Plan the Ultimate Upland Sour Fest Weekend
Brunch and beer fests make an ideal combination. So why not build a whole weekend around the two? That's exactly what I did in early April to celebrate Upland Brewing Company's Sour Wild Funk Fest. You may be thinking "I've been to plenty of beer festivals; why do I need to add another to my calendar." I promise you, this one is different. Find out why I never miss this one here.
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Plan your Sour Wild Funk Fest Weekend
When: Early spring, March or April
Where: Mavris Arts & Event Center, Indianapolis
Upland Brewing Company is based in my current home base of Bloomington, Indiana. If you follow me on Instagram, you can usually find me at the Wood Shop Sour Brewery sampling their latest beers. They are one of the largest breweries in Indiana but are known around the world for their unique wood-aged sours. So much so that they landed on Huffington Post's Most Sought After Beer List in the USA.
For the past 7 years, Upland Brewing Company has organized a funky festival in Indianapolis celebrating the best in rare sour ales. This year's fest included breweries from all over the world pouring over 150 different beers together in one venue in downtown Indianapolis. To make you feel even better about spending an afternoon drinking delicious beers, Upland donated a portion of the festival's proceeds to the Indiana Wildlife Federation to support their conservation efforts.
I like any excuse to visit Indianapolis but if you love sours, this is a great weekend to plan a trip. You can try beers from all over and check out Indy's killer food scene. Win-win. Find out all of the other reasons I love this fest.
I'd suggest spending the whole weekend in Indianapolis to eat and drink all of the things in town. If you can only come to Indy for one night, you'll still be able to enjoy plenty the city has to offer.
Secret Barrel Society Pre-Party
The weekend kicks off with a private pre-party at Upland's Wood Shop Sour Brewery in Bloomington, Indiana on Friday night. If you're a member of Upland's Secret Barrel Society you'll get an automatic invite to this exclusive party with the Upland brewers and visiting breweries. 1 free VIP ticket to the Sour Wild Funk Fest is also included in SBS memberships. Sample beer from visiting breweries and get a sneak peek of the beers that Upland has on deck for the fest. Upland chefs prepare a huge spread of tasty pub fare so you won't be leaving hungry. Sign-ups for the Secret Barrel Society open in October so bookmark this page.
If you're staying in Indy for the whole weekend, there are bus shuttles available to transport you to and from Bloomington.
Where to stay in Indianapolis
Staying in downtown Indianapolis is the most convenient to the festival. I'm a big fan of the Alexander Hotel. It is downtown, near the Indy Cultural Trail for walking and biking, and has a nice hotel bar that is great for a snack and a nightcap after the fest. If you want something a little more historic, check out the Pullman Cars in the Union Station Hotel. This hotel is much bigger but it has lots of charm and a nice indoor pool. There are also a lot of cool Airbnbs in Indy if you're traveling with a larger group. Check out this condo on Mass Ave that looks great and you’re within walking distance from shopping and dining on Mass plus a short ride to and from the festival.
Saturday Brunch in Indianapolis
Once you've dropped your bags at the hotel, head to brunch and prepare for a long afternoon of sampling. There are so many options on Saturdays in Indy but before a long day of beer sampling, Love Handle is my fav. They have reopened in a new location on Mass Ave with a bigger space and menu. If you're around on Friday night, check out their fish fry and beer specials.
You really can't go wrong with anything on the menu. The whole place has a soul food vibe reminding me of growing up in the South. They're known for their sandwhiches and unique cuts of meat so don't be afraid to branch out. I got the chicken schnitzel & waffle topped with hot honey and miso lime butter. The chicken was fried to perfection and the waffle was sweet, spicy, and a little tangy. Crazy good. Cara ALWAYS gets the B&G’s; I don’t blame her because they’re amazing. The preparations always change but the mushroom gravy is the best I've had. You can add an egg or meat of your choice to the B&G's if you'd like.
They do have really good deserts too so if you have a sweet tooth make sure to save room.
Sour Wild Funk Fest
Check in this year was a breeze! Make sure check the timeline for the festival because VIP ticket holders are allowed early entry for 1 hour prior to GA so don't be late. I was thankful that they moved everything indoors (even check-in) because it is still pretty chilly in April. There were two levels of breweries inside the venue and an outside garden with comfortable couches when you wanted to take a break or enjoy some fresh air. As for the beer... I didn't come close to trying them all but here are a few highlights.
Rare Barrel Guava - tropical and easy drinking. This was my first of the fest and I'm still thinking about it.
Urban Artifact Squeezebox Strawberry - this beer was made with 3 pounds per gallon of real strawberries. YUM.
Fort Worth Stone Tea - loved the earthiness and mellow fruit of this beer. "A blend of new and old culture foeder golden sours aged on apricot, peach, silver sage white tea and bald cypress spirals."
Cascade/Upland Pear Pawsterous - collab with Upland Brewing featuring local ingredients from each region, Oregon pears, and Indiana Paw Paws. No way I could choose a favorite from the collab; both were delicious and a great representation of regional ingredients.
