It is the question that everyone asks. It is a testament to the interest and the legitimate support of the community; confirmation of all of the work we have done to raise awareness and the strength of the craft beer movement. Yet…
It is also the question that should be framed by the evolution of the business and all of the work we have done to make our building a striking landmark. It should be informed by the reality of the permitting process for a brewery and an understanding of all of the things that are outside of our control. So an informed answer includes knowledge of the path I have taken to change careers.
In 2011 I was an educator at Howe High School in Indianapolis when two weeks into the school year, after just transferring to the school as a part of the turn around efforts of IPS, it was announced the school would be taken over by the state. Suddenly the day dreaming of an avid home brewer seemed like a feasible possibility. So I made arrangements to intern at the Schlafly Brewery in St. Louis to learn if commercial brewing was really what I hoped. I loved spending my days talking about esoteric Belgian yeast and brewing. After confirming I would enjoy brewing professionally, I knew I needed to increase my knowledge of the brewing process and I enrolled in courses in 2012 with the Siebel Institute, the oldest brewing university in America. To increase my business knowledge I have worked with Ken Eitel of Hometown Visions and Richard Pittelkow of the Indiana Small Business Development Center for almost five years. I explored demographic data and business plans to insure leaving my career as a teacher was feasible as a father and husband.
I spent months looking at buildings in the downtown area trying to find a location that would support the industrial side of brewing operations. When the “old Napa building” became available, I asked the local excise officer to preview the building to make sure it was legally suitable and she simply said, “It looks like it needs a lot of work.” But it met the legal requirements for the location of a brewery. I knew it had hidden character, was a block from the square and three blocks from DePauw. I showed it to my wife and she said, “This is it.” We both knew to look past the work it needed and saw what it could be.
In February of 2015 we purchased the building. We have completely renovated the building. We have a new roof. We have replaced a large portion of the interior concrete with sloped floors to trench drains for the brewery operations. We have new three phase power coming into the building. We have replaced the incoming water lines and added a fire suppression system. We have exposed the beautiful trusses that span the building and have a bar made from local white oak that wraps around our brew house with windows so everyone can see the brewing process.
Beyond the work on the building I have travelled thousands of miles looking at brewing equipment. I almost flew to Japan to look at a used German system that was available there. Luckily, I found what we needed in Boston. Our equipment was delivered in July. After purchasing the equipment and building we were eligible to apply for a federal brewer’s permit. You simply can not apply unless you have your equipment and location. The federal process took 130 days. Ten days longer than expected but far less than some breweries.
The permitting process to open a brewery also includes state and local permits for alcohol sales. The blue prints have to be approved by the state agencies and they must comply with excise regulations as well as regulations from the TTB and ADA. The most apt explanation is a simple question. Do you know how you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
So the business is in a position to open in the very near future. We still have permits that need to be approved. We need to finish the build out of our location. We need to hire staff. We will open soon. Yet until we have the permits in hand and know we are within a month of opening, our opening date is early 2016. We appreciate everyone’s support.