20 Dec What’s In an Address? Honorary Indiana Breweries
Writing for a group called Indiana On Tap suggests that the majority of my focus is going to be on Indiana craft breweries or how the national beer news might affect Indiana brewers and drinkers – and it is. It’s a full time job given that Indiana now has more than 165 operating craft breweries and that much of the news that comes out nationally will relate in some way to trends or issues affecting Indiana breweries.
Walter and I have visited every brewery that’s open in Indiana as well as a bunch of them that have closed over the years, so we have spent time with a beer in our hands in every nook and cranny of this fine state. Bare Hands in Granger is located about four feet from the Michigan border, while many of the breweries in New Albany are parked just minutes from the Ohio River and Louisville. Auburn Brewing is about five miles from the Ohio border, you can hit Illinois with a rock Vincennes Brewing, and it might take a better throw but Great Crescent is close to both Kentucky and Ohio. So when I say we have crisscrossed the state for beer, I mean it.
The fact that many Indiana breweries are located close to border got me to thinking about what we consider an Indiana brewery, and just who it is we talk about on this site. The obvious answer is that if a brewery is located within the borders of Indiana, we’ll cover them at every chance possible. But isn’t that a little arbitrary? If you fly over Indiana (which apparently everyone else does), can you see the borders or what separates Indiana from a neighboring state? Other than the rivers in the south and southwest – you can’t really tell. One state melds in with another.
The borders of a state are political decisions in many instances, and Indiana is a good example. In 1805, the border between Indiana and Michigan was set ten miles south of where it is now, so Bare Hands, Burn ‘Em, Iechyd Da, and others would all be in Michigan if that border was still in place. But Indiana petitioned to have the border moved north so that the state could have a port on Lake Michigan when the state fathers petitioned for statehood in 1816. Therefore, we get to claim some great beer as our own.
Even in modern days the borders can be in dispute. Michigan and Indiana had a resurvey in 2014-15, and a fight between Indiana and Kentucky in the 1970s went to the US Supreme Court. Knowing all this, why should we be so picky about what breweries are either in Indiana or not in Indiana?
I know, I know… the state a brewery is in does matter for several reasons. Taxes, liquor laws, guild memberships – these all depend on in which state a brewery resides. But even the laymen who just enjoy craft beer still have a tendency to separate breweries into which state they happen to be in, and companies like Indiana On Tap get caught up in the separation. Festivals might enter the picture because it’s harder to pour in some states where you don’t distribute, but when you’re sitting at the bar, can you tell what state you’re in? Well….. you know you’re not in Indiana if a five year old has the bar stool next to you.
Perhaps the greatest indicator of what state you happen to be in is which college flag(s) you see displayed in the taproom or what jokes they tell in the bar (ie., Why do all the trees in southern Indiana bend south? Because Kentucky sucks). But then again, we’re a diaspora – if you go back in time, we’re all eventually from someplace else. So why do I stop talking about breweries the minute that we hit the state line? Walter and I take trips and we’ll talk once or twice about the breweries we have visited across the country, especially if they have some factor that relates to some thing I might be talking about with an Indiana brewery, but what about breweries that are close to Indiana, but not actually in Indiana? Couldn’t/shouldn’t I talk about them once in a while?
Today is that day; let’s talk about out of state breweries. Then the issue becomes, if I want to talk about breweries in other states and still be Indiana On Tap, I suppose I should be talking about these breweries as “honorary Indiana breweries.” However, there’s a potential problem, breweries in other states may not want to be associated with Indiana. Of course, they should want to be associated with Indiana beer; heck, Chicago has tried to claim Three Floyds for years. But some breweries may look down on Indiana or may be super proud of where they are and their state identity. Too bad, this is my article.
Some states do think they make better beer than Indiana, but it’s not true. If you want to look at medals:entries for national and international competitions, Indiana is always a top performer. Michigan has great beer no doubt, but on a brewery for brewery basis, we make just as good beer in Indiana. Any brewery I mention here should feel lucky to be mentioned in the same sentence as Indiana craft beer.
The question then becomes, how far do I venture into a neighboring state to come up with an honorary Indiana craft brewery list? Twenty miles is way too far; you’re deep into foreign territory by then. I was thinking more like ten miles maximum. I took a look at the map and was surprised at how many breweries met that criterion. As far as I’m concerned, Indiana craft beer and Indiana On Tap just grew by a bunch (more than two dozen). Let’s go state by state around Indiana and see who is close enough to be part of any Indiana craft beer fan’s extended brewery crawl.
