Sanctuary Brewing Company is about 70 days away from opening at 140 S. College Ave. Their brews are beginning to appear as ‘guest sharing’ at events, including the Indiana on Tap Tasting Society June join up at The Speak Easy. The promo for the program introduced Sanctuary as “Making beer with a cause. No less than 5 percent of their overall profits will go to various animal sanctuaries and foundations. All four members of their team are passionate about animals and beer. They hope to make Sanctuary Brewing Co. a welcoming and educational place for everyone, including the novice, expert and animal lover.”
I didn’t attend this introductory event on June 26, but I had sampled brewer Aaron Koerner’s brews during a visit to Sanctuary in-process. This was a welcome reunion with Aaron, brewing at what’s essentially a homebrew set up until the brewery is built out. Aaron and I originally met in 2013 when he was a cellarman at Oaken Barrel. He left and I lost track of him, so we played catch-up. His story takes on the mantle of an odyssey, and while it has echoes in the trajectory of other brewers Aaron’s quest has its unique twists and turns as the prodigal brewer back home again in Indiana.
Meet Aaron Koerner, Sanctuary Brewing Company head brewer:
When I was 19 years old, my good friend Manuel Swidersky, a German foreign exchange student who lived with me my senior year of high school, came back for a week to visit. We had both been working dead end jobs in retail and service and were considering our future. Manuel jokingly suggested that I brew my own beer, a thing I had never considered before, and somehow it just clicked. After Manuel left to go back home I put a bit more thought into his proposition and decided to go for it. When I realized I could purchase brewing supplies online and brew beer without being 21, I immediately jumped on the opportunity to get a little preemptive experience. After doing a few home brews I realized it was extremely stimulating, but I would have enjoyed it more if the beer had turned out tasty.
I wanted to further my education. After scouring the web searching for colleges that had brewing programs, I came across Siebel Institute of Technology. I was 20 by this time and still couldn't participate in any on campus courses, but I decided to set up a meeting and head to Chicago for a bit more information. I felt very welcome on my tour of the facility. Having my questions answered induced even more of a craving to be a brewer. The last piece of advice I received was to get involved with my local breweries and see what volunteering I could do. The day after I returned [to Indianapolis], I started going from brewery to brewery asking if I could help. However, this didn’t get me very far, as most breweries had issue with the fact that I was not yet 21. I went to about four breweries but nothing seemed to pan out, except for a recurring theme; almost everyone suggested I make a trip to Oaken Barrel in Greenwood. The next day I headed south to check it out. When I arrived I did my rehearsed volunteer spiel, and I was able check out the brewery and I met Mark Havens and Andrew Castner hard at work. I could immediately tell there was a different vibe at Oaken Barrel than at any other brewery I had seen.
Mark took a few minutes to break and talk to me, and the reaction I received from the brewers was enthusiastic. He seemed delighted with a sly look in his eye when he said I could help out. After a few minutes, Mark leaned over and grabbed a large floor squeegee off the wall and handed it to me. I couldn't wait to start; my foot was officially in the door. I started helping out more consistently in my free time. I also started taking courses at Ivy Tech that I thought would be applicable in a brewery. I took welding, lathe working, a few courses for an engineering insight, and computer drafting among others. Over the course of the next two years I balanced multiple jobs and school, fitting in the brewery where I could. During this time John Treeter was also volunteering at Oaken Barrel, although he was more dedicated than I was and consequently was hired on after Andrew left for The RAM.
In late April of 2011 I made a trip to visit my sister in Spain and Manuel in Germany. After returning Mark offered my a position in the brewery, and needless to say, I jumped at the offer. Everything was working in my favor. The brewing world ran on an amazing system of the more you put in, the more you get out. It was all on your shoulders to improve what was around you. However, at a mere 22 years old, I sometimes took advantage of the fun atmosphere and often fell short of where I could have been. Luckily Mark Havens, John Treeter and Sara Turner kept me in line as best as they could.
After nearly two years, Mark and John started on their own paths and headed toward new projects. Alan Simons was brought on staff as head brewer and, honestly, I didn't deal well with the change. Alan was, and is, a wonderful friend to me, but I couldn't handle the change in the brewery. This change, paired with my desire to pursue my love for hops led to my search for work in the Northwest.
