How South Bend Brew Werks’ Charitable Donations Ended Up Funding Their Expansion

How South Bend Brew Werks’ Charitable Donations Ended Up Funding Their Expansion

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

It’s nice when the solution to a problem is quick, straight forward, and includes no catches – but it’s rarely the case. South Bend Brew Werks has a problem – they need to be able to make more beer and more food because too many people want to support them and their business. Unfortunately, space prevents them from expanding their seating, kitchen, or brewhouse.

SBBW needs a new location to solve their problem, and that creates problems of its own – finding a spot that meets their needs and their philosophy, obtaining capital, getting a larger brewhouse, hiring more staff, etc. Luckily, SBBW has a solid idea of who and what they are, and this has guided their decisions. Even more important, Steve, Michele, and the team have patrons and the downtown businesses behind them, helping to make sure they continue as a South Bend institution.

Co-owner and head brewer Steve Lowe told me, “The timing is going to be pretty Covid-19 dependent, obviously. Right now we’re still on track for beginning buildout in December, with a tentative move-in date of March 1. We’re hoping to be open soon after.” As important as when they will open is where they will re-open. Downtown South Bend is as much a part of SBBW as is the beer, food, or patrons.

The soon to be digs of SBBW – The Hibberd. image credit: Majority Builders

The new location is another historic building, The Hibberd. Built in 1926 as a printing business and has housed many establishments over the years. Before its renovation in 2018, it has spent years as just a storage facility. After the extensive restoration, its 33,000+ sq. ft. now house businesses, boutiques, and apartments. This is a perfect location for SBBW to continue their work as part of the downtown community.

Situated just 1.5 blocks from their original location next to the State Theatre, The Hibberd is very much in the heart of downtown, with venerable neighbors like The Ragamuffin and the main branch of the St. Joseph County Public Library. They will even have a nice view of Four Winds Field. Steve said, “We’re hopeful that there will be a minor league baseball season this year, as we are very close to Four Winds Field where the South Bend Cubs play. Our front entrance, which features 2 roll up doors, faces the centerfield entrance to the stadium, so game day traffic will be big for us.”

Inside the new brewpub, SBBW will more than double their brewing capacity with a larger, 3 bbl system from Blichmann Engineering in Lafayette. Lowe noted, ”The new brewery again will give us more options for current and future expansion of output as well as packing/distribution opportunities eventually.” As of now, SBBW beer is available only at the brewpub, at The Hideaway at The Lasalle, or at specially catered events.

The new location will also afford them a kitchen that is double the size, and seating for 75% more patrons. All of this will allow SBBW to better serve their community and to generate more revenue, but before they can get there, they have to finance the move and the re-opening. Luckily, the team has that covered as well, including the use of a unique situation that explains just how important SBBW is to downtown South Bend.

Go to the MainVest page to invest in the bigger, better South Bend Brew Werks. image credit: South Bend Brew Werks

The Lowes and their team are offering two ways for the public to help them carry on their traditions. First, a lifetime mug club membership is available at the brewpub from now until Jan. 31, 2021. When purchased directly from SBBW, the Lifetime Mug Club price is $150 through the end of 2020, and bumps up to $200 for the month of January 2021. A Lifetime Membership is not expected to be offered after January, but the regular 1-year Mug Club will still be available at $45/year and $15/year to renew.

Second, SBBW is in the middle of a capital raising effort on MainVest ( With a couple months left in the campaign, they’ve already blown away their original goal and are well on their way to their expanded goal, so you still have time to help. For $200, the lifetime membership in the mug club can be yours via the MainVest page, but what is more, an investment of $100 or more (not with mug club) will earn the investor a 1.6 fold return by October of 2024. The fact that they already had nearly 100 investors in just the first two weeks of the campaign tells you how important SBBW is to the community.

The relationship with the community is perhaps best seen through their #Beer4Good program. Every month since they opened in 2014, SBBW had made monthly donations to at least three community programs, La Casa de Amistad, The Music Village, and the Neighborhood Resources Connection. For every pint of beer sold, a portion of the proceeds go to one of the three community partners, as determined by the drinkers themselves.

A couple of years ago SBBW added a fourth, monthly rotating partner, for which a donation is made for each pint of a selected beer sold. Over the years, SBBW has donated more than $100,000 to the #Beer4Good program, including $32,000 in 2019. For obvious reasons, 2020 donations are down, as revenues over all are off 47%.

Beer4Good will be back making donations after the move, but for now, the people who usually receive the donations have become the donors. image credit: South Bend Brew Werks

The question then becomes, how can giving away a portion of one’s profits each month help fund their relocation and new equipment? In this case, the pay forward program is temporarily becoming a pay it back program. Astonishingly, the donations from SBBW stopped last month – not because they stopped the program, but because their partners have decided that it’s their turn to step up and give back some of what they have received over the years.

Money is tight everywhere right now, including at all the #Beer4Good partners, and yet they have each decided that instead of getting money for the next few months, they will be donating money to the SBBW project and to help them through what is obviously going to be a difficult winter.

If you knew nothing else of SBBW, this sentiment would be enough to know that they are well loved member of the community and that they are as much a part of South Bend as South Bend is a part of them. Get involved with the fundraising effort, tell your friends about the special things that go on at SBBW every day, and the make sure to support them through this transition. In that way, #Beer4Good can become #Good4Ever.

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