This month, the state’s beer enthusiasts will descend on Indianapolis for the annual Indiana Microbrewers Festival. It’s the 24th time the Brewers of Indiana Guild has hosted this amazing event, but the history of brewing in Indiana goes back much earlier—and spans the entire state.
Here are four forgotten breweries, just a few of the many highlighted in Hoosier Beer: Tapping into Indiana Brewing History.
Today southeastern Indiana is known for Seagram’s, a venerable distillery now owned by MGP Ingredients, Inc., but in the 1870s the region’s big name was the Great Crescent Brewery. It was best known for its Aurora Lager Beer, and for a time it was the largest brewery in the state of Indiana. But that wasn’t all—the building also hosted the original Aurora Fire Company, which came in handy when the brewery caught fire in 1881.
The Wagners were brewing royalty in Lafayette, operating a series of concerns from the 1840s to the 1950s. Thieme & Wagner produced a number of brands, including Bohemian, Extra Brew, Lockweiler Special Brew, Star City and Ye Tavern Brew. During Prohibition, they branched into cider, though government tests found even that beverage contained 0.94 percent alcohol, thus making it technically illegal. Possibly related: it’s said that, each Christmas, the Wagners’ brewery gave a free case of beer to every policeman and fireman in town.
In the 1850s, a French immigrant named Peter Buchheit opened the Market Street Brewery, quickly expanding it until it included multiple buildings and lagering cellars that could hold 609 tons of ice. When Peter died, in 1877, his wife Barbara took over—one of several times such a transition occurred, leading to a handful of woman-run Hoosier breweries.
Indianapolis has a long history of drinking establishments. The American Brewing Co. was founded in 1897 and, at its largest, occupied a complex that stretched from Market Street to Ohio Street. It made a wheat (weiss) beer that was popular with the city’s German population of Indianapolis. The ABC also sponsored the Indianapolis ABCs Negro League baseball team, which won the Colored World Championship in 1916.