With beautiful parks, thriving local businesses and unique events, you won’t find a better place to create new memories than downtown Indianapolis. I maybe bias as I am originally from Buffalo, NY and it reminds me of my hometown. To many people, Indianapolis just has some famous professional sports teams, but there’s so much more to love about this fun and culturally-diverse destination. To help you start planning your next visit, I’ve highlighted some of the best things to do in Downtown Indy.
A staple in the Indiana craft beer scene, Sun King Brewery opened their doors to a warehouse craft distillery and tap room in 2009. Being our first time in Indianapolis, we reached out to Brian Dahle, the tap room manager, and he was extremely welcoming and offered us a Friday tour. As we walked up to the vibrant patio and through the doors we were greeted with a smile at the front desk by Brandy. The large warehouse space immediately felt warm and homey. As you walk into the main area; there is a new restaurant on the right, picnic tables with a live look to the brewery straight ahead and the taps located on the left. Brian came out to meet us we got right to the facts of how the brewery was the first and only brewery to win 8 medals, at the Great American Beer Festival (picture below). Dave and Clay founded Sun King Brewery with three additional partners, including Omar, Andy and Steve. The history of the name comes from Dave Colt, who said that there is one thing that controls all ingredients used in the brewing process is the sun; "the sun is everywhere." Omar, who was an original investor, and very interested in Mayan culture had the idea for the logo. This collaboration became Sun King Brewery!
There's a huge difference between brewing mediocre beer and brewing good beer. Next time you sip, pay attention to the quality of suds. One could say brewing beer is actually very easy. Warm up some water, add malt, hops, and yeast and then wait a few weeks and you’ll have some sort of beer. However, making good beer is a different story entirely. Brian brought us into the "Beer Mainframe," as he said. Touring many breweries I was extremely impressed with the liquid control and testing. We were introduced to the quality control manager, Kevin, who refereed to himself as a "beer scientist." In this room There IS a computer showing what beer is where, a lab area with 40 different yeast strains, AND an area to do blind taste testing; where volunteers come in and taste quality of many different beers to make sure the consistency continues. (photo below). The attention to detail is bar-none, so much so that other breweries contract out to Sun King to maintain their own high standards.
Walking by pallets stacked with Sun King brews we moved into the 30 barrel brew house. The brewery surpassed 4 million cans this year and not only sold in Indiana, but you can get your hands on Sun King in Illinois, Kentucky, Florida, and Ohio. They added an automated canning line in early 2010. In less than two years, Sun King has grown into the third-largest beer brewer in Indiana. Sun King’s beers are sold on draft and in cans at more than 300 bars, restaurants, liquor stores, and other venues around central Indiana.
All work and no play makes for a boring life. Dave and Clay’s philosophy of “all work and no play makes for a boring life” is why at the end of a shift everyone deserves a beer or a “shifty”. What is a shifty you ask; well it is a vending machine full of beer cans free of charge. Each employee is encouraged to have one after their shift. Our tour guide Brian added, “It is meant to keep everyone motivated”.
We grabbed a pint at the tap room and then walked across the parking lot to an expansion of the brewery that holds a wood shop, over 200 barrels that are fermenting and trial barrels. Casey does all the woodwork by hand . He told us "If it’s wood, I’m the guy." This in house area creates the off premise racks and signature point of sale. There are two areas that are aging and housing barrels for future use; the wild fermentation room called funky town and spirit aging room, which has suds sitting in rum, bourbon and tequila barrels.
Now, the best part; tasting the brews! Joey D, the regional sales director joined, Brian and ourselves to compare last year's Batch 666: Sympathy for the Devil, to this year's. This unique Belgian style black ale smelling of bourbon and bananas and sitting over 10%ABV, was an aggressive yet delicious start to our sampling.
BEERS ON TAP
Sun King is well known for five house beers they always have on tap:
Sunlight Cream Ale: A light golden color and an easy drinking cream ale for the lighter beer drinker. Very drinkable and a crowd favorite for that entry level craft beer sampler.
Wee Mac Scottish Ale: Dark Scottish-style brown ale, which was also easy to drink. A lighter beer with a smell of carmel and smooth mouthfeel. We truly liked this brew all around.
Osiris Pale Ale: With an light amber color, this is a nice hoppy Pale Ale. Brewed with plenty of hop punch and citrus undertones.
Pachanga: One of my favorites, as I got a pint for the tour and it was easy sipping beer. Light malt aroma, pale yellow color with a big white head. Clean crisp flavor, with a touch of sweet malt and floral hops. Easy drinking, and a solid option on a summer day!
SKB IPA: Zesty and fruity aroma; orange, and caramel malt smell. Fuller body, strong bitter finish with pine and citrus zest lingering. Solid IPA
In addition to the three beers they always have available, Sun King is constantly experimenting with different specialty beers like Popcorn Pilsner – brewed with Indiana-grown popcorn and freshly popped by an Indianapolis-based gourmet popcorn company. A different brew that had a light butter flavor, light golden color. For their fourth anniversary, Sun King created Grapefruit Jungle/GFJ, an American IPA using a unique blend of hops and it was my favorite beer that we sampled. Name had to be altered to GFJ as per the state liquor board because were is not grapefruit in the brew, however the hops add the bursting flavor and grapefruit aroma. Great story and great suds!
Sun King is a definite must do when in Indianapolis. This destination has such a bright future a head of them and the organization is making extreme strides in the brewing world each month. If you’re in downtown Indianapolis on a Friday, be sure to drop by the brewery and because there is a growler special for (64-oz. bottles) refills of their house beers for just $6. If you are in the market for a new growler, you can get one there for $4.00 and it can be refilled as often as you’d like. Sun King also partners with hundreds of community organizations throughout Indiana in order to help them raise awareness and funds for great causes. Visit www.sunkingbrewing.com for more information.
