What: Oaken Barrel Brewing Company, Greenwood, Indiana
The author will have to confess: this is the happiest place on earth.
Secondly, the author will have to confess: she is a regular at the happiest place on earth. She has a mug and everything.
This review will not, could not possibly, be objective.
The Oaken Barrel brews the finest beer in the world (next to my beloved Bell’s Two-Hearted). That beer is called Gnaw Bone Pale Ale. It will melt your heart, make you weep, and then it will make you its slave. Forever. And you will not only not care about these things, you will be grateful.
They brew other beers, also: a raspberry wheat beer (Razz-Wheat, often suggested to women who like wine), Alabaster (a white ale akin to Blue Moon, but better, also served with an orange), Indiana Amber (a red ale), Snake Pit (porter), Super Fly (an India Pale Ale with 7.5% alcohol and a smooth, deceptive finish). There are also excellent seasonal brews in rotation (the Apple Buzz in fall and Epiphany in winter are practically world-famous). These are all very well, but what you want is the Gnaw Bone Pale Ale. That’s the beer for you (if you like hops. And all that is good and pure and true in the world.)
As a further bonus, besides truly excellent craft beers, they have food. Solidly, reliably, magnificently good food. (If it’s cold, try the Shepherd’s Pie; bonus points if you come on a day when either pierogies or Korean spare ribs are on special; triple bonus points if you come on the Fourth of July when they roast an entire pig and serve it up with fantastic side dishes.)
The bar is wood, the chairs and table are wood. There is no formica to be found in the Oaken Barrel. The atmosphere is warm and inviting. I said it was the happiest place on earth and I meant it. To linger in summer in the beer garden (out back, with a fountain) is paradise such as few men deserve but all can experience.
I think, next to the much beloved Gnaw Bone, it is the staff that makes the Barrel its superlative self. The Barrel is a magnet for bold, bright, funny, perspicacious people. It hires every single one of them and they make the Barrel, nay, the entire world, a better place. They are kind to all visitors; and to regulars, they are surpassingly so. To go to the Barrel once is to have a nice time; to go twice is to become family, in the best sense, minus the stuff of sitcoms and romcoms and dramas. (Become a regular and you get a mug, eventually a pewter mug, and after that, a chair with your name on it.) The Barrel appreciates its customers. Unlike many businesses, they can use the normally euphemistic “guest” of the hospitality industry and mean it. Without laughing.
So go. Go, go, go to the Oaken Barrel. If Greenwood, Indiana is out of your way, the Gnaw Bone alone is worth the trip. (Seriously, it is the best thing you will ever hope to quaff, if quaffing is something you enjoy, and the good lord help you if it’s not.)
Rating: 5 (of 4) Sláintes ♣♣♣♣♣
(and if they ever add a TV dedicated to C-Span just for me, this rating becomes 10 of 4 Sláintes.)