Tin Man Kokomo Brewing: You Only Think You Know What They’re About

Tin Man Kokomo Brewing: You Only Think You Know What They’re About

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

Tin Man Kokomo Brewing will celebrate their 3rd anniversary on December 26th, just in time to get of the post-Christmas house for a few hours and/or take the visitors to a fun event as part of their visit. The party will include $3 beers and $6 and $9 growler fills depending on the beer. Basically everything will be in multiples of $3. Even better, Tin Man Kokomo will be releasing a barrel aged blended beer on that day – a beer that deserves some explanation.

A long while ago, Tin Man head brewer Jack Sramek put some of their 2017 Czar Russian Imperial Stout in some fresh oak barrels. A while later, he filled additional new oak barrels with their 2018 Putin on the Ritz Russian Imperial Stout. Now those barrel beers have been aging for 18 and 8 months, respectively, and it’s time to reap the rewards. Jack and Tin Man owner Amanda did some nails and loved each of the beers, but when they tried some blending of the two, there was a synergy. Two plus two now equaled eight, so they decided to go with a blend for the release.

The party will be a nice after Christmas treat, but Tin Man Kokomo Brewing is so much more than this single day a year. They work very hard to build a reputation for great beers and great events – of course every brewery does. But in this case it means a bit more because they have to maneuver around the memory of Tin Man Brewing in Evansville. No brewery in Indiana has a more undeserved recognition problem.

image credit: Tin Man Kokomo Brewing

Tin Man Brewing in Evansville (2012-2018) was never the owner of Tin Man Kokomo, it has always been owned by Amanda Lewton, but the two breweries did contract to sell Tin Man Evansville beers in the Kokomo location and for Kokomo to use the name, logos, and other intellectual property. What’s more, one of the Evansville brewers ended up as the head brewer at Kokomo, though it wasn’t a sale or trade. Jack left Evansville and was happy to sign on at Kokomo.

Immediately the problem was apparent. While Tin Man was making some of their own beers (they had names that mimicked Tin Man Evansville beers), everyone just assumed that the beers were all from Evansville and that Kokomo was an offsite taproom for Tin Man Evansville. Nothing could have been further from the truth, the beers from Kokomo were always distinct and products of Jack’s talent and hard work. The feel of the taproom and the events and amenities were always the product of Amanda and taproom manager Ashley.

While Tin Man Evansville went through its tribulations (open, close, sale, open, close), Tin Man Kokomo was chugging right along and building a loyal following. But that following could have been/could be much larger if the name/logo issue wasn’t so apparent. By the time Tin Man Evansville was gone for good, Kokomo had been making great beers for a year and a half, and their fans knew them as Tin Man Kokomo. Starting over with a new name, logo, and marketing – and then trying to convince everyone that nothing had really changed – would have been daunting and risky.

As the memory of Tin Man Evansville fades over time, the issue of Kokomo vs. Evansville will lessen, but it still matters for now. The issue is how Tin Man Kokomo Brewing pays homage to their roots and tradition, while getting the word out to everyone that they are their own brewery, and always have been. Take the best of what Evansville was, the metal man and all, and then show craft beer fans how that robot has evolved to become a next-gen terminator.

The question becomes – how do they do that? Tin Man Kokomo participates in festivals and people love their beer. They are starting to send a bit of beer out of the brewery, but how do they send their story along with the beer? In the end, Amanda and Jack have to rely on their hard work to put out the best products they can and to create an interesting atmosphere and place to have fun that will draw people in.

The winner of the robot fighting tournament at Tin Man Kokomo in July. image credit: gramho.com

One way to do that is to have innovative events. Engineering is a big deal in Kokomo, with Chrysler and Delphi having large presences there. Many of the schools have robotics teams, mentored by local engineers, and this goes right along with Tin Man’s robot image. Plus, they have already thrown a successful robot fight night just outside the taproom in July. Two-dozen robot fighting teams from all over the country (including California, Wisconsin, and South Carolina) converged on Buckeye Street for a tournament that lasted most of the day and was a family friendly event.

It’s a great example, an interesting event that played to Tin Man’s engineering bent. Truthfully, do you know of any other breweries that have a robot fight night? Ok, there are a couple of them nationally, but certainly none around Indiana. It’s these kinds of efforts that will help Tin Man Kokomo Brewing make a name of their own. Look for more of these kinds of events that Tin Man has either run successfully and will again, or things they will be adding – Star Wars Day, an 80s prom night at the country club, drag shows, date nights, work with the Grissom Air Museum, etc. And look for even more new events in 2020 (yes, this is a clue that you should stay tuned).

There are big things on the way, like starting a mug club for 2020 (a glass that stays at the brewery, 20 oz. pours for the price of a pint) and the idea for a rewards program for purchases. There is also a new event space that will allow them to service so many more groups and activities, but it isn’t just the big things that matter. There are little things too, like how they arrange the sitting and stand up tables to maximally utilize the taproom when they have groups (and they have groups often), and teaming up with the Humane Society to get some puppies and kittens adopted.

Tin Man Kokomo is working hard to earn a place in your heart and head as to who they really are. The least we can do as craft beer fans is make some visits to them to see what they’re up to, stay abreast of their interesting events, and drink the beer that has already earned a reputation as top notch. Tin Man is doing all it can to get to know us, we should reciprocate and get to know who they really are, not who we thought they were.

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