Northeast Indiana ties to Hotel Tango Artisan Distillery
Nov11

Northeast Indiana ties to Hotel Tango Artisan Distillery

Nick Ladig, a Northeast Indiana native, is the Vice President of Sales for Hotel Tango Artisan Distillery out of Indianapolis.  Using his B.S. in Entrepreneurial Management from Ball State, he got his start in craft beer and now sells artisan spirits.  He answered some questions about Hotel Tango, its connection to Northeast Indiana, and Fletcher the Cat.  Full disclosure: Nick is the author’s (less cool, but way more interesting) brother.   So, what’s the story behind Hotel Tango? Hotel Tango (military call letters for “H” and “T”) started with Travis (“T”) Barnes, who grew up in Noble County, north of Fort Wayne.  After 9/11, he enlisted in the Marines and served 3 tours as a special forces Recon Marine in Iraq.  Upon returning to civilian life, he met his wife Hillary (“H”), graduated from law school, and started distilling as a hobby.  Fast forward to September 2014, and Hotel Tango Artisan Distillery opened in Indianapolis.  The distillery products are named and branded with a military theme to pay homage to the founder’s military roots.   I hear a tasting room might be opening in Ft. Wayne – confirm or deny? I can neither confirm nor deny.  I will say that our Indy location has been wildly successful and we would love the opportunity to recreate this in new locations.  Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana will always hold a special place in the hearts of Hotel Tango, since that’s where Travis spent his formative years.  BUT, you can find our products now at assorted local restaurants and bars and most of the local liquor stores in and around the area.   Ft. Wayne now has a distillery  – Three Rivers Distillery.  Are you guys competitors or friends? I would definitely say we are and will remain friends in the industry.  The guys from TRD came down to Hotel Tango a while back to meet the founders.  For craft spirits right now, it is very much a “rising tide lifts all ships” mentality.   Why do you think that small batch distilleries are growing in popularity? I think it is because many Americans are trending towards local and authentic products.  I equate it with when you get tomatoes from a neighbor’s garden – they just taste better because they’re as fresh as can be and you know where they came from.   The story is cool, but how’s the product? It’s really [expletive] delicious.  All kidding aside, it has been well received by bars, restaurants, and retailers in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois.  Our gin has become the top seller, creating the most buzz, but the vodka and ‘cellos are really...

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Brunch So Hard – Junk Ditch Brewing Co. Raises Fort Wayne’s Weekend Brunch Game!
Jul21

Brunch So Hard – Junk Ditch Brewing Co. Raises Fort Wayne’s Weekend Brunch Game!

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love to brunch on weekends. Preferably with a bloody Mary or mimosa in hand. So imagine my delight when Junk Ditch Brewing Company opened its doors for brunch this past Saturday and Sunday.  There was no fanfare, no grand announcement, yet there wasn’t an empty table in the place. My husband and I were able to find some great spots at the bar where we shared in the community feel, chatting with other patrons and the incredibly friendly bar staff. It’s no surprise that they were busy despite their discreet opening as they have quite the fan following! Junk Ditch is affiliated with Affiné Hospitality, which has brought us the amazing Affiné Food truck (pronounced ah-feen-nei) that can be found cruising around the area bringing us mouthwatering Banh Mi creations and locally sourced fare. Affiné joined the food trucks on the streets of Fort Wayne four years ago with the goal of eventually adding a brick and mortar restaurant to its fleet. In order to whet the appetites of its loyal fan base, partners Andrew Smith, Dan Campbell, and Jack May commandeered the kitchen of the Green Frog Inn for Sunday brunch for several months this past year serving up Junk Ditch brunch that was beyond amazing and slightly addicting! (I’m pretty sure I attended most, if not all, of their brunches.) Their years of hard work has manifested with the addition of Junk Ditch Brewing Co at 1825 W. Main Street. Named for the ditch that winds behind the building, Junk Ditch Brewing Company kept an industrial theme throughout the restaurant with wide open spaces, exposed brick walls, and a distressed feel that compliments their menu and style perfectly. While Junk Ditch will offer brunch, lunch, dinner, and late night dining (you can check out the hours here), I am here to tell you all about the brunch! Served from 10-2PM on Saturday and Sunday the brunch consists of delicious culinary concoctions such as Croque Madame, Potato Rosti, Chicken and Waffles, and Benedict…as in eggs, not Arnold. The pastries as well as all the bread are freshly made from scratch by Grace Kelly owner of GK Baked Goods and fiancée of partner Jack May. The entire menu is locally sourced in a farm to fork concept that is quickly becoming the trend in Fort Wayne. Pictured here is our brunch of choice in the new digs. Chicken and Waffles, Croque Madame, Chocolate Doughnuts (the cinnamon roll was sold out, because it is life changing!). While all the dishes we tried were tasty, the chicken and waffles were beyond amazing. I mean it’s fried chicken...

