NUVO at 25: NUVO, Broad Ripple Brewpub, both born in the spring of 1990 

click to enlarge Broad Ripple Brewpub's taps
  • Broad Ripple Brewpub's taps

NUVO began on March 25, 1990 and with 25 years (and counting) under our belts, we still care about the essential stuff that leads to a life of quality for all, including ales, lagers, porters and stouts. Since June 5, 2005 NUVO's produced an annual craft beer issue, and since 2009, replacing sporadic coverage, Beer Buzz has appeared as a regular column on the food page—because craft beer is food.

On March 15, 2008, the first NUVO-sponsored Indiana Craft Beer Roundtable was convened at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. True Brew: A Guide to Craft Beer in Indiana came out in 2010, followed by The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beer Tasting in 2013. We are proud of the inspiration we've provided leading others to become craft beer commentators on various platforms. In celebration of NUVO's 25th Anniversary Sun King is releasing the signature Social Justice on March 23.

That's the public wrap-up in a tasting glass. The full pint story for me personally goes back to 1983 and a "heady time" of association with leaders on all levels intent on waking up "Naptown" (and the rest of Indiana) with cultural organizations, arts groups and social justice concerns coming to the fore. I was brought into the "pour," so to speak, at this fortuitous time.

A "good beer" oasis in an otherwise undrinkable desert started with a monthly poetry group meetup at the Wellington Pub, the unpublicized sibling of John and Nancy Hill's welcoming Corner Wine Bar. Poets were often also homebrewers, and John Hill was a traveling man willing to share the bottles he was bringing back from trips out west. And then there was John Easley, the man who gave us craft beer ingredients at Easley Winery beginning in 1979 when homebrewing was finally legalized.

Add Charlie Papazian to the mix — Papazian was a national homebrew catalyst bringing people such as librarian and baseball fanatic Bill Friday into the club. West Lafayette's Friday teamed up with Purdue folks who formed a club and mentored new homebrewers. Original members are still there and a new second and third generation is on deck. At the same time, IU in Bloomington had become a Mecca for homebrewers. Our leading centers of higher education were building the foundation for craft brewing along with the people who gathered and shared experiences in Indianapolis. Paul Edwards might've been described as the off-campus dean. Minor obstacles like liquor laws banning homebrewing didn't daunt him—he went about making changes. Edwards had, though, begun his career as a winemaker before switching to hops. (Home wine makers were granted rights in 1933 since a clerical error left homebrewing off the bill repealing Prohibition — but that's another sad story about bad proofreading and undue diligence).

Homebrewers were the craft beer leaders nationwide, bringing back styles with layers of flavors that had been lost with the amoeba-spread of Anheuser-Busch's bland lager and a 'one-beer-fits-all' mentality since the U.S. Centennial.

It was Jack McAuliffe, in 1976 for the bicentennial, who created the first 'new-era' commercial microbrewery. New Albion was short-lived but it set the stage for where we are today. His pale ale showcased the newly developed American hops called Cascade — and upped the ante for what we expected in a beer beyond bland. When it comes to craft brewing, character often extends beyond the brew and into the people who create it. Jack is decidedly on the quiet side, but those who followed have been more out there. That Pantheon includes the formidable Jim Koch who established the Boston Beer Company in 1984 and began producing the now ubiquitous Sam Adams brand in spite of the odds against him.

Jack was emboldened by Fritz Maytag who had rescued Anchor Brewing Company with is famous Steam Beer style. In turn, Jack inspired Ken Grossman to found Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in 1983, with Paul Camusi. Also in 1983 Mendocino Brewing Company came into being in the small town of Hopland, California, with the equipment built by Jack. (As Jack explains, growth requires capital but banks weren't then into giving loans to craft brewers — then as now, you close when you don't have the means to grow.) Mendocino not only brandished the term American Pale Ale but became California's first brewpub, the second in the U.S. The first was Bert Grant's 1982 "Grant's Brewery Pub" which became the prototype for brewpubs and for Indiana's first 20 years of modern-era craft beer was the industry model, until Sun King established the Hoosier model as a production brewery.

Looking back, by late 1980s Indiana homebrewers were getting antsy for commercial action and began nudging North Yorkshire-born John Hill to open a brewpub based on his successful Corner Wine Bar experience. In 1990, BRBP was at the convergence when NUVO came into being, and Asante Children's Theatre was born. It was an auspicious time. All three continue to grow and all three have inspired others.

I've been enriched as a part of all three. I've watched with sadness some aspiring craft beer operations open and close, and I've noted how many new small newspapers and theatres have gained impetus from the NUVO and Asante leadership. But what has been of utmost personal joy has been the association with the people in these three diverse community-centric operations. 25 years and still glowing!.

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