02 Mar It Was a Fort Wayne Kind of Week
The state of Indiana is chock full of craft beverage producers; the so called “deserts” for craft fans are getting smaller and smaller. Working to get all those stories out and all the news its proper exposure means that we may be writing about Terre Haute one day, the Region another, and New Albany on a third consecutive day. But every once in a while, a bunch of news/stories/phone calls/discussions will be focused in one area of the state. This past week, the Fort Wayne area drew much of my attention, and for all the best reasons.
Here’s the rundown of the topics that touched on northeast Indiana this week, in no particular open except for the first one – we got to go to a festival this past weekend!!
Frozen Firkin Fest – 2Toms Brewing held their outdoor festival this past Saturday, with a focus on both safety and some very special beers. Several breweries brought one-off beers or firkin variants of beers to the event, which just increased the appeal of the day. I don’t know if we were just out of practice or not, but making decisions when we got to the front of the short line for tasters was difficult – all the beers sounded so good.
There were definitely a couple of interesting topics related to those one-off beers that we noticed. One, they had a lot of added ingredients, and this meant that the beer names and descriptions of the beers were several lines long – this might have been part of the reason why it took so long to decide. Two, these beers took a lot more water to rinse the taster glass than normal – flavors and body clung to the glasses in large amounts.
People were so happy to be out and about, especially with the nice weather. They milled around the tent and the inflatable igloo (yes, an igloo), but mostly they stood outside in the sun. Walter and I took some time inside the taproom as well, looking at the progress for The Barrel Room (coming along nicely). Tom showed us the wall that will be filled with stacked barrels full of goodness and the wall that will be decorated from floor to ceiling with staves.
The taproom was at Covid capacity, so Jordan was nice enough to get as a seat in the back, giving us a chance to check out the current brewhouse and the space into which they will be expanding once the kitchen is moved. We spent some time back there, but also wanted to make sure we took as much time as we could to talk to all the people we hadn’t seen for months – the great volunteers, the brewers and beer slingers, the craft fans in their finest brewery gear – everyone was as nice as could be and it made for a great afternoon.
English Barleywines – While at 2Toms, we got to try a few beers that are in my style hall of fame, wheatwines and English barleywines. I had a glass of the Nonsensical, 2Toms’ honey/wheatwine collaboration with Misbeehavin’ Meads in Valpo. I loved the bright, slightly golden head and it doesn’t drink as boozy as the ABV would suggest (13.1%). It’s malty goodness and sweetness from the honey provided a great background – nothing not to like here.
Walter and I also had the good fortune to pick up the last two bottles displayed of Cooper, 2Toms’ BBA English Barleywine. One bottle won’t make it past March, but the other will have a chance to grow finer with age – maybe three years or so. Just regular friends may not make the cut for that future bottle share; it’s going to have to be some special people.
The conversation surrounding these two beers brought about the name of another English barleywine from Fort Wayne, the one released a couple of months ago by Fortlandia Brewing. They happened to have some on hand, and the 2Toms folks were nice to break into it for us and other guests. Wow, an extraordinary beer – nutty, smooth, malt sweetness, and already gathering some sherry notes. Thanks for letting us try it out.
Dot & Line Brewing coming south – I had been talking to Phil from Dot & Line over the past couple of weeks about coming to some of the Indiana On Tap festivals. It’s a bit beyond their current range at this moment, but I was so happy when Phil said they’d love to come pour at Anderson on Tap and Lagers in Lawrence.
Fort Wayne might be a decent drive from Anderson/Indy, but the festivals will really introduce Dot & Line to a lot of craft beer fans that haven’t seen them before. Or maybe they have, if you judge by the number of Indy/central IN folks at 2Toms Saturday, Fort Wayne may be a regular stop for a lot more Indiana beer fans than they realize. It’s great that places like Bad Dad, Chapman’s, and HopLore will also be coming to pour at Indiana On Tap festivals.
Roulette Club at Chapman’s Brewing – With Chapman’s Brewing having multiple taprooms in the NE Indiana region, it’s appropriate to include in this piece my discussion with Zach White last week on their progress of their Roulette Club. This is a very successful program that allows members to have special release beers (Roulette series, once per month) automatically delivered to their home or business. The number of subscribers is growing each month, great for sales, but also great for making an efficient brewery and to serve customers better.
