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How many of us have ever been sitting around having a few beers and come up with the idea of starting our own brewery? Probably a decent number of us, but how many of us have actually followed through on those ideas? Not many, but that's exactly what Kappa Alumni, Scott Fergusson was able to do. He is the founder of Chapman's Brewing Company in Angola, Indiana, which was started in 2012. Scott shared some insights into how the brewery came to be a reality for him. The thought of actually following through with starting a brewery came in the fall of 2011 for Scott. "I think that many ideas are the summation or connection of many unrelated thoughts, conversations, articles read, conversations, etc. So, starting the brewery was the combination of a number of things: An appreciation of this area that I call home / The presence of craft beer in many different markets but very little available here / the multitude of articles on how fast craft beer was growing, the margins of the business, the decline of the two largest brewers. All of these things and more circulated in my mind. It was likely in the Fall of 2011 when these thoughts coalesced to the thought that if we built a brewery in Angola it could be successful." It's always interesting to hear the stories behind how breweries got their start, and Scott's story was definitely an interesting one. Chapman's got it's start as a class project while he was teaching at Trine University. "At the time, I was teaching a class at Trine on Venture Planning - the class was structured around taking an idea, vetting it, and ultimately building a business plan around it. I proposed the idea of creating a brewery and the class went after the research to see if it would actually make sense. At the time, we felt that the real growth market was with Hard Ciders, not beer. We also thought that to take advantage of the locale we would name the company Pokagon Cider. What we did not know was that the name Pokagon referred to the Pokagon band of the Potawatomi Indian Tribe. The Herald Republican published an article about my intentions to build out the company, which found its way to the tribal liaison of the tribe. He called, and while the tribe had no legal authority to force us to change the name, they felt strongly that connecting the name to an alcohol company would put focus on the history of the tribe's struggle with alcohol. This was a shock to me - we had no intention of doing anything but naming the company after a popular state park!  So, in many conversations with the Trine class, we looked around at other historical figures that were connected with our area.  John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed, settled in Fort Wayne and is buried there. The connection between cider and Chapman was solid, and Chapman's Brewing Company was formed in May of 2012."

As the ideas of this brewery began developing, Scott had to come up with a business plan that would allow this new business to be successful. Scott explained the thought processes that he had to go through to make this happen. "In developing the business plan, it became apparent that the notion of a couple guys making beer in their garage, making money, and growing rapidly wasn't true at all. In reality, no small brewery can produce and sell beer with less than 3000 gallons of fermentation capacity - the fixed costs of time, the variable costs of ingredients and packaging all work against the brewer at levels less than this. So, the basic plan of the brewery started with the need for a decent amount of capital and staffing so that the business could produce at a cost structure that would enable us to make a profit." In addition to the business side of things, there is also an engineering side. The processes involved in brewing beer are bio-engineering processes. Scott went into detail on the brewing process to elaborate how it relates to engineering and the engineering principles of Sigma Phi Delta. "The basic beer-making process is bio-process engineering. The basic ingredients are sugars and water, where yeast introduced creates an exothermic reaction where the sugars are digested by the yeast with byproducts of CO2, Heat, and ethanol.      

Here's the basic process, from an engineering perspective:

a. The malted barley is combined with hot water in a process called sparging. This process releases the sugars and other flavors from the malted barley. The vessel used is a mashtun, a false-floor tank where the grain mix is separated from the solution, called wort.

b. The wort is then transferred to a second vessel, where it is brought to a boil. The boiling reduces the volume and denatures proteins. Because beer is a natural product, spoilage is a constant concern and the berry of the hops plant was discovered to provide a preservative effect as well as a pleasing flavor component. During the boil (and afterwards, depending on the recipe), hops are added.

c. The wort is ready for inoculation, but at 100 C, it must be cooled. We incorporate a heat exchanger that cools the wort to about 23 C.  The wort is transferred from the heat exchanger to one of our fermentation vessels. The brewery has 5, ranging from 100 barrels (1 barrel equals 31 US gallons), to 40 barrels.

d. Once transferred to the fermentation vessel, the yeast is added to the mixture and the temperature controlled by glycol chilling. Given the exothermic nature of the fermentation, temperatures would quickly rise, ruining the beer.  The fermentation process is roughly two weeks, depending on the recipe. The gravity of the fermentation process is determined by light refractometer, a surprisingly accurate way to determine if the fermentation process is complete.

e. After the fermentation process is complete, the temperature in the vessel is lowered to roughly 0 C, which causes the yeast in the vessel to die or go dormant, sinking to the bottom of the vessel, which is why most fermentation vessels have a conical bottom.  This yeast is drawn off to allow the beer to become clear. Many breweries will also do filtration to further clarify the beer. Chapman's does not filter or pasteurize our beer as we feel the taste and character of the beer is compromised by these destructive processes. It does require us and our distribution channel to keep our beer cold at all times.

f. We transfer the beer to a vessel called a brite tank, where using pressure we force carbonate the beer with CO2. Historically, beer would be carbonated by introducing sugar right before sealing the beer keg. This process can take a month or more - force carbonating the beer takes a few hours.

g. Once carbonated, we attach hoses to the brite tank and fill kegs; our brewery sells kegs in two popular sizes, a 1/6 barrel and a 1/2 barrel capacity.  The rest of the beer is canned in our rotary canning line - a machine capable of filling and sealing a 16oz can of beer every two seconds. We made a strategic decision to use cans instead of the traditional brown glass bottles for two reasons: 1) Brown glass still lets in light, and light can destroy the flavor compounds in beer. 2) The 'head space' or air gap between the fill line and the bottle cap allows Oxygen to come in contact with the beer, further destroying the flavors. Also, we live in a popular resort area, with many lakes; anyone who's been on a boat knows the danger of glass bottles. Our aluminum cans are portable, completely recyclable, and cost less than glass."

In only a few short years, Chapman's has been becoming increasingly more popular and successful. "We are growing rapidly and have our beer in over 500 locations throughout the state of Indiana. Our tap room has proved exceedingly popular and we see the opportunity to expand this retail concept to selected communities in the region.  We keep our investors and friends of the brewery in touch with our progress through a monthly business update. If any brothers reading this would like to be placed on the email list, please just send an email to me, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and I will add you to it. Please consider this your invitation to come to the brewery, take a tour, and try our excellent local craft beer." If you've never tried Chapman's beer, then you are missing out. With so many distribution locations, it shouldn't be too hard to find. Or if you find yourself in the Angola area, check out the Chapman's taproom where there are always events going on including beer specials, movie nights, and live music. Thank you to Scott for sharing his experiences with us!


For more information, visit Chapman's official website: http://www.chapmansbrewing.com/