By Will Carroll
Brewpubs come in a couple categories it seems. Some have great beer and passable food. Some have good food but the beer’s just okay. Seldom do you find a place that gets both right. Let’s face it: brewpubs are seldom mentioned in the same breath with a city’s elite restaurants.
While Oaken Barrel might not be your first choice for fine dining, a new menu at the Greenwood stalwart might make you think about taking the short trip down. Kwang Casey and his staff have tweaked their menu with new items like Korean quesadilla, a Claus’ sausage sampler and several new pastas to an already solid menu.
Add the food to their great beers and mix in a fun, family- and sports-friendly atmosphere, and there’s a reason that Oaken Barrel is still one of Indy’s most popular breweries after almost twenty years.
I had just moved to Indy back in 1996 and stumbled upon the new local restaurant nearby. I stopped in to find it was only their second day open. While they weren’t my first craft beer, I’ve had a lot of firsts there and their beers are still as good, despite changes at the brewery. The Razz Wheat and Indiana Amber remain some of the best “starter beers” for your friends that want to try a craft, but aren’t sure how far from Coors Light they really want to go.
For me, their Super Fly IPA and Gnaw Bone Pale are perfect go-to beers. (I just finished a keg of Super Fly!) Light yet flavorful, both have great hop-forward character without being overwhelming or losing any of that “sit in the beer garden with friends” feel.
The snow this week might not make the Barrel’s beer garden the place to be yet, but the new menu and great beers will make it a place to be again this summer. If you needed another reason to check it out, the new menu should do it.
With Greenwood adding a new brewery later this spring at Mashcraft Brewing, it might be a nice trip down to check out Oaken Barrel, Mashcraft, and Planetary Brewing, all within ten minutes of each other.
The World Beer Cup took place in Denver over the weekend. As one of the biggest craft beer competitions, it’s interesting to note the winners, though with almost 100 categories, it’s tougher to really gauge much. Many of the beers aren’t available in Indianapolis, but there were three local winners. Beers from Thr3e Wise Men, Sun King and Evansville’s Carson’s Brewery all won medals. Congrats to those breweries for adding to Indiana’s beer supremacy!
Two new Indiana breweries will open this weekend. Up in Valparaiso, Four Fathers Brewing opens their taps, while in Westfield, Grand Junction Brewing gets things going at 11am on the 19th. Grand Junction will have five of their own beers on tap, as well as guest brews from Bier and Bloomington Brewing.