Jerry Sutherlin grew up in Greenwood and attended Center Grove High School. He always worked in restaurants through high school and IU Bloomington. Eventually while
taking business courses at IUPUI, he wound up at Oaken Barrel Brewing Company waiting tables and bartending. His first brewing gig was right there at Oaken Barrel in Greenwood which is one of Indiana’s oldest breweries. Having worked there in its first year of production, he finds himself among the longest tenured brewers in the state. After ten years at Oaken Barrel, he moved to the Ram Brewery with Dave Colt (co-founder of Sun King) in downtown Indianapolis for six months before landing at the downtown location of Rock Bottom Brewery. Sutherlin spent ten years at Rock Bottom before leaving to start up Round Town Brewery.
Sutherlin’s favorite part of the brewing process is the brew day, although he does like to do all the tasks. He writes all of his own recipes many of which are derivatives or “riffs” off of brews he created at Rock Bottom. It is a common misconception that since Rock Bottom is a national chain, all locations conform to corporate recipes. In fact each local head brewer is in charge of the recipes. In all Sutherlin has over 100 recipes of his own. Two of his featured brews are the Round Town Lager and the KISS IPA both of which are currently on tap in the tap room. KISS is a play on the old saying “Keep It Simple Stupid” by switching out Simple for Simcoe because the brew uses Simcoe hops. The Round Town Lager was originally the best selling beer in the tap room. However, it has been eclipsed in sales by the more recently released KISS IPA. Being only about five months up and running, Sutherlin has nothing exotic in the pipeline right now. He is concentrating on house beers, building his brand, and getting the word out that Round Town Brewery has arrived.
Sutherlin already has nearly 70 draft accounts for his brews, mostly in the Indianapolis area especially in Mass Ave., Virginia Ave., Fountain Square, and Broad Ripple. He is also sending his brews up I-69 to Muncie and Ft. Wayne. With one account now in Columbus, he is looking to branch out south as well.
Sutherlin’s advice to someone wanting to get into the business is, “do your math and then try to get more money than that.” Have a good contingency plan. The permitting process can be trying and can take more time than one would hope. Keep your job, if you have one, as long as you can. Like most local brewers, he mentions that the brewing community here in Indy is very collegial which has been one reason he remains in the business. Another reason is that he just does not like accounting. Of course, after all, brewing gets you beer.
The only home brewing Sutherlin ever did was two batches at the suggestion of the head brewer at Oaken Barrel. The idea was to get him familiar with the process. He has recently experimented with some very small batch brews at Round Town. However, he much prefers brewing at the larger scale. He says he has great respect for home brewers because he knows the effort required to do it right.
Drawing on his years of experience, Sutherlin is brewing very tasty, drinkable beers. Even after such a short time in business on his own, you can find his brews all Round Town.