Thursday, February 04, 2016

ON THE AVENUES: Hello, I must be going.

ON THE AVENUES: Hello, I must be going. 

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

Almost every other month for the past seven years, I’ve attended a Wednesday meeting of the directors of the Brewers of Indiana Guild.

For a long time, these meetings were held at Broad Ripple Brewing Company, Indiana’s first brewpub in the contemporary era. Later they shifted to Sun King Brewing Company (downtown on College Avenue), the state’s second largest production brewery behind Three Floyds.

More recently, the guild has rented an office suite in the basement of an apartment building, formerly a warehouse, just north of Massachusetts Avenue. The new location is a 20-minute walk from Sun King, and I’ve taken to parking there and enjoying the stroll.

Yesterday I was in town by 10:30 a.m. for a 1:00 p.m. meeting, so there was time for a longer walk, south and west past Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Lucas Oil Stadium, followed by a lunch of delicious stuffed grape leaves at Grecian Garden in the City Market, ground floor, right by the front door.

Marina Mavrikis’s pastitsio is to die for, too.

There’s a place called Henry’s Coffee Bistro on East Street, a block off Massachusetts Avenue on the way to the guild’s office suite. My habit is to stop there on the way for an espresso. At meeting’s end, the path back to Sun King leads past St. Joseph Brewery, operating in a church sanctuary by Lockerbie Square.

Yesterday I bought a growler of Popemeal Oat Stout there and brought it home to accompany a dinner of leftover Finnish-style Cod Bake and seasoned rice. Baltic Porter might have been a better choice geographically, but I wanted a beer around 5% abv, not 7%.


Wednesday was my second visit to Indianapolis in less than a week. On Saturday, Diana and I drove up to the capital for the guild’s annual Winterfest at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, and although I’d expressed eagerness to sample beers with 7,000 of my closest friends, we never actually made it.

Therein lies a story.

We departed New Albany for Indianapolis on Saturday morning immediately following restorative Honey Creme doughnuts, wasting no time because we wanted to explore the Fountain Square district, which is southeast of the city’s epicenter via Virginia Avenue and the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, an urban walking and biking path running alongside the street.

Had the date not been January 30, it would have been a gorgeous spring day in early April. After coffee at Funkyard Art, we browsed a few shops, then enjoyed a beer at Fountain Square Brewing Company. Our choice for lunch was the End of the Line Public House, which reminds us that Indianapolis’s long defunct street cars used to turn around right across the street.

Seated close enough for inadvertent eavesdropping were two couples talking about Winterfest, which at this point was about two hours from starting. One couple had tickets, and the other did not.

The ones who didn't had come from out of state for the occasion, and apparently the Indianapolis residents were supposed to have purchased four tickets, but somehow dropped the ball. The festival was sold out, and they were debating creative ways to gain entry.

Ironically, I’d started the day with four Winterfest tickets. Two were my director comps, and two were given to me by a friend in Louisville. He couldn’t go, and asked me to give them away, which I did – at Fountain Square Brewing Company, where the bartender was maintaining a waiting list.

Had I known … at any rate, the out-of-towners at End of the Line were growing desperate, and it was an easy fix to make. I gave them our last two tickets with only one small caveat. They were to find Salt Creek Brewery's booth, say hello to my friend Brad Hawkins, and have a sample or three for me.

I hope they had a good time. All’s well that ends well, and we spent the next few hours enjoying the great outdoors, walking Virginia Avenue into the heart of downtown, looping past Monument Circle and the City Market, and stopping at Chilly Water Brewing on the way back for another round of beers.

The urban changes along this corridor between downtown and Fountain Square are utterly fascinating, but in fact, most of downtown Indianapolis is a construction zone. Dozens of buildings are being erected, many of them residential.

These days, I know too much about social justice issues, like America’s worsening affordable housing shortage, to accept all of what we saw at face value as “progress” absent qualifiers. Just the same, the scale of investment and activity is staggering.

More importantly, there is a brewery every half mile or so, enough to suggest that maybe we’re winning at least one revolutionary battle.


The weather was much cooler on Wednesday, and the long walk through downtown Indianapolis was bracing. Fortunately, sweet and tart Avgolemono (lemon and egg) sauce and intensely roasted coffee can take the chill off any overcast day, and the exercise felt good.

In due course I tendered my resignation from the board, effective on Sunday, March 6 -- the date of the guild’s annual meeting, which caps its second annual Indiana Craft Brewers Conference weekend in Ft. Wayne. Accordingly, it will be my final hurrah as a director. I’m eager to see who is chosen to occupy my seat.

In general terms, a director serving on the guild’s board must be a brewery owner. Technically, seeing as there has yet to be a final disposition of my ownership shares in NABC, I might choose to continue as a guild director until the buyout is resolved.

However, with the number of breweries in Indiana now topping 120, it’s a good time for me to say goodbye. New (and hopefully younger) blood can come aboard and begin learning how things work, because there’s much work to be done.

Whether guild, business or career, stepping aside is the right thing for me to do. It isn’t easy. Reinvention is necessary, and it’s also a bear, especially the methodical process of stripping away these comfortable layers of self-identity. It’s natural to swaddle yourself with layers of familiarity. Without their protection, suddenly you feel naked and vulnerable.

Does one even have value without them? Do I?

Yet, in some ways, it’s also like shedding scar tissue or waking from a coma. Gradually, interests and inclinations buried for a quarter-century beneath the rote daily checklist of business as usual are re-emerging, stumbling dazed from exile, blinking at the revealing light.

I’ll miss the Wednesdays in Indianapolis, except at some point I won’t. There’ll always be the option of driving up and wandering the city – or spending time in Columbus, Evansville or Needmore (home of Salt Creek). Plenty of quality time remains. Life is good.

It was a hell of a guild ride, boys and girls.

Someone keep throwing punches on my behalf, will you?


Recent columns:

January 28: ON THE AVENUES: They're surely not ROLL models.

January 21: ON THE AVENUES: When I grow up, I'd like to be alive.

January 14: ON THE AVENUES: Should the Queen fail to rescue us, there's always H. L. Mencken.

January 7: ON THE AVENUES: You know, that time when Roger interviewed himself.

December 31: ON THE AVENUES: My 2015 in books and reading.

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