By Will Carroll
I’m sitting here sipping a dry-hopped Porter while I write this. Yeah, I’m a sportswriter who also writes about beer, so I can do that and still call it work. Nice job if you can get it. I’ve sipped a lot of beers (and the occasional bourbon) while sweating and bleeding over a column, but this is the first time I’ve ever sipped something I made.
There’s a new concept on the southside that I think will be franchised (or copied) all over the place soon. While breweries have been exploding all over Indy and the country, home brewers have seen levelling off. Some have “graduated” to opening their own breweries, but too many have been limited by equipment cost and failure.
Brew-By-U has been open on the southside for a couple months. Located just a short walk south of Mashcraft (which celebrated its first anniversary recently with a special run of “Crafted Mashes”), Brew-By-U makes home brewing easier by taking it out of the home.
The crew at Brew-By-U have all the equipment and ingredients people need to make their own beer. They offer guidance, in the form of “brew coaches,” giving as much or as little assistance as needed. John Ketzenberger and I needed quite a bit. It as our first time.
I won’t detail the entire process and I won’t pretend it was “fun” either. It’s fun getting together with friends and it’s fun drinking beer, but the making of it isn’t. It’s more or less waiting, watching, and putting in the right ingredients at the right times. What is less fun is cleaning up after, buying the equipment, or screwing up along the way. Those are all things that Brew-By-U all but eliminates.
After the beer was brewed and fermented, we each went home with about 35 bottles of beer (22 oz bottles, that is.) Is it great? Nope. Is it drinkable? Yeah. The hops give a nice touch to the slightly flat brew. (Admittedly, I like my beers a bit on the high side of carbonation.) I’m not made at having the bottle around and at about two bucks a bottle, I’m saving money, if you squint a bit.
I’ll be back to Brew-By-U — John and I are already planning a kolsch for next time — but it won’t replace the work of true professionals. If you’ve wondered about making your own, Brew-By-U is a definite great step. Book now because Father’s Day is going to be a big market for them.
There aren’t many breweries where you walk in and regularly see people taking pictures. The former church building that now houses St. Joseph Brewery and Publis House is almost an altar to the beer gods now. Gleaming stainless tanks stand where bishops and choirs once stood. As an offering, the Lockerbie area pub is worthy.
They have a wide variety of beers. I sampled a brown ale, IPA, kolsch, and saison. While the brown was very much a one-note wonder, overwhelmed by coffee, it was well-made. None of the beers were great, but all were good and went well with a varied menu. I went with the Reifenburger (named for executive chef Scott Reifenberger), a solid burger toppped pork belly strips.
The bar area got crowded, even midday on a Saturday, and I imagine it gets quite loud when full, but as a neighborhood brewery, its a good addition for a booming area. Of course, it’s right down the street from Outliers and Ralstons, among other Mass Ave drinking establishments, so what truly differentiates St Joseph is the setting. You have to see it.
I went to Yard House for the first time last week, and it’s nice. The chain restaurant has an appealing decor, a varied menu, plus an extensive beer list. However, I’m almost at a point where these “hundreds of beers” restaurants are just too much.
Choice is nice, but overwhelming. I’d almost rather have a curated list of beers with some variance — 20 rather than a hundred. A few of each type, some specials… and yes, I realize that I’m describing Twenty Tap. I’m not down on the Yard Houses and Hop Cats of the world. Maybe you need that much choice. Maybe you can deal with it better than I can. I’m just not sure it helps the beer industry.
Without a way to help people choose, without flights and tastings and really, really good servers, most are left staring at what appears to be an endless choice of beers without much information. A lot of beers are hidden gems already, so hiding them among a long list of other hidden gems doesn’t make discovery likely.
I’m convinced that there’s a place for this kind of restaurant, but absent an amazing staff, I think the answer is interactivity. Imagine a restaurant like Yard House where there’s an iPad at every table. The iPad is the menu, with interactive videos from someone explaining each beer and what it pairs with. It’s simple and the first to it will have an advantage until everyone does it.
For that matter, why is there no Alton Brown of beer? Brew Dogs is an entertaining show, but I don’t think deep Scottish accents are what beer drinkers looking for assistance will latch on to. So absent that, why not have each brewer make their own video? It’d be simple enough and some would show personality.
Just remember where you heard this inevitable idea first and I hope the chain will give me some free beer.