09 Jun Chapman’s Brewing: Interview on New Fort Wayne Taproom
Hardly a week goes by without a new brewery or taproom opening its doors. It’s great for Hoosier craft beer enthusiasts as it means more choices and a chance to sample new styles and approaches to beer. Last week, Chapman’s Brewing Co. opened up a taproom in partnership with Fortezza Coffee in Fort Wayne. Indiana On Tap spoke with Steve Short of Chapman’s Brewing about the new taproom and the future for the brewery.
Indiana On Tap: So my focus today is on the new taproom you guys are opening up in Fort Wayne. What was the driving force behind the new taproom?
Steve Short: Angola’s a great city and it’s the home of our brewery, but the population center for the bulk of our fans is in Allen County. And it was just hard for them to fill up a growler after work and enjoy it without making a trip 145 minutes north and back. So we wanted to have ease of access to our beers in Fort Wayne.
Indiana On Tap: Now, will you be brewing in this taproom eventually or is it just a satellite site at the moment?
Steve Short: It’s a satellite site at the moment but if we do do any brewing it’ll be on a small R&D system. It’ll be more home-brew clubs, that type of stuff with our brewer Jared Agler.
Indiana On Tap: Now I know you’re partnering with Fortezza Coffee, what brought about that partnership?
Steve Short: We have done an event with coffee and beer with them. And became close and started talking to them about a partnership with beer and coffee. We’ve done a taproom beer with their coffee and we started being at similar events. And became friends with Sean Wang the owner. With that, we started talking about some of our customer base, just different times where he’s busy during the day, we’d be more busy starting about 4 o’clock. But with the same consumer, so that led to a discussion where we started trying to figure out how this partnership might work.
Indiana On Tap: Where do you see this partnership heading in the future? Do you anticipate brewing more beers with their coffee or getting more involved with them?
Steve Short: Yeah on a small basis, as I think we’ll learn a lot the next three months or so, through the summer. But that’s not a first 90 days kind of topic and if we did, it’d be on our smaller system, R&D.
Indiana On Tap: What challenges did you face opening up this new taproom?
Steve Short: With any type of partnership and how their consumer base works, there are a lot of 18-20 year-olds that come into the coffee house. We had to try and work with Excise and our local team up there. It wasn’t nearly as difficult as we thought, you just have to go through the process of getting the right permits. Pretty much once we came up with the idea, it worked pretty well. That’s the only thing that took any amount of time. A little bit of work with the cooler, draft system and moving some coffee bags around. It was pretty turn-key.
Steve Short: Oh yes, we learned plenty from our mistakes. We started out as a production brewery with no taproom and that didn’t get added until later. Obviously, it’s a little bit of a different dynamic with a partner. They were able to bring us a customer base from right off the start, which, we were basically brand new in the Angola market educating on craft beer.
Indiana On Tap: In what ways is this new taproom similar to the old one and what ways is it different than the old one?
Steve Short: The biggest difference is you’re going to be able to get a great cup of coffee at any point in time. They’re structured differently, similarities will be that you’ll have great beer at both locations. From the look to the location, to not having the brewing equipment, they’re vastly different experiences is our expectation. High ceilings, more of a formal place. We built our taproom in Angola with used pallets from a pallet company that was sharing a parking lot with us. That made up our ceiling and tearing out some stuff and building it by hand. But where now we’ve got a beautiful building downtown Fort Wayne that is already prepped, we just needed to get some Chapman stuff in there as far as the visual.
Indiana On Tap: What are the challenges of being a craft brewery in The Region?
Steve Short: It was Mad Anthony forever and the next closest brewery was Dark Horse in Coldwater, Michigan. So there was a little bit of a learning curve for that area because there weren’t a ton of breweries, but now there are. The customer base is excited, the challenges are just educating on the different take on craft beer: here’s how it can be approachable, here’s how it can be fun and how it can expand and bring more drinkers into the beer category outside of wine & spirits and domestic premiums. I wouldn’t even call it a challenge, we’re one of the first few up there. And now we’ve got Summit City, Birdboy, and Trubble Brewing now. So it’s really growing and we’re just happy to be one of the first couple guys up here. So there’s not a ton of challenge in The Region. Except getting your beer in distribution, just like every other craft brewer, so I don’t think that’s different to The Region than it is in Indianapolis. The reasons to get to retail are a little bit different, a lot more crowded space in Indy, where up there you gotta get that local craft space and then expand from there. Finding that space in retail is tough everywhere for any beer. Sometimes it’s just a little bit different reason.
Indiana On Tap: What do you see in the future for Chapman’s Brewing?
Steve Short: What we see in the future is continuing to provide great beer, first and foremost, that’s our number one goal. The next thing is, we’re in discussion with a couple other places in our neighborhood, for some more taprooms. You’ll see that be a part of our plan. And eventually, into Central and Southern Indiana as we grow. And use those as ways to introduce ourselves to the consumer as we go. I think our beer is good, I think our packaging looks right, you’ll start to see us pop up in distribution in Central Indiana even before those come. We think the future is bright and satellite taprooms are going to be part of our future.