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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Hoosiers and Beavers

A little while ago, John Holl and I exchanged books. I got his real live Indiana Breweries (with Nate Schweber), published by an actual publisher, and he got Best of Beervana, published (and unedited) by me. Incidentally, that same offer's good for other writers with actual titles out there.

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.
Brewery Size

80% - 1-1000 bbls
10% - 1,001-3,000
10% - 3,001 +
The largest brewery, Three Floyds, projected it would brew 17,000 barrels this year (more below).

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:




Indiana Breweries
John Holl and Nate Schweber
$16.95 Stackpole books, 2011

1 comment:

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