The State of American Craft Beer – Indiana

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With our headquarters in Washington DC and the bulk of our correspondents found near America’s top producing craft beer regions on the coasts, it only makes sense for us to start a new series giving all the states their due, featuring breweries large and small, plus the histories behind them.

For the sake of clarity and with an eye toward avoiding any bias, we’re doing this thing alphabetically. We’ve now reached our fourteenth state on the list, The Hoosier State, Indiana. For those not in the know, the term Hoosier comes from a term taken on by the high (hoo in Old English) landers of Virginia, the Carolinas and Tennessee (the Cumberland Mountains/Gap/River area). Early Indiana settlers from the region adopted the term in self-mocking jest following the publication of John Finley’s (Mayor of Richmond, IN) poem The Hoosier’s Nest in 1830.

Indiana ranks 16th in total population (roughly 6.6 million), housed 80 craft breweries as of 2014 (roughly over 100 today) and are represented by the Brewers of Indiana Guild (best use of the dotbeer domain thus far, btw). The state ranks 14th in total breweries and 18th in breweries per capita as of 2014, according to the Brewers Association.

 

Indiana Sales

History

Following the Louisiana Purchase and the conclusion of the War of 1812, westward expansion truly began in earnest. Indiana’s settlers were generally from New England in the North, Ohio mid-state, then Tennessee and Kentucky in the South. Two breweries were already in operation the same year as the states founding in 1816, with the first production brewery, Boswell Brewery, opening in Richmond in 1817.

The state’s total number of breweries, pre-prohibition, peaked in 1887 when they housed 106, a number that was surpassed again just this year. Even though there was a significant drop off in breweries prior to Prohibition (33), still only 1/3 of those re-opened after the “Noble Experiment.”  The most impressive fact about Indiana’s brewing history is that two regional brewers survived the 70’s and the birth of the craft beer era, Berghoff/Falstaff in Fort Wayne (until ’90) and Sterling/Heileman in Evansville (until ’97).

Indiana’s oldest existing craft brewer, brewpub and first GABF winner (1991 Gold) is Broad Ripple Brewpub in Indianapolis. Then in 1996, an explosion of 8 brewery openings effectively jump started the state’s craft rebirth. Especially notable was the opening of what is now the state’s largest brewer and most internationally known, 3 Floyds Brewing in Munster and Hammond. Creating masterful, highly sought-after beers such as Zombie Dust and Dark Lord (which has its own special release day), they’ve set the pace for what has become one of the fastest growing states in the craft beer universe.

Six More Breweries We Like and You Should Check Out

BruggeBrassBrugge Brasserie(Indianapolis) – One of Indy’s oldest craft brewers, as well as one of their most unique, Brugge is a Belgian brewpub that’s been defining the food and beer pairing game for over 10 years now. While they may have only concocted roughly 50 styles in that time, their focus on Belgian strong and sour ales has captured them 4 GABF medals over that span, so they’re doing something right.

18th Street Brewing(Gary) – Found up closer to Chicago, 18th Street is one of Indiana’s best kept secrets as they’re already one of the best rated brewers in the region. Officially opened in 2013, following a successful Kickstarter campaign, owner/brewer Drew Fox starter off as a gypsy brewer, but has since brewed over 100 creations such as their flagship Hunter sweet stout, a variety of barrel-aged brews and Sinister DIPA.

People’s Brewing (Lafayette) – Up and running since 2009, People’s Brewing can only be found within the confines of the state, though they produce 7 year-round offerings plus 15 seasonal releases. Known for their Mound Builder IPA, Mr. Brown (strong brown) and Space Cowboy DIPA, we’re excited to see what they come up with next.

SunKingSun King Brewery(Indianapolis) – The second largest brewer in the state and the first production brewer in Indy since 1948, Sun King has been a beacon of awesome beer since 2009. In that short time they’ve brewed and/or barreled over 200 varieties including their Sunlight Cream Ale, Wee Mac Scottish and Osiris Pale flagships, as well as an abundance of highly sought after barrel aged delights. Most impressive are their total 18 medals at GABF (the most in the state), 8 of which are gold, not to mention the 8 they took home in 2011.

Thr3e Wise Men(Indianapolis) -The name Thr3e Wise Men identifies Scotty Wise (owner of the Scotty’s Brewhouse chain of 6 locations, since 1996) and his two sons Slater and Lincoln. This location in Indy’s been up and running for 5 years, focusing primarily on straight forward styles that perfectly accompany their famous pizza and award winning wings. Just this fall, they won their first two GABF medals for their Hot For Teacher Ms. Doppelbock and Antonius 1742 Oktoberfest.

upland-new-300x300Upland Brewing(Bloomington) – One of the state’s oldest active craft brewers, Upland has set themselves apart as one of the best barrel-aging brewers in the county. Open since 1998, they annually create over 50 unique styles featuring wild, lambic, barleywine and other big flavored ales, not to mention a vast array of classic German and English styles. With a new expansion underway, they’re definitely one to seek out ASAP.

 

Looking for more Indiana Brewers? Check out the map at Indiana On Tap.

Special thanks to Indiana Beer for their awesomely detailed history on the state!

 

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