Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Photos: Taste of Tango Update

This building at 36 E. Washington has been under renovation for a couple months, to be reopened as a locally owned Argentinian restaurant Taste of Tango. The November issue of Up Down Town reports that they "should open in the next few weeks per a man we spoke with there who said he was to be the manager." That issue just came out in the last week, so it seems to indicate an opening before the end of November. At the very least this should be an interesting addition to that suddenly booming sector of downtown, along with the recently opened Barcelona Tapas and India Garden, as well as Fogo de Chao in the future.

Property Lines reports that we may even be getting a Scotty's Brewhouse in Allen Plaza (previously Jefferson Plaza) across Virginia from the Broadbent Building. That 10-story building is currently being rehabbed to reopen as the headquarters for the Allen Group, with condos on the top 5 floors. A couple months ago I talked to a manager at the northside Scotty's who said their goal is to have a downtown location open by the time Lucas Oil Stadium opens next August.

Here are a handful of shots I took Sunday, October 21st:

The street-level treatment:

I left this shot hi-res because I think the juxtaposition of a 49 story building with these 3-4 story buildings is very cool (the white-ish building in the center is also planned to be renovated):

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Beer Quicky: Brugge on tap

One of the nice things about living on West St. -- and there aren't many -- is that I basically have a superhighway between my home and Spencer's Stadium Tavern. They've got 8 frequently rotated taps -- except for the one Old Style tap -- and a nice range of bottles also available. My wife and I popped in there for a quick beer this evening -- Bell's Special Double Cream Stout (thanks to Hoosier Beer Geek for the tip) -- and chatted for a little bit with head bartender/beer guru Dustin. The first thing he let us know is that Left Hand Milk Stout will be on tap very soon. I'm a big fan of that beer and have never had it on tap, so I'll be back to try that in the near future.

The bigger detail he let us know is that they will have Brugge Beer on tap, though only one beer at a time. Spencer's will be one of only 5 or 6 bars in the area serving Brugge beers. He said we can (hopefully) expect it to be available sometime next week.

Beer: IPA Roundup

Over the weekend I noticed that I had 3 different IPAs in my fridge and decided to do a side-by-side taste test to see how they compared. The contestants were Bell's Two Hearted Ale, Founders Centennial IPA and Mad Anthony IPA. All three are regulars in my fridge -- Two Hearted practically has a permanent residence in there -- though its rare for two to be in there at the same time, let alone three. I also had a bottle of Warbird Warhawk Pale Ale that I threw in for the hell of it even though it's not an IPA.

Here are the notes, verbatim, that I scribbled while my wife and I were tasting:

Founders Centennial IPA

very strong hops
very bitter back-end
little citrus (maybe lemony, if really looking)

Mad Anthony IPA

huge citrus/grapefruit up front
bitter back-end, but not unpleasant
less carbonated
strong hops, but not as strong as Cent.
less balanced
grapefruit ***

Bell's Two Hearted Ale

just the right amount of bitter
pleasant citrus
light, refreshing hops
orange (light)
more carbonated

Warbird Warhawk Pale Ale

bready malt
lightly balanced with good amount of hops
VERY drinkable

Being an IPA roundup, ranking the beers in terms of hoppiness seems appropriate:

1. Centennial IPA
2. Mad Anthony IPA
3. Warhawk Pale
4. Two Hearted

The fourth-place finish for Two Hearted was surprising to us. Centennial and Mad Anthony are much hoppier than the other two, but Warhawk, though classified as a pale ale, was actually hoppier than the Two Hearted Ale. Two Hearted Ale is easily the most balanced of the four, which is part of the reason why it has such a special place in hop-head-hearts. My two favorite characteristics of the four beers were the grapefruit of the Mad Anthony -- which makes the beer incredibly refreshing -- and the bready malt character of the Warhawk. The Warhawk is seeing its first action in my fridge and it certainly won't be the last. It's got a very distinct character and a drinkability that I can only describe as dangerous.

UPDATE (11/1): I completely forgot that I took a picture to go with this post. Here it is, belatedly:

Monday, October 29, 2007

Development/Beer: Buggs Temple Menus

NOTE: This post is very old and the menus listed here are no longer valid (the restaurants themselves have even changed name and ownership). You can find menus for Creation Cafe (originally The Grille at Buggs Temple) and Euphoria (Tavern at the Temple) here.

