Cooking with Sun King: Three Times the Pachanga!

Monday, April 17, 2017


Cooking with Sun King: Three Times the Pachanga!


Warmer weather is finally here, taking you outside to enjoy spring.  Our latest seasonal release, Pachanga, is perfect for patio drinking alone but we can't stop at just that!  Today's Cooking with Sun King blog will feature two tasty Pachanga drink recipes and a Pachanga spicy taco recipe that will be sure to know your socks off.


First, let's get the party started with a drink that packs a little heat, Mamachelada.  





Servings: 4 / Active Prep Time: 5 min / Total Time: 5 min



24 oz. Hoosier Mama Bloody Mary Mix (Regular or Spicy)

2 12oz Cans Pachanga

1/3 cup Fresh Lime Juice

2 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce

1 tsp. Hot Sauce (such as Tabasco)

1 tsp. Maggi Seasoning

2 Tbsp. Kosher Salt

1/2 tsp. Chili Powder

Lime Wedges (for serving)




Mix Bloody Mary mix, Pachanga, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and Maggi Seasoning in a large pitcher.


Mix salt and chili powder on a small plate. Rub rims of pint glasses with lime wedges and dip in salt mixture. Fill glasses with ice, add Michelada mixture, and garnish with lime wedges.



To cool things down, here's a recipe that will quench your thirst, Pachangrita.





Servings: 2 / Active Prep Time: 5 min / Total Time: 5 min





3 oz Silver Tequila

1 oz Cointreau



12 oz Pachanga



⅓ Cup Lime Juice

⅓ Cup Simple Syrup

2 Slices Jalapeño

Salt Rim






Salt the rim of a pilsner glass and set aside.

Lightly muddle one jalapeño slice in a shaker.

Add ice and combine remainder of ingredients except Pachanga.

Shake vigorously and strain into a pilsner glass with a salted rim over fresh ice.

Top with Pachanga and serve.



And for your next Taco Tuesday, Carnitas tacos with Pineapple Hot Sauce!  




Carnitas tacos with Pineapple Hot Sauce

Servings: 8 / Active Prep Time: 30 min / Total Time: 3 hours





For Pork:


4 pounds skinless, boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), cut into 2" pieces

24 oz Pachanga

4 teaspoons kosher salt

Tortillas for serving

Cilantro and chopped sweet onion for garnish

Cotija cheese for garnish




For the Pineapple Hot Sauce:



1 pineapple, skin and core removed

4 habaneros, leave the seeds in or out depending on how spicy you like things

½ medium onion

4 cloves garlic

1 lime, zested and juiced

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup Pachanga

1 tablespoon pure raw honey or sweetener of choice





For Pork:


Bring pork, beer, garlic, salt, and 1 cup water to a boil in large pot. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pork is fork-tender, 60-80 minutes.

Uncover pork; simmer until liquid evaporates and pork begins to brown, 20-25 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and scraping bottom of pot, until pork is shredded and browned, 10-15 minutes.

Add 1 cup water to pork; cook, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot, for about 1 minute. DO AHEAD: Carnitas can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool. Cover and chill. Reheat with 1/2 cup water in a covered pot, adding more water if needed to keep pork moist. Serve on warmed tortillas with peach hot sauce, cilantro, onions and cotija cheese.



For the Pineapple Hot Sauce:

Combine all the ingredients together in a high powered blender or food processor and process until the sauce is completely smooth.

Once smooth, place the mixture in a pot on the stove over medium heat.

Bring to a simmer and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat, let cool and then store in the fridge.

6th Save Your Tabs Contest for Ronald McDonald House of Indiana

Monday, April 10, 2017




This is our 6th Collect Your Tabs Contest, benefitting the Ronald McDonald House of Indiana!


We challenge you, fans of Fresh•Local•Beer, to collect aluminum tabs, of all types and turn them in for prizes. Join forces with your co-workers, family, and friends to collect as many aluminum tabs (beer, soda, energy drinks, canned water) as you can now until July 8th, 2017.


