Zionsville bolstering craft beer, spirits scene

Downtown Zionsville is about to see a decade-long business recruiting effort pay off with the opening of a wave of new breweries and distilleries.

Downtown Zionsville is by no means dry. Whether it’s a tequila sunrise at the Salty Cowboy or a whiskey sour at Cobblestone, Zionsville residents have options. They’ll have three more in the next six months, though, all within a one-mile stretch.

— Mark Nigbur plans to start distilling at Alchemy Spirit House, 640 S. Main St., #400, within the next 30 days.

Nigbur started in Colorado Springs around 2005 when he launched Pure Distilleries LLC and garnered enough attention with his Altius vodka that he was headhunted to work at a distillery in Maui, Hawaii.

There, he went from distilling local pineapples for Hali’imaile Distilling Company as a master distiller to crafting Sammy Hagar’s Beach Bar Rum from Maui’s sugar cane. Nigbur said the island’s sugar industry crashed a few years back, so when Hagar went elsewhere for his ingredients, Nigbur decided it was time for a change of his own.

“We needed community,” Nigbur said, referring to his wife and partner, Laurie Rutkowski-Nigbur, and their 9-month-old son, Harris. “Maui has beautiful weather, but it does not have community.”

While visiting his in-laws in Zionsville, Nigbur was struck by the small town feeling and the local school system. After finding out the former Endurance House running store was available, Nigbur made the move.

Now, he’s 85% done with a fermenting, distilling and bottling build-out that stays true to his roots.

“I’m so huge on buy local, use local commodities. This venture here is going to be all Midwest corn vodka base,” Nigbur said. “I’m actually using the botanicals, anything else I can find, all local.”

That includes talent. Nigbur said he’ll be training three or four local employees to launch the micro-distillery, and he’s got plans to double that in the next 18 months as he gets an artisan distillery license.

Until then, Alchemy Spirit House will focus on wholesale operations, with a tasting room offering tours and food.

Black Acre, founded in Irvington, announced in July its plans to open at 98 S. Main St., in a 2,700-square-foot space that was previously Noble Order brewing.

The brewery’s 80-seat second location—called the Corvus-Black Acre Rotisserie, Taproom and Bourbon Bar—was originally expected to open in the fall. Co-owner Justin Miller is hoping to secure the last few necessary permits this month for the next 30 or 40 days of construction.

“We’d love to be open before the holidays, but realistically, we’re looking at mid-January to mid-February,” Miller said.

Despite having a three-way liquor license to sell Black Acre beer and the business’s new Wilderland Distillery spirits, half of Corvus’ footprint will be family-friendly dining. Miller said it’s a concept that’s complementary to the small town atmosphere; Corvus isn’t trying to create a raucous nightlife scene.

“Our goal was to enter the fabric of the community and not recreate or make a new community there. We’re not looking to be a mecca or destination,” Miller said. “Zionsville is a strong core of families, so you want to make sure you can cater to that market.”

According to a 2014 market study commissioned by the town, Black Acre was listed among those businesses residents most wanted to see in the downtown.

Hotel Tango confirmed in October its long-rumored plan to open a tasting room and restaurant in the former Village Station Pizza King and Pub at 10615 Zionsville Road.

The craft spirit distiller’s third location is its first foray into in-house food offerings. But, like much of the project’s build-out, details of the restaurant’s offerings aren’t set in stone.

Hotel Tango, which started in Fletcher Place in downtown Indianapolis, is still working through details with its partner, Indianapolis-based Jackson Investment Group, and expects to open sometime in May.

Travis Barnes, president and CEO of Hotel Tango Distillery, described the project in an email as “casual and inviting, rustic and not fussy and a little rough around the edges.”

“We’re proud to be surrounded by a growing beer and cocktail scene with other notable brands, so it’s exciting to hear others have seen the same potential in Zionsville that we have,” Barnes said.

Wayne DeLong, Zionsville’s director of planning and economic development, said the town has spent the past decade recruiting businesses like these. Now, that work is paying off three-fold.

“There’s a niche that’s being filled by these three users,” DeLong said. “There is not an entity here in town currently that is the creator of that craft product and the retailer of that craft product. At the very essence of it, it is the farm-to-table concept.”

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