I received a "Grand Opening" email from Amanda Cravens at Buggs Temple over the weekend with the current/October menus for The Grille at Buggs Temple and Tavern at the Temple. They don't appear to be publicly available yet, but the email mentioned that a new Buggs Temple webpage will be going up soon and they'd be crazy not have menus up there. Click on the images below for a larger version you can actually read:
Tavern at the Temple

The Grille at Buggs Temple

The Tavern at the Temple menu is a bit rich for me, but I guess it's fine for what they're trying to do there. However, I think the price point for The Grille is too high. An average price per entre around $9 is a bit expensive to entice people to just pop in for a bite while they're out on the canal. "$11 for a hamburger? Y'all must be crazy!" Harry and Izzy's doesn't even charge that much for their delicious steakburger. Feels like they're trying to capitalize on their near-monopoly on Canal food and I don't like that. Still, I'll give 'em a shot, but they better be putting out an amazing product at these prices.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Beer: Rock Bottom Taps Pumpkin Ale

This past Wednesday I attended downtown Rock Bottom's monthly tapping party. This month they offered Pumpkin Ale. I'm not crazy about pumpkin ales, but that didn't stop me from having two while they were free for 30 minutes. I won't argue with free beer, but I'm not likely to be back for more. If that's your thing, it'll probably be on tap for a month or two, depending on how popular it is.

I've been attending Rock Bottom tappings for about 5 years and it's been up and down and all around during that time, the character of the tappings changing with the frequent changes in brewmaster. When I first started going, they were almost always downstairs and very well attended, with a crazy brewmaster that would jump on the bar and yell a bit about the beer. It sounds silly but it was a great time.

Over the years and multiple brewmasters, the attendance gradually eroded to the point that almost all the tappings were moved upstairs to the main bar area. Sometimes you didn't even know a beer was being tapped unless you just happened to walk in on the right day. About two years ago, Jerry Sutherlin took over and everything changed.

Jerry's a pretty soft-spoken guy -- not one that would jump on a bar and scream about his beer -- but as a brewmaster, he really seems to care more than the previous brewers. The first tapping "party" I attended with Jerry in charge, a total of about 6 people were there for the start of the tapping, 2 of them conventioneers that had randomly stumbled into Rock Bottom. During his first few tappings it was pretty easy to get a chance to talk with him and it's very clear that he loves his beers. He let us know that "corporate" gives him most of the specialty beer recipes but he's allowed some latitude to do what he wants for several of the monthly tappings. Occasionally, he even has open casks that allow him to do whatever he wants.

Since Jerry took over, tapping attendance has gone WAY up -- almost to where it was 4 or 5 years ago -- and the tappings have been moved back downstairs whenever possible. Early on, he had the kitchen offer some free food that paired up well with the beer being tapped but recently there have been too many people to offer that and they just have a generic spread of pretzels, chips and cheese dip every time. Needless to say, it's much harder, if not impossible, to chat with him these days, but I appreciate the return to a more party-like atmosphere. Beer's always better shared with others!

Jerry has also added a quarterly brewer's dinner that offers four courses paired with four beers for a very reasonable $35. I attended one of the dinners and it was a great time with good food and good beer. The next one will be November 13th at 6:30. Check out the menu here.

With all the great things Jerry's done around Rock Bottom, here's hoping he stays around much longer than his predecessors!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Photos: Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Photo 1

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail is one of the most exciting projects happening in downtown Indy right now. Unfortunately, it's so large and the construction progress so dynamic that reasonably trying to capture it in the 5-10 photo spreads I've been posting would be futile. Instead, as part of an on-going series, I'm going to post a single photo as the mood strikes me (probably about once a week). The photo will be larger than others I post and you'll be able to click on it for an even higher-resolution version.

Here's the first photo, looking south from the corner of North and Alabama (the current northern terminus), where you can see the recently installed pole lighting.

Note: I didn't really go into much background information about the Cultural Trail because so many other sites and blogs have already discussed it at length. For more information, most, if not all, of the Indy Development Links on the right side of this page have information and opinions. And, of course, you can always check out the official site.

Photos: Broadbent Building Update

Broadbent Building Facts:

  • Location: Corner of Virginia Ave. and Washington St.
  • Originally built: 1961 as a Merchant National Bank branch
  • Until recently known as: The Zipper Building
  • Ground Floor Tenant: Fogo de Chão, a Brazilian Steakhouse chain (planned)
  • 2nd and 3rd Floor Tenant/Owner: The Broadbent Co.

Here is the project status as of Sunday, October 21st:


The corner of Washington and Virginia:

Looking Northwest on Virginia (the last diagonal street that provides a peak at the monument -- this view is really very cool and tough to capture with a camera):

You can see the last remnants of the Zipper Building facade on the lower backside of the building:

Here are a couple renderings of the final product:

And for the history buffs, here's the building that stood on the Broadbent Building site from 1876 until it was demolished in 1959, the Vance Building:

It was renamed the Indiana Trust Building when two stories were added in 1894-95 :

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Development: Indiana Ave. Resurfacing

