Hoosier Beer Geek worked with Metromix to create their 2010 Local Brewing Guide. It was published in the November 18th issue and we are republishing the interviews we conducted. Enjoy!
Oaken Barrel Brewing Company, est. 1996
50 North Airport Parkway, Greenwood
Mark Havens’ professional brewing career began as a trial by fire. After spending just under a year as an assistant brewer at Greenwood’s Oaken Barrel Brewing Company, he was handed the head brewer’s position on a trial basis. “[Oaken Barrel owner Kwang Casey] didn’t think I was ready so he was looking for other people,” said Havens. “I said, ‘Give me a chance,’ and he put me in.” A year later, Casey’s gamble paid off. “When I won Brewer of the Year at the State Fair, he’s like, ‘Alright, I think this guy’s got it’”, said Havens. It was just the first of three consecutive Indiana State Fair Brewer’s Cup Brewer of the Year wins for Havens.
Like many of Indiana’s professional brewers, Havens started out as a homebrewer. His love of craft beer and his wife’s encouragement drove him to homebrew. “We were [regularly] buying a six-pack of something craft. It was starting to get pretty expensive. So she was like, ‘How about you try this on your own?’” he said. Not much later, he received a homebrewing kit as a 25th birthday present.
Havens’ philosophy of brewing is based on making “the best beer possible” first, but he admits that making “bigger” beers pleases him the most. “I probably push the envelope a little bit more so than the general Greenwood public would like,” he said, “but I think they’re starting to come around. Some of our beers that are a little over the top are starting to become some of our best sellers here.”
Oaken Barrel is one of the many Indianapolis-area breweries that have expanded sales through the use of bottling and outside distribution. Bottles are labeled one at a time with the help of a labeling machine, then filled and capped four at a time on a capping machine. Cardboard six-pack containers are unfolded from flat pack and filled by hand. “It’s labor intensive. It’s ridiculous,” said Havens.
Regular Beers: Indiana Amber, Razz-Wheat (fruit beer), Gnaw Bone (pale ale), Alabaster (Belgian witbier), Snake Pit (porter), Superfly (IPA)
Seasonal Beers: Small Batch Series (stouts), Uberweizen (hefeweizen), Epiphany Christmas Ale (tripel), Speciale Saison, Apple Buzz (beer/cider hybrid), Oktoberfest, Pumpkin Ale, World of Wheat
Events: Oaktoberfest (October), Pork of July (anniversary party on July 4th), Brewer’s Cup Celebration (summer)