New Zealand Craft Beer Motors Into Indianapolis As BurgerFuel

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

The first USA store for the popular New Zealand hamburger chain, BurgerFuel, opened in the Broad Ripple neighborhood of Indianapolis this week. With stores in New Zealand and Australia, but also in exotic locales like Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Egypt, and Iraq, BurgerFuel is truly a global entity with some interesting hangouts.

The company chose Broad Ripple for the first US restaurant because it has a cool vibe, and is in a vibrant neighborhood that is very similar to one of the trendy neighborhoods in Auckland (called Ponsonby). The high-energy social scene fits well with the BurgerFuel theme and culture, as you will see.

The old Quality Leasing building on Guilford Avenue in Broad Ripple has been overhauled and is now a BurgerFuel restaurant. photo credit: BurgerFuel

Many of the BurgerFuel joints around the world are alcohol-free, but for a restaurant in craft beer crazy Indiana, they realized they would have to offer more. On the third day of operations, Walter and I stopped in for a burger and a beer. I had the Trackbier from Bier Brewery and Walter had the Natural Liberty from Black Acre. They also carry the Danny Boy MoneyMaker extra pale ale right now, and there is one cider as well since not everyone drinks beer. But now things start to get interesting.

New Zealand craft brewery, Yeastie Boys (brewed in Wellington, NZ and in the UK by contract), will have two beers on – as soon as they arrive on the boat. Their Digital IPA is a classic Kiwi IPA with citrus and tropical hops, while the Bigmouth session IPA uses NZ grown hops exclusively. Walter and I haven’t had a NZ beer since Moa Brewing stopped distributing to Indiana. Man, the St. Joseph tripel was so good; I miss it dearly. New Zealand beer in general is a tough get for us in the States; heck, Shelton Brothers only carries seven different NZ breweries.

All the beers are canned or bottled, since BurgerFuel decided against putting taps in the Broad Ripple restaurant – for now. This being their entry into the US market, things might change over time. For now, they will continue to carry packaged Indiana craft beer and perhaps expand their New Zealand beer selections soon. Judging from the number of Trackbier and Natty Lib cans we saw during our short visit, Walter suspects they will be expanding their beer selection very soon. We’re hoping for more south of the equator options.

Yeastie Boys had a contract to brew at BrewDog in the UK, but this contract was terminated recently. The beer for Broad Ripple might come from the UK, or it might come all the way from New Zealand. photo credit: imbibe.com

The company has been quite innovative since its first Auckland, NZ opening way back in 1995. They use exclusively recycled, recyclable, and biodegradable materials for their packaging materials and doofers (interesting foldable burger holders). Even the little ramekins for the homemade aioli are made from biodegradable starch.

More important for Indiana, they have developed a BurgerFuel fleet of 1965-1972 muscle cars which travel around to the different stores. Their motto for food is “Death before bad burgers,” but their commitment to street legal customs and classics is just as strong. CEO Josef Roberts (formerly of Red Bull) says that these cars are the perfect match for their restaurant philosophy, and for the racing town of Indianapolis. Right now in Broad Ripple you can see their custom built ’68 Ford Torino Fastback and their ’68 Plymouth GTX Hardtop.

In similar fashion, BurgerFuel Radio was initiated in 2012. Using state of the art recording and broadcasting equipment, custom mixes and albums, as well as interviews, are broadcast worldwide within the BurgerFuel stores. If you so choose, you can listen on your computer or watch their youtube channel.

The artwork around the Broad Ripple store is just one way that BurgerFuel connects with the community. Walter wants some craft beer-themed murals next. Photo credit: BurgerFuel

Finally, BurgerFuel has a strong connection to every community in which they set up shop. Each store gives away $500 each month to a local charity – and the patrons decide who gets the money. With each order you get a Common-Unity token to put into one of the three charities of the month. The charity with the most tokens gets the money. This is identical to the system used at South Bend Brew Werks, so we Hoosiers have led the way in this regard.

This first month of operation, the charity choices for the patrons are CIBA (Central Indiana Bicycling Association), BRVA (Broad Ripple Village Association), and Indy Fringe. Store manager Andy Earl told us that they are asking patrons to suggest future charity choices.

The burgers are great and the music is good, but in truth, we’re probably going to go back mostly to try New Zealand beers. Walter and I hope that BurgerFuel realize the opportunity they have here in Indiana as far as pairing their food with good craft beer is concerned. They can expand that beer list as much as they like, and Hoosiers will love them for it.

 
 

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