Tin Man Brewing Co.: Craft series part one

Roberto Campos

There are more than 2,700 microbreweries in the United States that produce craft beer for a group of people that enjoy its flavorful taste.

Carson’s Brewery, Turoni’s Pizzery & Brewery and Tin Man Brewing Company are three Evansville microbreweries a part of a growing industry which has found its way on to local shelves and taps across the nation.

This is the first of a five-part series dissecting local craft beer.

Surrounded by the aroma of hops and production of beer, Nick Davidson sits in the back of a brewery located on Franklin Street, a brick building with the words ‘Tin Man Brewing Co.’ painted white on its exterior.

Davidson, calm and in his element, boasts black-framed glasses, a multitude of ear piercings, a dark-red goatee and a gray mechanic style button-up shirt that hosts the Tin Man logo – a circle with a robot’s face in the center and the letters T and M.

Tin Man Brewing Company opened its doors on Black Friday in 2012.

Indiana has 82 registered microbreweries according to Lee Smith, executive director of Brewers of Indiana Guild.

By definition, a microbrewery, also known as craft breweries, in Indiana. It operates on a small brewer’s permit, which allows each brewery in the state to produce up to 30,000 barrels of beer annually.

Microbreweries produce small amounts of beer, commonly known as “craft beer,” characterized by its wide range of flavors and generally more expensive prices.

They are known for producing a plethora of styles of beer which innovate and challenge the status quo of more mainstream brands.

Davidson started brewing beer at home while attending The Illinois Institute of Art.

After graduating, the Evansville native moved to Indianapolis and witnessed a craft beer movement – something which inspired his endeavor to create a brewery that combined his childhood love of robots and beer.

“I’ve always been into beer,” said Davidson, Tin Man president and owner. “I love the taste. There’s not really a style of beer I don’t like. … When you start to like something, you want to learn how it’s made and I think that’s why I got into making my own When you’ve been doing something for so long and it’s such a passion, if you can start a business and make it your profession, why wouldn’t you?”

Microbreweries across America contribute to the $100 billion beer industry, according to an article by Forbes magazine.

In the past five years, more than a third of those breweries have surfaced.

Non-microbrewing companies like Anheuser-Busch – producers of Budweiser – control the market share in the industry.

“This is a trend happening throughout the country,” Smith said. “It’s very interesting because we’re in a rough economy and businesses are failing all over the place, and yet craft breweries, which offer more expensive beer – it’s more expensive than buying a case of Budweiser – they’re doing really well.”

Smith said the success of microbreweries to people’s interest in buying local goods.

“You have to remember that even though we are growing rapidly in Indiana, and in the country, we still only represent a total of 3 percent of beer consumption,” Smith said.

Since its inception, Tin Man has earned numerous accolades, such as Entrepreneur of the Year from The Chamber of Commerce of Southwest Indiana and People’s Choice award for Brew Haven Craft Beer Festival.

Despite the awards, Tin Man has had its struggles in its first year of business.

Tin Man is one of three breweries in the country to use a “mash filter,” which helps conserve energy and water during the brewing process. The brewing company received one of the first mash filters from a company new to manufacturing it, and it didn’t function properly – Tin Man had to race to fix the vital piece of equipment.

The brewing company also had to introduce craft beer to a population that’s used to drinking “light” beer, which might not be attuned to the taste of craft beer.

“When you’ve drank light beer for so long and then have something that actually has flavor I think either a light goes off or it doesn’t,” Davidson said. “You either go ‘Wow, this is what I want to drink from now on, I can’t go back to the old stuff’ or you decided that it tastes just awful. I think that’s how it usually works for people.”

Tin Man offers two different series of beers: the Converter Series and the Precision Series.

To ease the Evansville community into the new beer, the Converter Series was created with the non-craft drinker in mind.

The “Converter Series” beers serve as an introduction to craft beer and the wide range of tastes it can offer. This is a business strategy many microbreweries apply when first entering in a market, Smith says.

The “Precision Series” beers offer tastes consumers of craft beer are accustomed to, tastes that span the spectrum of hoppy and fruity to malty or sour.

Smith describes how microbrewing isn’t about making money, it’s about making a product they’re passionate about.

“(Being a microbrewer) is about being truthful and honest about what you’re brewing, using quality ingredients,” Smith said. “For all of our brewers that I know in Indiana and outside of Indiana, it’s really not about the money. Sure they want to be successful, but that’s so they can keep doing something that they are really passionate about.”

Jason Larrison, contributing editor at Hoosierbeergeek.blogspot.com, enjoys Tin Man’s beer and thinks the brewery has found its voice in the craft beer world, he said.

“Evansville is kind of being disconnected from the rest of the state because of roads, but I think that corner of the state is ready for variety and local beers,” Larrison said. “Tin Man has come in at the right time.”

To be successful, Tin Man uses the feedback it gets from the Evansville community.

“I think the community helps shape Tin Man,” Davidson said. “That’s the nice thing about being a small business. You can take that feedback and use it immediately. If we’ve released a style of beer that people aren’t crazy about, instantly we can say we’re not brewing that anymore.”

As for Tin Man’s future, Davidson wants to expand its distribution operation in Indiana, and eventually to the surrounding states.

“I think craft beer is starting to change (the perception of beer as a blue-collar drink),” Davidson said. “Breweries like Dogfish Head that have created such a unique product, every beer is so different,
they command a high price. I think that’s starting to show people that ‘Hey, we’re making good stuff and you can pair it with so many different things.’ It’s not just the working man’s drink.”