Category Archives: Feature Articles

Spirits Are Moving: The Rise of Indiana’s Craft Distillers (Indianapolis Monthly)

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Indianapolis Monthly —  Not too long ago, ordering a beer generally meant choosing from a menu of taps that offered everything from Budweiser to Bud Light. Today, there’s a craft brewery on every other corner, a cleverly christened IPA for every town. In short order, beer went from something monopolized by a wagon-circled posse of famous names to an indicator of witty naming conventions, taste, and local pride. If the men and women on these pages have anything to say about it, the next logical step is upon us. “The spirits side is just getting to where beer is,” says Travis Barnes, founder of Hotel Tango. “We’re at the infancy of that cycle.”

Make no mistake, the boom is on: In 2017, the American Craft Spirits Association reported that more than 1,500 craft distilleries currently operate nationwide. In 2010, there were about 200. It’s lively locally, too: There are more than 20 in Indiana, and the number is going up. That’s largely thanks to the 2013 passing of the Indiana Artisan Distiller’s Permit, a law that allows distillers to sell directly to consumers. Initially, there was a catch: The long-delayed permit required distilleries to wait three years before being eligible. In 2017, that wait was reduced to 18 months.

As such, Indy’s distillery surge is partly due to legalese and paperwork. But it’s also cultural. We’re all good with craft beers, but, jeez, those have a lot of carbs. Mostly, spirits are the next evolution in the maker movement as it pertains to alcohol. “Craft beer’s been at it for a while, and craft wine for longer than that,” says Dave Colt, cofounder of Sun King, the city’s preeminent brewer, which is getting into the distillery game. “Spirits are the next wave, that natural progression.” And, as with the craft beer revolution, the local insurgents are taking dead aim at the big guys. “I don’t see 8th Day or Sun King as competition,” says Barnes. “We’re trying to flip the switch for guys who only buy Jack or Jim Beam to try local or state spirits. The rising tide lifts all ships.”

Meet the makers on the cover of this month’s Indianapolis Monthly. 

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This Absurd Picture is Why I’m a Fan of the Cubs (And Harry Caray) (The Loop / Golf Digest)

I am aware about the hat

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The Loop / Golf Digest — See this ridiculous picture? This one picture right here is why I’m a Cubs fan, because of this moment, because of Harry, the ghost of an afternoon in Chicago and what is, conservatively estimating, 1983’s largest ball cap. (Seriously, it’s like my parents didn’t know hats came in sizes.) Chance and geography, a happy accident that led to four decades of living, which, it’s nice to remember on Opening Day, is how it goes for all of us.

Great and irrational value is ascribed to being a Cubs fan, because being a Cubs fan announces yourself as a stone-souled viking with the power to weather mythic proportions of loss. It’s a proof of worth, a declaration to other, flimsier folks that you’re made of stronger stuff than they are, that you’re morally superior, trophy or no trophy, to the pink-bellied chumps in Yankees hats. It broadcasts not just fanship but something approaching a complete psychological profile. It’s something so honest and sincere that Eddie Vedder wrote an acoustic song about it, for God’s sake.

But I didn’t become a fan for mythology, or to project the presumed worth that comes with loss, or because I liked their players, or their stripes, or their park, or because I was taken with their early-1900s spell of dominance. I became a Cubs fan for one reason.

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Help! My Son Doesn’t Give a Damn About Social Media! (via On Parenting at the Washington Post)

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On Parenting at the Washington Post — My son, now halfway through his eighth-grade year, does not appear to have the slightest whiff of a care about social media, and until about two weeks ago I did not realize the severity of this problem.

Newly 14, my son is attached to his phone on a seemingly molecular level, but he has no Facebook account, no Twitter, no Snapchat, no social media presence to speak of (at least outside the world of Minecraft, where, I am told, he exists as a shipbuilding contractor of some repute).

For us, that’s fine, bordering on glorious; if we had to rank all the things we’re excited to deal with from a male teenager, The Hideous Labyrinthine Terror of Formative Years with Social Media is near dead last, right under Researching Tuition and Explaining Who Stormy Daniels Is. Yet when I mention this mysterious void to people, his seeming disinterest, I get a sort of head-cocked curiosity and a response on the order of, “Is that okay?”

