Born in Michigan and living for a time in northern Indiana, Josh Hambright wound up graduating from West Lafayette High School. He went on to study computer science but realized a desk job was not for him. He dropped out of school and worked in retail at Target for eight years. He decided that he wanted to be a brewer by the age of 22 or 23. However, his home brewing adventures were more like disasters. Undeterred, he read all the books about brewing that he could find.
The day that the tanks were delivered at Flat 12 Bierwerks on Dorman Street in Indianapolis, Hambright was there. He was invited by one of the owners to help out. Like so many brewers he started out cleaning kegs, painting, and doing whatever it took to make the brewery work. After about six months at Flat 12, he was challenged to write a recipe. Eventually, he found himself in charge of recipe development, writing production schedules, the barrel program, and generally handling the brewhouse side of things. Meanwhile, he was already thinking about having his own brewing operation.
Hambright left Flat 12 and took a job working for a distributor which freed him up to devote more time to pursue his Central State dream. This also gave him some solid exposure to the sales and marketing side of the business. He made some excellent contacts and developed friendships that endure to this day. On May 4, 2015 Central State Brewing Company was launched. Initially, he was brewing at Black Acre Brewing Company where they lease spaced and used the Black Acre brewhouse. His first Central State brew was what they now call Table, a rustic blond ale that he describes as an everyday drinker.
The Saison #1, a red wine barrel-fermented farmhouse ale is a recent brew that Hambright is especially enthusiastic about. It was aged for ten months and then blended from a carefully selected group of the barrels. He is also fond of the Cuvee #2 is another blended brew using Table that was aged for anywhere from twelve to thirty-six months in a variety of wine and mead barrels. When it comes right down to it, however, he is really very proud of his two flagship beers, Table and Garden, a Leipziger-style Gose with lemon peel. They are both sessionable brews that are doing well in distribution. While he has brewed very few IPA’s At Central State, he has a whole series of them in the pipeline.
Blending beers from different barrels, of which he has a plethora, is Hambright’s favorite step in the brewing process. He enjoys tasting the brew from thirty or more barrels and selecting only those with the right flavor profile for his desired outcome. He has several barrel age projects in the works with more on the horizon.
Starting at the bottom and working one’s way up is Hambright’s recommendation for getting into the brewing business. That way you are exposed to all aspects of the craft. In addition to his experience and reading, he says that collaborations with other brewers have been a valuable source of information. Working for a day in someone else’s space, or having someone work a day in his space affords the opportunity to compare notes and learn different approaches to brewing.
When he is not brewing, Hambright likes to go hiking, camping, and traveling with his family. Going to various beer festivals around the country allows him to explore other cities. He always tries to squeeze in an extra day or at least an afternoon to do that.
The craft beer scene in Indiana is quite fortunate that Josh Hambright has thrown away all of his red shirts and Khaki pants. Just about anyone can work retail. Very few can brew beer like he does.