Guggman Haus Brewery Grand Opening; It’s a Beer, Family, and Racing Story

Guggman Haus Brewery Grand Opening; It’s a Beer, Family, and Racing Story

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

The story behind a brewery is just as important as the beer. Good/great beer will build some regulars, but a good story and a good telling of that story will win more regulars. There just aren’t that many people that look at beer to be the beginning and end of a brewery; we don’t all have that good a palate. But a good story and a link to the community – that’s gold for a small business. Always remember, brewers are in the people business, they just happen to make beer.

Some breweries get by on a mediocre story and great beer, some get by on a good story and mediocre beer – some get by because they have a great location. But a great story is almost always a winner if a brewery can get it out to the people and can build that relationship with the drinking community. As the TV show Bar Rescue stated a while back, “The best ratio is 80% regulars and 20% new customers.” If a brewery can make regulars out of new customers by giving them something to hold on to, they will more than likely succeed.

Now, I am not arguing that a brewery should strive for mediocre beer. A great story and great beer will succeed far more often than decent beer and a great story. So it’s nice to see a new brewery open up with a story worth telling and beer that’s good and is going to get better. That’s the case with a new brewery in Indianapolis called Guggman Haus Brewing. Let’s look at their story, their Grand Opening celebration on the 15th of June, their beer, and their future.

The four owners of Guggman Haus Brewing: from left – Ryan Gorman, Abby Gorman, Derek Guggenberger, and Courtney Guggenberger. image credit: Guggman Haus

The Story of Guggman Haus. It’s not surprising that this brewery was a long time coming. Small businesses that look to be financially independent and who have owners still working day jobs are often slow in opening. In this case, slow meant about five years.

That was the difficult part – worthwhile but difficult. Sometimes it takes a hard road to let brewery owners know how much they want this to happen. Instead of focusing on that, let’s see the road that led them to 17th and Gent, just two miles east of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – and that venerable raceway will play a role in our story.

Monozygotic (identical) twins Courntey Guggenberger and Abby Gorman, along with their husbands Derek and Ryan, respectively, are the driving forces behind Guggman Haus Brewing. The name of the brewery, as you might have guessed by now, is a mash up of their names GUGGenberger and gorMAN. The Haus comes from the fact that Courtney and Derek lived in Germany for a year where they fell in love with good beer and that the four of them like having people over to the house to try beers.

Just about that same time that Courtney and Derek were in Germany, Abby and Ryan were living in Denver, CO – the hometown of craft beer. They were converts to craft and brought that back to Broad Ripple at just about the same time Courtney and Derek were bringing German beer love back to the same neighborhood. They lived about two blocks from one another (being the twins they are), and the families started to homebrew together.

In 2015, the sympatico twins and their spouses had a common idea – open a brewery. I’m not sure if they had the idea at the exact same moment, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Derek was willing to step up his brewing game – he was hooked anyway, so all they need was a location and all the money required. Needless to say, both took a while to procure.

Compare how the haus looked before they started to the banner image above. Lots of work went into this. image credit: Guggman Haus

They originally planned to put the brewery in Broad Ripple, and why not. It’s a cool place and they lived there. But an affordable place it was not. They kept looking for a spot, and is so often the case, the right match fell into place. The Guggman team was introduced to people from the Boyle Racing Foundation group – more about Boyle in a moment.

It turned out that the foundation was looking to renovate the Boyle Racing Headquarters near the track and needed a tenant to occupy the space as a going enterprise. After some learning about Boyle and the foundation, Guggman was in. Now the only problem was the site of the headquarters cum brewery – there are only two walls standing.

Construction permitting and environmental issues reared their heads, so Guggman Haus decided to renovate a house on the same property as their first brewery and taproom. Take a look at the before and after pictures and you get an idea of how much work was required to put this venture together. Twenty-four months and lots of sweat equity later, Guggman Haus is open.

The Brewery, Taproom, and Beer. The current taproom is a product of much thinking on the fly. The house on the Boyle property wasn’t in much better condition than the headquarters building, but the team decided that to get things moving, they would renovate the house and make use of it. Ryan and Abby still work day jobs while Abby and Derek are at Guggman Haus full time now, so work on the brewery used to be fit into the spaces in between but can now be their focus.

The finished product has a very homey feeling (if you’re 21+), including a small seating area downstairs next to the brew house. You can see the brewing system through the glass doors and windows, something I always consider to be important. On the main floor there are several seating areas, akin to rooms in your house, plus two patios, one on the side and one on the front porch.

The bricks in the bar come from the Boyle Headquarters. image credit: Guggman Haus

The bar is built of bricks from the Boyle headquarters building, providing a nice link between the two buildings, and there are pictures around showing the history of racing at the site. Behind the bar is the beer board and a very small kitchen for some snacks like warm, soft pretzels and such. The snacks are complimented by food trucks on several nights a week. For the Grand Opening on Saturday the 15th, J’s Lobster Food Truck will be there in the from 3pm until closing, and may be joined by others in the evening.

