Craft drafts

A friend brought Twenty Tap to my attention last week in a mass email when she announced she’s now hostessing there one night a week and we should all stop by and check it out. I was happy to get the chance to do so.

Twenty Tap in SoBro

Twenty Tap is the brainchild of Kevin Matalucci, of Broad Ripple Brewpub brewing fame, nesting down in the former home of Northside News at 54th and College. The guy has obviously put a lot of effort into putting a new face on the business via tall wood booths, spherical hanging light fixtures and walls dressed in earthy hues.

A girlfriend and I stopped in for dinner last night. My first impression was that Twenty Tap has a bit of a split personality— half restaurant and half pub. To the left is an open bar area with electronic darts; to the right, a family-friendly dining room. Everything looks fresh and clean, but I couldn’t help but think the place feels somehow unfinished. Perhaps some more art on the walls would help. Maybe, like a new apartment, it just needs a little time to develop a more lived-in feel. The dining room was fairly empty when we arrived just after 6 p.m., but steadily filled to capacity during the course of our stay.

In a nod to terroir, Twenty Tap distinguishes itself by serving 20 craft beers, all made within Indiana (like Tomlinson Tap Room). Always nice to see locavoracity in action. Beer choices are listed on a blackboard wall (this trend seems to be everywhere these days). I settled on a pint of Fort Wayne-based Mad Anthony kolsch, and my friend (a non-beer drinker) seemed happy with her Sun King Wee Mac. Our young server seemed pretty up to speed when we asked him for recommendations.

Twenty Tap beer list during our visit

The menu details gastropub-ish grub, with a few surprises. From what I keep hearing, the pressed Cuban sandwich (a tribute to the version formerly served at Northside News, I assume) is the thing to order, but I passed it up to try the mushroom Reuben instead. Saying she wasn’t all that hungry, my friend asked for the pimento mac and cheese, a $5 appetizer offering with optional bacon for an extra buck fifty. There’s also a handful of burgers, a few salads and a soup du jour. Three-bean salad sounded like an interesting side alternative to standard fries.

We settled in to enjoy our beers and everything was going fine until our server apparently fell off the face of the earth. People sitting next to us (who’d ordered long after we did) received their food, and my pint glass sat empty for long enough that we started to wonder where the heck our guy had disappeared to. Finally, our dinners arrived (reassuringly hot, thank goodness) and I was able to get a refill on my kolsch, so all’s well that ends well.

The macaroni was nicely cooked to al dente and the sauce had a subtly spicy pimento tang.

Twenty Tap’s pimento mac and cheese

My sandwich was ok, subbing strips of sliced mushroom for corned beef with all the other traditional Reuben accoutrement, but I must admit, I found myself wishing I’d gone with the word of mouth buzz and ordered the Cuban instead. The fries were crispy and lightly dusted with black pepper.

the mushroom reuben

Halfway through my meal, the server dropped off a tiny ramekin of house-made pickles. The cucumbers were sliced paper thin and the pickling liquid had a flavor note I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Cinnamon, perhaps?

Our house is situated east of Broad Ripple, so Twenty Tap probably won’t become a regular haunt for us, but if we lived in the neighborhood, I can see how it might be a steady stop. Especially since it’s kid-friendly. My husband often takes our three-year-old out to the “pub” to enjoy some daddy-son bonding time over a pint of beer and a glass of lemonade. (My son drinks the lemonade, just in case you were wondering…)

I can’t seem to find a Twenty Tap web site up and running yet, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. Watch this space…

Twenty Tap on Urbanspoon

Come on, get hoppy

Last night, hubby and I headed downtown to sample the wares at one of the more recent additions to the thriving Indianapolis microbrewing scene — Flat 12 Bierwerks.

We’re well familiar with Sun King and Thr3e Wise Men has become one of our regular Broad Ripple hangouts, but I must admit, I didn’t know a great deal about Flat 12 going in. Hubby’s enjoyed the beers on several occasions at pubs around town, but this marked my first taste of the product.

Flat 12 is located just east of downtown on Dorman Street, and you really have to know where you’re going to find it. It’s across the street from the new Goose the Market Meatery enterprise, but otherwise, there’s not much going on in this industrial neighborhood ‘cept for a couple of really cool-looking modern condo buildings. We saw a glut of cars angling for street spots before we’d actually glimpsed the Flat 12 building, and figured we must be in the right neck of the woods.

Flat 12 Bierwerks exterior

First impressions – the facility itself is really attractive, exposed brick walls, high beamed ceilings and good merchandising. Nicely done, y’all. You flash your ID when you walk through the door and get your hand stamped, then you’re given five free drink tickets for tastes of your choice.

the Flat 12 tasting room

On to the important stuff. They really had a decently big selection available to taste during our visit, including eight or nine year-round classics and nearly half a dozen seasonal/specialty offerings.

