30 Oct Some Recent/Coming Indiana Brewery Openings Aren’t Indiana Breweries
Indiana has a vibrant craft beer community. It’s growing each year and provides opportunities for Indiana brewers and Indiana entrepreneurs. Whether or not you agree that there’s a limit to the number of breweries that Indiana can support, it’s a pertinent question to ask how much growth is possible and where that growth should come from.
Dozens and dozens of out of state breweries now distribute beer in our state, and for the most part, this is a good thing. It gives consumers choice, it drives innovation and best practices in Indiana beer through competition, and can help bring new craft drinkers to the communal table. But too much of a good thing could start to hurt Indiana breweries, making it harder for them to find shelf space and taps at bars and restaurants. Is the competition good for Indiana beer, or is it just good for beer in general? If Indiana breweries get hurt, is that just the way it goes?
Now, extend the question of out of state craft beer influx from the stores and bars to the taprooms. What if out-of-state craft breweries came to Indiana to set up shop, and sell their beer in their own taprooms? Would it be a good thing for Indiana breweries or would it hurt our local breweries?
The fact is, it’s already begun. There are four craft breweries from outside Indiana that are now open or getting ready to open in our state. Those four are: BrewDog-USA from Ohio (and originally from Scotland) has opened in Fountain Square; Goodwood Brewhouse & Live Room from Louisville opened across the river in Jeffersonville; Ellison Brewery + Spirits of Lansing, MI will open in Indianapolis next week; and the latest announcement – Greenbush Brewing of Sawyer, MI will be opening soon in South Bend. Let’s look at who they are and what they do, and then ask the question – does the Indiana drinker, brewer, or community benefit from this in the long run?
BrewDog – Indianapolis: BrewDog started as a Scottish brewery in 2007 owned by Martin Dickie and James Watt. As of recently, they own 46% of the company. The rest of the company is split between a private equity fund (23%), other partners (~20%), and the equity punks – individual craft beer fans that invest with the company via a crowdfunding project (~11%). The company now has a valuation of more than $1.24 billion and there are rumors that they will be putting out an IPO and take a place on the stock exchange in 2020.
BrewDog-USA is a subsidiary of BrewDog that opened up in Columbus, OH in 2017, and now has three bars there and the Doghouse Hotel. More are planned in Ohio and other states (with more than 85 worldwide now), but in September the Indianapolis location became the first bar for BrewDog-USA outside Ohio. The taproom has food, lots of taps, and plenty of space. They opened to a good amount of fan fair just a block away from Upland-FSQ, New Day Craft, and Fountain Square Brew Co.
Since opening, BrewDog – Indianapolis has held a community cleanup day in October and started a running club. They will have another clean up day soon, so they are trying to becoming a partner in the Indianapolis community. One thing they aren’t doing is brewing on site. No BrewDog beer is made in Indiana, so people have to decide if that makes a difference to them.
Goodwood Brewhouse & Live Room: Begun in Louisville in 2015, Goodwood started as a brewery that aged all their beer on wood to some extent. That may not still be competely true, but the majority of their beers do still spend some time in contact with wood. Earlier this year they expanded across the river to Jeffersonville, IN, where many of their fans are located.
Not satisfied with just opening a taproom, Goodwood in Indiana is a dedicated music venue; that’s where the “Live Room” in the name comes from. The owners have invested more than $100,000 in a new sound system, stage and lighting. In the ~180 days they have been open, they have had over 200 different groups and artists on the stage, which makes them a fantastic partner for the arts community of southern IN, northern KY, and the region as a whole.
The other part of their name, “Brewhouse,” comes from the fact that they will be brewing on site with a 2 bbl system. The beers on this small batch system will specialty version, although the 18 taps of the bar will also have many of the Louisville brewed beers as well. The owners have stated that more of the beers coming from Jeff will fall into the “funky” category, so look for some very innovative offerings from this beautiful location. They can be found on the second floor of the building that houses their food partner, Cox’s Hot Chicken (134 Spring St.). The bar is indoor/outdoor and a third floor deck that looks out over the Ohio River and Louisville.
Ellison Brewing – Indianapolis: Owner Aaron Hanson and his team are getting ready to open (Nov. 9) their second location overall and their first outside Lansing, MI. Coming to the previous TowYard Brewing site, Ellison came across both the location and the TowYard equipment by accident, just spying it on social media as it passed by in someone’s feed.
The décor has been updated completely, giving the spot a sleek feeling, and the kitchen has been expanded considerably. Ricky Hatfield is the Ellison chef and will have a full menu of higher end gastropub fare. On the beer side, Colt Carpenter, late of Wooden Bear Brewing in Greenfield, is the head brewer for Ellison – Indianapolis and will have the 10 bbl system previously located in Lansing to make Ellison core beers in Indiana to begin with and then to branch out into small batches and one-offs, although they are already getting ready to get some beer into barrels in Indianapolis.
Taking advantage of some of the economy of scale by using grain from Ellison in Michigan to make the beer in Indiana, and they are looking to procure the entire building and then start distilling on site too, but that is for the near future, not now. By brewing and distilling in Indiana, Ellison will definitely be a part of the Indianapolis community.
What’s more, Hanson has had friends and family in Indianapolis and its environs for years, and this deep connection is the reason Ellison chose Indianapolis to begin with. As part of that connection to Indy, the menu will reflect some dishes with ethnic flairs that reflect the people that work around Ellison at Lilly and Rolls Royce. We know this is the case the because Ellison crew made the rounds to go meet them.
Greenbush Brewing – South Bend: When Greenbush opened in 2011 in Sawyer, MI, few could imagine how much they could have grown from that original nanosystem. As of late, Sawyer is basically all Greenbush, with a brewpub, a production brewery, a dinner club, a gift shop, a market, and more. Greenbush has a rabid following on both sides of the border between Michigan and Indiana, and a new Indiana location is the result of recently taking a look at those numbers.
The lifetime Greenbush club has more than 4800 members in South Bend alone, so they decided that instead of growing bigger in Sawyer which would be difficult to accomplish, they would open a location across the border. The new brewpub will be located in Erskine Plaza on the south side near US31 and US20, next to Martin’s Supermarket, the deli of which will play at least a role in their food service. Greenbush says that this location will have 14 taps of Greenbush beer, which let them reach their fans in Indiana much easier and will relieve some of the congestion at the Sawyer location.
Looking to open sometime in November/December, or perhaps January of 2020, Greenbush – South Bend will be a brewery as well. They will have a 1 bbl system to make one-off beers and small batch versions of Greenbush beers. Greenbush has provided brewers to several northern IN breweries, so the connection between Indiana and Greenbush is strong, and much like with Goodwood, the new location is just a couple of dozen miles from their mothership. This looks like more organic growth.
What does it mean for IN? We’ve identified the issue and the question – four breweries are moving into Indiana, and is that a good thing for Indiana beer. I can’t imagine that anything about craft beer is all one thing or another, so we need to look at the pros and cons of each situation, understand how and why this is happening both nationally and locally, and then look to the people involved (the breweries on their way and the breweries here in Indiana) to learn how they feel about the situation. That’s what we’ll do next time.