We ask that all collected tabs to be turned in on Saturday, July 8th at either of our Sun King locations (Downtown Indy or Fishers Tap Room).  Those who have participated will be awarded various Sun King prizes (see below). The bounty of collected tabs will be dropped off at the Pop Tab Drop on Monument Circle on Friday, July 14th and then the Ronald McDonald House recycle all collected tabs!


Why Should You Collect Can Tabs?

Not only is the can tab important for the purpose of opening your favorite Fresh•Local•Beer, it is also a valuable resource that generates much-needed funds to cover the operating costs to run the Ronald McDonald House to support families in need. Don't forget to recycle your cans too - that is important for our environment!


Fun Facts about Tabs:

  • 1 lbs = 1,267 Tabs
  • 1 inch = 1 pop tab
    1 foot = 12 pop tabs
    1 mile = 63,360 pop tabs


    What does the Ronald McDonald House of Indiana do?

    Nearly 5,000 families are served at the House each year while their children receive life-saving treatments at Indianapolis-area hospitals, including Riley Children's Hosiptal. Over one billion tabs have been donated since the program began in 1995, generating about $700,000 in revenue. The Ronald McDonald House focuses on those families with a critically ill or injured child. The House is the only organization in Central Indiana that provides low-cost, short-term-to-long-term lodging for these families.


    Fund received from the recycled tabs adds up to $30-$50K annually. These funds go towards the operating costs of the Ronald McDonald House and will cover the costs of operating 3 rooms in the House for an entire year.


    How Can You Help?

    Help Sun King collect tabs by participating in the Save Your Tabs Challenge now until July 8th, 2017. Sun King will continue to collect tabs at various community events around town. Be sure to drop off your collected tabs on Saturday, July 8th, at either Sun King location. We will weigh your tabs and reward you with prizes, and then we’ll deliver the collective bounty of tabs to the Ronald McDonald House where it will go to help those in need.


    Reminders: Please do not use plastic soda bottles or milk jugs because they’re hard to empty! Keep in mind if the tab sticks to a magnet, it cannot be used. Please check your tabs from soup and other cans - some are aluminum and can be used; others are steel and cannot.


    Prizes are detailed below:

  • • 1 to 4.9 lbs: $5 Gift Card
  • • 5 to 9.9 lbs: $5 Gift Card and a SKB Pint Glass
  • • 10 to 19.9 lbs: $10 Gift Card
  • • 20 to 49.9 lbs: $10 Gift Card PLUS one entry in a drawing for a $100 SKB Gift Bag
  • • 50 to 99.9 lbs: $10 Gift Card, one entry for $100 SKB Gift Bag PLUS one entry in a drawing for a Private Brewery Tour/Tasting for up to 10 people
  • • 100+ lbs: $10 Gift Card, one entry for $100 SKB Gift Bag, one entry in a drawing for a Private Brewery Tour/Tasting for up to 10 people PLUS $25 Gift Card with access to the SKB Private Cellar (full of specialty cans not generally available).
  • If you want to feel even better about cracking open a can of Fresh•Local•Beer then please join in the fun and help Sun King and The Ronald McDonald House of Indiana help families in need.

  • For more information about the contest, please contact If you would like more information about the Ronald McDonald House of Indiana, please visit:

  • Bike to the Ballpark 2017: Things to Know Before You Go

    Tuesday, April 04, 2017


    7th Annual Bike to the Ballpark 


    Seven years ago we kicked off our very first Bike to the Ballpark for the Indianapolis Indians with some classically unpredictable Indiana "spring" weather.


    We have been fortunate over the years that Mother Nature has been our friend and we have been able to watch the event continue to grow with more bike enthusiasts, craft beer lovers, and baseball fans joining together for celebration and a ride through downtown Indy to Victory Field.  


