Indy's newest brewery, Round Town Brewery, set to open 

22-year Veteran Brewer Back in His Boots

click to enlarge unnamed-6.jpg

Jerry Sutherlin
is back in his boots. Truck loads of the brewhouse set-up finally rolled up to the in-process Round Town Brewery at 950 S. White River Parkway W. Dr. In mid-July social media buzzed over the long-awaited arrival of fermenters, tanks and tuns.  Unloaded, uprighted, installed and tested, these tall-as-windmills vessels are joining Indiana’s craft beer culture. Round Town Brewery’s been on hold waiting for this shipment.

In a reverse-of-anguish, government permits arrived months ago. Now Jerry Sutherlin is sort of back where he started some 22 years ago when Oaken Barrel in Greenwood was tearing out their old brewery and setting up a new system. Jerry, then on the wait staff, assisted and then moved to The RAM downtown in time to help set up their Fisher’s location. Then, as things happen, he got the brewer’s nod at Rock Bottom. After a ten-year tenure there, in Dec. 2015 Sutherlin joined with Max Schenk to open Round Town Brewery. 

NUVO caught up with Sutherlin, Schenk and Eric Fear, Round Town’s sales director, for an on-site visit followed by an email interview with Eric.
NUVO: What’s the story of Round Town Brewery—a.k.a. ‘RTB’?

Eric Fear:
The story of Round Town Brewery is the story of Jerry Sutherlin. Jerry has spent his entire adult life working in the beer business. He’s spent time working every job in the biz and has spent the last 22 years as a professional brewer. Round Town is his life’s work coming together and giving him his first shot to do it on his own as both Head Brewer and Founder. 


Jerry’s maintained great relationships in the beer community so as he’s developed the plan to open his own spot, he’s surrounded himself with friends who have also dedicated their professional lives to the beer business. His thinking is that by bringing in people that are experts in the other areas of the beer business, he can focus on his one true love, which is making the best beer he can possibly make.

NUVO: What’s the uniqueness of the place as a production brewery with an inviting taproom that’s located within the Biltwell Event Center?

Eric Fear: We feel like this little Westside community is a hidden gem of Indianapolis just waiting to fulfill its huge potential. Not only is it easy to get to, but we also have ample parking and a beautiful event center as our neighbor in the upper floors of our building. As we’ve discovered, we’re actually a little less than a mile to Lucas Oil.

Our favorite thing to do is try out all of the authentic lunch and dinner spots within walking distance. This part of the city is really exciting in ways that none of us really were aware of until we fell in love with this spot and signed the deal to move in. Our goal is to play our part in helping this community grow while preserving the wonderful old school charm.

[The 1922, 3-story brick structure, with a first floor built into a bluff, features large windows on the upper floors. The original site of the Biltwell Windows and Doors factory west of the White River was part of a vibrant manufacturing sector with a nearby residential neighborhood that continues to attract. Southward were gardens and orchards.]

NUVO: You’ve planned the Taproom to be a destination—what’s special?
click to enlarge Round Town's teams has started construction on their hand-crafted bar. - ERIC FEAR
  • Round Town's teams has started construction on their hand-crafted bar.
  • Eric Fear

Eric Fear:
The taproom is going to be the kind of place that we would pick when we’re looking for a place to hang out. We consider ourselves craftsmen who really appreciate the work and dedication of other craftsmen. Since that’s how we think, and we have this beautiful old building that started its life as a lumber mill over 100 years ago, we’re going to try to play up the history and story of the building. 

We have beautiful cedar woodwork and beautifully massive cedar pillars. To add to that we made our bar out of scrap pieces of wood that were lovingly collected by a friend of ours who’s a woodworker by trade and is passionate about wood. If you ask him, he’ll give you the story of each piece. To top it off, we made the bar top out of slabs of red oak that he found hidden in an old barn in Northern Indiana.
The plan for the rest of the room is to build our own tables and benches in a style that fits what we have so far.

Don’t worry, comfort will always trump style. All of us are going to need a comfortable spot to rest our aching bodies while we enjoy Jerry’s beer at the end of a long hard day.

NUVO: What about Round Town’s beers and their stories?

Eric Fear: While we’re still a little too far out to share all of the details on the beers, we can tell you that Jerry is old school and likes to make his beers true to style. If you look at the existing beer categories, people seem to want to push the boundaries. We’re fine with that and applaud that goal, however Jerry typically brews right down the middle of the style guidelines. We’re not saying he isn’t tweaking his recipes a little one way or the other, but he’s brewing beers that he likes to drink that are good representations of the traditional styles. 

We’re not trying to be unique by creating the next great beer style. We’re being unique by perfecting the classic styles that we already love.
click to enlarge The historical facade for Round Town Brewery - ERIC FEAR
  • The historical facade for Round Town Brewery
  • Eric Fear
NUVO: Why is RTB a natural part of the trajectory of craft beer in Indianapolis?

Eric Fear: We feel that Indy has some absolutely great breweries and they’re making some wonderful beer. However, compared to the rest of the country, our city is still in the early part of the craft beer movement. What I mean by that is that we’re nowhere near the point of saturation that’s become the buzzword of the naysayers. Instead we’re just now reaching the point where the cream will rise to the top.

The community as a whole is developing highly educated craft beer consumers and we’re ready to help in any and every way. All we can do is start off by making the absolute best beer we can make, after that we have to learn from the stories of those that came before us. We truly hope the community adopts us so we can continue doing what we love to do.

NUVO: What is the RTB timeline?

Eric Fear: Open mid-September 2016. The minute we have beer available, we’ll be attempting to sell it to accounts in Indy area. Once we’ve got all four of our launch beers available, we’ll throw a series of launch parties to invite our current and future friends to come see and taste what we’ve been up to.

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Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn

Bio:
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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