Just over a year ago, I won tickets to Trubble Brewing’s soft opening. Aly and I attended the event, wrote a blog about our experience, and have since been been back many times to have a few beers, soak in the sun on their amazing (dog-friendly) patio, and enjoy their delicious food offerings, especially during their Sunday brunch!
We’ve watched as Trubble has evolved over the last year and become one of the best spots for brews and food in all of Fort Wayne.
Whether you’re looking for a dog-friendly restaurant to take your pooch, a raucous night of trivia or board games, or a chill place to take your significant other to sample some of Fort Wayne’s best locally brewed beer, Trubble Brewing has it all. It has become one of our favorite places, one that makes us proud to call Fort Wayne “home.”
We were ecstatic when Chad and Keli Hankee, the husband-and-wife duo behind Trubble, agreed to share more about their business with us. It’s such an honor for us to feature them as our first Local Love story!
An interview with Chad & Keli Hankee, owners.
1. What inspired you to start Trubble?
“Haha, we love beer?
And we wanted to have more good beer available in Fort Wayne. That is pretty much how it happened. Keli and I have talked for a long time about having our own business. We’re both a little rebellious in the sense that we want to make our own decisions about when we work, who we work with, and the culture of that place.
We’ve both had jobs where, maybe they pay the bills, but you come home feeling like the life is sucked out of you. It was probably 2012 when we pulled the veil off our eyes and realized that there’s no reason Fort Wayne shouldn’t have a top-notch brewery. Then, it just ignited a passion in us. We decided we were going to make it happen, no matter what. It was scary, because we were figuring it all out as we went along, but we decided we’d regret NOT trying it more than anything else. Once that decision was made, there was no turning back.”
2. In a few words, describe your first year in business.
“Exhausting, frustrating, humbling; but also invigorating, rewarding, and most of all, fun.”
3. What has/have been your biggest highlights?
“Really, I think we’re at a high point right now. A buzz is starting to be created about our beer, we’re distributing it around town, and we’re getting great feedback. It’s the most rewarding thing to hear the excitement about something being brewed right here in the Fort.”
4. What obstacles have you encountered, and how have you dealt with them?
“Probably the same obstacle that every new place encounters, it’s establishing trust. Our customers have to trust that when they come to our place, or when they buy a pint of our beer at their favorite watering hole, they’re going to have a good experience. So the way we do that is by focusing on our crew. We’ve worked really hard to make sure that the crew at Trubble is the best crew in town. When we hire someone, first and foremost, they have to love beer. It doesn’t matter if we’re interviewing them to be a dishwasher. If you don’t love beer then you’re not going to be a good fit. Second, they have to love what they’re doing – whether that’s making your tacos, serving your beer, or distributing beer to a local pub. We want to be the kind of employer that we wanted to have back when we were working in those soul-sucking jobs. The minute this starts feeling like a chore for our employees, we know it’s time to make a change.”
5. What are your most popular brews?
“The Mindtrap IPA³ is our biggest seller, week after week. Other favorites tend to be seasonal – our DogJaw Peanut Butta stout and Provocateur salted-chocolate stout are big sellers now that the cool weather is back.”
6. What are your most-ordered menu items?
“We change a large portion of our menu with the seasons, but whatever burger is offered is usually a top-seller. I think that has a lot to do with the freshness. Like 80% of all of our ingredients, we get our ground beef locally (from Seven Sons Family Farms in Roanoke.) The Kimcheese Fries and Big Softies soft pretzels are year-round favorites, but it’s hard to go wrong. Our chef, Laney Glick, (she hates it when I call her that, but she’s more than a ‘line cook’ or a ‘kitchen manager’) absolutely kills it in the kitchen week after week.”
7. We’re huge fans of your brunch! What other events or weekly specials should people know about?
“On Thursdays, we offer dollar off pints, plus some goofy stuff to make it fun like playing Cards Against Humanity or Adult Coloring Contests. When the patio is open, we’ll typically have “Bark N’ Brew” on Thursday nights, featuring different dog-friendly organizations for you and your four-legged friend to meet over dinner or pints.”
9. Could you tell us a bit about some of the brewing collaborations (Flat12, Pour Misfits) you’ve done this year? How can others get involved?
“The craft beer business is so unique in that your fellow brewers are more like family than competition. We’ve learned so much from our friends and we jump at any chance to collaborate. So any brewery that is interested should just give us a holler and let’s talk… about beer!”
10. What makes operating a brewery in Fort Wayne different than in other cities?
“Well, we are just now starting to get a little bit of a brewery scene going, so I think that we have more patron education to do, compared to more established beer communities that you find in Michigan, or even down in Indy. So, we try to do a lot of outreach like hosting Meet-the-Brewer Classes once a month or so. Also, our staff is here to educate and introduce new tastes. Because our servers love beer, they can work with someone who isn’t sure what they’ll like. We love it when we have a customer tell us they are used to drinking only big macro-brewed beer, like Bud or Coors, and by the time they leave, they are raving about a Trubble beer they just had.”
11. In what ways does Trubble give back to the community?
“We really value Fort Wayne’s diversity, so we try to communicate that folks of all sorts and stripes are welcome at our place. For instance, in January, we’re hosting The United States of Fort Wayne, which will be designed around showcasing our city’s diversity and culture.”
12. How has the community given back to you?
“The city’s residents and the city itself have been so supportive. During our construction phase, we were approved for two grants, which were a huge help financially. And the response from the local neighborhood and community at large has been pretty incredible.”
13. When you’re not hanging out at your own establishment, where might you end up for date night?
“We tend to stay downtown and of course support local, so our typical date nights are at Paula’s or the Italian Connection. The Brass Rail, J.K. O’Donnell’s and the Deer Park are our favorite places for just grabbing a few beers.”
14. What advice would you give to someone wanting to open a small business in Fort Wayne?
“Never, never, never give up.”
15. What’s in store for Trubble over the next year?
“More beer! We’re putting kegs on tap at more places every week and we look forward to start doing some bottling or canning soon. In the tap house, we’re going to expand our hours, so soon, you’ll be able to come in for lunch or a pint during the weekday.”
Thank you so much, Chad and Keli, for taking the time to share more about Trubble, and for all of the hard work you and your team put into running such an incredible and top-notch local business!
If you, or someone you know, is a small business owner, non-profit leader, or event organizer that would like to be featured in our Local Love series, click here to learn more.