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GnomeTown Brewing Co. – Custom Beer Coming Soon to Downtown Fort Wayne
Jun10

GnomeTown Brewing Co. – Custom Beer Coming Soon to Downtown Fort Wayne

If you’ve visited the Hoppy Gnome on the ground floor of the Anthony Wayne building downtown recently, you might have noticed some construction in progress across the hallway. I am excited to report that Fort Wayne will be home to its very own brewery – GnomeTown Brewing Co. – brought to us by partners James Khan, Pete Shuey, and Lysa Pelkington. It will be a “Brew on Premise” concept and will be the first commercial brewery to offer its guests the opportunity to create their own beer with the added expertise of a professional brewing instructor.   I sat down with Khan, who I’m pretty certain never sleeps as he is also involved with The Hoppy Gnome and BakerStreet Steakhouse, to ask him about this new addition to downtown Fort Wayne. Khan stated that the vision was to create something unique to Fort Wayne that would draw people downtown. Khan’s partner Pete Shuey lived in Southern California for 15 years and experienced first hand the explosion of the craft beer scene. The popularity of craft beer naturally progressed into an increase in home brewing.  While home brewing is incredibly popular, it takes up an inordinate amount of space and uses quite a bit of specialized equipment…not to mention the weird smells and mess. This is where the “brew-on-premise” idea has come into play, which will allow Gnometown’s guests the opportunity to customize and brew their own beer without any of the hassle.   Khan mentioned that brewing beer is an artistic science. While there is the creative piece of what notes, flavor and color you wish your beer to have, there is a distinct science to it, such as the timing of steeping the grain, adding the hops, and even the temperature for the mash.  There are many chemical and technical reactions that must take place within a degree of perfection. In designing their facility and process, a tour was made of the Saugatuck Brewing Company to determine best practices to ensure quality beer craftsmanship, while still providing the guest-centered focus that Hoppy Gnome and BakerStreet are famous for.   GnomeTown Brewing Co. will have a brewing instructor on staff to help you craft your beer as well as the ability to create custom labels for your beer bottles. While you will need reservations to brew you can also choose to rent a room or rent the whole brewery if you wish to accommodate more people for a brewing party. You can brew anything from 5 gallons to a full keg of beer. There will be multiple options for brewing depending on your skill level. If you know nothing (raises hand),...

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Ditch the junk and taste “Homemade Everything” at Junk Ditch
Nov20

