Quick History Lesson: In 1919 – when Fort Wayne’s population numbered only 86,000 (compared to today’s 265,000) – brewing was a thriving industry in the city. 13 breweries contributed to the city’s economy and brought people together to enjoy a pint. Then 13 years of Prohibition closed down most of the breweries. A few – like Centlivre Brewery, which lasted until 1973 – survived by distributing ice and other beverages. (Fun fact: The statue on top of Hall’s Old Gas House Restaurant of that guy with his foot on a barrel of beer? Charles Centlivre, founder of Centlivre Brewery.)
Hoff Brau Brewing Co. and Berghoff Brewing Corp. both hung on until the mid-1950s. Falstaff (a St. Louis brewery) took over the Berghoff brewery and stayed in production for a few more decades. With the closing of Falstaff in 1990, Fort Wayne found itself a city without a single brewery.
But, we are lucky to be living in happier times. Fort Wayne has nine – and counting – thriving craft breweries.
Craft Beer 101: Beer is traditionally made from malt, hops, water and yeast. “Craft” means the beer’s been made by a craft brewer. A craft brewer is a small, independent brewer who uses traditional high-quality ingredients and creation methods that don’t over-process the beer. Brewers get creative with the types of hops and malts they use – as well as other added ingredients like grains, spices, fruits, etc. – to make their wide range of styles and flavors.
There are two branches to the family tree of beer: the ale branch and the lager branch. About 98% of craft beers are ales, and most of those are India Pale Ales. [Back to history for a second, India Pale Ales (IPAs) get their name from the days when the English were shipping beer to colonial India. Beer brewed with more hops and a higher alcohol content held up better on the long sea voyage.] The lager branch includes styles like Pilsners and American light lagers.
Craft beers first gained popularity with younger consumers, but the locavore movement and the emphasis of farm-to-fork have attracted beer drinkers of all ages and geographical locations. Indiana, according to the National Brewers Association, now ranks 15th in the country with its 127 breweries statewide.
Whether you are dipping your toes (so to speak) into craft beers, or are already an aficionado (or “Liebhaberin” if beer-drinking makes you feel a bit Teutonic), you must check out the following local breweries:
Mad Anthony Brewing Company is the granddaddy of Fort Wayne’s local breweries. It opened in 1998 in the former Munchie Emporium on Broadway when friends Todd Grantham and Blaine Stuckey decided to turn their love for homebrewing into a career.
They opened what was, at the time, just the eighth brewery in the state and brewed Mad Anthony label beers in a small space off the bar. You can still see this space in use today, where their small batch and more experimental beers are brewed. Mad Anthony now has an impressive production facility across the parking lot from its original location and brews over 3,000 barrels annually.
Jeff Neels joined the Mad Anthony team in 1999 to oversee the restaurant and menu. Now there are three more Mad Anthony Brewery restaurants in Auburn, Warsaw and Angola. All of them serve a wide range of Mad Anthony beers (as well as other beer, wine and spirits). The original Fort Wayne location has 20 taps devoted to Mad Anthony beers; the other locations have 12-14 taps each.
Its sister restaurant, Shigs In Pit barbecue – owned by Neels, Grantham and Stefan Kelley – serves bottled Mad Anthony beer. A second Shigs on Maplecrest Road devotes 23 taps to Mad Anthony beers. “Other taps are taken over by seasonal offerings, small-batch brews and creations from other beer makers,” said Josh Volz, director of marketing and design for Mad Anthony Brewing.
Mad Anthony’s reputation is nationwide. It has won numerous awards, representing its heritage of brewing quality beer, at the Indiana Brewers’ Cup which is one of the largest competitions in the country. Some of its award-winning beers are its Mosaic Moon Double IPA, Hop Loco, Six 2 Midnight Session IPA and Honey Cream Ale.
“We’ll always keep our classics like Auburn Lager and Good Karma IPA – around,” said Volz. “But our brewers enjoy experimenting. Things like watermelon wheat and sour ales – like cherry tart – are popular with our customers who enjoy trying the newest trends.”
The more local brewers, the merrier, as far as Mad Anthony Brewing is concerned. The company is renowned for its commitment to furthering craft brewing and supporting local brewers.
Every September, it hosts the hugely popular Brewed IN the Fort Festival to showcase craft brewers from Fort Wayne and the rest of the state.
Will Long and David Tomaszewski have been home brewing together for almost six years when they decided to find a space to share their creativity and variety of beers with others. They renovated space in the old Bunn Candy Bar Factory and opened in 2015. Since opening, they have released over 450 different brews.
Currently, Summit City Brewerks has 23 of its beers on tap, with 14 of the others allocated to guest brews. “We offer as much local beer as we can, like Taxman and 3 Floyds. We also offer some hard ciders from Michigan, and local Satek and Two-EE’s wines,” said Tomaszewski.
