FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Chapman’s Brewing Company

The newest location of Chapman's Brewing Company is 5735 Falls Drive in Fort Wayne. (Photo by Dan Vance of News-Sentinel.com)
Chapman Brewing Company's bavarian soft pretzel, served with Kölsch style ale beer cheese made from their own 'Enlighten' brew. (Photo by Dan Vance of News-Sentinel.com)
Can't decide? Don't know which of Chapman's brews is for you? Try a flight. (Photo by Dan Vance of News-Sentinel.com)
The newest location of Chapman's Brewing Company is 5735 Falls Drive in Fort Wayne. (Photo by Dan Vance of News-Sentinel.com)
Pub fries are amazing at Chapman's Brewing Company. (Photo by Dan Vance of News-Sentinel.com)
Chapman's new location doesn't start serving food until 4 p.m., but the building is split with Salsa Grille, as see in this entrance. You can feel free to grab your Salsa Grille and take it over to Chapman's to pair with your beer.
If you have beer on draft, you should have root beer on draft like the Abita Draft Rootbeer served at Chapman's. (Photo by Dan Vance of News-Sentinel.com)
Chapman's has their own signature wings, like these buffalo style. You can also enjoy habanero-agave and coffee-mole. The newest location of Chapman's Brewing Company is 5735 Falls Drive in Fort Wayne. (Photo byJustin Kenny for News-Sentinel.com)
The mushroom swiss burger, 8 ounces of angus beef. (Photo by Dan Vance of News-Sentinel.com)
Chapman's Brewing Company's La Chapo, a Saison ale. The newest location of Chapman's Brewing Company is 5735 Falls Drive in Fort Wayne. (Photo by Justin Kenny for News-Sentinel.com)
The newest location of Chapman's Brewing Company is 5735 Falls Drive in Fort Wayne. (Photo by Justin Kenny for News-Sentinel.com)

Chapman’s Brewing Company is a unique next choice for us to try out because it simply is not new. Chapman’s has existed since 2012 and has taprooms in Angola (the original location), Fort Wayne, Columbia City and Wabash. We even tried out a Chapman’s brew for the first time during our second-ever First Impressions stop at BurgerFi.

The Angola location was actually just announced as part of the Northern Indiana Beer Trail.

But as the Chapman’s brand expanded into the city’s southwest side in the location formerly known as Salud!, we were game to try our their brews and food and see how they stacked up in the growing trend of brewery pop-ups around this area. This Chapman’s location, their second in Fort Wayne, is found at 5735 Falls Drive in the same building as Salsa Grille Coventry.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: WALKING IN

When we heard that Chapman’s is now sharing space under the same roof with Salsa Grille, we were wondering how that was going to work. Thankfully for us dullards, it was easy to figure out. As you enter, you go left for Chapman’s by the big Chapman’s logo and right for Salsa Grille where, you guessed it, Salsa Grille is painted on the wall.

It is a very unique entrance and a cool way to separate the two businesses operating under one roof while making them complimentary of each other as they need to be for reasons explained if you just keep reading a little more.

We were immediately impressed with the layout of Chapman’s. The bar top was clean and welcoming, while the rest of the seating area offered ample room for larger groups of people, including a big separated area when you first come in. There is even a lounge area with some cozy-looking chairs you can plop down in.

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS: ATMOSPHERE

Several staffers made us feel welcomed as we walked in, maybe because we look like a couple of schmucks that were ready to buy plenty of beer.

The retro-looking lighting that seems to be all the rage these days fits perfectly with the design of the taproom. Rows of mugs and growlers behind the bar add to the setting. Televisions (in color!) keep you up to date on what is going on in the sports world.

Chapman’s has definitely constructed a venue that is conducive to people hanging out, chatting and putting back a few beers. The clean, polished look also has a dash of comfort that makes you feel you’re in the right place to drink, eat and start up a conversation whether you are hanging out at the bar or lounging about elsewhere. Overall, Chapman’s is striking as just a fun place to hang out, especially in an area of Fort Wayne with very few comparable options.

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS: FOOD

Here is where we ran into some issues. The menu is not extensive, but provides enough variety to cater to different palates.

