St. John Malt Brothers Grows in Several Ways Via Merger with 95Ate5 Brew Pub

St. John Malt Brothers Grows in Several Ways Via Merger with 95Ate5 Brew Pub

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

One of the breweries with the largest distribution footprint in the state is about to get larger in several dimensions. St. John Malt Brothers in St. John, IN will 1) merge with 95Ate5 Brew Pub, also of St. John, 2) open a production brewery in the same industrial park were 95Ate5 Brewpub is located, and 3) is looking to expand with a taproom in West Lafayette, and perhaps later – beyond.

The NWI Times ran a large article by Joseph S. Pete (link here) full of information on the doings at St. John Malt Brothers on Thursday morning, May 16th, so I am using much of this information, but also talked to owner Jim Estry to get a more details. Several of the moves are linked together via the redevelopment planned for St. John Malt Brothers current taproom at 9575 Wicker Avenue in St. John. The brewery had the choice of taking space in the upscale Shops 96 retail development, but Jim said that few breweries are found in these types of locations.

By leasing space in the industrial park, SJMB could get twice the square footage for half the price, and at the same time be able to substantially increase their output of beer. Simultaneously, by merging with 95Ate5 Brewpub at 9585 Industrial Drive, SJMB acquires a brewpub location for after the original space is torn down, and takes advantage of the restaurant already located in the space. SJMB will run both brewpubs simultaneously, until the Wicker Street location is torn down on July 8th.

image credit: SJMB

The physical space for St. John Malt Brothers at 95Ate5 will be renovated, but the menu and original beers will remain under the 95Ate5 branding. This makes it a true merger, a popular choice these days. The Denver magazine called 5280 ran an article in March about this very topic (by Tyra Sutek, link here), and the recent acquisition of Dogfish Head by Boston Beer Company just points out how popular the business move has become.

The Canarchy Brewery Collective that started with Oskar Blues and now includes Perrin, Three Weavers, Cigar City, Deep Ellum and others is one example, but there are smaller ones as well, like Funkwerks and Brooklyn Brewery, or Wit’s End and Strange Craft combining into a single taproom in Denver to save on real estate costs. The 95Ate5 and SJMB is just the closest example, but probably won’t be a singular event in Indiana for long. This is just an extension of the brewery/food partnerships that have become a huge hit, most recently exemplified by the Cox’s Hot Chicken and Goodwood Brewing partnership in Jeffersonville. (update – just another example is the recent Fountain Square Brewing and New Day Craft merger – a more in depth article on that item is coming soon).

SJMB Head Brewer Len Bergonia will oversee brewing at both locations – the 3bbl system at 95Ate5 and the expanded production system. The nice part is that the small batch system is only a short toss of a rock from the larger SJMB production brewery in the same complex. The total barrelage potential will be the same at the new location (capacity of 20,000 barrels/yr.), but the new facility will allow for many more fermenters, increasing their beer output to over 3,000 barrel/yr. from the current 1,000 bbl/yr.

image credit: SJMB

Jim told me that the original 15 bbl brewhouse will be moved to the new production location (2000 sq. ft) the week of June 10th and they hope to back up and brewing by the end of June. SJMB has some beer in the bank for the period of time when brewing won’t be possible, but some beers will definitely be taxed during that period, like the IPAs that just never last as long. Estry and partners have done analysis of where in the state their beers are selling the best, and are looking for potential taproom locations in those cities. This includes West Lafayette, South Bend, and Indianapolis.

The first move will be to West Lafayette, where a taproom where concession-type food could be open by the end of 2020. Jim told the NWI Times, “So many people at our brewery are associated with Purdue. There are a couple of good breweries there, and it’s a relatively small market, but I was in Longmont, Colorado — a city of 80,000 — that’s home to 12 breweries, including Oscar Blues and Left Hand.” But with all that’s going on right now, they are really looking to attack this opportunity in about nine months.

Estry is optimistic about the future of SJMB. He told the NWI Times, “We are making some of the best craft beer in Northwest Indiana.” Several breweries are making very, very good beer, but I would match our beer with any of them. We’re just going to continue to get better with the new production system. We’ll start with much better water. We’re committed to Northwest Indiana, and we just want to offer great beer, great food and great service.”

banner image credit: SJMB

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