    Due to the unpredictable nature of Thursday's projected forecast, we are moving the pre-game celebration at Sun King Brewery inside!  We welcome all-ages with open arms for this event.  Food trucks, La Margarita and Pi Pizza Indy, will be onsite with food.  Our community partners, Yelp Indy | The HandleBar | Freewheelin' Community Bikes | Nine13sports | Indy Criterium Bicycle Festival | Indy YMCA | Naptown Roller Derby, will be hanging out in the brewery with some fun activities.  Our tasting room will have 12 different styles of Fresh•Local•Beer for you to choose from (click here for an updated list).


    The ride is still on course!  Mayor Joe Hogsett is scheduled to lead the ride with a 6pm departure time.  Here's a map of the 2017 Bike Route:



    Be sure to pre-register your bikes for the ride here .  Our bike pals at IndyCog are hosting the Pedal and Park in front of the Convention Center across the street from Victory Field (Maryland Street entrance).  If you are interested in volunteering, click here .  


    Once we arrive to Victory Field for #OpeningNight, be sure to enjoy one of our highlighted Fresh•Local•Beer selection at the Sun King mobile tap located on the Plaza to kick of Thursday Night Craft Beer Nights:    



    Indians Lager
    Alrye’d Alrye’d Alrye’d Rye IPA
    Sunlight Cream Ale
    Pachanga Mexican Lager
    After Party Apricot Sour
    Small Batch Maibock


    Parking at the brewery may be limited due to our shared parking lot.  So please plan ahead.   Please be sure to dress for the weather and thank you for joining us for the 7th Annual Bike to the Ballpark . #RollTribe


    If you have any questions, please email 

    Sun King Community Partner Spotlight: Child Advocates

    Thursday, March 16, 2017


    Child Advocates is the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program appointed by the Marion County Superior Court, Juvenile Division, to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children. We fulfill our mission through advocacy, monitoring, evaluation, fact-finding and mediation. Volunteers assist our professional staff in each child’s case to ensure children do not get lost in the system, that their needs are met during the course of our involvement, and that a safe and permanent home is found for them as soon as possible. The volunteer’s input is not only invaluable in representing the child, but, without his/her involvement, the child has no one to advocate solely for his/her best interest in court.


    Our court appointed special advocate volunteers act as fact-finders for judges, providing them with information on each child that they may not otherwise obtain. They gather educational, medical, and therapy records, and also review information from Court documents and social workers’ files. They speak with each child, as well as their family members, school officials, health care providers, and other professionals who are involved in the child’s life. Our volunteers use this information, as well as firsthand observations, to advocate for the child in Court and school, and in other aspects of their lives. Our role is to consider what is in the child’s best interest and to make certain that each child’s individual needs are met.

    Child Advocates is appointed to every child abuse and neglect case in Marion County. Child Advocates represented 8,833 children in 2016, which is an increase of over 52% in the last two years.


    The number of children who need a voice, a CASA volunteer, has never been greater.


    If you are interested in learning how to become a volunteer, please visit us at or contact

    Dionne Jones at (317) 493-2240.







    Cooking with Sun King: St. Patrick's Day Beer Cocktails

    Wednesday, March 08, 2017

    Sick of the same old green beer for St. Patrick's Day?  Look no more!  Impress your Irish guests with one of these Beer Cocktails featuring Sun King's Ring of Dingle Irish-Style Dry Stout.  You can purchase Ring of Dingle at your local grocery or liquor store in 6-pack 12oz cans or by stopping by one of our Sun King locations for a growler fill.



    Ring of Dingle Martini

    Servings: 2 / Active Prep Time: 5 min / Total Time: 5 min




    2 oz. Dark Rum

    2 oz. Cold Brew Coffee

    1 oz. Vodka

    1 oz. Creme de Cacao

    6 oz. Ring of Dingle Irish-Style Stout




    Pour all ingredients except beer into a Boston shaker with ice.  

