Mad Anthony’s first craft beer festival happened 20 years ago under a tent in a parking lot behind what used to be known as Munchie Emporium.
Unlike the Indiana-centric event it eventually became, the earliest festivals featured appearances from some of the big Michigan craft breweries, including Founders and Dark Horse. The Indiana craft beer juggernaut had not yet begun to throttle up back then.
Nowadays, of course, new microbreweries seem to open up in Indiana almost monthly.
This year’s festival, called Brewed IN the Fort and happening September 8 at Headwaters Park East, will feature no fewer than 55 breweries, meaderies, and cideries based in Indiana.
Yes, meaderies: Indianapolis’ renowned New Day Craft Mead & Cider will make the trek north for the first time in Mad Anthony’s history of celebrating Hoosier handcrafted hootch.
“We’ve been trying to get them for years, but they always seem to have an event that’s at the same time as ours,” said Josh Volz, Mad Anthony’s marketing director. “We’re super excited to have them.”
One new local microbrewery that will participate in the festival for the first time this year is 2Toms Brewing Company, he said.
2Toms operates on Wells Street and offers an array of intriguing beers, including a Mole Stout with ancho, guajillo, and habanero chiles, cocoa nibs, and cinnamon.
Two local craft breweries that aren’t yet fully operational will test the festival waters this year: dot & line and Fortlandia.
Fortlandia calls itself a nanobrewery and plans to produce fewer than a thousand barrels per year.
Vola said that Crown Point’s Off Square Brewing and Warsaw’s OrthoCity will make their festival debuts this year as well.
This 20th anniversary edition of Brewed IN the Fort will be the occasion for a project unveiling: something called the Northern Indiana Beer Trail passport.
“Along with other breweries throughout our area, we are starting a local beer trail that will include a passport,” Volz said. “You can get it stamped. Once you get so many stamps, you can turn it in for swag.”
The Northern Indiana Beer Trail involves 15 breweries at present, he said.
Those breweries, collectively known as the Northern Indiana Brewers Association, collaborated on a wheat beer that will debut at Brewed IN the Fort, Volz said.
Food at the festival will be provided by the following food trucks: Shigs In Pit, Affine, Bravas, Head 2 Hock, and Who Cut the Cheese, which recently won a national food truck award.
Bands that are scheduled to perform include Rogues & Bandits, Three Cities, and Horizon Arcs.
For the first time this year, designated drivers will be offered a thank you gift, Volz said.
One thing that separates Brewed IN the Fort from other craft brew festivals is who pours the beer, he said. At other festivals, booths and tables might be occupied solely by marketers or temporary workers. At Brewed IN the Fort, the people serving the beer will be the people who make it, Volz said.
“At our festival, when you go to a booth, you’re going to meet the people who make the beer,” he said. “You’re going to meet the people who run the company. Nothing against the people who work the booths at other festivals, but what you’re not going to get at Brewed IN the Fort is someone who just read a quick synopsis of what a beer is.
“I think that’s what makes it special,” Volz said. “You are able to connect on a personal level with these brewers and these companies and see what they’re all about.”