It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since we fired up our original brew house and made our first batch of beer, Johan the Barleywine – named in honor of a dearly departed friend who had been instrumental in both Dave and my development as professional brewers. In the months and weeks leading up to that moment, we had been working 15-18-hour days doing everything we could to convert an old warehouse on the edge of Downtown Indy into a functional production brewery. Our capital was running low and we needed to start making and selling beer before it all came to an end before it even really began!
Looking back on it all now, it’s seems crazy to how much has changed, not just for Sun King, but for Indianapolis, and particularly for Indy’s beer scene.
To put it all in perspective, in 2009 there were less than 30 breweries in the entire state, most bars had between three and six taps – if they even
had draft beer at all - and craft beer had eked out a meager 5% market share - which includes all craft brewers from across the country - with Indiana
breweries accounting for around 1%. Indianapolis did not have a production brewery and you could hardly find local beer anywhere outside of a brewpub,
and greater Indianapolis only had seven or eight of those. And for a broader perspective, there were less than 2,000 breweries in the entire United
Fast-forward to 2019 and there are over 150 breweries in Indiana, with nearly 50 of them in Indianapolis! The average bar with draft beer has a dozen taps, with a lot of them bosting 20, 30, or 40+ beers on draft. Craft Beer has grown to command a 10% market share in Indiana, with beer from Indiana Breweries making up about 3% of total sales. And the U.S. now has more than 7,000 breweries. That is an incredible and massive shift over the course of a decade, and we at Sun King are very fortunate to have been a part of it all.
It is commonly said that 96% of businesses fail within ten years, so when I think about that statistic alongside how much the world and beer industry has change, I am incredibly grateful to be celebrating this milestone. It has not been an easy task or a smooth ride, but thanks to a team of intelligent, talented and hardworking people we have been able to make smart decisions in order to grow, adapt, and change with the times. We often say, “Why let good stand in the way of being great,” and while it sounds cliché, I believe cuts to the core of our goal to strive to be the best – whether it be in regard to making beer, running a business, creating a great workplace and taking care of our employees, or being a great community partner. We also like to remind ourselves that “When you’re green you grow and when you’re ripe you rot,” which serves as a reminder that we must continue to innovate and create new opportunities in order to stay relevant and continue to run a successful business. It is these philosophies that I believe have helped guide us and allowed us to be successful over the years.
These last ten years have gone by in a flash, although sometimes it feels like a lifetime. From our original brewery/tap room in downtown Indy featuring a small walk-in cooler that had eight taps and three folding picnic tables for guests to enjoy samples of beer - If you didn’t see it then, you wouldn’t believe it from visiting today – to three location that include a Small Batch Brewery in Fishers that allows us to create new beers, and a Distillery/Tap Room/Food Hall in Midtown Carmel, with a Tap Room at Indianapolis International Airport on the way. None of which would be possible without all of you who love what we do and continue to seek out and enjoy Sun King and share it with your friends. To all of you I want to say, THANK YOU from myself, my partners, and the 60 full-time and 120+ part-time people that make work hard to make Sun King work.
I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to thank the Sun King Crew… THANK YOU!!!!!!!!
The same genuine love, determination, hard work, and care that went into creating our company continues every day and we hope to be fortunate enough to be doing what we love in another ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years and beyond. In order to help us achieve that goal, please ask for Sun King wherever you go. And we’ll continue to work hard to make great beer, spirits, and more.
Cheers to Ten Years!
- Clay Robinson, Co-Founder/Owner