Mad Paddle Brewery Looks to Bring Madison Back Into the Brewing Game

Mad Paddle Brewery Looks to Bring Madison Back Into the Brewing Game

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

Jerry and Larry Wade, brothers from Indianapolis and New Castle, came to open a brewery in Madison, IN by a circuitous route. Jerry had never been to Madison, but was looking for a condo in a small Indiana town, being the newly retired fellow that he was. While doing his due diligence on the town that might become his home, Jerry found that Madison had an old brewing history, being the third city in Indiana to have a brewery (New Harmony and Richmond were earlier by a year or so).

The fact that Madison had been heavily involved in brewing, yet had no craft brewery in 2017 looked more like a business opportunity than a negative to Jerry. So he talked to his brother Larry. The two of them started making inquiries, and found that the town was quite receptive. The city officials were business friendly, and the local college was on board with contacts in the chemistry department, with potential interns, and alumni that were involved in brewing (Dave Colt of Sun King and others).

With Madison being a tourist destination and hosting several large festivals each year, the idea of a succeeding with a local brewery began to look more and more feasible. The search for a building was easier than some, an option on one of the buildings that had been a pre-prohibition brewery didn’t work out, but people kept telling them that the building they really wanted was the old feed mill at 301 West Street. And thus, Mad Paddle Brewery was born.

image credit: Mad Paddle Brewery

The location is just so perfect – just three blocks from the Ohio River, and only two blocks from the park where most of the festivals are held. The inside of the building still had weighing scales, augers, and grain paddles when they took over in 2017. In fact, that’s where the name came from Mad – for Madison, and Paddle- for the grain paddles that were used in the feed mill but are also used in brewing. The building is just gorgeous, but it’s really being brightened up now. The patio/taproom will be ready for a Sept. 1 opening, with the limited restaurant (initially) to follow close behind. The vibe will be steampunk, a new look for an Indiana brewery.

The brew house isn’t in place yet (will eventually have both a 7 bbl system and 1 bbl small batch system), but that doesn’t mean Mad Paddle doesn’t have beer. The Wicket Blonde Ale has been on draft around town for a couple of months now.  It has been received well according to the UnTappd reviews, has been on sale at all the Madison summer festivals, and will be at the Regatta and the Chautauqua Festival of Art coming up soon as well.

While the Wicket Blonde has gone very well according to Jerry, it’s about to be joined by an IPA. Whose IPA you ask? Well, it’s none other than Caleb Staton, the former head brewer at Upland. You know Caleb – he started the Upland sours program all those years ago.

Caleb joined the Mad Paddle team just a couple months ago as a consulting brewer, after he and Jerry had met around the new year and had starting talking. Staton is a Hanover graduate (Communications and Chemistry, btw) and has a fondness for all things Madison. He said “From the first time I met Jerry Wade, I could see that sparkle of entrepreneurship in his eyes that shared that vision of bringing quality beer in a destination setting to the historic downtown Madison district. Opening discussions to partnering with Hanover in the endeavor sealed my appreciation for his goals. I’m happy to be on board and to provide over a decade of production brewing knowledge to the project, and look forward to the result of adding jobs and a new place of business in Indiana. The craft brewing segment of the beer industry still has a big share of the market to reach, and a key element to that growth is smaller quality region specific brewing operations. Mad Paddle Brewery will immediately fill that role in Jefferson County, and with excellent beer and planning the sky is the limit as to where it can go from there.”

image credit: Mad Paddle Brewery

Caleb and Josh Hill from New Albanian Brewing are collaborating on the IPA, as the Mad Paddle beers are being brewed on the Bank Street location of New Albanian until the Mad Paddle system is in place and running. This arrangement allows Mad Paddle to get out into the community and make their presence known, which is one of the core values of the brewery. Jerry and Larry plan on holding local events of their own, promoting and supporting the large Madison artist community, having a good relationship with Hanover College, and of course, be seen around town.

The idea of a visible presence will be seen greatly in the 1942 fire truck and the vintage Chevy truck that Mad Paddle has purchased and is transforming into their brewery vehicles. Much like the Great Crescent AmBREWlance, the Winona Lakes bike that Goshen Brewing uses for Microbrewers Fest, the VW bus of Floyd County Brewing, and the hearse from Scarlet Lane, brewery vehicles are a great way to interact with the community.

A very different way to get the public involved in your brewery is to let them pour their own beer. Mad Paddle will be implementing the Pour My Beer system of beverage delivery, one of the so-called self-dispensing systems. On the patio and in the taproom, Mad Paddle will have a beer wall with taps controlled by payment cards. You run your credit or debit card to load a Pour My Beer card with a certain amount of money. Then you pick your beer from the screens connected to each tap, place your card against it, and it will allow you to pour a beer.

Wicket Blonde is on draft now, but plans are in the works to can it too, since it has proven so popular. image credit: Untappd

Each beer has a specific price per ounce, and the system records how many ounces you dispense and subtracts that from your scan card. Beer slingers will be around to help you select beers based on your preferences and to assist you in pouring a proper beer. Initially, Mad Paddle will have ten taps for the beer wall inside the taproom and ten on the patio, and these will be expanded over time. But don’t worry, there will be an additional taproom with a traditional bartender if you prefer to have your beer poured by a professional or you need someone to whom you can tell your troubles.

The innovation of the beer wall reflects one of the core values of Mad Paddle. The Wade brothers are creators, and Jerry specializes in finding new ways to market and sell an idea or product. While always pushing the envelope and moving forward, Jerry is passionate about incorporating and being true to the rich history of Madison. Mad Paddle will also show devotion to the people of community as much as they devote themselves to making quality beer, and will be a good steward of the community life to tourists that visit their fair city.

In all aspects of the Mad Paddle world, they will be bold and fearless in their pursuit of greatness for the people of Madison. This means producing great beer, but also having the humility to know that their brethren in beer make great products too, so they will be proud to serve great craft beers from Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. The bottom line for Mad Paddle is – work hard, be honest, set an example – and then play hard.

Get some Mad Paddle beer now (they will serve at Fermentation Celebration in Vernon this weekend) as an introduction to the brewery that will be taking southeastern Indiana and northern Kentucky by storm. It’s about time Madison got back into the brewing game, and Mad Paddle will be a great ambassador for its town and people.


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