Brewing Up a Presence
Sun King Expands to Kokomo With New Partnership
Photographer / Jim Hunt
Indianapolis-based Sun King Brewing has partnered with the owner of Tin Man Kokomo Brewing on North Buckeye Street to offer a rebranded concept known as Sun King Kokomo, which all parties involved are excited about.
The business arrangement was forged out of a long-time friendship and professional relationship between Amanda Lewton, owner and operator of the Kokomo-based brewery (which formerly operated under the moniker Tin Man Brewing Co.), and Sun King founders Clay Robinson and Dave Colt.
“[Lewton’s] father and my father are friends, and my father is one of the business minds behind Sun King when we started 11 years ago,” Robinson says. “My dad helped mentor her when she was opening her Kokomo Brewing Company around five years ago. So we’ve been in contact with her throughout the years.”
Lewton originally opened her Kokomo space under the Tin Man name back in 2017, and after becoming the only Tin Man location in Indiana when the company closed down its Evansville operations in 2018, she began considering creative ways to continue operating as a successful small-batch brewery and taproom. When the coronavirus pandemic took hold, she discussed a partnership possibility with Robinson and his fellow Sun King leaders.
“With Tin Man selling their business to a company in Louisville, Amanda had been kind of floating out there, and we had a really organic conversation this spring about this arrangement we now have,” Robinson says. “My business partner, Dave, had put her in touch with a brewer named JD Alvarado, and throughout the course of that conversation we talked about coming together and doing what we’re doing now.”
Robinson says that since Sun King has continually grown its presence around the state through the past six years, including Central Indiana locations in Fishers, Carmel and Broad Ripple Village in addition to a downtown Indianapolis headquarters, a new presence a bit farther north made sense to the founders.
“We figured that since Tin Man doesn’t exist anymore, and Amanda runs a really great business – and also, Kokomo is a great community – what about the possibility of Kokomo Brewing Company becoming part of Sun King, and vice versa?” Robinson says. “We were all excited about the possibility, and we started going back and forth on what it would look like.”
Those conversations began in May, after both Sun King leaders and Lewton had respectively pushed past business concerns due to the coronavirus outbreak. Before long, a concept was established – Lewton would continue to operate her establishment in much the same way she has been since opening three years ago, while operating under a new name – Sun King Kokomo – and carrying Sun King products amidst an interior that now features Sun King Brewing branding instead of Tin Man’s robot-themed signage.
“It’s kind of funny because with COVID, it actually made us get creative and rally together and come up with a plan that benefited us all,” Robinson adds. “There were no egos involved, and everyone approached it with an attitude that we wanted to provide the best for Kokomo Brewing and Sun King and be a true partnership.”
The brewery remains a family and dog-friendly establishment, and board games and popcorn are both still available. Patrons can bring in carry-out food to enjoy with beer selections.
Sun King Kokomo, which includes a small batch brewery whose staff brewed its first batch since the new partnership in mid-June, will carry many of Sun King’s staple beer selections including the Osiris, Sunlight and Wee Mac ales among others.
“There are more than 20 taps there, and the location will have the seasonal, specialty, barrel-aged and sour beers that we have,” Robinson adds. “The small-batch brewery will continue to put out new, unique, innovative beers under JD and our team.”
Lewton officially began offering Sun King products in early June, and Robinson says sales have been promising since then.
Robinson says Sun King Brewing has a minority interest in Kokomo Brewing Company and that the business arrangement is a partnership rather than a franchise.
“Amanda owns and operates it, and Sun King has come in as a strategic partner,” he says. “She has access to our brewing program, and our retail leadership team and marketing team. It’s a true partnership.”
Robinson feels Kokomo is a perfect setting to continue expanding the Sun King brand in the Hoosier state.
“The big picture of Sun King, and what Dave and I want for our customers, aligns very well with what Amanda has built in Kokomo and her approach to customer service,” Robinson says. “We all enjoy being part of the community and bringing people together through beer.”
Sun King Kokomo is located at 500 North Buckeye Street. For more information, call 765-416-0599.