Indy Takes Brewing to St. Joseph’s Church

st. joseph's brewery

Fate has a funny way of taking your successful planning, turning it upside down and convincing you to pour everything you’ve got into it. That’s essentially what happened to Daniel Jones in 2007 when he chose to spend money he’d saved to buy a home, partner with three others to open their own taproom and restaurant.

The idea presented itself following discussion with her current restaurant’s regulars Jim Ailes and David Pentzien. Planning for Chatham Tap, the first of what is now four ventures, started in May 2007 with a quick turn around and opening by September 2007.

Since, the trio has opened a second Chatham Tap location, a third restaurant and now, a brewery. St. Joseph’s Brewery and Public House brought the team back to Mass Ave. St. Joseph’s church, which opened in 1879, had been a historical focal point for Mass Ave. but vacant for many years when Jones and his team developed the idea for a brewery.

“We were looking for expansion again, but then we heard this old gothic catholic church was up for sale, so we looked at it once and thought it’s a pretty big project and it’s so close to our other two,” explained Jones. “Other than being in the church what would do to make it different? So then we looked at a couple of things and kept circling back to this church.”

Jones and is partners finally thought of the idea to make it a brewery, and brew their own beer as a differentiating factor. But none of them had ever brewed, owned a brewery or knew how operate a brewery. Jones was the only one that had worked at a brewery early in his career, but only in the front of the house inside the restaurant and taproom.

“Other than getting to know a lot of the people from the breweries around here, whose beer we were selling at our bars already, [we] didn’t have a lot of background in the brewing business,” said Jones. “We did a lot of research and talked to a lot of people that had opened breweries. The brewing community, locally around here, was great. We got help from the guys at Sun King, Outliers Brewery, from anyone we had a question for, they couldn’t have been anymore generous with time and advice.”

The owners knew they were going to hire a head brewer to help with brewery development and focus on the brewing side of the business. They reached out and hired Alan Simons who already had experience as a head brewer.

St. Joseph’s works on a 15 bbl. system that was purchased from DME. It has four 15 bb. fermenters, six 15 bbl. conditioning takes. “With room for expansion,” said Jones. “We hope once we are up and going, and there’s demand we can add a few more fermenters.” The brewery officially opened on May 13, 2015. “So not even a month yet,” continued Jones.

The brewery started with five beers already on tap and recently launched a fifth with its IPA. According to Jones, following the trend of most craft drinkers, the IPA, within a week, has already become a heavy favorite among patrons.

In regards to the structure of the building, it had actually been slightly upgraded from another architect that previously owned the church, according to Jones. But the interior wasn’t too structurally stable to withstand a brewery. Jones and his team hired an additional architect to help plan out structural stability and helped add steel beams for support. They had to do all of the electrical and plumbing for the kitchen and other areas inside that were needed to make it a brewery and restaurant.

“We just thought it could be a great landmark for the city if it was restored and people could enjoy the building again and learn about the history,” said Jones. “Everyone would get better in the neighborhood if this just weren’t an empty vacant building sitting there unused.”

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