Monday, March 28, 2016

Enjoying a gourmet sandwich, craft beer

I've been interested in local craft breweries and their products for a few years now (ditto local/community wineries), and it's gotten to the point where I rarely (if ever) imbibe in mainstream brews or wines anymore. I drink almost exclusively local wines or craft beers.

I've been fortunate to live in a city (Indianapolis) where the microbrewery industry has exploded. One used to be able to count the local craft breweries on two hands; now, you need a program to keep them straight.

I've visited five of the Indy area breweries you'll find on this link, and I've tried brews (i.e., bought them in bottles at local retail stores) produced by maybe two or three others, and this just begins to tell the story. This link has a list of breweries throughout the state. I'm not sure if either of those is totally inclusive.

If you have an itch to tour some of the breweries and you like to do it by walking (which might be wise given the alcohol consumption), you can visit up to five or six downtown Indy breweries on foot -- and in a relatively straight geographic line if you do the tour on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon when breweries have their longest hours.

One such self-guided tour starts on the near Southside of Indy at the new Metazoa Brewing (it opens April 1), at Georgia Street and College Avenue, just a block or so north of the Milano Inn (which would be a great place to get something to eat and give your stomach something to help absorb the upcoming alcohol content). From Metazoa, head north and east, hopping under the I-65 overpass, and stop at Indiana City Brewing, where Southeastern Avenue meets Washington Street. Indiana City is one of the places I've visited; I plan to check out Metazoa soon, too.

Then head north and west ... and again duck under the interstate overpass ... before reaching Sun King Brewing Co., one of Indy's first craft breweries -- and another that I've visited. It's at Ohio Street and College Avenue, right across the street from a downtown winery, Easley. From there, you walk north on College a few blocks to North Street and check out the St. Joseph's Brewery and Public House. This is another I've visited, and I can vouch for its wonderfully eclectic food menu, if you have an appetite to go with your brew ... and didn't start your trip at the Milano Inn or some other eatery. Just a couple blocks west of there is Outliers Brewing Co. at 534 E. North St.

A sixth option on this doable walking tour takes you slightly out of the straight line ... but only by a bit. It is a few blocks east of the interstate between Sun King and St. Joe's. I'm talking about Flat 12 Bierworks, which is in the 400 block of North Dorman Street and is another local craft brewery I've visited. It is right across the street from where the Smoking Goose Meatery throws a monthly gourmet meat blowout sale. The meatery and brewery often go together on promotions from time to time, and I've been to one of the blowout sales -- where Smoking Goose will grill some of its products for sale -- and enjoyed a brew along with a sandwich I've secured from Smoking Goose. It's where I first sampled Smoking Goose's divine smoked porked chops.

The one flaw with the walking tour is that, at Outliers on the far north end of the route, you have to make a long walk back to your car if you parked at the Metazoa start point. But perhaps it might be a good thing to get a nice walk under your belt before you attempt to drive again. An alternative "tour" option is the Indy Joy Rides brewery tour, which has a bus that drives people to four local breweries. The walking tour I pitched gives you -- at the very least -- options to check out five or six breweries in a day's time.

Right now, my "go to" brewery has been Fountain Square Brewery, not only because it was also the first I ever visited, but also because it's convenient to where I live ... and most important, I simply like its beers, especially its Workingman's Pilsner. FSB's $5.50 Sunday price on growler fills is the best in town as well.

Last weekend, I stopped at the relatively new Central State Brewing, at 25th and Delaware streets in the Fall Creek Place neighborhood of Indianapolis, after first visiting Goose the Market next door. The building is pictured immediately above and looks north along College from 25th Street.

I'd been aware of Central State for some time, and while I've purchased meats from Goose's partner meatery operation, the Smoking Goose, 407 N. Dorman St., I'd never been to the specialty butcher shop on Delaware ... until Saturday.

It might have been a better idea to go on a weekday -- it was crowded Saturday (and perhaps some of that was because this was the day before Easter) -- but I stuck around.

I investigated the upstairs butcher shop, fresh sandwich offerings and gelato display then went downstairs to check out the wine cellar, which also stocks a variety of bottled craft beers. Customers can help themselves to a recycle cardboard bottle holder and create their own six pack from the bottles in stock, which is what I did. I returned upstairs and bought four of the Goose's wonderful smoked pork chops, two of which I cooked on the grill at home later that day (photo at left).

I decided to try the spicy, much-heralded batali sandwich (pictured at right), whose primary ingredients are three Italian dried pork cuts -- coppa, capocollo and sopressata. The sandwich, which cost $8.35, is spiced up with giardinera (a relish of pickled vegetables that, apparently, includes jalapenos) and includes provolone cheese, tomato preserves, mayonnaise and (ordinarily) house-marinated red onions.

My digestive system has always had a terrible relationship with raw onions, so I waved off those when I placed my order. But the kick in the meat and relish more than made up for onions; the sandwich was indeed spicy, and my stomach dealt with me later for indulging. I soldiered through and ate the whole sandwich, but I don't think I would do so again. It was a little too much for my innards to withstand. But I repeat -- this sandwich gets rave reviews by many who have enjoyed it and filed write-ups on such places as Yelp.

While Goose will pour a glass of wine or sell you a cold bottle of beer to drink with your sandwich on the grounds, it doesn't have any draft beer, which is what I wanted. So when I did sit down to eat, I did so next door at the brewery, where I ordered a flight of the brewery's four house beers, which are pictured at the top of the post. From left, they are the Cast No Shadow On Liberty IPA (India Pale Ale), Road House Blonde With Cherries, Off Color Are We Doing This Right? (with black tea and honey) and the House Blonde. The brewery's full offerings are listed on a chalkboard near the entrance as shown in the photo at the right.

I felt that the IPA was Central State's strongest house offering; it would be the one I'd order in a pint glass the next time I visited. The House Blonde was my next favorite. The Off Color is interesting -- I normally don't gravitate toward brown beers (New Castle is an exception) -- but the Off Color didn't put me off like Guinness or most porters and stouts. Blonde With Cherries was too placid for my taste buds. A huge caveat with this critique paragraph: My mouth was on fire from the batali at the time, and I was turning to the flight often to restore peace to the palate. So perhaps eating a spicy sandwich wasn't a fair way to sample these brews.

At Central State, I was served by Jake Koeneman, one of the brewery's principals and co-founders. I walked in wearing a Wabash College sweatshirt, and he quickly asked me about my connection to the college. I told Jake that I procured the clothing as a souvenir from my stop at Wabash as part of "Game Day," my ongoing tour of small Indiana colleges that field football teams, and he told me he played center on the Wabash's 2005 undefeated football team. He didn't mention that he was named to the All-North Coast Athletic Conference team that season, something I found out when I got home and went to verify his connection.

It turns out that another of Central State's co-founders, Chris Bly, was a four-year letterman in swimming at Wabash and graduated in the same class (2006) as Koeneman.

When leaving to go home, I was struck by the angular upper architecture of not only the Goose building, but that of the Salon Orange Moon across 25th Street. The Salon Orange Moon building's top (which angles outward like the Goose) and storefront are pictured below. You can see me holding the iPhone in the window reflection in the bottom photo.

Photo Geek stuff: All photos were taken with an iPhone 6s Plus; the images outdoors were taken in the camera's HDR (high-dynamic range) mode, which explains the ghosting you see on my image in the Salon Orange Moon window reflection.

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