02 Jul Oaken Barrel Brewing Co. 20th Anniversary Celebration – Friday, July 4th
Oaken Barrel Brewing Co. will celebrate its 20th anniversary July 4 with its annual Pork of July buffet, starting at noon. Always a not-to-miss event, this year it’s an even more essential visit as it offers a chance to meet with brewers who’ve burnished Oaken Barrel’s legacy.
You see, Oaken Barrel inspires its brewers to move up in the ranks. Though Oaken Barrel founder Kwang Casey cites John Hill’s Broad Ripple Brewpub as the impetus for Indiana’s craft beer movement, history will show that it was the ebullient Casey who inspired brewers to spread their wings, founding their own breweries or joining staffs of nationally cited craft breweries.
Founding head brewer Brook Belli trained Jerry Sutherlin, now Rock Bottom downtown brewmaster, and Tonya Cornet, who moved to Bend, Oregon, and gained international fame.
When Belli retired, Ken Price moved from Upland to Oaken Barrel, and then to Yazoo Brewing in Nashville, Tennessee.
One-time assistant D. J. McAlister, founding brewer of Black Swan in Plainfield, also brewed at Lafayette Brewing Co.
Jeff Holmes came on briefly; Mark Havens followed and is now founding brewmaster of Quaff On! in Nashville, Indiana.
As for Havens’ assistants: Andrew Castner moved to The RAM as brewmaster before co-founding MashCraft in Greenwood, and John Treeter became BRBP brewmaster.
Alan Simon came from Thr3e Wisemen to follow Havens at Oaken Barrel; his assistant Scott Ellis is now a brewmaster at The RAM.
Sara Turner currently is part of Simon’s Oaken Barrel team as assistant brewer.
Quips Casey as a coda to the litany: “Clay Robinson applied for a brewer position but was not officially hired. He decided to open Sun King instead. Wise move by him.”
For the record, in the early years, Gus Chaffant and Tony Diggs were assistant brewers and went on to other pursuits.
If you’ve ever been to craft beer festival, the sight to behold is a cluster of former and present Oaken Barrel brewers huddling as in a family reunion.
Oaken Barrel’s most-loved brew is Razz-Wheat; their plentiful accolades include being named 5-times as the Champion Brewery of the Indiana State Fair’s Brewers Cup. Says Casey, “A competition brings out the best in us. You can make a beer, and you can find touches to make it even better every day.”