I don't intend to rant much on this blog, but this one got me going a bit. Apparently the Indianapolis Department of Public Works started resurfacing Indiana Ave. this morning. There are many facets and levels to my irritation with regard to this, so let's work through my frustration here.
  1. The project extends from 10th St. south to West St. The surface of that section of Indiana isn't great but it's not that bad. If any part of Indiana needs resurfacing, it's the section from Michigan south to New York. That section is a mess. Many other roads in downtown are in similar need of resurfacing.
  2. This segment of road isn't even in the DPW 2007 Resurfacing Plan. If this is related to the $4M allocated to infrastructure improvements in the Biocrossroads area then this is a huge waste of that money. Is this segment of Indiana really related to Biocrossroads? What businesses in this stretch are bio-related? My impression is that they want bio-development on Indiana north of 10th St.
  3. Usually when a project like this happens, signs are put up well in advance to warn drivers that there will be lane closures, etc. Signs indicating "Construction Zone Ahead" (or something similar) were put up yesterday afternoon.
  4. Work began during the height of the morning rush hour. I realize the work is going to be done and you can't possibly avoid every rush hour while the project is on-going, but couldn't they have delayed the project a couple hours this morning to let the crush of cars that arrive at the IUPUI campus around 9am pass?
  5. There was construction equipment all over the road and no signs indicating to drivers that lanes were closed. There weren't even flag-men out to direct cars!
  6. One or the other Southbound lane has been closed while they chew up the existing asphalt, yet they allowed cars to continue parking in the curb-side Northbound lane. This is inexcusable -- what idiot is running this project?! They should have just closed both Southbound lanes and made it one lane each direction on the two Northbound lanes.

This is a bumbling mess right now. Here's hoping they get it done with quickly.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Beer: Goose The Market

Goose The Market is exactly what the neighborhoods of downtown Indy need: a walking-distance store to buy quality local meat, cheese, veggies, bread and yes, maybe even some beer and wine. To say the least, I'm jealous of Fall Creek Place. But I'm also hopeful that this store will be a raging success and we'll see these kind of stores pop up in other neighborhoods (like maybe in 901 N East St.?)

If you're interested in the food angle, I'd recommend checking out Feed Me/Drink Me's review of the Saturday night open house. As for the beer selection, I was surprised to find even more beer than wine in the cellar. The best part is that the selection is almost entirely different than what Alabama Liquor stocks, meaning the beer choices close to downtown just got a whole lot better.

For example, Alabama stocks zero bombers but has the full range of Bell's beers and even gets many of their seasonal, hard-to-find beers (they recently had Special Double Cream Stout). Goose has zero Bell's offerings, but instead they've got an interesting selection of bombers, from Stone and Rogue to Samuel Smith and even some Brouwerij Lindemans lambics. They also have some great 6- and 4-packs, such as Three Floyd's Gumballhead and Bluegrass Brewing's Jefferson's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout. They have quite a few beers I've seen but never tried, so I'll be back to try them out over time.

As for the wine, honestly, there wasn't a whole lot that I recognized. Not that that's a bad thing -- variety is good! -- but I'd be shooting blind if I bought anything there.

Quick note: all beer is cellar temperature, not chilled.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Gear: The HD Format War (plus: An Affordable Blu-ray Drive?)

(Note: I assume most people interested in this post already already have a basic understanding of the Blu-ray and HD-DVD formats. If not, I recommend checking out this wikipedia page on the topic.)

A lot has been written in the media about the HD format "war." I have to admit, talking about it right now is a little silly in the first place. Frankly, sales aren't going to reach anything near DVD for a long time for one simple reason: without an HDTV, the next-gen formats are useless. While HDTV sales are booming and prices dropping, market penetration simply isn't there yet (latest numbers are around 30% of US households). This is in contrast to DVD -- the day DVD came out, every household in the US with a TV was capable of using it. Your plain old TV was all you needed to enjoy the dramatically improved picture quality.

I had to laugh when Paramount recently gushed about achieving 190k sales of The Transformers on HD-DVD during its first week. That number is relatively impressive for HD movie sales, but it was obliterated by DVD sales of 8.5 million.

People frequently cite the $200/player price-point as the magical point where everyone will suddenly go out and buy a next-gen player. This belief is based on rapid DVD adoption once player prices dropped to that point. What's being glossed over is the fact that, for a lot of people, the price is $200 plus the cost of an HDTV, which still sets you back a minimum of about $500.

All of that aside, I have a blog and I want to talk about the HD format war! My hypothesis: both formats will be with us for a long time. I have three reasons to believe this:
  • The manufacturers and content producers are too entrenched: Sony and its 3 exclusive movie studios aren't backing down from Blu-ray anytime soon. In particular, Sony uses Blu-ray as its PS3 games format, so at the very least, the format will continue to exist for that use. Microsoft and Toshiba, the major backers of HD-DVD, certainly aren't backing down either, having recently added Paramount Studios as a second exclusive movie studio.
  • There's an installed base: as I said, the numbers aren't large, but people (including me) have jumped on board and picked a side, or perhaps both sides. The installed base of users will require support in some form.
  • The formats have identical dimensions: when discussing the HD format war, the commonly cited format war is Betamax vs. VHS, which VHS obviously won despite being the technically inferior format. Those media formats weren't physically compatible -- you couldn't put a Betamax tape into a VHS player or vice-versa -- but the two HD formats are perfectly compatible, being the exact same size as a DVD or CD. That, combined with the fact that the decoding process for both formats is virtually identical, means the only thing you really need in order to make a dual-format player is duplicate lasers and pickups to actually read the 1's and 0's off the different discs. A handful already exist.