Flat 12 beers for the tasting

My favorite beer of the night was probably the Grain Wave American Wit, a straightforward wheat beer with a hint of citrus. A good all-around entry-level microbrew for a go-to domestic beer drinker like myself. I liked the Upside Down Blonde too, but found the wit a little more flavorful.

I managed to ask one of the busy servers what he’d consider the “signature” Flat 12 beer/s. He said the porter and the IPA. I usually find IPAs a little too hoppy for my taste, so I passed on the Half Cycle IPA and ordered a swig of the Pogue’s Run Porter, a dark but still mellow beer that I really liked. I was curious to try the Tangerine Porter as well to contrast and compare flavor notes, but alas, it had run out. Instead, I followed up with the Lacto-Matic Milk Stout. Wow, does this baby pack a punch. Imagine a beer-flavored shot of espresso and you’ve kinda got the right idea. It even looks like espresso in the cup. A little too much for me. I couldn’t finish it.

Flat 12's Lacto-Matic Milk Stout

My tasting concluded with a sip of Walkabout Pale Ale, made with Galaxy hops from Australia. Didn’t like this one, the flavor was just a little too funky for me.

Flat 12's Walkabout Pale Ale

The Flat 12 roster on the web site details several intriguing seasonal beers that I want to keep my eyes peeled for. Namely a German-style Karousel Kolsch (I learned to LOVE kolsch during our visits to Cologne within the past few years), the Bloody Blonde made with blood oranges and ruby red grapefruit (I enjoy fruity beers), and a Glazed Ham Porter (!) redolent with holiday spices.

One small complaint about the tasting room service… the guys who were pouring seemed a little on the gruff side. This being our first time at Flat 12, I’d kinda hoped to ask a few questions about the beers and the business. The answers I got were short and borderline curt. I guess maybe “serious” might be a better word to describe the personalities here. I’m sure they’re probably perfectly lovable guys when you catch them outside a tasting rush. In any event, one gets the feeling they don’t mess around when it comes to their beer.

Overall, we really enjoyed our Flat 12 visit. Good selling points— if you find a beer you really like while tasting, you can purchase a pint to enjoy on site (or a growler or half-growler to take home). And you can even grab some grub and make a meal of your visit thanks to the Byrne’s Grilled Pizza food truck parked outside in the side lot. We saw some of said pizzas flying around to the scattering of tables both indoors and out, and they looked and smelled damn tempting.

Glad to finally make your acquaintance, Flat 12. I’m sure we’ll be seeing each other again.

For more information:

Oh, de Cologne

Here I am in Germany! Hubby, son and I arrived bright and early this morning after the overnight trans-Atlantic flight. We went from Indy to Atlanta, then an almost 9-hour jaunt into Frankfurt, followed by an hour-long train ride to Cologne and a taxi to the hotel. The flight itself was made ultimately much more bearable by hubby working some voodoo magic on the gate attendant in Atlanta and somehow managing to get us upgraded to first-class seats. Which kicked ALL kinds of ass and set a good tone for the beginning of the trip.

Something you should know before I say any more – I am not a good air traveler. You’d think after living in L.A. for nearly two years and all the back and forths from there, not to mention 10, count ’em, 10 trips to Europe, I’d be well over any flying fears I might have harbored. Not so. If anything, my flying anxiety is just as intense now as it ever was. Once we actually get underway and in the air, I’m not too bad, but the anticipation of the trip in the days just prior leaves me frantically checking and making sure I’m stocked up on Dramamine.

I am sad to say that while the extra space and attention in first-class were HEAVENLY, especially considering we were traveling with a very busy and curious 18-month old, the food was wasted on me. I rarely eat on airplanes. I have a sneaking feeling that eating an airplane meal en route would not sit well on my already-nervous stomach. I can’t imagine hitting turbulence just after downing a nuked lasagna would really be a good idea. And I definitely do not want to be THAT girl.

Hubby is a frequent flier, to say the least. He may even hit diamond/platinum/master of the universe status this year when it comes to frequent flier miles on Northwest/Delta. He crosses oceans like he’s crossing the street. I have lately begun telling him he’s turned into a travel snob, but after getting the first-class treatment on such a long flight, I am shutting my mouth. No wonder he whines like a stuck pig anytime he doesn’t automatically get upgraded and has to sit in, sniff, coach.