Here’s what we figured out about it. 

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There Are 57,000 Hoops in Indiana, But Only One Hoosier Gym (The Loop / Golf Digest)

Welcome to Indiana basketball.

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The Loop / Golf Digest — To find baseball from before, the wool-clad, leather oil-smelling, faded-yellow version that predated whatever you feel corrupted it, you go to Cooperstown, and you lope through ice cream parlors and hand-painted memorabilia shops and maybe into Doubleday Field, where a sleepy game of aging locals may be living out unclaimed dreams. Doing it for basketball is a little easier: Drive to Knightstown, Ind., an hour east of Indianapolis, just three miles off the I-70 exit, where the price of basketball Americana is exactly zero dollars.

Knightstown houses the Hoosier Gym, built in 1921, polished up in 1936, shuttered in the 1966 and revived in 1985 for the filming of Hoosiers, where it played the home court of Miraculous State Champions Milan (renamed Hickory in the fictionalized version) and enshrined itself as an evocative hoops-tourism destination, once the cast and crew got over thinking they’d just shot an audienceless throwback bomb.

It wasn’t. Here’s what basketball is like inside the Hoosier Gym. 

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Ed Rudisell: The Number of the Beast (via Indy Monthly)

Photo / John Bragg

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Indianapolis Monthly — GOOD NEWS, EVERYONE: The ’80s-era metal gods in Iron Maiden are still amazing, like you can’t believe how amazing they are, it’s ridiculous, especially since they’re all like, what, 60? Singer Bruce Dickinson even had throat cancer a few years ago, but he worked his voice back and sounds perfect now. Did you know he had to get specially certified to fly the band and crew around in the band’s special 747, the one with the huge Eddie decal on the side?

I did know that, and I’m glad I did because it makes keeping up with Ed Rudisell significantly easier. We’re tucked in a post-lunch-rush corner of Rook, Rudisell’s sleek third restaurant, ostensibly to discuss his portfolio of Indianapolis eateries, his forthcoming Fountain Square tiki bar, and the manner in which he’s sniffing around potential involvement in the legalized marijuana industry (if Indiana ever gets around to doing that). But frankly, we started with Maiden and moved quickly to other relevant topics, like his take on Indy’s death-metal scene (it’s way bigger than you think), age-appropriate nostalgia for cassette mixtapes (Spotify makes curating a playlist convenient—and boring), and ability to recite the entirety of Slayer’s classic Reign in Blood album (guitar solos included), all in about 15 minutes. This is how he talks, bringing up and tearing through bands and liquors and books in a bang-bang-bang flurry of Stuff He Likes, a delivery system that only gets faster if you stumble into a field of shared interests, which you probably will.

Meet the only restaurateur in town with a full-back Muppets tattoo.

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How Would Your Friends Review You? (via Success)

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Success — It is one of the truths of human nature that we ask for honesty from our friends, family and loved ones, so long as that honesty is unfailingly positive and contains no bad news whatsoever.

We crave attention and revel in approval, seeking it by means both conscious and sneaky. We ask directly (“Is this what you were looking for?”) and solicit passively (“I’m not very good at this, so I hope it’s close to what you’re looking for”). We ask leading questions (“Does this shirt make my stomach look fat?”) and frame our statements to solicit responses (“Ugh, this shirt makes my stomach look fat”). We lightly bait those whose approval we crave (“I’m only buying this shirt if it doesn’t make my stomach look fat”). Be honest, we say, when what we really mean is just tell me I’m OK.

When we’re asked to furnish those honest assessments of a loved one, spouse, colleague, barista, barber or bartender, we make a full stop, our brains flinging themselves through a maze of psychological pulls and snap decisions. Should I be honest with this person? Can I be honest? Will they take my honesty too hard? Will they be hurt?

Feedback, in short, sucks. When it’s bad, we ignore it, push it away or spend hours listing the reasons why it’s illegitimate, biased or unfair. When it’s good, we wrap ourselves tightly in a blanket of it, assured that our self-opinions have been safely validated. It’s a hopelessly tricky thing. So when SUCCESS asked me to submit to a 360-degree feedback review of myself via friends, family and colleagues, I’m pretty sure I said yes without thinking it all the way through.