I think the future is those dual-format players. In 5 years, I expect that you'll go buy an HD movie and not even think about the format of the disc -- your dual-format player at home will take care of it all for you. For now, those players are a bit cost prohibitive, though. You can buy the entry-level player for each format for less than the cost of a dual-format player.

All of this gets me back to my original point in creating this post. Since I believe both formats are going to continue to exist and I only have an HD-DVD drive for my HTPC, I'd like to be able to watch any new HD movie that comes out, not just those on HD-DVD. That means I need a Blu-ray drive for my computer.

Unfortunately, Blu-ray drives are quite expensive and there isn't much selection. In fact, if you want a drive that just reads Blu-ray discs (no burning) you only have one choice: the Pioneer BDC-202, which sets you back $260. At this point, there's no reason a bare Blu-ray drive should cost that much and there's no reason there should only be one player on the market (that second point probably drives the first). The HD-DVD equivalent, the Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive, only costs $180 these days and comes with 5 free HD-DVDs.

One of these days, I'll jump on board with Blu-ray as well, but its selection and price has to become more competitive before I do.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Photos: Penn Centre Site

Penn Centre is the most recent large project announced for downtown Indy. It's a complex of two hotel buildings at the corner of Maryland and Pennsylvania, a 25 story Le Meridien hotel and a 16 story Aloft Hotel (note: the floor numbers at Emporis are the original numbers which have since been reduced). The design isn't yet finalized, but this is the latest rendering that's been released (also note: the project does NOT include the Hampton Inn valet lot immediately at the corner of Maryland and Pennsylvania):

Here are a couple shots of the site as of Sunday the 21st:

This is the best my camera can do capturing the whole site (the facade of the 3-story building at center-right will be preserved):

Panning slightly left (Harness Factory Lofts at center):

Panning slightly right, down Maryland (Circle Centre mall in the distance)

Will Penn Centre extend into the sky in the future?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Beer: Rural Inn and Founders Centennial IPA

"If you shop the Rural Inn, you could sample 200 different import, domestic and microbrew beers..."

I love the Rural Inn commercial -- it's so delightfully local! If you've never been to the Rural Inn, it's quite an experience. You might say that the commercial glosses over some of the finer details. For starters, it's at the corner of Michigan and Rural on the eastside, one of 27 intersections in the city deemed worthy of a remote surveillance camera from the Indy Metro Police. On Friday afternoons, it turns into a paycheck-cashing depot. There's also a bar directly connected to the liquor store by a small doorway. But my favorite detail? The porn selection in the glass counters while you're checking out.

Still, despite their location, they have a very impressive selection of beer. They've pretty much got a monopoly on east-side craft brew sales, though I'm not sure how large that market really is. No one has ever come into the "Big Beer Cooler" while I've been there. They probably depend a bit on people like me coming over from downtown. With due respect to Idyllic Indy's interesting idea, if it weren't so convenient to take one-way New York out and one-way Michigan back to downtown, I probably wouldn't go to the Rural Inn at all.

It's almost exclusively 6-packs, so if you're looking for bombers, shop elsewhere. Aside from the very most exotic 6-packs, I'd say that they've got everything you can expect to see in the midwest. And the management has always made it clear that they're very happy to have my business. They really want to court the beer geeks of Indy, asking me on multiple occassions what beers I'd like to see them stock.

On my most recent trip there, I picked up a 6-pack of Founders Centennial IPA. I had a serious relationship with this beer about 6 to 9 months ago, but other than maybe at the Indiana Microbrewers Festival, I don't think I've had it since then. I love this IPA. It's probably not my favoite of the style, but it's up there in the top 4 or 5. This IPA is brewed and dry-hopped primarily with centennial hops, hence the name. The dry-hopping leads it to be VERY hoppy, but it's balanced with a good amount of malt. Rural Inn happens to have a great price on this beer: $8.99. If you consider yourself a hop head, this is a must-try.

