Local breweries continue to put their own modern twist on beer while connecting with the community

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In a changing world full of overwhelming technology, nostalgia can drive people to hold onto tradition. Evansville is a place of rich history and the community and its rituals are connected by one standout product—beer.

The history of beer in Evansville goes back as far as the city’s German roots. Evansville was well

known in its early days for its many successful breweries. The first major brewing company, known as Old Brewery, opened in 1837, jump-starting the beer business in Evansville.

F.W. Cook Brewing Co.followed in 1853 and the Evansville Brewing Association formed in 1894. The Association, which changed its name to Sterling Brewery in 1918, consisted of several small breweries joining together to compete with Cook.

There is now a generation of drinkers who have grown up with local craft beers.

While Cook and Sterling were successful for decades, both breweries ultimately closed down. Each company tried to sell as much product as it could in as big of an area as possible. Modern breweries have taken a different approach to adapt to the market in Evansville: keeping it local and adding a unique twist.

Turoni’s laid the foundation for the city’s evolving brewery culture. The Main Street location opened in 1963 as a pizzeria and added a brewery in 1996. The restaurant is now classified as a brewpub, an establishment that combines the family-friendly pub-style restaurant with an independent brewery.

Tom Turner, Turoni’s owner and former head brewer, said his parents were inspired by a brewpub they visited on a trip to Florida. After researching brewpubs in cities like Nashville and Indianapolis, the Turners decided to bring the craft beer movement to Evansville.

“The beer just went hand in hand with pizza,” Turner said. “I think it was the right fit at the right time for Evansville.”

The Evansville community agreed—beer made Turoni’s even more popular. The original restaurant has expanded four times and in 2010 the Turners opened a third location in Newburgh. Despite their success, they had to work through a tough learning Process.

In the 1990s, Turoni’s beer could be found at other breweries and restaurants like Hooters and the now closed Fast Eddy’s. As demand grew the brewers struggled to keep up. Turner said they chose to start selling beer only at Turoni’s locations. “The goal is to produce a quality beer to go along with our fresh pizza,” he said.

As craft beer and brewpubs continued to grow in popularity across the country, more local breweries followed the Turners’ lead and opened in Evansville. Carson’s Brewery officially launched in 2013, followed by Maidens Brewery and Pub in March 2018. Both breweries were inspired by the same love of beer and local quality product that worked for Turoni’s, but each owner took their brewery in their own direction.

Jason Carson, owner of Carson’s, said he considered locations for a brewpub, but as with Turoni’s, Carson had to make a choice about distribution due to the high demand for his product. He decided to stick with a taproom.

“We want to focus on the quality of the product we offer,” he said.

On the other hand, John Mills, owner of Maidens, has wanted to open his own brewpub since he was 21 years old. Maidens beer can be found in some local restaurants and patrons can purchase a Crowler, a 32-ounce to-go can of beer. But Mills said his goal is for the beer to be enjoyed at the pub.

The success of these craft breweries is no coincidence. Like their beer, they come in various shapes and styles but each ultimately has the same goal—providing quality fresh beer to their local community. While it may seem like an easy task, not every brewery lasts. Tin Man Brewing Co., a once popular brewery, closed its taproom in 2018. There is no set recipe for local brewery success.

“Martha Stewart can give me her cake recipe, but I’m not going to make Martha’s cake,” Mills said.

The biggest strategy each owner has used in promoting their brand is resonating with the community. For a small business, the formula for success is to appeal to the people and local culture. Carson’s has found a way to combine its fresh tastes with local traditions through Evansville’s many festivals. Carson said the brewery donates time and product to many charities and festivals to give back to the supportive community.

Mills also participates in festivals across the Tri-State, particularly events like the West Side Nut Club Fall Festival that occur directly along the Franklin Street strip that Maidens calls home. Mills said the location is a perfect spot to be a part of the Community.

At the end of the day, the best community outreach the breweries can utilize is their beer. Craft beer gives brewers and drinkers alike a chance to experiment with names, flavors and styles of beer.

“We just want to try and help and to promote craft beer and our brand in general,” Carson said.

The unique tastes of craft beer give owners a chance to reach customers who may not like other domestic brands of beer. Maidens even takes its female-inspired name to a new level—each of its signature brews has a woman’s name. They currently have a Honey Blonde Ale called “Jessica” and a West Coast IPA called “Karen.” Mills hopes to counter the stereotype that beer is a “male” beverage and also provide an opportunity for people to connect with a “beer identity.”

By keeping their beer local, each owner impacts the community economically as well. Even though Carson works with a national distributor tied to larger brands, the beer and the money is still staying in the community. Local employees do the research and quality control and they work hard to make sure each batch turns out the way it should.

“We are a local establishment,” Carson said. “It’s not just us. There are many local shops and stores and restaurants. 100 percent of the money stays here.” There is now a generation of drinkers who have grown up with local craft beers. They are educated, know what they want and want more of it. Local brewers plan to continue introducing new flavors always catering to their clientele with a fresh product. Sometimes they work together along the way.

There is a strong fraternity of brewers in Evansville and the surrounding areas. In order to provide new flavors and pioneer unique styles, information and resources must be shared. Carson works with larger breweries through his distributor. “They help us out even though they are the big guys,” he said.

Turner said he once met the head brewer of Samuel Adams and has called him since for brewing Advice. 

By supporting each other and their community, local Evansville breweries have become the center of beer culture in the area, and they plan to continue building on their success.

Local breweries have adapted over time so they can offer the community the best local product and experience they can get. With new flavors coming out frequently and festivals to prepare for, each owner has a full plate. But Carson believes this high demand for fresh local beer can only lead to expansion. “I think we have the potential to have a lot more brewpubs in Evansville,” he said.

With Myriad Brewing Company’s 2018 opening, it is clear that Evansville’s long history with local beer is far from over. No matter if you prefer Turoni’s family-friendly pizza spot, Maidens modern twist on drink names and food or Carson’s intimate taproom, there is a brewery and a beer for you in Evansville. Whether you’re spending too much money at the Fall Festival or distracting yourself from homework, enjoy a fresh cold beer at one of the many local breweries. Just don’t forget to procrastinate—and drink—responsibly.

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