Although he has traveled somewhat extensively, Brad Hawkins has situated his brewery in Needmore just six miles from his boyhood home in Guthrie. After graduating from Bedford North Lawrence High School, Hawkins managed a couple of local restaurants and then got into construction. It turns out that he has a tremendous aptitude for construction and was soon running his own operation before he was twenty-one. His construction business took him around the country where he did repair work from storm damage, largely roofing jobs. His travels included stops in St. Louis and Florida.
Unrelated to his construction travel, Hawkins spent some time in Colorado, mountain biking and enjoying the countryside. He met some guys who worked in breweries out there. Although, he never took a job at any of the breweries, he did pick up a lot of brewing knowledge to supplement his home brewing experience that dated back to high school.
Hawkins grew weary of the travel involved in chasing storm damage and decided to stay close to home. He had long planned to open his own brewery and the decision to stay in Lawrence County accelerated those plans. His Salt Creek Brewery opened for business in 2012 with the inaugural brew being the Out of Order, a session American IPA that remains unaltered in the tap room line-up today. Like the Out of Order, all the brews at Salt Creek are Hawkins’ own. The award winning Damn Blonde is his best seller both in the tap room and in distribution with the Cream Ale nipping at its heels.
Double, triple, and quadruple batches are the order of the day when Hawkins brews on his four barrel system. All the beer is run through the 8 barrel and 16 barrel fermenters that double as brite tanks. In addition to his friends in Colorado, he has some friends in Kentucky with formal training in the brewing arts along with some very impressive brewing experience. Hawkins has capitalized on these out of state contacts to supplement his own experience.
Like so many brewers, Hawkins says his job title is janitor. This is doubly true since he is not just the head brewer but also the owner. With no time for pets or hobbies, he is consumed by his work at Salt Creek. His significant other, Darby, and he spend around one hundred hours apiece each week just keeping the beer on tap and the rest of the operation up and running. This is a labor of love that has successfully carved out a unique place in the southern Indiana countryside.
When asked about the advisability of getting into the brewing business today, Hawkins suggests against it. His experience is that the craft beer market is becoming saturated. While he has his beer being distributed all the way from the Ohio River to north of Indianapolis, it is getting more and more difficult to maintain a foothold in the various outlets. Of course, the Indianapolis market continues to add new breweries which makes the competition a little tighter. He believes the biggest impediment to expansion of the craft market is the inertia of life. People have always enjoyed their national big brand beer just like their father did and do not want to get out of that comfort zone. He has actually had people turn down free samples of his beer at tasting events insisting that they do not like something they have never experienced.
City brewers often sell most or all of their beer at their own tap room or pub to mostly local folks. Not being at the center of an urban area, Hawkins has done a good job of casting a wider net to bring in his customers. In addition to great beer, good food, and an interesting, enjoyable venue, he is bringing people in to Salt Creek to experience some very good music and some intriguing events like the recent Chicken Festival. The State of Indiana has posted Guide Signs on highway 37 pointing the way to Salt Creek Brewery which helps draw traffic that otherwise might never stop in. All in all, Brad Hawkins is making beer that people like and doing a good job of making it available. If you make the trip to his old converted service garage for a taste, you will be glad you did.