Born in Columbus, Indiana, Shawn Byrnes lived a few years in Louisiana before coming back to Columbus where he graduated from Columbus East High School. Out of high school, he joined the Army where he drove a Hummer as well as an M1A1 Tank and served at Fort Knox and Fort Hood. His cousin gave Byrnes some home brewed pale ale that he drank after a long, hot stint of field training. He felt like that was the best beer he ever had. After seven years in the Army, he stayed on in Austin, Texas and made the progression from extract brews on the stove to fifteen-gallon batches on more advanced equipment he acquired.
Byrnes went on to take a job at the Draught House Pub & Brewery in Austin cleaning kegs. However, before long, he felt like it was time to move on. So, he sold all his stuff and took off to travel the western part of the country in his van with his dog, Stogy. Eventually, he found his way home to Indiana and got on at Upland Brewing Company in Bloomington. After three years at Upland, he moved to North Carolina where he brewed at the Lexington Avenue Brewery in Ashville winning several awards for beers he brewed there. Four years later, family circumstances necessitated a return to Indiana. He interviewed in Indianapolis at Fountain Square Brewing Company. He got the job at Fountain Square working for Dan Krzywicki who now brews at Chilly Water Brewing Company. His next gig was at the Ram Restaurant and Brewery in downtown Indianapolis where so many local brewers have worked. Several months ago, Byrnes got a referral to Bent Rail from Dave Colt of Sun King Brewery. He met with the owners and was hired.
Although he says his favorite brew is the one in his glass or the next one, Byrnes recalled his Brown Porter that tied for a Bronze Medal at the GABF (Great American Beer Festival). Look for this brew to be available at Bent Rail in late October. He goes on to mention his NABA (North American Brewers Association) medal for an Oatmeal Stout he brewed at the Ram. Also, while at the Ram, he brewed and canned special beers for two consecutive Gen Cons, a Schwartzbier and a Belgian Gold. His bestsellers at Bent Rail are the Golden Spike (an American Golden Ale) and the Indy Hopolis (an American IPA).
Saying that the brewing equipment at his last gig was a Cadillac, Byrnes calls the Bent Rail system a Lamborghini. He has a 15 barrel system with two 30 barrel hot/cold tanks, an over-sized 25 barrel kettle, and an over-sized mash tun. The system also includes two 15 barrel fermenters and three 30 barrel fermenters. This is all rounded out with two 30 barrel bright tanks and three 15 barrel bright tanks as well as 30 barrel production bright tank.
When he is not brewing up tasty brews, Byrnes enjoys hiking. He recently took a trip to Alaska and also just hiked the Kettle Moraine State Forest in Wisconsin. He wanders Indiana as well, naming places like Brown County, Yellowwood, Nebo Ridge, and Fire Tower Road.
After his first exposure to craft beer in 1986 at the Abita Brewpub in Louisiana where he went with his family, Shawn Byrnes’ journey has taken him to a number of breweries around the country. Now he is preparing to take his beer and his career to another level at Bent Rail. We will undoubtedly be finding his brews all over the state in the next year or so.