After graduating from Goshen College in 2003, Amanda Sensenig was sure of one thing: She didn’t want to live in Goshen.
But nearly 20 years later, Goshen is exactly where Amanda and her husband, Jesse, a 2001 graduate of GC, have chosen to settle down, find jobs and invest in community.
“When we graduated from college,” Amanda said, “We did not want to live here. I mean, there was nothing to do here. And then a few years later, it was totally different. We love living here now… people are really working hard to make this a good place to live.”
The Sensenigs are a critical part of the Goshen community — Amanda working as an associate professor of psychology at GC, along with co-owning Goshen Brewing Company with Jesse.
“GBCo is woven into the fabric of Goshen, its businesses as well as its people,” said Jessica Baldanzi, a professor of English at GC and patron of Goshen Brewing Company.
The Sensenigs opened Goshen Brewing Company in May 2015, soon after moving back to Goshen. In the decade between graduating and moving back, they lived in Charleston, South Carolina, and Fort Collins, Colorado, two towns that proved instrumental in gaining experience for the brewing business.
In Charleston, the Sensenigs learned about “good local cuisine,” Amanda said, with the help of her brother-in-law, Micah Sensenig, who was in culinary school at the time. Fort Collins, now boasting the 11th most breweries per capita — 8 per 50,000 people — in the country, offered an environment for learning about the beer culture.
But when it was time to choose a location to brew beer, the Sensenigs chose Goshen. The Sensenigs considered Fort Collins, but the Midwest offered job opportunities and close family members.
And the response from the community has been nothing but positive.
“Goshen seemed like it was just ready for that sort of thing,” Amanda said.
In 2018, three years after its grand opening, Goshen Brewing Company was inducted into the Elkhart County Business Hall of Fame. The Sensenig family’s picture and Goshen Brewing Company banner were displayed on campus in Newcomer Center for the better part of the year.
Recognizing that young entrepreneurs can make a significant impact and legacy, Elkhart County chose Jesse and Amanda Sensenig, noting that they not only run a brewery, but that their business maintains values of quality, freshness, integrity and passion that other neighboring businesses strive to live by in the surrounding community.
Located along the Millrace trail in Goshen in a building that was once an office for the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO), Goshen Brewing Company is all about rethinking space, food and service in a way that prioritizes community.
“People think you go there for beer,” she said. “And that’s true, but it also just has this feel to it that’s different than going to a normal restaurant, or a coffee shop. It’s just a little bit different.”
The industrial-looking garage doors open westward to the Millrace, allowing for both indoor and outdoor seating. Copper left behind by NIPSCO has been repurposed to serve flights of beer, and the building is 100% wind-powered.
A Goshen College senior, Jose Chiquito, worked at Goshen Brewing Company this past summer, noting the intentionality of the space.
Chiquito said he appreciates the use of seasonal, local food on the menu and so much more.
“The sustainability of the place, how the building was built, the repurposing of so many different things,” he said. “Little things here and there.”
“The food is not only delicious, but locally sourced, so it supports the surrounding community,” she said. “I always run into Jesse Shoemaker (chef at GBCo) at Maple City Market, picking up ingredients.”
The brewing company’s connection to community often includes Goshen College.
“One of the things that I think about when I think of Goshen College is community and an openness and welcoming,” Amanda said. “Especially thinking about the importance of welcoming people from all backgrounds — that’s something that can translate well to a business.”
The Sensenigs engage with college faculty, staff and students at Goshen Brewing Company, whether that be as customers, employees, musicians (in the summer concert series) or students on a field trip.
Jody Saylor, a biology professor, has made two trips so far to the brewery with students in her microbiology class, guiding them through the process of fermentation and tasting several dishes whose flavor is enhanced with bacteria.
“I would definitely support a fostered relationship between GBCo and Goshen College,” said Evan Krabill, a junior. “Continuing microbial biology field trips and possibly starting field trips with business classes could possibly progress into the opportunity for students to have an internship with GBCo and have the chance to apply their knowledge of microbiology in a vocational setting.”
Sensenig recognizes the tension between owning a brewery and working at a Mennonite institution, also a decidedly dry campus. But times are changing.
“If we would have opened 10 years ago, there would have been a substantial issue,” Sensenig said. “But it’s not a bar. It’s a restaurant at a brewery and a community. It’s a gathering place.”
And the people keep coming.
“We just can’t make beer fast enough,” Sensenig said.
Goshen Brewing Company has expanded their brewing capacity 220% since opening in 2015.
Amanda Sensenig, who majored in psychology, and Jesse, who studied social work, apply their college majors at Goshen Brewing Company on a daily basis.
“Managing a staff of 35 people and customers requires a lot of psychology and social work, actually,” Sensenig said.
“I have a lot of variety in my life,” she said. “I love teaching here. I love the things that I do at the brewery. And all of those draw on similar skills.”
With an emphasis on community that Sensenig traces back to her time at Goshen College, Goshen Brewing Company continues to prioritize the people and a culture of welcoming.
“GBCo is about so much more than the beer,” Baldanzi said.