Indiana Hockey and Indiana Craft Beer: More Opportunities to Light The Lamp

Indiana Hockey and Indiana Craft Beer: More Opportunities to Light The Lamp

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

It doesn’t take teeth to enjoy beer, so hockey would seem to be the perfect fit for a sport +beer obsession. Heck, the Molson family once again owns the Montreal Canadiens, and you can’t get much more beer+ hockey than that. Dogfish Head did a beer called Hockey Jersey, and there’s even a drinking game called beer hockey (check out the rules here, it’s enough to make you drink).

Hockey is a science and an art as well as a sport, so it’s not surprising that many people who enjoy hockey also appreciate craft beer. In Indianapolis, this plays out as a good deal of craft beer at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. We’ve written about the relationship between Bier Brewery and the Indy Fuel before, including the Bier Brewery Lounge (here), and that relationship has done nothing but grow in the last year. But the Fuel has expanded their other craft offerings as well. There is Sun King Brewing beer in the coliseum as well as offerings from Black Dog Brewing in Mooresville, a new sponsor of the Fuel.

image credit: Bier Brewery

Bier does many promotional events with the Fuel, but as far as professional hockey in Indiana goes, the Indiana Farmers Coliseum is way ahead of the game. Two other professional hockey teams play in Indiana, but the craft beer offerings at their home ice are considerably less broad. The Evansville Thunderbolts play at the Ford Center, but as far as I have found out, Myriad Brewing’s 812 Cream Ale is the only local product available there.

Jamie Elliot of Myriad tells me that they got on at Ford Center through their distributor and Samantha Buente of Haynie’s Corner Brewing tells me that she believes that the Ford Center has a pretty strong contract with Working Distributors in Evansville. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get anyone at the Ford Center to answer my inquiries.

The same is true for the War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne. That city has a strong and long history with hockey, and the Fort Wayne Komets are emblematic of that history. I remember driving up to Fort Wayne for Komets games with my family when I was 6-10 years old, and that was several more than a couple decades ago. The 2021-2022 season is the 70th anniversary of the Komets, and many of those seasons have been very successful – they were the 2021 Kelly Cup champions.

image credit: Fort Wayne Crowns

Tyler Butcher at Kekionga Craft in Fort Wayne told me that he has been trying to get some of his cider on at the coliseum, but to no avail, as they use an outside vendor for all their food and drink. Once again, I have not heard back from the venue, but it’d be a shame if some of the great beer and cider around Fort Wayne couldn’t be available while watching some great hockey. It may be that some Three Floyds is on tap or in bottles there, but I’d hope that they could get some local products on as well.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a craft beer and hockey connection in Fort Wayne. I talked to Blake Costello, the GM and goalie for the Fort Wayne Crowns, a true “beer league” team, sponsored by both Kekionga Craft and 2Toms Brewing.” He continued, “Our sponsorship with Kekionga started back in 2019. It was the second week of our inaugural season and we reached out to them to shoot some videos for their recently released Monroe Harvest Fall Cider. After that we went there for a Saturday afternoon team hang out. We just really hit it off with Tyler and Logan. It wasn’t long after that that they graciously sponsored us to get a set off alternate jerseys. The partnership has been going strong ever since. Crowns go there every Thursday night; we really love the place. They even had a Gold Crowns Cider last winter! It was made with local golden delicious apples and local maple syrup.”

He added, “Fort Wayne Crowns HC is also sponsored by 2Toms Brewing Company. This partnership started this year. It’s great. We have two of the best places in Fort Wayne with Kekionga and 2 Toms as sponsors!” Each of them supports the team throughout the year and the Crowns play with them in mind during their September-March season at Parkview Sport One against the seven other teams in their division of the PSM adult hockey league.

image credit: Summit City Brewerks

Blake said, “When naming our “beer league” team we wanted something the embodied both Fort Wayne and beer so we decided to go with the ‘Crowns’ as a tribute to Old Crown. We loosely based our Crown logo after the crown on the 1960s cans.” For those of you without an intimate knowledge of Indiana beer history, Old Crown was first produced by Centlivre Brewing in Fort Wayne in 1939 after Prohibition and after the Centlivre Brewery had burned and been rebuilt.

The beer was very popular and was produced in Fort Wayne until 1973 when the brewery closed for good. The brand was revived by Summit City Brewerks in Fort Wayne and quickly became their number one seller. The brand now sports an almost identical logo as the original, and the crown was the inspiration for the logo of the hockey team.

A beer league hockey team isn’t necessarily sponsored by a brewery, but it is suggested that they do love beer. And a craft beer league is just that much more interesting than just a beer league team. I asked Blake if he and his teammates had hockey or beer in common first, and he said, “Hockey. A lot of us that started the team had played together in the adult recreation leagues, but as the team developed we found out a good number of us had a love for craft beer. A couple of the guys are even home brewers.”

The Fort Wayne Crowns in action. image credit: Steve Hattaway

A proper beer league team is also not opposed to having a beer after the game, or even before the game, and the Crowns HC is certainly a beer league team in that respect. He said, “Some of the guys like to “pregame” by having a beer beforehand but, win or lose, the Crowns HC always has time for a post-game beer/cider or two.” This makes them a very social group, but they also are community minded. Their following on social media and in the community helps them to aid their fellow citizens in many ways. For example, Blake told me, “Just a few weeks back we volunteered at the DSANI Buddy walk. Starting next week we’re planning our winter charity fundraiser. Basically the Crowns are all about playing hockey, drinking local craft beverages and helping you out in the community.”

So now you know more about the relationship between hockey and craft beer in Indiana, but before you ask, there isn’t a “beer frame” or a 2nd base keg in hockey. Dangerous, yes, but it could be interesting too – wasn’t Slap Shot a documentary after all? Ok, no beer while playing. I realize that could be a deal breaker for some of us, but hockey is intense enough without in-game beers.

Let’s see if we can build the relationship between Indiana hockey and craft beer. Ask for craft options when you go to games, suggest that your local brewery sponsor a league team, and watch games while you drink at the brewery. Four Hands Brewing in St Louis and 5th Line Brewing in Yakima, WA are definite hockey breweries, but I don’t know of many more. Beer and hockey go together so well that there should be great Indiana hockey breweries.

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