America is flush with breweries. A new one opens almost once a day. Oregon, Michigan, and Indiana are spearheading this transformation of the dramming landscape. Evansville, Indiana is no exception. While there is by no means a plethora of breweries in this mid-sized, Southwest Indiana town, those in operation are top-notch. Tin Man Brewing is one of those setting a benchmark through their creative, unique, and delicious brews.
Tin Man was the first place I went when I visited Evansville last summer. I was coming down from Indianapolis to check on a job prospect and needed a place to quench my thirst after sweating it through the initial interview process. I was and am a big fan of what some of the breweries in Indianapolis (Books and Brew, Brugge, Bier, and Fountain Square) are cranking out, so I had to see if that magic had made its way down to E’ville. I am pleased to say it has found a home in the walls of Tin Man. And, I have been going back on nearly a weekly (sometimes more) basis to eat, drink, and be merry (I usually leave my tights and green feathered cap at home).
Tin Man is located on historic Franklin Street (which is also home to the Fall Festival – claimed as the second largest street festival in the country outside of Mardi Gras in NOLA). Founded in 2012 as a combo restaurant/brewery the operation is located in an old, two-story brick building which has been completely redone on the outside and inside to provide a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing experience for its parishioners. Nick Davidson is the President, Owner, and Master Brewer. In other words, he is the brains of the outfit.
I had the pleasure to learn a little more about what Tin Man is all about earlier this week. There is a group in Evansville called the Evansville Area Craft Beer Club. They are beer loving folks who gather together on a monthly basis to share in and further said love for the frothy tipples of the world. This month the meeting was at Tin Man. I was invited to join and I am glad I did. So, what did I learn about Tin Man and their craft magic.
We started off the evening enjoying a dram at the second floor tasting room. I chose a special beer they had on tap (which I had previously a few weeks before for their Firkin Friday special) which was a barrel-aged version of their Overlord Imperial IPA. Now, I am a big fan of barrel-aged ales. I absolutely love Tyranena’s Rocky’s Revenge which is a barrel-aged American brown ale and both my wife (who hates beer) and I crave Alltech’s Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale. So, I knew I was going to enjoy this one and I did. I told Nick later that evening that if he decides to can (they use cans – more on this later) this bad boy I would by a six-pack at least once per week. Here’s to hoping others tell him the same thing and that he listens. *Fingers Crossed*
After we enjoyed our first (and for some of us, second) drink, Nick took us through a little background on the brewery. As the founder, Nick drew his inspiration from his past. He was a home brewer during college. He fell in love with beer while he was living in Indianapolis. And, when he moved back to E’ville he decided to put this knowledge and passion to work. Since opening in 2012, Tin Man has gone through a lot of changes in both beer and staffing, but they have come out the other side very successful. Currently, the place is run by four brewers and Nick’s wife does all of the marketing. By the way, she does an excellent job. The four brewers make eleven regular brews and two, one-off brews for the world to enjoy.
After a brief history of the place, we continued the evening with a tasting of four of their beers: Positronic, Rivet, Circuit, and Alloy. All the names for their beers are both apropos and not over-cloying, so that is as refreshing as their beer tastes.
Positronic is the latest addition to their line-up. It is their first foray into Belgian beers. While it is not my favorite of their line-up (in fact, it might just be my least favorite) that does not mean it is bad. I think it could use a lot of experimentation. It is very smooth. There is some slight fruit on the palate. I picked up citrus and maybe a little faint hint of banana. It finished off a little spicy and dry.
Rivet is their Irish Red Ale. It was their successful attempt to convince the Budlight drinkers of Southwest Indiana to enjoy the trappings of a well-designed, tasty, and complex craft beer. It is much smoother than Killian’s. I found it to be a smooth and delicious beer with a nice malt backbone. I picked up a lot of carmel and toffee on the palate.
Circuit is their Pilsner. This is my favorite beer of their line-up and I hate Pilsners. I don’t know if that means this is a good beer or not, but I love it. They started out using a lager yeast with this beer, but it caused too many problem (i.e. keeping it alive). Lager yeasts are very temperamental. So, the current iteration utilizes a czech yeast. This Pilsner reminds me a lot of Hofbrauhaus‘ Pilsner. It is sweet, light, and smooth on the palate. I get some chalky candy like USA Smarties (not the chocolate ones).
Alloy is their standard IPA and was the last one in the tasting line-up. It is a classic American pale ale. They use cascade hops in the mashbill. I got a lot of citrus on the palate, especially grapefruit.
I cannot justify doing a typical rating scale on these tipples because it was an uncontrolled (and frankly loud/chaotic) environment. But, I can justify ranking them based on my enjoyment. So, here is my ranking:
After the tasting it was on to the tour. I grabbed an extra tasting glass and had it while we were on the move. That might have been a mistake because I might have been a little tipsy during the tour and might have missed a few points of information along the way. Anyways, on we go.
Nick walked us through their entire process…
From the mash tun where are the grains are combined, turning the starches into sugars for consumption (not by us quite yet) during the fermentation stage.
To the mash filter where the wort (clear liquid to be fermented into delicious beer) is separated from the spent grains. It is an extremely effective method of obtaining pure wort but is also extremely difficult. Tin Man is one of less than a handful of breweries in the country using a mash filter.
To the boiling kettle where the wort is combined with hops, and then on to the whirlpool (no, not your favorite hot tub…well maybe), and then the fermenting tanks which are aptly named after robots from movies and tv shows. They will be adding three more tanks in July. It will be fun to see if we get a Chappie out of the deal.
To the centrifuge which helps with various quality control issues.
And finally on to the bottling line.
We finished off the evening taking a look at the ’roundtable of the beer knights’ where the minds behind this operation do all of their creating.
And the hammer mill where the grains get smashed.
One of the things I love most about the whole operation is their intention to create a sustainable business. From using cans instead of bottles (which cuts down on the impact on the environment and keeps your beer colder for longer) to sourcing a lot of the grains and food products for their restaurant from local companies/farms, Tin Man is providing the world with better beer while make the world a better place to live. Cuddos!
All-in-all it was an amazing evening. It was nice to finally see how one of my favorite breweries works behind the scenes. My thanks to Nick and the crew at Tin Man for the opportunity to get a glimpse behind the curtain. Tipple on my friends!