    Stir until chilled 12-15 times.

    Strain into 2 martini glasses and top each with Ring of Dingle Irish-Style Stout.





    Dingle Cream Soda

    Servings: 2 / Active Prep Time: 5 min / Total Time: 5 min




    4 oz. Ginger Liqueur

    4 oz. Vanilla Liqueur

    3 oz. Club Soda

    3 oz. Ring of Dingle Irish-Style Stout




    Make sure all ingredients are chilled before preparing this drink.

    Combine the ginger and vanilla liqueurs in a chilled pint glass.  Add club soda and stir gently.  Slowly pour Ring of Dingle into the glass, using the back of a spoon.



    Boat Ride
    Servings: 2 / Active Prep Time: 5 min / Total Time: 5 min





    6 oz. Ring of Ding Dry Irish-Style Stout

    1 oz. Bourbon

    1 oz. Amaro Liqueur

    1/2 oz. Honey Syrup




    Add bourbon, amaro, honey syrup, and 3 dashes of bitters to a shaker filled with ice.

    Shake and strain into a chilled brandy snifter glass.

    Garnish with an orange slice.


    Sun King Community Partner Spotlight: Red Cross Month

    Wednesday, March 01, 2017


    The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. Across the country and around the world, the American Red Cross responds to disasters big and small. In fact, every eight minutes, the organization responds to a community disaster, providing shelter, food, emotional support and other necessities to those affected. The Red Cross collects nearly 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply; provides 24-hour support to military members, veterans and their families; teaches millions lifesaving skills, such as lifeguarding and CPR; and through its Restoring Family Links program, connects family members separated by crisis, conflict or migration. All of the inner workings of the Red Cross have a major impact on the fabric of society. So much so, that President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the first Presidential Proclamation of March as Red Cross Month in 1943.



    Each year, the president of the United States proclaims March "Red Cross Month.” This month is used as a chance to honor and celebrate the everyday heroes who help us fulfill our mission. The American Red Cross has a long history of helping our neighbors in need. American Red Cross Monthisa special time to recognize and thank volunteers and donors who give their time and resources to help their community in state, throughout the country and across the globe.



    The support and help of each donor and volunteer alike have remained invaluable, since the start of the Red Cross movement. Helping families find shelter after a home fire, giving blood to help trauma victims and cancer patients, delivering comfort items to military members in the hospital, using lifesaving skills to save someone from a heart attack and enabling children around the globe to be vaccinated against measles are important aspects of the Red Cross’ commitment to alleviating human suffering and promoting resiliency.


    The American Red Cross will continue to applaud all those people who continue to help their neighbors when they need a helping hand.


    Fresh• Local• Beer and Girl Scout Cookie Pairings

    Monday, February 13, 2017

    It's that time of year again.  Girls Scout Cookie time!  The Sun King Crew selected some of our beers to celebrate the season with and a collection of cookie-and-beer pairings.



    Trefoils  -  This delightful traditional shortbread cookie pairs well with Sun King's Sunlight Cream Ale.  The pairing brings out almond notes and the buttery cookie crumble.  Alternate beer pairing:   Ring of Dingle Irish-Style Dry Stout


    S'mores -  New to this year's Girl Scout Cookie lineup, S'mores.  This isn't your traditional gooey fireside s'more but as you bite into the cookie, it tastes just  like one.  The chocolatey, marshmallowy, graham cracker crunch comes out with the pairing of one of our House Beers,  Wee Mac Scottish-Style Ale


    Tagalongs - The chocolate, peanut butter, and cookie layers may remind you of one of your favorite candy bars!  This rich cookie pairs well with Wee Muckle (Wee Heavy), highlighting the peanut butter, brown sugar, and baking spiciness of the cookie.  The cookie itself brings out the caramel sweetness and brown sugar notes of the beer.  Alternate beer pairing:  Sun King King's Reserve Velvet Fog

    Toffee-tastic -  The gluten-free option of the Girl Scout cookies, Toffee-tastic packs a punch with the rich shortbread taste of the cookie and the chucks of golden toffee bits.  What's not gluten-free is the Small-Batch Sink the Clipper ESB.  The beer brings out the breadiness of the cookie.


