From the murals that line downtown alleyways, to the live music heard in local theatres and bars, it’s easy to see that Fort Wayne’s arts scene is exploding. But there’s another major player in the city’s up-and-coming, artistic development: its craft alcohol industry.
Regardless of your preferred adult beverage, you’ll find what you’re looking for among the Summit City's plethora of local breweries, wineries, cideries, and distilleries. And like a songwriter’s song or a painter’s masterpiece, each spot reflects the unique quirks and characteristics of the artists who created it.
But don’t take our word for it. Here are seven of the city's most groundbreaking, boundary-pushing spots for craft alcohol to experience for yourself. Cheers!
1. Mad Anthony Brewing Co.: Fort Wayne’s original microbrewery
Mad Anthony is known for having something on tap for beer lovers of all tastes.
As the original Fort Wayne microbrewery, Mad Anthony Brewing Co. began a trend in the city’s culinary community that set the bar for all who followed. And, as Mad Anthony’s Director of Marketing and Design, Josh Volz, tells it, choosing their path back in 1998 was easy.
“The original owners decided they wanted to offer the city something different,” he says. “They saw all the breweries opening up in Michigan and Indy, and said, ‘Let’s do beer.’”
Mad Anthony is Fort Wayne's original destination for craft beer.
So make beer they did. Originally opening as Munchie Emporium, the brewery has grown to become one of the most recognizable names in the northeast Indiana craft beer scene, opening additional locations in Auburn, Warsaw, and Angola. Although they now share the region’s craft beer sector with a growing list of competitors, Volz welcomes an expanding community of peers.
“The last study I saw said that the percentage of beer sold in the state that is craft brew is only 3.4 percent, so there’s still a lot of room to grow,” he explains. “When new breweries show up, it’s just another one to add to our team.”
Mad Anthony brews more than 2,500 barrels of beer annually from its tanks on-site.
2. Summit City Brewerks: The spot for ‘adventurous’ flavors
Summit City Brewerks offers more than 30 taps of unique brews all made on-site.
Since Summit City Brewerks first opened its doors in October 2014, its owners Will Long and David Tomaszewski have quickly established themselves as a brewing team focused on pushing boundaries.
“I think all breweries are unique in different ways,” Long says. “But we are a little bit of everything. That’s been our thing from the beginning because it can become like a factory job if you’re making the same exact same beers every day.”
Summit City Brewerk's owners Will Long and David Tomaszewski are a team focused on pushing boundaries.
His Co-Founder Tomaszewski says their adventurous spirit is, in many ways, the reason for their success.
“We’re adventurous people,” he explains. “And some of those adventures have turned out to be a really good staple beers for us. I mean, our Toast and Jam brew is one of our biggest sellers, and it’s one of the oddest beers in town.”
Summit City is known for its adventurous flavors of craft beer.
3. Three Rivers Distilling Co.: Fort Wayne’s only craft distillery
Three Rivers Distilling Co.'s space at 224 E. Wallace St. was first occupied by Holsum Bakery from the 1940's until the 1970's.
Not everyone in the Fort Wayne craft alcohol scene brews beer. One trip to the city’s only distillery, Three Rivers Distilling Co., and you’ll find the artistic flair for spirits plays just as much of a role in great whiskey, gin, and rums. But that doesn’t mean they don’t take a few cues from their beer-loving friends, says Three Rivers Distilling President, Marla Schneider.
“We equate ourselves with our artisan program,” Schneider explains. “It’s something that you find a lot in the brewing scene, but not as much with distillers. We have one or two unique releases a month that we only sell here at the distillery.”
Three Rivers Distilling Co.'s aged spirits are rested in barrels until they are ready to bottle.
While Schneider is passionate about the unique, top-shelf spirits her distillery crafts, she knows that the craft alcohol scene plays a much bigger role in Fort Wayne’s development.
“I think having the breweries and the distilleries in Fort Wayne plays a huge part in the economy,” she says. ‘It’s a major factor in attracting younger talent to our city as a workforce, and retaining that is vital to our continued success.”
Three Rivers Distilling Co. is Fort Wayne's only craft distillery.
4. Hoppy Gnome & GnomeTown Brewing Co.: A brew-it-yourself beer concept
The Hoppy Gnome created Gnometown Brewing as a brew-your-own concept.
When it comes to finding incredible craft alcohol downtown, the Hoppy Gnome and GnomeTown Brewing Co. are at the center of it all. Originally opening as a downtown dining destination with their own selection of craft beer, the Hoppy Gnome soon found itself expanding to include GnomeTown Brewing—bringing guests into the action brewing beer themselves.