Ditch the junk and taste “Homemade Everything” at Junk Ditch

One day, just maybe, Fort Wayne will have a “brewery on wheels.” But until then, you can look forward to the next best thing: a brick-and-mortar brewery launched by the talented team who brought you the Affiné food truck. Sometime soon (in the first half of 2016, fingers crossed), Dan Campbell, Andrew Smith and Jack May will launch Junk Ditch Brewing Company. Located off of Main Street, the Junk Ditch building is tucked away, east of Leesburg Road and west of O’Sullivan’s. It takes its name from the actual Junk Ditch, which winds behind the brewery on its meandering path from Waynedale to Swinney Park.   Junk Ditch Brewing Company will be another entrepreneurial adventure for Dan, Andrew and Jack, but it won’t replace the food truck. While Affiné continues to supply duck confit tacos and pork belly bahn mis along its usual route, Junk Ditch will have its own unique menu. But just as they did with Affiné, the passions of the three chefs – handcrafted beer, seasonal flavors, locally sourced ingredients, and a “from scratch” philosophy – will shine through. “Ultimately we enjoy beer and we enjoy creating,” says Jack. “Food and drink go hand in hand, and we wanted to bring the ‘everything local and in-house’ philosophy to Junk Ditch. For Andrew, the idea for Junk Ditch had been brewing for quite awhile. “When I was on a vacation in Seattle I saw some local neighborhood breweries, and was very intrigued by the concept of a brewery in a city neighborhood. When I returned we started working on finding a building that would work.” While the inspiration happened 2,000+ miles away, Andrew says they intend to keep the flavors close to home. “We will change menu items to showcase our Indiana farms. We want to be known for fresh ideas that are always changing.” To wash down all the homegrown deliciousness, the Junk Ditch taps will feature a variety of beers, ready to drink by the pint or take home in kegs or growlers. The tap list will include an even mix of house-made brews and taps from the team’s favorite guest breweries. Whether they’re making their own beer, featuring another brewery, or creating a new dish – quality and variety will drive the Junk Ditch approach. “The focus of in-house beers will to produce very high quality product,” says Andrew. In addition to featuring the best brews, that approach also means continuing what they started with Affiné – including from-scratch breads, house-cured and processed meats, and fresh herbs and produce from a garden behind the Junk Ditch building. “The menu and beer list will be continually...

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At Trubble, the plates are as tasty as the pints
Nov04

At Trubble, the plates are as tasty as the pints

Sometimes the fastest route to your “happy place” is to follow your palate. You can stow away on warm, soft pretzels or homemade biscuits. Take a ride on a spoonful of cheese dip or a forkful of flaky pie. Buy a ticket to Baconland, or for a more adventurous journey, score a spicy pickle and a steaming bowl of Vietnamese noodles (with an egg, for good measure). Combine any one of those comfort foods with a cold pint of craft beer, and you might find yourself tripping on warm fuzzies – in the best way possible. If that sounds enticing, I have good news. You and your taste buds can soon take a comfort food vacation via a quick trip to Trubble Brewing. The new brewery/gastropub – located on Broadway in the old Chappell’s building – is set to open before just before Thanksgiving. Initially, Trubble’s menu and hours will limited, with plans to ramp up brewing, solidify the menu and and extend the hours as time goes on. The beer menu will likely feature the staff’s favorite regional craft brews, while owner Chad Hankee and the rest of the crew wait for the checkers of checkboxes to check the right boxes. (My dear readers, in case you don’t already know – the bureaucracy of Indiana’s bar and brewery regulations is ridiculous enough to require several stiff drinks. Every day. For months on end.) While the home-brewed “barley pops” may have to wait, the house-made food will be palate pleasing from day one. Head chef and pastry chef John and Lindsay Cheesebrew have plans for inspired dishes that are guaranteed to make Trubble a double indulgence for beer snobs and foodies alike. John and Lindsay are the brains, elbow grease, photographers and taste-testers behind the Bird + Cleaver food blog, whose mouthwatering recipes have been featured on BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post and The Kitchn. Lindsay’s specialty is in heavenly pastries and desserts. John has a way with Southeast Asian condiments and cured pork. They both have a soft spot for beer, bourbon and taquerias. Together, their recipes are locally inspired and cross-culturally infused. Or as they say, “like your southern Granny came to visit, and she brought fish sauce and craft beer.” (I’ve eaten some of John and Lindsay’s edible inventions, and I’d invite their kind of Granny to any potluck.) No official confirmation from the kitchen staff, but rumor has it you may be able to enjoy your favorite brew with a side of freshly baked pull-apart pretzels and homemade cheese dip. [Photo by Bird+Cleaver] Instead of setting the Trubble menu from the start, John and Lindsay hope to let it evolve with the seasons and reflect their customers’ requests....

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