Drink Local: Warsaw’s beverage scene builds on the laketown's culinary creativity

It’s no secret that the Warsaw and Winona Lake community are driving the area’s restaurant scene toward a new standard with locally sourced menu items and made-in-house specialty recipes. 

A focus on living, eating—and drinking—well with a do-it-yourself attitude have been distinguishing themes of the area’s culinary creations for generations. 

But while any city’s food and drink scene can boast hidden gems, it becomes something special when those gems show dedication and integrity toward creating one-of-a-kind, authentic experiences.

This is exactly what Orthocity Brewery and Smokehouse, Tippy Creek Winery, and HopLore Brewing in Kosciusko County are focused on.  

When it comes to the adult beverage sector, the well of drinks locally brewed in Warsaw has only deepened over the years. These businesses are refining the art of alcohol creation with local flair, providing family-friendly environments and genuine home-cooked meals to compliment their specialty drinks.


Orthocity Brewery and Smokehouse

 

Orthocity Brewery and Smokehouse is located at 975 Warren St. in Warsaw.

Located on the west side of Warsaw just outside of Warsaw city limits, the small-but-booming Orthocity Brewery and Smokehouse attracts hungry customers—from regulars who live or work only minutes down the street to visitors from as far away as London and Wales.

On their opening day on in February 2018, a line waited outside the door.

The owners, Brad Sitter and Brad “The Other Brad” Bibler, know their customer demographic quite well. As Warsaw resides as the Orthopedic Capital of the World, the industry brings in many orthopedic workers who help spread the word about a small barbecue and brew joint to their nation- and world-wide connections.

Because Sitter and Bibler are former members of the local orthopedic industry themselves, many of their beers tout names that nod to industry terms, such as the “Bonehealer” and the “510K” (an FDA form). All of these flavors are concocted and brewed in-house by Head Brewer Chuck “Bulldog” Bowlds.

Head Brewer Chuck “Bulldog” Bowlds at Orthocity.

Bowlds began his journey with Orthocity as another dedicated regular, a recent retiree from Chicago who relocated to Warsaw to settle down and stay close to his adult children and grandchildren. Before the restaurant changed names and moved locations, he was already heavily interested in home-brewing and barbecue. So when he heard about ideas for the new restaurant, he knew it was something he wanted to be involved with. 

“My middle daughter bought me my first home-brew kit, and I’ve been brewing ever since,” Bowlds says. “Brad called me and asked if I could swing a hammer, and I said I’m real handy, so he told me to be there at 9 a.m. the next day.”

Alana Hernley and Andrew Hawblitzel enjoy a meal at Orthocity.

Inside, the new space at 975 Warren St. near Zimmer-Biomet shows little resemblance to the gun shop it used to be, yet remnants of the shop subtly contribute to the newly designed atmosphere. Sitter, Bibler, and Bowlds completed renovations themselves on the old gun shop, repurposing as many leftover wood and metal materials as possible. When customers step inside, they will see the tables, a bar, and walls finished by hand by the three men and their crew of friends and family. They poured the patio concrete, drove across the country for brewing and smoking supplies, and constructed the 16-chair bar themselves.

“We went through a lot of water, a lot of beer, and a lot of laughs,” Bibler says.

Orthocity serves many members of Warsaw's booming orthopedic industry.

Famously known for their delectable smoked meat, their tenderloins are so coveted that customers have learned to call ahead and reserve one for later. Other menu items, like their ribs and BBQ parfait, are rising in fame, too. Because certain meats, like their brisket, take around 12 hours to smoke, a lot of planning is involved. 

But beyond their food, what’s lesser known is how deeply philanthropic their business is. On top of sponsoring several non-profits in Kosciusko County with various events, hosting fundraisers, and offering their catering services, Orthocity touts something more unique: a concept called Beer for Good.

Orthocity collects bottle caps for a program called Beer for Good.

As customers order from the bar, they receive a large bottle cap along with their drink that then goes into one of three collection barrels hanging on the wall. These barrels full of bottle caps now representing 25 cents each that Orthocity will donate to advertising for three rotating non-profit organizations in the area, such as The Beaman Home, Boomerang Backpacks, and the Kosciusko Literacy Services. The clink of metal bottle caps bouncing into a glass barrel is a common sound on any given night at the restaurant.

For upcoming events and more info, visit Orthocity's Facebook page.

 

Tippy Creek Winery

 

Tippy Creek Winery is located at 5920 N. 200 E. in Leesburg.

Tippy Creek Winery in Leesburg, Ind., is close to Tippecanoe Lake on Dan and Lori Richcreek’s family property. They take pride in being the only winery within a 50-mile radius while also being surrounded by the county’s many lakes.  

The winery’s story began in 2009 after the Richcreek’s adult children gifted them a wine-making kit for Christmas. When their batches of homemade wine became more and more successful, their passion for the craft grew, and they began gifting bottles to friends and family.

Before they knew it, they had more wine than they knew what to do with, so Dan perfected his craft by taking online classes at the University of California, Davis, which is the largest viticultural (wine growing and harvesting) school in the country.

A sampling of Tippy Creek Winery's flavors.

The Richcreek’s property of green rolling hills and classic Indiana countryside has been in their family for more than 50 years, and they thought it was the perfect spot to bring their dream of connecting the community over glasses of homemade wine to life. They broke ground for the winery in July 2015, and Tippy Creek opened its doors in June 2016.

