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I never take a drink unless—somebody’s buying.

Just the facts, ma’am. The opinions will begin soon enough.

Join the nonprofit Brewers of Indiana Guild for its 25th annual summer fundraiser, Indiana Microbrewers Festival, benefiting Little Red Door Cancer Agency, on Saturday, July 23rd, 2022  from 1:00 – 6:00 p.m. at Historic Military Park at White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis.  Sample hundreds of beers, ciders, and meads brewed by dozens of Hoosier breweries while enjoying local food, shopping, games, and more.

After a two-year hibernation owing to the social disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Brewers of Indiana Guild (BIG) will celebrate the 25th edition of the Indiana Microbrewers Festival this Saturday in the state capital.

The Indiana Microbrewers Festival in Broad Ripple, 2007.

At last count almost 70 breweries have been scheduled to attend the fest, which began atop a little league diamond in a small local park north of center in Broad Ripple, back when there were a couple of dozen breweries in the entire state (as of 2021, there are 203, ranking Indiana 16th in the nation).

In my dotage I’ve admittedly become somewhat of a beer fest skeptic. I absolutely support your right to enjoy festivals to the fullest, and yet they’re no longer my kind of scene. To each their own, naturally. But when it comes to BIG gigs, there’s a deep rooting interest involved.

Regular “Hip Hops” readers know that from December of 1989 through the official ending point of February 2018, I was a co-owner of what came to be known as the New Albanian Brewing Company (NABC).

NABC added its original brewery in 2002, today making it the ninth-oldest in continuous operation in Indiana. When we expanded to Bank Street Brewhouse in 2009, I learned that the Guild needed board members. After attending a meeting and volunteering to serve a term, I was appointed, and ended up staying seven years. This directorship had highs and lows, just like any endeavor, but overall, my service on the BIG board was rewarding and educational.

It came to an end in 2016 at the annual conference in Ft. Wayne.

Conference weekend has concluded, and as of Sunday morning, I’m now an ex-director on the board of the Brewers of Indiana Guild.

When I joined the board in 2009, there were approximately 35 breweries in Indiana. Now there are 124. I’ll always be proud of what the Guild has accomplished, especially during the past three years. There is much to be done, because that’s the way it works. I’m pleased to have done my part, albeit small, in furthering the industry. That I’ve resolved to leave the biz does not mean I love it any less.

I humbly appreciate Guild president Greg Emig’s words today, when he told the brewers in attendance that the board has awarded me an honorary title: Agitator Emeritus.

That one’s going on the business cards, folks — except, of course, that I have plenty of agitation left in me.

In closing: Cheers to all of you in Indiana who are making beer, drinking beer, and selling what’s left. You’ve created something out of nothing, and if I’m quoting the statistic correctly, we’re now 18th in the nation in terms of per capita breweries.

Keep on rocking.

It has not been smooth sailing for BIG during the past two years. When pandemic shutdowns began, the three full-time staff members terminated themselves, as there was no way of knowing when festivals, the organization’s funding lifeblood, would resume.

The Guild’s volunteer board drawn from breweries throughout the state stepped forward to steer the ship, and only now is it possible to build back the former team.

One might ask why a Guild is even necessary during a fruitful period when growth continues in spite of so many obstacles. I feel the answer should be obvious: the daily issues faced by individual breweries are daunting in good times and bad, and they can be dealt with more efficiently by collective weight, especially as it pertains to legislative matters.

Put another way, the stronger the collective in good times, the better placed it is to navigate the bad.

Also, as with the coming renewal of the Indiana Microbrewers Festival, collective marketing lifts the profile of the Indiana brewing sector as an entity, both for visitors and residents, the latter often still unaware that craft brewing as a “thing” exists.

On February 4, 2016 I published a blog column titled “Hello, I must be going.” Rereading it for the first time in six years, I detect the gradual intrusion of sepia, with elegiac overtones. Certain details might well have changed, so be aware of passing time.

Brewery ownership was something I enjoyed very much, but my game needed changing, and I’ve no regrets whatever. Contrary to the flatulence of most old-timers, I feel that the “next” or “younger” generation of brewers is doing just fine when it comes to carrying on the legacy of brewing in America.

They seldom listen to rock and roll any more, but I repeat: Keep on rocking.

Hello, I must be going. (February 4, 2016) 

Almost every other month for the past seven years, I’ve attended a Wednesday meeting of the directors of the Brewers of Indiana Guild.

For a long time, these meetings were held at Broad Ripple Brewing Company, Indiana’s first brewpub in the contemporary era. Later they shifted to Sun King Brewing Company (downtown on College Avenue), the state’s second largest production brewery behind Three Floyds.

More recently, the guild has rented an office suite in the basement of an apartment building, formerly a warehouse, just north of Massachusetts Avenue. The new location is a 20-minute walk from Sun King, and I’ve taken to parking there and enjoying the stroll.

Yesterday I was in town by 10:30 a.m. for a 1:00 p.m. meeting, so there was time for a longer walk, south and west past Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Lucas Oil Stadium, followed by a lunch of delicious stuffed grape leaves at Grecian Garden in the City Market, ground floor, right by the front door.

Marina Mavrikis’s pastitsio is to die for, too.

There’s a place called Henry’s Coffee Bistro on East Street, a block off Massachusetts Avenue on the way to the guild’s office suite. My habit is to stop there on the way for an espresso. At meeting’s end, the path back to Sun King leads past St. Joseph Brewery, operating in a church sanctuary by Lockerbie Square.

