Beer—drinking the frothy beverage has been a part of the Hoosier identity for generations. From pre-prohibition production to the rise of craft beer in the 2000’s, the beer industry has been prevalent in Indiana. The first brewing operations in the state were in New Harmony and Richmond, both opening in 1816. In Indianapolis, beer has been made for over 100 years. In fact, in 1864, Indianapolis had 57 saloons that served its population of 20,000. Seven years later, the number of saloons increased by 126%, as the population doubled.
Prior to Prohibition and the 18th Amendment going into effect, the state of Indiana had 31 breweries operating; but by the year after the 21st Amendment, repealing prohibition, was passed in 1933, only 16 went back into production. This trend unfolded all over the country due to the struggling economy, and the number of breweries continued to decrease over the next 30 years.
One of the larger breweries in the area during this time was the Indianapolis Brewing Company (IBC). Originally, it consisted of three separate breweries under one name. After prohibition, it was one large operation that worked hard to remain relevant in a struggling industry. It was thought that IBC eventually closed its doors permanently in 1948 due to a scandal where they were accused of short-filling their bottles. But in all actuality, the president at the time, Lawrence Bardin, was arrested for income tax evasion and spent six months in prison.
By 1964 there were only four breweries in Indiana, and none of them were in Indianapolis. It was a dark age for craft beer in Indianapolis.
A light on the horizon emerged in 1989, as craft beer started to re-enter the brewing scene in Indianapolis. On Post Road, a second version of Indianapolis Brewing Company opened, and was sold under the names Duesseldorfer and Main Street. Shortly after in 1990, Broad Ripple Brewing Company, as well as Broad Ripple Brew Pub, started producing their well known brews on the north side. The brewing and brewpub industry was making a resurgence in central Indiana.
Several of these early breweries from the 1990s have closed, but many more have opened since the mid-2000s. From Sun King Brewing Company and Triton Brewing Company, to Books & Brews and Indiana City Brewing Company, options abound for every kind of beer to drink in almost every area of the city.
Along with the revival of breweries and brewpubs, home brewing and experimenting with individual beer style has also been growing in popularity. Though it’s not a new idea to Indiana, the rise of craft beer has also influenced the number of Hoosier home brewers. Through the hundreds of recipes, many kits available, and a creative imagination, home brewers are able to experiments with new flavors, grains, and different types of hops. There are home brewing clubs and associations where budding “beer scientists” are able to show off their creations and try others’ brews. Beer has come a long way in the Hoosier state. Where do you think this ancient, and yet delicious, drink will take us in the future?
Join the Indiana State Museum in exploring craft beer in Indiana. On Oct. 16, the museum will be hosting Curiosity Camp: Craft Beer in Indiana on three consecutive Thursdays. Attend the whole Curiosity Camp for $100 per member. $125 per non-member. Space is limited, so call and reserve your spot soon (317.232.1637).
Guest Author: Katy Creagh, School Programs Developer, Indiana State Museum