“Indy South”: Why You Need to Visit Johnson County, Indiana

Johnson County, or "Indy South," has great craft beer and fun for the whole family. Find out why you've got to visit this Indiana hotspot.

There are places you visit expecting to have an amazing time, and they deliver in spades: Hawaii, perhaps, or Rome and Hong Kong. Then there are other corners of the Earth you travel to without an inkling of what to expect and are wonderfully surprised by how charming they are. Johnson County, Indiana — or “Indy South” — is one of these places. Here’s why.

How Did I Wind Up in Indiana, Anyway?

In June 2017, I jetted over to Indianapolis to attend BlogHouse, a professional development workshop for travel bloggers. The Midwest is near and dear to my heart: I fell in love in Chicago, and my mother-in-law is from Indiana, so I knew I wanted to spend extra time exploring America’s heartland afterwards.

When I asked Visit Indiana, the state’s office of tourism development, where I should go to delve more into Indiana’s craft beer scene, they immediately connected me to Ken, the Director of Tourism for Johnson County. Ken offered to take me on a whirlwind two day tour of Indy South, and thanks to his generous hospitality, I’ve got the inside scoop on this fun-filled destination.

OK, Cool. But First… Where is Johnson County?

There’s a reason Johnson County is called “Indy South.” Greenwood, its largest city, is only 20 minutes south of downtown Indianapolis (which meant a short ride from the JW Marriott in Indianapolis to my first brewery of the day, which is highly important because #priorities).

In case you can’t tell, that pink box with the vibrant red arrow shows you where Johnson County is.

That means that Johnson County is equally perfect for day trips from Indianapolis and longer stays — though I recommend the latter, as it’s impossible to squeeze in all of its attractions into a few hours.

Other quick fun facts about Johnson County, Indiana (perfect for aspiring Jeopardy contestants):

  • Roughly 152,000 people called Johnson County home as of 2016.
  • Johnson County was formed in 1823 and named for a judge of the Indiana Supreme Court. His name? John Johnson.
  • CNNMoney called it one of eight places “where the middle class thrives,” meaning low unemployment rates and a good quality of life.
  • It’s in the same time zone as New York City, which means no darn jet lag for East Coasters!

Why Should I Visit?

Johnson County, Indiana is what I’d call an “up-and-coming” tourist destination. It may be under the radar now to folks outside of Indiana, but you heard about it here first! Here are seven reasons why you need to visit Indy South.

1. It’s a heaven for craft beer lovers.

First things first: Johnson County’s got some awesome breweries… and I didn’t even get to all of them on this trip. Here are four spots that you need to check out during your stay.

Planetary Brewing Co.

Three words: Space-themed brewery. As someone who grew up in NASA’s backyard and devoured the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, I couldn’t get myself over to Planetary Brewing soon enough. Launched into orbit in March 2013, Planetary Brewing was the second brewery established in Johnson County and the 63rd in Indiana.

As luck would have it, Andy, the owner/brewer, arrived in the midst of my thirst-quenching expedition.

Planetary’s owner/brewer, Andy, with some intergalactic beer

Curious about the origins of the beers’ names, I discovered that Andy’s inspiration ranged from the near — his wife’s initials and birthday for CEC-829, an American Pale Ale — to the far (Star Wars). He also shared the story of the historic, 120-year-old building that the brewery is housed in, as well as plans to hopefully expand into the building next door and turn it into a music venue/banquet hall.

Inside the mother ship

Planetary’s mission, should you choose to accept it, is to help consumers cruise through the “Universe of Beer” and check out all the different planets beers. So go have fun checking them all out — I’ll be hanging out on Planet IPA.

Beers You Can’t Miss: Parallax Vanilla Porter (5.6% ABV), a delectable porter that’s sanitized in bourbon (usually Maker’s Mark, which gives it a bite), making it out of this world. While the IPA on tap (Bosstin Hill, 6.75% ABV) was delicious, be sure to check out the JJS-550, an imperial IPA which is one of their most popular brews. The beer is a fitting tribute to Andy’s best friend, whom he lost to disease.

