Best New Breweries, No. 10: Union Brewing Company
You wouldn’t know it from the strip-mall storefront, but this cozy nanobrewery situated near the Monon Trail in Carmel is one of the most old-fashioned of its kind in the country. Since opening in 2012, Union Brewing Company has featured cask-conditioned ales—one of only about a dozen outfits in the U.S. devoted to a method popularized by the Brits.
Cask-conditioning is a process, not a style. Hand-pumped into a glass rather than force-carbonated and pressurized through a tap, these unpasteurized, unfiltered brews have a soft, creamy texture as opposed to the fizzy variety you get at most places. And because it’s served at a slightly-higher-than-usual temperature, drinkers who enjoy that kind of thing get a greater range of aromas and flavors. Nathan Doyle, who runs the front of the house at Union, says he and his two partners, Cameron Fila and Jay Snider, were drawn to the approach because they felt it was the best way to showcase beer’s “true potential.”
That may sound pretentious, but that’s not the way the place feels. An outdoor seating area features live music, and on nice evenings, Doyle likes the musicians to end with an acoustic set by the bar’s firepit. But it’s the beer that’s the star of the show, and Union usually offers 10 of them, most of which are cask-conditioned. Often, the menu includes two of the same style—one created in the old way and one not—so customers can taste the difference. Growlers are available for a few beers on tap, but not for the cask-conditioned ales because what little carbonation they have wouldn’t survive more than one pour. Doyle says they don’t have a regular lineup, although they do rotate through about 50 different house recipes. Picadilly Pale (an ESB) and Honey I’m Late (an American pale ale) are two of the most popular when they’re around. The latter, which has the nose of hops without the bitterness, is the beer that got the three friends, then homebrewers, started. The aim was to create something appealing to aficionados yet approachable enough for the uninitiated. Their bar and beer continue in that vein.
622 S. Range Line Rd., Carmel. 317-564-4466, unionbrewingco.com