Hubby has no problem eating while flying, and I must admit, the menu in first-class was tempting. But I refrained, content to observe hubby with his meal of choice. First course was spinach salad with feta, roasted pepper soup and a scoop of hummus covered in toasted pine nuts. For the main, he had a surf and turf deal with a filet, shrimp, risotto and sugar snap peas. Oh, and free Heineken. It all looked tasty enough, but when it comes to my tummy, I usually try to follow a better-safe-than-sorry mantra if there’s any doubt.

Once we landed in Frankfurt and my feet were back on solid ground, I was hungry. We hit a cafe in the airport where we fed the baby and I scarfed down some scrambled eggs with ham, fresh orange juice and some of my son’s strawberries. Nothing spectacular, but it certainly hit the spot at that moment.

Jet lag has taken its toll on all three of us today. Neither hubby nor I got much sleep on the plane in spite of our lux accommodations, as we took turns baby-wrangling and trying to shush our son anytime he roused, which was often. Have you ever seen footage of those guys who try to wrestle alligators and the alligators end up twisting and rolling about a thousand times a second to escape roping? That’s what it’s like trying to hold our son while he sleeps. He eventually dozed off soundly, thank God, but didn’t get nearly enough rest. By the time we caught the train, made it to our hotel in Cologne and took a quick walk out for some much-needed coffee and a croissant, the sleep-deprivation was really catching up with all of us. A nap was definitely in order.

Hubby spent a month in Cologne last fall, so he knows his way around pretty well. The baby and I were supposed to join him then, but one thing after another went wrong and we never made it. I’ve been to Cologne once before for a weekend when I came over to visit my then-boyfriend, now-hubby five years ago (he was living just outside Frankfurt at the time).

Cologne is an interesting place. The architecture is very old and Gothic, although the city was all but destroyed during the World Wars and much has been repaired. In stark contrast to the cobbled streets and the awe-inspiring Dom that dwarfs everything around it, the city is highly modern, a media capital full of state-of-the-art shopping and hopping nightlife. The city nestles along the Rhine River, providing a scenic viewpoint and a home for charming riverside hotels and restaurants. Cologne is about the same size as the Indianapolis metro area when it comes to population, and I believe is even paired with Indianapolis as a sister city. You’d never mistake the two in a million years, though.


the massive Cologne Dom (Cathedral)

Post-nap, the baby went into the stroller and out we went to get some air and get reacquainted with Cologne. It looked pretty much the same as I remember, and I was able to recognize some of the quaint streets, pubs and restaurants we’d been before, once upon a time. One particular establishment we decided to revisit was Papa Joe’s – a kitschy beer hall kind of place whose main claim to fame is two animatronic musicians, one playing an accordion and one playing some sort of small tuba. These two robotic creatures “play” upon their perch anytime a patron drops in a coin and makes a song selection, much like a jukebox. The figures are a big draw, but it’s vaguely creepy to see their eyes roll your way as they bang out polka classics.

the Papa Joe's animatronic house band

When hubby and I stopped in this place five years ago, the smoking ban hadn’t yet been instituted and it was like a wall of smoke when you walked through the door. We somehow managed to stay for a drink and watched as a group of Japanese tourists entered, then quickly exited, coughing and gagging. Thank goodness, it’s now smoke-free, so we were able to bring our son in for the fun.

Tonight, a small group of rowdy beer-swilling men had taken over the bar, singing loudly along with the traditional German tunes the animatronic duo cranked out, glasses raised and waving proudly. Picture a German bar version of “Piano Man” and you sort of get the idea. And it isn’t just German songs either, there are even a few little ditties in the catalog that I recognize. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard a bunch of drunk middle-aged German men belting out John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Road.” This amusement was followed up by a polka version of, I kid you not, “Billie Jean.” I could hardly believe my ears. It was good, clean fun, and we stayed for a glass of Gaffel Kolsch, the local quaff of choice. The waitress took a shine to Michael, even going so far as to snatch him up out of my arms and whisk him behind the bar for an up-close look at the robot musicians and a  few wafer cookies. He blew her a kiss on the way out; now I know we’ll have to go back.

More wandering built up our appetites and after being shut-out of a German pub/restaurant hubby wanted to go to (they were full, apparently), we ended up at a crepe place. These were not your ordinary crepes, though; they were more like large square hot pockets stuffed with a whole menu of tasty fillings. Hubby got one wrapped around a meaty tomato sauce, almost like a spaghetti Bolognese, without the spaghetti. It must have been good because he even tolerated a few specs of onion he spied in the filling. My crepe housed a medley of veggies heavy on the broccoli and onion, with cheese and tomato sauce holding it all together.

Full and tired, we managed to wind our way back to the hotel, where we are trying to prop our eyelids open for another hour or two before finally succumbing to jet lag and sleeping the sleep of the dead. I want to write more, but at the risk of becoming incoherent, I think I’ll save some for tomorrow.