29 Jul Windmill Brewing’s 4th Anniversary Party Highlights That There Are Great Events All Across Indiana
This past weekend (July 27th) was a big one for Indiana craft beer. For one thing, the Indiana Microbrewers Fest was put on by the Brewers of Indiana Guild in Military Park in Indianapolis. About 80 Indiana breweries were on hand to pour, but we have 180 breweries in the state now, and there are always going to be some that have conflicts. Even though Indiana is the smallest state east of the Mississippi excluding the New England states, there’s an awful of beer going on, and we’re big enough to be thought of as regions.
The northwest has a feel, vibe and density that is second only to the Indianapolis metro area. The northeast is beer crazy and are organized into a well oiled machine (the beer trail is a good example). The southeast is laid back, with many breweries that look to their own and may identify more with Louisville than Indianapolis. The southwest is perhaps the farthest from central Indiana, but they feel like an extension of central Indiana.
There is definitely a state-wide camaraderie in craft beer, but there is also a regionality to Indiana craft beer that is becoming more visible – and that’s fine. By having their own scene and calendar, when an event farther away comes along that conflicts with another that is more local, breweries have a decision to make. With so many events and so many breweries with things going on, attending a festival farther away doesn’t always make sense, even if it’s an opportunity to interact with the brewing community as a whole.
Looking over the list of breweries attending Microbrewers Fest showed a few interesting things, some of which we just noted without explanation, and others we knew reasons for. For instance, breweries in the southeast of the state have a busy music and cultural event season going on right now in their neck of the woods. Given the distance, their busy taprooms and events, and the focus on their own territory, many decided to work close to home. Mad Paddle Brewing in Madison is a good example of the type of brewery that participates in so many local events during the summer that it can limit their attendance at other events. It’s the same with Floyd County Brewing and Great Crescent Brewery.
In the northeast part of the state, Junk Ditch Brewing was having their 3rd anniversary and NeighborLINK fundraiser on Saturday afternoon. Head brewer Todd Stone and the team at Junk Ditch had three new beers released on Saturday, a Double Golden Oats, a Strawberry Kolsch, and a BBA Scotch Ale. Gunthorp Farms was on hand roasting 24 chickens from their farm, and multiple briskets were cooked and smoked from Wood Farms and Bravas Quality Meats.
NeighborLINK held a relay race and their was live music from different bands throughout the day. Emmie’s Flower Cart sold carnations, and the proceeds of the dunk tank as well as other fundraisers were donated to NeighborLINK. In total, more than $1000 was raised, with a good deal of that being from the dunk tank. Cheers to Junk Ditch, congratulations on their third birthday, and kudos to them for raising money for a good cause. It kept them from attending Microbrewers, but I can’t imagine they regret it.
In Indianapolis, Garfield Brewery was celebrating their 1st anniversary on Saturday; this is a special day for them as they have enjoyed great success this first year and has really grabbed the attention of the neighborhood. They do so many events with the Garfield Park community that they couldn’t really move their anniversary around, so Saturday it was. They chose to focus on their patrons and their own celebration.
And it was a nice celebration. Garfield had a dozen beers on tap for the party, including the return of their very popular tart watermelon ale, the Sisters coffee beer that’s like a morning cup ‘o joe, and a new cherry wheat ale with about a 1000 cherries in just that one small batch. There was live music from 5-10pm, but they had drawings for prizes all day long, yard games, and indoor and outdoor fun. We’re sorry we missed that celebration, but we had some other work to do on Saturday.
Walter and I decided to travel this weekend even though Microbrewers Fest took place in our back yard. We ventured to the northwest part of the state to help Windmill Brewing celebrate their 4th anniversary. This was a great party and we are elated that we were able to attend, but it wasn’t the only reason we traveled north that day.
As Windmill was enjoying their day in the sun, Pokro Brewing in Griffith was marking their last sunset. Dave Gizynski had taken over brewing duties when Joe Pokropinski and ex-wife Robyn stepped away from the brewery as part of their divorce. Unfortunately, the numbers just didn’t make sense to stay open, so they decided to go out in style during the last days of the annual Pierogi Fest in Whiting. They hosted one more beer & breakfast, and then had a Goin’ Fishin’ party.
Walter wanted to stop by for one last beer in the taproom where all the furniture was built by Joe himself and the artwork on the walls celebrated all things Polish – especially pierogi. I had a NE IPA and Walter did one last Tangerine Dreamz. We bought a couple of bottles, some logo glasses and a T-shirt, and then headed off toward Windmill Brewing’s party at Pheasant Hills Park in Dyer, just 15 minutes away from Pokro.
Justin Verburg and Scott VanderGriend opened Windmill in 2015 just a couple minutes walk from the Illinois state line and right next to Franciscan Hospital. In the early days, it was the dad’s waiting for babies to be born and other hospital visitors that made up a decent portion of their clientele, but as the beers grew more popular, the patrons started coming from farther and farther.
