The reason for this first annual Indiana Craft Beer Roundtable is that 18 years ago NUVO Newsweekly and Broad Ripple Brewpub [BRBP] started quietly without much fanfare and both have had an impact on the community. NUVO has influenced arts and culture and what’s going on in the community as a whole and BRBP has influenced a lot of people who had their first taste of good beer at the brewpub. Now we have brewpubs all across the state. But it all goes back to BRBP.
Over the past 18 years both NUVO and the craft beer industry as a whole have engaged us with their philanthropy and civic responsibility and the love of craft.
We’ll talk today about the love of craft.
Let’s start by introducing the panel of brewers:
Eileen Martin, Upland Brewing Company, Bloomington
Jon Myers, Power House Brewing Company, Columbus
Ted Miller, Brugge Brasserie, Broad Ripple & Production Facility, Terre Haute
Greg Emig, Lafayette Brewing Company
Kevin Matalucci, Broad Ripple Brewpub
Paul Edwards, home brewer, member of Foam Blowers of Indiana and Central Indiana Alliance of Beer Judges
Clay Robinson, Ram Restaurant & Brewery
Omar Castrellon, Alcatraz Brewing Company
Jim Matt, home brewer, member of MECA
Johnson: Let’s go back to the beginning. John Hill started this with the BRBP. We have three brewers from BRBP, two former brewers and one current. Talk about the beginning of the brewpub.
Emig: I went down and met John Hill. I’d heard rumors of him starting a brewpub in Indianapolis. I got on board as fast as I could. I was a home brewer. I wanted to be part of the first brewpub in Indiana.
Unfortunately, John had hired a brewer the day before I met him. So I went ahead and worked with John as a laborer doing construction at the brewpub and then worked as a manager and bartender when BRBP first opened up. After a while I started up my own brewpub project.
Then John called me back. The brewer he’d hired took a job in Germany, so I quit my job the next day and started working with John. It was great being at the first place in Indiana where people could come in and order a pint of beer and sit across the bar from you and you could see them enjoying a craft beer, and being able to educate the public about the different styles and how good fresh beer can be.
John had an innate taste for what he liked to drink and had enough basic brewing knowledge so between us we could put together a top-quality product.
Miller: My personal story of this is I lived and grew up about five blocks away from Broad Ripple Brewpub. I was at school at IUPUI. I drove by the building one day and saw there was a brewery open so I drove home as fast as I could and said to my mom, “There’s a brewery five blocks away. I’m going to work there.” I had one problem. I was 20. I went over there day after day. Finally, one day John [Hill] said to me, “If you don’t come back until October, you’ll have a job.”
I was fascinated by this whole idea of a tiny brewery in my neighborhood. Greg [Emig] started me into the craft. Then Paul Edwards got me into the scientific aspects and ... into the idea of a career. I think BRBP changed a lot of people’s lives.
Matalucci: It was a love of craft. I started working there as a server and after four or five months I was bartending and once Ted had left John hired me as a brewer and I’ve been there ever since.
Edwards: I remember when it [BRBP] was Broad Ripple Auto Parts. It’s a mile from my house. And now I have two brewpubs. The other one is Brugge. It’s three-quarters of a mile from my house. Now I can walk up the street and have the good fortune to drink with these two guys [indicating Kevin and Ted]. Let me tell you, it’s a lot of work. I would not want to be a pub owner because I don’t have the back for it. It’s a lot of work and a lot of dedication year ’round. I’d been hoping for it for a long time. And now it’s like I could quit home brewing.
Johnson: There’s a lot of status for being a brewer. People come into my store and say, “Well, Ted said ...” There’s a lot of technology and it takes being able to fix things. You can’t make many mistakes in brewing beer and make it profitable. You might want to talk about that?
Matalucci: Besides what else you’ve got going on any brew day, you have to be an electrician and a plumber so you definitely have to be hands-on.
Emig: You know, John didn’t have someone come in and install the brewery. It was very much John hands-on. It was hodge-podge equipment putting things together and making it flow. Engineering. Get into a rhythm. Not spend a lot of time. I learned a lot from John. When I started my own business I didn’t have to spend a lot of capital. I didn’t have assets to order brewery equipment so I could put things together. You have to be able to fix things.
Miller: I’ve known a lot of brewers starting like that and I’ve seen a lot of brewers using other people’s money for a really fancy brewery. I was in China. You get that fancy equipment. They don’t know how to fix it.
Johnson: Jon, talk about being a home brewer to being one of Indiana’s smaller brewpubs.
Myers: I want to add to what Kevin was talking about being a jack-of-all-trades. The equipment we put together we’ve had to figure out how to use it over the past nine months. On top of that I’m bartending, brewing, mopping floors.
Robinson: Part of what’s true about all brewers that I know is that it’s the whole workload. Everyone working together. When people ask, “What do you do all day?” Sure it’s a craft and you make things but that’s only part of it.
Matalucci: The best brewers that I’ve met have enthusiasm for what they do. One of the things John offered me — he was so enthusiastic about the whole craft beer industry — call it microbrewery or craft brewery. We’d drive out to the Great American Beer Festival. It was 20 hours to Denver, but he’d talk to other brewers about equipment, what works, what doesn’t, interact with a lot of people. John loved to travel. He went to Denver; he went to Boston, Madison, Wis. We had a great time traveling around the country, being able to interact with all the small brewers, exploring the system, going to other places.
Johnson: One of the things that impresses me about the industry is you are all kind of competitors, you are what you are, yet you share information between each other and support each other. You might want to talk about that, how you all share.
