Leah is the co-owner and COO of Taxman Brewing Company. She has a diverse professional background in sales and corporate communication, having previously worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative for Novartis and in the corporate communication group at Cummins Inc. In her free time, Leah enjoys snow skiing, exploring new cities, and visiting breweries with her husband, Nathan.
The Top 5 Indy Beer Festivals You Won’t Want to Miss
Photo courtesy of Leah Huelsebusch
Stop by any Indianapolis brewery, and you’ll see taproom walls covered in medals and trophies. In 2020, five Indianapolis-based breweries took home a total of ten medals at the largest beer competition in the U.S. And those ten medals made Indiana one of only eight states to win double-digit medals!
So, yes, Indianapolis breweries make some impressively great beers. From traditional-style lagers to hazy IPAs and sours, there is literally something for everyone. So, it’s no surprise that our abundance of local breweries means Indy has some of the best beer festivals around.
As a founder and owner-operator of Indiana-based Taxman Brewing Company, I can tell you that beer festivals are one of the best opportunities for breweries to connect and engage directly with their core audience. It’s also a great chance to catch up and socialize with other members of the brewing community! Despite having almost 200 breweries in Indiana, our local brewing community remains tight-knit. And our annual beer festivals bring out the very best our community has to offer.
Because all the major festivals were cancelled in 2020, no one knows what to expect from in-person events in 2021. But when they return, these five Indy beer festivals should be at the top of your list!
1. Indiana Microbrewers Festival
Nobody throws a beer festival like the Brewers of Indiana Guild! The guild is a non-profit trade association that unifies the voices of craft breweries and brewpubs of Indiana. And they organize the annual Indiana Microbrewers Fest, one of Indiana’s oldest and largest beer festivals.
The Indiana Microbrewers Fest is more commonly dubbed ‘Summerfest’ because, well, it takes place during the summer. Most recently, Summerfest took place on a beautiful Saturday in July at White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis. Over 100 Indiana breweries attended the festival, bringing their brews out to the park lawn.
While this celebration of beer and summer is always a good time, it’s also one of the major fundraisers for the Brewers of Indiana Guild. Those funds help support their mission to represent Indiana breweries in legislative, promotional, and educational initiatives. So, your money helps give back to the brewing community!
There are two types of tickets available for purchase: General Admission and Early Bird. The Early Bird ticket gives you VIP access to the festival for an hour before other guests can enter, meaning smaller crowds and shorter lines. Designated Driver tickets are also available for a nominal fee.
Why I Love This Festival: There’s nothing better than a beer festival in the middle of summer! Plus, Summerfest features amazing breweries from all over Indiana. I also love that the festival is big (but not too big) and completely outdoors!
2. Coffee Beer & Donuts
This festival may not be your traditional beer fest, but it’s pure genius! Coffee Beer & Donuts pairs Indiana’s best local roasters, brewers, and bakers together for one delicious day. The festival is hosted by the ladies of Girls Pint Out, a local non-profit dedicated to building and supporting a community of women who love craft beer. And best of all, the festival is held during brunch hours on a Saturday in the fall—the perfect way to start the day!
CB&D lets you sample each drink and pastry combo together at the Indianapolis City Market in the heart of downtown. Planning begins months in advance as breweries work with their coffee partner to brew up a caffeine-infused beer. Then, they provide tasting notes to their intended bakery, which crafts the perfect sweet or savory complement. Be sure to clear your afternoon because a post-fest nap will certainly be in order!
Why I Love This Festival: Indy is fortunate to have some incredibly talented craft artisans. CB&D highlights some of the best local creators in an amazing space, creating a simply magical event.
3. Brewers of Indiana Guild Winterfest
Big sweaters and big beers! Winter time blues are a real thing, but this completely indoor beer festival is exactly what the doctor ordered. This mammoth of a festival is another major fundraiser for the Brewers of Indiana Guild around early February. Their Winterfest takes place at the Indiana State Fairgrounds and features over 100 breweries, each with a sizable list of beers, ciders, and meads to sample.
Winterfest also comes with something of an unspoken friendly competition between brewers. Many breweries try to outdo one another by bringing more beers to the festival. (And, of course, that means your ticket gets you even more beer to try!)
In recent years, Winterfest has expanded into a two-day event, spanning a Friday night and Saturday afternoon. If you attend the Friday Night VIP, their rare beer session features a wide variety of limited releases. Guests can enjoy limited barrel-aged, sour, and other creative (and often high alcohol) offerings.
Why I Love This Festival: This festival is already a much needed reprieve from the winter. But one of the coolest features at this festival is that each brewery can bring a cask beer! What’s a cask beer, you say? It’s an unfiltered beer served in a small barrel at cellar temperature, usually with slightly less carbonation. Be sure to visit the cask tent and enjoy the expressive, creatively flavored cask beers!
4. Death & Taxes Day
You can call me biased. (And I definitely am.) But I think our annual beer festival here at Taxman Brewing Company is pretty unique! Inspired by the tax deadline, Death & Taxes Day happens on the first Saturday after April 15th each year, unless that lands on Easter weekend.
For this festival, Taxman Brewing Company invites 40 local breweries, wineries, and cideries to our rural hometown of Bargersville. Surrounded by grain silos and an active railroad, Bargersville—Population 7,085—is a rustic, small-town locale unlike most host cities. But with local beer, food trucks, and live music, our tickets almost always sell out!
Each ticket also includes a can of our limited release beer, Deadline—an imperial Belgian-style stout aged in bourbon barrels. The April weather can be a bit unpredictable some years. But after a long winter, a few sips of that 14% beer will squash any chill in the air!
Why I Love This Festival: Death & Taxes Day has a strong following from the local community and feels like a large gathering of friends. As the festival has grown in size, attendees have been known to make yearly pilgrimages back each April to celebrate the end of tax season.
5. Barrels on Bonna
This October festival is small but features a mighty lineup of unique and exotic brews, focusing exclusively on barrel-aged beers. Black Acre Brewing Company hosts the festival each year in the historic Irvington neighborhood near downtown Indianapolis. And they invite around 15 local breweries to their expansive Bonna Avenue production facility for the festival.
Each brewery brings various beers that have been aged in barrels of all kinds—including bourbon, wine, spirits, and more. Barrel aging imparts additional complexity to the brew and often increases its alcohol content. The whole process requires some artistic blending that makes each beer entirely unique. While you sample these brews, you can also enjoy live music and food trucks in this cool, urban hideaway.
Why I Love This Festival: October is the ideal time for an outdoor beer festival, especially one that features the artistry that is barrel aging. Barrels on Bonna has an amazingly chill vibe, and I can’t wait to see how Black Acre integrates their newly renovated beer garden into future festivals.
Photo courtesy of Leah Huelsebusch
Indiana has a booming craft beer scene for you to explore.
One of the best things about beer festivals is trying brews you’ve never tasted before—and may never taste again. Whether you’re savoring a limited release or discovering a new favorite, these local beers are an experience all their own. As I mentioned earlier, Indiana has over 200 local breweries with delicious flavors and unique creations. So, I encourage you to venture out and explore what Indy has to offer!
While these festivals are some of my current favorites, Indiana’s beer scene is still growing and going strong. I look forward to seeing what new and creatively themed festivals and celebrations of the craft emerge over the years. And in the meantime, you should check out the many breweries and taprooms that make these festivals so much fun!