What New and Established Craft Beer Events Have in Common for Indiana

What New and Established Craft Beer Events Have in Common for Indiana

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

Indiana craft beer offers chances to do new things, like meet new people and breweries or celebrate a new event. There are also established breweries and events that keep bringing people back time after time. New experiences grow the entire community of craft beer, while established events and places keep us tied to the history of the movement and help us stay grounded.

It’s nice to mix in some of the old with some of the new, and Walter and I had the opportunity to swing back and forth from new to old with the four events we attended on Saturday (May 11th). Each place we landed had a message and a link to making craft beer strong in this state, and each meshed together with the others in the quality of people and experiences that we enjoyed. We started with something very new, and then moved on to an established festival for charity. We then moved on to a first anniversary party and then finished at an old favorite brewery to listen to music from an established favorite on the brewery music tour scene. New, old, new, old… a heck of a day, and a reminder of how lucky we are in this state.

Herrmann Brewthers. Our first stop was a community event on the near west side of Indianapolis, a chance for the neighborhood to come out and help clean up the Haughville Park, get in some exercise, and enjoy some craft beer from a new brewery that doesn’t even have their own taproom yet. The activity is called plogging (from Swedish – plocka upp), basically a combination of running/jogging and picking up trash. Keep Indianapolis Beautiful sponsored the event at 2508 W. Michigan from 11am – 1pm, and Herrmann Brewthers provided the beer.

image credit: Herrmann Brewthers Brewing

Haven’t heard of Herrmann Brewthers yet? You will, they make some great beer. People who came out to help earned beer tickets for Herrmann Brewthers’ five beers on tap by participating, but Walter and I showed up just for the beer – we had other events to attend so we couldn’t afford to get sweaty so early. The brewery set up was positioned behind what will soon be the Fonseca Theatre Company building at 2508 W. Michigan, and right next door to what will ultimately be the Herrmann Brewthers taproom and brewery.

The location is excellent, a part of town that needs a brewery and is starting to have a renaissance. There is a large apartment complex going up within stumbling distance of the future brewery and the theater company right next door will be a good partner. When both are open, there will be communicating door, so all the theater patrons can get cold beers during the show. They will even share a back patio with covered tables for the brewery and a small stage for outdoor production. All of this, a view of the park, and a planned 2022 expansion of the cultural trail to Speedway that will run past their front door as well.

Owners and brewers Adam and Andrew (Drew) Herrmann are contract brewing out of a local Indianapolis brewery for now, and their beer is just starting to get out to some accounts. Books & Brews on Mass Ave. has some of their beers, as does the Yats on the same street. Look for more of their beer to make it to more bars and restaurants soon, but one crucial aspect for the brewthers is to serve their beer to their future neighbors at community events like the one Saturday. They recognize that becoming an integral part of the neighborhood is crucial to their future success and to the rebirth of that community.

Adam and Drew started out home brewing at each of their houses, but later they combined their systems into one mega home brew set up. Over time, they built a very sophisticated system, with pumps for all movement of liquids and a clean in place system as well. This system set up at the local brewery, and they use it sometimes, but also use the contract brew house as well. When they open their own place, they will be using their five half barrels to make their own beer, but also for something else….

Indiana On Tap just published a piece on GnomeTown Brewing in Fort Wayne and their brew on premise system that allows people to come in and make their own beer under the supervision of GnomeTown’s staff. Herrmann Brewthers will be the second such system operating in Indiana, and the brewthers say they will offer as much or as little help as the brewers need. Up to ten people will be able to brew using all grain (no extract) at once with two people per kettle, while the brewthers will use all five to produce batches of their own beer.

Rock The Junction joins Grand Junction Brewing even more to the downtown of Westfield. image credit: Grand Junction Brewing

The taproom won’t be open until 2020 because there is a ton of work to do on the building, but we were able to enjoy their Billy Bones old ale and their Carbonite IPA on a nice Saturday morning on what will be their back patio and talk about their hopes and plans. We look forward to seeing much more from Adam and Drew, and inviting them to participate in many Indiana On Tap events.

Rock The Junction. At about 12:15 it was time to head up to Westfield for the 4th Rock the Junction Craft Beer & Music Festival, sponsored by Grand Junction Brewing. The festival has grown each year, but organizer Jon Knight has purposefully kept it from becoming too big so that it can keep its intimate feel. Saturday there were twenty breweries, wineries, and cideries lining the street in front of the Grand Junction brewpub in downtown Westfield, with several food trucks at the end and a large stage for the many bands that played.

The VIP hour started at 1pm although they allowed us in a bit early and we started to sample the beers with enthusiasm. Eventually, nearly 1000 people were moving from booth to booth, tasting, talking, and listening to the music. All the beer was good, but some standouts included the strong saison called Lost Season from Backstep Brewing in Crawfordsville, the Ziegenfarm kellerbier from Big Lug/Liter House, the fruited pilsner from Field Brewing, and the Jean Claude van Dank from Moontown Brewing. The most interesting beer of the session was the Eastsider from Ash & Elm and Indiana City, a blend of pale ale wort with a bit of rye and apple juice and then fermented.

