12 nearby craft breweries you need to visit
Chicago-area residents in the know already enjoy scouring Northern Indiana for antiques, music fests, quilting expos, farmers markets and now, increasingly, for that perfect indie beer.
“The whole country is seeing a huge surge in craft beer, which is great,” says Eric Strader, a brew aficionado who’s kept tabs on the industry and its Hoosier outposts for many years in his “Hop Notes” column, now featured on Flavor574.com.
“Almost every week there’s a new brewery popping up,” Strader says. “The craft beer industry is just exploding.”
But what exactly is “craft beer”? According to the Brewers Association, craft breweries are small (annual production of less than 6 million barrels), independent, and produce beers “whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation.”
Of the estimated 3,500 brewers in the United States, about 99 percent are small or craft brewers. The remaining 1 percent consists of global behemoths like Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller.
Unlike those major names found on stadium scoreboards and in convenience store coolers, few craft beers are widely distributed. “To get to these beers you have to tour the local brewery,” says Julia Herz, the association’s craft beer program director. “A lot of consumers are getting back to the basics, knowing who owns the company they support. They’re visiting the sources of what’s produced.”
Whether the operations call themselves a microbrewery, nanobrewery or brewpub, there are many to be found across Northern Indiana — and seeking out these breweries can be rewarding for Chicago-area enthusiasts.
“Chicago’s not that far away,” notes Strader.
And while dedicated beer fans could conceivably designate a driver and make a round trip to many Northern Indiana craft brewers in a day, Strader suggests allocating at least one overnight stay. “There are lots of hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts.”
Taking time to stop and smell the roses as well as the hops is a great way to see how craft brewers are helping small-town downtowns stay vibrant. Many breweries are in repurposed buildings and anchor revitalized blocks that attract entrepreneurs and keep existing businesses going strong.
“A lot of these brewpubs are filling a niche of adding value to downtowns and communities,” Strader says.
Northern Indiana community leaders are quick to credit the residents for fueling this heady, craft beer success.
“A whole generation stayed here or moved back,” says Goshen Mayor Allan J. Kauffman. “They were willing to take risks … and took ownership at a time when my generation was maxing out.”
As a result, Goshen and most Northern Indiana towns have become year-round destinations for world-class craft beers.
When planning your trip here, consider visiting these craft brewers:
Back Alley Brewery
211 ½ S. Main St., Goshen • 574-971-5341
Located behind Gateway Cellar Winery, this cozy bar seats about 45. Current beers on tap include Pigeon Toed Pilsner, Squirrels Nuts Ale and Street Light Stout.
Back Road Brewery
308 Perry, LaPorte • 219-362-7623
Offers a varying menu of 40 beers throughout the year. Recipes include American Pale Ale, Aviator (doppel bock), Back Road Ale, Belgian-Style Ale, and Millennium Lager.
Bare Hands Brewery
12804 Sandy Court, Granger • 574-277-2258
This brewery features 10 rotating tap handles. Recipes include Mail Order Bride (Russian imperial stout), Galaxy Imperial (double IPA), and Cream Ale (classic cream brewed with two-row barley).
Crooked Ewe Brewery & Ale House
1047 Lincoln Way E., South Bend • 574-217-0881
These folks get high marks not only for specialty brews like Murder by Death Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, but for serving some of the best brisket anywhere. There’s also an in-depth vegan menu.
Evil Czech Brewery
3703 N Main St, Mishawaka • 574-855-3070
Seasonal offerings include 7 AM Oatmeal Milk Stout (“It’s not just for breakfast anymore”), Blonde Czich (blonde ale), Bobblehead (American wheat), and Rasta’s Smokey Esspress (coffee stout). Year-round beers include Chucky (imperial IPA), Dracula’s Bite (black IPA), Gypsy (chamomile American wheat), and Voodoo (vanilla rye porter).
Figure Eight Brewing
150 Washington St., Valparaiso • 219-477-2000
Offers six year-round beers and more than 30 seasonals. Also known for its bourbon barrel limited releases that features beers barrel-aged for one year. Full food menu available.
Goshen Brewing Company
315 W. Washington St., Goshen • 574-971-5324
Offers a variety of traditional styles blended with unique ingredients, including barrel-aged and sour beer. Currently on tap: Biz-czar (Russian imperial stout), Sunny Brown (hoppy American brown ale), and Menno-Mighty (American IPA made with local maple syrup). Serves a full menu that includes smoked duck tacos.
1535 S. Calumet Road, Chesterton • 219-728-6729
Now on tap: Threadsplitter (American IPA), Porter County (robust porter), On the Dubbel (Belgian dubbel), Octavius (smoked English ale), Beg Steal or Borrow (pale ale), Khao Hom Mali (cream ale), Steel Town Girl (saison), and Bashful (English ale). Hunter’s also features about a dozen guest taps and bottles.
Iechyd Da Brewing Company
317 N. Main St., Elkhart • 574-293-0506
In Welsh, “iechyd da” is a toast that means “good health” and is pronounced “yah-key-dah.” This brewpub offers handcrafted ales, lagers, pizzas, sandwiches and soda. Known for El Conquistador Mexican Lager, Breakfast Cookies Stout, Afternoon Delight Rye IPA, and Boxcar Brown Ale — and many, many more.
Mad Anthony’s Lake City Tap House
113 E. Center St., Warsaw • 574-268-2537
From Gabby Blonde Lager and Ol’ Woody Pale Ale to seasonals like Summer Daze and Snowplowed Winter Ale, Mad Anthony’s is known for having something on tap for every beer lover. Food favorites include Politician Pizza and Scooby Snacks.
Shoreline Brewery And Restaurant
208 Wabash St., Michigan City • 219-TRY-HOPS
Beers on tap can include Shoddy Dock Session IPA, Don’t Panic English Pale Ale, Seven Red (rye ale), and Singing Sands Oatmeal Stout. Chef Barry Smith has an extensive culinary background, having been educated in French cuisine and classically trained by a Parisian chef.
Three Floyds Brewing Co.
9750 Indiana Parkway, Munster • 219-922-4425
No discussion of craft beer would be complete without mentioning Three Floyds Brewing Co. This small brewery consistently scores top-ratings from aficionados everywhere. In addition to year-round beers, they produce a number of seasonals, plus the highly sought after Dark Lord, a Russian imperial stout sold on only one day of the year. Space at the brewpub also is highly prized. Don’t be surprised at lengthy waits to get in.
—L.T. Hanlon, Tribune Content Solutions
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