It was Three Floyds’ stage. It was their equipment too. But it was all of the northwest Indiana breweries who combined their efforts to provide a riff here or some vocals there, sort of “We Are The World”-style, in making sure that the beer was the only star.
I was lucky to be present a week ago when nearly a dozen “Region” breweries were represented at Three Floyds Brewing Co. in Munster, In. to brew Corn King IPA, a first in the series for the Indiana Beer Brigade. The Brewers of Indiana Guild introduced this beer-enthusiast membership at the Microbrewers Festival this summer to bring fans of Indiana beer together for fun and exclusive events.
After the mid morning mash-in at the brewery, a second one took place at around noon. It was here that several owners and brewers, and I, huddled on the brew deck, captivated just like regular beer fans. Peering through the mash tun’s glass hood, we watched the Three Floyds fully automated system at work, and where I heard several of the veterans gush, “That’s so cool!”
“Here, Three Floyds is twenty years old now and look what they’ve built, and then you have new breweries coming on in the last year that are doing phenomenal things as well,” said Tristan Schmid, Communications Director for the Brewers of Indiana Guild, the non-profit trade group that represents Indiana’s craft brew industry. “I guess my point is, all of these breweries are putting their heart and soul in something that is really…more people who are super passionate about this thing that we’re drinking right now [a Three Floyds experimental IPA], you know?
“One of the biggest drivers of the Indiana Beer Brigade is that sense of community, and I think that’s one thing that makes Indiana unique”, Schmid said. “So we’re trying to bring that on a bigger scale statewide with a program, basically to give people access to things that they’re only going to get to try if they are members of this club. Those things are never going to brewed again, and they have something to look forward to next year because we’re going to be brewing another one-off batch next year.”
Steve Mazylewski, longtime head brewer at Crown Point Brewing, told me about the collaboration, “It’s really neat. We all got together to kind of figure out what to do for all the enthusiasts of Indiana beer and a collaboration came up to make a special beer just available to them. And after bantering back and forth about what style to do, Three Floyds agreed to do the batch of beer here for the first one. It made sense to agree upon something hoppy since that is what they do the best. And try to make it local ingredients to try to keep it Indiana-themed, so corn obviously was the main one everyone agreed upon. Sugar Creek malt was nice enough to be able to supply the malt for it, so we’re all really excited to actually try this wonderfully hoppy beer.”
Regarding her good friends at Three Floyds, Barb Kehe, owner/brewer at Ironwood Brewing, (Valparaiso) said, “Right when they first moved to the location…I’ve just been around the brewing community for enough years that I have been here when they were hand packing bottles in the bottling line. It’s a good spot and it’s wonderful to see the growth. It’s absolutely marvelous to see how over the years it has changed and become bigger and better. The people are great!”
Believed to be the first-of-its-kind in the country, the Brewers of Indiana Guild will allow the breweries of each part of the state, in time, to bring their own collaborative beer to life. (learn more and watch the Brewers of Indiana Guild video here).
Barb Kehe continued, “The collaboration is great for the beer industry in Indiana. The enthusiasts program I guess is all over the state and they’re going to regional meetings for the enthusiasts. Terre Haute’s not going to have to come to Munster to be able to get their enthusiast beer program allotment. I believe it’s fantastic and I think it’s a good idea, and next year we go to Sun King, and the following year to Upland, so I think that will be really good.”
It should be noted, breweries schedule brew days far in advance, maybe weeks or months, so imagine how FFF had to adjust their schedules to brew Corn King, something they won’t profit from. And as a result, perhaps the schedules for Zombie Dust or Gumballhead, or other beers were pushed back. A production brewery’s nightmare, and sacrifice.
So here, take into account that FFF and Sugar Creek Malt Co. devoted precious brewing and malting space, resources and manpower to accommodate their friends for this inaugural brew. And of course, it doesn’t end there. Next the beer will need to ferment, etc., until it finally is bottled into 22 oz. bombers. All of this equals time and in brewing, time equals money. Usually.
When Corn King is released in October to the “Brigadiers”, there won’t be any chest thumping and pointing at themselves by the brewers because all of the northwest Indiana breweries will be taking the same stage at once, in a day of mutual respect for Indiana beer-and each other.
Barb Kehe probably sums up the In Beer Brigade program best by stating simply, “It’s only going to increase the beer awareness in the state. I think it’s fabulous!”
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