The star the day for Walter and I was Primeval Brewing, participating in their first festival. So this event offered us both something established and something new. Primeval will be opening their taproom in Noblesville later this summer/fall, but their beers are mature now. Walter and I stood around at the cul de sac of the festival, and apparently so did alot of other people because the Primeval booth was jammed. Many were sampling the great Edelweiss hefeweizen, the MC Belgian Quad, the French Connection, a bier de garde that is just a bit sweeter than Dumaine DuPage from Two Brothers, and the smoked German lager called Rauch My World. Look for big things to come from owners/brewers Tim Palmer and Nathan Compton in the months and years to come; theirs is a much anticipated opening.

Bobby Klene (left) and Mike Huffman Jr. have not just survived the first year at Mind Over Mash, they have laid the groundwork for lasting success. image credit: Hendricks County ICON

But it is important to remember that one of the purposes of the festival has been and will always be to support the Grand Junction Scholarship Fund. Grand Junction started the festival in 2016 to bring attention to Westfield, to highlight the reinvented downtown, and to raise money for good causes. This fund hands out scholarship money to Westfield graduates that plan to study at a trade or vocational school – a woefully underserved community. The city and area have supported it strongly and this is why it has become one of the established festivals of the region. By 3pm or so, the weather turned a bit wet, so we got to the car and pointed it toward Brownsburg and the first anniversary party for Mind Over Mash Brewing.

Mind Over Mash 1st Anniversary. We call this a new experience because a brewery only gets to turn one once, and being a year old means that many people still have the opportunity to try them for the first time. Owners Bobby Klene and Mike Huffman, Jr. were on hand and jubilant about reaching the one year milestone. Opening a brewery takes guts in the market today and it’s no small feat to survive, let alone grown and prosper in that first year. But prosper is what Mind Over Mash is doing. They have used this first year to establish a following and to they expand on that by sending more beer out the door, and even starting a line of canned beers.

The Tank Top, Corruption of the Gods, and the Barrel aged MOM’s Red Ale were some of the newer beers and were very good. Walter and I met up with a crew from Indiana On Tap doing a pub crawl in the Indiana On Tap bus (Ale Force One) and we shared some beers (not from the bottle share they were doing on the bus, but some MOM beers). T self-perceivedhen they took off for Field Brewing in Westfield and then out to Wooden Bear in Greenfield.

Walter and I stuck around to try some more beers, listen to the live music, have some food from Rusted Silo Southern BBQ who was on hand for the party, and added to our T-shirt collection. Bobby and Mike have taken care of the big things as well as the details and they have set themselves up for long-term success. They are an object lesson for how important that first year is, and though the relief on their faces Saturday point to a lot of worry and perhaps some second guessing, they have built a brewery that has the support of the community and is part of that community. This is the key to making it to the second, third, fourth anniversaries and beyond.

RRF and his Fed Heads at Wabash Brewing. image credit: Walter

Wabash Brewing and Robert Rolfe Feddersen. Our last stop of the day (now into evening) was Wabash Brewing on the northwest side of Indianapolis to drink some Mark Schiess beers and to listen to Robert Rolfe Feddersen play some songs off his new album called Pepper in His Heart. RRF has a huge following in the Midwest, especially amongst the craft beer crowd. His fans are called “Fed Heads” and are willing to travel to hear his music. Lately we have seen him at several craft beer events, so the chance to see him this evening was a no brainer. Couple that with beer from the four year-old Wabash Brewing and it was a great end to our day.

Robert’s wife Terri Ann joined him on percussion as they played many new songs, plus their cover of Stop Dragging My Heart Around from the new album. The songs on Pepper in His Heart show Robert’s close ties to Indiana craft Brewing – Pepper is the name of Burn ‘Em Brewing owner Zach Blackwood’s daughter. This is the ninth solo album for the Gold Album-awarded Feddersen, and Walter particularly enjoyed the tune “Disco, Indiana” (Disco Indiana doesn’t have a mirror ball, Disco Indiana doesn’t have much at all).

This show was truly a family affair, as the Feddersen dog Honey Bee was on hand for the set as well. The crowd sipped on Wabash beers throughout the evening; we had the English Smoked Brown, The Watermelon “Pink” Ale, and the Whatever IPA – all solid. Brewer Mark wasn’t on hand for the evening, but he had apparently put in a full day already and deserved some time off.

Conclusion. So that was our day, a mixture of new and deep-rooted Indiana craft beer. The differences were readily apparent between new and old, but there were definitely links that brought them together. The main commonality is that all Indiana craft beer is about connection to the community. These are businesses of the community, not just in the community.

Whether they have been around for years or not even open yet, Indiana breweries understand that this is a people business, and entering people’s lives at as many points as possible is a way to not only 1) ensure success, but 2) be a business that makes things better in the neighborhood – a much higher cause. It’s nice that this is a trait learned by older, established events and breweries, and passed on to newer breweries and their events.

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