LAPORTE | The craft brew scene is taking off so much in Northwest Indiana that a home brew supply store decided to move into a downtown LaPorte storefront without knowing a brewpub planned to open next door.
New microbrewery Twisted K-8 will open a block from the courthouse in downtown LaPorte on Saturday, and homebrewing retailer LaPorte Brew's plans to open sometime in January.
LaPorte has been home to the craft brewer Back Road Brewery since 1996, but the microbrew scene is really starting to gain a foothold downtown, said Tiffany Bley, the downtown director for the Greater LaPorte Chamber of Commerce. The Etropal Restaurant and Lounge has a craft beer club, a selection of 60 different beers and a dozen microbrews on tap. The popular Mexican restaurant Muchos Mas! Fresh Mex Grill just got a liquor license and added a craft beer selection.
"I think everybody really enjoys a craft brew these days, and it's an added draw," Bley said. "It's really awesome that so many places downtown now serve craft brews. With the new brewpub and the homebrew store, it's kind of becoming a craft beer mecca."
Microbrewing has been taking off across Northwest Indiana, with several new breweries on tap to open soon. The number of craft brewers in the Calumet Region is poised to nearly triple from seven at the beginning of 2012 to at least 20 that are now open or planned.
LaPorte's first new brewery in nearly two decades has been in the works for the past six months and been a dream for the past five years, after owners Michael and Kate Boshaw first started homebrewing with Michigan grain in the biggest metal soup pots they could find. Early on, they had to go to suppliers to find already cracked Michigan grain, before they got their own grinder.
They learned along the way, after hand-bottling their beer and handing it out to friends for their feedback. They invited 100 people to a tasting party at their house and gave samples at the Porter's Pint Festival.
They adjusted if people didn't like a particular beer and even ended up using much of a farmhouse ale for cooking.
"I think what people like about craft brewing is that you can make a beer taste the way you want it to," she said. "You can add twists and flavors you won't get from big brew distributors, not to knock them."
Kate Boshaw is the namesake of the new brewery at 610 Monroe St. Her husband nicknamed her "Twisted Kate" because of a wild streak that has impelled her to hang over the platform on a zip line.
The Boshaws are big beer fans, who have made trips out to Michigan craft brewers and planned entire vacations around which microbreweries they can visit. He always talked about running his own brewpub and decided to take the jump after she told him one day that she wasn't planning to stay at her day job long-term and was waiting for him to open a place up.
Their new brewery will feature the flagship 697 American Pale Ale, Hazelnut Coffee Brown Ale, Slicer Wheat, Hos IPA, and a hazelnut cocoa stout they've dubbed HazCo. They will serve pints and growlers to go.
By next spring, they hope to open a kitchen with a small menu of pub fare that will prominently feature their beer. They plan to use their beer as an ingredient in their pulled pork, beer cheese and caramel sauce for cookies.
The 55-barrel brewery eventually hopes to expand by bottling and incorporate a distribution company, which potentially could distribute Twisted K-8 and other local beer brands.
Twisted K-8 also will carry products from local businesses, including summer sausage made in Kingsbury and Fair Oaks Farms Cheeses.
As a happy accident, the expanding Valpo Brew's is putting its first outpost, LaPorte Brew's, right next door at 612 Monroe St.
"It wasn't planned that way," said owner John Filewich, who opened the Valparaiso homebrewing supply store six months ago with the intention of expanding the business. "We were already enamored of the space before we realized there would be a brewery next door."
When looking at where to grow, Filewich chose to expand in LaPorte because so many of his customers were coming from that area. The new store will carry a wide variety of grains, more than 120 hops and more than 120 strains of yeast.
The 1,600-square-foot store also will offer homebrewing classes and spaces for homebrewing clubs to gather.
"There's a lot of reasons why it's taking off," he said. "It's especially prominent in Northwest Indiana because there's the right blend of disposable income and blue-collar people. People are starting to realize that beer can be just as, if not more, complex than most wines."