Jerry Wade, left, and his brother Larry relax during their first visit a couple of years ago to Beck’s Mill south of Salem. Their great-great-great-great-grandfather, George Beck, built the original gristmill at the site, which is open to the public. (Photos provided by Jerry Wade)
Jerry Wade, left, and his brother Larry relax during their first visit a couple of years ago to Beck’s Mill south of Salem. Their great-great-great-great-grandfather, George Beck, built the original gristmill at the site, which is open to the public. (Photos provided by Jerry Wade)
By PEGGY VLEREBOME

Special to the Courier

Plans are under way for a brewery and pub in downtown Madison in a former feed mill on the northwest corner of West and Second streets.

Brothers Jerry and Larry Wade said they are developers and investors, not brewers or restaurateurs, so they will get the space ready for partnerships with a brewer and a pub operator. They said they are scheduled to close on the purchase of the building from Peter Ellis this week and hope to have the beer flowing at Mad Paddle Brewery early next year and already have a beer and wine permit from the state.

But the Wades said they plan to make Mad Paddle’s presence known much sooner than that with a 1942 fire truck converted to a beer truck. They bought the fire truck in Osgood and the vehicle is in New Albany for conversion. The truck’s debut will be at the RiverRoots Music & Arts Festival in June, where it will be parked near the festival with a roped-off area to sell beer to customers. It will be at all the festivals, operating with one-day permits from the state Alcohol Beverage Commission, Jerry Wade said.

Until Mad Paddle Brewery is up and running at 301 West St., its first batch will be brewed by Josh Hill, head of brewing operations at The New Albanian Brewing Company in New Albany, Jerry Wade said.

To make the Wades’ brewpub plans possible, the City Council will need to change the zoning ordinance in three ways by adding the definition of a brewpub, by adding a category for brewpubs and by specifying in which zoning districts brewpubs would be allowed to operate with a conditional-use permit. The city is proposing that brewpubs be allowed in areas zoned General Business, Central Business District and Specialty District.

If the zoning ordinance is changed, the Wades will need to get approval for a conditional-use permit from the Board of Zoning Appeals.

The city process will begin April 9 at the city Plan Commission meeting at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

It has been less than five months since Jerry and Larry Wade saw Madison for the first time. Jerry, who lives in Indianapolis, came last year before Thanksgiving with an eye toward moving to Madison and investing in a business. He liked what he saw and called Larry, who lives in Denver.

“He started talking about Madison,” Larry said. “It sounded like an exciting little town with a lot of potential.”

The brothers, both of whom are retired, visited together in December. They met with Realtor Jim Pruett and business owner Todd Boone, who took them to a private party in the basement of Mary Beth Boone’s boutique, Blush on Main.

There, they met people who not only embraced their brewpub idea, but also offered to help in any way they could. Jerry Wade said the brothers were overwhelmed, but it was just the start.

Over multiple trips, they have met with people in the business and arts communities, with organizers of festivals, with people who introduced them to other people. One person they met had a rental house available. Jerry Wade is moving to Madison this weekend.

They met with the mayor and his aides twice; with the president of Hanover College and with two chemistry professors who brew beer, to talk about possible learning opportunities at the brewpub. They have hired two graphics arts students at Hanover as interns to develop designs. They hired a Louisville engineering and architectural firm that has brewery design experience.

“Everybody is so pro-Madison and so pro-our doing something in the town,” Larry Wade said.

The Wades visited 10 buildings as possible sites. Ellis’ building was not for sale, but over several months of talks the Wades said he decided to sell. Ellis could not be reached to talk about the scheduled sale.

Interior work on the brewpub will not begin for a few months. The Wades said they are giving Ellis two months to move his things from the building, which includes an apartment where he lives. Ellis bought the vacant Lamson old mill and feed store in 2004.

Exterior work, such as roofing, can start soon, the Wades said. When development of the brewpub begins, they said, it will begin with the first floor, garage and outside deck. For the interior décor, Jerry Wade said, they are leaning toward steampunk, which is a pop culture combining of old and new, such as modern furniture in an old, often Victorian, setting. An 1890s Victorian mansion in downtown Indianapolis that Jerry Wade bought and decorated steampunk style was featured in the Indianapolis Star last year.

For Mad Paddle Brewery, the vintage part is already there. For decades, it was Irwin Feed Store, where farmers took corn, oats and soybeans for custom grinding. Ronald and Richard Irwin sold the business in 1979 to Lamson Enterprises — Joe G. Lamson, Loren G. Lamson and Joe G. Lamson Jr. — and the name was changed.

Lamson Feed Mill & Feed Store, towering above downtown with its 110-foot grain elevator, stayed in business for about 20 more years. An antiques store was among the uses later.

Remnants of the building’s origins remain, along with high ceilings and an industrial-agricultural appearance. One of the relics from the feed mill days are the paddles used in the milling process. That is how the brewpub got its name, which the Wades chose from ideas they solicited when they visited.

Among the modern touches Larry Wade is looking into is a high-tech, self-serve wall of beer taps in which customers put money onto a card that resembles a hotel room door card and then choose the beer they want, insert the card and get their chosen beer, and keep using it on whatever beer they choose until the money on the card runs out. Rebar Indy in Indianapolis has a beer station like this.

The Wades hope to offer 10 different kinds of beer, made in small batches, when they open. They envision using the same system to allow customers to pour a taste or a glass of wine — a way, Jerry Wade said, for people to be able to taste a very expensive wine without having to buy a bottle. The same system also could be used when they begin distilling spirits about 18 months after opening, they said.

In a couple of years, the Wades plan to turn the second floor into an event space. Ellis has turned the first floor into West Street Art Center, which has an art gallery and hosts Tuesday night drawing gatherings for local artists. It also has been an event center for receptions, memorial services and parties.

The Wades said they also want to get Madison on the Indiana Beer Trail, make their brewpub a destination to bring people to Madison, and be involved in the community.

While they are making their plans, New Madison Brewing Co. is taking shape at the city’s industrial park on Shun Pike. The three friends who are starting the brewery are to finish construction by June 30 as part of an economic development agreement with the city’s Redevelopment Commission, or TIF Board.

These aren’t the first breweries in Madison, just the newest. A small brewpub opened in the Trolley Barn on West Main Street in 2011 and closed a few years later.

But the brewing tradition goes back much earlier. Madison had one of the first breweries west of the Allegheny Mountains. A large building that was part of Greiner Brewery still stands at 928 Park Ave. on the far east side of downtown, near Indiana 56 and Ferry Street. The Wades looked at the Greiner building for their brewpub, but that building needs a lot of work, they said. It most recently was occupied by Mayflower Moving and Storage and artist Geoff Crowe’s studio and gallery.

Jerry Wade provided research of Madison’s brewing history that lists Jacob Salmon as the first, with a brewery bearing his name in the east end of the town opening in 1823 and closing in 1841. Mathew Greiner or Mathias Greiner — histories differ on his first name — moved his brewing business from Cincinnati to Madison in 1852, either on the same site as Salmon or near it — histories differ on this. The brewery continued under various family members’ names and later became Madison Brewery. It was in business until 1918.

A handful more breweries also operated in Madison starting in the mid-to-late 1800s, but the best-known apparently was Madison Brewery, whose Madison XXX Ale was shipped to bars throughout the Midwest and as far south as New Orleans, according to the information Jerry Wade provided.