American Factory Opening Journeyman, Valparaiso, IN

It’s incredible how many events are always going on in Valparaiso, Indiana. None with the buzz and excitement surrounding the newest distillery, event space, restaurant, concert venue, banquet hall, merchandise gift shop, etc. Housed at 258 S. Campbell St in the old Anco Factory, dormant since 1984, the $40 million dollar renovation led to incredibly high expectations. Therein lies the problem – great whiskey, watered down experience. The American Factory suffered from Great Expectations and an average execution with room for improvement. The drinks were top notch as expected.

I wish them all the success in the world as a tourist destination and event venue, and I’m sure they will work things out, but at the opening, there were lots of challenges. The Saturday (10/14) night event was indicated to be sold out and by the way people flooded in at the designated time, that was evident. A brief line at registration was promptly tended to and we were granted entry with our punch card lanyard. For our $60 tickets, we each were allowed sample sized food items, 4 whiskies and 6 mixed cocktails. We ultimately tried the sliders, trout dip, chicken sandwich and chocolate mousse. All menu items and all underwhelming in sample portions.

My wife and I took a quick lap to survey the offerings and knew that a real meal was necessary to fill the dinner void. Honestly, it was a little disappointing at the price point. My wife and I took a seat at the bar of Union Hall, which was conveniently indoors behind the outdoor main stage, a fitting perch to take in the evening’s festivities. We were able to hear the sounds from the performances at the main stage which included:

4:30PM – 7:00PM | Nate Venturelli (Country)
7:30PM – 10:30PM | Ultrabeat (Dance Cover)

 After ordering a Cask Strength Silver Cross and Last Feather Rye whiskey, we decided on a few menu items. Placing our order for crispy chicken chorizo rolls, the BTB (turkey schnitzel) and Crispy Pork Confit, we waited and sipped happily while our drinks contributed to a relaxing overall vibe and gentle fraying of the edges. We enjoyed numerous conversations at the bar and overheard some of the other challenges at food and drink stations, namely running out after long lines. Nothing that can’t be fixed.

After our starters were delivered and then removed for another patron, our order was lost in the queue and we ended up waiting over an hour before giving up on receiving our food. Our bartender Jamey kept it light and made numerous trips back and forth to the kitchen to resolve the issue, but through no fault of his own, we were out of the line. We walked the floor of the event spaces and outside of the spectacular patio views, saw open style warehouse rooms, perfect for customization of your banquet and event needs.

The punch card way of doling out food at that point seemed trivial as everyone was stocking up on whatever they could get their hands on. The staff handled the challenge with polite smiles and kept bringing items to the counter. The food items themselves were underwhelming and more brioche roll and freezer pack meats then pasture to plate delicacy. A dessert splurge on the chocolate mousse was wasted as it had the consistency of a gummy chocolate milk.

Wandering the main floor included looking at antique restored vehicles and an old safe, which tied in the historic look and feel of the building. The modern light fixtures throughout and paned glass throughout much of the building also tied in the overall look. The multi-story still by Vendome Copper & Brass Works was fantastic, even if it wasn’t in action on the night of the event.

The post-industrial architecture, parking, and whiskey left us overjoyed with our attendance on this historic occasion. Continuing with the positives, including ample parking, a Wow worthy entrance on both sides of the building and outdoor areas for live performances.

With a Whiskey of the Year Winner in Corsets, Whips & Whiskey (back-to-back), as well as a 2023 Craft Distillery of the Year award for their Michigan location, I’m convinced they will figure out the event and hospitality challenges. Overall a great party with great booze!

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