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The 18th Street Brewery empire continues to grow with a bigger push into food.

One of Northwest Indiana's largest and most acclaimed craft breweries is continuing to diversify and is getting into the barbecue business.

18th Street Brewery founder and brewer Drew Fox started home brewing more than a decade ago, and built his first brewery in a tack room he built behind his home.

After brewing out of Pipeworks and Spiteful in Chicago, Fox launched a successful crowdfunding campaign to open his first brewpub in Gary's Miller neighborhood, which RateBeer deemed the best new brewery in Indiana.

18th Street Brewery is now up for USA Today's Best Brewpub in America. It operates brewpubs in Hammond and Gary, an artisanal distillery in Hammond, and the spin-off Sour Note Brewing that specializes in sour beers.

Now 18th Street is pushing into barbecue.

In addition to its regular menu, the brewpub in Hammond has launched a Texas-style barbecue program that aims at diners at the brewpub and people just looking to grab quick take-out barbecue to bring home. 18th Street will add barbecue at its brewpub in Gary's Miller neighborhood later this year and plans to open a standalone barbecue restaurant in the Region next year.

"We weren't happy with the barbecue available in Hammond and Gary," Fox said. "We have a new chef with a background in barbecue so we made a small investment to add barbecue."

18th Street has installed two smokers at its Hammond location and will add a smoker later this year in Gary. The brewpub will smoke brisket for 13 to 16 hours, pulled pork for four to five hours, and wings for two to three hours.

"It's Texas style so it's not cooked with heavy rubs or barbecue sauce," Fox said. "It's just salt and pepper and we let the wood do the work."

Next year, 18th Street plans to open a separate standalone barbecue restaurant. It will be small with 10 to 12 seats and a focus on carryout. Fox said he has a location in mind but doesn't want to disclose it yet.

"It will definitely be in the Region," he said. "We want people to take the meat home and experience it. We'll do it low and slow."

Both the Hammond and Miller brewpubs will continue to offer their regular food menus in addition to barbecue, which will be sold until the day's supply runs out. 18th Street is making all the sides in house, including a barbecue sauce, macaroni and cheese, and collard greens.

"We've always catered to food lovers and there's no really good barbecue in Hammond," he said. "We have a skilled enough chef where this is something we wanted to try."

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.