Indianapolis’ new Deviate Brewing is chasing craft beer geeks – Indianapolis Star

A lot of people want the whole pie or least a pretty big slice of it. But the owners of Indianapolis’ newest brewery must be watching their figure.

Greg Ortwein and Mike Orkey of Deviate Brewing aren’t chasing the domestic beer drinkers. They aren’t even after the pilsner and wheat beer drinkers. They’re seeking a smaller slice of the market — the already-established craft beer consumer.

Stop by their taproom at 4004 W. 96th St., and you won’t find a “normal” beer in the lineup. Instead, think rye chipotle porter and a Scottish Strong with coffee and banana.

I talked with them a few weeks before their brewery opened on Aug. 29. Here’s what they had to say about their journey, and walking on the wild side of craft beer.

Q: How did you get into craft beer?

Ortwein: We had a friend who introduced us to Belgian beers. He would take us to different places, and we would try them. Mike became interested in making some. (The friend) had moved here from Maine and had all of his equipment in his basement, so he gave us his home brew system and we started. We had a little mishap on the kitchen stove, which gave us an excuse to buy bigger equipment. Then it progressed into this crazy, crazy thing.

Q: What made you decide to open a brewery?

Ortwein: As home brewers, the fun part for us was sharing the beer. Obviously we couldn’t drink the amount we were brewing. So we would have parties to share the beer, and we would take it to events. And just to watch the reaction was fun — to come up with fun stuff and have people say, “Woah that’s crazy. That’s awesome.” Then they started asking, “Can we buy this?” We legally couldn’t sell it to them, so we knew we had to figure out a way to do that.

Q: Do you think you are late to enter the craft beer market in Indianapolis?

Ortwein: We were looking at the market, and thought, “Shoot we are behind the curve now because it’s already expanded.” So what we’ve really done is focused on our model. That’s why we are the size we are. We’re not trying to be a production brewery. We only want to be front-of-house sales. That’s our goal. We don’t really want to be Sun King. We aren’t jumping into that distribution market. I don’t want to fight for taps. I don’t want to fight for sales. I don’t want to give beer to someone and trust they are going to take care of it and have clean lines, and all that. We decided that we needed a model that was going to be right here (in the taproom).

Q: Why target the craft beer geek?

Ortwein: If we come out with another pilsner or wheat beer now, and that’s going to be our thing, that’s really not what we are. What we found is that our taste buds started in that realm, then progressed out. … We really want to take the micro lover to this next level of fun beers. We’re really trying to carve our niche to be small and flexible. When that craft beer pie gets bigger, hopefully our slice gets bigger too.

Q: How can you be flexible?

Ortwein: We are small. We have a five barrel system and a bunch of two-barrels. We can do fun stuff in small batches and keep it constantly rotating. We can play around with flavor additives, and if it goes bad, I can dump it without it killing me.

Orkey: Like when we put together a peanut butter IPA — that was a little risky. Peanut butter and an IPA? Well, we tried it anyway. If it doesn’t go right, it goes down the drain. It’s not a huge loss. It’s a loss, and it’s currently hard to sustain any loss. But we’re not afraid to do that. That allows us to be flexible.

Q: Any final thoughts on Deviate Brewing?

Ortwein: I want brewers to come here and drink because we are doing some of the fun stuff they would love to try, but maybe they just have to keep up with production of those bigger beers. We are trying to be specific and purposeful.

Follow Amy Haneline on Twitter and Instagram @amybhaneline, and Facebook. Call her at (317) 444-6281.