Lori says that while her family is fulfilling a dream, it wouldn’t be possible without the community’s support. As such, the winery stays focused on acting as a community gathering place.

“We feel blessed because a lot of people told us we were crazy and that this would never work in this area,” Lori says. “But we did see a void in this area because the closest winery to go to is about 50 miles away from Two EE’s in Roanoke, Country Heritage Winery in Laotto, or Fruit Hills Winery and Orchard in Bristol. There was nothing connecting those wineries to us, so we went forward and built.”

Tippy Creek Winery's patio is pet friendly.

Testifying their success in their craft, Tippy Creek Winery received Double Gold and Best in Class awards for their red wine, Tippy Zippy, at the Indy International Wine Competition during their first year of operation. Visitors might just be able to meet the famous Zippy, the Richcreek’s family dog, lounging around the winery on any given day.

Beyond that, the Richcreeks explain that their wine is as home-made as it gets. Because Indiana’s environment isn’t good for fruit growing, they source their juice from vineyards in Michigan and the West Coast. Then Dan begins the four to six month process of fermentation, using different blends of grapes to create their range of flavors.

Tippy Creek has a spacious indoor dining area.

Locals can enjoy wines named after the many lakes in the area, such as Chapman Catawba, Winona White Caps, and Dewart Dry Dock, while visitors can learn about the lake environment that helps define Kosciusko County.

For the winery’s event schedule, visit its Facebook page.

 

HopLore Brewing

Customers write on the wall at HopLore Brewing, adding to its ambiance.
 

While Kosciusko County’s land isn’t the ideal environment for vineyards, HopLore Brewing in Leesburg, Indiana, has unearthed an ingredient totally unique to brewing that northeastern Indiana can lay claim to: Donuts.

Amish Krack, as HopLore Brewing has dubbed its beer, is made with the widely-praised, Amish-made sugary donuts of Rise‘n Roll Bakery. But their menu’s connections to the surrounding community don’t stop there.

Drew Wilks caps bottles of beer at HopLore Brewing.

The Owner Stefan King and Head Brewer Joseph Hull opened HopLore Brewing in the Old Leesburg Mill in the spring of 2017, turning the 115-year-old building into a bright and modern hangout spot that’s created to bring people together.

“We didn’t want TVs every two feet,” King says. “We wanted to be more of a community gathering place. It’s fun to watch people sit at the bar, talk to someone they’ve never met before, strike up a conversation, and the next time they see each other, they’re friends. That was something that really flowed, but our personalities are worked into the building themselves at this point.”

HopLore Brewing is a community gather space.

Both northeastern Indiana locals from Elkhart, Ind., King and Hull attended high school together and reconnected about 10 years later when they noticed their interests in home-brewing aligned. They also wanted to maintain their respective crafts while taking their careers in a different direction than their current jobs were going.

At the time, Hull was in bacterial fermentation and King was managing a restaurant, so they came together around craft beer.

“The different flavors—the freshness of real beer—is what really interested me,” Hull says. “I was told making beer was much easier than what I was currently doing, so I experimented and realized I was pretty good.”

Head Brewer Joseph Hull, left, and Drew Wilks bottle and cap beer at HopLore.

Today, Hull has been perfecting his craft of home-brewing for five years, and the brewing process at HopLore takes about eight steps. He and King continue to experiment with recipes. Combined with King’s culinary background, other recipes as unique as Amish Krack have been born, such as their fruity Dreamsicle series of beers.

“We like to consider ourselves the brewery for beer geeks, so we get a lot of hard-to-find, rare things in stock,” King says.

Whatever types of beers HopLore doesn’t brew themselves, they fill the gaps with guest taps from local breweries or their own favorites. Their own footprint also extends past Kosciusko County, where they have about 30 accounts between South Bend and Fort Wayne.

HopLore Brewing offers a spacious modern bar and dining area.

Despite their regional reach, their focus remains intensely local. HopLore maintains its connections to the Warsaw area community with everything from hosting trivia and euchre nights, to featuring the talents of area artists.  

It also extends its community responsibility to how its products are made. On its menu, the meat for tacos and summer sausage comes from a farm less than a mile away, where the animals are in-turn fed with the brewery’s spent grain.

“The intertwine of the community and what we do is very important,” King explains. “The saying is, ‘drink local,’ but you can’t expect the people to drink local if you’re also not trying to support the local community.”

As part of HopLore's community spirit, guests hang personalized beer mugs on the wall.

The power of this philosophy is written on the walls. Literally. Inside HopLore, the walls are covered in sharpie with hundreds of names and sayings. Paintings for sale from local artists line the walls, and HopLore hopes to add art from Redbird Art Studio, where all artists are clients of Cardinal Services in Warsaw (an organization that assists and advocates for people with disabilities).

Whenever HopLore hosts live music, they strive to select musicians locally, as well. Their previous “Live, Local Music” series held artists exclusively from Leesburg’s 550-person town.

For their upcoming events, visit their Facebook page.

Read more articles by Ciara Knisely.

Ciara Knisely is Input Fort Wayne’s “Focus on Warsaw” Project Editor. As a recent Manchester University graduate and a Warsaw native, she enjoys the opportunity to highlight powerful narratives in the local area. She also works for OrthoWorx, Inc., a local grassroots non-profit, and Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation.
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