As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t usually do bar reviews on Offbeat Eats, but as I mentioned in my review of Soho last year, every once in a while I find a place that’s offbeat enough that it’s worth at least a mention. In this case, it’s Bare Hands Brewery, in Granger, IN (unless you are from the Michiana area, that in itself likely has you going “Where?”). It’s offbeat nature starts with a description of how you get there. From South Bend or Mishawaka, you take Highway 23 until you hit the edge of the suburbs and things start to thin out. Right before the highway turns north and crosses into Michigan, turn left on Princess Way. You’ll go past an odd little Italian restaurant, and then past a KOA campground. Behind the KOA is a small and nondescript industrial park, and at the entrance of the park, a small 8.5″x11″ sign directs you to the “Brewery”. And sure enough, one of the suites in the industrial park is Bare Hands Brewery. Without the internet, you’d probably never stumble onto this place unless you got lost at the KOA.
Bare Hands’ actual current brewery is just shy of their second birthday, having opened in December 2011. They’ve been working hard ever since, creating small batch after small batch of good handcrafted brews. And they’ve been doing some good work. First of all, most of the beers here are pretty bold, either in outright flavor or in intriguing concepts. Their Galaxy Double IPA and their Mail Order Bride Russian Imperial are two of the most enjoyable beers I’ve had in recent history. The Galaxy was a very nicely done DIPA, with the exact sort of citrus and passionfruit notes I like from Galaxy hops, and well-rounded with a nice soft malt finish. The Mail Order Bride was also a splendid Imperial Stout, with a rich aroma with nice roasted notes reminding me of smoked wood, roasted coffee, and vanilla. Taste-wise, it is thick, bordering on syrupy, with a rich malty flavor with just enough acidic and alcohol bite to make in enjoyable.
So they’ve got their brewing down pat (seriously, everything I’ve had there was top rate). But they also excel on the “bar” side of things. After your voyage into obscurity getting there, the result is a comfortable and homey bar, with a set of very friendly bartenders and clients. Everyone that works there loves the beer, gives samples freely, and loves to chat. The regulars are welcoming to new folks, and good at chatting you up.
But, most importantly, they’ve got a nice spirit of sharing. I’ve been there three times, and every time, someone at the bar has bought a round (usually Tuesday-night regular “Tim”, who loves the bourbon-aged version of Mail Order Bride). They also have some respect for other brewers, indeed, on my last trip I gave them some cans of Heady Topper in barter for some beer off the tap. A good deal all around.
Food? Well, it’s basically pretzels and sandwiches, but the pretzels were good. And I hear when they make chili, it’s excellent.
Overall, I loved Bare Hands Brewery. They’ve got their brewing dialed in, and run a friendly bar with a lot of great regulars. If you find yourself in Michiana, it’s worth the trek to go find Bare Hands. It’s quite the beer destination.