By Stephanie Dolan
We each go through our daily lives coming into contact with friends and strangers. Often, we recognize when we have affected someone in even some small way. But sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we move through our days completely unaware of how we’ve touched someone else’s life.
Pioneer poet, Sarah T. Bolton (1814-1893) – for example – could always hope as a writer that she would continue to affect readers long after she was gone but she could never have guessed that she would be the partial inspiration behind one of the newest businesses in Beech Grove today.
More than 100 years ago, Bolton – a diplomat’s wife and early women’s rights activist – settled on the land at 1300 Churchman Ave. that is now known as Sarah Bolton Park in Beech Grove. Beech Bank Farm, which was eventually purchased by the city of Beech Grove, was a short walk down the road from where locals can now find Beech Bank Brewing, 301 Main St.
Bolton is best known for her poem, “Paddle Your Own Canoe” and this has been taken on as a motto of sorts by the owners of the brewery. It can clearly be seen etched into the glass of Beech Bank’s front window.
The brewery opened Sept. 12 in the midst of the Beech Grove Fall Festival, drawing in a few more first-timers as a result of the festivities.
“We got the go-ahead from the city of Beech Grove on a Tuesday and we opened on a Wednesday,” co-owner Dave Farris said. “We also really wanted to be open for the festival.”
Farris continued on to say that business at the brewery is going very well.
“Already, about 40 to 50 percent of our business is repeat customers,” he said. “I was thinking Beech Grove for this from the beginning. I was born and raised here. I always wanted to see this place do well and for me it was always a no-brainer.”
This bodes well for a business hoping to become a community staple, both for locals as well as those traveling in from other areas of the city.
The dream that became Beech Bank began with Farris.
“Probably about 20 years ago someone bought me a Mr. Beer kit for Christmas and I made one batch of it,” he said. “A few years later, my cousin got me back into brewing and it took off. Liquid malt extract brewing is the training wheels version and that’s where we started. From there, we went to all grain brewing and then went to bottling.”
Farris soon realized that he was no fan of regularly cleaning 60 beer bottles before refilling them all over again.
“Then we went to kegging and the next thing you know you have a mini production facility in your house,” he said. “Friends kept telling me I should do this professionally and here we are.”
Five years in the making
Farris began seriously making plans for the business in 2013.
“Eventually I got to the point where I realized you can read all the books you want but eventually you just have to set up a white board and start making lists,” he said.
The former home of The Southside Times newspaper, the 3,200-square-foot space is home to an eight-barrel brew house.
“On any given day we could make up to 16 barrels, which is a little over 550 gallons of beer,” Farris said. “Right now we’re brewing eight barrels at a time.”
“Our max volume would probably be brewing 16 barrels three times a week,” Wilder said.
The brew house is state of the art, complete with programmable logic control, manned by Wilder.
“This thing is programed in such a way that you just can’t screw it up,” Farris said.
The brewery has no kitchen but patrons are welcome to carry in their own food. Customers are also welcome to utilize Grub Hub or Uber Eats to have food delivered. In the future, an ordering kiosk as well as food trucks may be made available to patrons.
A friendly partnership
Farris co-owns the brewery with longtime friends John Solmos, Micah Wilder, Dennis Klutzke and Pat Brownlee. Farris says he is the lynch pin of the group.
“Micah is an excellent controls engineer,” Farris said. “Thank goodness for Dennis and Pat because everything you see here has been done by those guys. I’m not a carpenter. I’m the catalyst – the snowflake that started the avalanche.”
The five selections available on a daily basis are The Blond, Hefeweizen, IPA, Pale Ale and Sweet Porter.
“My favorite beer is the Porter,” Wilder said. “I like the darker malty sweet taste. I home brew beer and I owned a business before this and Dave told me he was starting a brewery and I thought that sounded pretty interesting and I was in.”
“All of our beers have been popular in stages,” Farris said. “Everyone’s enjoyed the Blonde Ale, the IPA, the Hefeweizen and the Porter. The ones that have consistently sold the best so far have been the Hefeweizen and the Porter.”
Farris said that Americans tend to want clear beer.
“It’s just what they’re used to,” he said.
“What kind of beer does Farris himself prefer?
“Cold,” he said, laughing. “I like all kinds of beer.”
Beech Bank Brewing is open from 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 3 p.m. – 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday. Beer flights are available as well as growlers. For more information, visit their website at beechbankbrewing.com.
Beech Bank Brewing is dog friendly.