A beer odyssey through Evansville 

Rita chats with the four breweries that make the Southwest city a place to visit

click to enlarge The famous Reitz House museum in Evansville, a must see for architect lovers. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • The famous Reitz House museum in Evansville, a must see for architect lovers.
  • Wikimedia Commons

Evansville Brewhouse is Indiana’s newest brewery. Owner and former home brewer, Jeff Smith is creating a 4-barrel nano-pub niche at the Ohio River Oxbow in Haynie’s Corner Arts District. With the May 13th opening as Evansville’s fourth modern craft brewery, one is reminded of Evansville's brewing history.

From 1837 until Prohibition, some 16 breweries were in operation for varying lengths of time. Six production breweries opened immediately after Repeal, doing their best to make a go of it. One of these, Sterling Brewing Co., became the world-renowned and Great American Beer Festival winning Evansville Brewing Co. A run of bad luck forced the 1997 closure of EBC. 

One can say the modern craft brewpub era began in 1996 – just before the closure of EBC – with Judy and Jerry Turner opening Turoni’s Pizzeria and Brewery. Their 7-barrel system with open fermenters remains unique in Indiana. Turoni’s focus is on-site at their three locations. Tin Man opened Nov. 23, 2012 as a brewpub and production brewery with a 3-state distribution; Carson’s followed in 2013 as a production brewery with a 6-state distribution business model.

NUVO initially caught up with Tin Man’s founder Nick Davidson, Carson’s founder Jason Carson and Turoni’s head brewer Joshua (Josh) Pietrowski with email interviews.

The phone call with Jeff Smith on July 14 assured us of his well-being after an incident best avoided, but that once-again points to the caring nature within the brewing industry at all levels.

“Fortunately, I’m healing well after I had a setback,” Jeff reported.

In one of those uh-oh moments, Jeff moved a wrong clamp and instead of a simple transfer from the boil cool down to the fermentation tank, he loosened the boil kettle clamp, sustaining first, second and third degree burns to his hands, legs and feet from 190-degree water.

He anticipates getting back to brewing in a few weeks. Since the ‘mishap’ and until he’s on his own, fellow brewers and everyone else connected with the Evansville brewing industry have pitched in to keep Evansville Brewhouse open.

“The brewers came in and cleaned up and everyone has been helping with serving guest taps in the weeks ever since,” Jeff told me.

  • Evansville Brewing Association

July 16 the Evansville Brewers Association including publicans of ’craft beer watering holes’ and members of the Ohio Valley Homebrewers Association held an event “to show solidarity and support to our fellow brewery in a way only the craft beer crowd can, to set a tap room sales record for our good buddy Jeff as he recovers.”

Expect Jeff Smith’s full comeback report in about a month. Until then, stop in and savor a choice of “friendship brews.”

For now, catch the stories from Tin Man, Carson’s and Turoni’s:

NUVO: From your brewery's point of view, what collectively with Tin Man, Carson’s, Turoni's [and now Evansville Brewhouse], is making Evansville a destination for craft beer in SW Indiana?

Nick Davidson: At Tin Man Brewing, we’re constantly trying new things. Whether that be a fruited sour as a core beer or being the first brewery in Indiana to use a mash filter, people have taken notice and we’ve become a must visit destination in Evansville for out-of-towners. But when you look at all of the Evansville breweries as a whole, I’d say what is making us a destination in Southwest Indiana is the quality of the beer we are producing.

click to enlarge Just a few of Tin Man's popular beer offerings. - TIN MAN BREWING CO.
  • Just a few of Tin Man's popular beer offerings.
  • Tin Man Brewing Co.
When I started Tin Man almost 4 years ago, I had envisioned the tasting room becoming a place where people would meet up and hang out like they did at their local saloons a 100 years ago. When I walk out into the tasting room throughout the week, I see familiar faces and friends that met and meet in the brewery, and it makes it all worth it.

See more about Tin Man Brewing here. 

Jason Carson: We all have different brewhouse designs which allows customers a chance to see how we each produce great craft beer. Our taproom has 30 taps and we try to keep a variety of styles available at all times. We take part in numerous local charity and community events. The three of us have done collaborations together to bring us closer and provide the local community with unique craft brews. Being part of the Evansville Brewing Association where we all got together to recreate a photo from the past was a fun way to keep the heritage alive.

