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Drink at The Koelschip in 2017 to give back to ACLU, Planned Parenthood and more

Central State Brewery's taproom is focused on giving back to the community this year

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The Koelschip and Central State's Chris Bly, Josh Hambright and Jake Koeneman.
  • The Koelschip and Central State's Chris Bly, Josh Hambright and Jake Koeneman.

“I think you said it best when you said, I’d rather die knowing that I gave everything, and put everything on the line, than to pander and wonder if I could’ve done more.”

That's the wonderfully bearded Josh Hambright,  said right before taking a swig of Miller High Life. The “you” he is referencing is his wonderfully bearded business partner Jake Koeneman, who is polishing off a Sun King Lupulin Astronaut at the moment.

“That’s what I call my biceps,” the skinny, tattooed, bartender Chris Porter says. Immediately inciting a bout of laughter from both Koeneman and Hambright. He raises his thin arms and kisses each of them while saying “Pander and wonder.”

We’re all seated at the bar at The Koelschip, the bar/taproom owned by Hambright, Koeneman and their third partner Chris Bly, who all founded Central State Brewing. Once the laughter subsides Hambright finishes by saying, “That’s basically what it comes down to: we have a voice, I mean, we have a little bit of a microphone. It’s not huge, but we can amplify our voices a little bit.

“We’ve got a few thousand followers on social media, and people pay attention to what we say for whatever reason — I don’t know why — but we may as well use it.”

With this understanding in mind, the team set out in 2017 to make a difference in the community they grew up in and that has supported their dreams of crafting incredibly unique styles of beer, which in turn has helped grow and change the community’s palate. “Josh, earlier this year, asked how are we going to look at our advocacy this year and what we’re going to do,” Koeneman says, “and as things evolved through late January we realized that that is going to be a very accelerated and real thing.”
This “thing” quickly evolved into a simple, yet effective form of activism. Koeneman explains, “As we looked at it, the ACLU, with civil liberties, is going to be huge for us; and then just seeing Planned Parenthood, just while growing up we’ve had friends, girlfriends, wives benefit from the services they provide. So as we sat down and looked at it we said ‘All right, we’re going to pick our two main beers Table and Garden — our two year-round beers — and tie those to charity.’

“We wondered what was the appropriate amount to give and we realized we could give a dollar per beer and we felt that that was significant.”

Whatever they could do to help their community they were going to do. As Koeneman explains, “That’s one of our founding principles, not that we have them written down anywhere, but when we started planning this thing in 2012 we said we would be doing this all within 465. We want to be a part of this community.

“I had the chance to go live in Australia for a year, and I worked on a bunch of IT projects over in Europe, and lived in Chicago and I got to see a lot of stuff. But what that amounts to is: go and see a bunch of cool shit and come back and do it in Indianapolis, the community that raised us.

So call it your job or your duty, whatever you will, this is our community.”

During the month of January, which in the food and drink industry is one of the slowest of the year, they were able to raise $206 for the ACLU of Indiana and $103 for Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky.

The other significant aspect of this is the fact that it will continue throughout the entire year. Koeneman explains the importance of this, “Honestly, one of the things we’ve realized is in our current news cycle, a 24-hour news cycle, and 24-hour outrage, that January and February is great, people are outraged, people are doing things. But, that is what is a driving factor in us saying we’re doing this all year, it’s to say, ‘If and when the outrage fades a little bit and comes back and ebbs and flows, we’re going to keep this consistent because it has to be.’”

Consistency is key in advocacy. And so they decided to stick with the same two organizations during the first quarter of the year. In fact, they will be giving to the ACLU throughout the entire calendar year. “Table, or whatever is poured on line one,” Koeneman says and then observes, “so as you can see, we had our anniversary last weekend so we switched the beer on line one, so Table is not on there right now — but that line is going to be focused on the ACLU for the year. Given everything that’s going on right now we feel that the best avenue for that dollar is the ACLU to impact locally and nationally.”

The organizations benefitting from pours of Garden will rotate throughout the year. - THE KOELSCHIP
  • The Koelschip
  • The organizations benefitting from pours of Garden will rotate throughout the year.
While the ACLU will be the year long organization on tap one, the other tap, tap three, which typically houses Garden, will be rotating through a series of organizations. Koeneman says, “We’re big fans of animals so FACE [a low cost animal clinic] will be on there at some point; I have some friends that are involved with Kid’s Voice [of Indiana], so children’s advocacy.” He also mentions the Exodus Refugee Immigration and he mentions that GLAAD, a gay and lesbian advocacy organization, will benefit at other points throughout the year. He finishes: “And then we’re just picking and choosing as things go along and as we see where this political climate takes us and where we think that that dollar best benefits.”
There are many people who think that businesses should stay out of politics, but when you look at what led the team at The Koelschip to begin this process, it’s easy to see while a business can stay out of politics, politics has a major impact on businesses. “I think one of the things that kind of inspired me that we had to do stuff as business owners was right after RFRA passed two years ago,” Hambright says, and then he describes going to an event in St. Louis, “We spent the entire weekend with people going ‘Ohhh, you’re from Indianapolis. What the fuck is going on there?’ And we spent the entire weekend just trying to explain that Indianapolis had civil rights protections and nothing was going to change in Indianapolis and that our city was safe.

“But it really woke us up to the fact that what our state does and what our city does reflects on us as business owners when we go outside the state. If people think we’re just backwoods rednecks that hate gays and hate minorities and that we’re just terrible people, pretty much like Mike Pence, then that reflects on us as business owners and we have to do what we can to change that perception when we go outside the state.”
Drink from The Koelschip's lines one and three throughout all of 2017 to support human rights. - THE KOELSCHIP
  • The Koelschip
  • Drink from The Koelschip's lines one and three throughout all of 2017 to support human rights.
Their hope is that in time we will see more businesses in the city take on this same format of advocacy. And we have already seen plenty of one-off events raising funds for these same groups, four coffeeshops joined in a nationwide event two weeks ago, Silver in the City was able to raise $44,000 in funds for Planned Parenthood, Mass Ave Pub recently raised funds for Planned Parenthood at an event where the profits from an entire keg of Garden were donated. People are fighting. Hambright says, “I mean it’s still early, we’re less than 20 days into the new administration and there’s more shit that’s going to piss people off. There’s going to be more outcry.

“I think everything kind of exploded with a bang those first two weekends, there was a lot of high, flashy stuff that went on, but I think it’s just going to continue to build. I think there’s going to be more people that have similar ideas, I hope more people get outraged and more people get involved.”

Koeneman thinks people will, but he understands they are in a fortunate spot to be able to do this at this point in time of the year. “We run this place with one person on at a time, most the time it’s Chris Porter, and he runs the shit out of this place. So we have a little more flexibility than most because we don’t have a staff of 20 to take care of.
“We’re in the worst time for food and beverage right now, February always being awful. You’ve seen it, starting with the turnover with some places and places deciding not to re-open in 2017. So, I would not expect until April or May when things start swinging and depending on what happens, for people to hit that moment when they can do things.”

As business owners the team is excited to have the opportunity to be able to give back to their communities. As Hambright puts it, “The litmus test I always give myself is: Am I a good guy, or am I a bad guy? Am I trying to get other people to have more, and have better lives? Or am I trying to push somebody down and oppress somebody? I mean that’s the easiest test. Am I on the right side of history? Yes, because I’m trying to make things better. I’m not trying to say somebody can’t do something; I’m trying to say everybody can do everything and that’s really all it comes down to.”

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