    Samoas -  If you enjoy caramel and toasted coconut, then this is your cookie!  Our preferred pairing is the Sun King King's Reserve Velvet Fog.  

    The complexity of the fresh cherries and warm notes from bourbon barrel aging of this Gold Medal winning beer play on the caramel and fruit notes of the cookie.  There's a slight tropical note that lingers along with the fruitiness of the cookie.  Alternate beer pairing:  Wee Muckle



    Do-si-dos -  It's peanut butter jelly time!  We couldn't help ourselves, we instantly grabbed for two time GABF medal winning Sun King King's Reserve Cherry Busey.  The tartness of the cherries notes in the beer and the peanut butter sandwich of the cookie make you feel like having a PBnJ everyday.


    Savannah Smiles - A powder sugar covered and lemony-flavored cookie partnered with an Osiris Pale Ale equals zesty citrus bombs of orange and grapefruit (from the hops) in your mouth.  


    Thin Mints - Last by not least, the hard to resist eating just one, Thin Mint cookie!  The lovely minty core of this chocolatey cookie pairs well with Sun King's Ring of Dingle Irish-Style Dry Stout.  This pairing gives your tastebuds a chocolate peppermint iced coffee feel.  





    How Did I Get Here: Jamey Wray

    Monday, February 13, 2017

    Sun King Brewery was the first production brewery to open it's doors in 2009 since the Indianapolis Brewing Company closed it's doors in 1948.  As we look forward to this summer and celebrating our 8th anniversary, we also celebrate opening a second location at the Fishers Tap Room and Small Batch Brewery.  We opened our doors to the Sun King Tap Room in July 2015.  There were a great deal of people that were instrumental with the opening of the Sun King Tap Room location including today's How Did I Get Here Blog featured employee, Jamey Wray.  


    Jamey's path to Sun King was somewhat tradition as he came from another Indiana craft brewery, however, like many of us working in the brewery industry, that is not how his career started out.  A veteran in the craft beer industry, Jamey has been with Sun King Brewery for nearly 4 years and has been in his role as Tasting Room Manager for almost two years.


    You can follow Jamey's daily routine for the next three days - by heading to the Sun King Brewing Instagram. (SunKingBrewing)






    How Did I Get Here?


    Name: Jamey Wray


    Nicknames:  "Lunchbox"

    When asked why Lunchbox, Jamey told us the story of how at the previous brewery that he worked at, the head brewer always wanted to nickname someone Lunchbox.  It was a running joke at the brewery and the head brewer never had the chance to nickname anyone Lunchbox during Jamey's time there.  A little back story, after you've been with Sun King Brewery for a year, you are gifted a Sun King logoed carhartt jacket that proudly displays your chosen nickname.  You do not get to pick what your nickname is!  Jamey shared that story with co-founder and giver of nicknames, Dave Colt, and the rest is history.  


    Duties/Job Title:

    Fishers Tap Room Manager.  His daily duties include scheduling employees, ordering supplies, keeping the peace, putting out figurative fires, and serving  patrons Fresh•Local•Beer.


    Where are you from/ where is your Hometown:  

    Bedford, IN - for those of you that are Hoosier Basketball fans, this is the also the hometown to Indiana University grad and All-American Damon Bailey.  


    What's it like being a tasting room manager?  

    "It's a lot of fun!  I get to meet a bunch of new people, work with my awesome crew, and use my various skills to make it a fun place to work." 


    How did you end up at Sun King?  