See more about Carson Brewing Co. here.

Joshua Pietrowski: It’s interesting to me, the way we’ve all ended up servicing the craft beer community in different ways over the past few years. Turoni’s is simply a brew pub and restaurant. Carson’s is mainly a distribution brewery, with a tap room that’s good for a few rounds. Tin Man has done a great job fitting in the middle as kind of a hybrid. They have a nice big location and good food.

I think the fact that Evansville is now a “craft beer destination,” not just for Hoosiers but for much of the Midwest, is that you could stop into all three locations and taste a quality, hand-crafted beer. There may be different stylistic liberties we take as independent breweries, but as a whole, you can walk into Turoni’s, Tin Man and Carson’s and sample multiple well-made, local ales and lagers. There’s not a single brewery in Evansville right now that, even in confidence, I’d speak about in any negative term, from the top to the bottom of it. The people I work with and around, and the beer they're producing, is all aces.

See more about Turoni's Pizzeria and Brewing here.

NUVO: How are you working together for the greater good of SW Indiana?

Nick Davidson: We get invited to do a so many beer festivals throughout the summer and because Tin Man distributes in three states the festivals are not just in Indiana. We have had to become a little more selective when it comes to what we’re going to participate in.

That being said we always want to help our community first and if there is a beer festival in Evansville where the funds raised go to help this city, you can count on us to be a part of it. This year we partnered with our distributor, Monarch/World Class Beer, to become the title sponsor of the SWIRCA BrewFest, which benefits the Southwestern Indiana Regional Council on Aging.

Jason Carson: We occasionally do collaborations,  we helped form the Evansville Brewing Association and partake in numerous charity events.

click to enlarge Turoni's occupies a historic building and makes top-notch pizza and beer. - TIRONI'S PIZZERIA & BREWERY
  • Turoni's occupies a historic building and makes top-notch pizza and beer.
  • Tironi's Pizzeria & Brewery
Joshua Pietrowski: Our biggest point of emphasis has been to strive to show our collaboration and community-based perspective to the local Evansville area. We live in a time where there’s something around every corner waiting to divide us as a people; racism, guns, politics, social class, you name it.

I can speak for my fellow brewers, since our re-founding of the Evansville Brewing Association, we’ve brewed and worked together in a very social manner to try and set an example for our community. We are trying to remind people just how important it is to come together in a time where that’s growing more and more difficult.

NUVO: What makes each of you distinctive as creators of craft beer?

Nick Davidson: We’ve tried to put a focus on new and different here at the [Tin Man] brewery. Being a small, independent craft brewery means that we have the ability to do smaller batches of interesting beers. A macro-brewery doesn’t have that ability; they have to worry about pleasing such a large amount of people, but we can make something different and interesting and it works as long as it’s a quality beer and there is an audience there.

Jason Carson: By maintaining high quality standards and offering unique varieties.

Joshua Pietrowki: As far as what makes Turoni’s different is that we serve as a novelty brewery. We put out 7bbl batches at a time, so we can swing for the fences and try pretty much whatever we want on a daily basis. Our tasting room/brewpub is very unique in that our food has won almost as many awards as has our beer. I’m not getting down on the other brewery’s menus, that chef over at Tin Man is killing it, but Turoni’s focuses just as much on our pizza as we do on our beer.

It blows my mind how many people tell us that between the fresh, hand crafted beer and the pizza, that Turoni’s is their favorite restaurant in the country. They say this with a serious look on their face. Like I said, mind blown. It’s a lot to be proud of.

NUVO: What makes your settings [brewpub/tasting room] distinctive from each other in Evansville?

Nick Davidson: In our tasting room, we have put a focus on beer and food pairings. We believe, like many do in this industry, that beer pairs with food just as well, if not better than with wine. But the wine industry has done a very good job over the years of gaining that mind-share that wine is the drink that should be paired with food. Part of our focus in the tasting room is proving otherwise.

We have an excellent chef, Charisa Perkins, who has done a wonderful job creating some unique and flavorful dishes and she is always thinking about beer when she’s creating something new.

Jason Carson: We don't offer food like the other two, however we occasionally provide food trucks and allow patrons to bring in their own food. We also have 30 taps that we try to keep filled with our own brews, guest brews, as well as a non-alcoholic root beer and ginger beer made in house.

