Indigo Imp Brewery
Cleveland, Ohio – Throughout history, imps have long held a reputation for causing mischievous, good-natured fun.
Fitting, then, that over the course of the past year, Indigo Imp Brewery has been responsible for spreading plenty of good-natured fun to craft beer lovers all across the Cleveland, Ohio area.
What started out in the form of an annual spring party for the family and friends of home brewers Matt and Kathy Chappel has turned into a successful small business that is growing by leaps and bounds at a time.
“My husband had been home brewing for a number of years before we opened the Indigo Imp Brewery,” Kathy Chappel said. “And it all kind of started from our home brew parties. People started telling us, ‘This is good enough that if you sold it, we would buy it and tell other people to buy it.’ So after a couple of years of hearing that, we decided to try it and see what happens.”
The name, Indigo Imp, is a slight twist from a Blue Devil, which was the mascot at the high school Matt and Kathy attended.
And so after close to a year’s worth of renovation on a “grimy and gross, blank warehouse space,” done mostly by Matt and Kathy themselves, Indigo Imp went from an idea hatched in the Chappel’s garage into a living, breathing thing in downtown Cleveland. The brewery currently occupies a little over 3,000 square feet of space.“We did it all kind of bare bones. Matt acquired the brew house equipment by scavenging different places,” Kathy said. “We did not buy a pre-built brewing system. We put all of that together. Matt literally built the brew house by hand, from the ground up.”
Indigo Imp officially churned out its first batch of beer in late August of 2008 and sold its first batch in early December of that same year. The brewery uses a seven-barrel system that yields between 85 to 90 cases of beer per week.
Indigo Imp Brewery is like a throwback to some of the traditional European breweries from years past. It is one of the few breweries in the nation that uses the open fermentation method. This method allows wild yeast to influence each batch, and in addition to the yeast added by Matt, results in slight flavor variations from batch to batch and season to season. The beer at Indigo Imp is also not filtered and is bottle conditioned, meaning that the carbonation process takes place inside the bottle.
As might be expected from the Chappel’s love of the European method, things at Indigo Imp are basic, with the switching of hoses between tanks done by hand. “There are no set pipes that go from one tank to the other,” Kathy said. “We have three full hoses that we use and depending on what part of the brewing process we’re in, we un-clamp and re-clamp the hoses wherever they need to go. It’s a very labor-intensive process.”
This method may not be easy, but it’s what helps give Indigo Imp its own distinct personality, one that makes it stand out from the host of other micro brews on the market.
When Indigo Imp first set sail, it produced two varieties of beer – Winter Solstice (A seasonal, deep amber, full bodied ale, brewed with four different malts, Cascade hops and a touch of orange peel and cinnamon) and the brewery’s flagship beer – Blonde Bombshell (An American blonde ale with a smooth malty taste, moderate hop bitterness, and slightly fruity and nutty aftertaste).
In the spring, Winter Solstice was put aside for the year and Jester (A pale ale fermented with a special blend of Belgian style yeast, with a bit of clove and a little banana flavor balanced with a moderate malt character. The finish is a slight hop bitterness with some spiciness from the yeast) was launched. “We’re going to continue to grow our brands as we can,” Kathy said. “Right now we’re looking to put out a new one in the fall and kind of grow from there.”
Another thing that sets Indigo Imp apart is the way the beer is packaged. Every six-pack has one bottle that is dipped in wax. Winter Solstice and Blond Bombshell six-packs feature an impishly blue bottle in their midst; while six packs of Jester come with a devilishly red longneck in them. “It’s just a fun thing that helps set us apart,” Kathy said. “But it does take longer at the end of the production line to dip one bottle into wax. They’re all hand-dipped. It’s really eye-catching. When you see it on the shelf, you know it right away.”
With the way that Indigo Imp has been flying off the shelves of the fine retailers that stock it, it’s safe to say that Cleveland, Ohio has a full-blown case of Imp fever. “This town has been extremely supportive of a new brewery,” Kathy said. “People who enjoy craft beers understand that we’re doing something different. We are not trying to make a beer that’s just like anyone else’s. We’re trying to do something unique. And people who appreciate that are fully supportive of us.”
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