“GnomeTown Brewing was built as a brew-your-own concept,” says Managing Partner, Peter Shuey. “You and your friends come pick out a recipe and brew your own beer with the direction of our brewmaster. You get to drink your own beer and have a lot of fun with it.”
The Hoppy Gnome offers a full menu of beer.
Fun and community play a central role in all that happens at the Hoppy Gnome, and Shuey believes it’s also a vital part of why Fort Wayne’s craft alcohol scene is growing.
“What better place is there than a fun, energetic taproom to meet a group of friends?” Shuey asks. “And that goes back thousands of years.”
5. Junk Ditch Brewing Co.: Fine dining with a brewery twist
Junk Ditch was inspired by craft breweries in Seattle, WA.
While Junk Ditch Brewing Co. is one of Fort Wayne’s more recent breweries, their culinary connection to the city goes back for years. After leaving an envious position at Roanoke’s 5-star Joseph Decuis restaurant, Andrew Smith and his culinary team found great success with their Fort Wayne-favorite food truck, Affine.
Junk Ditch Brewing Co. is both a fine-dining destination and a brewery.
While offering fine-dining options on wheels continues to be a successful venture for the team, Smith took a trip out west to sow the seeds of his next venture.
“After we opened the food truck, I went out to Seattle and visited some craft breweries like Fremont Brewery,” Smith says. “It’s in a neighborhood, which is a very cool thing. And I thought, ‘We need to bring this back to Fort Wayne.’”
Brewers taste test beer behind-the-scenes at Junk Ditch.
That inspiration, along with years of experience in fine-dining, led to the creation of one of the most talked-about breweries in town.
“We are both a fine-dining restaurant that happens to brew its own beer and a very good brewery that happens to have really awesome food,” Smith says.
6. Fortlandia Nano Brewery: Fort Wayne’s diverse nano-brewery
Fortlandia Brewing is Fort Wayne's first nano-brewery.
The newest kid on the block in Fort Wayne’s craft alcohol scene is Fortlandia Nano Brewery. While they offer a wide selection of beers, it’s their designation as a nano-brewery that makes them stand out.
While a micro-brewery can produce no more than 15,000 barrels (or 460,000 US gallons) of beer per year, a nano-brewery produces even less beer per year, (although there has not been a specific number of gallons/barrels defined yet).
A nano-brewery produces beer in batches smaller than a micro-brewery.
“We established a nano brewery to have the flexibility to experiment and try new things,” says Fortlandia Co-Founder Dan Voors. “We make small batches, so if something doesn’t work out, we can dump it and move on to the next thing. Bigger breweries can’t afford to do that.”
Considering that the brewery is run by four talented brewers with their own tastes and specialties, its highly flexible business model serves them well. Each brewer can push their skills to the next level while also making sure the city always has access to their best work.
“Our goal was to create a dream team of brewers that could cover all styles,” says fellow Co-Founder Ken Daley. “It’s been great for collaboration because the outcome of all of our input has been better than any of our individual ideas would ever have been.”
Fortlandia is run by four talented brewers with their own tastes and specialties.
7. Ambrosia Orchards: An apple orchard transformed into artful ciders
Blanca and Edison Bender of Ambrosia Orchards.
If beer or whiskey isn’t your thing, never fear! Ambrosia Orchards crafts amazing ciders and meads that provide the perfect alternative. Located right off 27 in Hoagland, Ambrosia makes all of its products on-site, surrounded by serene fields and a newly planted, 500-tree orchard. It’s an environment where Owner and Founder, Edison Bender is right at home.
“I grew up on an apple orchard,” Bender says. “But I didn’t want only to sell apples; I wanted to offer hard ciders and a place for people to go and enjoy them.”
Ambrosia Orchards crafts amazing ciders and meads.
With live music, visits from the area’s favorite food trucks, and a regular rotation of brand new recipes, Ambrosia embraces the link between craft alcohol and the arts.
“People care more about what they're drinking than they used to,” Bender says. “There’s all these different flavors that offer them something unique. I think that’s why people who are craft drinkers are also big into the arts and music.”
Bender works on cider behind the scenes at Ambrosia Orchards.
And many more!
The list of exciting places to find craft alcohol in Fort Wayne doesn’t end here. Other local hotspots like Hop River Brewing, Trubble Brewing, Kekionga Cider Company, and many regional wineries also offer their own dose of innovation and first-rate flavors. (For a full list of regional wineries, click here.)
Now get out there, and drink in Fort Wayne’s art scene, one glass at a time!