‘Evil Czech’ brings first micro-brewery to Culver
Not only is the Evil Czech Brewery aimed at anything but a literal interpretation of its unusual name, once customers get a look at the elaborate micro-brewing operation just installed at the former Marmont Grille at Main and Davis Streets, they're likely to agree the brewery is facilitating something momentous in Culver.
"The biggest (change) is the five-barrel system brewery with four fermenters to do beer production," says general manager Shawn Erikson, promoted to the position from the mega-successful Corndance Tavern in Mishawaka, also under the ownership of Evil Czech owners George and Tammy Pesek (their Corndance Cafe in Culver, of course, continues to be "old reliable" for the couple, says Erikson).
He explains Evil Czech plans distribution of its original brews to "a lot of different places" in the near future -- all draft, that is, with no immediate plans for a bottling line.
"We have a pretty small facility," he points out.
But an impressive operation has been packed into that small facility.
The former outdoor dining space at the Marmont is home to the various components of the brewing operation, from a dry storage room filled with bags of hopps awaiting transport to the massive boiling tank and eventually to fermenters, with various processes before and during leading to the various original brews the brewery will offer.
The result will be an unusual -- but fitting, in Culver's case -- asset for a small town: a microbrewery whose work can be observed, step by step, by customers through a large window behind the bar and sampled by locals and visitors alike, year-round.
"Every good brewery has a good brew house where people can eat and sample the brews," says Erikson. "This is a very small town and microbreweries are a trend picking up. I believe this will be great for winter business and for destination business. You get diners who want to try multiple beers. It's been really our goal to turn around what we had here, as far as being a whole new, different restaurant."
Evil Czech will offer six mainstay brews, says Erikson: an American Pale Ale called Lucky Dog; an oatmeal milk stout dubbed 7 a.m.; Blonde Czech, a blonde ale; a Belgium or Abbey Dubble called John the One Eyed; Golem, an extra-special bitter ("One of our favorites," Erikson says); and a champ wheat brewed with Egyptian chamomile and local honey ("That's been a huge one," he adds. "It's so unique.").
The brewery will offer at least two rotating taps in addition with a couple of experimentals for "just testing on the market."
There are plans to offer in-house brewed root beer and cream soda.
The Peseks hit upon the idea after taking a home brewing course, initially planning to produce wine here but opting in favor of beer due to the limitations of ideal wine grapes in Indiana.
At the class, the couple connected with Alec Sanderson, who has become the official brewmaster at Evil Czech; customers will watch him busily overseeing the micro brewing operations through that picture window behind the bar.
The brewery had its start six to eight months ago, says Erikson, who adds the curious name of the opera tion is a "kind of fun play" on George Pesek's reputation to be exacting when wearing the chef's hat.
"George obviously has a lot of background as a chef," explains Erikson. "He was at Rivas, Tuscany, Ditka’s. The best way I can describe it is he's almost like a Gordon Ramsey personality; you don't mess with his line when he's on it, but outside of that he's gentle and nice. He's been dubbed 'the evil Czech' because of that, so that was the name of the brewery.
"It's not in a way that he's evil at all!"
One bit of news which may come as a surprise to many customers is that the brewery can sell beer for carry-out, in spite of "blue laws" preventing such sales of alcohol in Indiana, one of the few states left in the U.S. with such regulations.
"Since we're a brewery in Indiana... if you come in with a growler (half-gallon glass or ceramic jug), you can bring it in on Sunday and have it filled," Erikson explains.
The Evil Czech is Culver's first microbrewery proper, though rumor has it many decades ago, Culver offered an early form of beer production at one local facility.
The transition from the old Marmont Grille was a "big overhaul for us, a complete remodel inside and outside. We ripped out all the old Marmont symbols, the carpet -- the only thing that stayed is our bison theme. The bison horns are our tappers, so we kept that. We have new paint, new floors, a new kitchen, new everything."
The Evil Czech also has a line of apparel to be sold at the pub, developed particularly to identify the business while representatives are at beer festivals around the state.
There's also a completely new menu, directed towards the beer brewed there.
"We do a classic beer pub menu," Erikson says. "Fried food goes well with the crisp beer. We have baked pretzels. We use a lot of our beer in our sauces and every sauce is made in-house; it's unique. We have chicken wings, which goes wonderful with beer; fresh chips and fish, our house-made potato chips."
While Marmont's various pizza offerings have been dropped, the crust and dough will be very similar, according to Erikson. But there's a twist: spent grains from the brewing operation are employed in the dough to give it a unique flavor. Specific pizza offerings have been changed to be directed towards the various beers as well, he adds.
Pizza will be carry-out only.
Somewhere down the road, Erikson notes, the restaurant may incorporate some acoustic music, planning to "change it up" from the Marmont's offerings of the past.
"We want...more of a true brew pub feel, something a little different from what anyone else in the area is offering," he notes.
The Evil Czech Brewery is open Wednesday through Sunday, 5 p.m. to last call. The brewery can be followed on Facebook (facebook.com/marmont.evilczechbrewery) and will have a website up and running in short order. It can be reached by phone at 574-842-2663.