01 May Do Accommodating Crowds Make Good Beer Events, or Does Craft Beer Make Great Crowds?
Craft beer is best as a social activity; unfortunately, I’m not so big on crowds. Hanging out in taprooms, day drinking, and trying to learn about the craft and people of Indiana beer works well for me, but events are part of craft beer as well. In many cases for craft beer events, we’re looking at large groups of people, and usually the chances of tension and problems increase when you are crowding people together – yet it doesn’t seem to be so with craft beer.
But it seems that craft beer soothes the savage beast. While crowds can make some things get ugly, if you add some craft beer and music, and nobody seems to mind the crowd. There are very few happier crowds than at craft beer events – music events maybe, but the beer is so expensive at concerts that it troubles me. I think that the art of craft beer, coupled with social engagement of people of like minds, just brings folks together. At least that’s how it worked for Walter and I this past weekend.
Friday (April 26), and Saturday (April 27), Walter and I attended five events that had craft beer as at least one center of attention. Each event was packed with people, yet everyone was happy. Each event had a different focus and a different crowd, yet the overall vibe was similar in each case.
We started Friday afternoon at Flix Brewhouse-Carmel, just people watching and drinking some Rob Malad beer. The 26th happened to be the opening day for Avengers: Endgame, and the bar and lobby were jammed with people waiting to go into the movie or coming out of the film. The lobby had banners, one for each Avengers character, and there was an artist displaying and selling character posters and prints. There were people taking selfies around the movie displays and more than a few people were in some form of costume.
There was lots of jovial discussion, but I don’t think I heard anyone spoil anything for anyone else. Some folks were doing double features, either Captain Marvel or Shazam and then the final chapter in the Avengers Infinity Gauntlet saga. Others were doing just one or more of the Avengers:Endgame showings but many people were having beer before, after, and probably during the shows. Rob had three new beers for the Avengers – Marvelous Maibock, Bloodties, and Super Power Potion.
We tried all three as we observed the crowds drink and interact with each other and the Flix crew. It was all hands on deck to deal with the masses of people, but the employees were an efficient team and no one was waiting long for beer. People could have seen the movie anywhere (if they bought tickets early enough), but they chose to see it at Flix. Craft beer was a part of the decision for a good percentage of them, but this was definitely a different crowd than for many events with craft beer.
Our second event was later on Friday in Anderson. Creatures of Habit Brewing had their grand opening from 6pm – 11pm on Meridian Street downtown. Owners Dan Hiles and Dan Stachowiak (and their families and employees) played host to several hundred of their friends and Anderson craft beer fans. Every inch of the taproom was alive with people who had been anticipating this opening for quite a while.
The lines for the sixteen taps of Creatures beer were sometimes fifty people or more deep, and yet everyone was having a great time. There were some definite craft beer geeks there, but by and large these were Anderson people who were happy to have a new hangout for socializing and having a craft beverage. Lots of flights were being sold because most people hadn’t tried Creatures beers before, and employees were rushing around collecting glassware to stay ahead of the game.
Rarely have we seen lines for draft beer in a taproom as long as this, but again, the crowd was happy and talking: such a different crowd than Flix, but the same atmosphere and ambience. Walter and I found spots at the bar after a while and watched the Dans and Amanda serving up beers, and Amanda’s mom taking care of keeping them in glassware. There were handshakes all around as people came up to the bar, indicating that this was a community event as much as it was a beer event.
We tried several of the beers, with nary a miss in the group. The Imperial IPA called Bumbo was built with many flavors, the Meridian Medicine was good as always. The styles ranged from New England IPA to American porter to goses to fruit flavored variants of those goses and a blonde. Creatures is selling snacks from Tipsy Turvey (craft beer fans in central Indiana know Laura Turvey and the snacks she makes using Indiana craft beer), so we noshed a bit and watched everyone be happy it was a theme for the weekend. Good job to all involved.
We got going early-ish on Saturday for our third, and largest, event of the weekend. Death & Taxes Day at Taxman Brewing in Bargersville had its fifth iteration from noon to 4pm, with thirty Indiana breweries and 2300 craft beer fans. This was perhaps the most traditional craft beer event for us that weekend, a true celebration of all things craft beer. Death & Taxes Day is the release of Evasion Stout and its variants, this year in cans, but it is so much more as well. This is craft beer’s day to come together to celebrate Taxman and its successes in making beer and doing it from a small town. The ability to bring everyone to Bargersville (as they have been doing for years), is both a tribute to the beer, and the people who built the company.
