Blaine Stuckey, Mad Anthony Brewing
- Josh Tuck
- Danielle Tuck
Blaine Stuckey is like the cool cousin that you only saw at the summer family reunion when you were a kid. A little intimidating, because he was a slightly older and biger than you, which meant he could easily throw you in the deep end of the pool. Yet, cool as hell, because he always had fireworks for you in his car. When we met the towering yet jovial co-founder of Mad Anthony Brewing, he greeted us with a booming, “Guys, you don’t have beers! We can’t do this without beers!” Like that cousin, Blaine’s imposing presence was immediately offset by his generosity, gregarious nature, and infectiously positive attitude. He is a man who firmly believes in doing what you love, and is as passionate about his work as he is about his community. With a frosty Ol’ Woody Pale Ale in hand, Blaine talked with us about how they brew their beer, their focus on quality, and what he hopes is “brewing” in Fort Wayne’s future.
It was 1995 when Blaine, and partners Todd Grantham and Jeff Neels, took out second mortgages and turned their love of beer making into a business. Back then, craft brewing was relatively new in the midwest and Blaine and his buddies were at the forefront of re-establishing small-quantity brewing in Fort Wayne. They spent nearly three years educating themselves, developing their beers, setting up a business plan, and working with banks. In 1998, they entered into a partnership with the Munchie Emporium and built their first small brewing operation in the center of the building.
Their growth was steady, and before long they expanded into a larger building at the back of the property. They now brew enough beer to keep their Fort Wayne, Auburn, and Warsaw locations, as well as a host of retailers and restaurants, fully stocked. Their standard beer selection consists of Ol’ Woody Pale Ale, Gabby Blonde Ale, Harry Baals Irish Stout, Auburn Lager, and Raspberry Wheat. In addition to these, there are typically one or two seasonal ales on tap, and on the shelf, such as Snow Plowed Winter Ale, Octoberfest, and Summer Daze Wheat.
Mad Anthony’s success can, in part, be attributed to their brewing process. Like many craft brewers they begin with all natural ingredients and use no artificial flavors. When we visited, they were in the process of brewing their Summer Daze which contains only coriander, orange peel, honey, 100% barley malt, and some wheat malt. The coriander had recently been removed from the brew and dumped in a trash bin. Before we knew what was happening, Blaine had us sticking our noses over it to have a whiff. “Oh man!” he exclaimed, “Doesn’t that just smell awesome?” The man is so excited about beer, he gets a thrill from the ingredients they toss out. I have to admit though, it was the nicest smelling trash I had put my face over in quite a while.
Unlike some craft brewers, and the large national brewers, Mad Anthony uses a more traditional brewing method that doesn’t involve filtering or forced carbonation. Rather than filter excess yeast out of their beer, they chill it and allow the yeast to settle out naturally. “You get a more full-flavored beer because you don’t take anything from it,” Blaine says. While most brewers forcibly inject CO2 into their beer to carbonate it, Blaine says they prefer to stop the brewing process a day early and allow the carbonation to form naturally. This can add an additional 24 to 48 hours to the brewing process, but they feel the end product is worth it.
Occasionally, they like to experiment with new takes on old favorites. “We don’t always agree on certain styles,” says Blaine, “I like crazy stuff, sometimes my partners do too, but a lot of the time we are making beers we’ve made over the last fourteen years and bringing them back around with a little twist.” However, he says they are so busy with their standard and seasonal beers that, even though customers love them, it’s tough to fit many new creations into the brewing rotation.
Raise A Pint To The Community
One of Mad Anthony’s recent experiments, Bent Rim Black Lager, also helped support the local non-profit, Fort Wayne Trails. All three founders of Mad Anthony are avid cyclists, so for Blaine and his partners, it was a perfect way to give back to the community that has been supporting them for the past fourteen years. Blaine says they want to make the most of every opportunity to be involved with the community. To this end, he and Mad Anthony participate in festivals like Solfest and Fat and Skinny Tirefest, and contribute to tastings for Fort Wayne’s PBS and NPR stations. Blaine said that it is rare for a summer weekend to pass where they are not showcasing their beers at a charitable or community event of some kind.
Blaine isn’t happy just giving back to the community though, he is also dedicated to growing craft brewing in our area.“When you get that person who loves to brew beer, and it’s their passion, and they want to make it their livelihood, we want to help them any way we can,” Blaine says. While that may one day translate into more competition, he thinks more competition is better for everyone in the business, Mad Anthony included. “I really enjoy the small hole-in-the-wall places,” Blaine says. He would love to see more cool start-up pubs in the city, and he’d really like to see the Broadway and Taylor St. area of Fort Wayne become the craft brew Mecca of northeast Indiana.
One For The Road
Blaine foresees more growth in the craft brewing market in the future and he knows that Mad Anthony must grow to stay competitive. He doesn’t rule out the possibility of their brewery becoming a little bigger, but he also does not want to reach a point where they must support a large brewing operation and be over-invested in equipment and staff. It’s more important to Blaine to keep beer making fun and stay focused on quality.
Danielle and I stayed for dinner at Mad Anthony that evening. Over a couple of beers, our conversation drifted to how Blaine seemed so content with where Mad Anthony was. He had no desire to upset the apple cart and ruin what they had worked so hard to achieve. It’s a rare thing to meet someone who is so devoted to his work, and yet still have the presence of mind to enjoy the success. In an age when it seems the only goal of starting a small business is to be bought out by a corporate giant, it’s reassuring to know there are people out there who do what they do because they enjoy it so completely.