Fort Wayne has more than a dozen breweries, with over half being locally owned businesses. In recent years, the trend of micro-brewing and craft beers has skyrocketed throughout the United States with Fort Wayne noticing the effects of this national trend.
Overall U.S. craft brewer sales continued to grow, reaching 12.7 percent of the U.S. beer market in terms of volume. Retail dollar sales of craft beer increased 8 percent, up to $26 billion, and now account for more than 23 percent of the $111.4 billion U.S. beer market, according to BrewersAssociation.org.
The Brewers Association also revealed there are now over 6,000 breweries operating the in the U.S., which is more than double the number from just four years ago. And in 2018, brewers and craft beer could have had their biggest year yet. Locally, since January 2018, four new breweries have opened in Fort Wayne.
Ashley Spranger, Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership’s stakeholder engagement and experience manager, said the trend has only just begun in the city.
“At the rate we are going, Fort Wayne has the potential to be viewed as a ‘brewery hub.’ I see people coming from outside the city, region and maybe even the state to experience what our breweries have to offer,” Spranger said.
The first brewery in Fort Wayne, Mad Anthony’s Brewing Co., was founded in 1998, according to Linda Lipp, writer for the Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly. While this local craft brewery is still operating in Fort Wayne today, additional locations have popped up in other parts of Indiana, including Auburn, Warsaw and Angola. According to VisitFortWayne.com, there are now more than 14 breweries in Fort Wayne –– with more to open in 2019.
Several months ago, 17 brewers from Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana came together to form the Northern Indiana Brewers Association. The organization, founded to help strengthen relationships between brewers in the area, expects to grow as more breweries open in Northeast Indiana.
Thea Spielman, a local self-declared craft beer enthusiast with a love for Mad Anthony’s dark Harry Baals Irish Stout, was excited about all the options and the growth of local brewed beers.
“I love that I can go to a different spot every weekend, and each place has their own vibe and specialty,” Spielman said. She explained that for her it is important to support the Fort Wayne economy, so she chooses local breweries instead of national ones.
Aside from selling beer, many businesses are offering brewery tours, allowing guests to learn more about the brewing process and to see the inner-workings of the beer they are consuming. Hop River Brewing Company, which opened last February, is a 15-barrel production taproom in downtown Fort Wayne, and offers several tour times throughout the day.
Taylor Miller, shift supervisor at Hop River Brewing Company, is passionate about representing the product they create.
“Most of us local breweries all support and interact with each other, and we love to help each other grow. More breweries, more growth,” Miller said.
And to keep the trend up and expanding, a new program has begun to help support all the local breweries and encourage the exploration of the city’s craft beer offerings. The Northern Indiana Beer Trail passport program is a multi-brewery collaboration that will offer rewards once a person has visited a certain number of breweries throughout the city.
“We get a couple handfuls of people solely coming in trying to fill their passports with stamps,” Miller said. “It gets people out of their comfort zones, getting them to new breweries.”
The launching of the passport, along with several breweries expected to open in 2019 and the “Brewed IN the Fort” craft beer festival, suggests the trend is not likely to fizzle out anytime soon.