New Sanctuary Brewing Co. To Open In Indy’s “Brewery District”

(disclaimer: written in May, 2015 before becoming Metazoa Brewing Co.)

The Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Monument was dedicated in the heart of Indianapolis in 1902 and from a bump in the land about a half-mile to the southeast, there would have been a mostly clear view of the monument.

The golden torch of “Lady Victory” may have been a beacon for those residents on the west end of the Irish Hill neighborhood, and the plot of ground overlooking downtown might have been a sanctuary.

Today, the monument is mostly obstructed but The Lady and her torch are still visible, and that plot of ground may once again be a sanctuary. Let me introduce to you, the Sanctuary Brewing Co.

Located in the former Arena Sporting Goods store at 140 S. College Ave., the building wasn’t even for sale when it was acquired last year with plans to open a brewery. Not only do partners Dave Worthington and Rand Wilson want the brewery to be a beer-haven of sorts, but part of Sanctuary’s mission will be to work with wildlife refuges and sanctuaries. A portion of their revenue will be donated to these charitable causes.

Just up the street from Iaria’s and Milano Inn restaurants, Sanctuary may have found a perfect location as it sits in the middle of what could be Indy’s “Brewery District”. Sun King, Indiana City, Chilly Water, Fountain Square, Flat 12, Outliers and the newly-opened St. Joseph Brewery and Public House are just a stone’s throw away.

Who is going to come?

Of course one of the first considerations for any fledgling brewery would be, “Where are our customers going to come from?”  How about this? Just down the hill on S. East St. are the large corporate complexes of Anthem Health and Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance.

And remember the former Market Square Arena? The long-forgotten and unloved property that sat still for the last 14 years? Well, groundbreaking took place recently on a 28-story, $121 million mixed-use apartment tower, called 360 Market Square, and adjacent to the south will be the new, sparkling distribution headquarters of Cummins Corp.

Want more? Shadowing Sanctuary just across College Av. will be a $28 million apartment building called The Vue, which Sanctuary will surely offer residents with a home-away-from-home.

I’d been in this building countless times for sporting goods so it was unusual to consider it being used differently, though in a really good way, since beer and sports consume much of my life. And still, however it appears now is nothing compared to how it eventually will look.

A concrete wall in the center of the building will be knocked out, allowing a large taproom to unfold. Several large overhead doors will be installed throughout the building but avoiding western sunlight, so that the room, and your beer, will be climate controlled. Wood pallets and crates are being stored inside right now awaiting their re-purposed fate, and an outdoor patio/deck will provide a beautiful view of the city.

Brewing Up A Plan

Head Brewer Aaron Koerner first shared his personal story back in April after myself and Adam Schick from Indiana On Tap were allowed inside to sample his recently brewed beers. The Southport H.S. grad reflected that he’d always been a beer lover and one day, when contemplating their future, a friend told him that he should just brew his own beer. Just like that, he said, “I’m going to do that!”

After graduating from the Siebel Institute of Technology in 2010, he came back to Indy, worked two jobs and got on as a volunteer at Oaken Barrel. He also took courses at Ivy Tech that focused on things that might be applicable to his trade so he could fix brewhouse problems as they arose. Think he had a plan?

Though he became  assistant brewer at Oaken Barrel, Aaron moved to Oregon in 2012  in order to hone his skills as a brewer and create his own particular style.

Several brewery jobs in Oregon only confirmed to him that this indeed was his passion, and each stop only armed him with more knowledge and determination. Not bashful about grinding out a work day, Koerner once had two brewery jobs at the same time, sometimes working 120 hours a week and sleeping at the brewery.

Looking to return back home to Indy, Koerner interviewed in February with Dave Worthington and he was quickly hired as the brewer for Sanctuary. In just a few short years, perseverance and a tireless work ethic moved him from “squeegee bitch”, to vagabond brewer, to heading up a brand new brewery in Indianapolis.

The Beer, Of Course

Brewing eventually on a 10 bbl. system, Koerner is now working on three, 3 bbl. subsets, creating and refining his own recipes. Later, he will continue to use the smaller system for one-offs and experimental batches.

Inside the brewery, I began to feel like I was being let in on a huge secret, and also feeling a little guilty because Aaron generously kept offering samples…ok, not that guilty. Each beer found a receptive audience and there were several times that Adam and I took a sip and looked at each other like, “Holy crap. This is really good!”

It’s difficult to pick favorites from the numerous beers we had but below are some. Most beers will be tweaked, with only an IPA recipe set right now:

    • Northwest Double IPA- (8.0%), brewed with Centennial, Mt. Hood, Amarillo and Citra Hops and dry hopped with Citra. (The aroma itself told us this would be a knockout, everything a hop-head would love!)
    • Cascadian Dark Ale, with Amarillo, Citra, Mosaic and Galaxy hops.
    • Irish Red- using flaked barley and Carafa III malts.
    • Cream Stout-biscuit, flaked corn and chocolate malts. Tasty and perfectly unusual.
    • A delicious banana/chocolate Roggen.

After that first day, I returned several times and sampled a number of other beers and if Koerner weren’t so damned humble, I would’ve thought, “Ok, now you’re just bragging!”, because they all were consistently excellent. It’s very obvious that Koerner can move seamlessly across different styles of beer.

Really Cool Stuff

The taproom will offer about 30 taps, featuring core beers, seasonals, nitros and several casks. A cider will be offered and perhaps one guest tap, but check this out: in keeping with education, a unique and really cool feature will be a 3-4 inch strip of LED lights throughout the bar counter, which will aid in the color presentation of the beer as well as the drinker’s experience.

Worthington allowed that plans are already underway for some fun and exciting events including offering naming rights throughout the bar and the chance to purchase a lifetime beer license. One neat thing that Sanctuary hopes to offer is a “Beer Around the World” program, that focuses on a different beer or style every month from another country.

Discussing how they would brand themselves and find their niche in the Indy market, Koerner said, “It’s going to be very important here  in the next ten years, so the thing is, you don’t want to see people getting tied to a brewery they like to go to. It sounds kind of crazy but it hurts everyone when someone says, ’This is my favorite brewery, I only go here.’”

Unusual for a brewery, Aaron plans to have his recipes available for customer review,  saying, “I want somebody drinking every brewery’s beer, including mine, enough to support me (chuckle), but an under-educated customer and someone who has a dedicated palate is missing out.”

Dave Worthington correctly assessed that in the end,”It’s all about the beer”, but continued, “If you can add to the experience, the presentation, the building that you’re in, the view that you have…all of that just adds to the event.”

I spent a good amount of time in this building in the past few weeks, and I made a couple of friendships along the way, and when Sanctuary Brewing opens, I figure this will happen with a lot of other folks too.



Sanctuary Brewing anticipates an early September opening. You can follow them on twitter @SanctuaryBrews.

Follow Rick Burkhardt twitter @indybeersleuth or chat with him  at

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