Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A(dog)fish in a much bigger pond

You may have heard (or not) that back in 2011 Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales (DFH) and Avery pulled out of Indiana, because they weren't able to supply states in their respective home regions with enough beer. Back then I thought, "well that sucks". Flash forward to June 2013 when DFH made the announcement that they would be returning to Indiana and a couple other states they had left "before the end of the year". Back then I thought "oh cool, it'll be nice to have them back". December 2013 they made another announcement that beer would be available in northern Indiana the week of December 30th; okay well I guess they made it back to part of the state, just before the end of the year. In that update and a more recent update in April they've continued the "coming months" mantra. It's now been a year since they announced they would be coming back, and it's still not clear when they're coming back to central Indiana and why it's taking so long. Instead of getting upset about the delay I find myself thinking "who cares?"

This is not so much about the quality of DFH beers, but instead about how the Indy (and surrounding region) craft beer scene has changed in the last 3 years. It's unlikely that DFH beers have gotten worse over that time, but the selection of beers in Indiana has certainly gotten better. There's been a moderate explosion of new breweries around the state, with a dozen or so opening within the city during 2014 alone. While not all of these breweries package their beers for the shelf, most distribute kegs of their beer around town and can be found with relative ease. The amount of growth has even caused outcries of "enough already with the craft beer!!", while that outcry is ridiculous it does illustrate that people are taking notice of the growing options. 
On a larger scale there's been an explosion of breweries nationwide raising concerns that a dip or bursting bubble is looming for the industry. Whether this dip will occur is unknown, but for the time being it's a boon for consumers locally as new beer pours in from breweries outside Indiana. 
The other big factor in change is the slow rise of craft beer beers around town since DFH left: Twenty tap, The Aristocrat, The Pint Room, and Hop Cat (coming soon), Yes, this is a small list, but still a big leap in 3 years. Not to mention all the other places that might not be "beer bars", but host beer events and have high quality offerings. Hopefully we'll see more beer bars and more craft beer taps in the future to relieve some of the congestion that's being caused by all the new beer showing up. 
A lot of people involved in the Indy beer scene would agree that Indy's beer scene has come a long way since DFH left, but still has a ways to go before being a major factor in the national scene. We need more neighborhood beer bars, more educational events, and maybe different laws, With much respect to current breweries, we still need a "destination" brewery, a place that combines quality beer, events, a well thought out and executed space, etc. in to one package. The fact that we can complain about such things shows how we've grown since 2011.
DFH makes fine beers and I've been known to enjoy some of their seasonal offerings now and again, plus they do a great job with glassware. People that got into craft beer since they left will be drawn to a big name "new" to the state. Others may go pick up old favorites, or try new DFH offerings, but DFH's impact here won't be as big as it once was. 
Dogfish Head use to be a big fish in a little pond, now they're a big fish still, but returning to a much bigger pond... whenever that happens. 

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