Miller: Here’s a great story. Not everyone knows about the hops shortage right now. Two weeks ago, Samuel Adams, the biggest craft brewer, sent an e-mail, “We have some extra hops. You guys tell us what you want. If there’s too many who want to buy we’ll have a lottery.”
Emig: They’ve had requests for over 100,000 pounds and they’re still coming in. The story is generosity to help competitors at cost.
Matalucci: At $20 per pound that’s a pretty good sport.
Martin: Considering supply and demand they could ask for a lot more. To offer that up at cost, that’s generosity.
Matalucci: For us here it’s interacting with one another. Talking amongst each other, sharing recipes, ideas.
Robinson: Downtown we’ve got Alcatraz, Rock Bottom down the street. People come over to The Ram, you start talking to them about beer. They ask about pale ale, and if I don’t have any I can say, “Look you need to go over to Alcatraz or Rock Bottom.” We send people to other places. Hey, it’s collaboration. Say you come in and start brewing and you think you’ve got 150 pounds of malt and find you don’t so you can call down the street and get what you need. It’s a pretty small club. When you talk about brewers you see what kind of camaraderie you have to have.
We’re not competitors. We have to help each other. It’s a relationship.
Johnson: That brings up a great point. That is, when you find you have several brewpubs in one area you draw tourism to that area.
Robinson: In each area — downtown, Broad Ripple — there’s so much variety of beers, Belgian-style brewpub, American-style brewpub, English-style brewpub. People travel for that type of thing. Downtown we have different style pubs along Massachusetts Avenue and Fountain Square where you have unique places like Rathskeller. You get a synergy.
Audience question: Is there a profile of a craft beer consumer?
Emig: We looked at our customer base. We’re talking about people who are university-related; we’re talking students, faculty, staff; we’re talking about downtown business people, local Lafayette workers and construction guys. We’re talking job diversity, age diversity. It’s still a niche thing but I don’t think it has any real definable parameters.
Miller: It’s a wide demographic.
Robinson: I didn’t think of craft beer as being important to people who are traveling but travelers who come here like to taste different craft beer. It’s important to them that we have this diversity here.
Edwards: One thing I realized when you stick to the same pub, when you’ve got a neighborhood pub, you see the same people. When the BRBP was brand new people were unsure about the beer they were drinking. When you see the same people, over a time they would start talking about the beer and they would say, “Oh, I think this week the beer is ...” They could detect differences that a year ago they couldn’t even think about. They’ve become much more educated beer consumers. They were first attracted because it was a new idea but then they became regulars.
I think the beer consumers now are a lot smarter than they were 20 years ago. They can now go to a pub and know the difference between a Belgian ale and an English ale. They know when you get a factory beer everything is measured out exactly the same every time. But when you go to a brewpub there are variations. For instance, I can go to Brugge and notice a difference from time to time. The Tripel is a little different today from last time. It’s still a great beer.
Martin: That’s the difference between macro breweries and brewpubs — you don’t expect the same.
Miller: Macro breweries are expected to be the same, but because of the economic environment of brewpubs, from the time you first brew to the next time there are differences. It definitely changes.
Audience question: What is the percentage beer to food?
Miller: It’s close to 50-50 for me, food to beer. It’s different for everybody.
Robinson: I’m interested in the camaraderie that’s part of food and beer. I like sitting down with somebody at a brewpub. I go to Brugge and notice what they’re serving. You put those things together. You like good beer, good food. You like to link those up.
We use a lot of our beer in our food. You mix together onions and tomatoes with an IPA; you use beer to tenderize meat. You try to pair things for good beer and good food.
Emig: One time you could have one or the other but you can’t get away with that anymore. Now you better have both sides, good food and good beer.
Robinson: For profitability you need the balance.
Matt: For me it’s great that with Terre Haute Brewing, Brugge now can have four to five beers on tap all the time.
Johnson: Let’s talk about beer and food in restaurants. I’ve been to restaurants where if they don’t have good beer and good food I won’t go.
Martin: That makes for a lot of us.
Miller: I’m going for a tie-in. I talked with a distributor who said high-end restaurants don’t have good beer. It’s like molecular disarmament to ask high-end restaurants to offer craft beer. I’m going to get together with a distributor and do one and prove people who go to high-end restaurants will drink craft beer.
Emig: We have the palate for beer. It’s working with your chef to put a menu together. You get a better combination, a better presence, better pairing working together than just one person saying you need craft beer in high end restaurants.
Matt: The thing that is misunderstood about beer is its complexity. With wine you just have grapes. With beer you have the water, malt, yeast, hops. It’s phenomenal what you can do with it. People pair wine and food but when you look at the number of beers there’s a lot more you can do to pair food with beer.
Audience question: Can you talk about the water?
Matt: From a home brewer’s point of view it’s a lot more economical for me to start with the water we have.
Robinson: At The Ram, Dave [Colt] and I, we look at the water — we live in a world where the water is really hard. There’s styles you can make with what you have. Others you have to make adjustments, treat it per style of beer.
Matt: You take out, add in, according to the style.
Emig: Bottom line, with modern chemistry you add to your water what you want it to be. What’s different here is we try to brew beer styles from all around the world. We learned how to make them, adapt them. I think that’s why we’re making some of the best beers in the world right now. We make American-style ale, American-style lager. Most places had their styles of beer before the craft-brewing boom.
Audience question: Are we getting gimmicky with water?