Gary beer brewers use website to help fund future
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent January 17, 2013 3:56PM
18th Street Brewery has plans to open in Gary in the near future. They are brewing beer in Chicago to get ready for the future launch there. Drew Fox, founder and brewer at the 18th Street Brewery, stirs the hot wort mixture that will become the beer on Wednesday, January 9, 2013. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times
Those interested in donating to the 18th Street Brewery’s Kickstarter campaign may log on to www.kickstarter.com/projects/2043600740/18th-street-brewery-giving-gary-in-the-brewery-it. The deadline is Feb. 4.
Updated: February 19, 2013 12:25PM
Drew Fox gets emails from brewers all the time, but one from Nick Floyd both caught his eye and made his heart soar.
Fox, a six-year Gary resident whose dream to open the city’s first microbrewery and tap room this year is starting to become a reality, read the subject line, “You must be crazy!” and thought Floyd was going to tell him, like many others have over the past year, just that: Why would someone open a brewery in Gary? Then the owner of top-ranked-in-the-world brewery Three Floyds pulled a 180 on him.
“He said that everyone told him the exact same thing when he opened his first brewery in Hammond,” Fox said, welling up a bit. “Then he told me whatever I need, he’ll help out.”
A lot of people — 124, at last count — have helped the 41-year-old surpass his goal by way of Kickstarter, the self-described funding platform for creative projects. Fox asked for $12,000; as of Jan. 17, he has raised $12,411 with 18 days left, making 18th Street Brewery the first brewery in Northwest Indiana to be fully funded by a Kickstarter campaign.
The money raised will first go to setting up a contract brew agreement with Chicago brewery Pipeworks, where Fox is working as an apprentice brewer, so he can start knocking out more batches of Brotherhood, a golden, citrusy Belgian-single patersbier he considers his signature, and other beers. The rest of the money will go toward various business costs.
When he says 18th Street — named to honor his Chicago heritage, in particular the city’s Pilsen and Humboldt Park neighborhoods — is going to be small at first, he isn’t kidding. He envisions his place in the old laundromat at 624 Lake St. in Gary’s Miller section, which will have enough room for a six- or seven-barrel ferementor or two or three (though he’s not afraid to move forward with his 1.5-barrel system he already has to get going) and a tap room, where people will come to partake in Brotherhood as well as guest beers from Pipeworks and other Chicago breweries such as Spiteful, with whom Fox apprenticed with its owner, Brad Shaffer, and Revolution.
Since small is the name of the game, it will focus most of its efforts on “small” beers, or those with between 2.3 percent and 5 percent alcohol by volume.
“ ‘Big’ beers will always be king, but small beers full of flavor are going to start seeing more of the market share,” Fox said. “It’s common sense, too, that instead of going to a place to have one big beer, we want people to come and have a couple beers, and be able to drink them comfortably without breaking the bank.”
City behind the concept
Fox lives near Zanzibar, a bar on Gary’s west side that’s packed every weekend with folks who want to socialize and have a good time. So if residents aren’t comfortable with another alcohol establishment in the city, Fox understands but adds they kind of have it wrong.
“With a liquor store, you create an environment where someone buys their alcohol and can drink it right there in the parking lot if they want,” Fox said. “The brewery concept is focused around building relationships. We want to create an environment centered around the community, and if the city cares about the community give them something worthwhile.”
As a way to build community and support other local establishments in the neighborhood — and, of course, continue keeping things small — 18th Street would encourage customers to order from local eateries such as Miller Pizza Co. or the new restaurant slated to open later this year in the former Miller Bakery Cafe, as well. Both are on Lake Street.
So far, Fox said the city has welcomed him, a far cry from when he first approached in 2011. At that point, he said the previous administration wouldn’t even entertain the idea.
City Zoning Director Joe Van Dyk said he became aware of Fox’s Kickstarter appeal late last year.
“(Gary Corporate Counsel Attorney) Richard Leverett and I were intrigued by this endeavor and thought he had some great ideas, so we shared his business venture with Forest Hayes (director of the city’s Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Corp.),” Van Dyk said. “A meeting has not been set with the EDC yet, nor has he applied for a business license. But we do anticipate working with him once he and his colleagues get their finances in place.
“We think a restaurant/brewery could do well in Gary.”
The question remains, though: Why would Fox put a brewery in Gary when he is already with an establishment that’s seen exponential growth and spawned other rapidly growing breweries in Chicago, where craft beers are hugely popular? For Fox, the answer is, Why not?
“I live here, and I see the limited access the community has to craft beer,” Fox said. “Brewing is all about community and truly is a brotherhood; I couldn’t do what I’ve done without Pipeworks, (Mike) Lahti at Figure 8 (in Valparaiso), Revolution and Spiteful and everyone else, and I really get emotional at times when I think about all they’ve given me. And Gary deserves to have a place where the community is served first.”