The day of celebration will include other amenities as well. Games in the garden and live music from Straight Up Chumps from 3-5pm and Alexander Camp Music from 6-8pm. There will be tours of the brewery and the Haus, with discussion of the Boyle headquarters and large memorabilia from Boyle Racing, such as the race car hauler (see below) will be on display. And of course, there will be beer.

The Guggman beers are divided into two series, the Guggman Series and the Boyle series, but all are made on site by head brewer and mechanical engineer Derek Guggenberger. The soft opens had six beers on tap, including an American brown, a hefeweizen, a NE IPA and a pilsner. Germany is definitely represented in Derek’s beer, but there is a good assortment of styles, something they say will continue on their board.

For the Grand Opening, additional tappings of new beers will be made, including a strawberry milkshake IPA at when the doors open and a farmhouse saison sometime during the afternoon. Derek has put together a very eclectic double one bbl (2bbl total) brewhouse using tanks from at least three different companies and a cold room that daisy chains the kegs together so that when one blows, the pouring continues unabated.

Boyle Racing Headquarters. As we said, only two walls of the racing headquarters are standing as we speak, but that doesn’t stop people from coming to pay homage to just about the most famous racing team from the IMS. Boyle Racing and one of his drivers, Wilbur Shaw, are some of the most famous names in the history of the 500, and the Boyle team operated at a factory precision level when most teams were merely cobbled together efforts run out of towns around the Midwest.

The Boyle headquarters will be renovated starting this summer/fall. image credit: Boyle Racing Headquarters

Mike Boyle started his racing team in 1927 to bring attention to his Chicago Electrical Workers Union, but he worked the team like a true professional enterprise. He hired the best drivers and mechanics he could get, and built the headquarters building in 1930 to centralize the effort. The Boyle headquarters at 17th and Gent was halfway between the track and downtown (where the speedway offices were at the time) and just off the railway line.

The Boyle team won the 500 in 1934, and just three years later a driver named Wilbur Shaw won the race. In 1939, Boyle convinced Shaw to join his team, and together they won Indy back to back in 1939 and 1940. Boyle ran the team until 1940, and then the US entered WWII. The track, owned by WWI ace Eddie Rickenbacker, fell into disrepair during the war and when Shaw came back to run tire tests in 1945 he was appalled.

Rickenbacker told Shaw that he was going to tear the track down and sell the land for a housing subdivision. Wilbur tried to talk him out of it, and then met Terre Haute businessman Tony Hulman (Hulman Produce and Clabber Girl Baking Powder) and convinced him to buy and renovate the track late in 1945. Shaw served as president of the speedway starting in 1945 and built the race back into a classic. After Boyle retired, his team moved to Gasoline Alley and the headquarters was essentially abandoned.  This is where the Boyle Racing Foundation enters the picture.

Born out of an effort to support Indiana Racing history that was then absorbed into the Indiana Landmarks Corp., the Boyle Racing Foundation broke off when Indiana Landmarks declined to renovate the Boyle Racing Headquarters because it was “too risky.” The Foundation began raising money and looking for a tenant for the building – say hello to Guggman Haus Brewing. While the headquarters is a project in and of itself, the taproom is open and has even been visited by Wilbur Shaw, Jr,

The Future. More is in the works for the property, including that complete renovation of the headquarters building. Courtney Guggenberger said, “Our goals and visions aligned so we decided to partner, and developed plans for our taproom, event space and production area to be on the property, along with a ‘museum’ type of garage for racing memorabilia including a rebuilt racecar hauler.“

What does that door look like? image credit: Guggman Haus

The hauler she spoke of is part of the reason why the expanded renovation needs to be so big, they have to store that car hauler somewhere. It was actually from the original Boyle Racing Team, and was lost after Boyle’s death. It was found near Parkersburg, IN in a ravine and the Foundation paid to have it completely rebuilt.

The foundation and the brewery intend to start construction this summer and the finished product will have room for the 5 bbl brewhouse that is now in storage. There will be a bigger kitchen, an event space, as well as storage space and that museum/garage Courtney mentioned above. Apart from all this, there are preliminary plans for the Hoosier Heartland Trolley Co. to run an electric trolley line possibly on the Riverside tram line that passes right in front of the brewery. This would be a big boost to the neighborhood, the Boyle Headquarters, and the brewery.

The Logo. Let’s finish with something subtle but interesting. Guggman Haus has been in the planning stages for some time, so they had the opportunity to get their logo right – and they did. It is aesthetically pleasing and full of meaning. The two trees at the opposite sides are identical twins, just like twins Courtney and Abby. The path in front of the rustic and homey cabin (the feel of the brewery) represents the Monon Trail, an iconic symbol of Indianapolis.

The stream at the front is the White River; this logo really does represent a comfortable scene of Central Indiana. But look closely, the door of the cabin is a pint glass. And now that you’ve seen it, you won’t be able to see anything else when you spy the logo. It’s just one sign that Guggman Haus is going to bore its way into your brain, and you’ll find yourself returning there again and again. Congratulations on the Grand Opening and keep racing forward.

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