Popular pub opens new Zionsville location
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photographer / Amy Payne
Jason Wuerfel, a former literature major and teacher, had long dreamed of opening his own bookstore. He recognized, however, that in this day and age, with online book sales taking off and local shops closing, it wasn’t a feasible business option to tackle. So, he started thinking outside the box, and with a lot of blood, sweat, tears and a successful Kickstarter campaign, in 2014 he launched Books & Brews in Indianapolis.
Though it started out as a one-man show with Wuerfel brewing beer, bartending, serving and cleaning, the venture soon gained traction and after experiencing some success, he was able to hire a staff and even open an additional location in Zionsville.
Two and a half years ago, Molly Grooms joined the team as Chief Operating Officer. Through social media and word of mouth, the unique establishment has really taken off.
Just as Cheers’ tagline was “where everybody knows your name,” Books & Brews is “a place for people without a place,” Grooms says. “We hear it all the time. People say, ‘I’ve never been a person who likes to go out because I’m uncomfortable in large crowds. But this place makes me feel at home.’”
Part of that homey vibe is attributed to the set-up, which includes games to play and books to read, not to mention fine food and drinks. But the one thing it doesn’t have are televisions, and that’s by design.
“We want to disconnect people from technology and reconnect them with one another,” says Grooms, noting that in the absence of a blaring TV, folks can actually hear the person who is seated beside them. “It’s really cool to see two regulars who start out sitting on opposite ends of the bar, but by the end of the night, they’re playing Battleship.”
When you step inside Books & Brews, you’re surrounded by bookshelves.
“That’s the aesthetic,” says Grooms, who adds that all their books and games are donated. (Games include the classics like Sorry, Monopoly and Uno as well as role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons.) They sell the books for $3 each with 10 percent of the proceeds supporting Indy Reads, a nonprofit that improves and promotes adult literacy in Central Indiana.
Books & Brews offers something for everyone — whether you’re into books, videogames, music or a good microbrew of which there are usually 8 to 10 available daily. All the beers and menu items are named off of literary themes. For instance, they have Cream & Punishment, Clifford the Big Red Ale, Charlie the Chocolate Stout, Shogun Soba Ale and Nancy Brew & the Hoppy Boys. Food-wise, they offer variations of grilled cheese sandwiches, including Pig in the Iron Mask (smoked gouda, aged cheddar and smoking goose bacon), Hamlet (ham, smoked gouda, lettuce & tomato) and Dante’s Inferno (with habanero havarti).
“We offer a new beer every Friday,” Grooms says. “If you add up all our beers, we’ve had hundreds and hundreds of styles.”
Grooms believes that patrons are drawn to the quirky atmosphere. Plus, the Craft Beer industry is growing at a rapid rate. And then there’s the fact that the space is so versatile.
“This is a great place to study by day and unwind at night,” Grooms says.
Every demographic enjoys some offering. All ages like to browse the book selections. Late-20s to early-40s come in to have a drink and play games, as do new parents who bring their small children. The 40 to 60-year-old crowd like the music. And open jam night often attracts the teenage crowd.
Books & Brews participated in an Indy Brew Battle last year and won Best in Atmosphere and Best in Brewers. They’ve also claimed awards for Best Open Mic, Best Small Music Vendor, Best Bookstore and Best Special Release Beer.
The unique combination of quiet atmosphere, tasty drinks and scores of games make it an ideal spot for first dates. And you never know where that may lead.
“Two of our customers are getting married this month at the same table where they met,” Grooms says.