Not many may think about the history and brewing process behind a craft beer when sitting at a bar ready to take their first sip.
But before beer becomes beer, it begins as water. Malt, hops and yeast are then added and taken out through a 10-hour brewing process. The brew then sits for about a week for the alcohol to ferment and develop with the yeast. The entire operation takes three to four weeks for the beer to be filled into a keg and delivered to its final destination.
Recently, the Bloomington Brewing Company began bottling and canning its own beers at the brewery. Rooftop IPA is available in bottles, while Ruby Bloom, Kirkwood Cream and 10-Speed Mosaic Wheat are in cans. The BBC bottles, cans and kegs are available at Lennie’s and various Big Red Liquor stores.
“What makes us unique to any other brewery in the city or the state or the country is that we treat craft beer like its our lifestyle,” head brewer Nick Banks said. “It’s not just a company that’s trying to make money. It’s not just a job we wake up for in the morning.”
In 1994, the Bloomington Brewing Company opened on 10th Street next door to owner Jeff Mease’s restaurant Lennie’s. Mease said when it first opened, the brewpub was one of 400 in the country in 1994. In 2019, there are more than 7,000 nationwide.
“We’ve been really focused on quality for our whole history, and I think our beers are outstanding,” Mease said. “We try to do interesting stuff and bring an interesting art both in our branding and labeling and the product itself.”
The brewery’s history is manifested in its mainstay beer, Ruby Bloom. This ale is one of the longest brewing beers at the pub, existing almost as long as the company itself.
Prior to the creation of Bloomington Brewing Company, Mease worked with local legislators to reshape Indiana state law to better accommodate small breweries. The previous law did not allow a person to have the multiple alcohol licenses necessary to create a brewpub or brewery.
Through his involvement and leadership, Mease helped draft the bill that was eventually passed through state legislature. This decision allowed for brewpubs to be possible in Indiana. Mease was one of the first to open a brewpub after the law change.
The company has strong local roots with its craft beers dispersed around both Bloomington and the state of Indiana. The brewery crafts a mixture of beers ranging from historical staples to newfound creations.
Historical staples include Ruby Bloom and Rooftop IPA. Newfound creations include Persimmon, 10-Speed Mosaic Wheat and Back Country Session IPA.
Banks said the brewing company prides itself on its balance of science and artistry to craft beer. Playing with the balance of malt and hops, Banks identifies trends in the craft beer market and holes in the menu when creating new beers to fit different tastes.
Banks earned his position as head brewer through his creation of 10-Speed Mosaic Wheat Wheat and Persimmon Ale, two of the brewery’s popular specialty drafts.
After moving locations in this summer, Lennie’s and the Bloomington Brewing Company are now located on KirkwoodAvenue. Mease said he wants the BBC to grow bigger by expanding locally rather than expansively. He said maintaining the quality of the beer is what is important when growing the company.
“We want to get bigger because we’re better,” said Mease.
Lennie’s general manager Matt Hougthon said the brewpub’s current top seller is Rooftop IPA, which has dry hops and not much malt. The BBC's website describes this beer as "golden with a smooth mouthfeel." All of the BBC’s beers can be found on tap at Lennie’s.
The brewery also has beers available at multiple other Bloomington restaurants, including Nick’s English Hut, the Bluebird and Mother Bear’s Pizza. Banks said the brewery has strong relationships with multiple restaurants locally, especially those committed to building business within Bloomington.
“We want to be the local brewery,” said Mease. “Local is really, really important to us.”