Planetary Brewing Co., 188 S Madison Ave, Greenwood, IN 46142 
Connect with them via their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Taxman Brewing Company

Taxman’s stellar reputation preceded it. When I consulted various beer bloggers about what breweries to visit in Indiana, nearly all mentioned Taxman Brewing. It’s on high on craft beer aficionados’ radar, which meant that I had to check it out.

Turns out that three of the brewery’s founders are, in fact, tax professionals. Their tax consulting work took them to Belgium, where it is mandated by law that you must drink beer and eat frites at all times and by no means continue crunching numbers, and thus Taxman was born.

Evasion, my favorite beer of the trip

With the industrial feel of its interior and its extensive selection of brews, Taxman — which opened in 2014 — would be right at home next to any Seattle or Portland craft brewery. Families sipped on brews next to neon orange- and yellow-clad bicyclists from the Central Indiana Bicycle Association inside, while young couples laughed with beers and their pups on the outdoor patio. The symbolic skull tax dude also made surprise appearances (below).

Taxman: Not inspired by that 1966 Beatles song

As the saying goes, nothing in life is certain except death and taxes… and, of course, great beer at Taxman.

Beer You Can’t Miss: Evasion, a 14.5% ABV barrel-aged Belgian-style stout. With its flavors of cocoa, coffee, and vanilla, this killer stout was my favorite beer I’ve had in months — and I just got home from Belgium!

Taxman Brewing Company, 13 S Baldwin St, Bargersville, IN 46106
Connect with them via their website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Untappd!

Shale Creek Brewing

Shale Creek Brewing is said to be “the place to be” in Franklin, Indiana on the weekends, and it’s not hard to see why. The brewery, established in 2013, serves an array of delicious beer and is connected to an open-air dining area and event venue (which opened in 2016).

Drinking some beer while listening to live music? Yes, please. Plus, the place has beer cocktails, which we know I love in the summer.

Outdoor pavilion

If you’re hungry, try the food next door at Triple Play. To be honest, I’d go here for the beer over the food, but hey, you’ve gotta sop up that beer somehow, and BBQ is a good way to do it.

Beers You Can’t Miss: Peach Pit IPA and Downtown Cocoa Brown, which has excellent coffee and chocolate flavors without being overwhelming.

Shale Creek Brewing, 178 W Jefferson Street, Franklin, IN 46131
Connect with them via their website and Facebook!

Oaken Barrel Brewing Company

This spot should be on your list for historic reasons at the very least: Oaken Barrel, which opened in 1994, is the oldest craft brew place in Johnson County — and the second oldest in the whole state.

However, I was happy to find that their beers were tasty as well. We wound up sampling a few extras on top of our beer flight, because we like to research the staff were proud of their quality beer and didn’t mind taking the time to educate us about it.

If I were to visit again, I’d probably sit in the bar area instead of the family section, but it’s great to know that this spot (like most others in town) is very family friendly.

Beers You Can’t Miss: Razz Wheat (5.0% ABV), a cloudy, dark pink fruit beer perfect for warm weather; Super Fly IPA (7.5% ABV), voted best IPA in Indiana

Oaken Barrel Brewing Company, 50 Airport Pkwy, Greenwood, IN 46143
Connect with them via their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

2. There’s wine, too!

Oenophiles, we didn’t forget about you. Johnson County has been home to Mallow Run Winery since 2005, marking its 12-year anniversary this Labor Day.

Mallow Run is known for their sweet wines: their top seller is actually the Rhubarb ($13), though they make non-dessert wines as well (I particularly liked their 2016 Estate Red, which was similar in body to pinot noir). You can sidle up to the counter at their tasting room, which is housed in an 1870s barn made by owner Bill’s great-great-great-grandfather, and taste up to six wines completely for free.

Mallow Run also hosts events, like weddings, at a gorgeous property called the Sycamore (a quarter mile west of the winery). Their lively Picnic Concert Series runs throughout the summer as well.

As a California native, it won’t surprise you that I’m a bit of a wine snob. OK, kind of a wine snob. Oh, whatever, a big wine snob. So I was skeptical — to say the least — when the staff told me that they serve some of their wines in cans, like this 500 Canned Traminette below ($5 for an 8 oz can).

Wine in a can? Here we go…

But even boxed wine has become elevated in recent years, so I thought, when in Rome Johnson County…

And I didn’t hate it. In fact, the 500 Traminette was actually one of my favorites of the day. So while I won’t become a canned wine fan overnight, I’m slowly getting used to the idea. Props to Mallow Run for expanding my wine horizons!