Summit City prides itself on the wide range of beers it produces. “All types. Very hoppy, not hoppy, triple dry-hopped beers; high alcohol, low alcohol. Craft beer is a lot like the culinary arts,” said Tomaszewski. “There’s a recipe, but you have an idea of what you want it to be like and how you think it should taste.”
The brewery always features several of its IPAs and other popular styles, like stouts, in different iterations. “Our flagship beer is Carl’s Cream Ale,” he said. “I call it our ‘gateway’ beer, because it’s familiar to beer drinkers who are comfortable with the popular light American beers.”
Summit City is planning to ramp up its sour ale program with a dedicated sour fermentation room. It has dozens of barrels of sours that have already been aged for two years. “Sour means they have been barrel fermented with wild yeast and infected with bacteria,” said Tomaszewski. “Totally safe for consumption – it’s the same bacteria as in yogurt.”
Summit City is hoping to begin regional distribution of some of its in-house releases. It is also looking to expand its kitchen and food menu.
“We love being the ‘local watering hole’ – a locally-focused business that serves its neighbors. We’re right off the Greenway and get a lot of regulars from nearby neighborhoods,” he said.
Birdboy Brewing Company, a production-only brewery focused on traditional European-style beers, also opened in 2015. Ben Thompson, owner and brewer, fell in love with home-brewing in 2008. He started brewing to recreate the flavors of the beers he enjoyed. He perfected his techniques and realized his he wanted to start a brewery and share his creations with others.
Thompson explained the inspiration for the brewery’s name comes from Fort Wayne’s pioneer of aviation Art Smith (aka the Bird Boy). Two years after the Wright Brothers’ first flight, 15-year-old Smith built his own plane. He went on to become a world-renowned pilot and stunt flyer. He was the first American to do the loop-the-loop and originated skywriting.
Thompson is also an aviator. He obtained his pilot’s license in high school and moved to Pittsburgh to study aircraft maintenance. It was there he was introduced to craft beer. “I’ve been studying and perfecting the craft ever since and hope to reflect Bird Boy’s adventurous spirit in the choices we present to the local beer scene.” he said.
Birdboy Brewing Co.’s Belgian and other traditional European style beers – like German Rauchbier, a smoked lager – are served at over 50 restaurants and bars between here and Indy. Thompson is working with local food truck purveyor, Sol Kitchen, to open a tasting room.
The brewery is open to the public for Growler Hour on Fridays and Saturdays from 5-9 pm for growler fills and free tastings. If you’re lucky, Thompson’s dog, Huckleberry – the brewery’s mascot – will be there, too.
Trubble Brewing, opened in 2015, in a renovated old restaurant space. Owner/Head Brewer Chad Hankee – a homebrewer for many years – said, “Besides all the great beer we’ve been brewing, highlights since opening the brewery include adding more fermenters and barrels on the brewing side and having the food menu really come together. Ramen night on Thursdays is really popular.”
Trubble always has a few taps reserved for other regional breweries, like Taxman, but the rest are devoted to its own stock. “Mindtrap IPA is our best seller, and Engineered by Aliens is also popular,” he said. “We’re working on steam beer and juice IPAs, too.”
A juice IPA doesn’t actually have juice in it. “There are seven pounds of lactose – an unfermentable sugar – used in the brewing process,” said Hankee. “That gives it a lot of body and a great ‘mouthfeel.’ Different strains of hops, with more citrus notes, are used, too.”
Steam beers are lower in alcohol and use a particular California yeast strain. (They were originally called steam beers because of the steam rising off the outdoor fermenting tanks at Anchor Brewing in San Francisco, where the recipe originated). “It’s a good, comfortable beer for people coming off domestic lagers,” he said.
Trubble Brewing beers are available at a number of places around town, and the brewery hopes to expand its distribution throughout Indiana. Local expansion is also happening with the opening of its second location at Promenade Park, Trubble Brewing Riverfront Café & Tap.
Co-owners Jack May, Andrew Smith and Dan Campbell crossed paths at Joseph Decuis a few years back. While May moved away to work, Smith and Campbell started up the Affine Food Truck. When May returned and joined them in the food truck business, they soon decided a brick-and-mortar establishment – with on-site brewery – was the next step in achieving their everything-from-scratch culinary goal.
They eventually were able to buy the old Korte Paper Company warehouse and hired Patrick Gould and Todd Stone as brewers. Junk Ditch Brewing Company opened its doors in 2016. On opening day, it had just one of its beers on tap. It now offers 12 different Junk Ditch beers, plus a New Day gluten-free cider.
“Our oatmeal IPA, Goulden Oats – along with our Junk Ditch burger – is our consistent best-seller. We’re looking into barrel aging small batches, but we are really pleased with our traditional offerings. We are happy with doing standard styles, but doing them to perfection,” said May.
