Three original Home Brewing Company bottles in the Indiana City Brewery tasting room. – Photo by Ryan Hamlett
Earlier this year, our own Joan Hostetler featured the Home Brewing Company for a Feburary “Indianapolis: Then and Now” feature. Today in A Room with a View, we revisit the remaining Bottling and Distribution building which is once again responsible for creating delicious libations for circle citizens.
The men behind one of Indianapolis’ first major breweries spread far and wide throughout the history of the city. Organized in 1891, Home Brewing Company’s first brewmaster and principal organizers was a german immigrant named August Hook, father of the John Hook who founded Hook’s Drugstores in 1910. Among the brewery’s early leaders was Albert Leiber, grandfather of hoosier author Kurt Vonnegut Jr.. And one of HBC’s principal owners was William P. Jungclaus, founder of Indianapolis’ oldest general contractor (responsible for the construction of the Circle Tower, Columbia Club and IRT to name a few) though the brewery was designed by architect Hermann Gaul (one time apprentice to Louis Sullivan) who designed the Saint Mary Chuch at 317 N. New Jersey St.
At its height production HBC was brewing 35,000 barrels a year, but that came to a sudden end as the increasing powerful temperance movement led to the prohibition of alcohol in Indiana on January 1st, 1918 nearly two years before the 18th Amendment took effect, banning alcohol nationally. Said the head of the brewery on December 29th, 1917 as HBC stopped production “the day will dawn again in Indiana, when a man can drink what he wants, when personal liberty will again be a citizen’s right.” Though HBC tried to hang on, producing a low alcohol “near beer” in the years after the institution of prohibition, they officially closed up shop in 1922, selling off their buildings and equipment eleven years before seeing their prophetic words come true with the passing of the 21st Amendment. Hoosiers could once again legally take a drink, however it would be 91 years until they would taste one from 24. South Shelby St.
While the six story brewing building was razed in the ’70s, the bottling building has seen a variety of tenants since 1922. For a while, it housed both a plumbing company and a lumber company as well, long conveyer tables for which still exist in the building’s second floor. During the 90s, the building housed a boxing school called Ring Sports Training Center, which vacated the building in the early 2000s, leaving a building ripe with history to return to its original purpose.
Enter Ray Kamstra, a native Hoosier, graphic designer and homebrewer who had spent several years away from Indy in Chicago and Boston. As he and his wife Leslie returned home to start a family, they also literally kickstarted a dream to start their own microbrewery, using the crowd source funding website Kickstarter to raise $35,000 in 29 days to create Indiana City Brewery. Kamstra’s search for a location to get started included the very cool (pun) Ice House at 400 S. Ritter in Irvington and a very non-descript cinderblock building at 16 S. Shelby, across the street from ICB’s future home. But the moons aligned to bring the owner of the HBC bottling building together with Kamstra, bringing a brewery without a home together with a brewery building without a brewery.
Building upon the foundation of their three flagship beers Yacht Rock Wheat, Beyond the Pale Pale Ale, and Shadow Boxer Stout (in homage to the building’s boxing history) Indiana City will roll out a number of limited seasonal beers throughout the year. They are very cool people pouring very good beer at their tasting room Wednesday-Sunday. Check out their site at indianacitybeer.com for hours and info. But then get your butt right back to historicindianapolis.com after you do.