Despite a continued explosion of craft breweries throughout Indiana, the new president of Indianapolis-based Sun King Brewing Co. says he sees ample room for even more growth. "When you look at craft beer consumption in Indiana versus other states, we have tons and tons of opportunities," said Bob Whitt, who will become president of the state’s second-largest brewer April 18. "In Portland, Oregon as an example, over 50 percent of the beer consumer there is craft, and we are way below that so, we have lots of options."
The growth of the craft beer movement in Indiana in recent years has been striking. In 2010, there were less than 40 breweries statewide. Today the number tops 120…and growing. The latest, Metazoa Brewing Company, held a grand opening for its downtown Indianapolis location April 1.
Sun King continues to do its part to contribute to Indiana’s burgeoning beer sector, which the Brewers of Indiana Guild estimates generates more than $1 billion in economic impact statewide.
The company recently launched distribution in northern Indiana, effectively expanding its footprint statewide. The nearly seven year-old brewer expects to produce about 45,000 barrels of beer this year, thanks to state legislation easing craft production limits. "That was a huge win for Sun King and Three Floyds and Upland, three of the largest brewers, but we’ve got a lot of smaller breweries who continue to grow because beer is the most popular adult beverage in the world," said Sun King co-founder and owner Clay Robinson.
As Robinson looks to grow Sun King into "Indiana’s Beer," he’s hired a president who is no stranger to the Indianapolis business community.
Whitt has served as executive director of White River State Park for the last nearly eleven years and is credited with growing the property into one of the state’s most-recognized, and visited, attractions.
In an interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, Whitt said the move from tourism to beer is a natural one. "White River State Park is about making Indianapolis and Indiana a better place to live, work and play," said Whitt. "When you think about Sun King, it fits right into that mold. Their community involvement is really unmatched."
Whitt sees continued statewide expansion and an entry into distilled spirits as two key growth opportunities.
Whitt succeeds Omar Robinson, a co-founder and owner, who was key to growing the brewery from zero to 30,000 barrels in six years. He will remain on the brewery’s board and continue to be involved in strategy, which son Clay says will focus on growth.
"There’s plenty of room for good beer," said the younger Robinson. "People’s tastes are changing, they want to drink local and support their local community and it’s the wave of the future."