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From Venus to Märzen: Planetary Brewing opens tasting room

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The expanse of the solar system greets every person walking into Planetary Brewing Co.

While they stare at wall-sized representations of the multicolored Jupiter or the rings of Saturn, founder Andrew Groves wants them to think about the exploration that’s they’re about to go on.

Beer lovers will dabble in favorites such as India pale ale and cream ales, while also trying alien tastes such as bourbon barrel stout and vanilla porter.

“Instead of going from planet to planet, you’re exploring the universe of beer,” he said.

About the brewery

What: Planetary Brewing Co.

Where: 500 S. Polk St., Suite 22, Greenwood

What: A two-barrel capacity “nanobrewery,” with an ever-changing lineup of supremely crafted ales

Operator: Andrew Groves

Beers: 13 recipes, including offerings of India pale ale, Belgian tripel, cream le, honey wheat, vanilla porter, bourbon barrel stout and American pale ale

Expected opening: Early December

Groves has turned his love of craft beer into central Indiana’s newest brewery. Planetary Brewing will open at the end of November in an industrial space near Old Town Greenwood.

He’s taken his brewing operation from a few barrels in a basement to a new tasting room, lounge and brewing chamber. Residents will be able to fill up growlers to go and sample everything from Belgian Tripel to honey wheat and bourbon barrel stout.

Inside an industrial suite off of Greenwood’s Polk Street, Groves is trying to get the final pieces together to open his brewery. The cooler is in, the taps have been installed and the serving bar is built. Stainless steel brew kettles are ready to be moved.

An electrical control panel, to monitor and regulate the status of the beer as he makes it, still needs to be installed. Once it is, the first batches of Planetary Brewing Co. will start fermenting.

Groves, a 33-year-old Center Grove area resident, works in the office at Groves Appliance Repair. The brewery is a side project and had to be done in the evenings and weekends.

He has crafted 13 varieties of beer to start out with. As he gauges people’s tastes, he can add more.

“I won’t have a regular house beer lineup. Everything will rotate batch to batch,” he said.

Groves hadn’t been a fan of standard American lagers and, as such, had never really been a beer drinker. But that changed when a friend introduced him to Belgian style beers.

“The yeast strains are so complex and versatile. You can do so much with them,” he said. “A lot of the spices and citrusy notes are in there already. You just have to brew it to bring it out.”

The only problem is that those high-quality beers are more expensive. The more he investigated and researched, the more Groves determined that he could make the beer cheaply himself.

“It just started as a hobby, then it grew from there,” he said. “I started making beer that I liked and that I would drink.”

Groves bought a malt-extract kit from a homebrewing store and started playing around with flavors, malt profiles and strength of hops. He started with brown and amber ales, as he saw them as the easiest type to balance quality and flavor.

Looking for mentors, he consulted with the staff at Tuxedo Park Brewers Supply, a Fountain Square brewing retail store. He would stop over for a few hours, learn the ins and outs of beer and learn techniques from the staff.

To start a brewery just speaks to Groves’ perseverance and dedication to his craft, co-owner Adam Burk said.

“Everyone always talks about starting a brewery, but not everyone does it. Every few follow it all the way through,” he said. “But Andrew did. Plus, he makes really good beer, anyway.”

From there, Groves worked his way through various other types — stouts, porters and pale ales. His skill grew to include the Belgian beers he first became enamored with.

Groves shared his beers with friends and family, and the more he perfected his recipes, the more they asked for free samples. Some offered to buy a six-pack.

His cooking setup moved from his kitchen into his garage, where he could make 10-gallon batches. After years of brewing, he felt that he could do a small-batch brewery, cooking up his individual recipes on a microbrew scale and selling them.

People could come into a small tasting room and try the different brews. If they liked something, they could fill up a growler to take home.

State regulations for brewing operations require that he get a permit to bottle his beer. People can buy the beer on premise, but other than tasting, no beer can be consumed in the brewery.

“When most people think of a brewery, they think a huge operation with big tanks running all the time. But doing that would have taken a lot of capital,” he said. “I didn’t want to take out a bunch of loans and be up to my eyeballs in debt, so I needed to find a different way to do it.”

Groves chose to call his brewery Planetary Brewing Co. in honor of a science fiction movie titled “Planetary Traveler.” The premise was that space travelers spread out from a mother ship and explore from planet to planet.

“I’ve been a sci-fi (fan) all my life and have always been interested in that thing,” he said. “I kind of took a piece of that and put it toward the beer side of it.”

Doug Goins, beer manager at Shallo’s, thinks the addition of another craft brewery on the southside will add to the growing quality of beer in central Indiana.

Goins is helping Groves with sales and marketing, brewfests and beer tasting events. Shallo’s already conducted an early tasting in October, where people got sneak peaks of the Hovercraft Belgian Tripel and the Pulsar Pale Ale.

He found a location for his setup, a suite in an industrial park in Greenwood. The space offered enough room for a cooler, a brewing room for his 68-gallon serving tanks, and a tasting bar.

He has spent the past year putting together his brewery.

Each batch of beer will be 62 gallons in his two-barrel system. All of Groves’ creations will be held in the holding tanks, before moving to serving tanks hooked up to the taps when the beer is ready to drink.

The initial phase of Planetary Brewing Co. will be the tasting room, all of it operating in-house from Greenwood. If the popularity allows for it, he’d like to start kegging the beer and selling to area restaurants.

Planetary Brewing Co. likely will open at the beginning of December. Groves has already been holding sampling events at Shallos, and area restaurants have inquired about getting the beer. But he doesn’t want to move too quickly.

“I want to get it going and get if off the ground first,” he said. “Then we’ll see where it goes.”

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