Tapping a new market: Grand Junction opens brewery with a new feel

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    Jon and Dawn Knight serve beers on St. Patrick’s Day, when the brewery and tap room officially opened. (Photo by Sadie Hunter)
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    McKinley Minniefield pours a beer. (Photos by Sadie Hunter)
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    Beer is brewed at the new brewery and tap room at 1189 E. 181st St.
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    Food trucks are offered at specific times for Grand Junction Brewing – The Tap Room patrons.
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    The second “Rock the Junction” brewfest will be May 20. (Submitted photo)

By Anna Skinner

From the beginning, Jon Knight knew he would need a bigger brewery.

Grand Junction Brewing Co.’s brewpub opened more than two years ago, and Knight, owner of GJBC, said there wasn’t enough space at the pub for brewing beer. The brewing was performed at a facility off Kendall Court in Westfield, but even that space wasn’t enough.

“Expansion was basically out of necessity. We outgrew the brew pub space pretty quickly, in the first four to five months of brewing onsite,” Knight said. “We realized that the pace at which we were selling beer and the pace we were distributing beer, we needed a much bigger location for our beer production, and the pub space wasn’t sufficient.”

Although the Kendall Court location provided a production space for two years, it wasn’t the final solution.

“We immediately knew that would be a temporary location, kind of a Band-Aid solution to the problem,” Knight said.

Not only was GJBC selling its beer at the brewpub, it was canning some beers and also distributing to other pubs and restaurants. The company sought out a new location in the old Hall & House Lumber Company building at 1189 E. 181st St., a total of 18,000 square feet. GJBC occupies approximately 11,000 feet of that space, with 7,000 square feet allocated for brewing.

Yet, the brewery is more than just a place to make beer. The front portion of the brewery is a tap room, with 28 beers on tap. The tap room and brewery officially opened on St. Patrick’s Day.

Only a few miles away, business is booming at the brew pub. Knight came up with a novel idea of permitting food trucks onsite instead of preparing food in the new brewery.

“We intentionally did not want to compete with ourselves, so with the fact that this tap room is so close to our downtown brew pub, which is a full restaurant, we did not want to operate another full restaurant that close to the brew pub,” Knight said. “It’s also much simpler, so this is a completely different identity. We are very sensitive to wanting to make the vibe and the feel  when people walk in totally different than a brew pub. We wanted to make sure there was a differentiation between the two.”

Knight’s prediction seemed to work. On St. Patrick’s Day, the tap room sold more than 1,600 pints of beer, the brew pub also had a record-setting day.

OTHER OBSTACLES

Knight had more challenges than coming up with a solution to not compete with the brew pub. Originally, the City of Westfield had an ordinance prohibiting food trucks from most places other than certain events.

Knight needed to go through the Technical Advisory Committee, the Advisory plan Commission and the city council to get his plan approved.

“Food trucks are very commonplace at breweries and at tap rooms and production facilities like this throughout the state of Indiana,” he said.

Food trucks currently available at the tap room are Cosmic Chrome Café, Karma Kitchen, Limonez Catering and Ben’s Country BBQ. The food truck schedule is available at the Grand Junction Brewing – The Tap Room Facebook page.

INDOT’S INVOLVEMENT

Knight worked with the Indiana Dept. of Transportation to receive approval for placing the Grand Junction Brewing Co. – The Tap Room as an INDOT sign along U.S. 31. Because the tap room isn’t a restaurant, the brewery’s logo and hours will be placed under an attraction sign instead of a food sign. The beer also qualifies for the “Made in Indiana” INDOT distinction.

However, the brew pub won’t have a sign.

“The reason we could get a sign here at all is because this is a ‘Made in Indiana’ production facility,” Knight said. “INDOT does not allow signage for two locations within that close of proximity. We chose this one because it is eligible for the sign, and the brew pub is not eligible for an attraction site sign.”

UPCOMING EVENTS

In addition to launching its tap room and brewery, GJBC will again co-host the “Rock the Junction” beer and music festival with Indiana on Tap. The brewfest is scheduled for 1 to 5 p.m. May 20 along Union Street in Westfield.

More than 20 breweries and multiple bands will be present at the event. Many of the proceeds will go toward a new scholarship established by GJBC for two graduating Westfield High School seniors.

“It’s a true partnership with Grand Junction on this event,” Indiana on Tap Founder Justin Knepp said. “We partner with them to bring this great craft beer and music event to downtown Westfield. The community really rallied around it, so we are bringing it back for the second year.”

Tickets are available at rockthejunction.com.

Grand Junction Brewing – The Tap Room By the Numbers

  • 1,600+ pints on St. Patrick’s Day
  • 400+ pints on Grand Park Opening Day
  • 28 beers on tap
  • $35 Rock the Junction general admission