A sabbatical to Belgium, honing a craft in Chicago and an online Kickstarter campaign have led to one man’s dream of becoming part of Gary's “renaissance.”
Drew Fox is the founder of 18th Street Brewery. He is a brewer at Pipeworks Brewing Co., near the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago where he grew up. 18th Street is fully operational – he’s been brewing its beer in small quantities at Pipeworks where it’s been distributed throughout Chicago.
But Fox desires a brick-and-mortar 18th Street Brewery and tap room – and he wants it in Gary. If all goes well, people will be enjoying craft beer in the Steel City before the end of the year.
“We see a big renaissance in Gary,” Fox says. “We want to be a part of that.”
Besides, according to the 18th Street Brewery Kickstarter page, "Every community deserves a brewery."
Fox moved to Gary five years ago from Chicago. It’s where and when he started home brewing after spending three months in Belgium during a sabbatical from his work in restaurant management. It was there, in places like Bruges and Ghent, that Fox fell in love with Belgian beer.
When Fox returned home, which was about the time the craft beer movement was spreading, he couldn’t find beers like those he had tasted in Belgium, so he bought a home brewing kit and began to hone his craft. That led to his current stint as a Pipeworks brewer and his vision to open a brewery in his new hometown.
Fox and his associates intend for the brewery to become a destination for Gary's residents and visitors alike. He also wants to fully participate in the community around him by providing support and resources for artists and musicians in Gary, as well as focusing on education for Gary's schools.
"Apart from the emphasis on growing Gary's downtown, 18th Street is eager to use our beer as a way to invest back into the community of Gary," Fox says on the brewery's Kickstarter campaign page. He also hopes to engage and collaborate with other entrepreneurs in Northwest Indiana.
“Craft beer and breweries build communities,” Fox said recently at Half Acre Beer Co.’s new tap room on Chicago’s North Side, where he talked shop and drank craft beer with fellow brewers. He pointed out the absence of TVs in the room.
“This is social media,” he says. “No televisions – just conversations.”
Fox checked off other breweries and their communities including Revolution Brewing and how it has helped to turn around the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago.
“What has sustained the craft beer industry is the community,” he says.
Fox’s goal to bring his craft beer to Gary is well under way with Kickstarter, an online crowd-funding site for creative projects. The campaign launched in December with a goal to raise $12,000 by February. It already has, and the money will allow Fox and his small team of associates to start contract brewing at Pipeworks and buy a seven-barrel fermenter and other equipment. Extra funds will help in the purchase of a building in Gary.
And in the meantime, Fox isn't just waiting for things to take shape.
"At the moment a lot of my time and energy is completing our KickStarter funding, sourcing equipment and contract brewing which has already started at Spiteful Brewing," Fox says.
“Contract brewing allows us to grow a little more capital towards building a tap room.”
Fox has been scouting locations in the Miller Beach area.
"I still have a few more locations to look at, but I have a good idea on a location that would be a perfect fit for us," Fox says.
Fox says to start a brewery on Pipeworks' scale costs about $100,000, with an additional $40,000 for a tap room.
“We’re not going to bite off more than we could chew,” he says. “We’ll start small and build capital and build a brewery from the inside out. We can’t do it alone. Community means everything to us.”
According to the brewery's Kickstarter page, "18th Street understands that this is going to be an uphill battle from the start...The money raised from Kickstarter will not be enough to build our future brick and mortar brewery. It is enough, however, to have 18th Street up and brewing at a trusted contract brewery. Once our beer is in drinker's hands, we have no doubt that we can continue the journey toward our very own facility."