Anderson On Tap Festival Continues as Catalyst For Downtown Renaissance
Why would a city without a brewery host a craft beer festival? As it turns out, that’s a great way to recruit breweries to your town. The Anderson On Tap Festival is a good chance to showcase the downtown and try to draw any kind of business, including a brewery, to open in the downtown corridor.
The second annual Anderson On Tap Craft Beer Festival was held this past Saturday at the Dickman Town Center right in the heart of downtown Anderson. The festival is the brainchild of Indiana On Tap team who approached Levi Rinker, the Downtown Specialist for the Anderson Economic Development Department – a smart guy, an artist, and a craft beer drinker.
Levi was studying art several years ago and initiated a 2012 public art project called The Walking Man Project, bringing businesses, artist and the community together by celebrating the arts via giant walking sculptures. Rinker printed walking maps also that people could walk around town and find them all. It was a great success and highlighted the need for projects that could feature the downtown in order to stimulate economic growth.
The four P’s of Levi’s job – properties, programs, problems and possibilities. Levi does whatever he can think of to attract people and businesses to the downtown area. But the problems are several – when the I-69 corridor was built, it was far enough from downtown to create a separate commercial center the bypass and the downtown suffered as a result.
On the other hand, Anderson has a lot going for it in terms of programs and amenities. There is a symphony, arts programs, a university and all it brings – but somehow there was a disconnect to these institutions in the public mind and many of the businesses left the downtown in recent decades.
But when we visit Anderson, we see the beautiful buildings, the public spaces and the ample parking. Slowly, thanks to the efforts of the Anderson city government, the tide is starting to turn. And Anderson On Tap craft beer festival has had something to do with that. The beer festival brings with it the possibility of attracting businesses into the gorgeous downtown properties.
Held at the Dickman Town Center on Meridian Street, there is ample room for public events, and the buildings around it are just gorgeous. The rear is the historic YMCA building, dedicated in 1918. To the south of the town center is Diamond Block and the Monument Block. The facades of these buildings have been preserved so that the history of the city is still visible.
However, the queen of downtown is the Paramount Theatre and Ballroom. Built for vaudeville and the Golden Age of Hollywood, the Spanish architecture and history of the theater was almost lost to the wrecking ball in 1989. Brought back to its original beauty, the theatre played a large role in the craft beer festival held Saturday.
Anderson On Tap opened at one o’clock for the VIPs. This allowed them to taste some special beers, including a fantastic offering from Rock Bottom called Clown Town. This imperial stout was allowed to sit on vanilla, chocolate and cinnamon for nine months in bourbon barrels. It was the hit of the day at Rock The Junction and brought back to Anderson as sort of an encore and extra bow.
But perhaps more importantly, it gave them access to the Paramount Theatre for more private tastings and the use of their restrooms. As anyone who has attended many craft beer festivals can attest, bathrooms are a crucial feature. Anderson On Tap had enough for the day, but perhaps this was precisely because the inside bathrooms were available to those who bought VIP tickets.
The General Admission ticket holders then came in at 2:00 and the beer really started to flow. After a while, the heat and the sun didn’t matter; people were getting happier through beer and enjoying themselves. The nearly twenty breweries who attended included some festival stalwarts (Flat 12 Bierwerks, Bier Brewery), as well as some recent and up-and-coming breweries (Moontown Brewing, Centerpoint Brewing), as well as Creatures of Habit Brewing – more on them later. It was also nice to see a couple of breweries from nearby Muncie, New Corner and The Guardian.
Along with the food from Tipsy Turvey Pubcakes (cupcakes), Pork Paradise and The Big Easy, and the three bands (Str8-Shooters, The Walker Band, and The Stampede String Band), all the amenities made the afternoon was a success. It was nice to have the brewery booths scattered about the town center, the bands up on the stage, and eighteen different artist booths with local and Indiana crafts for sale and display. With the sunny weather and warm temperatures and all this good beer and entertainment, the afternoon was a pleasant stroll through central Indiana craft beer and artistry. This is now two festivals in a row where the expected rain didn’t show, or ended just as the festival began (Mishawaka) – let’s hope our luck holds out for the rest of the summer.
