Northwest Indiana Breweries

by David Wichlinski

     Many of Northwest Indiana residents might be seeing a trend upwards in the micro-brewery output in the Region. This rise in business can be attributed to an influx of trendy microbreweries popping up all over Lake, Porter, and La Porte County lately. If you put it all together, all these businesses trying their hands at the ancient art of brewing are starting to really create a diverse culture of microbreweries in the Region. And we shouldn’t have been in the least surprised- we Region residents do enjoy our beer, possibly just a bit more than your average bear.

     Of course, you wouldn’t want to overlook some of the older and established breweries. The ground has been fertile for this booming business venture for over a decade now in Northwest Indiana. Just like any good model, it has inspired a microbrewery movement in Northwest Indiana that has put the Region on the map as a microbrewery mecca for beer lovers all over the Midwest.

three floyds brewpubThree Floyds Brewing (Munster)
    If you’re taking into account longevity in the Region micro brewing game, you’ll find this Munster brewery at the very top. Now in year 17 of operation, what really sets Three Floyds Brewing as the ‘Alpha King’ in Northwest Indiana is the wide variety and unmatched individuality that is captured by each of their brews.
     Ask any halfway enthusiastic beer enthusiast about a Three Floyds product, and if he doesn’t immediately recognize, then he doesn’t know shit about beer. Three Floyds is also well-known for their brilliant marketing strategy they employ when it comes to their highest rated beer, the Dark Lord. This Russian Imperial Stout is notorious for being both out-of-this-friggin’-world delicious but nearly impossible to get your hands on. Once a year on Dark Lord Day, people line up around the corner for their chance to stock up on their Dark Lord stouts.
         Three Floyds also holds a festival to celebrate the end of the 364-day drought. Not only is this beer the taste of the Region, but the people involved in its brewing represent that little extra bit of creativity that makes them unique in the rest of the nation, just like the 219.

shoreline brewery Shoreline Brewery (Michigan City)
    Even a Lake County beer-seeker will cross an entire county to get to this place. If 3 Floyds is our flagship brewery in the 219, Shoreline Brewery makes a pretty damn solid case to challenge that. Twice in the past 8 years, the World Beer Cup competition has donned Shoreline’s ‘Beltaine’ Scottish Ale as a prestigious favorite. For those reasons, you can consider the ‘Beltaine’ Shoreline’s signature beer, but if you’re going to try one, you might as well try six (provided you’ve already arranged for alternative transportation home, of course).
   They’ve also recently started to bottle their product, which means Shoreline will be in refrigerators throughout Northwest Indiana before you know it. Thankfully for us, Shoreline has given us a bigger window than one day a year, and if you start to go through the Dark Lord withdrawals, Shoreline has an ideal line-up to help you get your fix.
   Shoreline’s atmosphere and original customer engagement also headline this top-rate micro-brewery. The brewery has established a reputation for its plethora of events held at their facilities, from shows to some one-of-a-kind gatherings. Its good use of the space the brewery occupies and fosters a great variety of different atmospheres for Region rats to take in some music and take down some quality craft beers. We promise you won’t be disappointed.

crown brewingCrown Brewing (Crown Point)

     Speaking of some really neat venues to go with some quality craft beer, Crown Brewing right off the square in Crown Point fits right in the discussion. Maybe it’s a personal preference, but the bar fit snug in the middle of a big-but-not-Gary-big town square just appeals to my inner soul. Throw in some local acoustic talent and a special that I don’t have to think to order and you have yourself one hell of a night on the town. The bar makes a good social presence to spread the word about their products, too. I’d recommend following @CrownBrewing on Twitter- it does a great job on keeping followers in the know about what’s on tap. Honestly, it’s all good no matter what it is.
     Crown does one of the most unique beers I’ve ever heard of with their White Russian Java Porter they call ‘The Dude’, a fitting tribute to the cult class movie ‘The Big Lebowski’. I usually don’t get too carried away with a more accentric style of beer such as this one, but I was pleasantly surprised this Porter agreed with my pallet. If I had to recommend something more conservative from Crown’s collection, I’d have to go with their Special Forces IPA, which is good compliment to summer nights outside. In terms of the people, it’s always does draw a chill crowd no matter the night flocking to the laid-back atmosphere. It’s too bad it’s not right up on the Indiana Dunes- putting your feet in the sand would be the perfect form of imagery to describe Crown Brewing.

hunters brewing Hunter’s Brewing (Chesterton)
     If you’re looking for a more low-key and intimate nano-brewery experience, Hunter’s Brewing is the bee’s knees. They don’t have the Sunday-saving carry out yet, but don’t let that keep you away on one of their open days from Wednesday thru Sunday!
    This unassuming Chesterton Brewery is doing some really impressive things with their beers and I’ve heard more and more of the Region’s finest mention this spot in passing as highly recommended. My best guess is that the brewers Justin Reissetter and Amy Gentry are living the dream of operating the business as a labor of love. Personally, residents of Porter County will enjoy their craft beer aptly named after it, but my personal preference was their India Pale Ale called ‘Threat Splitter’.
     Being a fan of IPA’s and having a name as fresh as that, I was a sucker from the start. And if you like that, their ‘Hoppy Child’ beer should be next on your order, which turns up the hops which left one of the most recognizable tastes I’ve ever experienced from a beer. Overall, Hunter’s Brewing was a pretty cool experience, and with a whole slew of things I didn’t get a chance to try, you can bet Hunter’s is going to draw me into Cheesetown time and time again.
     You can get a quick glance into the whole operation on their website, but I think Hunter’s is advancing the idea that instead of sitting on your ass looking at beers they brew on their website, you should make the journey in to get the full experience in-person. Now offering a full kitchen services and Carry Out as well!

