I had a long day of travel and ended up with a couple meetings in Indianapolis on recent trip back out there. I was on my way to my hotel and I decided I wanted to stop for dinner and a couple beers before I got there. Checking my GPS to see what might be in the area for brewpubs or something along that order, I found a place listed called the Carmel Tap House in north suburban Carmel. When I got there, I found that the place was actually owned and operated by the Upland Brewing Company, a microbrewery/brewpub out of Bloomington. I've never been overly enamored with Upland's beers, but I thought I'd give the place a shot.
The original Upland Brewery was founded in 1997 and began to produce beers in 1998. Founders Russ Leavitt, Dean LaPlante and Marc Sattinger came out with their first beer, the Upland Wheat, in kegs and bottles while opening their first brewpub in Bloomington. The trio got the Upland name for the rolling hills that were found throughout Southern Indiana. (It's actually very beautiful countryside down there. My sister, brother-in-law and two nieces lived in nearby Jasper, IN for over 20 years.) Within four years, Upland beers were available all throughout Indiana and into the Louisville area.
In 2006, Leavitt, LaPlanted and Sattinger sold the brewery/brewpub to Middlecourt Holdings, a Bloomington-based investment firm that was headed by Doug Dayhoff, a local insurance guy. Dayhoff became the managing partner/president of Upland Brewery and guided the company in its growth with a new brewing facility and beer tasting room, increased Midwestern distribution (including entering the Chicago market last year), and a partnership with Fuller's Brewery from the U.K. to market some of their beers in the Midwest.
Caleb Staton is the head brewmaster at Upland overseeing the production of over two dozen everyday, seasonal and specialty beers in addition to their Side Trail Series of beers and 16 different fruit-infused sour beers. You can find Upland beers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio in addition to all over the state of Indiana in bars, restaurants and liquor stores.
Upland Brewery opened the Carmel Tap House in late April of 2013. It was the second Upland location in the greater Indianapolis area, there's also a tap room location in the Broadripple area of Indianapolis. But the Carmel Tap House is the first Upland location in Indianapolis to serve food.
Thanks to a pretty heavy thunderstorm, travel around Indianapolis and up to Carmel was pretty slow that evening. I pulled into the Carmel Tap House's parking lot around 8 p.m. (see map) (Don't make the mistake of trying to enter on Guilford, like I did. There's no way to get to the parking lot for Carmel Tap House. You take Walkabout Circle, then make a right and another right into the parking lot.)
I was greeted by a hostess who asked me where I'd like to sit. The brewpub was sort of a contemporary industrial-type of place. With a nice sized bar and a lot of natural light from windows. They have an outdoor patio, but no one was out there because of the storms that had just traipsed through the Indianapolis area. I decided to sit at the bar. She left off a menu and a few moments later the bartender, Jeromy, greeted me and asked what I'd like to have to drink. I took a look at the beer list on the board and decided upon an Easy Chair amber ale.
The food at the Carmel Tap House is of farm-to-fork variety. They work with local and regional farmers and growers to procure and serve farm-raised foods when possible. Their appetizers include soft pretzels, pulled pork tacos with the pork from the Fischer Farms of Minnesota, and edamame hummus. They have some interesting pizzas including a beet pizza featuring sliced red and gold beets, and a chicken/bacon barbecue pizza.
They have a number of soups, salads and sandwiches including a classic pork tenderloin sandwich that Indiana is famous for. But for the health conscious, they also have a seitan (a vegetarian wheat gluten) tenderloin, as well. They have combinations of grilled chicken sandwiches, farm-raised beef burgers and buffalo burgers.
The main entrees include a pale ale marinated steak, corn-dusted pan-fried walleye, and a duck breast schnitzel that is hand-breaded and pan-fried, then served with a warm apricot chutney, sweet and sour cabbage, and Idaho potatoes. Now THAT sounded really interesting.
But what really caught my eye was a special they had that evening, the grilled salmon tacos. They grill the salmon with spicy seasonings and place them on flour tortillas with a house-made salsa, chopped tomatoes and cilantro, and served with sides of a blistered corn salsa and borracho beans - basically pinto beans in a broth. me people refer to borracho beans as "drunken beans".
The fish tacos were very good. The salmon was tender - a little fishy in smell and taste, but nothing that was a deal breaker. The chopped tomatoes and cilantro were fresh and flavorful adding a nice balance with the spicy seasonings that were on the salmon. I added some of the borracho beans and the corn salsa to the tacos to give it a number of exquisite flavors with each bite. After a couple bites, I couldn't taste that fishy smell that I got initially. It was simply a satisfying meal.
I've never been a big fan of the Upland beers, but I was happy with the Easy Chair amber ale. And I was more than happy with the food I had at the Carmel Tap House. The menu seemed to be above par for a brew pub and the salmon tacos were a nice little culinary diversion from the burgers, pizza and other stuff that I usually find when I'm on the road. With all the different beers that Upland has to offer and the diverse food menu that the Carmel Tap House has, there's a little bit of everything available for anyone if you go there.