06 December 2012

Hoosier Beer Geek Sixpack interview with Hawcreek Brewing Company

In the years I've been writing for Hoosier Beer Geek Indiana beer has far exceeded my expectations in a very few short years.  What was once just a handful of better beer bars and even fewer breweries is now filled with great beer on tap all over the state and now over 50 operating breweries and twenty more in the permitting stage.  One of Indiana's newest breweries is Hawcreek Brewing Company in Hope, Indiana.  I grew up not far from Hope, and I am very excited to see them open up near my old hometown.

1) Who are you and where do you work? The four of us are Josh & Nicole Bontrager and Abram & Jacquie Carman. We collectively own/run the brewery but our day jobs are scattered across the spectrum. Josh works in the auto industry, Nicole in childcare, Abe is currently serving our country in Kuwait and Jacquie is a freelance photographer.

2) For people who are unfamiliar with Hawcreek Brewing Company, can you give us some background about the company? How did it start? What was the inspiration? As I mentioned above, HBC is owned by the four of us. Josh and I (Jacquie) are brother and sister and our spouses round out the partnership. We initially became interested in home brewing and discovered a love for great beer and the making of it over the course of about 18 months of experimenting with a turkey fryer and a big ol’ cooler. We jumped straight into all grain brewing when we started our home brew journey and really developed a passion for crafting excellent tasting and interesting recipes.

Over time, we realized we were spending a lot of time and, let’s be honest, money on our beers whilst receiving a lot of positive feedback from friends and family. The four of us began dreaming about turning our passion for brewing into something greater – into more of an investment - and one November evening decided we would put our hopes and dreams for the future down on paper. This eventually turned into our business plan.

Our inspiration is our family. Working collectively on this brewery and brainstorming ideas for making our beer better have really drawn the four of us, aw well as our two young children, closer. We spend a lot of time together! Fortunately, we all get along great so you won’t hear us complaining about pulling long hours.

3) Can you talk about the brewing process for Hawcreek Brewing? Do you have a mission or a theme around your beers? How does your creative process work when thinking about brewing a new style?

Brew day starts by getting everything organized - while the water is getting to temperature we sanitize all of the brewing and fermentation components, crush all the grains and weigh all of the hops. We do an all grain mash, boil the wort and then cool. Everything is transferred via a pump system. After cooling, into the fermenter it goes and the yeast is pitched.

We do our best to make every batch exactly the same as the time before. We stay true to all of our recipes and make sure that everything we can control stays the same so it is close as possible to what we have designed.

Our mission is to simply make really good beer that is clean, flavorful and enjoyable to the palate as well as visually appealing. We don't really have a theme to any of our beers other than trying to make what we would want to drink and what we think other people will also enjoy. When trying a new style we really do our research on how to attain the intended style. Of course,  we love trying as many beers in that similar style as possible.  We try to figure out what we like and don't like in the other beers we try and then attempt to put our own little spin on it.

Our main focus is making a very drinkable beer that everyone will enjoy.

4) What should people know about Hawcreek Brewing Company?

What a question! I suppose we want everyone to know that we are all about family, having a good time and enjoying what life has to offer. Of course, we believe everyone should also enjoy great beer!

5) Opening a brewery certainly isn't easy, but can you talk about some highs and lows for Hawcreek Brewing to this point?

Some high points have been sharing this experience with family and friends. We have received so much support and so much cheering on. We have been able to work on getting this brewery going with our best friends and it has certainly brought the four of us closer. Of course, a high point is the satisfaction of receiving that teeny tiny piece of paper, the brewer’s permit, in the mail one Wednesday afternoon. What a great moment!

In all honesty, there haven’t been many lows. Building the system was sometimes frustrating and, well, irritating, but there wasn’t any point at which we felt we should give up. The licensing process was somewhat painful but, again, not enough to deter us from this dream of ours.

6) What beer are you proudest of? Which of your beers is your personal favorite? Why?

Each of our four flagship beers (Four Founders Wheat, Doghouse Pale Ale, Chaos IPA, Little Town Brown) is a source of pride for us. These are recipes we have fine-tuned over the course of the last 18 months and we are really proud of each of them. I think each of the four of us would say we are most proud of a different beer – Josh would likely say Chaos; Abe would say Four Founders; Jacquie would say JPA (Jac’s Pumpkin Ale – look for it next Fall) or Little Town Brown; Nicole would say all of them. Since I, Jacquie, am writing this I have to say my personal favorite is Little Town Brown. It is a subtle marriage of two of my favorite flavors, beer and coffee, so naturally I could drink a few pints.

BONUS: While we are new to the industry, we have felt so welcomed already. We are incredibly excited about learning more about the ins and outs of the industry, making connections and enjoying the great beer our state has to offer. We are proud of the progress we have made thus far and are really looking forward to growing as a brewery over the coming months and years. 

We want to thank the people behind Hawcreek Brewing Company for answering our questions, and we wish them the best in the future.  

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