Other Quick Beer News:
  • Psych! Apparently The Goose isn't ready for prime time yet. A sign on their door yesterday indicates they'll be open on October 23rd now. Of course, their webpage still says October 20th in multiple spots....
  • UPDATE: Commenter Indy Steve points out that Feed Me/Drink Me has a review of Goose The Market (looks like this is the official name) and wondered if maybe they're open. I had a little extra time after lunch today so I briefly stopped by. A very personable person answered the door, introduced himself as Chris and said that they're currently fixing everything up from the opening party on Saturday and will officially be open for business tomorrow at 10am. (When I got back to a computer I noticed that their webpage says they're closed on Mondays, so they wouldn't have been open in any case.)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Development/Beer: Buggs Temple First Impressions

I just got back from checking out Buggs Temple for the first time. The Tavern at the Temple opened at 4pm so at 4:45 I was among the first few people there and got to chat up the bartender a bit. I didn't have any paper to take notes, so don't hold me accountable if some of these details are slightly off. I'm going to mind-dump, bullet-style, before I forget anything.
  • Contrary to what I thought, Tavern at the Temple is the fine dining restaurant and Buggs Grille is the "standard" restaurant.
  • Tavern at the Temple occupies the whole top floor.
  • Buggs Grille and CornerStone Coffee are on the main level.
  • Cornerstone Coffee will open at 6am (though I'm not sure they're opening that early yet)
  • Buggs Grille currently operates just for lunch (which they did for the first time today) from 11am-2pm, but will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the future.
  • Mostly pedestrian beer options, only available in bottle (no menu, so this is just from the bartender): standard BMC offerings, plus Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Newcastle Brown and Delirium Tremens (which I ordered for what seemed reasonable: $3.75).
  • 36 wines on the wine menu.
  • Example wine price: Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon is the house cab: $36 bottle, $11 glass (at first, that seemed a little steep for a glass, but the menu notes that they do an 8oz pour).
  • Locals Chateau Thomas Chardonnay ($20) and Easley (??) on the menu.
  • One of my personal favorites: Dr. Frank Dry Riesling (NY Finger Lakes)
  • Menu range: $18 for half-chicken, $34 for lamb chops (?).
  • Appetizer range: $7 for soup to $15 for ??

Too many question marks are popping up in my thinking, so I'll stop there. As for the feel, I think they did a pretty nice job with the decor of the Tavern. I was mostly in the bar area and it's designed to be fairly dark with spot lighting. It was a little cold and breezy out, but I briefly stepped outside on the balcony. It's got a pretty nice view, but most of the skyline is blocked by Fairbanks Hall for a good chunk of the balcony.

I'll be back at some point for the food, but I think I'll wait for a braver person with deeper pockets to report before I go back. I will note that they said the menu will change periodically based on the availability of local ingredients. The menu made mention of many locally-sourced meats, so this is a good sign.

Beer: Casper Maus Brewery

Back in August, IUPUI put up signs identifying the locations of important structures that had been lost to history with the rapid expansion of the IUPUI campus. They're a nice addition, kind of a poor-man's historical marker and apparently very cheap -- the marker glued to a post for the recently razed IPS School No. 4 at Michigan and Blackford is already gone, perhaps a victim of the strong winds the other day (Correction: either my eyes were playing tricks on me or they very quickly fixed this sign, because it's back now). While I was taking pictures for yesterday's Campus Center post, I noticed this sign on the NW corner of University and New York:

Apparently the parking lot I was standing in to capture the South/Vermont St. Facade of the Campus Center was the location of a brewery! Here's a tidbit and small photo from IUPUI's "Spirit, Pride and Tradition" page:

"They paved paradise and put up a parking lot ...

Maybe folk singer Joni Mitchell's song Big Yellow Taxi put it best: Only at IUPUI would college students have to choose between a fully functioning brewery and a parking lot. The current lot on the corner of New York Street and University Boulevard, west of Lecture Hall, once was the home of Casper Maus brewery. Well, it makes that "no-alcohol" policy a little easier to enforce."

More info about the Casper Maus Brewery and other Indianapolis breweries can be found in the Indy brewing history page at Indiana Beer.

Other quick beer news:
  • Hoosier Beer Geek reports that Brugge Beer will finally be available Nov. 1st. Can't wait to find out which bars/restaurants will have it on tap!
  • Coincidence or friendly rivalry? Jim of Hoosier Beer Geek noted that Chatham Tap's Bell's Oberon keg has finally kicked and has been replaced by Bell's Best Brown Ale. Likewise, MacNiven's keg of Third Coast Old Ale has also been finished and has been replaced by Bell's Best Brown Ale. If you love brown ale, apparently you can't go wrong on Mass Ave these days.
  • WTHR (NBC) reported on their noon news that Buggs Temple officially opened for business for lunch today.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Photos: IUPUI Campus Center Update

IUPUI Campus Center Facts:

  • Location: SW corner of University Blvd. and Michigan St.
  • Broke ground: September 30, 2005
  • Cost: $50M (20% from state, 39% from student fees, 41% from revenue generated)
  • Architects: Smithgroup of Washington, DC and Ratio Architects of Indianapolis
  • Height: 179ft to top of bell tower
  • Estimated Completion: December, 2007