Joshua Pietrowski: Our tasting room/brewpub is very unique in that our food has won almost as many awards as our beer. I’m not getting down on the other brewery’s menus, that chef over at Tin Man is killing it, but Turoni’s focuses just as much on our Pizza as we do our beer. It blows my mind how many people tell us that between the fresh, hand crafted beer and the pizza, that Turoni’s is their favorite restaurant in the country. They say this with a serious look their face. Like I said. Mind blown. It’s a lot to be proud of.

NUVO: How are you connecting with 2016 Bicentenni-Ale project?

Nick Davidson: We just released our Bicentenni-Ale project a couple of weeks ago. It’s called Hops & Hominy. We sourced almost everything from this great state. We started with a grain bill comprised entirely of malt from Sugar Creek Malt Co. in Lebanon, IN. We bittered with Columbus, Cascade and Southern Cross hops all grown in Indiana by Indy High Bines from Indianapolis. We fermented this beer using a yeast strain that we obtained from a tree outside the brewery which was isolated by Wild Pitch Yeast in Bloomington, IN. And finally, to honor Indiana’s corn grower’s we used hominy in the mash. Cheers to Indiana Beer!

NOTE: American Wild Ale earned Tin Man Brewery a Bronze Medal at the 18th Annual Indiana State Fair Brewers’ Cup Competition on July 9, 2016.

NUVO: How are you connecting with Indiana State Fair Craft Beer Pavilion?

Nick Davidson: We’ve made an appearance every year at the Indiana State Fair Craft Beer Pavilion since the 67-year ban on alcohol sales was lifted [in 2014], and we’ll do it again this year. We think it’s one of the more important things we do as far as getting the word out there about how great Southwest Indiana beer is. The State Fair is all about the things we produce in Indiana and it’s a big chance for us to show that we make beer that Indiana should be proud of.
click to enlarge Carson's GABF award-winning amber wheat ale, Red Dawn. - CARSON'S BREWERY
  • Carson's GABF award-winning amber wheat ale, Red Dawn.
  • Carson's Brewery

Jason Carson
: Our crew participates at the Craft Beer Pavilion during our time slots to discuss Carson's Brewery along with Indiana craft beer. Our head brewer John Mills also is a judge for the home brew competition for the [annual] Indiana Brewer's Cup.

NUVO: How is Turoni's 20th anniversary engaging SW Indiana along with all of Indiana?

Joshua Pietrowski: We kicked off with a big celebration back in 2015, right around winter. We brewed a collection of six high gravity ales, which was ambitious for Merl (my assistant brewer) and me to take on in our first year [as the newly appointed brew team when long-time head brew Jack Frey retired].

The beer menu amped up for winter as we were pouring Wee Heavies, Triple IPAs and of course our famous Rudolph’s Revenge. We are celebrating at each store this summer, with a special one keg release at each event. We have three restaurants we brew for, and each one is getting a one-off brew to commemorate our first twenty years.

NUVO: How is Tin Man looking to 2017 as your 5th anniversary? What’s planned for Carson’s fifth?

Nick Davidson: Our biggest announcement for 2017 and our 5th year anniversary will be the addition of our new satellite brewery in Kokomo, IN. We’ve been looking for a way to expand our presence in central Indiana and northern Indiana; our customers are our top priority and this expansion allows us to bring our craft beer culture closer to them more easily.

[Watch for NUVO story coming up]

We’ll also will be releasing an exclusive beer in cans this year at the brewery at our 4th year anniversary party. It’s a barrel aged version of Csar and it’s freakin’ great! If that goes well, we’ll be brewing up something really special for the 5th year anniversary.

Jason Carson: Because we didn't move into our current production facility until October 2013 we're going to celebrate our five year anniversary in October of 2018.

NUVO: When you each attend festivals across Indiana, what do you specifically seek to accomplish?

Nick Davidson: Our whole summer festival schedule is about introducing our beers to those people out there that haven’t had them yet, and also to keep our brewery at the top of the customers’ minds of those that have. There’s a lot of craft breweries out there these days and it’s our job to not only make interesting quality beers, but to make sure people are trying them and enjoying them.

It also gives us a chance to put a face to the brewery. My wife [co-owner Sara Davidson] and I both work festivals every weekend along with our brewers and sales team, so it gives us a chance to talk to the customers that buy our beer.