Ohio: We’ll move north to south, from just south of the Michigan border, to right down on the Ohio River.
Drop Tine Winery & Taphouse in Montpelier. This is just east of Angola, tucked into the NW corner of Ohio by both Michigan and Indiana. They started making beer this past July (2018).
Father John’s Brewery in Bryan. Located just four miles south of Drop Tine, I always get nervous about brewpubs located in basements. But it could be great, Walter and I haven’t made it there yet.
Two Bandits in Hicksville. Walter and I visited Two Bandits just a couple of weeks ago. This is a small town gathering place that is just as much restaurant as brewery. We both liked the Thick As Thieves IPA from them.
Tailspin Brewing in Coldwater. This is a veteran-owned brewery about 50 miles northeast of Muncie, but just 20 miles east of Portland, IN where the HoosierBoy Smokehouse and Brewery will be opening next spring. Some of their beers are scoring quite high, so I’m guessing we’ll be visiting them soon.
Big Rack Brewery in New Madison. This could be a source of confusion since New Madison Brewing is getting ready to open in Madison Indiana, but they are actually 115 miles apart. Big Rack is located just eight miles north of I-70 once you hit Ohio, so any trip to try Noble Order or New Boswell beer should include a stop at Big Rack.
Quarter Barrel Brewery & Pub in Oxford. Our entire family visited several years ago, but we haven’t been back since they decided to open up a secondary restaurant/taproom in Hamilton, and seem to have gone more beer centric. Their seasonals indicate they are quite eclectic in their beer making.
13 Below Brewing in Addyston is right down on the Ohio River, actually closer to Kentucky than to Indiana, but it’s only about eight miles from Great Crescent Brewery as the crow flies. You should hope they have the belgian tripel (Wedding Day) on when you make a visit. Our visit just recently was very enjoyable, including a great discussion on how they got their name, and how they may be located in a part of Cincinnati but feel like they are a world away.
Kentucky: This time we’ll move east to west. Kentucky is a bit of a problem when it comes to honorary Indiana breweries, since a good part of Louisville is within ten miles of Indiana, much closer to southern Indiana than Chicago is to the Region. Louisville is a great beer town, so I don’t fault Kentucky for wanting to claim it alone, and in truth, Bluegrass Brewing (and the Pipkin Brewery it bought) is older than any brewery in New Albany or Jeffersonville. New Albanian Brewing came just a bit after Bluegrass, and both sides of the river have grown in craft beer since then.
The choices in Louisville that are within ten miles of the Indiana border are myriad (and BTW, check out Myriad Brewing, new in Evansville). If you ask Walter, her list would definitely include Mile Wide, Apocalypse, Akasha, and Gravely, but I would add Monnik and Great Flood for sure. I’d like to add 3rd Turn, but they likely violate my self-imposed ten mile rule. We’ll talk a bit more about the attitudes of craft drinkers in this region in our next article; I think it’s going to be hard to develop a solid cross-river camaraderie.
Unfortunately, Kentucky is a little barren as you move from Louisville west toward Evansville. There is good beer in Owensboro though, even if it isn’t brewed on site. Places like CYO Brewing, and J’s Liquor and Cheese are very nice, although I was crushed to hear that the Gambrinus Libation Emporium had closed. The only other brewery that I know is eligible to be an honorary Indiana craft beer destination is Henderson Brewing just across the river from Evansville. They opened in July of 2018, and have been killing it every since.
Walter and I recently made the trip down to drink Henderson Brewing and see co-founder and head brewer Doug Laramie. Henderson is a “to style” brewery; they have a very traditional set of beers made very well. We tried the entire line up on a Sunday afternoon with football on the TV, a large extended family at two of the tables with pizza they brought in, a dog, and a 3-5 yr. old. Everyone seemed to be having a great time. The hefeweizen was a stand out beer, but all the choices were very good. It isn’t surprising that Henderson has the highest UnTappd rating for any brewery in Kentucky.
OK, so we’ve moved halfway around Indiana and found some breweries to visit just across our borders. Next time we’ll discuss just how solid the state borders can be when it comes to the loyalty of craft beer drinkers. We’ll also name our “honorary Indiana breweries” for Illinois, Michigan, and even around the world.
Walters words of wisdom: You can’t put deodorant on a sweaty armpit.