How a Dream and a Meme put a Small Indiana Brewery on the map

In Cross the Border For by Steve0 Comments

A dream and a meme – milkshake-style IPA gets all the beer geeks to an Indiana brewery’s yard.

Funny things can happen when a brewer’s imagination starts to wander.

Sometimes, it results in a beer that’s best poured down the floor drain.

At Windmill Brewing in Dyer, Ind., it put them on the map and created a buzz among beer fans across the country.

As they prepare for their 2nd Anniversary party Saturday at their brewery at U.S. 30 and the state line, there is no question that beer fans will show up looking for Memes and Dreams – the beer that changed everything for the small brewery.

A “milkshake-style” IPA with mangoes, lactose and vanilla beans, Memes and Dreams was rolled out right about the time the wave of New England-style IPAs was becoming all the rage. Thick, juicy and smooth all at once, both the vanilla and mango pop with each sip and there’s even a little orange in there. It’s cloudy and creamy and only slightly bitter on the back end.

It came about after Windmill’s brewers, Justin Verburg and Mike Glowacki, talked about what big fans they are of the beers produced by Tired Hands Brewery. Though they’d both visited the Pennsylvania brewery, neither had tasted their “milkshake-style” IPAs.

“We wanted to come up with our idea of what we think that should taste like, based on descriptions we’d read and make it available in Northwest Indiana,” Verburg said. “We both really love mosaic hops, which contain a fair amount of myrcene, the same oil you find in mangoes, so we thought that would make a natural pairing.”

Local buzz around the beer built quickly. Then that buzz went wider and by the second batch, beer fans were trading the likes of Trillium, Treehouse and Tired Hands, just to get a taste of this unique beer. It was a demand that neither he nor co-owner Scott Vander Griend saw coming. What was that like?

“Terrifying,” Verburg said. “We just wanted to bring a unique style to the area and hoped people would like it. The attention has gotten us to take a look at some of our production processes and made us think bigger. Every time we’re packaging a batch of something now, we can’t think ‘this will be sold in our taproom and consumed locally within a few days.’ It’s ‘this may be shipped across the country in goodness-knows what conditions and consumed by some pretty critical beer drinkers.’ This, just like having tons of other great breweries in the area, drives us to keep innovating, while keeping the quality up.”

Innovating is something Vander Griend and Verburg set out to do from the moment they opened the doors. The longtime south suburban Dutch friends had been homebrewing for years and the brewery’s motto “Beer. Reformed.” reflects both who they are and what they do – their approach to beer is that it should be enjoyed and shared. They aren’t bashful about the fun they and Glowacki – who recently joined the team from nearby One Trick Pony – often take with brewing.

“We enjoy punishing our poor palates from time to time with all the harshest Hallertau hops we can throw at them,” they boast on their website. “We’ll brew traditional styles that have been brewed for centuries. We’ll experiment and take risks. We know not everyone will like every beer we make, but that’s the best thing about beer – there’s always something else to try.”

Take, for instance, Memes and Dreams.

Two weeks ago, with little fanfare, Windmill introduced Meme de la Crème – a 9.4%, Double IPA version of Memes & Dreams. As Glowacki and Vander Griend spent last Monday night canning and labeling, they simply couldn’t keep up with the line of customers willing to drop $22 for a 4-pack. The entire canned supply was gone by Tuesday afternoon. For the few who’ve had it, it’s earning reviews even stronger than the original.

This weekend, they’ll debut Peaches & Memes – a Memes & Dreams variant that came about thanks in part to relationships cultivated through Vander Griend’s Red Barn in Lansing – the produce and retail store owned for years by Scott’s family.

“Mike came up with the double idea and the name,” Verburg said. “We were so happy with the first batch, and judging by the response to it, everyone else was too, we immediately brewed another batch. The peaches idea came from Scott posting a picture of a giant bin full of beautiful Red Haven peaches on his farmstand’s Facebook account. We’d been kicking around some ideas for another fruit option in another milkshake-style beer and the idea of some fresh-off-the-trees peaches was really exciting.”

Fret not, Meme fans, all three versions will be on tap at their Saturday party.

But experimenting and tweaking things to come up with something new is something of a habit for Windmill – even if it’s just in a name. Their popular Single Double Tripel – a 9% Belgian tripel beer brewed with citra hops – provided the inspiration for a 9% Double IPA fermented with dank and fruity Sacch Trois hops, leading to Un Deux Trois.

You’ll find that on tap Saturday, too, along with a new porter brewed with cold-brewed coffee from their upstart Smalltown Coffee, as well as a series of barrel-aged beers. After Saturday and moving into year three of Windmill, there’s likely to be a distribution push, as well as increased production, thanks to the arrival of a new 8 BBL system – four times as big as the system (purchased from One Trick Pony) that they’ve been using for the last 24 months in their 4,000 square foot space – a former overhead doors warehouse that Verburg would pass each day on his way home from his IT job downtown, thinking of what could be.

“It’s so much fun to brew in Northwest Indiana – there’s a lot of great beer coming out and that keeps us driven to innovate while keeping the quality up,” Verburg said. “If we don’t deliver on that, there’s plenty of other places beer drinkers can go. We’ve gotten a lot of help from other breweries, whether it be hops we’re short on, some extra grain, yeast, can lids, or just a question about something. No matter the size, everyone’s been extremely helpful. We all just want to make great beer in the end.”

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About the Author

Steve

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The skills Steve honed in his 20 years digging up corruption and cornering politicians as a newspaper reporter in northwest Indiana and Chicago are now being used to track down and review quality craft beer only available in the Hoosier state.