Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sun King CANvitational: An Interview with Clay Robinson

Image provided by Bohlson Group Events
In preparation for this weekend's CANvitational, I had the opportunity to talk with Clay Robinson one of the co-founders and brewers at Sun King. Typical Wednesday morning, right? I took full advantage of this interview to find out all about the event and what we can expect to see on Saturday. You're going, you know you are. Below are the questions I asked and the (paraphrased) responses Clay provided.

What should people know about the event: It's going to be great. Clay and the team at Sun King had been thinking about doing this event for a long time, but actually put everything together in just 3 months. Attendees will get to spend their time meeting the people who actually make the beer. Several brewers are driving and even flying to be there in person. The number of tickets has been kept low intentionally to avoid long lines and to make sure that there's a relaxed, casual atmosphere. There will be "tons of space and tons of great beer." It's not going to be a festival where you're trying to drink as much free beer as you can in a few hours, it's really about trying something new. A few of the breweries are bringing new seasonal releases that will be tapped for the first time at the event. They haven't even been showcased at home yet!

What brewery are you most excited to introduce to Indy's craft beer drinkers: So many of the breweries coming don't really have a wide reach outside of their local areas. What's exciting is to bring those great beers to a new audience. You could almost consider the whole list of participating breweries the answer to this question. Some of the stand outs are Surly, Half Acre, Revolution, Marble, SanTan, Tallgrass. One of the things that makes Tallgrass interesting is that they used to bottle and have made the switch to cans. There will be close to 70 beers available at the event that you can't get in Indy. What's equally exciting is to show off Indy's appreciation for craft beer. So many people are surprised to hear that we have a strong craft beer scene here.

How did you decide to can at Sun King instead of bottle: This question can spark some interesting debates among brewers and beer drinkers alike. Bottling can be a complicated process, and it's certainly time consuming. Both Clay and Dave, the other founder, had can collections so there's always been an appeal. What's also nice about cans is that they provide a "perfect permanent seal" for the beer. Two of the things that will cause a beer to degrade are light and oxygen and a can protects from both. Another benefit for those breweries that choose to can is the overall low weight that cans add. You're spending fewer shipping dollars on container-related weight and more on actual beer. Not only is there less fuel needed to ship beer in cans, but most cans now are made with over 50% post-consumer materials and can continue to be recycled using much less energy than bottles. The freshest way to drink your beer is on draft, since the beer goes from the tank into the keg and doesn't see light until it's in your glass. It's not an exact duplication, but a can will help maintain that same freshness longer.

What about the growth in the craft beer industry? Do you see it as exciting or is there more concern about potential market saturation? It's more exciting. Sure there's concern about saturating the market but really the market can sustain so much more. Craft beer overall was only 2% of all beer sold in the US 5 years ago. Now it's between 5-6%. Even with that growth, there's a limit to the amount of craft beer that can be produced and sold. Craft beer won't be able to make up even 10% of all beer sold in the US without expansion and that means the addition of more breweries, and there's definitely room for more. It's exciting to show people new flavors and  open people's palettes to new things. It's a good mirror for what's happened in the food industry. There's an interest in creating something new and different and plenty of people are willing to try it. Opening up a brewery is really chasing the American Dream. It's great to be able to do something that you love to do. Of the new breweries that are planned there will be some shake out, there always is, but there's so much that can be added to the craft beer scene. It's the people and their passion for the beers they make that sparks this excitement. It's easy to see when you stop into the small breweries that are popping up locally and in other places around the country. "Craft beer has soul."

Favorite Sun King Brew: Top of the list of Sun King's own brews is Osiris, but one of the fun things about brewing is that you get to make what you like. That's where most of the ideas for the seasonal line up come from.

Favorite non-Sun King Brew: Bell's Two Hearted, Rodenbach Grand Cru, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, 3 Floyds Zombie Dust. It's always fun to try new beers while travelling and lately there have been a lot of really enjoyable session beers, things like Founder's All Day IPA.

The Big Guy and I will definitely be at the event. Hope to see you there!

About the CANvitational:  In 2009, Sun King Brewery brought Indianapolis local beer for the first time since the Indianapolis Brewing Company closed its doors in 1948. On Saturday, Sept. 28 history will be made again when Sun King hosts the inaugural CANvitational, the Midwest's first-ever canned craft beer festival. The Sun King CANvitational will bring more than 30 craft breweries representing 16 states to Georgia Street and Pan Am Plaza from 1 - 5 p.m. Tickets are available online at -- $50 for general admission, $75 for early entry. This event is ages 21+ with a valid ID. Music will be provided throughout the event by DJ Helicon and DJ Action Jackson.
About Sun King Brewing Company: Sun King Brewing Company is the brainchild of Dave Colt and Clay Robinson. With the help of family and friends – Omar Robinson, Andy Fagg and Steve Koers – the first keg of Sun King beer rolled out the door for delivery in July 2009. Now available on tap and in cans at over a thousand locations throughout Indiana, Sun King has grown into the second-largest beer brewer in the state. The company's commitment to handcrafted seasonal and specialty beers has been rewarded with multiple medals at the Indiana Brewers Cup, Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup competitions. Visit for more information.


  1. I am going to want to hear deals, and going to hate to hear details about how awesome this was for everyone. I'll just have to follow all the check-ins on untappd out here in AZ. Prost!!

    bradley0114 (untappd)

  2. Brad, it was an excellent festival! Great beers, big name breweries, good food and perfect Indy weather! look for some reviews to come this week! Cheers bro!