Deviate Brewery is at the cusp of opening at 4004 W. 96th St., at the N.E.. corner of 96th St. and Michigan Rd. in a tidy looking mini mall that’s also home to an automotive repair shop, a paint store and a place to shred your overflow of paper. Founders/brewers Greg Ortwein and Mike Orkey hand built out the brewery, bar and cozy taproom, “except for plumbing and electrical,” interjects Ortwein. The sleek yet welcoming décor deftly combines old barn siding with the latest in wall paneling and track lighting to feature work by area artists. Ortwein credits their landlord, Jerry Lande for the eye-catching hand turned tap pulls, along with a myriad other helpful additions.

I visited about six weeks ago during their first on-site brew day. That inaugural batch is now in a beer barrel awaiting a special tapping. Since then, they’ve shared brews-from-a different-point-of-view at an event hosted by The Tasting Society. The rave reception solidified the homebrew duo’s faith in making the leap from home to neighborhood as a gathering place with carryout growlers. Watch for news of the early fall opening.

NUVO: How does the concept of “deviate” fit into your way of thinking about creating recipes and brewing? What will be your uniqueness in a growing craft beer industry?

Greg Ortwein: “Deviate from the norm” is the guiding mantra that we apply to our brewery design, approach and how we create our recipes. Often, craft beer is held and judged by standard beer style guidelines, where every aspect is defined and often confined by long standing definitions. And although we can respect the talent to brew a well-made beer done to style, we believe that craft beer should be fun and push the envelope of what is traditional.  Working from the fundamental foundation of a high-quality base beer, one free from defects and off flavors, we like to have fun and deviate to stretch and excite your palate.   Whether it’s taking classic food flavor pairings and incorporating them into a beer — like our Watermelon Mint Ale or Blueberry Tarragon Ale — or taking classic beer styles and putting fun flavor spins on them, like our Peanut Butter IPA or Hawaiian Imperial Stout with coconut and coffee.  All of our offerings will be designed to “deviate from the norm” and we hope the growing number of craft beer deviants will enjoy them.

NUVO: What's your backstory about 'buddy brewing?" How did you begin as partners, what kept you together?

Ortwein: Mike and I worked for the same company and were relocated from the Cincinnati area to Indy in 1995.  Soon after, we were introduced to our first Belgian style beers — Chimay, LaChouffe — and have been hooked on good beer ever since.  It progressed to the inevitable challenge of making our own homebrew versions of the shared beers we loved and, with the donation of our first brewing equipment from a friend, we started our beer making journey about 18 years ago.  From the beginning, we both found common ground having similar tastes in beer styles that progressed to a shared obsession of trying to figure out how our favorites were made.  We both shared in the fun of sharing our results with friends and watching their reactions, which kept us motivated to make more. 

Now, I think we play to each other’s strengths.  Mike is excited about the technical part of brewing and I enjoy determining flavor combinations and fun new things to try.  Our joint passion to make fun, creative craft beer coupled with our individual strengths makes a good brewing team that works well together.  As a result, we have won some awards at the Indiana Brewer’s cup for our homebrews.

They include first place in 2011 with our IPA (we are hop heads at heart), third place in 2013 for our Hawaiian Imperial Stout, and second place in 2014 for our Strudel Cake Scottish Strong. 

Related: Get into the Beer Buzz archives. 

NUVO: Why is now your perfect time to open a brewery with a tap room at the corner of 96th Street and Michigan Road?

Ortwein: As the craft beer market continues to grow by leaps and bounds and more people make the transition from macro- to micro-brewed beer, we believe the market segment seeking our style of deviations will also grow.  It is our goal to keep eight constantly rotating tap offerings made in house that “deviate from the norm,” so each time you visit you will experience a new, fun and exciting deviation.  Living on the Northside, we saw firsthand that craft beer options in the 96th Street and Michigan Road area was underserved.  There is room for our brewery and tasting room and being located right off of I-465 we are easily accessible to anyone traveling to stop in and try our offerings.

NUVO: Since it "takes a village to raise  a brewery" so to speak, who is your "village"? How are you connecting with the neighborhood for the greater benefit of all? 

