Micro breweries have taken off in this country, and Indianapolis is no exception. Soon our city will have a another new brewery located in an old brick structure with beer roots dating back to 1891.
This circa 1912 glass lantern looks southwest on South Shelby Street at the Home Brewing Company, organized in 1891. By 1907 the company had ninety stockholders and officers, many of German descent. One of the organizers and early presidents was brewmaster August Hook, father of John A. Hook who started Hook’s Drugs in 1900. Other early leaders were Albert Lieber, Andrew Hagen, and William P. Jungclaus. The compound of brick buildings, conveniently situated along the railroad tracks, eventually included the brewery, bottling house, and wagon shop for the twenty-five wagons that distributed their beer throughout the city (replaced by Buick trucks in the 1910s). In addition, the company later owned several saloons and Germania Hall. In 1909 over sixty employees filled 50,000-60,000 barrels annually. The large bottling house had the capacity to fill up to sixty barrels daily with brands that included Home Brew, Columbia, and Indiana ale and porter. Today, beer bottles with Home Brewing Company brands regularly appear on eBay.
The company lobbied against the growing Prohibition movement, but seeing the writing on the wall created Tonic, a non-intoxicating near beer that contained less than one-half of one percent alcohol. It was distributed to the already dry counties throughout the state. The Indianapolis Brewing Company, a local competitor, cried fowl since Tonic was a little too close in name to their near beer Tonica, and even claimed that it was real beer and hand delivered a sampling of Tonic to the Indiana State Laboratory to be tested. Prohibition was enacted in Indiana in 1918, devastating local breweries, and the Home Brewing Company soon closed after a failed attempt to make malt extract and Homo near beer. (The root word homo means “the same,” but real beer lovers know that low alcoholic brew is no substitute for the real stuff.) The brick structures, equipment, and malt extract manufacturing business went on the market in June 1922 and later housed a steam plant for Merchants Light and Heat Company, Indianapolis Power and Light, and the Majestic Tire and Rubber Company. Sadly the small but charming brick office was gone by the 1940s and the three- and six-story main buildings were demolished in the mid 1970s. Today, all that remains is the old bottling house, seen to the right in the photo above.
You might have been unaware of the remaining Home Brewing Company building, but have driven near it if you’ve ever stopped at the adjacent Hardees on E. Washington Street just east of I-65/70. Soon the site will see new activity as space in the old Home Brewing Company bottling building is leased to Indiana City Brewing Company, featuring a tap room with space for local artists and performers, and Reclaimed Vintage Industrial (described as Restoration Hardware meets Steam Punk Sanford and Son) / IndySWAG (a designers’ warehouse specializing in vintage, industrial, retro chic and swanky merchandise).
Look for the openings late this spring and follow along on Facebook as the new tenants post photographs and updates.