

New on Mass Ave - Ralston's Draft House

Not to long ago, this was a city that lacked beer destinations.  Everyone had their own small collection of bars that could be relied upon to provide an interesting and diverse tap list, but there were few bars that called out to the discerning beer consumer.  Then something changed.  Craft beer became popular, local beer became popular.  Seemingly overnight, Indianapolis became a beer destination.  Now you can travel to the neighborhoods of Fountain Square, Mass Ave, Broad Ripple and Irvington with the knowledge that an excellent beer bar can be found.

Enter Ralston's Draft House, the latest addition to Mass Ave's growing craft beer scene.  Over the last year, there have been many rumors of what would be to come of the former Agio location.  Despite the foot traffic on Mass Ave, empty commercial properties are always frightening.  Each one signals the potential end of the rapid growth of our renewed interest in local business.  Most rumors centered around Chatham Tap.  Would Chatham Tap relocate to this location?  Would they open an expansion? Now we have the answer, and it is a good one.  Ralston's Draft House is now open for business.

The former Agio space is a big one, and Ralston's is not exactly a hole-in-the-wall.  Two separate dining areas plus a full patio provide ample seating for those seeking a quality pint.  Ralston's features 24 taps, which are duplicated in each of the dining areas.  The line up is well thought out, and follows the approach that I prefer - local, national and import craft is all treated equally.  6 Indiana taps are filled out by Sun King, 3 Floyds, Fountain Square and New Day.  International representation comes from Spaten, Paulaner, Petrus and Guinness.  Midwest, East Coast and West Coast were all represented.  Beer aficionado favorites such as Schlafly Pumpkin Ale, Dark Horse Boffo Brown and Moylan's Hopsickle could all be found.  Perhaps most notably, no Bud, Miller or Coors could be found on tap.  Not even Blue Moon.  I enjoyed an extremely fresh 3 Floyds Munsterfest.  Drafts range from $5-7.  A longer bottle list is available for those not satisfied by the draft list.

Although beer remains the focus and the namesake of Ralston's Draft House, an interesting food menu accompanies the well thought out beer selection.  Much as Chatham Tap's menu focuses around sandwiches that tend to break the mold of standard bar sandwiches, Ralston's menu has the feeling of a bar menu but focuses on unique offerings.  Although I didn't try the food on this visit, I am excited to get back and sift through the diverse menu.  Initial reports from friends are positive.  It is certainly pleasing to see each of the menu items paired with a beer style.

The decor focuses on wood paneling and a very comforting upscale pub feel.  A street-facing bar has been added to the outdoor seating, which will be a prime venue on First Fridays for people watching.  Inside, the bar wraps around the wall, providing ample bar seating with good views of the few but well positioned televisions for sporting events.  There appeared to be multiple variations of beer glassware, which is always a plus.

It's certainly an understatement to say that this is Mass Ave's first beer bar.  MacNivens and Mass Ave Pub's draft line expansions this year are evidence that the Avenue is asking for more beer options.  Anyone who has spent a Friday or Saturday evening on Mass Ave is familiar with how quickly beer-focused locations fill up, so Ralston's will be a welcome addition.  It appears that while craft beer bars were once a financial risk, they now represent an arms race between neighborhoods.  Who will end up with the most beer bars?  Ralston's Draft House is now one more entry in to Mass Ave's growing list of beer bars.  Anyone up for a pub crawl?

As a footnote, those still mourning the loss of Agio may be interested to know that chef Joseph Heidenreich has relocated to Chef Joseph's at the Connoisseur Room.

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