This has traditionally been one of the favorite festivals of the year (this year there were ticket buyers from more than a dozen states). As such, the crowd is always big, and grew considerably this year. They spread out to take up a bit more room and it seemed to be a good move. In addition to serving beer in the corral as people waited to enter the festival (always a brilliant move), the crowd stood in decent lines for the beers of the guest breweries. And again, everyone was happy as could be despite the large numbers of people (or perhaps because of the large number?).
The weather got drizzly and cooler later, but no one complained, it was just a great event. Walter had several beers that were new for her, including the Aquaberry Shark Grill from Elm Street Brewing in Muncie and the Loiterers Kolsch from Scarlet Lane Brewing. I enjoyed the Same Old Hoard from Deviate Brewing and Drip Fed Fred from Circle City Zymurgy. But my two favorites of the afternoon were one beer I had tried before, the Yo!II Sabro from Indiana City Brewing and the Boxplot Belgian Red from Function Brewing in Bloomington. Great beers all around, and it was nice that so many of the breweries brought new and interesting choices. This crowd was more beer geeky than most and they appreciated the diversity of beer.
After more than a couple of hours of talking and sampling, we headed north to Pax Verum Brewing in Lapel to support them for their one-year anniversary party. The crowd at this venue was perhaps the most spread out over time, as the celebration covered many hours to allow the most people to find a time to make it to the taproom. Pax Verum has mastered two ways of building a crowd; 1) they have a reputation for top-flight beers and 2) they have made themselves a crucial part of the Lapel community.
The taproom was busy with both craft beer mavens that came from good distances and with locals who now more about craft beer because of the year Pax Verum has spent in Lapel. These two crowds meshed seamlessly and came together to thank and congratulate Jason, Doug, Chris, and Scott. Of course, being able to pick up some of the first cans of Velvety Kush New England IPA. Yes, this was a celebration party with live music and food trucks, but it was also Pax Verum’s first can release.
The cans were a coming out event, but many people wee getting their initial first-hand experience for the Pax Verum rebrand. New color schemes, new merchandise, and a new feel were on display, courtesy of Sara Jean and Joey Potts of Guide and Anchor. This is theirnew branding, illustration, animation and design company. Joey is famous for the 18th Street Brewery designs he did while he was in Chicago, but now they live here in Indy and are taking on new challenges. Sara and Joey were on hand and were very gracious in talking to all the people who were brought over to meet them and were fans of their previous work. Just another crowd favorite involving craft beer in Indiana. (look for a full profile of Guide and Anchor soon.)
After a while I tore Walter away from the Reptilia pint she was enjoying and we headed back to Indy for our last event of the day and weekend. Beastside Brewfest was held in the Scecina Memorial High School gym as a fundraiser for the ICAN (Irvington Community Advocacy Network) Food Pantry. As the clock struck 7pm, people poured into the gym to celebrate six months until the 73rd Annual Historic Irvington Halloween Festival and to raise money for a good cause.
The Irvington Community Council holds this event as a way to bring the community together and do good, and boy does the community come out to support it. Nine local breweries vied for two trophies, the People’s Choice Beastside Trophy and the Judges’ Choice Beastside Trophy, and to pour beers for the local folks. The breweries were arrayed around the edges of the gym, and many tables were put out in the center to allow people to sit and converse. And they did, this was as much a neighborhood block party as it was beer festival.
Retro on the Rocks served up the tunes while Lonchera La Poblanita and Der Pretzel Wagen served up the food. Samples were unlimited, but people could (and did) buy pint pours for $5 as an additional way to raise money for the cause. Walter and I got to try several beers from Vincennes Brewing, the brewery that came from the farthest away (given that Rhinegeist is already at home here in Indy and around the state). This was a laid back crowd spending as much time talking as drinking, so for the fifth time of the weekend, we experienced a big crowd, but a happy crowd.
There were even prizes for the best Halloween costumes because after all, this was a 6 month alarm for the Halloween fest, so many people went home winners that evening. We’d call this a thoroughly successful event on all fronts.
There you have it – five different events in 32 hours. There were five different reasons that people got together in great numbers, but craft beer was the glue in each case. The five crowds were very different from one another, yet they had in common a camaraderie and a great attitude despite being asked to accommodate each other and wait for beer and amenities.
These events and groups of fans show that craft beer in Indiana crosses many populations and that overlap amongst people isn’t necessary to make multiple events successes. We didn’t see a single attendee at more than one event (other than brewers and employees, good job people), so these were very separate fan groups, yet having disparate fan groups doesn’t make Indiana craft beer segmented or become less, it makes it stronger. Good people doing good for crowds, and crowds, and crowds, and crowds, and crowds of people, with those people appreciating both craft beer and each other.