19 Jul New Breweries Shine at Indiana Brewers Cup
Yesterday we discussed how well the breweries more than ten years old did at the recent Indiana Brewers Cup (IBC). It is a sign that instead of being complacent and staid, they are innovating and moving forward in an industry where the new and unfamiliar is often sought out simply because it is new and unfamiliar. Today let’s look at the new breweries that are backing up their newness with some really great beer.
The last year and a half has seen the opening of more than thirty breweries around the state. Some have worked into their systems well and some are so new that they are still working to get their feet planted firmly beneath them. But I have been surprised at the number of very new breweries that are making medal-contending beer right out of the gate. As evidence for this, four breweries that have been open less than a year took home medals from IBC last weekend. In some cases they have been open less than six months let alone a year, and some of these new breweries took home multiple medals.
To start off, how about a brewery that’s been open since just February taking silver for Best of Show with a Vienna Lager – a style hard to do well, but extremely hard to well when you are still getting used to your brewhouse. Hop River Brewing in Fort Wayne accomplished just such a feat with their Maestro. To begin with, to even get into the Best of Show competition, a beer has to win a gold medal in its category, and that’s what Maestro did in the European Amber Lager group. But Hop River wasn’t done, their Harrison St. Wheat also won gold in the German Wheat/Rye beer category, so they had two beers in the Best of Show runoff, and one took home the runner up award. A solid eight points at your first IBC (Daredevil Brewing took home Grand Champion with eleven total points) is quite a feat.
Hop River co-owner Ben Jackson reflected on the early success of the brewery in competition, “Having only been open five months, these awards are a welcome validation of our hard work and dedication to creating innovative, yet true-to-style, craft beer in Fort Wayne. Of course, it starts with an excellent brewer, and Kevin is the best around in our opinion. We could not have achieved these awards without everyone at the brewery contributing—from the kitchen to the taproom staff—pushing every day to help us make the best beer.” Head brewer Kevin Debs added, “We’re a brewery staffed by beer drinkers and enthusiasts, everyone works to make each new batch a little better than the batch before, because that’s the beer we want to drink ourselves—and the beer we want to share.”
Three other breweries that did well at IBC, and who have been making beer for only 19 months TOTAL, are all located near Lafayette. Backstep (eight months), Teays River (about 5 months), and Brokerage (about 6 months) have a special relationship and work uncommonly close together to support one another, even in an industry known for close relationships between what might otherwise be seen as competitors. Backstep head brewer, Josh Miller, said, “I talk with Jason (Teays River) or Corey (Brokerage) at least once a week. We have all developed a great working relationship with each other where we can help each other, trade/borrow ingredients, or cover for each other when ever we need it (see this article). Also I seem to end up at one of their establishments at least once a week, just to hang out.”
Of Backstep’s two bronzes medals (Dunkel Witz and Lost Season) and their silver medal California Common called Necessity, Josh added, “I love that Backstep can be an example for the quality of beer that can be produced in a small town like Crawfordsville. I’m not going to make more macro-like beers just because of where we are. I am going to make the highest quality interpretations of styles that I can, and put them against the best in the world – and Crawfordsville has really appreciated that mentality.”
Teays River on the south side of Lafayette has been making beer for the shortest period of these three, and yet still took home two medals at IBC, a bronze for their Peregrin American Wheat, and another bronze for the Goin’ Out West California Common. The Amber Hybrid Beer category was especially good for this triplet of breweries, with two of them taking the silver and the bronze. Brokerage Brewing in West Lafayette rounded out the haul with gold medal in the Light Hybrid Category for the first beer they ever made – the Walking Ashland Cream Ale.
Head Brewer of Brokerage, Corey Patterson reiterated the cooperation and support the brewery has received from other Indiana and local breweries, but he and Josh took the time to include another entity as well, Blichmann Engineering of Lafayette. All three breweries are working on Blichmann Pro Series systems, and they appreciate the support that Blichmann gives them all. Corey said, “We’re super close knit over here in this area, and we’re all very new, so all three of the new breweries in the area have forged a close bond. Josh and Jason are more than happy to provide advice, ingredients, and time to make sure that I’m succeeding over here. We’re all making great beer, and being close to such great breweries (and great new friends!) helps me strive to produce the best possible product for my neighborhood.” He added, “A huge shout out to goes to Blichmann; John, Drew, Jennie, and their engineering team have been amazing, and are instrumental to Brokerage’s success. At least one of the folks over there stops by once a week to check in on things, have a beer, and talk about how the equipment is working, what I like, and what could be changed. The medals that we won between us (in my mind) are as much theirs as they are ours.”
Congratulations to large number of new breweries that are working so hard to make a product they can be proud of and will raise the level of Indiana craft beer. This includes the breweries that haven’t yet won a medal, and may never win one. Don’t scan lists of medal winners looking for beers that must be good, trust your experiences and instincts and find all the great beer around you. They’re out there, and they can’t all be found on a list of medalists.