In July 2009, Sun King Brewing Company became the first-full scale production brewery in Indy since Indianapolis Brewing Company closed its doors in 1948. Now available on tap and in cans at over 1,000 locations throughout Indiana, Sun King has grown into the second-largest beer brewer in the state of Indiana. The company's commitment to handcrafted seasonal and specialty beers has been rewarded with multiple medals at the Indiana Brewers Cup, Great American Beer Festival®, and World Beer Cup® competitions.
Sun King Brewing Company Brewer & Owner
Craft Beer in Indiana
“Craft beer was in its infancy in the U.S. starting in the 1980’s and by the 1990’s it had reached Indiana. It’s been growing ever since. To put it into perspective, it wasn’t until 2013 that we surpassed the number of breweries we had in the U.S. before prohibition. In 1979 there were only about 50 breweries operating in the United States and today there are over 4,000.”
Sun King Start-Up
“When Sun King started operations in 2009, we were the 32nd brewer in Indiana, and no one in Indianapolis was brewing craft beer for packaging and distribution at that time. That’s what set us apart. We started the company with four people, and five years later there are 60 of us working in all aspect of the business and brewing nearly 30,000 barrels of beer per year. That might seem like a huge quantity, but it really only accounts for about one half of one percent of all the beer sold in Indiana.”
“All of our company’s growth has been driven by demand for our beer. In the beginning we only expected to be brewing about 5,000 barrels per year at this point. We’ve exceeded that goal by about 600 percent and demand continues to increase. One of the smartest things Dave and I ever did was to admit that we knew a lot about beer, but not a lot about business, so we needed to bring in someone with solid business skills and experience. We talked my dad out of retirement and we put together a team that devoted almost as much effort into how we would plan and grow the business as we did brewing the beer. A lot of what we’re working toward now is building a model for sustainable growth. We do a lot of mentoring, and I’ve given the Sun King business plan to probably 15 brewers across the country hoping to accomplish similar success”
The Science of Beer
“When I was in school I was terrible in Science. Well, not terrible, but I think I got a "C " in college Chemistry. Honestly, it wasn’t until I found brewing and started practically applying science that I realized the power of science, or even what I knew about it. Beer is the thing that really made science make sense to me, and I understand a lot more about science now than I ever thought I would because I came to it through something I loved and had a passion for.
Now we have two full-time scientists at Sun King, we open our facility to an IUPUI class on micro-brewing, and we do about a dozen or more tours a year for the Chef’s Academy, Ivy Tech and the Culinary Institute.”
The Power of Beer
“The craft beer movement has been pretty instrumental in reviving communities. It’s not only the aspect of getting together to make and enjoy local beer, it’s also creating opportunities for job growth and economic development. There are upwards of 100 licensed craft brewers in Indiana today, and pretty much every Saturday is devoted to serving beer tourism with bus tours of people not just interested in what we’re doing here at Sun King, but other brewers in Indy and across the state.
We have a great partnership with Visit Indiana and we employ two full-time people devoted to community development, with over 300 partners like Second Helpings, Trusted Mentors, Dress for Success, the IRT and the IMA just to name a few. We’re a small company so we can’t write big checks, but we do have beer and some marketing prowess, so we use the power of beer to draw people out to events with our community partners. We offer a discount rate for all our 501-C3 partners so they can generate a good profit for their cause by selling our beer at their events.
It’s a great way to support the community, and I can’t tell you how many women have come up to me and thanked me because their husbands will now go with them to see Shakespeare because they can drink Sun King at the IMA.”
The Craft Beer Community
“We visit other brewers from across the country and they’re all pretty much like us at Sun King, with the same passion to create something that reflects their personality. Even though we compete for shelf space or market share in Indiana, on a macro level, we all get along really well. I’m the president of the Brewers of Indiana Guild and a member of the Brewers Association of America, and throughout the year we’re all getting together to support each other and our industry.
It’s not just about beer either. We’re doing our part to get a local hop and malt industry going in Indiana, and one of our goals at Sun King is to someday make a beer that is 100 percent Indiana. All of our spent grains are donated to local farmers to feed chickens, cows and pigs. We’re even working on a few recipes using our spent barley with Four Birds Bakery.
We’ve mentored brewers in Cincinnati and St. Louis, and rather than growing Sun King to a national distribution model, we prefer to focus on the community we’ve built here at home, and help other brewers in other states with advice and encouragement to let their own personalities shine through in their local regions.
The bottom line is that beer is best when fresh and closest to home, and that’s what we’re trying to accomplish at Sun King. We’re building a business that’s an extension of our community, and hopefully all of us, our customers, our stakeholders and our employees all feel that same connectedness, because really, we’re all contributing to each other’s success, satisfaction and advancement. That’s the real power of local beer.”
Indiana is a state that works because it’s about more than just good business sense. It’s about building something that will last. It’s about the freedom to set our own terms. It’s about the place we call home.
Our state government spent years developing a knack for sound fiscal policy, low taxes and a balanced state budget. It’s one of the main drivers of opportunity and prosperity in Indiana, and it’s earning us a reputation as one of the top U.S. states for business. But until you’ve met some of us who live, work and play here, you only know half our story.
It’s a story about working together to bring innovation to the global marketplace with the same can-do spirit and know-how that has our state leading the nation in manufacturing job growth. It’s a story about leveraging our resources, paying our bills and investing in our future. Most importantly, it’s a story about how we got here, what we want, and why we plan on staying.
These are our stories about how Indiana is a state
that works for all of us, told individually, one face,
one vision, one accomplishment at a time.