Brewer Taps Gary for New Business
By Hilary Powell
January 23, 2014 — A business that is booming nationally is brewing here in the region and tapping into the love of lager.
Andrew Fox calls himself an artist.
Decked out in goulashes and cap, he concocts ales and lagers for a living at 18th Street Brewery.
“Craft beer to me is really the individual or individuals making the beer,” he says. “It is truly an art form. It’s really an industrial and scientific process.”
An industrial art form he says is set fittingly in the notorious steel city. Gary, Indiana has been fox’s home for nearly a decade.
A month-long sabbatical in Belgium secured his affinity for brewing.
“But the beer culture out there was way ahead of our time before most of us even know what craft beer was,” Fox says. “The first beer I had there was a really, murky, Hafeweizen at a hostel I stayed in and I fell in love with it.”
Now, he says he is sharing his passion with the people of Gary. Instead of focusing on the bar’s mission to serve up options beyond basic beer many people ask fox why he decided to root in Gary’s Miller Beach neighborhood.
“Well, why not,” he asks? “We get that question a lot. Frankly, I got tired of hearing all those pipe dreams that are going to come to my city and it just never came to fruition. I could have built this brewery anywhere, i could’ve built this brewery in Chicago in California. But I chose to build it here where I live and really show case to the world that Gary is not a ghost town or dead city.”
The taproom has been open for one month serving up a rotation of at least four beers daily.
“I actually tried all four beers he has on tap today, a flight, and I probably tried a few that I didn’t love,” says customer Steve Hutfilz. “I’m drinking the Lake Street now; love it to death. It is great.”
While Fox will not talk numbers, he will say business is brewing.
“It is a testament to what happens when a brewery is put in a city such as Gary,” he says.
Fox says you’ll see no TVs or flashy screens here. The brewer says the real social media is when you engage with the person next to you.
“Breweries have done that historically and it’ done that job of bridging that gap between the haves and have nots,” he says. “It all starts in my opinion with the conversation of your neighbor. And people start engaging and talking about conversations they’d never talk about.”
Despite his own open door philosophy, Fox says the accesses for small business owners was much more limited at Gary City Hall. He says it took six months to receive a permit.
“When we were opening this place, we were sent to twenty different places in city hall, and kind of given the runaround and I think that leaves a bitter taste in people’s mouths and they just give up altogether. It needs to be a one-stop shop for small businesses,” Fox says.
Studies show making small businesses feel at home in Gary can make a big difference for the community. A 2012 report from the Beer Institute shows local brewers brought 260 jobs to the state and more than $78 million in revenue.
Both customer and owner say the brewery sits on a sweet spot: The corner of Miller Avenue and an art-infused Lake Street.
“I think that’s great. I would love to see Miller Beach build up,” Hutfilz says.
“Karen Freeman-Wilson said in her address, ‘we’re open for business’ and I heeded that call,” Fox says.
Now, with cup in hand, customers are arriving, chatting and staying.