Big plans on tap for microbrewery

A rural Brownstown couple have begun the process of gaining county approval to open a microbrewery and tasting room.

Zach Miller and Kellie Park recently submitted an application requesting a special exception to start the beer business on their nearly 40-acre property at 2882 S. County Road 100E.

The Jackson County Plan Commission will review the request July 21, and a public hearing will be conducted in front of the Jackson County Board of Zoning Appeals on Aug. 11.

“We’re really focused on catering to the community,” said Miller, 36, a Brownstown attorney. “In the long term, we want to have a whole agritourism business and have a hop farm as well as barley.”

Miller once lived on the East Coast before returning home to Indiana with his wife, who is an anesthesiologist at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour.

He said he has been brewing beer for about six years and planning the business for about five. The name of the brand is Valhalla Ale Farm after his Scandinavian ancestors. The flagship beers will be imperials, India pale ales and stouts.

According to the application, the 1,462-square-foot microbrewery will be constructed in a lean-to that abuts the couple’s 7,000-square-foot pole barn. The area will be enclosed by walls with heating and cooling. There also will be a tasting room in the barn, with parking in a gravel lot in front of the barn.

With a 10-barrel brewing system, it’s estimated the first year’s production will be about 500 barrels. Miller said they anticipate doubling production year after year, placing the production at 8,000 barrels by the fifth year.

Renovations may be made as production and inventory increase, according to the application. A vast majority of the sales, however, will occur off-site to local bars and restaurants, distributed personally by Miller using his truck.

As the business grows, they plan to acquire a distribution vehicle or make use of a distributor, as they anticipate shipping beer off the premises on a biweekly basis.

“We are focused on local clientele and serving Jackson County,” Miller said. “As we get some brand recognition, then we can expand to be a regional brewing company, including places like Bloomington as a market.”

Miller said the taste of the craft beers will be unique, including malt beers, beer high in hops, sour beers and bourbon barrels.

“When you drink one of our beers, I want no mistaking it for another beer,” he said.

To add to the business, the couple plan to conduct bluegrass band concerts and music festivals on the farm to provide entertainment, bringing in customers and tourists who follow Indiana’s beer trail.

“We want to provide some of those outlets for younger people,” he said. “We’re here for life, so we want to attract people.”

The other part of the business will be about farming and education. They want to grow hops and barley and allow others to see it happening and learn about it.

“I want people to see where hops are grown and how they come off the vine so people can see the whole other dimension,” he said.

Miller said they will be sensitive, however, to the farming community and the zoned agriculture land.

“It is notable that no farmland will be lost as a result of our project,” he said. “All construction will occur within existing structures.”

The couple currently rent the pastures for the use of beef cattle and hay and will be acquiring their own cattle in the fall to raise beef on the property. Miller said they will be able to feed the cows with leftover grain from the barley.

In five to 10 years, once the farm is in full-swing, Miller and Park also hope to open a farm-to-table restaurant somewhere in Jackson County. He said they’ve already been looking at commercial property in Seymour.