The ownership group of Sun King Brewery includes five people, but Dave Colt and Clay Robinson stand front and center as the pair who drive the bus. The pair’s long history in the Indianapolis beer scene led them to start their own brewery in 2009, which is now the second-largest brewer in Indiana.
Colt and Robinson met while working at Ram Restaurant & Brewery. Eventually Robinson quit his job and turned his attention to opening a production brewery. In search of a head brewer, Robinson turned to Colt and the duo began developing what would become Sun King Brewery. The ownership group expanded to include Clay’s father Omar, who has an entrepreneurial background, Andy Fagg, and Steve Koers. In late 2008, the group purchased a former warehouse in downtown Indianapolis that would become home to the brewery. On July 1, 2009, the first batch of Sun King beer was brewed.
Story behind the name
Indiana is not a place people typically associate with sun. So the ownership group initially debated whether using “sun” in the name was appropriate. However, the sun controls all the ingredients in beer. Hence Sun King Brewery was born. The logo features a Mayan calendar motif as an homage to the importance of the sun to beermaking. The brewery’s original logo included the five ingredients used to brew beer, which can be seen above the taproom bar.
Visiting the brewery
Sun King Brewery is on the eastern edge of downtown with Interstate 65/70 just behind it. In fact, an exit ramp for the highway almost brings visitors right to the brewery, but one-way streets necessitate making a loop to reach it.
The merchandise area is the first thing people see upon entering the brewery.
The attention quickly turns to the taproom element, which has several seating options.
Overview of the taproom.
In addition to several wooden picnic tables, the taproom has a stainless steel bar top. The taproom menu has colorful banners with details about each beer. Additionally, the taproom is an Untappd verified venue (see menu here), so visitors can search for more details about the beers on the app.
Two especially interesting pieces in the taproom are items that guests might overlook.
Marty the Piñata came about for the brewery’s seventh anniversary party when the staff voted to brew a Mexican-style lager for the event. A large wooden piñata was created to promote the beer that became Pachanga. He regularly made appearances around Indianapolis to promote the beer, and inspired his own social media hashtag (#WheresMarty).
The other unique item is Zaius the yeti. He is visible near the window into the production facility. Zaius is made out of recycled material from the Hoosier Dome’s (former home stadium of the Indianapolis Colts) roof. He represents the brewery’s mission of contributing to the community. As the taproom mascot he changes outfits throughout the year to match the seasons.
When Dave Colt and Clay Robinson originally conceived Sun King Brewery they planned to focus on seasonal and specialty beers. However, they adapted and Sun King currently brews five core beers. The most popular is Sunlight, which is a cream ale. It is smooth and approachable, which makes it a great choice for people just trying craft beer. Pachanga is a light Mexican-style lager that is perfect for a warm summer day or any time you’re eating tacos. They also produce an India pale ale, a pale ale, and a Scottish-style ale.
In addition to the brewery’s core beers, the taproom serves about 20 other beers. Among the beers on draft visitors may find selections brewed at Sun King’s small-batch brewery and taproom in Fishers, seasonal offerings, King’s Reserve brews, and more. Whether you are new to craft beer or a craft beer aficionado, there are several options at the taproom to please your palate.
As Sun King adapted to offer a consistent lineup of beers, the taproom also changed to accommodate a small eatery. The brewery partnered with local butcher shop Goose the Market to offer food at the taproom. Oca serves a wide selection of sandwiches, smoked sausages, and bar snacks (see full menu). However, Oca does not serve the typical bar food people may expect. Instead they use ingredients like smoked duck, gochujang, which means their offerings are one of a kind.
Touring the brewery
Sun King Brewery offers two types of tours: a main facility tour and the King’s Reserve tour. Booking the tours can be done through the website.
The brewery’s initial focus on seasonal and specialty beers is detailed almost immediately upon starting a tour.
Other early stops include the brewery’s state-of-the-art planning system and its quality-control laboratory.
As with almost every brewery tour, it begins with the grain room and grist mill before moving onto the brewhouse.
Sun King started with a 15-barrel brewhouse, but upgraded to the current 30-barrel system in 2011. Another sign of the brewery’s growth is the 420-barrel fermentation tanks that now break through the roof of the production facility.
Sun King emphasizes being a responsible member of the community and recycles all of the cans that failed quality control. Visitors can see pallets of these cans outside the facility when viewing the gigantic 420-barrel fermentation tanks.
The crushed cans come from the brewery’s canning line, which has several hiccups during its early use. Due to limited space, the canning line takes a 90-degree turn. So there were several happy little accidents as the employees learned the system. First glance of the keg cleaning system reveals plastic handles, which are used to reduce the weight of the kegs.
As the brewery grew, it expanded into neighboring buildings. One of those buildings now houses the barrel-aged and sour operations.
After a long day at work everybody deserves a cold beer. At Sun King that complimentary beer comes from a vending machine.
Getting to the brewery
Sun King Brewery is on the eastern edge of downtown Indianapolis. It is just over one mile from the Indiana Convention Center, which is a six-minute drive or 25-minute walk. The IndyGo #8 bus departs from outside the convention center and drops people at the intersection of Washington Street and Park Avenue, which is a five-minute walk from the brewery. Another transportation option is one of the several electric scooters around town.
Address: 135 North College Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202
Hours: Monday to Wednesday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Thursday to Friday 10 a.m. to 10 a.m.; Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Accessibility: There are no steps in the publicly accessible areas of the taproom or production facility.