One of the highlights since its opening has been the Tuesday Food Truck rallies held in front of the brewery. The kitchen is closed, but you can buy beer and eat food truck fare.
The Hoppy Gnome restaurant has been known for serving gourmet tacos and craft cocktails since it opened in the iconic mid-century modern Anthony Wayne Building in 2015. But it expanded less than two years later, launching Gnometown Brewing Co. with its brew-your-own concept.
“The initial goal of Hoppy Gnome was to be a restaurant with a creative menu and a focus on craft beers – local as much as possible. There was an idea on the back burner to eventually start a brew-on-premises service. Along with that concept, the idea of starting our own brewery just made sense,” said Peter Shuey, managing partner.
GnomeTown began offering its beers in 2016, and Mike Flaherty, an accomplished homebrewer, was brought on as head brewer. It offers eight of its own beers on tap. Four of the taps are devoted to customer favorites like a smoked porter, amber ales and IPAs. The other four deliver a constantly-rotating selection of new and experimental options, like saisons, imperial black ales, and even a smoked jalapeño IPA. It also has 36 taps for other craft beers.
GnomeTown’s brew-on-premise idea is the first in the state. It has eight kettles available for guest brewers – the general public – to brew their own beers. The brewery space – across the lobby from the Hoppy Gnome entrance – is open for seating on Fridays and Saturdays and offers the restaurant’s complete menu.
Ben Jackson believes a beer, a good one especially, can bring people together.
After all, it’s how he connected with Paris Farthing. They had a similar dream of opening a brewery and, in 2018, it became realized with the opening of Hop River Brewing Co..
It brings something different to the growing local landscape of craft brewers. There are community tables for people to connect with friends and even make some new ones. There aren’t television screens mounted on the wall – or anywhere – because the founders want to foster conversation and community among the patrons.
“Creating and sustaining community has been a thread since opening,” said Mary Corinne Lowenstein, marketing director.
Hop River Brewing has a 15-barrel system, the second largest system Fort Wayne,” she said. Brewing to distribute, the brewery has already amassed an impressive roster of customers, more than 85 restaurants, bars and liquor stores offer Hop River products.
The brewery’s niche is true-to-style beer with recipes honoring the flavors and ingredients of a particular style.
“We want you to enjoy the beer that’s in your glass and ask for another,” said Lowenstein. “That’s the best compliment a brewer can get is to ask for a second glass of the same beer.”
In the past year, 35 different beers have been brewed and offered on its 16 taps. Many of them feature local ingredients. Its commitment to local also shines through in its food. Hop River Brewing Co. recruited Zach Croy to develop the menu and is vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free friendly.
In its first year, Hop River won two gold medals and placed second overall for Best in Show at the 2018 Indiana State Fair Brewers’ Cup. Its Maestro Vienna Lager won gold in the European Amber Lager Division and earned runner-up for Best in Show; its Harrison St. Wheat took home a gold medal in the German Wheat and Rye division.
Tom Carpenter is serious about his beer – he always has been.
As a home brewer, the owner of 2Toms Brewing took a professional approach to his craft (craft beer, that is). He had an Untapped account. He made labels. He distributed his beers for fun so that others could try them.
“It was never my intention to go from homebrewing to having a brewery,” said Carpenter. But through sharing his beers, Carpenter was encouraged to open a brewery. In 2018, he opened 2Toms with his culinary approach to beer making.
“We’re really big about the ingredients and flavors we use,” said Carpenter. “(The beer) is not always traditional in style. I’m all about getting the look, the taste, the texture and the aroma to come through in the beer.”
From kettle sours to big stouts to IPAs, 2Toms prides itself on brewing inventive beers.
Over the past five years, Carpenter had the opportunity to travel quite a bit and immerse himself in the craft brewing scene … to try different recipes and to understand the craft. He even had a chance to brew with the lead brewers at Monkish Brewing in California.
Brewing under a different business model and a different approach to beer, Fortlandia Brewing is Fort Wayne’s newest brewery.
Its owners have over 40 combined years of experience brewing beer. The team of four are members of MASH, Fort Wayne’s homebrewing club.
There are breweries that are started by businessmen who want to capitalize on the trend or a restaurateur who sees it as a market in which to expand, said Fortlandia co-owner Dan Voors, “We’re a company of brewers.”
Fortlandia is Fort Wayne’s first nano brewery, a concept that is popular on the west coast. While most local breweries operate out of a five barrel or 15-barrel system, Fortlandia has just one barrel. This might seem like a disadvantage on the surface, Voors said that a smaller brewing system opens up opportunities.
“We can take a lot more risks, try new things and stay on the edge of craft brewing trends,” he said.