The Kickstarter page for the nascent 18th Street Brewery bears the headline “Proud to become Gary’s first ever brewery.” I’d be surprised if that were true, given that the city was founded in 1906—and of course the Melanie Brewery Company, maker of cult-favorite cheapo lager Beer 30, is based in Gary, Indiana (though you could argue that it doesn’t count because it does all its brewing by contract in Wisconsin). Anyhow, being first wouldn’t make 18th Street’s beer better or worse, so I’m happy to leave the question open. Whether or not founder Drew Fox would really be the only brewer ever to set up shop in Gary (he hasn’t done so yet), the town is lucky to have someone so dedicated and creative making the effort now.
Fox was raised in Humboldt Park and fell in love with Pilsen (hence the brewery’s name); he moved to Gary six years ago and has been homebrewing pretty much ever since. More important for his present purposes, since last spring Fox has been learning his way around a commercial-scale brewing system at Pipeworks—he came aboard at batch eight (they’re into the 70s now), and he’s been on Pipeworks’ payroll since the summer. He and the Pipeworks guys have brewed lots of 18th Street beers there as well.
Fox quit a job managing a restaurant in a tony hotel to start his brewery, and he hopes to have an operation in Gary up and running by August. He’s looking at locations in the Miller Beach area, near the South Shore Line—he wants the spot to be within a ten-minute walk from the train. One of the leading candidates is an old schoolhouse.