This past weekend Julie and I headed down to Indianapolis for the BIG Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium between Ohio State and Michigan State. The outcome was not what we had hoped for. Michigan State took an early 17 point lead in the first quarter and while Ohio State came back and took the lead in the 3rd quarter it wasn’t enough. Michigan State scored the final 17 points to win the game 34-24. It’s really hard to get a feel for everything that is going on during a game when you are in the stadium. I would like to know the crowd breakdown, but from our perspective it seemed about 65% Ohio State, then again we were in the 200 level and couldn’t see anything above us.
Last time we were in Indianapolis for the Championship Game it was almost impossible to get into any place downtown, outside of a hotel bar, and if we got into a bar it was probably one that still allowed smoking. This time around we decided before heading to the game that we would spend some time at a couple of the breweries in Indianapolis’ growing beer scene.
Flat 12 Bierwerks
Our first stop was Flat 12 Bierwerks which is doing a ’12 Beers of Christmas’ releasing a new specialty beer each day. I tried their Pale Ale, IPA and their Porter, Pogue’s Run Porter which I liked the most. Flat 12 has a simple tap room and a growler fill station but by no means is a bar. Like most of the breweries in Minneapolis there was a food truck stationed out front, the Pierogi L❤ve Indy truck. We tried the pulled pork pierogi which was perfect. The tap room was in what seemed to be an unheated garage so we really weren’t able to stay more than a couple beers without freezing. During our time there, we saw a couple of the Beer Bus Tours that operate in Indianapolis making stops at Flat 12. There was also a holiday sweater brewery run that was making its way to the brewery. The place was always busy from the time the doors opened at noon.
Fountain Square Brewing
From Flat 12 we headed over to Fountain Square Brewing which was about a 10 minute ride across town. Fountain Square is more of a bar with people ordering in food and a couple of televisions. Once again I had their Pale Ale, IPA and the porter. The Backyard Porter being my favorite. The temperature outside could be why I was leaning towards Porters all day.
* B’s PO BOY is located directly across the street from Fountain Square Brewing so we picked up an order of Beignets.
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.