Actually, there is no bad news, but you might have to work a bit harder to get a taste of a new project involving the northwest Indiana-based craft brewery.
3 Floyds Brewing Co. collaborated with several neighboring breweries and the state’s Brewers Guild of Indiana to produce Corn King IPA, a 74 IBU, 7.3-percent IBV exclusive craft beer with a label that stays in line with 3 Floyds’ comic apocalyptian motif. The brew will serve as the proverbial champagne bottle to launch the guild’s new party yacht, the S.S. IN Beer Brigade–there’s actually no S.S. and it’s not a ship. The IN Beer Brigade is real, however. It is a new program for craft enthusiasts to rally around Indiana-made beers.
“We didn’t have a way for individuals to show their support for the Brewers of Indiana Guild, aside from attending our three annual festivals and interacting with us on social media,” Tristan Schmid, the guild’s PR meister said in an email.
“We’d been researching other guilds’ enthusiast programs – and other membership programs beyond the brewing industry – and knew that we wanted to offer something special, a program truly unique that represented the variety and quality of beers and breweries in our ‘fly-over’ state.”
Indiana is certainly not the first state with a guild-led enthusiast program, but when a brewery like 3 Floyds–with its kind of world renown–makes an exclusive beer with other companies to support such a program, that’s news worth reporting.
Corn King will pour onto the scene as a product of collaboration, from concept to the day the first kegs are tapped in October.
Guild boss Rob Caputo, who also helped build Flat 12 Bierwerks in Indianapolis, conceived the idea for the guild to bring brewers in Indiana’s different regions together to create special one-off beers. That light bulb was plugged into ongoing brainstorms for how to give fans enhanced access to breweries in the state; brainstorms which led to Indiana’s new enthusiast program, Schmid said.
As fate would have it, Kaitlyn Hendricks, the quality assurance analyst at 3 Floyds, joined the Brewers Guild’s board of directors earlier in the year. With her on board (no pun intended) and with close relationships among 3 Floyds and neighboring breweries, the northwest Indiana region was selected to make the collaborative beer to spearhead the new IN Beer Brigade.
The company is no stranger to collaborating on projects with breweries of all types in all areas. The opportunity to make something special close to home couldn’t be passed up.
“When you’re working with a whole bunch of breweries, you get inspired to make the best beer possible,” Hendricks said. “We’re the biggest one in Indiana. It’s just as important to be working with the smallest brewer in Indiana … It sets a good example in being involved.”
Like a good neighbor, 3 Floyds hosted about a dozen brewers in late August for a big Corn King barn-raising party. Maybe cake was served, maybe it wasn’t. Nobody has said one way or the other. What we do know is the event got the participants together at 3 Floyds’ home base in Munster, Indiana to take the new craft beer from concept to reality using hops grown by the central Indiana-based Sugar Creek Malt Co. Corn King was then bottled Sept. 12 into 22-ounce bombers and kegs.
Beer is the tangible product of this collaboration. Experience, camaraderie and exposure were important intangible products for the participating brewers.
By taking part in the brew day, companies including 18th Street Brewing, Shoreline Brewery and Crown Brewing got a first-hand look at 3 Floyds’ production operation. The opportunity was kind of like touring Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, according to Hendricks. Among the attractions, brewers were introduced to the quality control lab and sampled some advice for quality improvements. They also glimpsed the company’s new Krones-brand automated bottling system in action.
“That really opened us up to amp up production,” Hendricks said about adding the system last year.
The tour reflected that spirit of collaboration that serves as a core virtue among brewers. In this case, the group took the chance to learn new best practices in quality.
“There are always opportunities to fine-tune your craft,” she said. “It’s inspiring to see people work their butt off and run a lot of different elements of the business.”
For context, it is important to know why these brewers are going all out for a corn-based beer–or maybe you already understand Indiana. Corn is a huge staple. If you could cut Indiana, it would bleed a mashed up yellow, like creamed corn. The state grew about 6-million acres of corn for grain in 2012, ranking 5th in the nation, according to the state’s agriculture department. Indiana is also second in the nation for popcorn production. Orville Redenbacher grew up in the state, for God’s sake!
So, it should not come as a surprise that the state’s brewers guild decided to incorporate corn into the first beer made for the new enthusiast program.
“Because this is the state’s biecentennial (founded: Dec. 11, 1816, thank you very much, Indiana Historical Society), and corn has been such a crucial component of Indiana’s history and economy, we thought it would be an appropriate ingredient in the beer,” Schmid said. “Breweries don’t generally play up corn in beers since it’s not a typical ingredient,” he added.
You’ll see it more in cream ales or American pilsners. Corn just doesn’t stand out like other elements.
“It’s not a ‘sexy’ ingredient like vanilla beans or the latest hop variety,” Schmid continued. “Unless a brewery is using corn for a specific reason to market beer, mostly its use as an ingredient wouldn’t be advertised.”
Schmid gave Chris Boggess, 3 Floyds’ head brewer, the credit–or blame, depending on how the beer is received–for producing Corn King as an IPA. According to 3 Floyds, he was following orders (half-kidding).
“We really wanted to focus on the corn because we were working collaboratively and because of our Hoosier roots,” said Hendricks.
Corn King, again 74 IBU and 7.3-percent ABV, should hold 3 Floyds’ trademark hoppiness but go down with a clean, crisp flavor thanks to the corn, according to Schmid.
The beer will debut on Oct. 3 during an IN Beer Brigade release party at 18th Street Brewery in the just-south-of-Chicago town of Hammond. Then the guild takes Corn King on tour with more release parties in Indiana’s other regions over the rest of the month.
Like gray windbreakers from the 1980s, this beer is members only. To get in on it, throw down $40 for a base annual membership in the IN Beer Brigade. That gets you at least a ticket to a release party of your choice, a chance to buy a pint of Corn King and other cool swag. For $75, you become a premium member, putting you at the head of the line to get two 22-ounce bombers of the beer, you lucky dogs. The rundown, like anything, is online at https://loyalty.drinkin.beer/page/join.
Non-members will have to get stealthy and creative if they hope to get a taste of Corn King. Members could opt to put their bombers up for trade, or if any beer is left over in kegs from the release parties, fans could get lucky and buy a pint from those. The guild also plans to display the beer in the Support Your Local Brewery pavilion at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver in October, Schmid said.
But good luck with that. Schmid said several hundred people have already enlisted in the IN Beer Brigade. Most of them live in Indiana, naturally.
Corn King won’t be the end of brewery collaborations in Indiana. The guild already has plans in place for Sun King Brewing in Indianapolis to lead central Indiana-based breweries in creating an exclusive beer for the enthusiast program in 2018, followed by a partnership of south central-based breweries led by Upland Brewing Co. in 2018. Other partnerships could emerge in the time to come.
“We’re focusing on the IN Beer Brigade for now, but given the collaborative, innovative nature of our industry, we’re always looking at other opportunities to bring producers and consumers together to benefit our local breweries,” Schmid said.
Yeah, looks like a good time to be a beer lover in Indiana.