    Jamey graduated from Indiana Universally in the spring of 2009 and he landed in a cubical job in publishing.  He left that job for the craft beer industry and started working at Upland Brewing (Bloomington, IN) in the fall of 2009.  His career at Upland took him from washing kegs, to a bottling line operator, to packing manager, then to cellerman.  Once his wife graduated from school, they decided that they would like to move to Indianapolis.  Jamey contacted Sun King to inquire about any open positions at the brewery.  He interviewed with former Sun King president Omar Robinson for a cellerman position.  He worked on the Sun King production team as a cellerman for two years before he decided that he wanted to do something different within the company.  That lead him to applying for the Tap Room manager position.  


    What are your hobbies outside of work?  

    Changing diapers for his 18 month old daughter!  Playing video games and table top games with friends.  Jamey is also a "Star Wars nerd".  He has a collection of Star Wars memorabilia and his bathroom is decked out in Star Wars including a Darth Vader shower curtain.


    What is your favorite thing about working at Sun King Brewery?  

    The great group of people that he gets to work with side by side.


    What might someone be surprised to know about you?  

    Jamey has watched every episode of Always Sunny in Philadelphia about 10 times!  When asked to rank his top favorite episodes: "The Nightman Cometh"; "Charlie Work"; "Char-Dee-Mac-Dennis" 


    What is your favorite style of beers?  



    What is your favorite Sun King Beer?  

    Cherry Busey and Alrye'd Alrye'd Alrye'd


    What has been one of your most rewarding experiences about working for Sun King?  

    Being a part of the setup of the Tap Room from the beginning and watching the impact that it has on the Fishers community.


    What was your first job?  

    He was a line cook at Bob Evans when he was 16 years old.


    Who is your favorite musician or album that you can play on repeat?  

    Lately Chris Stapleton and Childish Gambino


    What is your favorite film?  

    The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly 


    Anything else we should know?  

    Every pet that Jamey has owned since is first apartment has been named after a Lord of the Rings character.  Pippen the cat and Elrond the Fish to name two!




    Community Partner Spotlight: COTA

    Tuesday, February 07, 2017

    COTA: Children's Organ Transplant Association


    Founded in 1986, the Indiana-based Children's Organ Transplant Association ( ) is a 501(c)3 charity dedicated to supporting families of children and young adults who need life-savingorgan transplants. Two key tenets of COTA support are noteworthy, and set us apart from all other transplant fundraising organizations. Transplant patients/families are not charged for COTA services, and 100% of every dollar contributed in honor of patients is used for transplant-related expenses. This support has been provided to transplant families who live in all 50 states and who represent a diverse combination of ethnic, economic, religious and social backgrounds.

    Thirty years ago, COTA’s first family began their transplant journey in Bloomington, Indiana. These young parents learned their son had a rare disease and needed a liver transplant to survive. They also learned he would be excluded from the organ waiting list because their insurance carrier would not cover all costs for the surgery and lifetime follow-up care. Like many others before them, these young parents could not afford the difference that remained. When their extended family members, friends and local community leaders learned of their desperate situation, hundreds responded immediately. School children gave their allowances and went door-to-door collecting loose change. Friends took coin canisters to the local county fair and asked for donations. Local political leaders interceded with insurance companies on their behalf. Within weeks, the community raised more than $100,000, which enabled the child to be placed on the liver transplant waiting list.



    Tragically, this toddler died before an organ became available. But this was not the end of the story. Instead, it was the beginning because this young couple and their key volunteers had the vision to found the Children’s Organ Transplant Association.


    Each day for the past three decades, our staff members have heard countless comments from parents about the tremendous life-saving impact their local team of community volunteers had on their child’s life and their entire family. Because of COTA’s nationwide network of Miracle Makers (like Sun King Brewery), thousands of transplant families have benefited from contributions totaling more than $100 million from a myriad of committed volunteers and supporters.


    COTA’s staff members and volunteers not only help to raise funds to meet transplant-related expenses, but continue to support our families throughout a patient’s lifetime.



