06 Apr A destination brewery in Martinsville? You read that correctly!!!
Until recently the only destination spot for me in Martinsville, IN was my parents’ house out in the country off of State Highway 44. That changed on Easter weekend this year. On my way to Brown County I stopped in for a visit with Bryce Elsner and Brandon Fry at Cedar Creek Brewing, and to sample some of their beers. The brewery sits inside Cedar Creek Winery, but has its own taproom. The property is beautiful and includes a couple of barns, goats, two outdoor seating areas, and is surrounded by farm land. Because the winery existed first, and has the appropriate licensing I was able to take my beer outside, walk around the property, and have an experience with a beer that is usually reserved for wine enthusiasts.
Bryce Elsner opened Cedar Creek Brewery one year ago this coming May as part of his family’s five year old winery. His experience is limited, but he cut his teeth as volunteer labor at local breweries absorbing everything he could. Most notably, Bryce spent time in Nashville, IN learning from former Quaff On! brewer Mark Havens. To build on this he hired an experienced home brewer and winemaker named Brandon Fry as his Associate Head Brewer. Brandon brings 15 years of winemaking and 10 years of home brewing history to Cedar Creek. You can typically find the duo brewing early in the mornings due to Brandon’s other job in pharmaceuticals. The varied experience of the two brewers lends itself to the creation of not only some tasty beers, but also some mad science when it comes to equipment.
The two barrel system Bryce and Brandon brew on is a bit like the monster from Mary Shelley’s book Frankenstein. The equipment includes a couple of custom drilled and tapped wine fermenters, a custom Honeywell system, some wine kettles, a custom built rack to house the brew system, and many other components from industries other than brewing. It makes for great conversation if you get to tour the back. In fact, you may learn Bryce in interested in selling those custom wine fermenters at a reasonable price.
One of my favorite questions to ask a brewer and/or owner is what their epiphany beer is. I have found most often a person’s interest in brewing grows after having one specific beer. It is interesting to me that Brandon chose a beer he drank after he began home brewing. He began home brewing because someone told it was faster than making wine. Shortly after a friend suggested he try Bells Black Note, and Brandon realized the quality of beer he could be making. Brewing also allows him to feed his two US Title Champion Clydesdales (Under Saddle) spent grain for free. If you are lucky, you might be at the brewery on a day when Brandon rides one of his champions the five miles from his home to work.
I love hearing the positive from brewers and I always ask what their biggest surprises have been. So far the support and respect locally has been a bit overwhelming. There is a constant request for beer from new and existing accounts and there are requests to brew custom beers. Brandon stated, “It’s entertaining that we have kicked big beer out of some taps locally at chain restaurants.”
They keep adding to the property, making it a destination versus a place you visit because you are in town. The next addition is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2016, when Cedar Creek will be adding a wholesale distillery built next the barn. Since it will be wholesale there will not be a tap room for at least three years, but with the local support they have already received there should be no problem finding shelf space. Adding the appropriate licensing at the winery/brewery could also solve the tap room problem. I can’t wait to see how the finished project and I am already looking forward to my next visit!
Keep drinking great beer and talking about it, I know I will!