If you’re lucky, you might spot Auggie the golden retriever amongst the vines when you go!

Wines You Can’t Miss: Finale, a port-style dessert wine; 2016 Estate Red (Chambourcin, Leon Millot and Chancellor grapes, similar in body to Pinot Noir); 500 Canned Traminette

Mallow Run Winery, 6964 West Whiteland Road, Bargersville, IN 46106
Connect with them via their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

3. You can pick your own flowers!

As someone who grew up picking strawberries in the Golden State and who can’t wait to go apple picking during New York autumns, I was unapologetically excited to visit P&D Flower Farm. Though it’s minutes away from Greenwood, the location’s rural beauty reminded me of escaping NYC for the tranquility of Long Island’s North Fork.

This spot, which has been around for three years (open for two seasons) and is run by husband-and-wife team Phil and Dawn, is the perfect place to take your date (or family) and create your own customized bouquet of flowers.

For as little as $5, you can pick your own fresh flowers and create a one-of-a-kind bouquet. There’s all kinds of flowers here, from baby’s breath to bachelor buttons. In fact, there’s an estimated 8,000 plants throughout their ten acres of farmland and woods.

The final product will look like this: totally gorgeous. I wish I could’ve done this for our wedding a few years ago!

In other great news, it’s OK to bring your own bottle of wine to P&D Farm and have a picnic after you pick some sunflowers — just one more reason to love this place.

P&D Farm, 7749 E 1000 N Indianapolis, IN 46259
Connect with them via their website, Facebook, and Instagram!

4. You’ll gain a greater appreciation of America’s heartland.

Imagine standing in front of the cows that produce the very milk you drink. You can actually  do this at Kelsay Farms, a working dairy farm in Whiteland, Indiana.

President Van Buren granted 80 acres of land to the family in 1837, 60 of which are still in the family today. This seventh-generation family farm opened to the public in 2007 and has been open for 11 seasons so far.

I’ve survived living in Manhattan. I’ve endured earthquakes in California. But you know what? Nothing has humbled me so much as being among Indiana’s dairy farmers and their cows.

Kelsay Farms has 500 cows that are each milked 3 times per day. Each cow is milked for ten minutes, and they can accommodate 32 cows at a time. When I started doing the math, I suddenly had an epiphany.

Between their daily operations and attending to the public during the day, these folks are working harder than most people I’ve ever met.

I’d even go so far as to say that people living on America’s coasts should visit a farm at least once in their lifetimes to better understand just how hard others are working to get that food on your plate.

On a lighter note, Kelsay Farms opens for five weekends each fall (in 2017 it will be Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Sept. 29 to Oct. 29). Enjoy chocolate milkshakes and grilled cheese, get lost in a corn maze, or take in a hay ride — it’ll be fun for the whole family!

Kelsay Farms, 6848 N 250 E, Whiteland, IN 46184
Connect with them via their website, Facebook, and Twitter!

5. You can see classic films, sometimes with a drink in hand.

Film buff? You’ll want to check out the Artcraft Theatre, which was built in 1922 as a silent movie theatre and a vaudeville house. Franklin Heritage, Inc., a non-profit historic preservation group, purchased it in 2004.

Nowadays, this Art Deco movie house screens films that are generally from the 1980s or older. Case in point: they’re screening one of my favorite Hitchcock films, North by Northwest, in early September.

If you haven’t had enough booze by this point in your Johnson County journey, you’ll be pleased to know that the Artcraft hosts boozy events. In their “Brew and View” and “Reel Women/Vintage Wine” series, patrons can score a movie ticket and a glass of beer or wine, respectively, for just $10. That’s a steal!

In closing, allow me to present a much more shallow reason why you might like coming here: they currently have a life-sized cutout of Mr. Ryan Gosling himself inside the theatre. #Win.

Fun Art Deco lighting inside gave Mr. Gosling a pinkish hue.