Jason Carson: We seek to promote great craft beer made in Indiana.

Joshua Pietrowski: I’m not going to lie. I love the state-wide festivals because I get to see my friends. I know I should be more concerned with boosting sales, and awareness, but there’s a sacred unifying force in the brewing industry and once you bond with someone, you never forget them and all the laughs you had, even if you only get to hang out three times a year.

Every year, I try to find a new brewery and connect with their brewers. When consumers see us goofing off, and laughing, and the genuine love and camaraderie we have for each other, it just draws them into this whole craft revolution even more.

NUVO: From your point of view what makes an "Evansville weekend" essential as a craft beer destination — what in addition to your place is a must-see, must-do, must understand part of our Hoosier heritage?

Nick Davidson: There are 4 breweries in Evansville now, so we have breweries to visit first and foremost. You can also visit a number of the breweries in our [Southwest] area, like Basket Case or Schnitz Brewery in Jasper or St. Benedict’s in Ferdinand.

You can [even] make a whole beer trail out of it (which is something we’re working on) and include breweries like the Pour Haus in Tell City and New Albanian in New Albany. On top of the Southwest Indiana breweries, we also have some interesting historic places to visit like the Reitz Home Museum, which is noted as one of the country's finest examples of French Second Empire architecture, or Mesker Park Zoo & Botanical Garden, which is one of the oldest and largest zoos in the state. We also have Tropicana Evansville, a riverboat casino in downtown Evansville, so there’s plenty of things to do after you’re done visiting the local breweries.

Jason Carson: We suggest that visitors check out the other local breweries, Evansville Museum of Arts, History, & Science, Bosse Field, Mesker Park Zoo and Ellis Park, to name a few!

Joshua Pietrowski: Oh geez. Get in early on Friday, and head straight for Carson’s. Have yourself a session there and buck on up to the bar at Turoni’s, preferably our Main Street location, and prepare yourself for somewhat of a Taj Mahal experience in pizza and craft beer.

Head on over to the Haynie’s Corner Arts District for a stop at the Evansville Brewhouse, our newest nano-brewery for a night cap; or have an incredibly well fashioned cocktail or two made by Mo over at Sauced. There are about five or six drinking options right there on the corner. It’s also the neighborhood I live in, so I’m super proud of it. If you’re heading to the hotel after and pass a big yellow house with a mountain of a man wearing a Tigers hat on the porch, that’s me. Stop on by for a beer :).

Saturday, wake up and get your butt to Franklin Street. I’d start with a burger and fries at Sportsman’s Billiards on the West end. Afterwards, stroll down to Tin Man and plan on spending a few solid hours at the bar tasting everything they’ve got, while ordering a few appetizers. Tommy G behind the bar will take great care of you.

For dinner, head to Gerst Haus, on Franklin. This, along with Turoni’s is one of Evansville’s most successful and dearly beloved local joints. Fill up on Schnitzel and whatever is on the umpteen taps Paul has pouring down there.

If you’re not ready for bed yet, a last stop at Lamasco is in order if you’re in the mood for live music; or if you’re in a more conversational mood and just want to meet the locals, Peephole at Second and Main is just around the corner.

Sunday, well, just do whatever you can for that head ache and get yourself back home.

Special Event

July 23: SWIRCA BrewFest & More at Evansville’s historic Bosse Field (1701 N. Main Street, Evansville, IN), 6-9 p.m. includes tastes of over 300 craft beers, 50 wines, 20 liquors (includes Bourbon, Whiskey and Vodka) and dozens of local culinary appetizers. All proceeds go to benefit SWIRCA & More, the Southwestern Indiana Regional Council on Aging. Get your tickets now.

“Home to the Evansville Otters of the Independent Frontier League, Bosse Field opened in 1915 and was the first municipally owned sports facility in the United States. Only Boston's Fenway Park (1912) and Chicago's Wrigley Field (1914) are older than Evansville's Bosse Field. It is the site for the filming of "A League of Their Own" in 1992. Whether you're a sports fan or a history buff, this 100-year-old structure for America's favorite pastime is a must see!” 

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About The Author

Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn has been covering craft beer and the arts for NUVO for two decades. She’s the author of True Brew: A Guide to Craft Beer in Indiana.

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