Figure 8 outsideFigure Eight Brewing (Valparaiso)
     And here’s another one of the budding superstar breweries opening up in Northwest Indiana. Not hard to find these guys at all in Valpo: they’re right on Washington right off the main section of Lincolnway. From there, it only gets easier to enjoy some of their handcrafted beer options which are all bursting with different lively tastes all beer lovers can appreciate. Figure Eight is part of the newer wave of microbreweries making moves in Northwest Indiana we were talking about earlier. With that new blood comes a new way of brewing beer and handling the business associated with it, and I must say, Figure Eight has one of the more concrete and original microbrewery operations I’ve come into contact with.
     But look a bit closer, and you’ll see a microbrewery that also is practicing some admirable business in many regards. They are pretty much self-sustaining, brewing their beer and going through the distribution process all in-house. The guy who delivers the beer is more than likely the guy who had a hand in crafting it, kegging it, and putting the damn thing in the truck himself. Props to Neil Davey and his team for their support of the Region in all the facets of their The Figure Eight team also maintains a strong online presence with a very well put together website for anyone that wants to look more into this hidden gem.
     Word to the wise- check yourself early and often if you’re throwing down a few of their Double IPA Snake Pro’s….those are some wicked awesome beers for being 9.5% alcohol. I’ve witnessed first-hand a friend make this fatal mistake- 4 Snake Pro’s later and it looked like a venomous jungle cobra had given him the kiss of death. If you’re trying to keep your beer selection more on the conventional side, Figure Eight brews a solid pilsner called ‘Pirates Pils’ which is sure to please. I’ve had several beer snobs also recommend “Lost Saint,” a Belgian Saison which seemed to raise some eyebrows. And like most of these beautiful microbreweries, they’re Sunday Saviors whenever you might need a carryout.
For a Figure Eight behind the scenes video click here: https://youtu.be/H0BPFSaIqQE%20%20
These local microbreweries also are definitely worth a mention by us and a visit by you:

Wildrose Brewing Opens in Griffith About four years ago, four region dudes and a chick all started home brewing together on their block in Schererville, Indiana – Wildrose Lane. After winning several awards, and various comments from tasters, they realized that their home brewed Craft Beer was as good if not better than many crafter beers on the market. After… Continue Reading →    

Bulldog Brewing (Whiting): If you’re interested in a more dining/sports bar vibe in a brewery trip, Bulldog Brewing offers some solid food options in a warm environment that invites you to hang around for a bit.

Back Road Brewery (La Porte): Back Yard has been around just as long as Three Floyds, and they appear to be firmly entrenched in the craft microbrewery community in the area as a great establishment. Ales and lagers are a large portion of their brewing wheelhouse. Judging by distribution throughout northern Indiana stores and bars, I’d say they found a solid niche to thrive in. Here’s Back Road Brewery’s stellar website

Byway Brewing was Indiana Brewery of the Year — After a weekend full of tasting, deliberation, and more tasting, Byway Brewing Company swept the professional division at the 18th Indiana Brewers’ Cup Competition by picking up the title of Grand Champion Brewery of the Year, (2016) Indiana Brewery of the Year (2016), and Best in Show (2016).  Founded in 2013 by Dave Toth, Tom Duszynski, and Branko Sajn, Byway Brewing Co. currently serves nine beers on tap in their local restaurant and taproom located at 2825 Carlson Ave.,  Hammond, IN. Continue Reading 

St. John Malt Brothers Serving Congress     Saint John Malt Brothers Craft Brewery, will be pouring 3 of their beers for a private tasting at the US capitol in Washington DC on December 9th 2015. Malt Brothers will be sending 2 of the partners, James Estry (President) and Dan Cox (Vice President) to pour at a private event for members of congress… Continue Reading →

It’s safe to say that microbreweries have established themselves as a fixture in Northwest Indiana’s culture. You can’t drive through a major city anymore in the 219 area code without being close to one of these fantastic businesses. The thing that always speaks to me when visiting microbreweries is how the product reflects the owner’s passion towards the art of brewing beer.

And when that beer is exceptional, that just validates the master brewer’s decision to truly pursue a passion and successfully vault it into a business. In a way, appreciating a microbrewery takes appreciating the idea of taking a personal passion and bringing it into reality as cool as brewing beer.

Right now, the Region is where it’s at if you’re looking a variety of quality microbreweries in an area code.

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Sue Baxter