Broad Ripple Brewpub Celebrates 30th Anniversary
As John Hill, owner of Broad Ripple Brewpub, looks back on 30 years in midtown Indy, he sees no reason why the long-standing restaurant and brewery can’t survive for at least 30 more.
“With the pandemic things are a little uncertain, but besides that, I think we could be here for a good while longer,” says Hill, a native of North Yorkshire, England.
Back in February of 1967 Hill was in Vancouver, British Columbia, when he decided to tag along with a group of friends to the Hoosier state. He’s been here ever since.
“A couple friends were leaving Vancouver and when I asked where they were going, they said Indianapolis,” Hill recalls. “I asked if they had any room in the car and went along, and that’s how I got here. It could’ve been anywhere honestly, but it was fortunate because I’ve enjoyed it here.”
After working in construction for a while, Hill and his wife Nancy got into the restaurant business as co-owners of the Corner Wine Bar and The Wellington Pub in the early 1980s. Eventually, the couple decided to try their luck and launched the very first brewery in the state in 1990, and the Brewpub was born on November 14 of that year.
“Having some experience as a contractor and an engineer, I thought there was no reason why I couldn’t build my own pub, so we took over this space and built the brewery as the first one in Indiana,” Hill says.
Word spread and business picked up quickly according to Hill, and he says this was proof that Indy residents had been in need of a brewery to call their own.
“We got tons and tons of press back then because we were the first [brewery],” Hill says. “We did great – for the first 10 years it was like we were the only business around.”
Hill recalls when Broad Ripple was essentially the only entertainment district in the city and has been excited to see other pockets of Indy develop culinary and nightlife scenes through the years since the pub opened.
“You’ve got Fountain Square, downtown, Carmel, Irvington and Mass Ave, and they’re all doing fairly well now, but back then it was just us around here and Plump’s,” he says. “There’s so much going on now and there are breweries all over the state, which is great. I’m glad I got in early.”
The Brewpub is an English-style establishment through and through, down to the detailed, dark wood interiors, local artwork and fireplace.
Much like the establishment’s physical interior, the food selection has seen a few changes through the years, but the nuts and bolts have remained the same. The sizable menu includes appetizers like nachos, wings and pub chips, meat and vegan burgers, entrees such as meatloaf, chicken schnitzel, and bangers and mash, and much more.
“A lot of it is the same as when we opened – the Scotch eggs, fish and chips, pizzas and things like that,” Hill says. “We have a big specials page that we’ve had for a number of years that changes all the time.”
The beers on tap typically include ales like the Dual Citizenship and Lawn Mower Pale Ale, as well as lagers and stouts. The OPB (other people’s beer) menu features local brewers like Sun King, Bell’s and Upland, and includes gluten-free options. Growlers are available for pickup.
Hill’s daughter Beth Hannan and her husband Billy took the reins of the day-to-day operations at the dog-friendly Brewpub a few years ago, and as owner, Hill still helps out with maintenance and odds-and-ends jobs.
“The whole idea of building the pub the way I built it 30 years ago was that when I retired I’d be doing what I did in England – I was brought up in England drinking in pubs from when I was 15,” Hill says. “I wanted to have a bunch of friends, when I retired, to sit around with and drink beer. Now that’s basically what we do.”
The pub isn’t only the site of the first brewery in the state. It’s also the place where the Broad Ripple Farmers Market was born, back in 1994 in the parking lot. The market grew and moved first to the Indianapolis Art Center and then the Bungalow and eventually Broad Ripple High School.
“It started with just seven vendors here, and it’s been nice to see how much it’s grown,” Hill says of the Farmers Market.
Since the pandemic hit earlier this year, Hill says the pub has weathered the government-mandated shutdown and subsequent reduction in capacity requirements fairly well, thanks to a built-in, dedicated customer base of all ages that has supported the establishment for years.
“We’ve tried to do our best, and keep everybody safe,” Hill says. “We appreciate everybody that comes in, especially during these times.”
After 40 years as a Broad Ripple resident, Hill is proud of his surroundings and doesn’t see himself leaving the area any time soon.
“I live behind the Jazz Kitchen, and it’s just a great, quiet neighborhood you can walk around in – besides, there aren’t enough moving vans to move everything out of my house now at this point,” he says with a laugh. “The Village here has kept the same feel that it’s had for a long time, and that’s what I like. It’s beautiful.”
Broad Ripple Brewpub is located at 842 East 65th Street in Indianapolis. For more information, call 317-253-2739 and visit broadripplebrewpub.com.