Indiana Becomes Center of Big Ten Football and Craft Beer for Championship Weekend

Indiana Becomes Center of Big Ten Football and Craft Beer for Championship Weekend

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

Few things in life go better together than football and beer. They’re even better when it happens to be great football and great craft beer. Throw in some free food – it’s heaven on Earth. This is just the combination in store for you at the 4th Annual Indiana Taps & Touchdowns presented by the Indiana Office of Tourism Development on December 1st.

The Indiana Sports Corp developed Taps & Touchdowns in 2014 as the pinnacle pre-game activity for the Big Ten Football Championship Game, and it has grown in each year of its existence. Marketed to visiting fans, local Big Ten followers, and craft beer drinkers of all locales, this has to be one of the most inclusive beer festivals Walter and I have attended. Live music (Living Proof) and a DJ (DJ Yoshi), more than two dozen breweries, wineries, coffee roasters, cideries/meaderies, food included from six stellar restaurants, and a chance to win tickets to the Big Ten Championship game – all for $30? That’s a deal you won’t find many places.

image credit: Indiana Sports Corp

On the other hand, since the Indiana Sports Corp is involved, it just naturally follows that the event will be well run and well worth the money. The Indiana Sports Corp has an unparalleled record of bringing world-class sports championships and exquisite surrounding events to Indianapolis and Indiana since 1979. To learn more, I talked to Craig Lippincott, Director of Business Development for the Indiana Sports Corp about its history and mission.

Craig told me that the Indiana Sports Corp was the first sports commission for a city/state in the country and as such has led the way for bidding and hosting sports events in the past 36 years. Their success has been so strong and visible that now there are over 500 city-based sports commissions competing for the premier events. To overcome the increased competition, Indiana Sports Corp has been diligent in pushing the envelope, offering visitors and the local population more amenities and opportunities during these events to make sure Indianapolis remains on top in the bidding process.

Indiana Taps & Touchdowns is a good example of an outside the box addition to a championship football weekend. Fans coming into town from all over the country are looking for ways to enhance their experience the night before the game, and for many this requires something downtown near the stadium and the major hotels. The Pavilion at Pan Am Plaza (201 S. Capitol Ave.) is a fantastic venue to bring locals in and to cater to the out of town fans. Even for people not interested in the game itself, the Indiana Sports Corp offers these events so that more people can be be a part of the championship weekend. A craft beer and food festival is an event that appeals to visitors and locals alike.

The specialty lighting really adds to the mood at Taps & Touchdowns. photo credit: Peter Bick

As mentioned above, this festival has it all. The large venue means that it isn’t crowded, allowing music and conversation to be managed simultaneously despite the growing number of attendees each year. Premier breweries from Central Indiana and all over the state will be pouring multiple beers – last year several breweries brought 4-6 different brews. Breweries already confirmed to pour include Upland Brewing, with their nationally known sours and flagships, Round Town Brewery and their fantastic yet stoic brewer Jerry Sutherlin, Burn ‘Em Brewing from Michigan City (please bring the 14 Buck Chuck), the IPAs from Daredevil and the malts from TwoDEEP, as well as Metazoa along with their recent two medals from the Great American Beer Festival. As far as food goes, how do Primanti Brothers, St. Joseph Brewery, and Hot Box Pizza (amongst others) hit you?

For a slightly higher admission price ($50), attendees can also have access to the VIP area, raised above the floor of the Pavilion for a good view of the festivities and the band. Special beers and food samples will be available in the VIP area during the entire evening, including the preview hour (5-6 pm) only for VIP ticket holders. Of course, VIPs will be able to sample all the beers and foods on the main floor as well, but you better hurry, only 100 VIP tickets were available when ticket sales began. The atmosphere is great for everyone involved, as this is an indoor event and the specialty lighting gives it a music festival kind of feel.

But craft beer and food aren’t the only draws for the Indiana Taps & Touchdowns festival. There will be Big Ten Football trivia questions to answer for chances to win a variety of prizes, including two tickets to the championship game the next day. If you happen to be in town from Wisconsin or are part of their alumni, wear your colors proudly and see if you can find some fans from your opponent (not determined yet, but Ohio State currently leads the East Division). Last year, I spoke to people wearing colors for all fourteen member schools; it seems Big Ten school spirit runs very deep all the championship weekend long.

The Indiana Sports Corp just garnered the College Football Playoffs National Championship for Indianapolis in 2022. image credit: Indiana Sports Corp.

The Big Ten Football Championship Game is just one of the many successes that the Indiana Sports Corp has had in bringing top-flight sports to Indiana. As an example, Indianapolis was just awarded the 2022 College Football Playoffs National Championship. The bid for the 2012 Super Bowl started in Indiana Sports Corp’s offices, and multiple Big Ten and NCAA championships have been held in the city, including swimming and diving, men’s and women’s basketball, track and field, not to mention the National Sports Festival and Pan Am Games. The Indiana Sports Corp started with a mission to attract national amateur sports federation offices to Indy, and have been highly successful in doing so. It was after this initial success that they started to bid for championships and major sporting events.

Bids take several months to prepare and must be planned and submitted 2-6 priors to an event, so this is a major part of the Indiana Sports Corp’s work (led by Sr. Vice President, Strategy & Operations Susan Baughman – thank you for your continuing efforts). In addition, the Sports Corp. supports initiatives all over the state, including youth programs that have served over 100,000 Indiana children in each of the last five years. This includes the Geared for Health Program which collects and distributes sporting equipment to the youth of underserved communities in order to promote a more active and healthy lifestyle. A portion of the cost for each ticket for Indiana Taps & Touchdowns will go directly to this worthy cause. Most amazing, the Indiana Sports Corp does all this work on a budget built from corporate and individual memberships, small grants, and a few fundraising events like the Taps & Touchdowns craft beer festival.

Community attendance and volunteerism for these sporting and peripheral affairs definitely play a role in winning bids for future championships. There is no doubt that Indiana Taps & Touchdowns and well attended parties like it contribute to to Indianapolis’ success in attracting events like the 2022 College Football Playoffs National Championship. By attending the festival the night before the championship, you are getting all that great beer, food and other highlights, while at the same time helping to support Indiana Sports Corp efforts to make Indiana a better place to live, work, and visit. That’s quite the win-win.

Tickets at a $5 discount are available here. Indiana Taps & Touchdowns is a 21+ event to be held from 6-10 pm on Friday, the 1st of December (5-10 pm for VIP ticket holders). See the Indiana Sports Corp event page for the ever-expanding list of breweries, wineries, meaderies, cideries, and food vendors that will be serving at the festival. Click here for more information about Indiana Sports Corp.


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