Backtrack: Past Blue Ribbon

Long before silly slogans like “Whazzzup?” and “Dilly-dilly!,” Indianapolis Brewing Company appealed to the “fastidious” beer drinker.
With a beer that took the gold ribbon at every World’s Fair between 1900 and 1915, Indianapolis Brewing Company was part of a long tradition of German brewing that began in this city in the 19th century. Early in its years of operation, starting in 1889, the brewery advertised its malt beverage as a “preventive of grip,” or influenza. The IBC maintained the prescription was medically sound: “How pleasant it is to have a medicine so easy to take!”

Joining its Gold Medal Lager—named after its first-place award in the Paris Exposition of 1900—the brewery introduced an “Ancient Egypt” brew in 1911. According to ads, it was “a wonderful resurrection of the ‘Wine of Grains’ of Pharaonic times,” but with “individuality and delicate flavor all its own.”
With these beers, IBC carried on brisk business into the second decade of the 20th century, urging customers to order a case sent to their home. “It will please the most fastidious,” promised the advertisements.

Then, in 1918, came Prohibition.

Still, IBC managed to eke out an existence during those temperate times by brewing up sodas and packaging cereal. Soft drinks were, not surprisingly, less popular than hops-and-barley libations, though. By 1929, the company had vacated one of its Agnes Street (today’s University Boulevard) buildings.

When Prohibition ended in 1933, Indianapolis could once again enjoy Gold Medal Beer. The country was by then in the midst of the Great Depression—which turned out to be a good reason to drink. The brewery was one business that managed to stay afloat in those tough times.

World War II brought an end to the Depression. IBC remained open and in production at its Agnes Street location, where the young chemist in this photo worked on the molecular makeup of a good brew. The end of the war in 1945 should have been the beginning of the boom times at IBC.

But last call was looming. Next year, Wisconsin brewer Lawrence A. Bardin bought the company—and brought an end to 60 years of a solid reputation. In 1947, a federal lawsuit found against IBC for selling “short-weight,” or watered-down, bottled beer. The brewery ended up closing. In January 1948, all the former Indianapolis Brewing Company’s assets, including the owner’s two Cadillacs and 23,410 pounds of hops, were sold to the highest bidder.