08 Apr Union Jack Wants To Send You To A Beer Festival Of Your Choice
Love beer? Well off course. Dig free stuff? Well who the heck doesn’t, especially us beer fans! What if I told you that by joining a beer club and asserting yourself a little bit, you could win more than a koozie, a sticker or the occasional bottle opener? How about a free trip for two to any beer festival in the continental U.S?! That is exactly what Union Jack Pub Broad Ripple offers you.
Jay Wetzel and I chatted in the pub to discuss his journey days after he awarded this unique prize
In 2012, Jay left one occupational zoo for another when he traded roles as the Director of Publications and Graphic Design at (Southside Indy) Roncalli High School for bar owner, as he and his wife, Chelsey, took a huge plunge and purchased the Union Jack Pub in Broad Ripple. Neither had worked in the bar/food service industry before but for several years, Jay and a friend surveyed the landscape of other cities and bars, with the thought of one day owning a bar. Looking back, he told me, “My inkling was spot on.”
When Jay learned that Union Jack was up for sale, he and Chelsey nervously gave it some thought. Over the next year, he worked the bar as he was allowed to ease into the purchase and when it came down to a decision, Chelsey asked him, “Is this something we would look back and say, ‘remember when we had the chance to buy the Union Jack, and why didn’t we do that? Would we be kicking ourselves?’” They decided to go for it, taking full ownership in 2013.
Simple changes were in order but Jay immediately placed a new emphasis on soccer. Indianapolis’ professional soccer club, Indy Eleven and their fanatical fan base, the Brickyard Battalion, came calling and Union Jack became their home bar. World Cup matches were attended by rabid fans and UJ then gained further momentum by also becoming the official bar of Liverpool FC. (Odd, The Beatles are singing overhead, “Life is very short and there’s no ti-i-i-i-ime…”)
Jay said, “Folks that are very die-hard and loyal to us swear that we are the premier soccer bar in Indiana now.” He added that it’s “a unique kind of fraternity. And sports does that to people.”
Another change that the Wetzel’s made was to move UJ from a sit-down restaurant to one that wanted to engage with a younger demographic. He said, “Some of the clientele was literally…dying at the time (as if on cue, Roger Daltrey is heard singing, “I won’t get to get what I’m after, ‘til the day I die”) and we needed to introduce it to a younger generation.”
Additionally, a never-ending beer club existed at Union Jack which literally could have been passed down to generations, would also change. Drinking 78 beers from a scripted list, whenever that was, got your name on the wall. After weeding that program out, Jay began a new one that would evolve each new year.
Very simply, you get your Union Jack beer club card with designated columns of World, National, Midwest and Indiana, and drink just twenty beers of each area from Jay’s substantial beer list, (prizes with each column filled too) and you become a “finisher”. Have your sacrifice recognized at year’s end and enjoy a free beer dinner for being one of the Beer Club Finishers, complete with prizes. When Chelsey proposed to Jay that they offer a grand prize to any…hear that?…ANY beer festival in the lower 48 states, they distinguished themselves from any club I’ve ever heard of.
As the only non-finishers, my wife and I were somehow allowed to crash Union Jack’s 2nd annual beer finishers dinner, where Jay could tap into his wide beer selection. This was paired with a four course meal prepared by the pub staff, and Chelsey as well.
So, everyone that attended got their name on a tennis ball with a chance to win the trip, and names were pulled in reverse-raffle fashion, where if you’re drawn, you’re out. I almost began hoping my name wouldn’t be called but this is a good reminder that here, as in life, your earn your lot.
Chelsey and Jay acted as personal servers to all of the guests and they nicely spaced apart the courses, which allowed us to meet two lovely ladies that are long-time pub goers.
It’s almost unfair to have Chelsey’s mac & cheese called simply that because it was so much more. She put the final touches on this iteration just that morning and I’ll offer that she stop right there. A crunchy top but soft and gooey underneath, this was so good that we urged Chelsey to add it to UJ’s menu. Jay later promised it would.
The excitement rose throughout the night between dishes and for those who bemoan participation awards, all of those bounced out got something of value. Beer apparel, beer glasses and gift certificates ranging from $5-$100 were passed out until Brittany Smith survived the final draw. Now, where else on earth does the last finisher win? She quietly exclaimed, “I’ve never won anything!”
Richard Stroup was Union Jack’s first winner in 2015, and he told me, “I felt a responsibility to make a good decision”, in figuring out where to go. He eventually chose the St. Paul Summer Beer Festival in Minnesota, and Jay specifically picked the Summit (where Richard also visited) beer for the dinner in his honor.
Jay confirmed that Whitney and her boyfriend have already booked their trip to Seattle (ok, now this is getting weird – Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s ”Lucky Man” begins playing in the pub) and will be attending the Everett Craft Beer Festival in August. Just think…this could be you!
Overcoming a huge learning curve and a stigma of being brand new in the industry, Jay’s expert staff and loyal customers helped prove that hard work and dedication is a recipe for success. He summarized, “We couldn’t be happier with the decisions we made.”
And if you think I’m exaggerating that Jay may be the song whisperer, check this out. I have it on very good authority (he’s not aware I know this) that he does a really mean, solo dance to Darude’s “Sandstorm.” Perhaps he’ll do it for you next year at the Union Jack Beer Club Finishers Dinner!
Closed only on Thanksgiving and Christmas, you have plenty of time to become a Beer Club Finisher at Union Jack Pub Broad Ripple, located at 924 Broad Ripple Av.
Find Rick Burkhardt on Twitter @indybeersleuth.