Indy, Naptown, Circle City, Crossroads of America, Amateur Sports Capital of the World, Railroad City, and India-no-place have all been used as nicknames for Indianapolis – the capital city of Indiana. Some of these are too much of a mouthful and I have come to like and use “Indy”. I have a long history with Indy having grown up nearby and having been an urban pioneer in the early 1980’s during the city’s beginning efforts to revitalize its inner core. If the urban trails I recently found there existed then, I was oblivious to them but I’m glad I found them now. Indy’s pleasant trails overlay over a substantial array of craft breweries and interesting beer venues pretty nicely.
One of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut hailed from Indy where his father and grandfather were both prominent architects. If you’ve never read Vonnegut, I recommend it, and if you have you will recognize his sensibilities in the “feel” of Indy. Vonnegut once mused, “All my jokes are Indianapolis. All my attitudes are Indianapolis. My adenoids are Indianapolis. If I ever severed myself from Indianapolis, I would be out of business. What people like about me is Indianapolis.” Indy is an uncomplicated, comfortable place.
I was lucky to live in what was, at the time, a derelict apartment building across the street from the historic Athenaeum, a historic German cultural club in a building designed by Vonnegut’s grandfather. It is a grand old building that would fit right into most German cities. At the time, it was our neighborhood German restaurant and festival place (St.Benno Feast complete with goat and bock beer was a favorite) and it ended up being where my wife and I held our wedding reception. Today, it lives on – the beer garden has been revitalized and a popular bar is housed in an enclosed porch off the beer garden.
Indy is home to more than fifty breweries by my count. It is also a place where six interstate highways meet; the place where Van Camps invented pork and beans; the home of Wonder Bread and the Indy 500 auto race; and it is the only second to Washington, D.C. as the city in the country that has the most memorials and monuments.
“Indianapolis, Indiana is the first place in the United States of America where a white man was hanged for the murder of an Indian. The kind of people who’ll hang a white man for murdering an Indian–that’s the kind of people for me.” — Kurt Vonnegut
My Indy explorations concentrated on four multi-purpose trails that are all connected to each other: the Monon Trail, the Central Canal Pathway, the White River Greenway, and the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.
The Monon Trail is a 27-mile paved rail-trail that uses right-of-way of the former Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville Railway. The former railway had two main lines that crossed in the small northern Indiana town of Monon 90 miles north of Indy, and the railway company eventually adopted the Monon nickname as its official name. The part of the railway that is now a rail-trail was abandoned in the late 1980’s and was opened as a multi-purpose trail in 1999. I checked it out from downtown Indy up to Broadripple, one of Indy’s nightlife districts, and then on up to the affluent suburb of Carmel.
The Central Canal Towpath connects to the Monon Trail at Broad Ripple and is an alternate route to downtown Indianapolis. The trail runs 7.7 miles along the historic canal and passes the Butler University area and through the forested grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art before connecting up with the White River Greenway Trail, a 4.75 mile connector into the city center.
Covering much of the city center, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail is an 8 mile stretch of biking and walking trail that passes a plethora of monuments, public buildings, public art, and interesting city-scapes. Distinctive wayfinding signage and tinted pavers make the route easy to follow through the downtown and down toward the Fountain Square neighborhood.
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Indy Indie Brews
Along the way on these routes are opportunities to sample beers at some of Indy’s many independent breweries and at the historic Athenaeum. Many of these are right on the trails and use that fact in their marketing. Others are found on nearby city streets. My stops included St. Joseph Brewery, Sun King Brewing, Fountain Square Brewery, Chilly Water Brewing, Metazoa Brewing, TwoDeep Brewing, Guggman Haus Brewing, the Rathskeller, Upland Brewing, Books & Brews, Broad Ripple Brewpub, Big Lug Brewing, and Union Brewing. Two very different adaptive reuse projects take the prize for interesting settings – St. Joseph is a beautifully converted parish church in my old neighborhood that I would have been a regular at if it existed in my day and Guggman Haus is a comfortable, reclaimed residential relic in the midst of an industrial area, complete with a backdrop of grain silos.
A Stop at Floyds’
Leaving Indy for Chicago I made a lunch stop at what is arguably Indiana’s most famous brewery, Three Floyds in Munster. Sadly, the effects of COVID have resulted in the brewery closing their taproom indefinitely so this is a visit that can’t happen for the foreseeable future. I didn’t have a better place to include a few photos from the stop, so here you go …
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