Indiana City Brewing’s Community and Art Outreach is Drawing National Attention

Indiana City Brewing’s Community and Art Outreach is Drawing National Attention

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

When Indiana City Brewing owner Ray Kamstra returned to Indianapolis with dreams of opening a brewery after years away, he did so because of the inspiration he was finding in his hometown. When Elise Anderson took on the role of Creative Marketing Director for Indiana City Brewing this past February, Ray tasked her with finding additional ways in which the brewery could interact with and support the community at large and the art community in particular, especially within their neighborhood of Irish Hill. She told me, “Our team of three amazing full-time brewers make some of the best beer I’ve ever tasted, and that’s easy for me to get excited about and promote, but when new opportunities arise, I always asks myself: What could we be doing better to champion our city and incubate great art.”

Through Elise, Indiana City has challenged itself to build an even more robust community outreach program, and it’s starting to take off and create a buzz. Elise says the program is in its infancy, but still it is making significant inroads into helping the community. The program will grow large in the coming months, but’s talk about what they are doing so far and then where it might go.

Non-profits are lining up to get on the list for Indiana City’s up and coming programs; more details will be coming out as the year progresses. Elise is always looking for ways to include customers, the brewery and non-profits in the community building process. This might include a “the more you buy over time the more we donate” kind of punch card for patrons, more raffles like they did at their anniversary party for The Damien Center, and featuring non-profits at their can/bottle releases. For example, FACE low cost animal clinic will be the featured organization for the YO! Styrian Wolf release on the 27th of this month.

It’s great how Indiana city is linking it’s releases with support for community non-profit organizations. image credit: Indiana City Brewing

These are other programs that are in the works or new to their agenda. Every new program that Indiana City implements will have a community outreach arm, and this is more than commendable, it’s what craft beer is all about. However, that doesn’t mean that they have been doing things community wise for quite a while. The most visible means of support from Indiana City has been for the local art scene and local artists.

Early on, Indiana City beer art partnered with Aaron Scamihorn of Ronlewthorn Industries, and while he has engineered a great set of labels that have evolved over the last six years, Indiana City has found ways to include other local artists to design their bottle and can art too. The risk of a shift in what beers they brew (away from cores and more toward different lines of limited release IPAs and hazy IPAs) was compounded by changing their artwork to include more local flavor. The risks have paid off on both fronts, as they are now more than two dozen beers into the series and they have been wildly popular, and the artwork has become a coveted part of the beer on its own.

Much of the newer artwork has come from the local start up group Scamihorn helped to found, the Craft Brew Doodle Crew. These are group project works of art where one person will start, and then others will add as they go, round-robin style. The results are colorful, inventive, wild, and visually stunning. The latest example is the Exquisite Corpse DDH IPA release from last Saturday (13th). The cans are a mix-and-match of monster heads and bodies that can result in a total of 36 different creatures when stacked. This latest release was accompanied by a live art session with the Craft Brew Doodle Crew. Recent wild successes in the series have included the Monster Family Tree, Fishoid Family, Ice Cream Apocalypse, Cacti City, and Cauldron Contents – and all of those have just been in 2019.

It was daring to switch up the model of the brewery to go to these limited release beers, but it was also daring to do it at the same time as switching up the look of the products being put out. It seems to have had an effect– they are drawing national attention for their art community involvement. Elise told me that Portland, ME artist Heidi Geist will be stopping in at Indiana City to do a label with the Doodle Crew in August.

Heidi Geist has covered more than 22,000 miles so far with her 48 Beer Project. She’ll spend time at Indiana City in August. image credit: Brilliant Stream

Heidi left her job with bottle shop in Portland to start the 48 Beer Project, “a cultural exploration of the craft beer industry and the folks who make it real.” Heidi is producing a work of art per week for 48 weeks in collaboration with a single brewery from every one of the lower 48 states. She has done label design before, and now she will get to work with the best of the best in Indy. As of this writing, Heidi was most recently in Minneapolis at Wild Mind Artisan Ales

Geist says that a good beer label, “Tells us about the contents through imagery…it conjures up ideas, feelings, memories, even if subconsciously, in the audience. Taprooms and beer are becoming destinations-celebrations-becoming a new culture that ignites a strong sense of community and nurtures relationships across all walks of life.”

Elise told me, “Heidi will be in town beginning August 15, sitting in with the Craft Brew Doodle Crew in addition to going on her own quest to create inspired Indy art for a beer releasing later this fall. Indiana City sits on a coveted list beside breweries such as Trillium, Cerebral and Epic.” This is a coup for Indianapolis beer and Indianapolis art to be sought out and recognized for this honor.

So the Doodle Crew has done more than just provide art for some labels, they have drawn attention to Indy and Indiana City, and what’s more, they have spawned additional art for other Indiana City series. There is also the Indy Artist series, where the label art is produced by a single Indianapolis illustrator.

One Giant Leap, the next single artist series beer will debut on July 20th. image credit: Indiana City Brewing

The first release in this newest series was the Longest Day Haze DDH IPA with can art from Lauren Smith (@1of ManyLaurens), and this is being followed closely by the release on July 20th – One Giant Leap (a sour hazy IPA with blackberries), with label art from Dan Thompson (@invisible_hometown) of Indianapolis. These are even a more limited series; small batch beers available only at the brewery. I got cans of Longest Days Haze and both Walter and I love them – it’s really something when we can find a beer we both think is fantastic. Elise says to look for a third release in this series in August.

Add in the Yo! Series of IPAs with rare and experimental hops (Azacca, Styrian Wolf, Sabro, Grungeist, Citra Lupulin powder) and you’ve got three powerful series of beers that are at the top of the “gotta have” food chain. UnTappd has all three of these series averaging a 4.0, and the Doodle Crew beers are averaging well above a 4.0.

These are some special beers, but they aren’t the only special beers being made at Indiana City – the barrel aged beers are always fantastic (most recently, BBA Chupacabra was released on July 4th), and they have Ales from the Crypt each year to celebrate all the brew that comes from their barrels. But there are also the other, like the brut IPA they put out and its own series, or the very new dry hopped lager called Gestalt Brau. This new way Indiana City is bringing drinkers to the taproom is helpful, but it wouldn’t be working if the beer wasn’t so good.

Congratulations to Elise and the Indiana City team for their work in these areas (plus the great beer). Supporting non-profits, building bridges within the community, highlighting the art community, and thereby bringing the community at large and the art community closer together is just another way Indiana craft beer is about more than just tasty beverages. Attend the Indiana City releases to get great beer and relax with other beer geeks in the taproom, but do it for other reasons too. Non-profits are crucial parts of our community and art is just another way to encourage you to think about your world and how you fit into it. Indiana City gives us palatable pints, purposes to ponder, and pathways to pay-it-forward; not a bad way to spend an afternoon or evening.


banner image credit: Craft Brew Doodle Crew and Indiana City Brewing

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