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A Few Contributions to ‘S is for Southern’ from Garden and Gun

Thrilled have contributed to the gorgeous S is for Southern: A Guide to the South, from Absinthe to Zydeco, from the great people at Garden and Gun. I wrote about Savannah, R.E.M., James Brown, indigo snakes, nicknames, Carl Perkins and others, just not boiled peanuts, because let’s be honest those are very gross.

Buy the book here.

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And Then There Was the Afternoon In Which I Fell Out of the Sky in a Fighter Jet (via The Loop / Golf Digest)

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The Loop / Golf Digest — Mark “Crunchy” Burgess is not the thick, beefy, Iceman-type of fighter pilot who spends his time promoting his upper-body definition and flight hours. He’s methodical and quiet — often pinpoint — in his words, manners and speech. The kind of guy to sit, arms folded, listening to a debate or a monologue or a branch-superiority battle unfold until finding the perfect moment to jump in and dismantle everything and everyone around him with precision, and physics, and the assured, unforced calm that comes with craft mastery. Crunchy has nearly 4,000 flying hours to his name. Upon my arrival at the NAS Oceana Air Base for a test flight in mid-September, my count was precisely 4,000 less.

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Crunchy — no one calls him anything else, and I didn’t even know how to pronounce his last name until 20 minutes before I left — is a retired Navy lieutenant commander and the lead pilot with the Warrior Flight Team, an all-volunteer charity organization that raises funds for wounded vets partly by taking hopelessly green writers up in flights that they inexplicably call “VIP rides.” (On a master jet base populated by active-duty servicemen and women, my VIP status is basically rock bottom.) My flight was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spin space, to actually no-shit-for-real-aileron-roll-a-jet, to fly a fighter for about 30 exhilarating seconds. For these men and women, this was a pretty routine Friday.

The full and slightly vomitous story over at The Loop / Golf Digest.

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Now Is a Very Good Time to Stop Sleeping With Your Significant Other (via GQ)

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GQ (Sept. 2017) — I like my wife very much, and I operate under the assumption that she likes me, but our past few months have been made immeasurably better by the manner in which, come nightfall, she and I have nothing to do with each other.

We hadn’t always slept apart. For years I would lie awake beside my wife and seethe at her perpetual pillow-shuffling, the icy light of her Words with Friends game, and, most significantly, her alarm clock, which announced itself every morning at 5:45 A.M. and was followed by her hammering the snooze button with such vigor that I began to suspect it wasn’t a snooze button at all but a switch that summoned waffles and back rubs from some other, better husband. She, meanwhile, suffered through a partner—i.e., me—who apparently snores like an elephant giving birth inside a Dumpster.

Our nightly war fueled a mutual resentment that welled up like water in a dam. Then, one morning, everything burst. “Don’t take this the wrong way,” she said, staring into the first of her multiple coffees, “but I can’t sleep with you.”

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The Furry, Fluffy and Sort of French World of College Mascots (via NCAA Champion)

(NCAA Champion Magazine)

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NCAA Champion — To explore the history of the college sports mascot, to genuinely investigate how we’ve evolved into a culture that can rally tens of thousands of stadium-goers with live buffaloes, flaming spears and dancing anthropomorphic ducks, we must start at the very beginning and reach back to … uh, early 1880s France, apparently.

That’s when the French debuted an opera named “La Mascotte,” a title that translates loosely into “lucky charm.” Mostly obscure now, “La Mascotte” concerns a poor Italian farmer whose crops refuse to grow until he’s visited by a mysterious and lovely stranger named Bettina. His crops thrive, his luck turns, and his life shines. By the 1900s, the term had jumped the Atlantic and become known as a talisman that brought good fortune; by the 1970s, it had come to mean a grown man in a chicken suit. But the centurylong history of the mascot can be described in one very 2017 term: branding. “A mascot is the personification of a school’s brand,” says Michael Lewis, a marketing professor at Emory. “They work because they give something for the community to rally around, something for everyone to have in common. Everyone at the University of Florida knows about the Gators. Everyone at Texas A&M knows the collie. It’s a social point for the university and the community.”

Here’s what mascots mean in 2017. 

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