Kanpai – The only bar inside this East Side restaurant is for sushi, but as a self-described beer snob, owner Jayson Munoz offers a beer menu that shines with a rotating stock dependent on the seasons. This spring, more wheat and pilsner beers arrive to a menu of around 40 beers (bottles only, no draft). He also is a man dedicated to local — or nearly local — brews such as St. Louis-based Schlafly and Upland, made in Bloomington, Ind. “If Schlafly is going to carry a beer,” Munoz says, “I’m going to pick it up. I love that brewer.” From light, unfiltered wheat beers to oatmeal stouts with aromatic coffee and raisin notes, Schlafly offers 50 styles a year.
And while the selection is large, the goal is to pair beer with entrees. “Beer is like the new wine,” Munoz says. One example: The South-of-the-Border sushi roll, which comes with limes and jalapeños, pairs with the slightly sweet Modelo Especial, a light beer served with a lime. The two are complements, but the choice is yours. “I don’t want to make your experience,” Munoz says. “I want to facilitate your experience.”
Gerst Haus – As beer-centric as Gerst Haus may be, the exterior looks like a hardware store because the historic building used to be stocked with tools. Now, it’s stocked with beer.
The name comes from German brewmaster William Gerst, who opened a successful brewery in Nashville, Tenn., in 1890. With that kind of legacy — and a rich German heritage in Southwest Indiana — this Franklin Street restaurant and bar is well known for Deutsch food (think kraut balls) and brews (think 29 beers on tap and around 130 bottled beers).
The most popular is the namesake Gerst beer, an amber brew poured in a frosted fishbowl with a nominal head. The 18-ounce drink is just $2.75.
Gambrinus Libation Emporium – The name Gambrinus Libation Emporium just sounds important. And why not? The terms “sports bar,” “dive,” or “cocktail lounge” don’t jive with this smoke-free environment. Besides, named after a mythical king who invented beer, Gambrinus in Owensboro, Ky., should exude a royal quality as an homage to fine spirits. Owners John and Adrianne Condray — a young, fun couple — created this place after inspiration hit from a downtown renaissance.
And “renaissance” describes their emporium perfectly. From wine to cocktails to beer, the options are broad, but the focus is narrow: Provide a drink menu where poetic descriptions are necessary. BrewDog’s Paradox Macallan Imperial Stout, aged in a former 1987 Macallan sherry cask, is a “mix of chocolate, coffee, dark fruits, and touches of whiskey and sherry” while the New Holland Imperial Hatter is “a robust renovation of the India pale ale.”