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"2007: Drink the best beer, locally"

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Consumers, trading up to good taste, are at the forefront of a growing Indiana craft beer industry, with Indianapolis at the center. In an economy where people are scaling down expenditures, including eating out less, Indiana has seen a 50 percent growth in craft beer purchases for home and restaurant consumption in 2007.

When Ted Miller and his partners opened Brugge Brasserie in Broad Ripple two years ago, people asked, “Who around here would have a thirst for Belgian style beer?” A growing fan base is the short answer. Brugge is doing a brisk business with Belgian-inspired food accompanied by a menu of beers “with character.”

Miller and partners, the Vigo Brewing Group, tapped into Terre Haute’s 170-year-old brewing history to brew five Belgian-style beers that will be available at Brugge and in other restaurants as well as in bottles on shelves in liquor and grocery stores by year’s end.

Also being brewed in the historic — yet state-of-the-art — site of the former Terre Haute Brewing Company is a line of five American-style beers under another new Indianapolis-based label, the Wabash Valley Beer Company. These entry-level, more familiar types are expected to gain a market for Indiana’s expanding taste palates.

National cognizance of this phenomenon came with the recent Great American Beer Festival award to Indianapolis-based distributors Monarch/World Class Beverages for their support of Indiana’s craft brewing industry.

Alcatraz Brewing Company equally deserves kudos for growing knowledgeable consumers. Their Brewmaster’s roundtable has a growing constituency for the nuances of craft beer complexities. And the Brewers of Indiana Guild anticipated this year’s national call for beer sommeliers. B.I.G. has been conducting classes to qualify Hoosiers for craft beer judging, and has opened that program to retailers, restaurant servers and media folks so they too can become experts in serving the public.

Craft beer drunk responsibly is Indiana’s idea of good taste.

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