May 2015 I was sitting in the newly-opened Saint Joseph Brewery and Public House at 504 College Avenue, talking with co-owner Daniel Jones who was describing how the 1879 Parish Church called out for a new life as a community gathering place. Head brewer Alan Simons joined us to introduce the debut beers on tap—Cornerstone Kolsch, Noble Street Pale Ale, Confessional Pale Ale, Bohlen’s Java Brown and Sanctuary Saison.
In a story following the 2015 visit, I described the beers as styles we recognize, adding “Simons’ execution imbues each with a quality you won’t find anyplace else.”
Simons, whose passion leans toward crisp, clean, refreshing taste and balance between hops and malt from first taste to last swallow, described his approach as, “I want to make beer I like to drink.” He referred to the Saint Joseph Brewery niche as “American Craft Beer,” meaning a brewer creates a unique recipe within the framework of traditional styles. Simons began his professional brewing career at Thr3e Wise Men, and moved on to Oaken Barrel before taking the helm at Saint Joseph.
It’s May 4, 2016 and in preparation for the May 12 first anniversary of Saint Joseph Brewery, I’m back to learn whether Simons feels he correctly apprised that there are a lot of other people who also like approachable, easy to drink craft brews with layers of flavor. Never mind that he gained two medals right out the gate at the 2015 Indiana State Fair Brewers Cup competition—Gold for Benevolent Belgian Blond Ale [tapped after the opening] and Bronze for Confessional IPA. What’s the customer reaction?
Looking around at the tables filling up mid afternoon, with beer the obivious beverage of choice for people who seem to be meeting up for any number of reasons, including the soccer match that holds the attention of the large crowd at the bar. It is easy for me to surmise I don’t have to worry about Saint Joseph Brewery staying afloat, I will undoubtedly attend their second anniversary next year.
Along with fellow beer writer Greg Kitzmiller, I’m eager to learn the direction for the year to come. Simons itemizes 24 different beers brewed his first twelve months [see the full list] all well-received, and walks us through the progression from the core offerings between 5 and 6.3 percent ABV, to specials and limited editions at a heftier 8 percent range. Simons reports Confessional IPA is the best selling beer. Pew Buster Double IPA at 8.1 percent ABV earns its second release on May 12 as the celebratory anniversary beer. Simons describes it as “brewed with massive additions of Simcoe and Centennial Hops for an intense fruity, citrus hops profile.” This will be followed in late May with Red Ale, the first release by assistant brewer Travis Wilkinson, who joined Saint Joseph after brewing at The RAM downtown, preceded by stints at Fountain Square and Taxman. We’re introduced to Mark Thompson, described by Simons as “our jack-of-all-trades.” He fills out Saint Joseph’s brewing team.
The easy drinking Kirche Weizen, with attributes of banana and clove, is slated to be tapped early June.
Cornerstone Kolsch, Noble Street Pale Ale, Benevolent Belgian Blond Ale and Confessional IPA stay on as the house beers. Continuing also will be the specially designed beer dinners that began in March 2016, with Simons and executive chef Scott Reiffenberger working in unison. Collaboration brewing began with Big Lug Canteen head brewer Scott Ellis, and the result—Seraphim Sour Ale— is currently one of the six seasonals on tap. Seraphim opens with a Spring garden aroma and offers crisp, refreshing tartness throughout.
“This is my first Sour,” commented Simons, “it was a lot of fun and I learned lot from it.” Simons describes the brewing process including “a unique blend of Lactobacillus for the souring, as well as Saison Yeast for primary Fermentation.”
We also tasted Sanctuary Saison, pleasing with layers of spice and citrus flavors from first to last sip.
The balanced, medium bodied Dark Angel Black Lager, “is the second Lager and first Schwarzbier I’ve done,” explained Simons. It’s all German hops, malt and yeast.”
His advice to people skittish about a ‘dark” beer in Spring or summertime—“Don’t let color throw you off. It’s clean, light, and refreshing, with low alcohol.”
We closed out the tasting session with dark and roasty Nun Bigger Belgian Imperial Stout. It’s big and bold upfront and then delivers the embodiment of kirsch [cherry] roundness with spicy, fruity complexity.
Looking forward, with a backward glance, Simons summarizes, “What drives me, is number one, I love beer. I never stop learning. I know I can do better. The quest for knowledge keeps me going.”
And the core patron base from the growing residential neighborhood keeps coming. The hope for impetus as a gathering place has been fulfilled.