Craft beer is coming to Carmel
Indianapolis has been in the midst of a microbrewery renaissance for the past five years, but while many Carmel bars serve Sun King’s Wee Mac Scottish Ale or Triton’s Deadeye Stout, the craze hadn’t really crossed Hazel Dell Road until Union Brewing Co. opened its doors in late December. Later this year, a second craft beer hotspot, backed by a legendary Bloomington microbrewery, is slated to open as well.
It almost didn’t happen. Union was initially supposed to open in Westfield – on Union Street, hence the name – but the spot was leased before the budding pub owners were able to lock it down. But they were able to find an even better spot in Carmel’s Mohawk Plaza, the Monon Trail passing mere yards away from its back entrance.
Union co-owner and chief brewer Cameron Fila has been brewing beer as a hobby for more than a decade, but the idea of opening his own pub always nagged at the back of his mind. When a friend needed to create a business plan for an MBA course at Anderson University, he chose Fila’s microbrewery idea. Four months later, with the plan completed, Fila decided it was time to act.
“Life is filled with those now or never moments,” Fila said in the brewery’s tank room as a Foo Fighters song blares in the background. “How you respond will shape the next 20 years of your life.”
Friends Nathan Doyle and Jay Snider decided to enter the venture as co-owners. The three decided not to take out a bank loan, instead sinking their respective life savings into the 1,700-square-foot microbrewery. The three did much of the work themselves, aided by family and friends.
Because they decided not to go into debt to build the pub, the three have yet to see a paycheck; in fact, they still work full-time jobs outside the bar. Although they don’t get to spend as much time with their families as before, they remain driven.
“We bought what we needed to open the doors and not much else,” Fila said. “The end result of the plan is exactly what you’re looking at now. We know if we brew a good product and don’t compromise, Carmel will embrace what we’re doing.”
So far, Fila seems to be right. In just more than three weeks, he claims the business has achieved sales levels that weren’t anticipated until month seven.
“We’re constantly getting thanked by people for opening here,” Fila said. “Getting thanked for living your dream? It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Nearly every piece of equipment and furniture had a former life. Reclaimed lumber lines the walls and was used to build the bar. The television hanging above the bar was in Doyle’s guest bedroom until the night before the opening. The beer engine came from a pub in England, a country known for the unpasteurized cask ales Fila specializes in.
As customers walk through the front door, they pass by the brewing area, where Fila and Snider are hard at work every Tuesday. Their brewing operation is relatively small; they brew the beer in 64-gallon tanks – the equivalent of about four kegs – allowing them to introduce a new beer every week.
When the pub opened, none of Fila’s creations were ready, so they went with a highly regarded selection of guest taps, such as the Founders Imperial Stout. Union currently has four of their own brews currently on tap – the King of Hop black IPA is highly recommended – with six other beers ready to go.
Union will get some competition as early as this April, when Upland Brewing Co. opens its newest location at 116th Street and Guilford Road. Unlike Upland’s fairly sparse tasting room in Indianapolis’ South Broad Ripple neighborhood, the Carmel location will be a smaller version of its Bloomington flagship brew pub, Upland’s vice president of retail operations Angela Schnick said. The restaurant is currently going through the permitting phase with the city.
“We’ll have the same focus on locally sourced food, but the menu won’t be quite as diverse,” Schnick said.
Upland had been searching for a new location for quite a while – even looking at Union’s current spot – but decided on the 2,300-square-foot space close to College Avenue.
The craft beer world is surprisingly friendly and open; both Fila and Schink downplay any suggestion of a potential rivalry.
“The more variety people have, the better it is for us,” Fila said. “If they bring more recognition to craft beer in Carmel, it can’t help but be beneficial to us. You want everyone to do well; it’s definitely not a cutthroat business.”
Union Brewing Company
- Location: 622 S. Range Line Rd., Mohawk Plaza
- Hours: Tuesday and Thursday – 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday – 3 p.m. to midnight, Saturday – noon to midnight, Sunday – noon to 8 p.m., Monday and Wednesday – closed
- Features: Local craft beers brewed in house, “guest taps” featuring other craft beers from across the state
- Phone: 564-4466
- Website: www.unionbrewingco.com