- Griffin Swartzell
- Fun, funky beer and vegan bar food stand as strong points at Trinity Brewing Company.
Trinity Brewing Company brewer/owner Jason "Saison Man" Yester refuses to grant the Indy an interview due to personal grievances related, in part, to internet drama circa December 2014. In cyber time, that makes it dead as disco. And to that end, I've taken all pains necessary to ensure that drama — of which I wasn't a part — doesn't affect my critical commentary here, as the brewery nears its eighth year and continues talking of expansion (possibly to Denver, or Manitou Springs, an employee tells us).
Disclosure completed, let's drink.
A few months ago, despite us being told "not to write about us" in numerous ways over the years, someone representing Trinity mailed us their new flagship, One Ear saison. It's a bottle-conditioned saison brewed with oats and rye, hopped with classic Styrian and Saaz hops. It's approachable, but not too simple — mellow noble hop and rye spice begins a sip that finishes dry and a little tart, cutting through the malt backbone for one of the most refreshing beers on the market. Buy it for around $10 per four-pack, or hit Trinity on Wednesday for $2.50 pours.
Unfortunately, Trinity's tap list hosts duds in its most approachable styles. Soul Horkey ale comes from an English festival ale, possibly a precursor for brown ales and porters. Whatever its heritage, the result is disappointing, lacking both body and distinctive character. Similarly, the Awake chicory coffee stout comes across thin, with neither adjunct ingredient adding much to the party. The Sunna wit stands competent, with some clove character in the yeast, but again, it's thin and insubstantial. Not every beer drinker likes the saisons, sours and their ilk that Yester has built Trinity's reputation on, that's true. But the brewery's 38 taps host a varying number of prestigious brews from places like Odell and Epic. There's no reason to compete for the attention with so-so products, especially when Trinity's standard-bearing beers need no apologies.
For example, the flagship Super Juice Solution sour IPA presents a slight hop nose and near-nonexistant bitterness, mellow hop spice playing friendly with a clean lemony tartness. Its hop notes are less what beer typically offers and more like fruity notes in wine, in terms of overall palate. It's very sessionable at 4.1 percent ABV, but who the hell can afford to session $7 pours? Especially when $9 nets a bottle of Le Capitan, in which a fascinating, complex nose gives way to a sweet-sour tang balanced by a reserved funkiness. It's a seasonal, 10.5 percent ABV sour brewed with Buddha's hand, a crazy-looking citrus fruit.
Pleasant lemony notes also lead in a 16-ounce French press featuring the Everyman blend from Denver's Corvus Coffee Roasters. Its mix of Peruvian and Ethiopian beans, roasted medium-light.
As for food, the menu quality varies from mediocre to solid. Service is fine at lunch, but a forgotten item and a few 10-minute-plus waits drain on the dinner experience. Cory McNeil has been kitchen manager for a year and a half, and most of the menu is his doing. Good fries and sweet potato fries get a variety of sauces, with richly spiced curry ketchup, garlic-divine aioli and complex mustard made with Trinity's Flo IPA deserving praise. Though two heavy vegan corn dogs swap sausage snap for a creamier texture, the flavor still hits carnival bliss, and they come buried in fries.
Flash-fried shishito peppers land trendy but toothsome nonetheless. Thai-style sweet chili sauce, served as a dip, cloys and overwhelms, and $10 seems steep. Skip the $7 swine and syrup cone — five strips of bacon with maple syrup for dipping — altogether, and just come on Tuesday, when every pour includes a free strip.
The strongest option on the appetizers menu has to be the smoky-spicy chicken chicharrones. Cheaper than the peppers, they're the perfect potato chips for the Paleo set. The accompanying habanero lime salsa is only a salsa in looser definitions of the word. Rather, expect a bowl of white onions pickled with habanero peppers and lime juice — simple, spicy and stupid-good, cutting through the chicharrones while upping the spice.
Entrée-wise, the sweet-sour shredded jackfruit sandwich stands as a serviceable pulled pork clone and a near-gourmet option for vegans. Even the vegan bread chews respectably, and for $11, it's a decent value. Carnivores, though, will find the muddy flavor mix of the BBQ jerk chicken mac and cheese bowl disappointing. There's a mild spiciness, but the sweetness of barbecue makes the rich dish a little sickly without enough bite to cut through.
All of which shows that despite laudable Great American Beer Festival medals, Trinity still holds room for improvement across the board. We wouldn't fault you for sticking to their finer bottled beers straight from the local liquor store shelf.