Ortwein: Being longtime craft beer lovers and avid home brewers, we have been supported by an extremely accommodating and wide-spanning Indy craft beer neighborhood.  From our homebrewing side, Great Fermentations was always our go-to place for equipment, supplies and support.  As regular volunteers at all the local craft beer events and the Indiana Brewer’s Cup, we developed great relationships with many brewers that are instrumental in helping us get to this point. Rob Caputo, Flat 12, Three Pints, Scarlet Lane, Bier Brewery, Black Acre, Union Brewing Company and Wabash Brewing are just a few of the breweries that have been nothing more than willing to help and guide us in any way possible.  Indy has some great organizations that help promote craft beer and that have been extremely helpful and supportive to us.  Hoosier Beer Geeks, Girls Pint Out, Indiana on Tap have been hugely helpful and of course the wonderful Rita Kohn is the epitome of why we knew wanted to be part of the growing Indy craft beer market.

NUVO: What do you most want a patron coming to Deviate to experience?

Ortwein: Being a small, intimate and local brewery, we would hope that a patron experiences our passion for making fun craft beer.  We hope they appreciate our small batch, handcrafted concept.  In the end, we are two homebrewers living out a long awaited dream.  We don’t have plans to be the biggest or to take over the craft beer world.  We hope people will try our deviating products and not judge them based on traditional style guidelines, but instead sit back and decide if the beer was fun and enjoyable or at least a new experience for them.  If they come away saying, “Wow, I never had a beer like that before or, "Wow, I never thought those flavors were possible in a beer,” we would feel like we have succeeded.

Our goal is to provide unique craft beers, served in an intimate tap room, that are of quality and exciting enough to the cater to the established beer palate and also a fun challenge to those just starting the fun enjoyment of craft beer.  To quote Frank Zappa, “Without deviation, progress is not possible.”  And we say to all, “deviate from the norm” and continue your craft beer progression!

State Fair Craft Beer Exhibition in the Grand Hall: Aug. 12-18 Update

(Editor's note: If not designated otherwise at first mention, it’s a brewery in Indianapolis; New Day Meadery samples are on every day)

Aug. 19:

Breweries: Tow Yard, Rock Bottom, People’s, Chilly Water, Shoreline [Michigan City]

Music: Fan the Flame, 6 - 8 p.m.

Program: Cheese Sampling with Kori Pugh, noon - 9 p.m.

Aug. 20:  

Breweries: Tow Yard, Broad Ripple Brewpub, 450 North [Columbus], Sun King

Music: Sister Threadgoode, 6-8 p.m.

Aug. 21:

Breweries: Tin Man [Evansville], Brugge & Outliers, 450 North, Sun King

Music: Bubbles Brown, 6-8 p.m.

Aug. 22:

Breweries: Tin Man, Salt Creek [Bedford], 18th Street [Gary], Sun King

Aug. 23:

Breweries: New Albanian [New Albany], Salt Creek, 18th Street, Sun King

Music: Sister Threadgoode, 6-8 p.m.

New Brews:

Bloomington Brewing Co. Big Stone Stout, a sweet stout that is robust, smoky, and woodsy, with complexity from roasted barley, and a dry finish.

Thr3e Wise Men Cirus Maximums IPA is loaded with layers of citrus from a hops bouquet of cascade, chinook, saphir and amirillo.

Half Moon The Midas Touch Golden Ale is a refreshing golden ale with a smooth malty flavor with a light — but not too light — mouthfeel.  

And gear up for the pumpkin ales. Flat12 leads with Flat Jack. A special blend of Indian(a) spices and pumpkin shine through just enough to complement this slightly sweet and malty tribute to the season of hayrides and bonfires.

Upland Oktoberfest is on tap at Upland retail locations Aug. 28. It’s described as, “rich and malty without sacrificing any of the smooth, crisp character that defines true German lagers. Upland Oktoberfest is an authentic representation of a classic style. Dark amber in color, a lightly toasted malt character is complemented with notes of caramel and toffee. A blend of three German hop varieties provides perfect balance and a clean finish to this autumnal favorite.”