Brown County’s Barrels of Fun
Thanks to Big Woods and others, Indiana’s unofficial handicraft capital is finally abuzz with the most spirited of artisanal pursuits.
This article is part of the Rediscover Brown County package in the October 2016 Indianapolis Monthly issue. For more on our favorite fall destination, click here.
Handmade stuff is in Brown County’s holy trinity, up there with foliage and cabins. But historically, with only a small winery and a couple of tasting rooms, the area wasn’t much of a destination for artisanal beverages. Until now. Thanks to popular demand and craft-friendly tweaks to Indiana’s blue laws, the county has a brewpub and production brewery, two distilleries, and two new winery tasting rooms, all opened in recent years.
Since Nashville’s Original Big Woods (60 Molly Ln., 812-988-6000) opened in 2009—a timber-frame, lodge-like brewpub with flights of craft beer and a covered deck on which to enjoy them—a drink-and-dine empire has grown in the town of 1,000. Along with Big Busted Bar (44 N. Van Buren St., 812-988-6004), a lively spot for craft beer and artisan-spirit cocktails, Big Woods is now part of “Big Woods Village,” a complex featuring live music and several locations that have collectively ushered in an appropriately flannel-friendly nightlife element to Nashville proper. In 2012, Quaff On! Brewing Company (1934 State Rd. 135 N), a production facility on the outskirts of town, began exporting Big Woods beer all over the state. Saturday mornings, Big Busted Bar is the gathering point for Quaff On! Beer School, which includes a behind-the-scenes look at the beer-making—and samples.
A good tip Order like a local at Big Busted Bar: “Busted Nut” is a draft blend of Big Woods Common Necessity hazelnut stout and Quaff On! Busted Knuckle porter.
Hard Truth Distilling Company became the latest addition to the Big Woods family in 2015, and visitors can sample the craft distillery’s whiskey, gin, rum, and vodka in the Hard Truth Saloon (which adjoins the Big Busted Bar in Nashville); the High Road cocktail evokes the pleasing flavor of French toast. Before Hard Truth, Bear Wallow Distillery (4484 E. Old State Rd. 46, 812-657-4923) in Gnaw Bone established the first legal still in Brown County since Prohibition. Bear Wallow offers a Farm-to-Fifth tour that demonstrates the distilling process from grain—all sourced from Indiana farmers—to gleaming copper stills to glasses, from which visitors enjoy samples at a pine bar with a rustic Smoky Mountain vibe.
A good tip Take a Moonshine Shake-Up kit with real fruit elixirs to-go from Bear Wallow Distillery (strawberry is a crowd favorite).
Because Indiana’s blue laws granted special status to local winemakers for several decades, a couple of them have been around since the ’80s: Brown County Winery (4520 State Rd. 46 E, Gnaw Bone; Nashville tasting room, East Main Street and Old School Way; 888-298-2984), and the Nashville location of Chateau Thomas Winery (225 S. Van Buren St., 812-988-8500). Newer tasting rooms have cropped up in the village recently, with Cedar Creek Winery (38 Franklin St., 812-988-1111) pouring several varieties—try the Harvest Moon ice wine—and Salt Creek Winery (26 Honeysuckle Ln., 812-497-0254) opening right behind Big Woods Pizza in a cozy and cottage-like haunt.
A good tip The wine list at remote Story Inn wouldn’t be out of place in a big-city restaurant (or you can bring in your own for a $25 corkage fee). 6404 State Rd. 135, 812-988-2273
Once a live-music venue on Nashville’s main drag, Muddy Boots Cafe moved to a new 1,600-square-foot space attached to the Pine Room Tavern (51 E. Chestnut St., 812-988-0236) east of town—now a one-stop shop for local songwriters, touring acts, darts, and pool. You can sip an Indiana Maple Old Fashioned—made with bourbon, Hoosier maple syrup, Angostura bitters, an orange slice, and a cherry—by the fireplace at the Brown County Inn’s Corn Crib Lounge (51 State Rd. 46 E, 800-772-5249). The Saloon at the Seasons Lodge (560 State Rd. 46 E, Nashville, 800-365-7327) books live country music and has a nice hilltop view. On Nashville’s main drag, Hickory Sports Bar (61 S. Van Buren St., 812-778-9730) is a no-frills elbow-bender from the 1940s.
A good tip Don’t let all the Harleys parked at Trails End & The PanHead Saloon scare you off. 4646 State Rd. 135, 812-988-1385