Sour Note Pineapple Berliner Weisse - light, juicy and refreshing
GA VS VIP Ticket
I’ve experienced both and I think VIP is the way to go. Early entry and private bathrooms get me every time. This year I partnered with Upland to giveaway a couple of VIP tickets on Instagram and experience the VIP situation at the festival.
Early check-in - get your lay of the land and sample before everyone else. This is the best perk in my mind because it isn't crowded yet, you can chat with any of the brewers if you have questions, and you can try the rarest beers that you know won't last long once general admission attendees come through the door.
Private Bathrooms - if you've been to a beer fest before you know that the bathroom line is always insane an hour or two into the festival. If you're a VIP ticket holder there is a private lounge and bathroom just for you.
Complimentary appetizers- this is also a great value to me. I'm not into wearing the pretzel necklace so I appreciate having really good snacks available. The highlights for me were the mini buffalo chicken sandwiches and mac n cheese.
Guided tasting & pairing - every year they up the ante for VIPs. This year there were two separate VIP presentations put on by the Upland brewers that talk about exciting beers they're working on. The presentations included guided tastings with Pearpawsterous (Cascade brewery collab) with BluBoy pawpaw chocolates, 770 (Row 34 collab) with sushi, and Cavendish (Freigeist collab) with banana nut bread.
Champagne Velvet refreshment station - This was an awesome addition this year. Sour beers can be intense flavor wise so being able to sip on something really light and crisp like their pre-prohibition pilsner was a nice change of pace.
For only $30 more than GA, I think it is worth the price. They do sell out very quickly so if you want VIP tickets,
Post-festival After Parties
Upland always throws some after parties around Indy so make sure you follow them on social media (@uplandbrewco) to know what's going on after the fest. This year there were (after) festivities at Tappers Arcade Bar and Dorman Street Saloon. The Koelschip typically hosts an after party tap takeover with a visiting brewery as well.
Post Beer Fest Dinner
I can't stress this enough; there are so many fantastic restaurants in Indianapolis. Here are a few ideas.
- Upland Carmel Tap House - This is the crowd pleaser and Indy's version of the original Bloomington brewpub. They make awesome burgers and tenderloins. There are also plenty of vegetarian options so everyone will be happy.
- Bazbeaux Pizza - who doesn't like pizza after a bunch of beer?
- The Livery - shareable latin plates and excellent cocktails. Some friends and I went here after the fest last year and loved it. They don't take reservations so you'll have to wait on a Saturday night.
- Goose The Market - European style market with incredible baguettes. They do close at 6 pm on the weekend so if this is where you want to go you'll have to leave the fest a little early. On the upside you can take your sandwich next door to The Koelschip.
- Garden Table - Garden Table is known for their cold pressed juices and locally sourced foods. I've had nothing but incredible meals here and it might not hurt to have one at the ready for Sunday morning in case you're feeling a little hungover. My personal fav is the Lush Love but they have a great detox one as well.
We decided to keep it low key and go to Twenty Tap for some non sour beers and and really tasty pub fare. The place is always packed but I’ll wait as long as possible to get my hands on good cheese curds. The buffalo cauliflower is really good too! For mains, the burger is a monster. I was too hungry to snap photos. #sorrynotsorry
Milktooth is legendary these days and has become my departing meal ritual whenever I'm leaving Indianapolis. It's a crazy busy upscale diner in the Fletcher Place neighborhood and well worth the typical hour wait time for brunch on the weekend. They don’t need any more press but I can’t help myself because it is that good. The best part about waiting is treating yourself to a coffee and pastry while you're waiting. After you put your name down, turn to the counter on your left and order a couple of things to tide you over. If you can't bear the wait or just need to get on the road early, order some of their incredible coffee creations and a box of pastries for the road. *The coffee & pastry counter opens at 7 am while regular brunch service begins at 9 am.
This is not your typical diner so if you're confused about something on the menu just ask. The staff is really helpful and can guide you to a full and happy belly. Drip coffee is delicious (and has free refills) but as previously stated they’re known for their unique coffee drinks. The bloody mary is also excellent or maybe you wanna go big with the Mad Dog 20/20 margarita? Doesn't matter what you get, it will likely blow your mind.
We went for it on this trip with all the carbs starting with the most insane coffee cream donuts. I kept it simple with loaded grits (poached egg, bacon, scallions) and the latke with squash butter & harissa (all the carbs). Cara has a signature order at Milktooth as well and largely sticks to the Dutch Baby, this time dressed with manchego cheese, grapefruit, and country ham.
After all that, you'll be ready for a good long nap or Netflix binge so hurry on home so you can recuperate. Cheers!
Disclaimer: I did receive a complimentary ticket from Upland Brewing Company but all opinions are my own.
Huge thanks to photographer Anna Powell Teeter for sharing her beautiful photos with me!