Writer & Photographer / Stephanie Duncan
If someone was interested in starting a new rewarding hobby, Anita Johnson could probably convince him or her to try home brewing with one visit to Great Fermentations. With a passion for craft beer, home brewing and teaching people new skills, Johnson, Great Fermentation’s owner, is one of the lucky people who gets to do her hobby as a job.
Great Fermentations is a local business that since 1995 has sold beer and winemaking supplies and offered home brewing classes in Indianapolis. Originally opening in Broad Ripple, Great Fermentations opened its second location this year in Avon. It offers a large selection of ingredients and equipment for home brewing for beginners and advanced brewers.
Johnson has been running Great Fermentations since its beginning and is still just as passionate about home brewing as she was when she was first introduced to it by a friend 20 years ago. Johnson convinced her friend to teach her how to brew her own beer. All it took was for her to cook him a meal of his choice, mac and cheese (out of a box) and fish sticks. The moment she brewed her first beer, she was hooked.
With a new hobby taking a lot of her attention and a similar local store going out of business, Johnson seized the opportunity to pursue her new passion. She quit her full-time job and opened a storefront. At a time when the home brewing trend hadn’t really taken off, Johnson really had to work to educate people about this unique hobby.
“It wasn’t mainstream, and people would ask about the legality all the time,” she explained. “I had to stick at it, and eventually it became more popular and accepted.”
Johnson feels really lucky to go to work every day. She not only has great staff, but she also gets to work with her son, Bryan who is handling daily operations.
“I am able to share this business with him now, and it showed that he appreciated what I was doing here,” she explained. “Most businesses close in five years, so to be in a niche business for 20 years, it’s an accomplishment!”
After 20 years, Anita has gained a wealth of knowledge on the home brewing hobby and emphasizes that brewing beer and wine is easier than it sounds.
“Brewing beer is just like cooking but with the added step of sanitation,” she explains.
Along with everyday operations, Johnson and her staff also brew their own beers, often entering them in brewing competitions. One of her first awards was for her cider and mead combo, Two Wrongs Make A Right. The name gives it away.
“I had made a cider that was too sweet and a mead that was too dry, so I combined them, and it won a silver medal at a competition,” she said.
Trial and error is something that everyone experiences in home brewing. While Johnson has had many successes, failure while learning is also a part of the process.
“I have had my fair share of bad beer,” she laughed. “I had one that turned out to taste like a green Jolly Rancher.”
Her current favorite beer to brew is Little Big Guy, a Session IPA kit currently on sale at Great Fermentations.
“Half the alcohol, all the IBUs,” she joked.
Johnson also likes to make custom beers for friends and family. After recently battling breast cancer, she made a custom beer for her doctor who helped her.
Great Fermentations also provides a wide variety of classes aimed at introducing new customers to the fun of home brewing, and they hold fun events to bring the home brewing community together.
“From 55-year-old plumbers to young millennials, Great Fermentations has developed a unique community of people who love this hobby,” Johnson said.
For more information, visit Great Fermentations in Avon at 7900 E. US 36 or online at GreatFermentations.com.