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Hometown breweries pour added vitality into downtown

Hometown breweries pour added vitality into downtown


Griffith is toasting a renaissance of its compact downtown business district —with craft beers from its three hometown breweries.

“The town worked closely with three breweries that chose to locate here in 2015 — New Oberpfalz opened in January, Pokro in February and Wildrose in March,” recalls Town Council President Rick Ryfa. “At the time, we were looking for businesses that would bring new visitors to our downtown, and these breweries fit that bill very well. Grindhouse Cafe had opened several years earlier, and the success it had really helped Griffith sell itself when it came to new business recruitment.”

Indeed, shortly after the arrival of Grindhouse in 2012, Griffith Billiards opened, and Ryfa says a number of other businesses began talking to the town as they saw its potential. The breweries, he says, helped keep that momentum going, and now anchor what has become a revitalized shopping and entertainment district, even as other local downtown areas struggle to keep storefronts occupied and active.

“We are very fortunate to have dedicated business owners who have excelled here,” Ryfa says. “Griffith has gone from being a downtown that people quickly passed through to a thriving business district that seems to breed success among those who invest here with new business ventures.”

That includes, of course, those three craft breweries — and the distinct flavor each brings.

New Oberpfalz Brewing

Dan Lehnerer began brewing in 2014 before opening his tap room in 2015, and the operation has been growing since. He’s proud of the fact that New Oberpfalz was among the earliest breweries to open in the Region (and the first in Griffith), and he’s happy to see the scene that has developed downtown.

“I think brewers realize they need to be different from one another to succeed, and the result is that beer drinkers get a great deal of variety without having to go far from home,” he says.

Bavarian style brews headline the stouts, ales and IPAs that accompany its salads, sandwiches and sides that also boast a Bavarian flavor.

121 E. Main St., 219-513-9341

Wildrose Brewing

David DeJong noticed Griffith's downtown revitalization as he and his friends were experimenting with home brewing in their Schererville garages (the name comes from the street where those garages were located), so he looked into setting up an operation when he heard the town was open to bringing in some breweries.

“We scheduled a meeting with the town, and they made it clear they were interested in us and would do all they could to help us through the process,” he recalls. “Being guys who had no experience dealing with plan commissions and zoning appeals, that excitement and willingness to help made a big difference.”

With its pub and outdoor space humming, Wildrose has begun canning several of its beers and making plans to further expand the wholesale side of its business. But DeJong says the buzz and conviviality of its Griffith brew pub will remain the primary focus.

“It’s cool to know that Griffith is becoming a beer destination with three pretty different brewery styles and completely different pub experiences,” he notes. “There’s something for everyone!”

Wildrose's IPAs, ales, stouts and more complement a menu of hearty pub sandwiches and finger foods.

1104 E. Main St., 219-595-5054

Pokro Brewing

Founder Joe Pokropinski’s entry on the Griffith brewing scene takes its name from his high school nickname.

He had been homebrewing since his mom first bought him a small kit for some 13 years before opening Pokro, along with his wife, Robyn, in 2015.

In 2017, Robyn discussed with The Times the revitalization of which the brewery has been a part. 

“It feels like home to us. The businesses all help each other and support each other,” she said.

Robyn added, “Why do people come to us? We’re smaller. It’s a more personal experience.”

It also could have something to do with the way Pokro embraces its ethnic heritage, specializing in original recipes of Polish, Belgian, English and other European-style beers — complemented by a menu of traditional Polish cuisine, including pierogi, sausage, sauerkraut and potato pancakes.

311 N. Broad St., 219-924-7950



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