And this was important for Levi and his efforts for Anderson economic development. The success of the festival has definitely paid dividends in terms of recruiting a brewery to downtown; last year’s festival was instrumental in the establishment of Kettle Top Brewhouse and the future Creatures of Habit Brewing.Levi had been working for almost three years to recruit a brewery to town with tax incentives and help with business plans that almost brought some home brewers into Anderson to make the decision to go pro, but nothing could be finalized. This was when home brewers Dan Hiles and Dan Stachowiak came to the rescue.
Dan Hiles and his wife Calli have lived in Anderson for a decade or so, and very much appreciate the town. He had the idea to open a brewery while working a full time job at the Nestle Corp. Dan Stachowiak’s wife is a native Anderson resident and she moved back to Anderson with Dan the beer maker about three years ago. Dan H. wanted to open a brewery but thought that a bar/brewhouse would be a good opening step, educating the public before they brought their own beers on. Another partner stepped aside for Dan S. to step in and co-development the project with Dan H.
While Dan and Calli own Kettle Top, Dans H. and S. will be a partner with Creatures of Habit Brewing, to be located on the corner of Meridian and the Town Center. There will be a small pilot system in the taproom there and a 3 BBL system offsite to produce more beer for Kettle Top, Creatures taproom and other accounts in the future. By the way, that other partner that stepped aside (Dale Van Deraa) has joined with the Oakley Bros. Distillery to open CT Doxey Brewing with the Oakley Bros. So Anderson is going from zero to two craft breweries in a very short period of time.
CT Doxey also poured as a home brewer at Anderson On Tap – this was one of the strongest features of the festival. Five different home brewers displayed their wares for the people. Home brewers are the backbone of the industry and we should try to support them as often as possible. Besides Creatures of Habit and CT Doxey, Colt Carpenter and Paul McGuire were also pouring. Colt is a brewer for Wooden Bear, which also attended the festival so Colt had double duty, people drinking both his home brew and his Wooden Bear beer.
The Dans (and brother Dave Hiles) plan to have Creatures of Habit up and brewing by late summer to early autumn , but they brought their first products to the festival – as home brews. Their beers included an IPA, and IIPA, and Irish Red, a coffee porter and a continuously hopped Belgian White that was very interesting. Some of these beers will be flagships for Creatures of Habit, but there will be seasonals as well. The Creatures taproom will have 15 taps, while the close by Kettle Top has twelve taps.
But why is a brewery(s) so important to Anderson’s efforts at revitalization? Levi explained to me that breweries and craft beer bars are excellent for driving revitalization for urban areas. The walk up business helps neighboring businesses, and 83-87 cents of every dollar spent at a brewery stays within the community. What is more, nearly five jobs are created throughout the community for every one job created by a brewery, so craft beer definitely has an expanding effect on the economics of the town.
Therefore, the Anderson On Tap Festival started as a way to recruit businesses, specifically a brewery, and this has been wondrously successful. But on top of that, now the festival has developed into an event that flourishes on its own merits. And those merits also included a nice after party in the Paramount Theatre that was open to attendees and the public.
There was beer and liquor sales and food for purchase at the after party, but the main attraction was the free concert by DJ Matthew UpChurch. The theatre was a great venue for this, just walking around looking at the art and architecture was a great time. But in truth, many of the attendees split their time after the festival between the after party at the Paramount and Kettle Top Brewhouse, whose front door opens onto the Dickman Town Center, less than one hundred feet from the Paramount and right next door the heavenly smells and tastes of Ribs Express. Talking with Dan H. over a pint, one can feel the enthusiasm for making craft beer in Anderson again, and for the rebirth of this downtown via the efforts of Levi Rinker, Dan Hiles, Dan Stachowak, Dale Van Deraa, Indiana On Tap….. and the art of craft beer.