Windmill was, and is, a brewery and taproom where the enjoyment of friends and beer are paramount. Food can be brought in, but Justin and Scott hold to the notion that they opened a brewery because they didn’t want to open a restaurant. No TVs or loud music were around to distract from the beer and friends experience when they opened, and there is a drink limit to suppress the desire to just get ripped. They did put in a TV for when a special game is on and patrons want to follow along – but the craft beer experience is still king at Windmill.
The “Memes” series of milkshake IPAs in April of 2017, making Windmill one of the first breweries to embrace the style, and their popularity really exploded. Throughout 2018 and 2019 this popularity has continued to grow, and that also means that breweries are open to, or seeking out, collaborations with Windmill. Untitled Art, Triptych, Transient Artisan Ales, Mikerphone, Maplewood, Burn ‘Em Brewing, Wildrose Brewing, One Trick Pony and others have done collab beers with Windmill. This, along with their location near Illinois and within the region (both being areas that are brewery dense), has led to strong relationships with other brewers in the Illiana area.
As a result, when their 4th anniversary drew near, Windmill decided to invite their brewery friends for an afternoon of great beer and a party worth remembering. Several of their region friends decided to participate in Windmill’s celebration rather than travel all the way to Indy, and the day was better for their presence. Wildrose Brewing, New Oberpfalz, and Viking Artisan Ales from Griffith were on hand and serving great beers. The Devil’s Trumpet from Merrillville was on hand too, and several other Indiana breweries split their teams and sent people to both Microbrewers and Windmill, including Burn ‘Em, Misbeehavin’ Meads, 450 North, Off Square Brewing, and 18th Street Brewery.
We were very anxious to try some of the breweries we hadn’t had beer from before, and they didn’t disappoint. Vitamin Sea Brewing from Massachusetts, Illuminated Brew Works, Saint Errant, and Hailstorm Brewing from Chicago, and Lake Zurich (Lake Zurich, IL) all brought great examples of their craft. Add in the breweries that we had tried before but don’t get to drink often and it really was quite an afternoon – Untitled Art from Wisconsin, Mikerphone from Chicago, Transient Artisan Ales from Michigan, Narrow Gauge from St. Louis, and Triptych Brewing from Savoy, IL.
That’s quite a line up and they provided some very interesting flavors and innovations. Add in the food trucks, the games, and the nice venue in Pheasant Hills Park and this turned out to be a great choice for us. We particularly liked getting a chance to try the new beers from Justin Case and Viking Artisan Ales – the two berliners he brought, one with red dragon fruit and the other with orange, portend that he is going to be a great addition to Indiana beer. We also enjoyed doing the Blueberry Kush from Foreign.Local, the gypsy label from Mike Glowacki, the head brewer from Windmill.
It’s great to have a gypsy brewer in Indiana again, and we look forward to seeing how he innovates in his beers, as well as with the Windmill beers. Will he seek to differentiate his Foreign.Local beers by style or ingredients? O will he head in the same general direction – his beers are popular and great, so why mess with success. We will be sitting down with Mike soon to discuss his new brand, so stay tuned for more information.
The party for Windmill moved from the park to the brewery a couple of blocks away in the evening, where can releases and sales went along with more beers being poured, but we decided to make a stop at a brewery we had visited only once before. Cognito Brewery in Merrillville is owned by Dwayne Williams, who also does a lot of the brewing. This is an African-American owned brewery and has a substantial African-American clientele. This is a great example of diversity in brewing and needs to be looked at to learn ways to bring more people into craft beer. Rest assured that we will be talking to Dwayne and company more in the future to learn what we can and to pass it on.
Cognito features Belgian beers, making it one of four breweries in the state that focus on Belgians (Taxman, Brugge Brasserie, and Hydraulic Aleworks being the others). We had a flight of an abbey ale, the strong Belgian blonde called She-Devil, the Double Trouble dubbel, and the Champipple Thrills tripel. We even took home a four pack of the abbey. The artwork is great in the taproom, and they have a garage door that opens out to their patio. All in all, a great stop and we’ll be back again soon.
As we headed back south, we stopped in Lafayette to have dinner at Teays River Brewing & Public House. Yes, we may have had a beer or two as well, including the Luscious Brown, a silver medal winner at 2019 Indiana Brewers’ Cup. Walter went with the Maneater, an imperial IPA, along with a burger with green olives and bleu cheese (I opted for the beet salad and a small prosciutto flatbread). Some of the Teays River team was down in Indy for the Microbrewers, but Seth was on hand to talk to. He told us that they had two big events that day, so resources were stretched thin. You wouldn’t have known it from the great service, beer, and food.
All in all, a great day in Indiana beer, both for the events that we visited and those that we couldn’t attend. It was made apparent to us again how mature the craft beer scene in Indiana has become. As people have events near and far, they have to decide what is best for their patrons, their model, and their local brethren. No matter what part of the state you are in, there are great breweries and great events to attend and enjoy. This means that you don’t need to stay home and get tickets only for local events; branch out and learn about other regions – as craft beer expands in our state, there is going to be growth of both statewide events and regional events – and sometimes they happen to fall on the same day.
banner image credit: The Open Bottle