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Jonathan Ingram's picture

IndyCar Driver James Hinchcliffe & Flat 12 Bierwerks

James Hinchcliffe takes his beer drinking and his Indy car driving seriously. But he’s also a funny guy. Some of this results from being Canadian, but much of it has to do with Hinchcliffe not being cut from the same flame-resistant Nomex as his fellow race car drivers.

Known as the Mayor of Hinchtown, for example, who else is the plenipotentiary of his own online village?

An accomplished racer, Hinchcliffe won the pole at this year’s Indianapolis 500 and counts four career victories in the Verizon IndyCar Series to his credit. Also, he had the unique distinction of replacing Danica Patrick at the Andretti Autosport team after she moved to NASCAR – making more than a few people forget she was once there.

Hinchcliffe, also known as Hinch, transformed himself into one of the most recognizable and beloved drivers in Indianapolis, one of the finest feats since “Danica Mania.” Perhaps there’s a future bid for mayor of Indy by Hinch once his racing days are completed. If nothing else, he is the toast of craft beer lovers in Indianapolis – as well as – after four years of collaborating with the city’s Flat 12 Bierwerks.

This year the Indianapolis Motor Speedway welcomed an impressive crowd of 350,000 to the Indy 500, where every seat was full, the infield was jammed and more than a few fans lofted one of the Hinchcliffe collaborations to salute the pole winner at the start: Hinchtown Hammerdown Pilsner and Bricks Red IPA. It was the 100th running of the world’s largest single-day sporting event and the Bricks Red, which honored the track’s brick-paved origins, carried 100 IBUs of Centennial hops. There was a pinch of milk sugar, too, in honor of the tradition of drinking milk in Victory Lane at the Brickyard.

Hinchcliffe’s career storyline includes an amazing comeback from a near-fatal accident in May of 2015, when a suspension piece pierced the chassis of his car after a practice crash – and also the driver’s femoral artery. Soon, Flat 12 was producing cans of Hammerdown with “Get Well Soon Hinch” stamped on them. Brewmaster Sean Manahan now kids his collaborator that he’s not himself anymore, since it took 14 pints of somebody’s else’s blood to bring him back to life.

Hinch’s first real question of his doctors at Methodist Hospital after regaining consciousness concerned the upcoming 2015 race that he was ostensibly practicing for: “Will I be OK in time for the 500?” The answer was “No, James, probably not.”

That’s when it began to sink in that the time missing from his memory was an iffy period where the smart, quick work of safety crews saved his life.

After a near-fatal crash in 2015, Flat 12 festooned a wall of its brewery and bottoms of cans with wishes for Hinch's speedy recovery.

OK. So upon regaining consciousness Hinch didn’t first ask for a refreshing namesake pilsner. He may not have come back this year to win the race after winning the pole at 230.760 mph. So much for the fairy tales. But he did lead the race 11 times for 27 laps and finished fifth in one of the most compelling 500s ever run. The Most Interesting Man in the World has nothing on this guy.

So how did the Mayor of Hinchtown let his fans know he was really back for this year’s 500 and in seriously good health? He ran an ad on his Facebook page for his new Hinch-Lift app. The photo showed the driver carrying a sleepy-headed guy piggyback and the caption offered this:

Had a long night? Need a ride home but don’t want to pay Uber surge charges? Introducing the brand new discount ride sharing app, Hinch-Lift! Just hail Hinch from the app and he will come and piggy back you home! Costs are kept down by the complete lack of a car and all those pesky bills that go along with maintaining one. We are in beta testing now, but look for Hinch-Lift to be in a city that hosts an Indycar race near you this summer.

Hinchcliffe with the 2015 Hinchtown/Flat 12 collaboration.

Hinch gets it when it comes to racing, athletic stardom and beer. Be passionate and dedicated, but don’t take it all too seriously. That might be un-Canadian.

Hinchcliffe grew up in Oakville, located on Lake Ontario just south of Toronto. “Beer is definitely the libation of choice for the Canadian youth,” he said. “By youth I mean, of course, 19 years old because that’s what the drinking age is in Ontario. You’re sitting around watching hockey games with buddies or up at the cottage, especially in Ontario, there’s a huge cottage culture around Toronto and sitting by the lake on the weekend. Yeah, you go through an awful lot of beer when you’re sitting by a lake.”

Hinchtown, in fact, was conceived with a few beers at hand. “We were sitting in the basement of an office in Ludington, Michigan, drinking beer and started brainstorming ideas,” said Hinchcliffe. “It was the time of my career to build a website and I was with a few guys who were helping me out… We looked at all the websites that drivers were doing in F1 and IndyCar and NASCAR, etc. We came to two conclusions. One, they were exactly all the same and two, they all sucked. We wanted to do something different… We sat there for a couple of hours bouncing around ideas and we settled on Hinchtown and me being the mayor and it’s kind of taken on a life of its own.”