A lifelong resident of Franklin, Indiana, Mike Baker Graduated from Franklin Community High School. After high school, he worked as an estimator and project manager for a commercial/residential contractor. Meanwhile, he tried his hand at home brewing using a box kit. The first batch he made was not to his liking. So, he made wine instead for several years. Then he decided to get serious about home brewing and went from extract batches, to partial batches, to full grain brews over a period of six to eight months.
Baker and his wife stopped in to the original Planetary Brewing Company (head brewer Andrew Groves) tap room shortly after it opened. As they were leaving, his wife said, “you could do this.” Baker says he took that as a “green light.” Before long, he had his five-barrel, all electric system up and running. In addition to the brew house, he has four 5-barrel fermenters and five 5-barrel bright tanks. As for now he is strictly brewing ales with lagers a possibility in the future. Another near future item for the brewery is the planned expansion to 10-barrel fermenters and bright tanks.
Although Baker enjoys all his brews, he favors his Citra Pale Ale. Since the Citra was not then on tap, he says he would favor the Shale Pale Ale. The tap room’s bestseller is his Creekside Cream Ale, “week in and week out.” As Baker does not have his brews out in distribution, the only beer that leaves the premises is in growlers. Construction is underway on the brewery’s kitchen which should be operational around the first of the year. Meanwhile, excellent food is available from the adjoining Triple Play BBQ, which Baker describes as part of the larger operation.
All the recipes for Baker’s beer are his own. Most are brews he made at home while a couple are recipes he never got around to before opening Shale Creek. Although he approached scaling up his recipes from home to the 5-barrel system with considerable trepidation, he says that ultimately it was, “stupid simple.” His favorite part of the brewing process is brew day which comes around once a week. Brew day is eight or nine hours of good, hard work. The rest of the week is devoted to cleaning, kegging and just getting ready for next week’s brew day. The Shale Creek water profile is Franklin city water that Baker charcoal filters to remove the chlorine.
As far as his advice to someone getting into the brewing business, Baker say you have the funds and be passionate about it. Hard work is required and interaction with your guests is important. He tries to take Mondays off as the tap room is closed then. However, he generally winds up working at home on paperwork.
In addition to Baker’s fine brews, he also offers wine and a full bar specializing in bourbon. His goal is to have something to please any patron who comes into Shale Creek. Business is brisk on the weekends and slow but steady through the week. When they have live music in the pavilion the entire place is packed. There is no creek flowing through Franklin called Shale Creek. He and his wife bought some acreage in Brown County where they may ultimately retire. His wife, who he credits as being his biggest supporter, had only two requirements for the property. It had to have shale and a creek. One day while sitting on a log at his newly acquired property, Mike Baker watched his wife as she strolled along the creek. Shale Creek Brewing Company found its name right there and then.