Death & Taxes: Celebrating a Dead Man At Indianapolis' Taxman Brewing
My long Hoosier weekend hit a little snag after Friday night's show, in that the brewery I was scheduled to play on Saturday had to shut down due to COVID. Indiana is a goofy state when it comes to alcohol (you can't buy it on Sundays; you can't buy beer in convenient stores, you can only buy it warm in grocery stores, you can only buy it cold in state liquor stores, etc.), and evidently their COVID restrictions vary from country to county. Even though this brewery was also in the greater Indianapolis area (as was Mashcraft on Thursday), because they do not serve food they were told they had to shut down. I don't understand the logic behind some of these COVID rules, but life's too short to get bent out of shape about them....
My choice then became do I just bounce around Indiana all day and night Saturday while waiting for Sunday's gig, or should I just go home? If this were a lot of other tour stops, like the beaches, I'd be thankful for the day off and just bum around on the beach or whatever the local thing was... but Indiana during COVID? Sounded pretty dull and limiting, so I headed home. Madison was only about an hour from home (albeit a rather rural route), and Indy is only about 90 minutes, so I figured better to go home and play with the dog and sleep in my bed and then just head back out on Sunday... so that's what I did.
Taxman Brewing Company – Indianapolis, IN
The brewery operates three farm-to-table gastropubs in the greater Indy area, and their beers are distributed throughout Indiana.
Sunday I headed to Indy around noon, which put me there with just enough time to set up, have a beer or two, and chill for a bit before playing. Today's venue was Taxman Brewing, and this was their downtown location, which is in a recently refreshed part of town called CityWay. The brewery is in a sizable old brick building with a nice large beer garden (the inside was amazing looking... more about that next time), and a nice formal stage that was almost underneath a railroad tressle. Like their other two Indy-area locations, the taprooms are also farm-to-table gastropubs. I did not sample the food, but I did have a conversation with their chef, and the menu sounded great... interesting selections of local meats and vegies that constantly change with the seasons and what is currently available from the farms.
I was the first artist Taxman had booked since COVID, and the reason we got together on this date, August 9, 2020, was because it was the 25th anniversary of the passing of Jerry Garcia... so we billed it as a celebration of Jerry's life and music, and I pulled pretty heavily from the Garcia/Dead catalog. The crowd was probably a 50/50 mix of Deadheads and their usual crowd, which was about perfect. The music and crowd were great, and it was a really fun way to spend a beautiful sunny summer Sunday afternoon. The railroad tressle created an interesting and fun twist, as I think twice during my sets trains came through, almost directly behind and above me, and so I'd play train related songs (Big Railroad Blues, Monkey & the Engineer, Driver 8, etc.) while they passed, playing along to the rhythm that the drivers made. I had a lot of fun with that and the crowd seemed to get a kick out of how well it worked.
As for the beers, Taxman has a pretty extensive selection and the staff were wonderfully helpful at pointing me in various directions for their favorites. The funny thing was that, due to COVID production limitations, their very popular pale ales were tapped out on this day... which actually just helped narrow down my choices and push me in more interesting directions.
There were several fruited sours, gose, etc. on tap, but having had so many due to the heat of the last couple of months I did small samples of a few and purposefully steered away from ordering pints. I don't like to comment on little 4oz samples as you really can't get a feel for a beer based on such a small sample, but suffice it to say I found most of them quite tasty, one or two a bit too fruity, and one or two that just weren't fruits that appeal to me.
So the beers I did dig into were heavy hitters:
Coffee Vanilla Qualified (9.5%) is their Quadrupel with touches of coffee and vanila. The quadrupel that serves as the foundation of this one is rich and caramelly and creamy to begin with, well balanced with darker molasses elements. Then they add cold brew coffee beans from a local vendor and finish it off with Madagascar vanilla beans. AND it's a robust drink, clocking in at 9.5% ABV. What a treat!
Another spectacular one was the Imperial Bean Counter (9.5%) Brown Ale with Coffee and Cocoa Nibs. A little lighter in body that the quad, and a little nuttier due to the brown ale base, then accented with the chocolate and coffee. I didn't detect the cocoa and coffee as much as it just hit more more like a very bold and rich brown ale... which I supposed speaks to how well it was balanced.
Exemption (8.5%) Tripel w/Spices. I'm not much of a fan of Belgian whites/wheats, but this is an abbey-style tripel that I actually enjoyed in limited doses (read: it was a refreshing change, but I couldn't drink too much of it). Hints of lemon and orange peal and coriander spice, it was a smooth and fairly easy drink that didn't indicate at all that it was an 8.5% brew.
Taxman was a really cool brewery, with a beer selection so deep that I look forward to going back and sampling beers in a totally different direction (like maybe the pale ales next time). The rooms and artwork were very cool, and I definitely enjoyed the beer garden stage (even with the train accompanyment). The evening was fun to the point that we have already decided that I'd return sometime soon, and next time I will also make a point of making time for their food. If you're in the Indianapolis area, I would definitely track down at least one of their locations!
I still find it hard to believe that it's been 25 years since Garcia died, and I can still remember that day like it was yesterday. I don't normally dwell on such things, and I certainly wouldn't normally make an event of a death anniversary, but 25 years is landmark, and the last time I actually saw Jerry was just up the road from Indy at Deer Creek Music Center about a month before he died, so it seemed just right. The day was beautiful, the venue and crowd were perfect, and it was a really sweet way to reflect back on the gifts Jerry gave, and to celebrate them with music, good company, and great beer.
Dennis O'Hagan's Great Brewery Tour is completely grass-roots. Your support is appreciated, and can be shown by coming to the shows, frequenting the featured breweries, wearing our t-shirts, and via tips at: http://venmo.com/DennisOHagan