08 November 2015

The Norwegian Blue

When Hoosier Beer Geek started in 2006, the beer community lacked a voice for the novices. Founder Chris Maples and I knew there were great beers to be had, but we did not know how to begin our craft beer journey. We had great resources in NUVO’s Rita Kohn and IndianaBeer.com’s Bob Ostrander, but we were looking for someone to join in the journey. We put out a call for others to join us in the Knights of the Beer Roundtable. We had some great friends along the way in Jim, Renee, Kelly, Mike, Gina, Matt E., Rod, Jessica, Chris, Matt R., Kristin, Jake, Meg, and many others who opted to travel with us.

As part of the journey, we reached out to the brewers and publicans that made a living in beer. We found a community of professionals who were passionate about their work and enjoyed that we at Hoosier Beer Geek were passionate about improving the conversation in Indianapolis. Folks like Deano, Bob Mack, Ted Miller, Clay and Dave, Tracy Robertson, Jon Rangel, Justin-Holly-Jordon-Steve, and many others that let us do silly events because it was fun. We did tailgates, breakfasts, tastings, pairings, and parties that didn’t always make sense but almost always made people happy.

We returned the favor by helping the industry with its events. We assisted the Brewers of Indiana Guild launch Winterfest and the Bloomington Craft Beer Festival, and expand the Indiana Microbrewers Festival in Broad Ripple. We brought our own unique skill sets and perspectives to the events and made them better.

But at some point, we were dedicating a lot of time to our hobby. And as anybody that is reading this knows, it is an expensive hobby. We had to either scale back our efforts or ramp up and figure out how to get paid. We opted for the latter.

Making money from social media and internet content is a tricky business. The most common way for websites to make money is through online advertising and sponsorships, but whenever the Hoosier Beer Geek collective approached the subject, we all felt the same way: selling advertising on the website felt dirty. It felt like we were selling out and bamboozling the public. In online advertising, unique views drives the money. We did not want to let the desire to drive up numbers impact how we wrote. Writing for web clicks is a dirty way to be a journalist, if you can call it that. We did not want to cheapen our writing process.

We opted to pursue compensation through two channels: event operations and contract journalism. We convinced the Brewers of Indiana Guild, Sun King, Black Acre, and others to hire us for their beer event management. While I feel that we were successful with everything we did (with one exception that showed me that beer geeks think differently than foodies), we were still a part-time operation. Everybody had their real jobs and family. In spite of the compensation, we were still hobbyists. And while the events grew, we could not. The Guild, at one hundred members, needs someone who can be dedicated to the Guild’s cause. We can’t provide that. They hired an events manager and Hoosier Beer Geek was no longer needed.

We also wrote for the Gannett publications for a while. It was great working with Neal and Amanda, but as craft beer became more mainstream, Gannett needed a writer that could address this new mainstream market in the Gannett way. And if you have seen our writings, you know that our writings are not the Gannett way. The opportunities to write dried up as Gannett hired someone to cover the craft beer beat.

We sought to improve the craft beer community. You can argue what impact we had, but the community is better now than when we started in 2006. But it outgrew Hoosier Beer Geek by leaps and bounds. There are numerous other voices and organizations that are better able to connect with the mainstream audience.  Hoosier Beer Geek has become stubborn in its old age, unwilling to compromise its integrity. And we no longer have the endurance to remain dependable and enthusiastic in the community.

We are no longer proclaiming “I’m not dead yet.” We are instead the Norwegian Blue parrot. We are dead. Bleedin’ demised. Passed on. No more. Ceased to be. Expired and gone on to meet our maker. A stiff. Bereft of life, we rest in peace. We are pushing up the daises. This is an ex-beer blog. 

01 November 2015

Broad Ripple Brewpub's 25th Anniversary

On Saturday, November 14, 2015, Broad Ripple Brewpub will celebrate its 25th anniversary:

The Brewpub celebrates its 25th Anniversary on Saturday, November 14th with music from popular local bands The Upright Willies (3 – 5:30pm) and Gypsy Moonshine (7 – 10pm), kid related activities – face painting etc., 25th Anniversary merchandise giveaways, and lots of one of a kind beers brewed especially for the occasion – two in particular to look out for are the Celebration Ale, an English style Barley Wine, which will be bottled, a first for a Broad Ripple Brewpub beer (and a major collector’s item for craft beer enthusiasts) and Last Day Of Camp, an ale that was created using 25lbs of fermentable grains donated by 25 different Indiana breweries – a truly unique endeavor.

For newcomers to Indianapolis, it is probably hard to believe there were no brewpubs in Indy 25 years ago and other three breweries in the state. The only local brewery was the now defunct Indianapolis Brewing Company. Broad Ripple Brewpub is the ground zero of the current Indiana brewing scene. English expatriate John Hill opened the brewpub after Indiana statutes were changed to allow on-site consumption and sell distribution. The auto repair shop-turned-English pub was the starting point for other Indiana favorites, such as Lafayette Brewing Company, Brugge Brasserie, and Twenty Tap/Twenty Below. And while many breweries require non-compete agreements, John Hill has been active in building the community. He encouraged Ted Miller to open Brugge just a few blocks from the Brewpub so that he could keep an eye on Ted. And he let Kevin Matalucci open Twenty Tap and the basement nanobrewery Twenty Below while still brewing at the Brewpub.

Beyond his own brewery, John launched the Indiana Microbrewers Festival, the original beer festival that operated in the nearby Opti Park and Indianapolis Arts Center until this summer. He has been a champion for craft brewer interests through the creation of the Brewers of Indiana Guild.

It is amazing that Broad Ripple Brewpub has endured over 25 years with little change. From beer to food to décor, the Brewpub has remained consistent in quality and resistant to follow the fads. The Brewpub is the soul of the Indiana brewing industry. Every beer fan should pay homage to Broad Ripple Brewpub and its founder John Hill.