30 Jun Saint John Malt Brothers A welcome Addition To Growing Northern Indiana Brewing Community
Returning with his wife to northwest Indiana in 2009, Dan Cox quickly realized that something was missing in his community. Having lived in Chicago for many years, Cox was passionately into the city’s growing craft beer industry, regularly enjoying breweries such as Goose Island. With a vision to re-create his Chicago experience, Cox found his neighbors, all of them homebrewers, also ready to take the next step in brewing. The result of that collaboration, Saint John Malt Brothers (Saint John, IN), became a reality this past March.
Cox, who is an engineer by trade and serves as SJMB’s Vice President, joined by President Jim Estry and Head Brewer Dave Witt, set up shop along Northwest Indiana’s busy State Route 41. The original plan was to have a small tasting room in the front of the brewing section, but when the opportunity presented itself, the brewery took up the challenge of creating a brewpub out of a former hair salon, which they also decided to lease. The brewpub’s layout uses the limited space well, with a variety of seating options, and the walls feature SJMB products and merchandise, along with paintings from local artists. The brewery itself features a fifteen barrel computerized European brewing system, and tours of the area are available to patrons.
The brewery has also enjoyed early success in producing barrel-aged products, such as their bourbon barrel aged version of Burnt Bottom Brown ale (Killer BBBBB’s) and Killer Queen BB’s, a bourbon barrel aged Imperial IPA (which I have tasted, and it is smooth and very good). After a “right place, right time” moment, SJMB was able to purchase barrels from Michigan’s Journeyman Distillery and immediately move into their barrel-aged program. The brewery’s next phase of their barrel-aged program will be brewing with the use of wine barrels.
The biggest beer surprise of my visit, however, did not involve these fine IPA offerings. I am not usually drawn toward brown ales, by far favoring stouts and porters more. I was able to enjoy a sample of the brewery’s Bolder Burnt Bottom Brown, which was very good and, if I did not know it was a brown ale, I would have sworn it was a porter. The ale is also used in the cheese served with the complimentary pretzels (it is delicious), as well as in the brats that are part of the pub food menu.
Speaking of food, SJMB has overcome limited kitchen space and provides a nice menu of food choices, ranging from soup, brats, Chicago-style hot dogs and Panini sandwiches. I chose the Cuban Panini, and it was delicious.
For those craft beer enthusiasts looking to sample SJMB beer, the brewery will be participating in several Northwest Indiana festivals, including Highland’s Pints In The Park (which I will be covering for Indiana On Tap), Hobart’s Brews and Blues, and Valparaiso’s Valpo Brewfest. With community involvement being a big part of the brewery’s business philosophy, SJMB will also be active participants in their local, hometown St. John festivals this summer and fall. The brewery is also part of IndianaOnTap.com’s new Tasting Society Marketplace (for more info, see www.indianaontap.com/tasting-society.html).
To visit the brewpub in person, Saint John Malt Brothers is located at 9575 Wicker Ave (State Route 41), in St. John, Indiana. The brewpub’s current hours and days of operation are as follows: Sunday, Noon to 8 p.m.; Wednesday- Friday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.; and Saturday, 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. For more information on SJMB, you can check out their website at www.sjmaltbros.com, Like them on Facebook, and follow their Twitter feed (@SJMaltBros).