RAM Restaurant and Brewery
140 S Illinois St
Visited on March 6, 2008
Downtown Indianapolis isn’t exactly a mecca for craft beer. Of the few downtown breweries that exist, most if not all at this point, are corporate chains. That doesn’t mean they suck, though. I dropped into this RAM because at that point, I had never been to one before. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with their Total Disorder Porter. That being said, there’s not a whole lot of innovation going on here, either.
I finally made my way down to the last Indianapolis brewpub I had to visit. I chose the downtown Indianapolis location because I had heard some poor reviews of the food at the Fishers location. Anyway, the restaurant is great for a downtown sports bar. A nice, long, and winding bar provides ample seating in front of enough plasma screens to keep the general audience happy and entertained. The dining room side is also vast with plenty of seating. It reminds me a lot of Rock Bottom on 86th Street. It is very nice and I enjoyed it, but it is nothing special.
I had heard some mixed reviews about their burgers, so I went with a barbecue salmon sandwich. It was quite tasty and big enough to fill me up, but it was not to the level of Rock Bottom’s smoked salmon, which isn’t even all that great. The onion rings were tasty, but obviously not hand-battered, since they were soft and not crisp, and looked suspiciously similar to the onion rings found at Steak and Shake, which originates in Indianapolis. Hmmm…
Since RAM is part of a national chain, I expected the beer to be sub-par and made for the masses, much like Rock Bottom’s selections are. I was pleasantly surprised. The Big Horn Blonde was probably my favorite, or at least what I was in the mood for, surprisingly enough. It was light, crisp, subtly hopped with a slightly sweet overtone. The Big Butt Amber, their flagship beer, is a sweet Scotch-style red that definitely appeals to any palette. The Hefe was spicy, but nothing special. The Big Red IPA was surprisingly hoppy for a “popular” beer brand, and would satisfy most hopheads. The Total Disorder Porter was also very tasty, if a bit thin in the body for my preference. Finally, their seasonals included an Imperial Stout (strong and flavorful), a brown ale (lacked distinct flavor, could have been any brown ale), and a Pale Ale that I believe is now on their permanent rotation (good, but not great, not for the hophead). I would gladly drink a pint of any of the beers, and prefer them to Rock Bottom’s selection easily. But that’s not saying much.
It was pretty dead when I went in for lunch, but the service was still good. Except that they serve their beer in a frosted mug which completely destroys the taste and character of their beers. So remember to ask for a non-frosted mug, and also ask for samples of their seasonals with the sampler, because otherwise you don’t get them.
Update: After a couple more visits, my beer ranking is spot-on. Their seasonal and regular brews are all distinctive and flavorful enough to warrant a decent rating. The stouts and porters are especially good. And after having a house-made praline cheesecake the other day, I’m bumping up the food rating a point. I think it even beat out Rock Bottom’s carrot cake in my book.