If you call Bier Brewery on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday and there's no answer, don't worry; Darren Connor is busy brewing the weekly lineup of eight batches at his newly opened nanobrewery. When NUVO visited, he was super busy brewing for Bier's debut at this Saturday's Winterfest.
Connor's concept of nanobrewing fits with his number one priority. "Quality is the utmost of importance, not only defined by the ingredients used, but more importantly, by the process itself. We have no problem putting in a 14-hour day to make sure the quality of beer we produce is freaking awesome, and that's best achieved brewing in small batches."
Connor, along with assistant brewer Ben Starrett, brews roughly eight 40-gallon batches of something new every week. Connor points out that "Bier Brewery is not bound by a regular lineup of house beers. We like weekly tappings and when it's gone, it's gone. You may not get a choice of all the styles by Sunday."
The regulars who have been coming since Bier Brewery's Nov. 24 "soft" opening, begin arriving promptly at 3 p.m. on Thursday. And they're carrying the uncharacteristic clear glass growlers.
"For quality control," explains Connor. "With clear glass you can see if the growler is perfectly clean. With brown glass, you think it's clean, so if you can't see it isn't, you fill it and the beer gets infected."
Customers are generally expected to sanitize growlers prior to bringing them back for refills.
Cleanliness is the mantra for all brewers. Connor says he's persnickety when it comes to freshness. "There are so many variables that go into making beer. All these variables must come together in order for the beer to be the very best."
He wants his customers to drink his freshly brewed beer within a day or two of purchase. "Brown bottles are supposed to keep beer fresh for several days but there is a chance of loss of taste quality with opening and closing the cap."
Water is another aspect of Connor's system of quality control against contaminants. He explains, "Reverse Osmosis water is just one of the tools in our arsenal. Each Bier brew has its own unique water profile that starts with tested and certified contaminant-free water."
Ambiance is part of "good taste"
Connor's second priority is to be walk-in customer-based. "We're not supplying restaurants and bars. We call the tasting room our brewery's community room and we're making it welcoming and attractive. We're building camaraderie with a space that welcomes conversation while tasting at the bar or sitting around our tables, or walking around looking at art."
This is where Connor's father, Jerry, comes in.
Jerry Connor is as handy with building tools as Darren is with beer ingredients. With the help of friends, but mostly on his own, Jerry transformed a former industrial space into a comfortable, rustic ambiance with a 12' x 12' bar made from lumber that was "salvaged out of an old barn from our sister's property." The track lighting ensures an attractive gallery space.
And while it's Jerry's humor showing through on naming the men's restroom "Stouts" and the women's "Blondes," it's his son's playfulness that invites us to bring our four-legged friends. Darren states: "We are dog-friendly, so if your best buddy is a good buddy, then bring him/her in to play with our Meet'n Greet Chairman, Obie 1 Kanobie. We have plenty of treats for our furry friends."
Serving people food is not part of Bier Brewery's current operation. They happily promote neighborhood carryout businesses for Bier customers to pick up on the way home.
The Brew Board, smartly decorated by homebrewer Sean Tucker, attracts a customer to taste a preferred style. But Jerry, who is at home behind the bar, prompts the customer to try another style.
"I like to expand horizons," explains Jerry, whose career in wine and spirits preceded his current day job in the recreational vehicle industry.
Growing with demand
Ever the patriarch, Jerry is cautious about the business plan. "As demand increases, we'll increase capacity. Six hundred growlers filled per week would put us at capacity now. We've learned from Dave and Clay [Sun King Brewing Company], and want to be part of their commitment to growing the community of craft beer along with all the other breweries."
He adds, "We're committed to growing our neighborhood and we plan to use local products in our brews."
Darren, at age 33, made the leap from homebrewing to professional brewing after a lot of planning and with the blessings of his former boss, Anita Johnson, whose Great Fermentations homebrew supply shop is just three doors west of Bier Brewery.
Craft beer is a way of life for Darren, who acknowledges that he's doing what almost every homebrewer dreams about by opening a professional brewery. But, he reminds us, he paid his dues while dreaming. "I was with Great Fermentations for ten years. And before that as a student at IU, for three years I worked at Bloomington Brewing Company with Floyd [Rosenbaum]."
Nevertheless, Darren remains close to his homebrewing roots.
Homebrewing buddies come in to help out; for example, Trevor Lee was there the day NUVO stopped by. And for Darren a highpoint is bringing his first Pro-Am brew to Winterfest: homebrewerSean Tucker's Problem Child IPA, the long-awaited big and flavorful 2006 Beer Geek Challenge winner.
"We are excited to be one of the newest breweries in Indiana," adds Darren. "We are committed to the highest quality and best tasting beer in Indianapolis. Our small size allows Bier Brewery to have the utmost control over the many different variables that go into brewing a batch of beer that is fresh every week to fill the 500 growlers our customers are taking home."