A Smokin’ Success
Half Liter Beer & BBQ Hall Brings Texas-Style Barbecue Eatery to South Broad Ripple
Photographer: Michael Durr
When Eddie Sahm and his father Ed signed a lease on the former Bent Rail Brewery building on Winthrop Avenue in South Broad Ripple back in 2017, they went in knowing the space had untapped potential.
Situated near the Monon Trail, the Sahms began formulating a dual concept for the space — one side that would eventually become Liter House, a brewery and German brewpub, as well as a separate business that would be, as Eddie puts it, an extension of what has been successful at Big Lug Canteen, the Sahms’ 86th Street restaurant and brewery that opened in 2015.
“We knew that a patio-centric, two-story setup with a 21-and-over upstairs would work,” says Eddie, whose dad founded a successful string of Sahm’s Restaurant locations starting back in the 1980s on the Northside. “And we wanted something that would highlight the Monon Trail and give a sense of place on the Monon. We knew the original structure was just a little far off the Monon and we knew people needed to be able to walk in from all angles.”
After signing a lease on the building in the winter of 2017, the Sahms got busy with a few renovations including new windows and garage doors. They opened Liter House in July of 2018, and Eddie unveiled Half Liter Beer & BBQ Hall, a Texas-style barbecue eatery, to the community in March of this year, bringing Chef Blake Ellis on board to perfect the Half Liter menu and take the helm as pit master.
“When we originally took over the Bent Rail space, we knew it would be a big project,” recalls Eddie, who studied food service management before diving into the family business and becoming owner and manager at Sahm’s Place on 65th Street in 2009. “One of the things that Ed and I like to do is look at what a specific community might be missing and try to hone in on creating affordable community gathering spaces.”
It’s a casual affair at Half Liter, where patrons of all ages can station themselves at picnic tables in the 200-seat, family-and pet-friendly outdoor patio or inside at the bar and order food and drinks from the bar. When it came down to deciding on menu specifics, the Sahms gravitated toward the Texas-style smokehouse concept, and Ellis, who previously worked at Tinker Street and Black Market, stays busy cooking up brisket, pork and chicken at his smoker station.
“Brisket has been a favorite — we have to buy more of that than I ever thought we would need to,” Eddie says. “We also do specials like beef rib on Saturday and usually sell out of that. Anything off the smoker has a lot of fans, whether it’s chicken, pork or beef.”
Soups, salads, pick-a-meat sandwiches and snacks like smoked wings, rancho nachos and hush puppies with jam are also offered, and patrons can choose from sides like collard greens, mac and cheese and potato salad before finishing things off with the chocolate oatmeal cream pie.
In-house catering is available, and customers can also rent out Half Liter’s second level during the daytime for private events.
All of Half Liter’s beers are made in-house with German-based ingredients – choose from lagers, IPAs, amber ales and more – and Eddie feels the price points of his beers and extensive whiskey selection rival any bar in the state.
“Our goal on drinks was to reach out across the board and have more favorable prices for beer,” Eddie says. “There’s no drink you can get that’s not 25% under what another bar might charge.”
Sahms says the Liter House and Half Liter BBQ concept is the latest business contributing to a surge in South Broad Ripple commercial development.
“There aren’t a lot of places in Indianapolis with room for commercial and residential that exist off of major streets, and that’s an interesting feature of our area,” he says. “There’s this cool second level in Broad Ripple, after the main strip of bars, where you have yoga shops and boutique stores. I think we’re a version of that second level, in a cool little pocket of the neighborhood with The Speak Easy, Diavola and these cool places.”
After just a few months in operation, Eddie says the Half Liter concept has proven to be a winner for midtowners, and he has more and more folks coming in from all corners of the city every week.
“Business is insane – in a good way,” he says, laughing. “Of all the restaurants Ed and I have opened up, this is the first one that was an immediate home run. People started bringing their families in and talking about it. We have people who come in every other day and bring family or clients to try the barbecue.”
Eddie attributes such a response to the simple fact that he’s providing a service he and his father felt was in short supply in midtown Indy.
“Half Liter really spawned from us just working with the talent that we had and using both familiar menu ideas that you might have eaten at your grandmas and new things too,” he says. “We wanted to offer something that felt open and familiar but at the same time give the neighborhood something new.”
Half Liter Beer & BBQ Hall is located at 5301 Winthrop Avenue, Suite B in Broad Ripple. Call 463-212-8180 or visit them online at halfliterbbq.com for a food and beverage menu, catering info and more.