Indio Brewing in Sugar Hill embraces Hispanic take on beer styles

Indio Brewing owner and brewer Jonathan Martinez, shown in the taproom, is looking forward to the third anniversary of his brewery in Sugar Hill. (Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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Indio Brewing owner and brewer Jonathan Martinez, shown in the taproom, is looking forward to the third anniversary of his brewery in Sugar Hill. (Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Indio owner and brewer Jonathan Martinez calls his beers “Cerveza Artesanal.” And visitors to the Indio taproom are treated to a taste of Latin culture, including evenings with salsa classes, stand-up comedy, and live music.

The five-barrel brewhouse is visible next to the bar, and each vessel has a name, including Frida (Kahlo), La Poderosa (the powerful), and R2D2 (the short one).

“Right now, we have eight beers on tap, but usually it’s between four and six,” Martinez said during a recent visit. “They sell pretty quick, but now I’m cranking it up, because our third anniversary is on the 23rd of July.

“It’s going to be great. We’re going to have luchadores (wrestlers), a Hispanic rock band, food trucks, a plant pop-up, and collaboration beers with Six Bridges Brewing and Pontoon Brewing.”

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Owner and brewer Jonathan Martinez samples a new Vienna lager in the brewhouse at Indio Brewing in Sugar Hill. (Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Bob Townsend

Owner and brewer Jonathan Martinez samples a new Vienna lager in the brewhouse at Indio Brewing in Sugar Hill. (Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Bob Townsend

Combined ShapeCaption
Owner and brewer Jonathan Martinez samples a new Vienna lager in the brewhouse at Indio Brewing in Sugar Hill. (Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

A former homebrewer, Martinez opened Indio in July 2019, with help from Matt Williams of Blackbird Farms Brewery. That was some six months ahead of the pandemic, and like everyone, Martinez struggled through 2020. But he quickly took charge of the brewery, and he hasn’t looked back.

“Matt helped us a lot for six months, and then I just felt like I needed to take over, because that was the whole point,” Martinez said. “This is my dream. Coming from homebrewing to this is a whole different animal. But I do a lot of research, and I’m not afraid to experiment. If I have to dump a batch, I will.”

Indio’s bestseller is Sour Patch, a year-round fruited Berliner Weisse with raspberry and strawberry. There’s also a Gose with cucumbers, lime and sea salt. But Martinez loves making New England-style IPAs, including Master Roshi, which is brewed with Citra and Mosaic hops, and exhibits tropical notes of mango and pineapple.

“I love everything about that beer,” Martinez said. “I’m from Nicaragua, and I’m used to eating a lot of tropical fruit, so that’s what I get. I name many of my beers for things from my childhood. Master Roshi is a martial arts anime character from Japan.”

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My two favorite beers were Chele, a straight-up German wheat beer with classic notes of banana and clove and a hint of orange; and Chombo, a beautifully clean and malty Vienna lager named for a famous Panamanian reggae DJ.

Asked about the brewery’s name, Martinez said Indio means native of the land.

“But I don’t use it as that,” he explained. “Back home, Indio means somebody that’s different. Somebody who thinks outside the box, and goes his own way, even though it might look odd. It’s just the actions that you make.

“We’re different than what’s around us. And we try to stay active with events. But people love our sours. That’s the demographic here, along with the tropical IPAs. A lot of Hispanics haven’t discovered the craft beer scene. We want to bring that to them.”

Looking to the future, Martinez said he’s going to be distilling tequila. And he hopes to expand, maybe with a 10-barrel brewing system. Plus, he wants to send more beer to competitions.

“I might be biased, but I feel like I make good beer,” he said. “I take pride in what I do, and I want more feedback. I’m all for that, so I can make even better beer. I’m excited for next year.”

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