You may be thinking right about now that Michiana is a great place to live as a craft beer enthusiast. And you are right.
Several area breweries have opened recently, and more are about to open — including Wedgewood Brewing, which will be located at 106 S. Main St. in downtown Middlebury.
When my wife and I lived in Middlebury about 18 years ago, the building that will house the brewery was a small barbershop, and the building next door was the Winner’s Circle bar, which recently became 41 Degrees North. Both are great additions to the town.
- RELATED: 41 Degrees North taking food in new direction in Middlebury, June 8, 2015
Wedgewood owner/brewer Chris Higgins is a farm boy from Iowa who moved to the area in 1988, just a couple of weeks after high school graduation. He wasn’t much of a beer drinker at the time, but at some point while working on a project with his brother-in-law, who also lives in the area, Chris was handed a beer in a bag.
He took a drink without looking at the label, and it changed his life. It was Hen’s Tooth (English strong ale, 6.5 percent ABV) from Morland Brewery in England. In 2006, his sister bought him a wine kit, which he traded in for a Brewer’s Best homebrew kit.
Together with his brother-in-law, Higgins brewed a clone of Stone Arrogant Bastard (American strong ale, 7.2 percent ABV), and that was pretty much all the inspiration that he needed.
Chris said he began building his own equipment and changed over to all-grain brewing. Brewing soon took over most of his house. He bottled for about a year and then began kegging his beer.
There have been previous opportunities for Chris to take his passion professional in the Michiana area. A couple of years ago, Cam Snyder at the Chubby Trout played with the idea of adding house brewed beer to his extensive craft beer menu. Chris was to be the brewer at the nano brewery, but that idea never fully came to be. Chris is very happy with his own place, even though it is quite small.
Wedgewood will be a wholesale brewery with a tap room featuring eight beers on tap. Most of the beer will be sold onsite and next door at 41 Degrees North.
When asked what styles he will brew, Chris told me, “I mostly brew ales, but not all styles. I tend to brew what I like. Mostly IPAs, pale ales, double IPAs and stouts.” Sounds like some pretty hop-forward styles, which is great for us hop heads.
The Middlebury brewery will also be a family affair. Chris’ son Cody has been a huge help, and will be actively involved in the business.
Chris’ brew house is a one-barrel system (meaning recipes of about 33 gallons at a time), and his goal is to be open this year.
New flooring was laid in May, and he just recently installed the lighting. He is still waiting on state and federal brewing permits, and we all know that these huge projects sometimes take longer than planned, with many inspections and other other unexpected situations.
I am really looking forward to another Michiana brewery and for now, you can follow Wedgewood Brewing at its Facebook page.
In other Michiana beer news:
Goshen Brewing Company released its first bourbon barrel aged beer on Wednesday, June 17. Young Soul (scotch ale, 6.7 percent), is aged for two months in a Journeyman Distillery Featherbone Bourbon barrel. I had a chance to enjoy this last night and it was fantastic.
Barrel aged beers don’t all have to be huge stouts and barleywines, and this was just right with a medium body and mouthfeel. The flavor of the oak and bourbon came through nicely, but not over powering, with further notes of vanilla and white chocolate.
- RELATED: Hop Notes: Two new beers on tap at Goshen Brewing Co., May 29, 2015
Crooked Ewe also just tapped its first bourbon barrel aged beer. The brewers aged 15 gallons of their imperial stout in a Journeyman Featherbone whiskey barrel for three months.
The beer was named Murder By Death in tribute to their friends and band by the same name, whose song was featured in the brewery’s Kickstarter video. It was released on Monday, June 15, first to mug club members and then to the general public, and was tapped out by Wednesday night, June 17.