The trick with Chapman’s is that they don’t serve their own food until after 4 p.m. So if you venture in for lunch, no luck on the Chapman’s side. But, there is good news and it goes back to that shared entrance. Since it is the law in Indiana that if you serve alcohol, you serve food, you are free to grab your Salsa Grille at lunch and slip on over with it to eat at Chapman’s while enjoying one of their beverage options. So far, it seems like the two businesses work pretty flawlessly together and one could imagine it may end up doing wonders for Salsa Grille’s pre-4 p.m. food sales.

So a key here is your food options include Salsa Grille any time of the day.

But we wanted to try this Chapman’s Brewing Company food, so we ventured out after that 4 p.m. start time to see what they were cooking up. We started off with the pretzel. It was big enough for us to share and, while providing decent taste, didn’t overly wow us, even with the dipping sauce. The dipping sauce itself was a solid beer cheese made from Chapman’s own ‘Enlighten’ beer, which is a Kölsch-style beer. The cheese was not heavy, nor was the pretzel which is huge to us for bar-type appetizers. The rest of the appetizer options include some usual suspects, but also a unique fried green bean with Asian sauce option.

There are several different varieties of wings and we went with the Chapman’s signature wings. Much like the pretzel, while the wings were satisfying, it didn’t stand out as overly impressive. We are darn picky when it comes to wings, and Chapman’s just simply doesn’t stand out in that arena. While we didn’t give them a go ourselves, we were given strong reviews of the Coffee-Mole chicken wings by one of our friends from Five Star Distributing.

Chapman’s has a couple of flatbreads and all of your expected options in the meat area with three chicken, two fish and four burger options. We went with the Mushroom Swiss Burger because it just sounded good to be paired with our drink choices. The burger itself was a miss. The bun, which had been some form of grilled, was too hard to get by mentally as we tested this burger out. The burger itself dripped almost too much with juices but in a pretty much contradictory way lacked enough unique or identifying flavor.

Along with the burger, we got a side of fries and we are harsh critics of a pub fry. These, however, hit the spot alone or paired with ketchup or some of that house-made beer cheese.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: DRINKS

Interestingly, Chapman’s Brewing Company brews beer. We ordered a flight and gave each of the six beers a try.

Undaunted is a single-hop IPA that was one of the beers that really stood out. It went down smooth and wasn’t overly hoppy, unlike some IPAs.

The Enlighten ale is also a standout offering by Chapman’s. We trended towards the lighter beer options than the heavier Valiant stout.

The Englishman, a brown ale, is one we’ve tried before and is a good lighter blend of nutty and coffee.

The Wry American was on the heavier side of bitterness goes down a little harsher while boasting 8.5 percent ABV.

Chapman’s offers their beers as 6-ounce samplers, 16-ounce pints or has 32 and 64 growler options. They also have what they call a roulette of limited release beers brewed in small batches. These don’t follow trends of traditional seasonal beers Chapman’s claims. We tried a wicked saison called La Chapo that had the perfect mix of hops, pineapple and a hint of orange.

Since Chapman’s is a family friendly location, they have plenty of non-beer options. Who can really beat root beer from a draft? The Abita draft root beer has a perfect kick and even better ability to quench thirst. If you’ve never had root beer from a draft before, you should let Chapman’s fill you in.

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS: SERVICE

The staff was friendly and willing to engage in conversation and answer our questions on everything Chapman’s. You can tell that they are excited about expanding their taproom options in northeast Indiana, with the southwest location likely to be a destination spot for those on that side of town that say the eatery options are limited.

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS: PRICE

Chapman’s is solidly in the middle of the road when it comes to affordability. Are there cheaper taprooms and bars out there? Sure. But it definitely could be more expensive as well.

Chapman’s serves beer. As long as an establishment does that, it is impossible for us to give a negative grade. But we left Chapman’s expecting more with both the food and the beer. It wouldn’t be our first choice to hit up for a few beers with a buddy, but you could do far worse.

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First Impressions is a monthly restaurant feature. You can catch Dan and Justin’s opinions on new and recently-opened area eateries each month, rotating on a bi-weekly basis with our Pub Crawl feature. Have a suggestion on where to stop next? Let us know at dvance@news-sentinel.com

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