A mixed bag overall. The upshot is that the beer and especially the food were each great. However, service was noticeably slow. (They even have a note on their menu saying to except "leisurely" service when they’re busy--really? And I’m not just talking about food here, I’m talking about everything.) Beer menu was somewhat outdated, with both of the high ABV Belgian styles being MIA despite being on the menu. Sample glasses are available, but they are stubbornly limited to flights (even though they’re priced individually). Lighting was on the dark side, which I guess is okay if you’re a fan of it, but it made the menus hard to read. Prices seemed okay, though to-go bottles are quite pricey. The quality of the food and beer carry the experience, though.
I’m amazed that a brewery in 2015 does not offer samplers. The waitress said I could try their beers before ordering one, but that seems inconvenient compared to ordering a flight of their beers. The beers I had and tasted were okay. The barley wine was like drinking liquid candy it was so sweet. The oatmeal stout isn’t bad though. The food selection is limited to sandwiches and burgers, with some miscellaneous items like nachos, soups, salads, and fish n chips (and that is one massive fish you get). I enjoyed my nacho, and the service was great. I didn’t care for the atmosphere, though. The music played so loud it was hard to hold a conversation, and the place was dimly lit. Since it’s so close I’ll probably continue to come here and try more of their beers.
This place brews and serves a variety of above average-to-decent beers; maybe nothing rates great or exceptional. In my (humble) opinion, the Hip-Hop IPA and Oatmeal Stout are solid offerings that fit their type descriptions; the Dark & Lovely roasted malt IPA and Fo’ Porter are good if you visit when they are offered on tap (seasonal...), but thne again, I’m a roasted malt kind of guy. Brewmaster Mark does like to mix things up a bit, so there are usually a variety of seasonal or one-off house brews available in addition to the "standard" offerings of People Mover Pilsner, Red Tao Amber, Hip Hop IPA, and (usually) Black Bottom Oatmeal Stout. They have also recently added "guest" taps and distilled spirits for those who do not follow the "think global, drink local" philosophy (only casual friends of those who are probably reading this review).
Food menu is constantly changing (usually improving, though I do miss Courtney who recently departed as head chef). The burgers are always reliable (as with most brewpubs), I also like the "Boss Hog" barbequed pork sandwich. If you are a one-time diner you MUST try the sweet potato fries on the side.
I generally visit on a weekday late-lunch schedule, have occasionally stayed through Happy Hour and even lingered past midnight once or twice. Service at late lunch time is always excellent; it can tail off a bit if the place gets slammed during Happy Hour/dinner time; improves again as the crowd thins out later in the evening (any surprise there?).
Yes, there are better beers and better food available if you want to drive far enough to get them. But to paraphrase Goldilocks, Black Lotus is "just right" for solid beveridge & food within a "zero-potty-break" drive home radius for me.
As some other people have mentioned, the vibe is more of a coffee shop than a bar. The open-air feel was noticeable, even in January. We were there in the early afternoon, so I don’t get a sense of the crowd at night.
The main problem is that the beer just is not that good and they only serve their own. My sister ordered the apricot wheat, but it came out with a terrible tan color, cascading like crazy. It turns out it hit a ’yeast bubble,’ and after a few tries she had the amber, which was ok. The Thai porter was an interesting concept, but it ended up watery. ’The Gift’ was anything but. Credit to the brewer for trying to mix up the style a little bit, but the flavors just did not do it for me. It tasted like 2/3 of a Hefe and 1/3 Belgian dark.
The bright spot of my experience was the food. The wings were good, the wasabi salmon wrap was good, and my sister’s pulled pork had just the flavor I like.
Unfortunately, the food is not enough to get me back there without any decent beer. Even just having 10 Shorts / Founders / Bells in bottles would be enough, but a brewpub without good beer does not get very far.
Walked in and ordered a sampler, right away I was not happy. They were out of the IPA (Which I was the main beer I wanted to try) and out of the red ale (I love red ales). So I tried the 5 they had on tap. The beer came with no head and all were under carbonated / flat. The Blond was ok, but had a odd flavor in the finish. The pale ale was good, the stout was the best of the five. They had 2 "Belgian" offerings, both were sub par, one was a banana bomb. Overall I’d say if you have been home brewing for awhile, your beer is probably better. The Burger was good and adding pulled pork topping was brilliant!, but it did not come with fries, in fact they dont have fries, they do make potato chips "in-house" but they didnt come with the burger either! The service, however, was fantastic and Taylor was the perfect server.
Went with a group of friends who are not into craft beer. The beer is gross. I tried the pumpkin, oatmeal stout, and cream ale. The first two were terrible, and the cream ale was kind of decent. Black Lotus needs to step up its brewing game, or stop brewing all together.
paintedmaple (63) People’s Republic of Bloomington, Indiana | July 23, 2011| Updated March 18, 2014
Update#2: The place looks better, the service was better, and the food was OK AND they finally have guest taps so there is beer to drink...bad news is that the beers they make still suck...bad. Update: Really bad experience recently - the beer and service were awful. The People Mover Pilsner was one of the worst beers I’ve have ever tasted and our waitress avoided eye contact (and service). Very little selection of beers to the point we left because there was nothing drinkable on the menu. Avoid this place as it has become a dive. ORIGINAL RATING: Had the Sun Ra wheat beer. A big, bold,spicy bitter type that to my mind was all Belgian. At 7-7.5% ABV it was biggest beer on the list. A funky brew that easliy stood up to the Hip Hop IPA which I sandwiched in between Sun Ra’s. Not a lot of beer selection here. The food is a funky urban sort of pub food. The people at the table next to us shared some of their battered deep fried dill piclkes. Yum. Recommended.