The Recession has Driven this Bookseller to Drink

Indianapolis’sbooks and brews newest bookstore combines two old friends: alcohol and books.

Books & Brews, which just opened last week, is the work of Jason Wuerfel. Jason has always wanted to open a bookstore, but with a tight economy and businesses failing left and right he knew that the odds were stacked against him. But then a few years ago he hit on a novel sideline which just might help his bookstore succeed:

Beer. “The bookstore was always the dream,” said Wuerfel. “And then, when the market collapsed, there was no viability in a bookstore. How do you make your margins in order to survive?”

His solution is to open a bookstore which, if you added up the square footage, is far more bar than bookstore.

Wuerfel got the idea a few years ago when a friend told him about The Spotty Dog Books & Ale, a similarly themed bookstore in Hudson, NY that sells both new books and a selection of hand-crafted ales.

Wuerfel is joining a growing number of bookstores that are branching out into this related market. Besides The Spotty Dog, there is also the Quarter Barrel Brewery, which opened in Oxford, Ohio in 2010.

But even though Wuerfel had the idea, he still needed cash, so he turned to Kickstarter. He ran a crowd funding campaign last September and raised $17,000. He then used the funds to put in a nanobrewery and buy stock. Books and Brews is a used bookstore, and many of the fixtures were made by hand just for this store.

“One of things that always puts me off about the big-box bookstores is that there’s no sense of discovery,” said Wuerfel. “In a place like this, it’s so much smaller, so much more of a personal touch. We can direct people in much more specific ways than just, ‘Oh, here’s a horror section.'”

In addition to promoting good books and beers, Wuerfel is also planning events which will draw in the community, including live music, book clubs, tabletop games, movie screenings, author readings, wine tastings and open mic nights. Like many other booksellers, Wuerfel knows that simply selling books isn’t enough.





Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Chris Meadows30 March, 2014

    I live in Indianapolis now, and my brother is a state-certified beer judge.

    Gonna have to check this out.

    1. Nate Hoffelder30 March, 2014

      You should liveblog it. Don’t forget to bring a breathalyzer.

  2. fjtorres30 March, 2014

    A bookstore where everybody knows your name, huh?
    Should get good ratings…

  3. Paul30 March, 2014

    Isn’t that what basically Krammer books in DC is?

    1. Nate Hoffelder30 March, 2014
      1. Paul30 March, 2014

        and they have been around for decades. Their book selection is way more extensive than Busboy & Poets too.

        The food isn’t bad there too.

  4. Tom30 March, 2014

    This reminds me of the old Baltimore institution the Peabody Book Store & Beer Stube, which started out as a speakeasy during prohibition. The Book Store fronted for the Bar in the backroom. Sadly the Book Store & Beer Stube closed and was demolished during the 1st Baltimore Book Festival, which was held just a block down the street. I still have bricks from the Peabody and use them as book-ends.

  5. Greg Strandberg31 March, 2014

    They need to get things like this in Washington and Colorado, just with pot. Someone will eventually.

    Maybe “The Book and Pipe.” Yeah…I like the sound of that.

  6. Chris Meadows2 September, 2014

    I took my new e-bike up there yesterday. (And ran out of battery power on the way back, oh well.) Interesting place, though the bookstore aspect of it is really kind of an afterthought.

  7. TeleRead Links: Amazon profits, disburses more anti-trust credit, helps publishers; bookstore turns hostel in Tokyo; and more - TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics24 July, 2015

    […] The TeleRead Take: Well, that’s one way to overcome the declining profits in running a bookstore, I guess. And it certainly ought to appeal to book lovers. Maybe some US bookstores should consider doing something similar. (Well, I’m already in the same city as one bookstore that is also a brewpub…) […]

  8. […] alcohol as a compliment to books, B&N is in good company. A number of indie booksellers have launched hybrid bookstores that combine bars (or a brewery) with a […]

  9. […] here in Indianapolis called Books & Brews. I actually have to thank Nate for that, too, as it was from him that I first even heard about the place. It’s a nice little brewpub that makes very good beer and has a fair selection of sandwiches, […]

  10. […] direction – it follows a trend in indie bookstores of wrapping bookstores around other spaces: bars, coffee shops, or restaurants (like Kramer Books in […]


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