Tin Man Brewing’s Family & Dog-Friendly Concept Has Made the Taproom a Kokomo Favorite
Photographer / Jim Hunt
For Kokomo native Amanda Lewton, opening Tin Man Brewing Co. downtown nearly three years ago was, figuratively speaking, a bit like coming home.
Lewton’s family has been in the brewing business for four generations now, starting with her great-grandfather who founded a distribution business that was subsequently operated by her grandpa and then her father.
“It’s so funny, even my husband is in the beer business, and originally I thought, ‘Okay, enough, I’m going in a completely different direction,’” Lewton says. “I got a degree in elementary education and really didn’t think at the time I would someday be involved with brewing.”
As it turns out, however, Lewton was destined to immerse herself in the industry her family has come to know so well through the decades.
She says Mayor Greg Goodnight, while researching various types of businesses to attract to the greater Kokomo area, determined that opening a new brewery in town would complement the existing restaurants and shops throughout the city. Goodnight reached out to Lewton’s father to help find the right fit, and she knew the timing was right to get involved.
“Mayor Goodnight has put a big focus on how to keep people in the city and living in our Kokomo community and what people are looking for as far as things to do,” Lewton says. “Breweries kept coming up again and again, and when he contacted my father I knew it was perfect timing. I was at a point in my life where I wanted to find a new challenge for myself and focus in. It was a no-brainer.”
Nick and Sara Davidson, co-founders of the original Tin Man Brewing Co. Evansville location, had been considering an expansion into the northern Indiana market, and Lewton offered to forge a partnership and take the reins in opening a brand new brewery and taproom.
Soon the logistical pieces came together. The City of Kokomo had purchased the historic downtown train depot building and officials were searching diligently to find a fitting brewery tenant. By December of 2016, Lewton had officially taken over one of the depot spaces and began building out her brewery and taproom four months later.
“It’s a beautiful, historic location, and with the restaurant they already had in the other space there and a community room upstairs, having our brewery on the back end is perfect,” Lewton says.
Now in her third year of operation, Lewton and her head brewer, Jack Sramek, who previously worked at the Tin Man Evansville location, offer several core brew selections year-round in addition to specialty, limited-run flavors.
“I initially tried to replicate the success with some of the beers we did in Evansville, although we’ve gotten away from that at this point and are doing different one-offs and interesting new beers we’ve never tried before,” says Sramek, who worked at Two Brothers Brewing Company in Chicago before joining Tin Man in Evansville back in 2015.
Tin Man’s 24 tap lines typically include around 20 in-house selections along with a few guest taps. Sramek says his Overloaded Double IPA and Mango Malfunction IPA have both become favorites among patrons, and a few of his specialty selections like the Partner in Wine, a dry ale made with wine must at a high fermentation temperature, have also become popular.
Sramek brews one to two times per week using a five-barrel system, totaling about 155 gallons per batch of beer. Tin Man’s brews are available for carry-out in 64-ounce growlers or 32-ounce grumblers as well.
“We’ve been able to put out about five to 10 barrels per week,” Sramek says. “Our target is to hit 500 barrels per year. We just started doing a Blood Orange Wheat, which has been very popular. We plan for that one, our Hibiscus Petal Pucker sour ale and a couple others to be year-round.”
Despite being a brewery at its core, Tin Man is an all-ages, family-friendly facility where patrons can bring in their own food — a feature that Lewton feels has helped to promote local restaurants.
“Because we only do beer and drinks, we can bring people in and then they can support the local pizza guy, and the steakhouses and Mexican restaurants and things like that,” she says. “We’re a great place for a couple or a family to go because we’re not a bar or a restaurant. You can bring the kids on Friday night then come back Saturday with your spouse.”
Since opening, Lewton and her staff of seven, including Sramek and her seasonal summer help, have hosted birthday parties (human and dog alike), graduations and even high school prom photo sessions.
“Our goal has been to give people a place to go as a family — we have board games and pets are welcome,” Lewton says. “We do a lot of family and community events. We’ve partnered with IU-Kokomo and they have a program that’s been integrated into their coursework where students design glasses that we sell.”
The original Evansville location has shut down operations, leaving Lewton with the only operating Tin Man Brewing facility. When it comes to the possibility of opening additional locations, whether in Kokomo or elsewhere, Lewton says she’s not opposed to the idea, but for the time being she remains focused on continuing to improve her current facility.
“I would love to grow and add locations, but my passion is to keep fine-tuning this one,” she says. “We’re in year three and we have a solid core group of people, and I think it’s important to continue the great foundation we’ve built here.”
Tin Man Brewing Co. is located at 500 North Buckeye Street in Kokomo. For additional info call 765-416-0599. To view a full beer list, hours of operation, an events page and more, visit tinmankokomo.com.