Now, I expected to read it with distance. Given that it's nowhere in the even long-range plans to visit the Hoosier State, I figured this would be a mostly academic read. Not so--it's interesting! I admit to being a bit of a history buff, so the section on Indiana's past was a great reminder that at one time this system of having lots of breweries scattered over the country was pretty common. Craft brewing is not a fad, it's a return to normalcy. Every state has a proud tradition of brewing.
But it was especially interesting to see how the the state has developed in the modern era. I looked to see if there was any particular predilection toward styles--wheats or lagers, as might befit a midwestern farm state. At first I thought I could see a pattern, but no--the lists of beers look quite a bit like any list you'd see on the West Coast.
What did leap out was how: 1) small, and 2) new the market for good beer appears in Indiana. Let's take the small first, despite the reverse causal nature of such a presentation. Amazingly, of the 29 breweries that listed their production (of 37), 23 made less than a thousand barrels.
The largest brewery, Three Floyds, projected it would brew 17,000 barrels this year (more below).
80% - 1-1000 bbls
10% - 1,001-3,000
10% - 3,001 +
Interesting, but less so than this: of the 37 breweries operating in Indiana, 23 (62%) were founded after the year 2000. The median date of brewery founding in Indiana is 2006, and ten breweries were founded in 2010 or early 2011.
(It's a little hard to compare these stats to Oregon because of the McMenamins and other complications. Suffice it to say that they look a lot different, especially in terms of date of founding. Despite what feels like amazing growth in the past five years, I think it's been somewhat less than 100% since 2006. And, obviously, a number of Oregon breweries are making over 1,000 barrels--an not just a few over 10,000.)
Reading the book feels a bit like time travel back to about 1990. Indiana is exploding with new brewing energy. It's home to famous Three Floyds, there's a cool Belgian brewpub in Indianapolis (Brugge Brasserie) where you can get mussels, frites, and a tripel, and breweries are scattered across the state. And it may be that the market is about to blow, too. I mentioned that Three Floyds brewed 17,000 barrels in 2010; what I didn't mention is that they brewed only 12,000 in '09.
Anyway, a cool book you might enjoy even if you never plan to go to Indiana:
John Holl and Nate Schweber
$16.95 Stackpole books, 2011