    COTA volunteers and contributors provide countless hours of service, tremendous emotional support and generous financial assistance in honor of our transplant families. COTA’s team of experienced and dedicated professionals strive each day to make sure that transplant-needy kids and young adult receive a second chance at life.

    SKB 8 Announcement: Parker Millsap

    Wednesday, February 01, 2017




    Sun King is thrilled to announce that Parker Millsap will be headlining the Sun King 8th Anniversary Party on Saturday, June 24th, 2017.


    Millsap, voted 10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: March 2016 by Rolling Stone, is an American singer-songwriter from Oklahoma.  His music is inspired by country, blues, and rock n' roll.  At 23 years-old, Millsap's voice packs a punch that captivates audiences.  He has opened for Old Crow Medicine, Jason Isbell, Lucinda Williams, and Shovels & Ropes.  


    Parker Millsap will be joined by DJ Helicon and other Special Guests at the SKB 8 and release of GFJ on Saturday, June 24th at Sun King Brewery.   Tickets to the event are on sale now for special limited time offer of $10.  (Tickets will be $20 Day of Show.)  You can purchase your tickets by stopping by our downtown Indy brewery location, Fishers Tap Room location, or online here.  More event information to be announced.  




    Parker Millsap


    The Very Last Day


    Parker Millsap didn’t know not to sing like this. Listening to old albums as a kid alone in his room, he didn’t realize howling like a Delta blues ghost readying the world for rock-and-roll isn’t a how skinny white boy from Purcell, Oklahoma usually sounds.


    “I was listening to records from the 20s and 40s, and the voices that came out were otherworldly,” Millsap says. “I was really attracted to that. At the same time, I grew up doing congregational singing in church––you know, everybody stands up, grabs a hymnal, turns to number 162, and sings ‘I’ll Fly Away’ at the top of their lungs. I learned to sing in that context, where nobody’s listening to you. We are all just singing.”


    People not listening to Millsap could only last so long––not just because the arresting power of his voice cuts through any crowd, but also because the 22 year-old is always reaching for something worth saying.


    New album The Very Last Day (Okrahoma Records/Thirty Tigers) proves an ideal vehicle for Millsap’s message, delivered via gospel-tinged rock-and-roll poetry. In the midst of a world so fond of condemnation as entertainment, Millsap offers open-armed love of people and their stories. Whether he’s singing from the perspective of a young gay man longing for his evangelical father’s acceptance, or as the King of the Underworld wild with passion, his character-driven songs mine deep wells of joy and despair to create gut-punching narratives that are sometimes hellish, sometimes heavenly, and always human.


    The Very Last Day is the anticipated follow-up to his 2014 eponymous record, which netted him high-profile praise from NPR, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and others, as well as a nomination for Americana Emerging Artist of the Year. Millsap is young, but he isn’t green. He has been playing in bands since junior high and recording since he was 16. “For a long time, we’d go play gigs around Oklahoma and Texas, and there was not a lot of press,” Millsap says, reflecting on recent accolades. “I just thought, ‘I like doing this more than I like working construction.’” He laughs and pauses. “When people started noticing, there was this new, weird pressure.”


    Millsap responded to the pressure by assembling a cast of new and old friends and heading to the studio. “We got to go make a record that I didn’t think I’d ever have the opportunity to make,” he says, before adding with characteristic sincerity, “I got to make a really cool album with my friends. And I’m grateful.”


    Produced by Gary Paczosa (Alison Krauss, Dixie Chicks, Dolly Parton) and Millsap, and engineered/mixed by Paczosa and Shani Gandhi, The Very Last Day was recorded at Dockside Studio in Maurice, Louisiana. Millsap recently moved to Nashville from Guthrie, Oklahoma, but while recording, he lived at the Louisiana studio with musicians including fiddle player Daniel Foulks, drummer Paddy Ryan, and bassist Mike Rose, the latter of whom has been his best friend and bandmate since middle school.

