28 Feb Corkscrew & Brew Set To Return to Chesterton March 17th
by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap
It’s no secret that Northwest Indiana has great beer, enough of it comes to the rest of the state that the names of several breweries in the region are well known – 3 Floyds, 18th Street, Burn ‘Em, Windmill, the German beers from New Oberpfalz, etc. But there are breweries up that way that should be more well known; Bulldog, Zorn Brew Works, Ironwood, and one of Walter’s particular favorites – Chesterton’s own Hunter’s Brewing.
What might be less evident is that Northwest Indiana has some very nice craft beer festivals. There are the big boys; Valpo BrewFest, Shelf Ice, and Crown Beer Fest, but some of the smaller festivals have very nice vibes and still have enough breweries that we don’t see down south to make them very intriguing. The Corkscrew & Brew Festival in Chesterton (March 17th, 12-4pm) is one such festival – intimate and very appealing. And it’s for two good causes.
Chesterton is an old town in the region that dates back over 200 years. It crept along as a sleepy small ‘burgh until the early 1900s when the steel industry took off on Lake Michigan’s south shore. Thousands of jobs became available and the town grew significantly. This was boosted when the South Shore Railway was completed and people from Chicago started traveling to the dunes for recreation. The birth of the science of Ecology started right there at the dunes, so both tourists and scientists became part of the Chesterton environment, especially in the summers.
Unfortunately, the decline of the steel industry in the region led to many layoffs and lost jobs, especially with the closing of the Burns Harbor plant of Bethlehem Steel. The economy took several steps backward and the downtown businesses, government, and social services like the library suffered. The recession in 2008-9 didn’t help anything, but now the town is gaining momentum in its recovery.
To aid in the growth of downtown Chesterton, the Duneland Chamber of Commerce devised a wine and craft beer festival in 2016. Intended to draw prospective business owners, residents, and tourists to the business district and show off all that Chesterton has to offer, the idea was/is a good one. The same strategy has been employed in other areas with great success, like the Savor Lebanon Festival, Anderson On Tap, and Rock The Junction in Westfield.
One of the amenities in Chesterton that will undoubtedly be on display at Corkscrew & Brew is the space itself, Thomas Centennial Park. Located in the heart of downtown, this beautiful space with brick walkways, a bandstand, and mature trees plays host to many events each year, including the European Market, Bark in the Park, and a summer family movies series that dates back to the 1970s. It was also part of the annual Oz Festival that drew 30,000 or more people to Chesterton to pay homage to the 1939 classic film each summer.
The bandstand at the heart of Thomas Centennial Park was built in 1924, and is one of the last original bandstands in the Midwest. Make sure to soak in the history of the park and the bandstand as you taste the craft beers and wines from the breweries and wineries lined up on the brick walkways throughout the park.
The park and the Duneland Chamber of Commerce are the beneficiaries of the profits from the Corkscrew & Brew Festival, to pay for efforts to attract more businesses and tourists to Duneland and to maintain the park. These are worthwhile causes and craft beverage festivals are always a great way to raise money and awareness.
The first Corkscrew & Brew took place in 2016. The Chamber had hoped to sell 150 tickets, but ended up with more than 500 attendees. The second year the number of vendors and attendees grew, with 20 breweries and wineries and 700 visitors. This year, a few more tickets will be sold, but organizer Beth Luncsford of the Duneland Chamber of Commerce told me that the goal is not to build a huge festival. She said, “We want to keep our event intimate. We’d like people to engage with the beer and wine vendors and have space to enjoy our beautiful Thomas Centennial Park.”
The festival is the result of hard work from many people, including people from the Chamber and Park Superintendent Bruce Mathias who makes sure the park is looking its best all year round. But Beth wanted to make sure that the volunteers were mentioned. She said, “We couldn’t do it without our volunteers. A large group that helps is the Full Circle Young Professionals. These are professional business people from Northwest Indiana who are dedicated to our community.”
The volunteers take care of many jobs, including helping all the wineries and breweries set up for the festival, running ice, and spelling brewers during the pouring. This year, those breweries include many from the region itself – Ironwood, 18th Street, Burn ’Em, Devil’s Trumpet (Walter just cheered for the My Ghetto), and Shoreline, amongst more than a dozen others. The wineries and meaderies (of which I admit I know very little), include Aftermath and Misbeehavin’ Meads from Valparaiso, Running Vines from Chesterton, Shady Creek from Michigan City, and Easley from Indy.
Walter and I are looking forward in particular to a couple of the breweries because we can’t get them down south, 10-56 and Zorn Brew Works. Zorn is just over a year old in Michigan City. The owners are great guys, but we only get to drink them when we travel up north. Likewise 10-56 Brewing doesn’t have a taproom yet, so just about the only time we get to talk to Erica and drink their beer is at festivals. This isn’t a complete list of the breweries or wineries, so keep checking with the website as more sign on.
It’s also nice that a couple of breweries come from further away to give Northwest Indiana taste of beer from other regions. Flat 12 Bierwerks is coming from Indy, and I hope they bring some of their wood aged beer – it’s great. But it would be nice if a few more breweries from Central Indiana came north to keep their hand in play. They still have time to sign up to pour on St. Paddy’s Day – yes, this is a beer festival scheduled for St. Patrick’sDay. Maybe we’ll see several Irish export stouts – that’s always a good thing.
Each vendor (brewery and winery) will have a 10’x10’ tent along the path through the park and stand alone heaters will be available throughout the area as well, just in case the day isn’t as warm as people would like. A band will play from the bandstand – how appropriate. This year’s band will be the Gerry Hundt Trio, giving us the blues and more and featuring Gerry himself (let’s hope he brings his mandolin).
Food vendors will also be located around the park, including Bartlett’s Truckin’ Good Grub from Beverly Shores and Leroy’s Hot Stuff. The Leroy in that name refers to Leroy Flores. He and his business were crucial in bringing together the first Corkscrew & Brew, as well as the Porter’s Perfect Pint event. Leroy, along with Nicole Caylor of Running Vines Winery, are consultants for the festival and have been vendors each year. Be sure to patronize them and thank them for their dedication.
Tickets for Corkscrew & Brew are available now (click here), with general admission tickets just $40 and designated driver tickets $10 (you still get the pint glass with a DD ticket). In line with keeping the festival intimate and engaging, tickets are limited and will go quickly, so it is suggested that you make your plans early. And don’t worry about getting home. Corkscrew & Brew wants you to be responsible, so Epic Limo will be there offering free ride anywhere in the 46304 zip code and anywhere at all for a small fee. You have to like a festival that gets you home safely.
Call the Duneland Chamber of Commerce with questions: 219-926-5513.