Building Overview:

South/Vermont St. facade:

Southeast Corner with Bell Tower:

Southeast corner and East/University Blvd. facade:

Southeast corner with gerbil tube to Cavanaugh Hall:

Looking North along the East facade (the fact that this glass wall drops down to the basement level is probably the most interesting feature of the design. With the up-lighting, this facade should look amazing at night):

Northeast corner (University Hospital Cancer Center addition in the background):

Northeast corner:

Looking West at the North/Michigan St. facade:

Looking East at the North/Michigan St. facade (this facade is terrible -- there isn't even a public door into the building):

For additional info, renderings and to take a look at the construction webcam, check out IUPUI's Campus Center webpage.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

DIG-B Progress Report

My original intention with this blog was to post 2-3 times per week. Obviously, with 13 posts in just over 3 weeks, and 6 in the last week alone, I'm well ahead of that pace. What can I say? I've had the itch to write and topic ideas flying out of my ears -- I'm going with it for now. Plus, some friendly linking -- thanks Urbanophile and Feed Me/Drink Me (and anybody else I'm not aware of) -- appears to have actually netted me some readers. That's both great for the blog and very motivating for me.

However, I have to admit that there's no way I can keep up this pace forever! I am going to move my long-term goal up to 3-4 posts-per-week, though. That should be do-able and hopefully keep you guys interested!

Thanks for reading DIG-B and helping it surpass my expectations this early in the game. Be sure to pass it along to friends you think might find these topics interesting.

Gear: I need new speakers!

Here's what my stereo looked like when I was a junior in college (pretty decent for a 1999 college student):
  • Amp: Denon AVR-65 (Dolby Digital, 5 x 70W amps)
  • Fronts: Technics whatevers (junkers w/ 12" drivers)
  • Center: Infinity CC-1
  • Rears: Infinity RS-2000 (6.5" drivers)
  • Subwoofer: Infinity BU-120 (12" driver, 150W amp)
Here's what my stereo looked like a year ago:
  • Amp: Denon AVR-65
  • Fronts: Technics whatevers
  • Center: Infinity CC-1
  • Rears: none (a casualty of marriage -- the RS-2000's ended up in my brother's closet)
  • Subwoofer: none (the BU-120's amp is a notorious piece of junk and despite my best efforts to keep it going over the years by replacing blown capacitors, it finally died)
About 2 months ago I decided I was sick of the sound quality and ridiculous size of the Technics speakers and decided to revive the RS-2000's from my brother. They're old (an internet search reveals they were produced between 1986 and 1989) and the surrounds were completely shot, but I figured they still had some life left in them. I looked around town briefly to find a shop that replaces surrounds before I discovered an ebay store that sells very detailed and reasonably priced do-it-yourself refoaming kits (right up my alley). Had I started this blog back then, I could have shown you the process. It's actually pretty easy! Alas, DIG-B was not yet born. (If anybody's curious about the process, drop me a line in the comments.)

So, with the RS-2000's back in business my stereo looked like this:
  • Amp: Denon AVR-65
  • Fronts: Infinity RS-2000
  • Center: Infinity CC-1
The Infinity RS-2000's are nice little speakers but, not surprisingly, they completely lack the low-end punch that the Technics + BU-120 combo could muster (great for college parties!). However, they do a much better job with mid-range and high-end frequencies than the Technics. They're so good, in fact, that they've exposed how terrible the CC-1 center is. Voices are tinny and distorted. Over the weekend, I turned it off. My once proud Dolby Digital Surround Sound setup has been reduced to this:
  • Amp: Denon AVR-65
  • Fronts: Infinity RS-2000
I'm starting to feel like Gene Hackman in Hoosiers. I've broken the boys down, now it's time to start building 'em back up! I think it'll be a while before I add rears back to the system (most likely once we move into a house) and when I do, I'll probably buy new fronts and move the RS-2000's to the rear. But does anybody have suggestions for a center channel speaker or 10" subwoofer? Or good audiophile places to shop in town? I haven't been in the market for audio equipment since I moved to Indy, so I'm completely clueless. I'm probably not in the market for new audiophile-level equipment, but you never know what kind of used stuff you can come across at those places. Any help would be very much appreciated!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Beer: Shallos Antique Restaurant

My wife and I attended a birthday dinner at Cheeseburger in Suburban Hell Paradise in Southport on Friday, so afterwards I decided to drive a little further south for our first experience at Shallos Antique Restaurant. Amazingly, I'd never even heard of this restaurant (or nearby beer mecca, Parti Pak) before the Hoosier Beer Geeks posted about Indianapolis being added to the Beer Mapping Project. Shame on me, and shame on you if you've never been to them either!

