Local brewers and vintners ready to give state fair a new taste

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – Local brewers and winemakers are getting ready to sell their products at this year’s state fair. This is the first year alcohol will be sold at the fair since 1946, after Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill on March 14 eliminating the 67-year ban.

Rick Black is owner of Wildcat Creek Winery in Tippecanoe County and is also president of the Indiana Winery and Vineyard Association. Black plans to sell Wildcat Creek’s wines at this year’s fair, and he said many others will too.

“We’re ecstatic,” Black said of his 73-winery membership. “I’m personally ecstatic. I think it’s the most exciting time to be in the wine industry here in Indiana.”

It’s an industry that’s growing, according to Black. He said about two wineries have opened every year in Indiana for the last eight to 10 years.

Craft brewing is also booming in the state, supporting more than 6,000 jobs in 2012, according to the Brewers Association. In Lafayette, People’s Brewing Company owner Chris Johnson says he also plans to sell his creations at the fair.

“I love the creativeness of creating beer and using the ingredients to manipulate and make different flavors,” Johnson said. “That craft-art side of it is my favorite part of it.”

Both Wildcat Creek and People’s Brewing Company sell their products outside of Greater Lafayette, but the amount and diversity of people at the Indiana State Fair makes it an attractive market.

“The ability for them to go down to a city like Indianapolis at the state fair and have half-a-million people, a million people come by and be exposed to their product, it’s certainly a good thing,” said Greg Emig, owner of Lafayette Brewing Company. Emig is also on the board of directors for the Indiana Brewers Guild.

Lafayette Brewing Company will not sell its beer at the fair, said Emig.

Though vendors across the state are optimistic that the law will mean more exposure and better business, it is still unclear how it will be implemented. It doesn’t go into effect until July 1, but with the fair beginning Aug. 1, Johnson and Black expect to receive guidance from the state fair commission soon.

Widespread littering during the 1946 state fair caused the General Assembly to pass a bill the next year banning alcohol sales. Before the ban was lifted in March, Indiana and North Carolina were the only two states that banned alcohol sales.

Opponents of the bill said alcohol would ruin the family atmosphere at the fair. However, the bill passed with more than 70 percent of the vote in both chambers of the General Assembly.

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