Pub owner finds unique ways to grow South Bend community

Published 12:08 pm Friday, November 6, 2015

Leader photo/JUSTIN FLAGEL

Leader photo/JUSTIN FLAGEL

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Craft beer pub South Bend Brew Werks opened in September of 2014 as a part of owner Andrew Elegante’s ongoing personal investment in the region. After spending time in computer programming in other parts of the country, he came to South Bend to pursue a new path.

While attending Notre Dame, he found a vibrant city with history and potential, a place to follow his desire to become more involved in community and “be a part of making things happen.”

He saw beautiful buildings, historical homes and a downtown infrastructure ready to evolve. He saw young, energetic, and excited leadership in Mayor Pete Buttigieg and other local figures.

“I was excited about South Bend,” he said. “It has wonderful people and a really engaging community who wants to help.”

Elegante wanted to invest in the city in a way that was more than simply profitable. He wanted to get involved in promoting South Bend in a positive way that would build community and create civic pride. “It’s really important that you care about a place so that you invest yourself in it,” he said, explaining that citizens with a negative view of their home find it difficult to care and will “shut down”, making it even harder to create positive change. He recalled one of his earliest efforts, helping spread “I Heart SB” buttons by taking bags of them from the mayor’s office and putting them in more prominent areas or handing them out to people he would meet.

“I want people really invested in South Bend,” he said.

Elegante has worked to weave that same attitude into the daily functions of South Bend Brew Werks, creating what he calls a “very South Bend experience.” His goal is to give a positive visit to everyone who enters, whether they are local or from outside of the area. He wants citizens to be proud of where they live and he wants visitors to go home with a desire to return and to spread the word to decision makers with resources who may want to invest in the vibrant community.

“Imagine if that was somebody here to site their company,” Elegante said.

Prior to starting SBBW, Elegante had little experience in the world of brewing. His connection to beer began with his relationship with his older brother and their bonding while trying craft brews. He saw a connection in that experience and the energy of the area.

Opening a brew pub in South Bend was an opportunity to create a venue for a community hub while taking advantage of the emerging local beer industry. He also explained motivations of a more selfish nature, finding personal meaning in being a part of the hard work of making positive change and creating the kind of community he wants to live in.

“Who wouldn’t want to live in a really cool city?” he said.

Visitors to SBBW are served locally brewed beer and food sourced from around the region. They are greeted with local art on the walls, a playlist of music created by regional talent, and a staff knowledgable about ongoings in the city.

One of their most popular programs is Beer4Good, where beer drinkers are presented with a cap with each purchase and a choice of three jars in which to place it. Each cap represents a donation and each jar represents one of three local nonprofits who will receive it. This unique method of getting the customer involved in the donation process continues to raise funds for The Music Village music and dance school, the Neighborhood Resources Connection, and the Latino/Hispanic outreach program, La Casa De Amistad.

“We do what we know how to do,” said Elegante, which he described as giving people great food and beer while connecting them with ways to help the community.

South Bend Brew Werks has multiple upcoming events, including a Stout Tap Takeover for International Stout Day on November 5th, a “Design Your Own Stein” party with South Bend’s The Pigeon & The Hen Pottery on November 7th, and the release of their latest South Bend 150th Anniversary inspired beer. You can find information on those events and more at


Justin Flagel is the founder of the web magazine and podcast Anywhere the Needle Drops, where he and others showcase their interest in music, pop culture, creativity and life. Follow their work at Feedback can be directed to