GRIFFITH | A group of guys and a girl who lived on Wildrose Lane in Schererville all got into home brewing around the same time four years ago.
They won a few awards, got great reviews at the popular Highland craft beer bar Beer Geeks and realized their home brews tasted as good as if not better than many craft beers on the market. They talked about whether they should go pro, and finally decided to make their craft a career. Wildrose Brewing Co. took root.
Brewers David DeJong, Karen DeJong, Ed Halajcsik, Tony Nichols, Kevin Krippel and their landlord collectively invested about $750,000 to turn a former warehouse into Griffith's largest craft brewery, which opens at noon Saturday. Wildrose, 1104 E. Main St., features a seven-barrel brewing system, a 2,000-square-foot bar with restaurant seating, and a spacious patio with cornhole and a garage door that opens into the bar.
If you Google it, you might find out there's already a Wild Rose Brewery in Calgary, Alberta. Canadians don't always read carefully, at least after a few beers, because they've reviewed the new Northwest Indiana brewery's beer on online sites, even though it isn't distributed there, David DeJong said.
Wildrose is named after the street where the home brewers first met. The new craft brewery aspires to eventually become a production brewery like Bell's Brewery or Founders Brewing in Michigan, but the initial focus is on a brewpub that will serve American-style craft beers, wines, panini sandwiches and eventually barbecue.
New Oberpfalz and Pokro Brewing opened earlier this year in Griffith, which now has three craft breweries that each carve their own niche. New Oberpfalz focuses on German beers and Pokro skews toward Belgian-style ales while Wildrose aims at American-style beers that are hoppy but traditionally balanced so they don't launch too much of an assault on the palate. The brewpub plans to offer an IPA, a double IPA, a milder wheat beer, a coconut milk stout, an imperial coffee stout with Sumatran coffee, and a pale ale with the same Citra hops that go into Three Floyd's popular Zombie Dust, as well as seasonals and two guest taps of other Midwestern craft beers.
Red and white wine will be offered for non-beer drinkers who drop in for dinner. The initial food menu will be simple, featuring grinders and pretzels with beer cheese, but the owners are all avid barbecuers who eventually plan to slow-cook pork shoulders, jerk chicken and ribs.
They all intend to be very involved in the brewery, and continue to brew the beer themselves, David DeJong said. They like to have fun with it, such as with a "LOIPA," a name they coined for an India Pale Ale that was made with leftover ingredients but turned out to their liking.
"Some people start breweries and hire a brewer as soon as they can," he said. "For us, that's the fun of it. It's a cliche, but if you do what love you never work a day in your life. We've been in here brewing until 1 in the morning and it never feels like work."
They built a modern-looking bar with exposed piping and Edison lights danging from the ceiling. Rivets line the metal bar, which has an I-beam for a foot rest. A graffiti artist tagged a huge "Welcome to Wildrose" mural with skulls and roses on a brick wall in the bar.
"We wanted an industrial steel vibe to match the region's history," David DeJong said. "You typically see a wood top bar, but we wanted a metallic look.
The brewpub, which includes a section with plush leather chairs, is big enough to serve about 90 people. Another 20 to 30 customers could drink or dine al fresco on the patio.
Musical acts will perform, and the brewery will help sponsor bike rides, 5Ks and fun runs to capitalize on the town's trail and because Karen DeJong is an avid runner.
Wildrose will start out offering pints, flights, tulips and take-home growlers that will cost about $12 to $13 to fill. Eventually, the owners hope to scale up production enough to fill 22-ounce bombers and kegs for area bars. There's enough room in the spacious brewing area for a bottling line and cask conditioning program to make barrel-aged beers.