Craft series part five: Carson’s brewery


Roberto Campos

John Mills begins to lean back in his office chair as he gathers himself. He’s been brewing batches of various kinds of Carson’s Brewery beer all morning.

His fingers run through his peppered hair as he eventually settles in his posture, hands behind his head. He dons a matching long, peppered beard which commands attention.

A pint glass filled with a golden yellow Carson’s Pagan Pale Ale sits next to him on his desk – he reaches for the condensation-covered glass. This is one of Mills’s favorite beers the brewery produces, but the beer industry has been wooed by one of Pagan’s siblings.

The 2014 World Beer Cup awarded Carson’s Red Dawn Amber Wheat a silver medal in the category of American Style Wheat Beer during its bi-annual competition on April 11 in Denver, Co.

The largest competition to date, 1,403 breweries from 58 countries entered 4,754 beers in the competition. The Beer Association (BA) describes the event as “the Olympics of beer competitions.”

The World Beer Cup awards gold, silver and bronze medals to beers in each of its 95 beer style categories.

Carson’s started its operation in 2012, so for Mills, winning a silver medal as a young brewery packs significant meaning for himself professionally and for the Evansville brewery.

“It’s our first award as professionals. It’s exciting,” said Mills, Carson’s head brewer. “As a brewery, we’re not going to do anything different moving forward. We’ve just always tried to make good beer. We suspect there will be more demand for Red Dawn now.”

The idea behind Red Dawn was to make a beer that resembled New Belgium’s Fat Tire Amber Ale, due to the its popularity.

Red Dawn, one of Carson’s more prominent beers, was taste-tested against Fat Tire to gauge how successful the recipe was. According to Mills, tasters preferred Red Dawn.

“I threw in my own twist. I wanted to make it a wheat beer, and we wound up with this Amber Wheat beer,” Mills said. “Wheat beers are generally softer in flavors and generally seem to be better perceived as more drinkable, which could be a reason why people responded to it.”

Owner Jason Carson and Mills were bottling beers one day when Mills suggested naming the beer after the “Red Dawn” movie remake.

“Going into the competition, we had no clue what to expect since we’re so new,” Carson said. “It’s flattering to win, but I think the expectations moving forward maybe put a little pressure on us to continue winning awards. It’s two fold, but we’re honored.”

Prior to working at Carson’s, Mills had won other awards as a brewer.

In a similar fashion to the way many brewers are introduced to brewing, Mills started out home brewing. Brown Cow, one of Mills’s award winning home brews, is a Carson’s beer.

Customers who drink beers produced by mass production brewers like Anheuser–Busch InBev, makers of Budweiser, expect a consistent taste from those companies.

More leeway is given to craft brewers. While consistency is paramount for microbreweries, each new batch of beer is special and presents a unique variant. While is not an exact clone of its predecessor, it is close.

The Red Dawn consumers drink today is different from when it was first conceived due to change in equipment.

“That’s the beauty of craft beer,” Mills said. “It’s like replicating a piece of art. (If) you can get it really close, is it exact? Just how close do you want to critique it? I’m going to say that’s the artsy part of it.”

Moving forward, both Carson and Mills want to see the brewery’s distribution expanded to reach more craft beer consumers in Indiana and surrounding states.

Mills plans on brewing a sour beer in the future – a beer style that is growing in popularity in the United States.

“There’s a lot of work involved in brewing. It’s hot. It’s heavy. It’s wet,” Mills said. “Some people can say they don’t like their job, even for me a bad day here – I still make beer. It’s enjoyable still … anytime I walk out to the tasting room and see people enjoying themselves.”