I eventually found a job as head brewer at Fearless Brewing Company in Estacada, Oregon. After starting at Fearless, I noticed that all of the locals didn't really think much of me. I quickly found out that there was an extremely high turnover rate for brewers. The assistant brewer had been part time there for two and a half years and told me that I was the 19th head brewer he had seen. I soon found out why. The owners were awful. Everyone in town had a bone to pick with the brewery, patrons to brewers alike. Aside from the terrible behavior, many codes were also being violated. As issues continued to arise it became clear that this was not the brewery for me and I left.
I spent three months looking for brewing work with no real luck. Not much was available in Portland unless you had a connection, which unfortunately I didn’t. As my finances dwindled, I finally got a job busing tables at Timberline Lodge. This was a major emotional setback for me. I spent six months at Timberline before needing change. After quitting, I was out of work again with no funds but my eyes fixed on Bunsen Brewer in Sandy, Oregon. They had recently opened and I constantly bugged them for work. Aaron Hanson, the founder of Bunsen Brewer, and I had a lot in common. We had both worked at Fearless in Estacada and had lived in Indianapolis. Sympathetic to my case, he helped me get a job as a bartender at Bunsen Brewer. I was even able to begin brewing again. I agreed to invest a third of my pay back into the company in exchange for a little ownership and it felt good to give back to the company. Though I had no real controlling part of the company, I was always listened to and viewed with respect.
The better part of the year went by and I was finding out Oregon wasn't the place for me. Even working full time I was struggling to make ends meet, so I ended up taking a second job as a cellar man at Buddha Kat Winery in Sandy, Oregon. I was a friend of Joshua Rude, the head winemaker, and he needed an extra hand during the harvest. I worked both the brewery and the winery until the end of the year when I was no longer needed. During this time I was hunting for a more permanent job and moving out of Oregon. I had gotten in touch with Rand Wilson and Dave Worthington via an ad on Probrewer.com. I wasn't particularly fond of the idea of moving back to Indianapolis, but this seemed like the best opportunity at the time. I decided to at least move back until I could figure out my next job. Arriving back in Indy late January 2015, I set up an interview with Dave and Rand and I felt that old spark of brewing that I had when I started at Oaken Barrel. All three of us just seemed to fit together as a team. We're all counter personalities and there was a balanced feeling. A few days later I received a call about their decision to go with me on their new project and I couldn't have been happier.
Now with the new brewery under way I get that same feeling of joy every day I arrive at work. This project and Indianapolis have fully welcomed me, and I will strive to give that same spark of ease and happiness to everyone who is involved with Sanctuary Brewing Company, whether it’s as employee or customer.
Sun King & Three Floyds celebrated July 1 as the beginning of expanded brewing volume for Indiana craft breweries at SKB’s new Fishers site. It was a long line-out-door event. I’ll go back when the three-bbl brewing system is in place. Plans are for SKB special recipes to materialize with patrons weighing in with their preferences for the brews they want to have pouring from the taps. Of course, it’s a ploy to tempt all of us to make the trip into Fishers to have our say-so. Plan not to go during rush hour traffic.
Hoosier Beer Week runs from July 11-18 with new brews & events: check your favorite craft brew spot for special events.
For the first time in its 17 years, The Indiana State Fair Brewers’ Cup competition is opening the awards ceremony to the public with a tasting event and buffet dinner July 11, 5-9 p.m. at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in the Agriculture Horticulture Building. The ISF Brewers’ Cup is one of the largest competitions attracting over 1,300 entries from professional brewers and homebrewers nationwide. $40, buy your tickets here.
More info here.
Tow Yard now has Hook Up Shandy in cans. It’s a blend of Tow Yard’s Golden Ale and a citrus-forward soda.
Crown Brewing in Crown Point has daily events the entire week. See crownbrewing.com.
Half Moon celebrates with Star Spangled IPA, “an All-American hop lover’s creation, a deep golden color with a nice malty mouthfeel and grapefruit-like aroma from the Summit and Cascade hops. Half Moon’s forte is pairing brews and foods for seasonal changes. Half Moon was newly named as a party-watching site for Indy Eleven soccer matches.
