06/03/2014 1:16 PM -
For 11 years, Kevin Clark brewed beer inside his own home. In 2011, Clark’s brewing went from a hobby to a profession as his brewery transitioned from his laundry room to the Bulldog in downtown Whiting.
“When it first started off, it was more of a stress reliever for me,” Clark said. “I got to a level that my house could not sustain. My wife kind of threw down a challenge and said, ‘You need to get that stuff out of our laundry room.’”
It did not take long for Clark to accept his wife’s challenge. Two years later, he purchased the building located at 1409 119th Street in Whiting. On Oct. 8, 2011, the doors to the Bulldog Brewery were opened. The establishment immediately became a popular destination.
“We had a certain target for what we thought our growth would be, and we’ve doubled that year after year,” Clark said. “We were kind of conservative when we were looking at our growth. You can follow trends from the Craft Brew Industry and the Craft Brew Association and we used those to develop our business plan. We have exceeded our expectations.”
When Clark is not at the Bulldog, he can usually be found at his other job at ArcelorMittal Steel. His two jobs give him the unique combination of making beer by day and steel by night.
“When you look in terms of the process, the flow is somewhat similar,” Clark said. “Steel making is a rough industry. The brewing industry can be tough because when you get into it, a lot of people have grand ideas of being the next Anheuser-Busch and you can get lost in that.”
The Bulldog has taken on the blue-collar mentality that is apparent throughout Northwest Indiana. A 1924 Lunkenheimer steam whistle that came from a steel mill hangs up on the bar. At the steel mill, the whistle was used to notify workers when it was time to tap the furnace. Now, the whistle is blown when someone orders a DownTime Wheat.
“When we built the bar, we built the bar with a theme that this is a place that you wanted to come in and sit down and talk about a hard day’s work with the guy next to you,” Clark said. “This is a blue-collar workers’ bar.”
The Northwest Indiana Oilmen share that blue-collar image, making the partnership between the Bulldog and the Oilmen a fitting one.
“The Oilmen play in a buildup, college league,” Clark said. “These guys have worked hard to get where they’re at. The stadium that they play in is in the Standard Diamonds Park, and when you look back at the history of Standard Diamonds, it was the BP workers that played there originally, so there are some really neat ties between what we stand for and the Oilmen.”
Oilmen fans can enjoy Bulldog beers at the ballpark, including the Oilmen Beer, which made its debut during the 2013 season. The Bulldog also brews a Standard Diamonds Beer, named after the park in which Oil City Stadium is located. Other Bulldog beers have names that tie in with Northwest Indiana.
“We’re just really entrenched in the Region,” Clark said. “Most of our beers are named after different things in the Region. We draw a lot from this area. We pay homage to what took place to build this place up to what it is today.”
Clark’s family was raised in St. John, he was born in Valparaiso and he currently lives in Highland. He is a fourth-generation steel worker. His mother is a Clark High School graduate, meaning that the family gets very involved in the Clark/Whiting football rivalry.
“We’re just really drawn into this area,” Clark said. “I think I personally know 50 percent of the people that live here in Whiting. They’ve been through this bar at one time or another in the two and a half years that we’ve been open. I love Whiting.”