St Joseph: http://www.saintjoseph.beer/
540 N College Ave. Indianapolis
Another brewery that is a must visit is Saint Joseph’s Brewery. One might think pulling up to a brewery on a Saturday for a couple pints is normal until you realize you are going to an old church to do so. We walked into the beautiful brick structure passing a patio area with outdoor games and a firepit. Carlie, the bartender greeted us with a smile and we ordered a couple pints. She began to tell us the back story of St. Joseph's Brewery and it is truly unique. The church was vacant and dilapidated for many years before they opened 3 years ago in 2015. Previously owned by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, today serves a variety of beers and food to the Indy community. Many renovations went into the space and they brewery continues to grow. Small details were not overlooked as many original pieces of the old church were used such as bar top, using reclaimed pew wood. This open concept brewery would be great for special events or a night out with friends.
BEERS ON TAP:
Confessional IPA (ABV 6.3%)
Enjoyed this IPA, citrus aroma and hoppy finish
2015 INDIANA BREWER'S CUP BRONZE MEDAL WINNER
Benevolent Belgian Blond (ABV 6.2%)
A nice rich belian blonde with some sweet notes.
2015 INDIANA BREWER'S CUP GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Hey Zeus Belgian Pale Ale (ABV 5.7%)
A spicy IPA with a fruity blend
King James Brown (English) Ale (ABV 4.7%)
Medium brown to the pour with a chocolate aroma and flavor.
Domine Dunkel Weiss (ABV 5.0%)
Golden color on the pour and fruitful smell.
Sintennial Session IPA (ABV 4.9%)
This was my favorite pint. Easy drinking amber colored IPA that had a citrus smell. Lighter hop content, but just enough to pack a flavorful punch
534 Virginia Ave.
Coffee and Pastry 7AM-9AM
Full service Menu 9AM- 3PM
This hip space was recommended to us by the guys at Sun King. Wanting brunch, we waited until 9am so we could get the full menu. With a stylish patio, shared seating and no reservations; we were told to get there early before the line up. Walking in the room was filled with a great vibe and Sinatra, "My Way," in the background. A quaint set up with chef quarters open to watch and a pastry coffee bar for quick to go's.
The chefs have a unique version; and that is why we ordered the grilled cheese crowed with a sunny duck egg and Anson Mills Sea Island White Flint Grits - added egg and bacon,. The grilled cheese was our favorite on cranberry walnut bread with black truffle honey. Price was $16 but worth every penny. Our coffee's and meal were very delicious, truly enjoyed the service, and the creativity of the brunch menu.
Walking downtown we saw that Indy's selection of steakhouses range from local institutions like St. Elmo Steak House to national chain favorites. Founded in 1902 and still at its original location, this is truly an Indianapolis landmark. It's been named 'An American Classic' by the James Beard Foundation. We were told by multiple people, if you get a reservation take it. Folks from around the world have made it a point to visit Elmo's to try not only the steak, but the World Famous Shrimp Cocktail. It's smothered in fiery cocktail sauce that is made with fresh horseradish ground daily. This vintage spot had an amazing ambiance with people, like ourselves heading to the Pacers game as well as fancy couples out for date night. Natalie, our server has been working there for 6 years and she mentioned she is one of the youngins as some veterans have been there for 20+ years. Natalie was fantastic, humorous and on point with all of her recommendations.
Bottle of the house Almos Malbec: paired great with our meal
Shrimp Cocktail: not for the faint of heart, it was extremely spicy, but really good after only a bit of the cocktail sauce.
Lobster Bisque: Loaded with lobster, this soup was the best substitution choice with our meal. Creamy and fresh down to the last bite.
Filet Mignon with Blue Cheese Crumbles: Cooked to perfection, this cut of meat was wonderful.
The Downtown Canal Walk and USS Indianapolis National Memorial:
Today's Canal Walk runs from 11th Street in the north, until it reaches the White River. There are three other history memorials along the canal walk. One honors the American Servicemen who've earned a national Medal of Honor. A second is a memorial to the victims of the September 11 attacks . The third remembers the crew of USS Indianapolis, the heavy cruiser sunk near the end of World War II. It takes about an hour and half to make the complete circuit around the 3 mile walk. This space is great for a run, people watching and some nice scenery.
Soldiers and Sailors Monument:
1 Monument Circle, Indianapolis
The Monument is located downtown at Monument Circle where it has come to symbolize the city. This main focal point in the heart of the city was built in the early 1900s. The beautiful structure honors war veterans of Indiana.
65 East Pearl St. Indianapolis
Tucked away on a low volume side street, Pearl Street is defiantly a hidden gem in downtown Indianapolis. All the boxes were check when it comes to staff, food, and location. Prior to our visit to Indianapolis I reached out to Andrew, the event coordinator, to plan a happy hour event. He was extremely helpful and welcoming, which is always nice when you are an out-of-towner. The pizza was delicious, and I think that is a seal of approval being from NY. The servers were on point all night as we enjoyed beers off the extensive beer list. Pearl Street would be a great stop for happy hour, a quick bite before the game, or a family night out.
The Westin, Downtown Indianapolis
With most places in Indy being walkable this hotel is in the best location for everything. We were able to walk to dinners, the basketball and the football arena no problem. Great amenities such as Starbucks, and pool facilities. A neat feature that was always outside of our hotel were the "Bird" scooters that you can travel around town using an app. The Westin had a wonderful staff, and it was a delightful place to stay!
Lucas Oil was a fantastic location for an away game. With friendly staff and tons of space for parking we had an amazing time at the game. The Stadium was clean and had great natural light bursting through the many windows. The arena had a lot of food spots and kiosks pouring craft beer. It was a great spot to watch a game!