Bloomington Brewing is leading into Hoosier Beer Week with the unique Kölsch Ale, “the only German all barley pale ale.” It’s a special style because it has both the full flavor profile of an ale and the crispness and refreshing quality of a lager. The description says, “Light gold in color, Kölsch has a sweet, aromatic grain with earthy notes greeting the nose. Delicate German pilsner malt sweetness blends throughout and is balanced by the bitterness of Tettnanger hops, all the while remaining refreshing and light at 5.2% ABV and 24 IBU.
Rock Bottom Downtown jump-starts on July 8 with Brewer’s Happy Hour, 5-7 p.m. Chat with head brewer Jerry Sutherlin about what’s special on the Hoosier line-up. If you’re in the neighborhood of RB College Park, head brewer Nathan Scruggs is ready to talk up his specialties.
Flat 12 starts Hoosier Beer Week with a fund raiser: “Pints for Parks,” July 8, 5-8 p.m.
Chilly Water is celebrating Hoosier Craft Beer Week with a first collaboration brew. Chilly Water brewer Dan Krzywicki partnered with Oaken Barrel brewer John Treeter for a Radler that infuses grapefruit soda into a Helles lager. What’s a Radler brew? It’s cousin to the British Shandy that dates to 1853. Radler [German for ‘cyclist’] has been popular throughout Germany as a low-alcohol summer thirst quencher since mid-1900s. There are at least a dozen variants for beers mixed with sodas. Each has a following and a different name and new combinations are on the rise.
The Athenaeum’s Soiree on July 9 pairs five Indy chefs with brews from Sun King, TwoDEEP, Fountain Square and Bier Brewery, 5:30 p.m. Tickets here.
The 10th Annual Red, White and Brews Festival July 12 runs 2-6 p.m. at Shoreline Brewery, 208 Wabash St., Michigan City. Guest breweries include Crown Brewery, Backroad Brewery, Peoples, Sun King, Figure 8 and Mad Anthony’s. $15 at the door; $10 in advance here.
“Pucker up! Prep for the Indiana Microbrewers Festival, with a fun night of sours and ciders at Mass Ave Pub, July 14, 6 p.m.” invites Girls Pint Out president Amanda Wishin. Sours are from DESTIHL, based in Illinois [Normal- Champaign], consistent winners at the Indiana State Fair Brewers’ Cup. Ciders are from McClure's Orchard, a family run apple farm located just north of Peru, IN. Flights (4 oz. samples of 4 beers) will be available for $8; 9 oz. pours will be $5. Just show up.
20th Annual Microbrewers Festival (July 18) is moving to Historic Military Park downtown, 601 W. New York St.
Why the change from Broad Ripple? BIG executive director Lee Smith explains that White River State Park offers plenty of parking options and is located close to hotels and restaurants. It simply offers a better layout that will make the event even better for everyone involved, both brewers and attendees. Smith points out, “Other major festivals take place there with great success.”
Tickets & information: indianabeerfest.com.
Forward With the Past
As part of Hoosier Beer Week Aurora-based Great Crescent Brewery is introducing a new beer, Aurora Pale Ale, made with Indiana grown and malted barley.
“Great Crescent Brewery is proud to be the first brewery to brew with locally grown and malted barley from Sugar Creek Malt Co. located in Lebanon, IN,” said GCB founder/brew Dan Valas.
“Aurora Pale Ale will be brewed with 100% Sugar Creek Malt Co. 2-row malt and a blend of Aurora, Willamette and Southern Cross hops. Look for it on-draft at the taproom at 315 Importing St., Aurora.” Cherry ale in the French farmhouse style will be back in late July or early August.
“Keeping it Local” is Great Crescent’s driving force, says Valas.
“Our focus for 2105 and beyond is creating the best taproom experience for our customers and staying as close to the brewery as possible with distribution,” said Valas. “We are taking a step back and making a commitment to stay true to our roots and reinforce why we started this journey - to craft the best beer possible and we are making that happen.” During an interview on May 7, 2009, Valas commented, “The greatest part of running a brewery is the opportunity to meet customers-face-to-face and be part of their beer drinking experience.”
Great Crescent and Upland, to date, are Indiana’s only designated artisan breweries.
Great Crescent opened November 15, 2008, and is named after the original Great Crescent Brewery opened in1873 by Thomas Gaff, an immigrant from Scotland. Hillforest Mansion [213 5th St.] the Gaff family home overlooking the Ohio River is a National Historic Landmark open for tours.