On February 1, 2018 the well managed and successful Fountain Square Brewing Company changed hands. The new ownership really liked what was happening at Fountain Square and resolved to take it to the next level. One key element of the transition was the decision to keep the existing staff in both the front and back of the house as well as retaining head brewer, Mike Grap. This is not an effort to reinvent the wheel but rather to roll out a rebranding initiative consistent with their philosophy of improving the visibility of an already good product. Fountain Square’s existing team is described by the new CEO, Brad Smith, as phenomenal and an asset that helped make the decision to partner with them. All of the house beers will remain the same with the normal tweaking of recipes of the existing brewer. Seasonal Brews available in cans will continue to be part of the mix. The core atmosphere of the tap room will also be retained.
The most significant major change inside the brewery itself is the acquisition and installation of modern bottling equipment to replace the old Coca-Cola bottling line that Fountain Square has used for several years. In addition to the new bottling equipment, Fountain Square is looking at the prospect of adding a grain silo to their physical plant. Another change has been driven more by the change in the law with respect to Sunday liquor sales than due to the change in management. The new law allowing liquor sales on Sunday cut deeply in the Fountain Square’s Sunday sales volume. For the past few years they offered deeply discounted growler fills on Sundays which became far less of a draw with the new law. They now offer a two dollar discount on growler fills seven days a week with the purchase of a pint to consume on site. This fulfills the dual purpose of encouraging carry out sales but also inviting customers to slow down and enjoy the tap room experience.
Little Engine Ventures is the name of the investment management company that now has a majority stake in Fountain Square. Their philosophy involves looking for small businesses that have a record of some success and are looking to sell and move on, most often to retirement. Little Engine has purchased ownership positions in a wide variety of industries. Fountain Square has fulfilled their interest in getting into consumer packaged goods. A diverse knowledge base from the cross industry experience Little Engine has enables them to identify best practices that can apply across the spectrum of their investments. Of course the access to capital that they afford their partners allows for strategic acquisitions and the opportunity for growth when the time is right.
With rebranding on the immediate horizon, Fountain Square enthusiasts will continue to find their flagship favorites like the iconic Workingman’s Pilsner and the Backyard Porter available in bottles. Meanwhile, the seasonal offerings like the Smash Series (single malt, single hop) and the more traditional seasonal series that focuses on styles typical to the seasons will all be available in cans. The tap room is looking at some special offerings as well as some barrel aged brews that will not only be found there, but also in draft distribution to outside accounts.
As the craft brewing scene continues to ebb and flow as it grows and improves in Indiana, Fountain Square is certainly one of the leaders in the flow of awesome brews. Look for a new tap room location or two around the state and certainly greater distribution. These folks’ commitment to excellence is real. Perhaps Brad Smith says it best, “the perfect beer for life’s greatest moments.”