Anderson On Tap Proves the Future is Bright for the City’s Craft Beer Fans
On a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon in early June, craft beer fans descended on Anderson in Madison County, Indiana, for the Anderson on Tap beer festival. Dickman Town Center, a lovely town square with a fountain and plenty of grass and shade trees, was filled with brewery tents for the four hour celebration of Hoosier beer. Launched as Anderson BrewFest in 2014 and rebranded in 2016 when Indiana on Tap took over the management of the event at the invitation of the city, Anderson on Tap was sponsored once again this year by Keg-N-Bottle, Anderson’s premier craft beer bottle shop.
Several breweries from the nearby Indianapolis craft scene were on hand, including Flat 12 Bierwerks, Round Town Brewery, Moontown Brewing, Tow Yard Brewing, Brew Link, Centerpoint Brewing, and Bier Brewery. Round Town poured one of the more unique beers at the event with their Irish Coffee Ale, a coffee-infused Irish red ale with nutty, light roast coffee flavors that made me think of sitting in a coffeeshop on a sunny Spring morning. Bier Brewery brought several award-winning beers, including their Special “K” Kolsch. Indianapolis is actually the sister city to Cologne, Germany (where the Kolsch style originates), as Centerpoint Brewing explained to me when pouring a sample of their Gold, which offers another fine take on the style. Centerpoint’s Berliner Weisse was also worth checking out, with restrained lactic tartness and a beautiful wheat cracker malt foundation that is often overlooked in more flamboyant examples of the German capital’s signature style.
Taxman Brewing, from just south of Indianapolis in Bargersville, brought their stable of Belgian and French-inspired beers, including several abbey styles and their flagship La Maison saison, a unique take on the farmhouse classic that uses American hops to bring a touch of citrus and pine to the rustic, yeast-driven character of the Saison style. At an unofficial after party later in the evening at Kettle Top Brewhouse on the square, Taxman also poured their Strawberry Rhubarb Wit-Held and Field Audit Belgian golden strong ales.
While all attendees to Anderson on Tap were permitted unlimited samples, VIP ticket holders were also given access to the Paramount Theatre, a stunningly gorgeous 1929 movie palace and concert venue that offered much-needed air conditioning and access to some special beers being poured on stage. Perhaps the biggest treat on this special list was Rock Bottom’s ‘Clown Town,’ a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout with coconut, chocolate, and cinnamon, a luscious, velvety sipper that had more than one attendee clutching the handrails while descending from the stage.
The Paramount Theatre is the crown jewel of Anderson’s ongoing downtown revitalization. The city has seen a few rough economic decades recently, but the downtown business area is beginning to bounce back. The Paramount was built in 1929 and designed by John Eberson, who was famed for “atmospheric theatres,” performance spaces that were reminiscent of exotic settings. The Paramount is designed to evoke a Moorish courtyard in sixteenth century Spain, and features elaborate wall facades, a painted ceiling with simulated clouds and stars, recessed lighting, and a working Grand Page pipe organ. It offered a cool and classy setting for enjoying some wonderful beers during the festival.
On the grassroots side of Anderson’s rebirth lies A Town Center, a non-profit organization currently renovating an old building on the square to use as a community arts center. The organization crowdfunded money to renovate the location, which will offer free studio space to artists and host a wide variety of arts-focused events for the community. Program Director Sonia Caldwell showed off the project she’s a part of with evident pride, and looks forward to giving Anderson artists a place to create and share their work.
Several breweries hope to contribute to Anderson’s rejuvenation in the coming year as well. A few area homebrewers have decided to go pro, and were on hand to share their sudsy offerings and raise interest in their upcoming public openings. I spoke with Dale Van Deraa, founding brewer of C.T. Doxey Brewing, who will be sharing space with Oakley Brothers Distillery when the artisan distiller opens downtown later this year. Dale worked at a variety of esteemed western breweries before deciding to strike out on his own, including Phoenix’s Arizona Wilderness and Denver’s River North and Breckenridge. At Anderson on Tap, he poured me a glass of his Spruce Tip Wheat Ale, a unique beer that had subtle smokey flavors and a solid spruce punch. The beer was brewed with spruce tips picked from his backyard and finished with Simcoe and Citra hops. In addition to sharing a taproom, Van Deraa and the Oakley brothers have plans to collaborate on a set of complementary potent potables. C.T. Doxey will brew a beer that will then be distilled into a whiskey by Oakley. The barrels used for that spirit will then be used to age a new batch of the same beer. Anderson drinkers can expect a lot of creativity from this new joint venture.
Creatures of Habit Brewing had the privilege of setting up their tent directly in front of the property they will soon occupy, right on the Dickman Town Center square. Founder Daniel Stachowiak poured several wonderful brews, including their SMaSH (single malt and single hop) Ale brewed with 2-row pale malt and Amarillo hops.
Once both of these breweries are off the ground, Anderson craft beer drinkers will be able to enjoy great local brews year-round.
Several breweries from nearby Muncie and the surrounding rural communities were also in attendance, including New Corner Brewing, who poured their excellent ESB, The Guardian Brewing Company, whose 12% ABV behemoth Skrunski Russian oatmeal stout was popular in at the VIP station, and Wooden Bear Brewing, whose Mosaic Pale Ale showed off the delicate expressiveness of the popular hop varietal.
Anderson on Tap is a fantastic regional beer fest, and promises to get even bigger and better in future years. Justin Knepp, founder of Indiana on Tap, said the event sold nearly twice as many tickets this year than last year. “It’s just a great event, and a great thing for downtown Anderson,” said Knepp when he had a rare moment to relax as the festival wound down in the late afternoon.
Musical acts The Walker Band, The Str8 Shooters, and The Stampede String Band entertained from the Dickman Town Center’s performance stage as drinkers enjoyed great snacks from the food trucks, perused the craft and art vendors, and, of course, took advantage of the unlimited beer samples.
Make plans to attend Anderson on Tap in 2018 and see what this great city has to offer. If all goes as planned, the city will have a couple breweries of its own to show off at next year’s festival as C.T. Doxey and Creatures of Habit get on their feet. It’s a testament to how far the craft beer scene has come in just a few decades that a small city in rural Indiana can put on this kind of show and announce the opening of several breweries of its own. The future is bright indeed for beer fans in Anderson and all around the Hoosier state.