A fresh growler each month, discounts on beer, posters with the delivery, and additional pre-orders possible – it’s a win win. Zach told me about the latest and coming offerings, “Our current release is “Trustee,” a hazelnut American brown ale at 4.5%. It’s a nutty twist on an American classic. We went with the name Trustee, as for us, a brown ale isn’t going to disappoint. Our next roulette will be “Monstre” a seriously good Belgian golden strong ale at 10%. This guy is full of banana and clove, I even get a little bit of pineapple upfront. This new release drops next Friday at the taprooms on the 12th but our subscribers will get it on the 11th to try early.”
Harry Stuff Brewing canning line and more – I was discussing with Ehren Stuff his new canning line and the prospects for Harry Stuff to come south to pour at events even though he hasn’t invested in a jockey box yet. I mentioned that it would be perfectly OK if he poured at a festival from cans rather than do draft. He hadn’t thought of that, while other brewers really prefer it, both for ease and for Covid.
I hope Ehren is seriously considering the serve from cans idea and that he brings some of his stunning beer south to our area. But even more important, I wanted to let him know that festivals are considered trade shows, and it is perfectly legal for breweries to sell packaged product at trade shows. True, that would require hauling beer to the event, keeping it cool, and hauling it home if unsold, but if they can deal with that – it’s not a bad idea. As a craft beer fan, would you like to be able to take a four pack home from a new brewery you tried that day? I would.
Purdue Alumni Association – This isn’t really huge news, but is indicative of how the Fort Wayne area dominated last week for me. A person from Purdue Alumni contacted me last week, looking for breweries in the Fort Wayne area that had owners/brewers, etc. that are Purdue grads.
They had asked me about two months ago to look for Indy area breweries with Purdue folks – there were many of them. I was able to locate a good number in NE Indiana with people who went to Purdue, and even more that have an IPFW/PFW connection. If you’re a Purdue grad in that area and like to go to the alumni association meetings, they’re about to become much more fun.
Brrr Fest in Bluffton – If you don’t have tickets for Brrr Fest in Bluffton on April 10th, you’re going to have to put your money on a few tickets opening up in the next few weeks, because this festival is officially sold out. True, the attendance is limited this year due to the pandemic, but with infections and deaths dropping off dramatically, perhaps some additional tickets will be allowed.
Even with the event being sold out, the organizers are still looking to increase the value for the attendees by continuing to add craft beverage vendors and homebrewers. This is a nice homebrew competition, so if you have interest, contact Chad Kline at firstname.lastname@example.org, the details can be found at www.blufftonnow.org/brr-fest. You’ll need two 12 oz. bottles to be judged and they (and the fee) can be dropped off at the Wells County Economic Development office at 211 W. Water Street, Bluffton 46714. will be
Ambrosia Orchard and Alchemy Beverage Co. – I had contacted Edison Bender at Ambrosia last week about coming up to talk about their projects. So while up north Saturday, Walter and I stopped in at Ambrosia to do an interview with Blanca and Edison about their new micro-wholesaler company called Alchemy Beverage Company. Meanwhile, we got to try many of the meads and ciders they had to offer.
Look for an upcoming article on the plight of farmhouse winery permit holders in Indiana when trying to sell their products to retailers, and the ability now to get that product sold only if you start a separate company or manage to get the attention of a distributor (unlikely). Also look for a second story on the Gold Rush Cider they have, a single variety cider that uses an Indiana developed apple – a true Indiana artisan product.
Other information – Besides all those tidbits, discussions last week also included talk of the HopLore Brewing production brewery and taproom in Warsaw and the good progress being made there. Finally, we heard last week from a small town in NE Indiana that is investigating the idea of holding their own craft beverage festival. Can you think of a reason they shouldn’t? Great producers, great craft fans, lots of history, pretty venues – sounds like a recipe for success.
Hey Fort Wayne, it was a heck of a week, but I’ve got to get back to the rest of the state for a while, OK?