The first week in December Julie and I headed down to Indianapolis for the BIG TEN Championship game between Ohio State and Wisconsin. This is third time we’ve gone to the game and much like last year, a chance for a National Championship was on the line. The crowd was probably 75% Ohio State fans, this being Ohio State’s second consecutive title game; Wisconsin has played in all but one championship game. Ohio State jumped to an early lead and never let up winning 59-0.
Chilly Waters Brewing Company
Our first stop in Indianapolis was Chilly Waters Brewing Company just southeast of downtown. This was probably our favorite brewery in Indy so far. The bartenders were great, the food was decent and the beer was better than most. My favorite being the White Room Cream Stout.
Two Deep Brewing Co.
After Checking into our hotel we made the walk over to Two Deep Brewing Co. primarily because it was near our hotel. If there really is a Craft Beer Bubble this is the kind of place that will go under. There clearly was a lot of money put into the place: massive space, over the top equipment setup, bartenders who couldn’t have cared less and a really odd/limited beer selection. There wasn’t anything that stood out to me and they didn’t have any Pale Ales, or IPAs which isn’t really a deal breaker but then have something else that’s approachable.
Indiana City Brewing
We didn’t have a ton of time to spend at Indiana City Brewing but I would definitely like to go back. Probably the largest and most diverse beer selection of the breweries I’ve been to in Indy. I really enjoyed the Black Lantern which is a Black IPA.
* The view from my seat.
** Previous B1G Championship games: 2011 and 2013
*** On the way out of town we tried to stop at Plump’s Last Shot but they weren’t open yet and we wanted to hit the road. We decided on checking out a breakfast place in the same neighborhood, Broad Ripple. We rolled the dice on the Northside Kitchenette. I can’t recommend it enough. The place was packed but we managed a seat at the counter with no wait.
I’ve been trying to make it to Minnesota for a football game since they built their on campus stadium in 2009: TCF Bank Stadium. TCF Bank Stadium is the first new stadium built by a Big Ten school since 1960 (Penn State’s Beaver Stadium). Minnesota went into the game with a 7-2 record and ranked #25 by the College Football Playoff Committee against #8 Ohio State. I thought it was an all-around great game, granted I’m not one to mind snow when it comes to football. It was 15 degrees which is the lowest temperature ever at TCF Bank Stadium and the lowest temperature the Buckeyes have played in going back more than a half-century. Ohio State had some turnover troubles throughout the game but was never really in trouble and went on to win 31-24.
TFC Bank Stadium
I always enjoy visiting different stadiums and seeing a new large scale college stadium is rather unique. The large concourses were able to hold most of the fans during halftime. When we arrived, the greeters were handing out towels and hand warmers. TCF Bank Stadium is also unique among Big Ten stadiums as they sell beer at the stadium.
Grumpy’s & Dinner
After getting situated on Friday, we headed a couple of blocks from our hotel to Grumpy’s downtown bar and on the way we stumbled upon Day Block Brewing Company so we gave it a go. The food at Day Block was excellent (garlic knots and a flight of bacon) but the beer was a little too out there for me. Nearly all of it was a spice of some sort, chili peppers in beer is not my thing. After a couple of beers we headed over to Grumpy’s. I wasn’t able to make it to Grumpy’s the last time I was in Minneapolis so I’m glad our hotel was near one of their bars. The burger looked amazing.
Butcher & The Boar
For dinner we had reservations at Butcher & The Boar where we managed to get seated at the bar before hand. The food was great, my ‘double pork chop’ was a little over the top (it had three bones, not the two that a double would imply). The wild boar sausage was great as well. Really just a great place, the service was top notch.
Transportation into and around Minneapolis couldn’t have been easier. We took the METRO Blue Line from the airport to within a couple of blocks of our hotel and then were able to take the Green Line to the University of Minnesota campus and back.
Campus & Dinkytown
After taking the train, we walked through a decent portion of campus on the way over to Dinkytown for breakfast. Minnesota’s campus is similar to all Big Ten campuses: massive. Very quiet for a Saturday morning game day. We headed over to Tony’s Diner for breakfast which was a happening place and then made our way to the game.
