Good News Continues for Indiana Brewers

Earlier this year, I was fortunate to get to work on a BizVoice story about brewing in Indiana. As Indiana’s breweries continue to battle the "big guys" for market share, it appears the "drink local" movement has the momentum. Inside INdiana Business’ Gerry Dick spoke with Brewers of Indiana Guild President Ted Miller about the state of the industry, pointing about that the breweries are growing all over the state now. Watch the interview:

Indiana’s emerging craft beer industry is showing no signs of slowing down. The Brewers of Indiana Guild says there are 49 breweries in the state with another 12 on tap, boosted by an increasing trend among consumers to buy local. The state has been behind other areas of the country in jumping into the craft beer craze, but the guild says it now ranks 25th in breweries per capita. Guild President Ted Miller discusses the state of the industry during an appearance on Inside INdiana Business Television.

Brewers Guild President Pushes for Lower Taxes for Small Breweries

If you’re like me, you love beer. And you love beer made in Indiana the most. When I spoke with folks like Sun King founder Clay Robinson for this BizVoice article earlier this year, it became clear that local breweries were challenged with meeting the skyrocketing local demand for their product. Great news for the brewing industry, but it means obstacles must be removed. Brewers of Indiana Guild President Ted Miller is now in Washington, D.C., working to remove one of those barriers:

The president of the Brewers of Indiana Guild is in Washington, D.C. lobbying for a bill that would reduce excise taxes for Indiana’s growing small brewing industry. Ted Miller says the proposal, which would cut per-barrel taxes in half up to 60,000 barrels, would give beer makers more capital to upgrade facilities and create jobs. The bill is currently in committee, but Miller says he’s hopeful it will pass after the November election.

The proposal would also cut excise taxes from $18 to $16 per barrel between 60,000 and 2 million barrels.

Miller says larger breweries are fighting the bill, saying it would create an uneven playing field.

He says many small brewers in Indiana "can’t make enough beer," and the tax cuts would allow them to install new equipment and hire new employees. In addition, Miller says there would be indirect job creation as breweries hire electricians and plumbers to install the equipment.

The Sun King & I

I had the pleasure of scribing an article on Indiana’s microbrewing industry for our upcoming January/February edition of BizVoice. One of my subjects was Sun King, an Indiana Chamber member whose recent success has been remarkable. Considering owner Clay Robinson earned his degree in Rhetoric from Wabash College (a school that actually produced quite a few of the key players in the Indiana brewing industry), it should come as no surprise that I received more valuable info than I could fit into the article. So I’d like to share his thoughts on Sun King’s beginnings here. He reflects:

Dave Colt and I started working together in 2005. We had been friends for about a decade, and saw eye to eye on beers and brewing styles. We started a discussion surrounding, “What would you do if you could open your own brewery?” I was working at a restaurant/brewery; it was a corporation and I left because of some corporate culture clashes after four years. It wasn’t the same company I’d been involved in. I was feeling like I worked for a small company that happened to be a corporation that was family run, and it turned into a different thing. It’s frustrating when someone 2,800 miles away tells you how to do your job when they come visit one day out of the year.

Dave and I talked about what we liked, loved and hated about different jobs. I was raised by an entrepreneur, so that’s in my blood. Then in 2007, we started working to put something together – actually a brewpub. It initially started with Dave, myself and a chef and restaurant manager. We were looking at a location, cost per square foot, lunch/dinner traffic – we kept hitting walls in trying to find real estate. We were planning a pub because that’s all we’d ever known. We actually met every Sunday for a year to come up with plans and after a year of not getting anywhere, I expressed my frustration. We then realized we didn’t really care about food, so we started looking at just doing beer…

I decided that to get it from the idea stage to actual fruition something extreme had to happen, because I was working 50 to 60 hours a week at a brewery and was exhausted at the end of the day. So I quit my job on a leap of faith in July 2008 and it was my goal to get Sun King off the ground, come hell or high water. I then cashed in my 401(k) as a primary investment into Sun King.

After spending two months with his girlfriend and her family in their native Alaska to clear his head, Robinson came back to Indiana and locked himself in a house for six weeks to pound out a business plan.

The key for us was determining our shortcomings. That’s a philosophy laid out in Napoleon Hill’s book, "Think and Grow Rich"; there’s a principle called the Mastermind Theory, saying if you truly want to accomplish something, you have to find people who will complement your skill set and understand your own shortcomings.

Robinson also convinced his father, Omar, to come out of retirement to help, as well as other friends with legal and financial expertise. Now, Sun King has taken American craft brewing by storm with a record-setting performance at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival and saw 850% growth in 2010, followed by over 120% growth in 2011. What’s more, Indy beer drinkers now pack the brewery’s tasting room on many afternoons, filling growlers and quenching their thirsts with samples of the latest fare.

Devoted Sun King customer Michael Pittman, a 33-year-old mechanical engineer at Rolls Royce, relays why he quenches his cravings with the local brew.

"I remember Clay telling me when it was his last week (as a brewer at his previous job) and he was opening another gig," he says. "I continued to watch the Sun King web site for an opening date."

Pittman now patronizes Sun King for a couple of reasons.

"It’s a mix between taste and supporting local (business)," he asserts. "Luckily in this case, good tasting beer and shopping local go hand-in-hand. I always try and support local businesses whenever I can … shopping local just makes sense."

He says he can be found filling up growlers at least twice a month and has recruited his peers to join him.

"Who can beat $5 growlers?," Pittman asks. "I have talked some co-workers into going with me the past couple times. They have since bought growlers, so it will probably turn into more of a social event."

Be sure to check out the current edition of BizVoice, and you can join over 15,000 readers and subscribe to the print version for free here.

It’s Good to be (Sun) King

Chamber member Sun King Brewery (Indianapolis) recently returned from the 30th annual Great American Beer Festival in Denver with some serious hardware. (Check out the Huffington Post article.)The brewery reports:

Sun King Brewing Co. is proud to announce that it was the recipient of eight medals at the 30th annual Great American Beer Festival. Not only did Sun King lead the field in total medal count, its four Gold Medals were the most won by any single brewery.

The winning entries were:

  • Gold Medal, Coffee Beer, JAVA MAC
  • Gold Medal, Belgian-Style Strong Specialty Ale, BUFFALO SLUMBER
  • Gold Medal, Classic Irish-Dry Stout, RING OF DINGLE
  • Gold Medal, Scotch Ale, WEE MUCKLE
  • Silver Medal, Wood and Barrel Aged Beer, WEE POGUE
  • Silver Medal, Wood and Barrel Aged Strong Beer, BOURBON BARREL JOHAN
  • Silver Medal, American-Style or International Pilsner, POPCORN PILSNER
  • Bronze Medal, Barley Wine-Style Ale, JOHAN THE BARLEYWINE

Hosted by the Brewer’s Association, the GABF is the largest commercial beer competition in the world, with 3,930 beers vying for Gold, Silver, or Bronze medals. Those beers are rated in 83 categories and Indiana breweries had the highest winning rate by state at 19.2% (10 medals out of 52 total entries).

Three other Indiana brewers took home hardware at the GABF.

  • Silver Medal, German-Style Marzen, MUNSTER FEST (Three Floyds, Munster, Ind.)
  • Silver Medal, Scottish-Style Ale, NAUGHTY SCOT (Rock Bottom – College Park, Indianapolis)*
  • Bronze Medal, American-Style Brett Ale, GRIMALKIN – SUPER KITTY FANTASTICO (Brugge Brasserie, Indianapolis)