After Creek Bottom Brewery got a license about two and a half years ago, Steve and Melanie Stahley have quietly been making beer at their Hilltop Road farm in Hamburg. The operation qualified as a home business, according to a Franklin County ordinance.
The business is a member of the Brewers Association and Indiana Brewers Guild. He is a certified beer judge and she recently finished an Indiana University class on brewery operations, where she made connections with Indianapolis counterparts.
The Village Store, Oldenburg, has been exclusively selling their craft beers for about a year and a half.
Steve Stahley announced their next step at the Sept. 9 Oldenburg Town Council meeting. “We’d actually like to open a taproom in town.” He proposed leasing the large room in the municipal building at State Road 229 and Hamburg Road, which was shown to them by President Dennis Moeller.
The police station also located there would help cut down on DUIs, he pointed out as attendees laughed. The taproom would only sell Creek Bottom Brewery varieties, probably eight at most. “People will drive a long way for craft beer,” perhaps from Indianapolis and Cincinnati.
He suggested, “If you get one of our beers, read the label ... it gives you the history of the name,” which usually includes something about Oldenburg. For the label of one variety called Stone Bridge (double dry hopped to taste like an IPA), artist Nick Wahman drew Harvey’s Branch Creek.
Most of the time the taproom is where the brewery is, but their farm is in a remote location. “What we’d like to do is to establish an identity in Oldenburg.” Once their address is listed in the periodical Indiana on Tap, “people will show up from everywhere just because they want to try our beer.”
Hours would be every other week: Thursdays and Fridays, 4-9 p.m.; Saturdays, 1-9 p.m.; and Sundays, 1-6 p.m.
The small bar would have a fence around it to meet the over 21 requirement. He reported the taproom would be kid friendly, too. “Families could sit at tables” and play available cards, board and video games or watch sports on TV.
In addition to beer, “we’ll have water and sodas available for sale. No other alcohol . ... People cannot bring those in,” according to Melanie Stahley.
Father Carl Langenderfer of Holy Family Catholic Church asked, “Is there an opportunity for carryout or does it have to be consumed on site?” Steve Stahley responded, “Typically you do a growler,” which could contain 64 or 128 ounces, or 1 or 2 liters. “We’ve got a different twist on it ... we’re old-timers,” so customers could purchase and take home quart bottles of their choice.
It will take the couple three or four months to get state licensing and an Indiana State Excise Police inspection done, so he would rather have a letter of intent from OTC with a lease signed after the taproom is approved.
Because a brewer’s license is a two-year commitment, the Stahleys would need a two-year lease.
Sister Claire Whalen asked, “Why the municipal building?” Melanie Stahley answered, “There’s limited real estate in Oldenburg ... It’s not our ideal location, but it’s somewhere to start.” Some spots were ruled out due to the Indiana law that alcohol cannot be served within 200 feet of a church.
She added, “We wouldn’t take away from existing businesses because we would never serve food,” although snacks, probably potato chips and pretzels, would be required by law. “At most taprooms you’re invited to bring food in,” such as a birthday cake or appetizers for a party. Some provide local restaurants’ menus. Guests could carry food in or dine out after the taproom experience.
Before it could open, a kegerator would be installed in the room and a cooler in the basement. A water line also would be extended from the restroom to a sink near the bar to wash glasses.
Steve Stahley said if all goes well, the taproom could open around February. First they want to remove the carpet and epoxy the floor and give the room an industrial look with steel tables and a bar made with plumber’s pipes on top to hold lights. “We want it to look nice ... very professional.” High top tables would be made locally.
He admitted, “Ideally we’d like to have an outdoor space” eventually, but that won’t happen at this location.
Whalen asked, “How else is that building used?” According to Moeller, in addition to the police station, monthly utility board meetings and occasional meetings by groups, such as Salt Creek Township trustees, are scheduled there. “The big room is very underutilized.”
Whalen questioned, “What about parking?” Steve Stahley said there was space for 15 vehicles in and around the parking lot. “That should be adequate for us.” Town Marshal Bill Dramann reminded that police need four spaces, two handicapped and two regular.
Town attorney John Kellerman said the Stahleys proposed paying $750 in monthly rent. Steve Stahley reported, “We’re offering you double what we would pay in Greensburg” per square foot.
Member Greg Struewing said, “I like the sound of it. I certainly believe it could bring some more revenue into the town ... (by drawing) people who have not seen Oldenburg.” Moeller felt renting space to bring in more money to pay for town expenses would be beneficial.
More conversations between town officials and the couple will take place in the coming weeks and at the Oct. 7 OTC meeting, the president said.