The Historic Artcraft Theatre, 57 N Main St, Franklin, IN 46131
Connect with them via their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

6. Because the Flying Frog Bed & Breakfast produces the best B&B breakfast you’ll ever have.

I’ve stayed in my fair share of B&Bs, and they were always woefully inadequate when it came to the “breakfast” part of that equation. The Flying Frog Bed & Breakfast in Franklin more than delivered in the breakfast department — it’s safe to say that owners Butch and Sharon fed me the best B&B breakfast I’ve ever had.

You’ll receive a three-course dining experience, comprised of a fruit course, entree, and a sweet course. I was floored by my poached pear course (below): the pear was firm yet warm and not overly sweet, with the kumquats providing a nice tangy flavor and the yogurt adding a different layer of texture.

Course 1: Poached pear, white wine sauce, honey, kumquats, thyme, vanilla yogurt, brown sugar

Course 2: Omelette with ham, tomatoes, cream cheese, Colby cheese, and fresh veggies and herbs from the garden; Parmesan-crusted potatoes with horseradish sauce.

Course 3: Crepe filled with raspberry creme and raspberry wine from Missouri’s Herman Wine Trail

I knew I was going to like their place when I learned that each of the guest rooms is themed after one of their favorite European travel destinations. I stayed in the classy 1940s Paris Room, with its dynamic color scheme and thoughtful decorations.

When your shirt matches the color scheme of your B&B room

Entrance to the Paris Room at the Flying Frog

The B&B’s memorable name comes from a piece of Balinese folk art that Butch and Sharon picked up in New Orleans. Try to see how long it takes to find their flying frog statue once you step inside!

The flying frog himself!

Sipping some wine from Mallow Run on the balcony at Flying Frog

Flying Frog Bed & Breakfast, 396 N Main Street, Franklin, IN 46131
Connect with them via their website, Facebook, and Instagram!

7. Because the people of Johnson County are hard-working and care about their community.

This was impossible to photograph, because I saw it everywhere. I saw it in Andy as he described the construction of Planetary Brewing with great passion. I saw it in Butch and Sharon as they made me feel at home at the Flying Frog. And I saw it in Don, who I’d like to call “Beer Yoda” — or, better yet, the Ultimate Guru of Craft Beer, Physics, and Everything Else — who graciously took time out of his day to educate me about Johnson County’s past, present, and future.

When we travel, many of us tend to think of visiting big cities with bright lights or other countries that are a 14-hour flight away. But when you’re planning your next trip, I encourage you to think about cities like Greenwood or Franklin in Indiana. Because how often can you say you visited a place before it got big?

So get yourself over to Johnson County. Now. You’ll thank me later.

Connect with Johnson County, Indiana on Social Media

Connect with Johnson County on the following social media platforms below. Be sure to tag any related posts with the hashtag #journeyjoco!

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Johnson County, or "Indy South," has great craft beer and fun for the whole family. Find out why you've got to visit this Indiana hotspot.

Johnson County, or "Indy South," has great craft beer and fun for the whole family. Find out why you've got to visit this Indiana hotspot.

A million thank yous to Ken and Journey Johnson County for hosting me during my time in Johnson County, Indiana, and providing unparalleled hospitality. A huge thank you as well to Visit Indiana for connecting me with Ken and creating this opportunity. As always, all opinions are my own. Not even a delicious, cold beer can change that.

Also, some of the above are affiliate links and I will earn a tiny percentage of the sale if you purchase through them at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting It’s Five O’Clock Here!

28 thoughts on ““Indy South”: Why You Need to Visit Johnson County, Indiana

  1. Justin

    Great post, Julianne! I had no idea there were that many breweries in Johnson County, IN. I bet the research for this post was a real chore. 😜 #thirstythursdayresearch

  2. Andii

    Wow, wow, wow! I definitely missed out not tagging along on this trip with you! I love craft beer and Johnson County has it going on! Plus being a francophile I love the hotel room and crepes!

  3. Mike Hesser

    Glad you liked Johnson County. However, you missed the best brewery in the county, Mashcraft. It is just south of county line road on HWY 135. Their beer is incredible and they will have a brew that will please any palate. They also dedicate 1 tap to a New Day cider or mead. If you get this way again, do yourself a favor and check out Mashcraft.

    1. Julianne

      Hi Mike, thanks for stopping by! You are 1000% right. Both Ken and Don lavished praise on Mashcraft, and other locals I spoke to also said Mashcraft was stellar. Unfortunately, I had some conflicts with the timing, so I wasn’t able to visit this time. However, I definitely hope to visit Mashcraft next time, and will send others their way too!

