12 Nov Broad Ripple Brewpub Celebrates 25th Anniversary With Hearts In The Past, Eyes Towards The Future
25 is kind of an inconsequential year for a person. You’re halfway to 50 years old, which, great, I guess. You can now rent a car at a slightly cheaper rate, but that’s about as exciting as 25 gets. I don’t even remember what I did for my 25th, and that was just two years ago. It’s not that birthday’s stop meaning anything; simply that after 21 you’re kind of out of big changes.
25 years for a brewery? Now we’re talking.
To understand how significant Broad Ripple Brewpub’s 25th anniversary this Saturday is, we have to look at how far craft brewing has changed and grown in the last 25 years. At the end of 1990, there were a little less than 300 breweries nationwide. In ten short years that number skyrocketed to over 1,500 breweries. By the end of 2014, that number more than doubled to 3,464 registered breweries in the United States. That’s a whole lot of growth, meaning a whole lot of influx of creativity, innovation, and, most importantly, beers.
That’s like going from stomping in your boots in rain puddles to being thrown out of a helicopter into the middle of an ocean.
It means building up a loyal base of regulars and staying true to your original mission, while continuing to grow and remain relevant and exciting in a market where $25 bombers of Russian Imperial Stouts and Citra-hopped IPAs are all the craze. It takes some luck, as well as a lot of hard work. For a brewery to survive through all of that, and not just survive but to be the starting point for so many other breweries and projects, it has to be doing something right.
When I ventured out to the Brewpub for the 24th anniversary last winter, that’s the story I wanted to tell: how does a traditional pub and brewery continue to move forward in this current landscape of craft beer? If you read that piece though, you’d know the Brewpub was so packed I couldn’t even get through the door.
This year I planned ahead and sat down with head brewer Jonathon Mullens a few weeks in advance. Mullens himself will be celebrating his one-year anniversary with the Brewpub on November 17th, and during our chat he provided me both with some details on the anniversary celebration as well as his mission to keep the Broad Ripple Brewpub the same as it’s always been while making it better than it ever was.
It hasn’t been easy, Mullens will tell you that much.
“I’ve had people come in and tell me that the IPA is different now than it was before I got here, and now it’s worse because of it. We’ve had to educate a lot of people and ‘modernize’ their tastes a bit.”
“We still disagree about some things,” Mullens says, nearing one year into his professional relationship with Hill, “like what beers we should have on tap, pushing our regulars too much, stuff like that. But he’s with me on making beer the focus at the Brewpub.”
“He’s still teaching me every day, too. He’s 71 and he’s as mobile and bright as he ever was.”
There will be plenty to look back on come Saturday though. In the weeks and months leading up to the anniversary party, Mullens has frequently been brewing up both current brewery favorites while breaking out old recipes from the brewpubs opening in 1990 and working on some really interesting surprises for everyone to try.
“We’re going to modernize some of the older recipes for our equipment,” Mullens notes (ever the eye turned towards the future), “and we’re going to have some stuff that no one’s ever tried here before.”
One of those beers is a 10% English barleywine that has been bottled and will sold in bombers at the Brewpub the day of the anniversary (price is still to be decided, limit two per person).
The next beer took a little more coordination on Mullen’s part than a normal brew day: a dark imperial saison made from 25 different grains with the help of 25 brewers and brewing professionals from around the country, all who have in one way shape or form been personally touched by Broad Ripple Brewpub and Hill himself.
Mullens describes it as “like you’re drinking an old ale with lots of dark fruits, but as it sits on your tongue it feels a bit like a Russian Imperial Stout. Then, as it warms up it all molds itself together. It’s a very complex beer from a malt standpoint.” He jokingly dubbed it the “Last Day of Camp,” which I found a fitting name.
“I wanted it to be a surprise for John, but still having his hands in everything he walked in as we were beginning to brew with everyone standing around,” laments Mullens. “It was supposed to be his day off, but there he was!”
Kind of a symbol for the Broad Ripple Brewpub itself as it heads into it’s next 25 years, no? John Hill, the Godfather, the original, keeping its roots dug into his vision launchd in 1990, with Jonathon Mullens using his exceptional brewing talents to educate his staff and customers, both regulars and newcomers, into the future of craft beer.
No matter what the years ahead hold, know that we love you Broad Ripple Brewpub, and I personally can’t wait to see what’s next. Save an ESB for me. See you Saturday.