Shallos indeed has an antique feel to it -- dark woods decorate every surface, dominating the decor from the moment you walk in the door. Those surfaces are in turn decorated by a plethora of beer-related trinkets, tap handles, bottles and what-not. We sat down at the bar in front of one of their five eight-tap stands (that's 40 taps for the math-phobic). Behind the bar is a large cooler that houses dozens of beers also available in bottles. A seasonally-appropriate line-up of Oktoberfest bottles were set on the bar in front of the tap stand.

The beer list is a bit overwhelming at first. The first thing I noticed was a large number of Bell's beers available, both on tap and in bottle. I've already documented my high opinion of Batch 8000, so when I noticed it on the menu, I had to order it. Unfortunately, the bartender informed me that their supply of Batch 8000 went quickly and they no longer have it. No worry (especially since I still have a 6-er in the closet!), I also noticed that they have Bell's Double Cream Stout on tap, which I've never had. More bad news: Bell's has been a little flaky with their delivery of kegs to Shallos recently and they no longer have that either. The good news? They have Java Stout instead! I've had it in bottle before (and LOVED it) but never on tap, so I quickly ordered that. It's quite possibly better on tap, or maybe this season's batch is just better than last year's. My wife decided to go with a pint of creamy Young's Double Chocolate Stout.

Next up, we decided to split a bomber. Two beers popped out at me: "Three Floyds Anniversary Ale" (I assume Fantabulous Resplendence) and Stone Imperial Stout. I asked for the first and they warned me that it was $25. Wow, a little rich for my blood. The Stone? $23. WOW, these guys drive a hard bargain on the bombers! We decided to settle down to something we'd had before and figured wasn't too expensive: Two Brothers Hop Juice. No price warning on that one, so I felt that we were safe. Man, I love Hop Juice: pure hop-gasm! You certainly wouldn't call it a well-balanced double IPA, such as Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA, but I still love it.

Of course, all was not well when the bill arrived. Wow, they're expensive! I can take $4, $5, or even $6 for a pint of beer, especially if it's something really special. But the high price of the bombers I was warned about apparently extends to all bombers, where we were charged $15 for Hop Juice. That only costs $5.99 at Parti Pak! Compare this to the price of Dreadnaught at a place like MacNiven's, where they charge around $13, only a dollar or two above the store price.

Shallos seems to think of bomber pricing more in the way restaurants think about wine pricing (i.e. 100-200% above in-store prices). This is especially a turn-off since most of these bottles are available around town for far cheaper and will taste exactly the same at home. That's in contrast to the taps, where you really are getting something special that you can't get elsewhere.

So, what's my final call on Shallos? Their selection is amazing and I'll definitely be back, but next time I'm sticking strictly to the taps.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Development/Beer Quicky: The Goose

I've been a little heavy on the development news lately, so here's some news that's beer-related.

Last Thursday, I met up with the Hoosier Beer Geeks, Matt (of Matt's Beer Blog) and a couple other friends of the Geeks at Chatham Tap. The gathering was one of the Geeks semi-monthly beer tastings -- Wychwood Hobgoblin this time. I'm not crazy about UK beer to begin with, plus Matt and the Geeks have already offered up better reviews than I can muster, so I'll leave that to them (click the above links for their reviews).

The more interesting news of the night came from one of the friends in attendance, Mat Gerdenich of Cavalier Distributing. It's been reported that The Goose will be a gourmet food and wine shop at the corner of 25th and Delaware, but Mat informed us that he's also received an impressive beer order from them. Further, he let us know that The Goose will be a two-floor shop. The main level will offer the gourmet food and other goodies while the lower level will house the beer and wine selection.

Their grand opening is scheduled for this Saturday, October 20th. Can't wait to see what they're stocking!

Also looks like they'll have a blog in the future. I'll have to check back to see how that pans out.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Photos: Indiana Avenue Restaurant and Lounge

Indiana Avenue Restaurant and Lounge? That screams, "We haven't officially picked a name yet," right? Or maybe they're trying to leverage their location in the Indiana Avenue Cultural District, the least developed of the six Cultural Districts in Indy. Time will tell.

As promised, here are a couple shots of the building still decorated as Payton's Place (note: I mispelled the name as PEyton's Place in the previous post).

Indiana Ave. frontage:

North St. frontage (this is effectively a parking lot, but google maps says it's officially North St.):

The intersection of Indiana Ave., North St., and West St.:

For recent news on downtown restaurants, check out the latest round-up by Feed Me/Drink Me (THE go-to blog for cooking/food/restaurant news in Indy).

Friday, October 12, 2007

Development: Peyton's Place to Reopen?