    Millsap wrote all but one of the eleven songs on The Very Last Day. The album demands serious solitary listening even as it begs to be the soundtrack for a weekend roadtrip with friends, and clearly delights in having it both ways. The trio of devilish fiddle, poignant acoustic guitar, and thundering upright bass that originally won audiences over is now joined by a chorus of instruments including percussion, piano, and Millsap himself on growling electric guitar that until this record, he’d only dreamed of incorporating. And of course, Millsap’s haunting voice is on magnificent display: it’s wickedly guttural but can turn on a dime to hypnotically soothe listeners like a songbird.


    “Hades Pleads” kicks off the album with heart-racing aplomb. Millsap swoons and pants as he channels the devil in love, inspired by Greek mythology’s Hades and Persephone. A long black train roars through the track, as Millsap puts Death on a different sort of prowl. “Hands Up” is a foot-stomper that tells the story of a convenience store hold-up from the point of view of the robber, before, as Millsap says, “they put a picture of him on the TV as people try to find him because he’s now officially a bad guy. I don’t think he’s all bad.” The smoldering “A Little Fire” mulls over the paradoxical destruction and hope in different kinds of blazes, while “Wherever You Are” hawks the freedom of being you, even in narrow-minded places. “You Gotta Move,” the only song on the record Millsap didn’t write, is a blues-soaked vocal showcase.


    The religious imagery and characters so stirring in Millsap’s attention-grabbing last release are here as well, although Millsap does not consider himself religious these days. But like many artists in any medium, Millsap often uses spiritual teachings, imagery and traditions to explore what is quintessentially human. He uses the approach with sublime effectiveness in “Heaven Sent,” a beautiful standout on an album rich in transcendent moments. The song’s tortured young gay protagonist asks his Christian father question after question about the limits of his and Jesus’s love. “You say that it’s a sin, but it’s how I’ve always been / Did you love me when he was just my friend?” Millsap cries, pleading but defiant. He typically writes his songs in the first-person perspective. The result is always intimate, but in “Heaven Sent,” it’s especially compelling. The song is subversive and moving without employing an ounce of hate. Add the knowledge that Millsap, a young straight man, is singing as a young gay man, and the tune also carries a real-life dimension of empathy and solidarity.


    The title track starts with a nod to the Louvin Brothers before heralding nuclear apocalypse. It’s another example of Millsap’s penchant for using folkloric music and stories as the framework for modern observations. In “The Very Last Day,” Millsap’s narrator takes the day of reckoning out of God’s hands and places it squarely on the shoulders of men––“Ain’t no sweet chariot is gonna come for to carry everybody home / No instead, it’s gonna be a bomb. And here it comes!” Sauntering and darkly euphoric, it’s Millsap’s favorite of the new tunes to perform live.


    “I was living in Guthrie when I wrote a lot of these songs,” Millsap explains. “Oklahoma in the winter looks post-apocalyptic. We don’t have a lot of evergreen trees, and the grass turns brown to the point of colorlessness. Everything just looks like skeletons and grayness.” He was also reading Stephen King’s The Stand and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road while binge watching The Walking Dead. “Some people just want to watch the world burn,” Millsap says. “A lot of the songs I grew up singing in church are about the end of the world, so it wasn’t uncomfortable for me to go there. It’s fun.”


    “Tribulation Hymn” closes the album as an unforgettable picture of isolation and regret. The Day of Judgment has come and gone, and Millsap’s protagonist has been left behind. He leaves listeners with the image of a chorus of crows, singing in the rafters above the narrator in an empty church.


    As Millsap sings his stories about lonesomeness and longing, the supernatural and the ordinary, even the saddest portraits become loving odes to everyday humanity. “I’ve learned to trust people before I’ve learned to distrust them, which can be dangerous,” he says. “But yeah. I do like people. I think you have to. What else are you going to like?”