Yesterday I bought a growler of Popemeal Oat Stout there and brought it home to accompany a dinner of leftover Finnish-style Cod Bake and seasoned rice. Baltic Porter might have been a better choice geographically, but I wanted a beer around 5% abv, not 7%.

Wednesday was my second visit to Indianapolis in less than a week. On Saturday, Diana and I drove up to the capital for the guild’s annual Winterfest at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, and although I’d expressed eagerness to sample beers with 7,000 of my closest friends, we never actually made it.

Therein lies a story.

We departed New Albany for Indianapolis on Saturday morning immediately following restorative Honey Creme doughnuts, wasting no time because we wanted to explore the Fountain Square district, which is southeast of the city’s epicenter via Virginia Avenue and the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, an urban walking and biking path running alongside the street.

Had the date not been January 30, it would have been a gorgeous spring day in early April. After coffee at Funkyard Art, we browsed a few shops, then enjoyed a beer at Fountain Square Brewing Company. Our choice for lunch was the End of the Line Public House, which reminds us that Indianapolis’s long defunct street cars used to turn around right across the street.

Seated close enough for inadvertent eavesdropping were two couples talking about Winterfest, which at this point was about two hours from starting. One couple had tickets, and the other did not.

The ones who didn’t had come from out of state for the occasion, and apparently the Indianapolis residents were supposed to have purchased four tickets, but somehow dropped the ball. The festival was sold out, and they were debating creative ways to gain entry.

Ironically, I’d started the day with four Winterfest tickets. Two were my director comps, and two were given to me by a friend in Louisville. He couldn’t go, and asked me to give them away, which I did – at Fountain Square Brewing Company, where the bartender was maintaining a waiting list.

Had I known … but at any rate, the out-of-towners at End of the Line were growing desperate, and it was an easy fix to make. I gave them our last two tickets with only one small caveat. They were to find Salt Creek Brewery’s booth, say hello to my friend Brad Hawkins, and have a sample or three for me.

I hope they had a good time. All’s well that ends well, and we spent the next few hours enjoying the great outdoors, walking Virginia Avenue into the heart of downtown, looping past Monument Circle and the City Market, and stopping at Chilly Water Brewing on the way back for another round of beers.

The urban changes along this corridor between downtown and Fountain Square are utterly fascinating, but in fact, most of downtown Indianapolis is a construction zone. Dozens of buildings are being erected, many of them residential.

These days, I know too much about social justice issues, like America’s worsening affordable housing shortage, to accept all of what we saw at face value as “progress” absent qualifiers. Just the same, the scale of investment and activity is staggering.

More importantly, there is a brewery every half mile or so, enough to suggest that maybe we’re winning at least one revolutionary battle.

The weather was much cooler on Wednesday, and the long walk through downtown Indianapolis was bracing. Fortunately, sweet and tart Avgolemono (lemon and egg) sauce and intensely roasted coffee can take the chill off any overcast day, and the exercise felt good.

In due course I tendered my resignation from the board, effective on Sunday, March 6 — the date of the guild’s annual meeting, which caps its second annual Indiana Craft Brewers Conference weekend in Ft. Wayne. Accordingly, it will be my final hurrah as a director. I’m eager to see who is chosen to occupy my seat.

In general terms, a director serving on the guild’s board must be a brewery owner. Technically, seeing as there has yet to be a final disposition of my ownership shares in NABC, I might choose to continue as a guild director until the buyout is resolved.

However, with the number of breweries in Indiana now topping 120, it’s a good time for me to say goodbye. New (and hopefully younger) blood can come aboard and begin learning how things work, because there’s much work to be done.

Whether guild, business or career, stepping aside is the right thing for me to do. It isn’t easy. Reinvention is necessary, and it’s also a bear, especially the methodical process of stripping away these comfortable layers of self-identity. It’s natural to swaddle yourself with layers of familiarity. Without their protection, suddenly you feel naked and vulnerable.

Does one even have value without them? Do I?

Yet, in some ways, it’s also like shedding scar tissue or waking from a coma. Gradually, interests and inclinations buried for a quarter-century beneath the rote daily checklist of business as usual are re-emerging, stumbling dazed from exile, blinking at the revealing light.

I’ll miss the Wednesdays in Indianapolis, except at some point I won’t. There’ll always be the option of driving up and wandering the city – or spending time in Columbus, Evansville or Needmore (home of Salt Creek). Plenty of quality time remains. Life is good.

It was a hell of a guild ride, boys and girls.

Someone keep throwing punches on my behalf, will you?

Clay Robinson (Sun King), Roger (NABC) and Rob Caputo (Flat12 Bierwerks) at the Indiana Microbrewers Fest in 2014. The bluish-purple top I’m wearing just for the hell of it is a Kurta, and the white pants a Churidar, customary male garments from the Indian subcontinent.

Roger Baylor is an educator, entrepreneur and innovator with 40 years of hands-on experience and expertise as a beer seller, restaurateur and commentator. As the co-founder of New Albany’s Sportstime Pizza/Rich O’s Public House (which later became New Albanian Brewing Company) in the 1990s and early 2000s, Baylor played a seminal role in Louisville’s craft beer renaissance. Currently he is the beer director at Pints&union in New Albany and Common Haus Hall in Jeffersonville. Baylor’s “Hip Hops” columns on beer-related subjects have been a fixture in F&D since 2005, and he was named the magazine’s digital editor in 2019.

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