By Will Carroll
For those of you that don’t know me, my day job is sportswriter. Yes, it’s a real job. A few years back when Indy hosted the Super Bowl, I felt like a one-man guidebook, pointing my fellow writers to great restaurants and places to see. There’s more than just St. Elmo’s in Indy, as readers of this site surely know.
It was an awesome week, as you all know, but one question nagged at me. It was one I just couldn’t answer, but was asked time and again: What is Indy’s signature food?
There are some simple answers. St. Elmo’s shrimp cocktail is a must for many and it’s hard to argue, but while it’s iconic and tasty, it’s hard to think that Indy’s signature dish is seafood. (Yes, there’s great seafood in Indy, but none of us are going to go fish the White River or Geist and call it fine dining, are we?)
I just don’t think a signature dish can be imported. Boston’s clam chowder? Maine’s lobsters? New York’s hot dogs? Well, who knows where those come from, but the Meatpacking District makes it believable.
Pork tenderloin gets votes, but while I can appreciate the concept, I’m not sure what it signifies. It’s the most processed, least healthy piece of pork and slapped on a sandwich. To me, a signature dish should represent the best of what our food suppliers and chefs have to offer while still showing the culture of the area.
That means that of all the dishes at all the great restaurants we have in the area, only one really stands out: beer.
Not just any beer, but all of the craft beers that have suddenly exploded on the scene. It’s the fight to get to the taste buds of consumers while remaining at the roots of what was, not long ago, just a hobby for many. It’s the entrepreneurial and creative spirit of the brewmasters. It’s the evangelism of some both in the industry and out. Call it a cult if you want, but it’s growing.
The barley, hops, yeast and water have come together with something else in Indianapolis to make a special place. It’s not one beer and not one brewery, but the spirit of what is fast becoming an industry that has really captured the spirit and character of Indiana.
I’m open to arguments, but next time the Super Bowl comes to Indiana, I may still point people to St. Elmo’s, but I’ll also make sure they know to cool their mouth down from the shrimp cocktail with our signature dish: a local craft beer.
Over the next weeks, months and years here at EatDrinkIndy, I want to capture that spirit and share it with you. I don’t believe we need another beer review site, though I’ll gladly give my opinions. What we need is to connect the expanding craft beer market in Indy with the people of Indy.
For many, it will be enough just to show up at the local bar or liquor store and see a local beer, but with so many options, it does get overwhelming. There’s no one right beer for anyone and certainly no “best” beer, so to me it’s about education, understanding and enjoyment.
The best beer is the one in your hand, of course, and the best writing about beer is the one that helps you find one for your hand. That’s what I’ll be doing here and I hope you’ll enjoy it and participate. I’m so excited to be part of Jolene’s venture here and can’t wait to show you what we have planned.