  4. Jenn and Ed Coleman

    Wow, a 14.5% Belgium would be a thing of beauty. It sounds like it is smooth but could creep up on you. I am suffering with a Tecate and lime right now. Indiana was so beautiful. I can’t wait to get back.

    1. Julianne

      Yep – that’s why they don’t pour a whole glass of it, haha, or else I’d be gone! Hope you get to enjoy more beer soon 🙂

  5. Christina Comer

    What a fabulous and interesting article! I knew about the breweries, but, only been to one! Been writing notes since I started reading! Can’t wait to try the movie theatre, and the bed and breakfast. Definitely want to visit other brew houses and would love to take my grand kids to Kelsay Farms. Also, I didn’t know about the picking of your own flowers at P & D Farms. Thanks again for the article!!! I read it from The Pump House Antiques owner’s post on Facebook! So the last thing I would love for you to write about, the next time is: All the great Antique stores in Bargersville, Franklin, Greenwood, and Whiteland!!! It would be a great article to include some services, ie: hair care and therapist …. then in another article for Johnson county, you could include some individually owned eateries! I think that would be amazing! I am so happy to live in Bargersville and be a part of this lovely Johnson County!

    1. Julianne

      Hi Christina, thanks so much for your kind words! I’m so glad you liked the article. The antique stores sound like a great idea — in fact, you’ve got lots of great ideas for follow up posts. Looks like I have to get back to Johnson County sooner rather than later! 🙂

    2. Stacy

      The Artcraft does a lot of neat things beyond just the movies they show. They have raffles before the movie for movie-related prizes, plus a prize for the person who has traveled the farthest to get there (which have been given to people living in other countries the last couple of times I have been there!). They also play the national anthem that everyone sings along to and show a short cartoon before the feature movie starts. They do so many cool little details that add up to an experience unlike I’ve seen in any other theatre.

      I second talking about all the antique shops and independent eateries around here the next time you write about us! 🙂

      1. Julianne

        Hi Stacy, thanks so much for adding these points about the Artcraft! I agree — it’s all of the small, thoughtful touches they incorporate that makes the experience so special. I wonder if I would’ve won the raffle that day coming from NYC 🙂 Anyway, with all of these great recommendations, it’s clear that I’ll need to plan a return trip! Cheers!

  6. Ann

    Taxman looks like it has my name on it — love the name of the brewery, and the logo. If I were there, I think the porter that was aged in the Maker’s Mark barrels and the IPA would be the ones I’d go for. I also love old movie theaters, and Artcraft looks like it’s doing well.

    1. Julianne

      Next time for sure! Just let me know where you’re headed next… or come meet me in Japan in October! 🙂

  7. Cat

    With so many breweries, I can see how Johnson Country is a paradise for beer lovers! I would love to check out the beer cocktails at Shale Creek Brewing. A visit to the flower farm would be fun too!

    1. Julianne

      You and me both — there are still so many other breweries I didn’t get to while I was there. All the more reason to plan a return trip! 🙂

  8. Ivy

    Hell yas for more craft beers! Love that there’s wine too, I’m more of a wine gal than beer. Gotta watch the carb intake y’know 😉 The Flying Frog looks like such a cute B&B, we’d love to stay there if we visit Johnson!

  9. Susan Ripley

    I’ve never heard about this part of Indiana, but you definitely make it sound fun! I love craft beer and great wine so I’d love to visit all the breweries and wineries you mentioned. And the B&B breakfast looks incredible. Who knew all these gems were in Indiana?

  10. little jimmy

    ………………don’t forget the hoosier brewery at the east end of town, right next to i – 65……….food presentation is exceptional………………..of the dozen + draughts on tap, my favorite is the corn maze cream ale………..spend 39 years in the beer business, sold over 700 different beers, have tasted over a 1,000…………..a pint of corn maze quenches my afternoon thirst………………

  11. Ashley Smith

    A space-themed brewery!! Sign me up–that sounds like so much fun. I’m pretty much down for anything with a theme but combine beer and space, hell yeah. Whenever I’m up that way I’m gonna check out alllll of this.

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