Neye’s Polonaise Room
After the game we headed to Nye’s Polonaise Room for dinner and culture. Nye’s is basically a steakhouse/dive bar with a house Polka band. A combination that is hard to beat. In 2006 Esquire magazine named Nye’s the Best Bar in America. As we entered the band was playing Johnny Cash, it was everything I imagined and I had the ribeye.
* The Minnesota Vikings new stadium (tentatively named Viking Stadium until the naming rights are sold) currently under construction in downtown Minneapolis.
** BIG TEN & Notre Dame Stadium Map with added University of Minnesota now that it’s been checked of my list and University of Chicago a founding and former member of the BIG TEN.
Yost Ice Arena
Friday night we headed over to the Yost Ice Arena for the Big Ten Opener between Ohio State and No. 3 ranked Michigan. Yost seats around 6,600 people which is a considerable difference from the 17,500 that Value City Arena in Columbus holds. The small size creates a very intimate environment. We ended up standing at the back of the arena above the goal instead of using our seats as the view was nearly the same. Michigan was clearly the better team but Ohio State’s efficient power play kept them in the game until the final minutes of overtime. The game was heading to a shootout until Michigan’s Andrew Copp scored on a breakaway with under two minutes left in OT. A great game until the very end and it was cool to see the handshake line afterwards.
Before the game we marched about 3 miles from our hotel to a church parking lot for tailgating. The crowd was 50/50 around the lot and then it was about a 15 minute walk to the stadium so it all worked out. We had a couple of growlers from Mitten Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids and a backpack of Hamms.
I have been to Michigan Stadium 3 previous times (2001, 2002, 2007) but not since the most recent stadium renovation so I was looking forward to seeing what has changed and if the audio level was any different. The stadium seems to have only two entrances making it a challenge to tailgate until the final minutes. We ended up funneling in and working our way to our seats in the West end zone. We did notice the students didn’t quite fill in until about 5 minutes into the 1st quarter but that is very common at most of the large BIG Ten Stadiums. The new pressbox/suites that were recently added look as if they fit the original structure but I don’t think they did anything to increase the intensity (i.e. volume level). Granted, we sat in row 84 so maybe closer to the field the level of sound was much greater.
The game was reminiscent of the 2006 No.1 vs No.2 game, hardly any defense, scoring up and down the field. I can’t say I disagree with Michigan going for the 2-point conversion to win the game, but I was completely surprised. In the stands it seemed like Michigan was just trying to force Ohio State to use their last timeout so they didn’t score in the final 30 seconds. Then they lined back up and went for it. Watching the game in person, it felt like that was the only time Ohio State stopped them. Combining this ending with the hockey game on Friday it was one hell of a sports trip. Great games.
Ann Arbor Breweries
Ann Arbor has four breweries in about two blocks in the heart of town. We stopped at all of them on Friday. Blue Tractor Brewery we didn’t hit until after the hockey game, but it was by far the best. $8 pitchers of all of their beers, decent BBQ and live music in the basement. We spent the better part of the evening there. Before the hockey game we stopped at Jolly Pumpkin, Grizzly Peak Brewing Company and Arbor Brewing Company. We only had one drink at Jolly Pumpkin but that’s mainly because their beer list consisted of mostly sour beers which I’m not a fan of. Grizzly Peak was probably the most disappointing of the group. Arbor Brewing was solid and the food looked great.
* We took the Wolverine Line Amtrak train up from Chicago Friday morning which got us into Ann Arbor around 1pm. The train ride was great: comfortable, clean and no hassle.
** Before catching our train back to Chicago we picked up sandwiches for the road at Zingerman’s Delicatessen which is about a 10 minute walk from the train station. Yes, the sandwiches are expensive but I think they’re worth it.
*** Michigan Short Bus outside Yost Ice Arena.
**** No one stayed in the Victory Inn Suites.