Hop River Brewing Company is a popular, family-friendly brewery just North of Downtown Fort Wayne in the Bloomingdale neighborhood. Its family-friendly tap-room features pinball machines and large windows where patrons can get a direct view into the brew room. Hop River also has an outdoor patio with picnic tables and fire pits, which will come in handy on cool fall nights.
The newest addition to the Hop River Brewing team, Head Brewer Iain Wilson, is a Scottish transplant by way of Orland Park, IL. He has some exciting things coming down the pipeline for craft brew aficionados, including a special partnership with Fort Wayne's own Three Rivers Distilling Company.
We sat down with Wilson to learn more about his brewing background and his plans to boost Fort Wayne's craft beer and spirits scene.
IFW: Tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been in Ft. Wayne?
I arrived in Fort Wayne on Sunday, August 8, after finishing work at my previous brewery earlier that day. I started working at Hop River Brewing Company the following morning. It has been a whirlwind. I am still trying to find a permanent place to live here in Fort Wayne during the week while packing up my house in Illinois and getting it ready to put on the market to sell.
IFW: Do you have any family here with you?IW:
I'm here on my own so far, as my wife has been packing up the house and taking care of our dog.
IFW: How long have you been brewing? IW:
I have been brewing professionally since June 30, 1997, so just more than 24 years. I worked at two breweries in Scotland and one in England before I moved to the USA in 2005 to work for Rock Bottom Brewery. I worked in Indianapolis for a year with them before I opened the location in Orland Park, IL, in March 2007. That's where I worked until I joined Hop River Brewing Company.
IFW: What new brews do you have coming down the pipeline? IW:
Oktoberfest and Red Beauty, “Áilleacht Dearg,” an Irish style Red Ale were on tap just in time for this year's Brewed IN the Fort Craft Beer Fest on Sept. 11. This month, I also brewed “The First Step to Helles,” a Munich style Helles; “Fat Bob’s Porter;” and “Ruby in the Rye,” a Belgian-style ale.
IFW: Give us a little peek into your partnership with 3 Rivers Distilling Co. What’s this we hear about a beer aged in bourbon barrels?IW:
I visited 3 Rivers Distillery on August 30 for a tasting with the team from Hop River Brewery, and there were discussions about aging beer from Hop River in 3 Rivers Distilling Co. barrels and then returning the barrels (once emptied) to them to age whiskey in (something a few enterprising distillers are doing, starting with Scottish distiller William Grant & Sons Ltd.
). The first beer I am planning to age is Ruby in the Rye, with the barrel-aged version being released just before Christmas in a limited quantity of 22 oz. bottles.
IFW: What's your favorite part about working for Hop River? IW:
The positive, upbeat enthusiasm everyone has regarding the direction and future plans for the brewery. It is very exciting to be part of the team and being allowed the freedom to be creative when it comes to designing new beers.
IFW: What’s your all-time favorite beer?IW:
I don't have an all-time favorite beer as there are far too many really good beers being brewed. I do have certain beer styles that I normally prefer to drink, such as Munich Helles, German, or Czech-style Pilsner or American-style pale ale.
IFW: Tell us about those red overalls.
Weyermann Malting Company in Bamberg, Germany, awards brewers with a set of red Weyermann overalls for brewing a gold-medal-winning beer in a major competition, such as the GABF or the World Beer Cup, using 90 percent or more of their malt in the recipe. I brewed my 2014 World Beer Cup gold-medal-winning Belgian Golden Strong Ale using 100 percent Weyermann malt. The overalls are the same as those worn by the workers in the malting facility.
IFW: We know you’ve only been in Fort Wayne a short while, but what do you most enjoy about the city so far?IW:
The lack of traffic and short travel time to get anywhere is definitely a big plus, but the amount and variety of live music available to go and see has been the most enjoyable.
Visit Hop River Brewing Company
1515 N. Harrison St, Fort Wayne, IN 46808
Monday - CLOSED
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday - 4 p.m.-10 p.m.
Friday - 4 p.m.-11 p.m.
Saturday - Noon-11 p.m.
Sunday - Noon-7 p.m.
Trivia Tuesday from 7 p.m.-9 p.m.