The craft beer scene in Johnson County is dominated by small breweries located in Greenwood and Franklin.
But in the coming months, a new beermaker will fill a void that exists in the Whiteland area for fresh, locally made brews.
Nailers Brewing Co. is slated to open this spring, bringing the number of breweries in the county to eight. Growing out of the homebrewing exploits of Steve Harmon Sr. and his family, the brewery will focus on a core lineup of approachable beers as well as some seasonal and special creations.
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The hope is not only to give their hometown of Whiteland an option for well-made local beer, but to serve as a hub for homebrewers looking to share ideas and learn from each other.
“We’re all born and raised in Whiteland and still live here. If we want to go do something, we have to go somewhere else,” said Steve Harmon Jr., marketing director for the brewery. “There’s not really anything here to hold people in town, so that’s why we wanted to be here to grow our local community.”
Renovation and construction of the brewery’s home is ongoing at 6001 U.S. 31 North in Whiteland. As the different licenses needed to open the commercial brewery are processed by government agencies, the brewing equipment currently fills the garage at the Whiteland home of Harmon Sr. and his wife, Therese Harmon.
Nearly every inch of available space is taken up by gleaming kettles, vats and hoses. Bags of grain and hops are stacked wherever they will fit.
“Right now, it’s all in the house. If you can imagine a full brewery crammed into a house, in every corner there’s pots and fermenters,” Harmon Jr. said.
That’s fitting, considering that Nailers Brewing grew out of Harmon Sr.’s interest in homebrewing. His son, Ethan Harmon, had bought a small brew-at-home kit seven years, and the two of them made their first batch of beer from it.
Though it was decent beer, the Harmon family thought they could do it better. Harmon Sr. started studying hops and malt, playing with different flavors and styles such as India pale ales, Irish reds and milk stouts.
As he got better and better, his creations became more in-demand among their friends.
“We kept having people come over to the house and try our beer saying, ‘I’d pay to drink this,’” Harmon Jr. said. “So we decided to take it to the next level and try to open up a brewery.”
Nailers Brewing is named for Harmon Sr.’s primary job in remodeling and home improvement. The interior of the new brewery will reflect that, with industrial accents blended with a friendly, homey ambiance, Harmon Jr. said.
The beer menu will feature a foundation of four or five flagship beers — lager, pilsner and ales. From that, they’ll build a rotating lineup of unique offerings throughout the year.
“We don’t want to corner ourselves into one niche market of beer. We want to offer a different variety of beer,” Harmon Jr. said.
The brewery will also feature a small menu comprised of homemade paninis, soups and other specialties.
At the same time, the Harmons want to provide a much more immersive experience for beer-lovers, Harmon Jr. said. They plan to offer experiences such as “brewer for a day,” where people can serve as Harmon Sr.’s assistant beermaker to learn what really goes into bringing your favorite beer to life.
“He’ll teach you the process of brewing from start to finish,” Harmon Jr. said. “It’s more for people who are in that homebrewing experience who want to learn more and refine what they’re doing, or people who are completely new to it.”
Nailers Brewing will also work with more experienced homebrewers to design and name a new beer for the brewery that will go on tap. The Harmons want to be accessible, so that other beer enthusiasts can come in, discuss the problems they’re having with their beer and help them work through the issues.
For those who are new to it, the brewery can provide guidance on how to get started.
“When it comes to the homebrew world, you can go to some classes to learn, but they’re few and far between. We want to be able to offer that to the homebrew world in our area,” Harmon Jr. said. “We want it to be an experience beyond just here is the brewpub, here is the beer, here is how we make it. We want to let you experience that and get into it.”
Because the brewing set-up is already put together, and with the family doing remodeling on the brewery themselves, it will not take long to be ready for business, Harmon Jr. said. They estimate that once permits and inspections are complete, Nailers Brewing will open its doors in April.
Nailers Brewing Co.
What: A new brewpub planned in Whiteland that will offer a variety of different beers, as well as a limited menu of paninis, soups and other fare.
Where: 6001 N. U.S 31., Whiteland
Who: Head brewer Steve Harmon Sr., as well as his wife, Therese Harmon, and sons Steve Harmon Jr. and Ethan Harmon
Beer offerings: The brewery will feature a core lineup of four or five flagship beers, mostly lagers, pilsner and ales. Seasonal and specialty brews will rotate throughout the year.
Timetable: The Harmons hope to open in April