Small Breweries Carrying Big Share of Growth in The State

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INDIANAPOLIS and FISHERS -

The executive director of the Brewers of Indiana Guild says smaller-scale operations are leading the way for industry growth in the state. Rob Caputo, a co-founder and former head brewer at Flat 12 Bierwerks in Indianapolis, says a combination of demand from craft beer fans, an increasing consumer push for local food and drink and "pro-brewery" policies have vaulted the Hoosier brewing industry to its current level over the last six or seven years. Indiana is now home to between 160-170 breweries.

Caputo, who was joined by Fishers-based SteadyServ Technologies Chief Executive Officer Steve Hershberger on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, said the "hybrid-brewpub" model is driving growth. These businesses have a small brewing operation and some food available. "What you're seeing is you've got these folks who are still interested in growing it that are in small, local communities. (They) set up an independent business -- it's either a cornerstone for redevelopment or somebody that's a community gathering place that's servicing the community on a variety of levels," Caputo said.

Hershberger's company creates technology to help businesses manage alcohol inventory, tap lineups and keg levels. He says the food and drink industry is changing everywhere and craft beer is a factor. "Nationally, there's been about a nine percent shift in consumption pattern from on-premise retail -- bars, restaurants, taverns -- to tap rooms, brewery tap rooms," Hershberger said. "They do an excellent job in representing the brand, as well as the education to the consumers, so the consumer is experiencing that. But when they go back into the retail environment, what they're expecting is that same level of visibility and that same level of information and in some cases, that's true, but in many cases, that's not yet true."

The guild estimates the craft beer industry supports some 8,000 full-time jobs in the state and has an economic impact of over $1 billion.

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