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Beer Buzz: Oaken Barrel's 20th Anniversary


Oaken Barrel's 20th anniversary glasses.
  • Oaken Barrel's 20th anniversary glasses.

An Oaken Barrel litany

Oaken Barrel Brewing Co. will celebrate its 20th anniversary July 4 with its annual Pork of July buffet, starting at noon. Always a not-to-miss event, this year it's an even more essential visit as it offers a chance to meet with brewers who've burnished Oaken Barrel’s legacy.

You see, Oaken Barrel inspires its brewers to move up in the ranks. Though Oaken Barrel founder Kwang Casey cites John Hill’s Broad Ripple Brewpub as the impetus for Indiana’s craft beer movement, history will show that it was the ebullient Casey who inspired brewers to spread their wings, founding their own breweries or joining staffs of nationally cited craft breweries.

Founding head brewer Brook Belli trained Jerry Sutherlin, now Rock Bottom downtown brewmaster, and Tonya Cornet, who moved to Bend, Oregon, and gained international fame.

When Belli retired, Ken Price moved from Upland to Oaken Barrel, and then to Yazoo Brewing in Nashville, Tennessee.

One-time assistant D. J. McAlister, founding brewer of Black Swan in Plainfield, also brewed at Lafayette Brewing Co.

Jeff Holmes came on briefly; Mark Havens followed and is now founding brewmaster of Quaff On! in Nashville, Indiana.

As for Havens’ assistants: Andrew Castner moved to The RAM as brewmaster before co-founding MashCraft in Greenwood, and John Treeter became BRBP brewmaster.

Alan Simon came from Thr3e Wisemen to follow Havens at Oaken Barrel; his assistant Scott Ellis is now a brewmaster at The RAM.

Sara Turner currently is part of Simon’s Oaken Barrel team as assistant brewer.

Quips Casey as a coda to the litany: “Clay Robinson applied for a brewer position but was not officially hired. He decided to open Sun King instead. Wise move by him.”

For the record, in the early years, Gus Chaffant and Tony Diggs were assistant brewers and went on to other pursuits.

If you’ve ever been to craft beer festival, the sight to behold is a cluster of former and present Oaken Barrel brewers huddling as in a family reunion.

Oaken Barrel's most-loved brew is Razz-Wheat; their plentiful accolades include being named 5-times as the Champion Brewery of the Indiana State Fair’s Brewers Cup. Says Casey, “A competition brings out the best in us. You can make a beer, and you can find touches to make it even better every day.”

Chilly Water opens

Chilly Water Brewing Company opened June 27 at Suite 105, 719 Virginia Ave. Locally-sourced ingredients drive their menu of upscale panini, dippings and desserts. Beers include Built to Last Pilsner, Sweet Revenge Pale Ale, 5 String Hafe, Harmonica ESB, Space Circus IPA. Call 603-4779 for more info.

Brew-Ha-Ha recap

Phoenix Theatre's annual Brew-Ha-Ha fundraiser featured eight newly opened Indiana breweries, including

• Burn ‘Em from Michigan City, founded by homebrewer Steve Murray who went pro originally with Michigan-based Greenbush Brewing;

• Carson’s from Evansville, where award-winning homebrewer John Mills presides as head brewer;

• MashCraft in Greenwood;

• Scarlet Lane in McCordsville;

• Outliers, partnering with Brugge;

• Quaff On! from Nashville;

• Taxman Brewing from Bargersville;

• and Tow Yard Brewing in Indianapolis.

Beer Buzz sampled distinctive brews from each. Of the myriad styles from the 30-plus brewers, Shandy brews earned attention.

Tow Yard’s Hook Up Shandler, with 60 percent cream ale featuring Goldie hops and 40% citrus soda, ‘puckered up’ more than others, including Triton’s Beer Hammock Shandy, with its spicy Belgian Wit base topped with lemonade; Flat 12’s Lemon Shake Up, with paired its already refreshing Hinchtown Hammmer Down with lemons.

These brought to mind brews tasted in 2013 — Sun King’s Shakeup, Lafayette Brewing’s fresh lemon squeezed Shake up.

One of Burn ‘Em’s offerings was Ubiquitous, a Belgian Wit with roses, ginger, orange and coriander.

Three Pints shared Yoshi’s Nectar, a California Common ale-lager specialty with honey from a Martinsville farm.

Upland poured its collaboration with New Belgium — Dark Synth Sour/Wild Ale a blend of 50 percent New Belgium Oscar, 40 percent Upland Dantalion, and 10 percent Upland Raspberry Lambic.

Figure 8 collaborated with Michigan-based Tapestry Brewing for an impressively quenching big Imperial American Wheat.

MashCraft balanced out my ABV level with a sessionable full-bodied Scots Ale Scottish 70 closing with a layer of light roast on the swallow.

My go-home beer from 2014 Brew-ha-ha was Sun King’s Lonesome Dove bursting with bourbon flavors in balance with a Belgian-Style Tripel character. Sun King describes it as “a bourbon barrel aged version of our Batch 777: Touched by an Angel.”


July 2
Scarlet Lane Brewing tap takeover at Fat Dan's Chicago Style Deli in Broad Ripple. Scarlet Land reports being on tap at nearly fifty bars and restaurants around Indianapolis.

July 3
Kahn’s on Keystone, Triton holiday sampling, 5-7 p.m.

July 4
Indiana City party and tapping Independence IPA, a hoppy, golden and refreshing all-American summer IPA brewed with US-grown malts and hops, fermented with American ale yeast, then dry-hopped with U.S. grown 'C' hops. Tickets at EventBrite and at the brewery.

Upland’s newest Side Trail brew Hill Walker Saison goes on tap at all Upland locations.


Buy now, go later: Indiana Micro-Brewer's Festival in Broad Ripple is coming up July 19. Tickets now on sale.

GNAWBREW 5th annual Craft Beer, Wine & Music Festival at eXplore Brown County/Valley Branch Paintball Retreat, July 26-27. Tickets and info at

Daredevil Brewing is co-hosting the first annual Hops & Flip Flops Festival at the Dallara IndyCar Headquarters, 1201 E. Main St., Speedway. Tickets now on sale for the Aug. 22 showcase of 20+ local, regional and national breweries.


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