When it rains, it pours. After the exciting news yesterday that Buggs Temple will finally open next Friday, October 19th, I noticed on my way home for lunch today that there is an orange Liquor License application in the window of the former Peyton's Place at the corner of West and Indiana. The small bar/restaurant has been closed and for sale for a couple of years. A pair of signs from Colliers Turley Martin Tucker were posted around the building a little over a month ago advertising an auction for the building on (I think) October 3rd. The signs came down about a week in advance of that date, so perhaps someone already bought the building and is looking to quickly reopen it.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Development Committee recently declared a portion of the downtown canal north of New York St. a Municipal Riverfront Development Project in an effort to get more restaurants to open along the canal. One of the primary outcomes of this designation is cheaper and easier-to-obtain liquor licenses. While Peyton's Place isn't technically on the canal, it's very close and may sit within the designated zone. The new owner may have been able to take advantage of this fact.

I'll try to quickly grab some shots of this historic building this weekend, but does anybody know more about this?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Photos: Buggs Temple to Open October 19th

"I'm bustin' Jerry, I'm bustin!"

That's how I feel having just read on Property Lines that Buggs Temple has finally announced an official opening date. To be fair, they've announced many opening dates in the past -- I have an email from them that mentions a September/October 2006 -- but never anything this specific. I can't wait to head up there next Friday and grab a beer and look out from the balcony. Should be an amazing view.

While we wait, here are some pictures I've taken over the years that they've been working on this project:

March 2006 (after the roof replacement and brick clean-up)

July 2006 (this was actually a shot of the Fairbanks Hall site, but you can see Buggs in the background, sans windows, with the patio/balcony partially constructed)

September 2007 (the patio and balcony above it, with Fairbanks Hall in the background)

I plan to have a post with pictures up next weekend.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Beer: Bell's Batch 8000 and Winter White Ale

Today's beer review takes the form of a head-to-head. In this case, I'm pitting two beers from Bell's Brewery against each other -- Batch 8000 and Winter White Ale. These are both classified as Witbier according to Beer Advocate, though there is some debate regarding Batch 8000's classification (I won't go into this, but you can see this in the Batch 8000 comments, especially the earliest ones).

Batch 8000 is the latest in a line of special, one-time-only beers Bell's brews for each 1000th batch. The previous one, Batch 7000, was brewed a little over 2 years ago and was an especially popular American Double/Imperial Stout. I'm a bit late to the craft brew game to have tried that, unfortunately (anybody got one that wants to trade for a Batch 8000?).

I begin by pouring each into a large red wine glass (the closest I've got to a proper Belgian beer glass, and it does a fine job). The differences between the beers are apparent early, as the Batch 8000 is a decidedly deeper in color, almost amber. Winter White Ale is closer to the typical color of a Witbier. Each pours about a finger of head (click on any of the following pictures for a larger version):

The head dissipates quickly on both beers (this is 30-60 seconds after pouring):

Neither beer leaves any lacing on the glass:

As for the taste, the Batch 8000 is bolder in every regard (just my kind of beer): more spiced, with strong corriander, slightly sweeter and more pronounced alcohol. This last point is not surprising given that Batch 8000 has 9.0% abv compared with 4.5% for the Winter White Ale. I've enjoyed Winter White Ale in the past -- as my wife says, "It tastes like Christmas" -- but next to Batch 8000, it's a joke. The taste is thin. I think I'll still be able to enjoy Winter White Ale in the future -- especially since it's much more drinkable -- but I'll really have to avoid having it next to anything more powerful!

If you can still find Batch 8000 anywhere, I highly recommend trying it out.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Photos: 3 Mass Ave. Construction Update

3 Mass Ave is the newest infill project and possibly the last large project to ever be built on Mass Ave. It will be 10 stories tall, though it's designed to present as 6 stories with step-backs at each floor above that. We're not likely to see another 6 story building on Mass Ave in the near future, let alone a 10-story one. The length of Mass Ave from New York to 10th St. is now wholy contained within the Chatham Arch and Massachusettes Ave. Historical District. Though 3 Mass Ave was approved by city planners before that Historical District Plan was officially completed, this designation will likely preclude future construction of buildings this tall on Mass Ave.

No regulations officially eliminate the possibility of building tall, but the plan Recommendations note that most buildings along Mass Ave are in the 2-4 story range and the IHPC will likely ask all new construction to roughly maintain that height (e.g. the IHPC forced recent development 757 Mass Ave to reduce its height to 4 stories on the Mass Ave frontage and 5 stories on the College Ave frontage).

However, if any development location were to be given an exemption from this recommendation, 3 Mass Ave is it. The site sits at the extreme southern end of Mass Ave, just one block from One Indiana Square, the third tallest building in Indy at 36 stories. This building should help taper the Indy skyline as it drops from the core of downtown's tall buildings to the mostly low-rise Mass Ave area.

Here are a couple renderings to get us started:

The Mass Ave frontage:

The New York St frontage:

An overhead shot of the roof-top deck and some balconies:

And here are some shots of the site preparations currently going on: