Black Acre Brewing Co.: The Village’s Taproom
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Laura Arick
The quest for a quality, award-winning brewery and taproom will come to fruition this fall in downtown Zionsville. Black Acre Brewing Co. announced last month that it is currently remodeling the space at 98 S. Main St. with plans to open its second location. Black Acre Brewing Co. is a small-batch artisan brewery located in the historic Irvington area in Indianapolis.
Its second location will be known as Corvus-Black Acre Rotisserie, Taproom and Bourbon Bar. The bourbon in the name clearly indicates the founders—Justin and Holly Miller and Steve Ruby—have acquired a three-way liquor license and have also announced they will be launching their first-ever line of distilled spirits—Wilderland Distillery—in their craft cocktails, coming soon to the new Zionsville location.
Two of the three founders, Justin Miller and Steve Ruby, sat down with us to share a little about the genesis of Black Acre and to talk about their exciting plans for their latest venture. In case you were curious about the origin of the name, “Blackacre” is an arbitrary name for a piece of land, a “placeholder” name, if you will, used in property law.
It’s no coincidence that the names of the beers are also subtly named after legal cases, such as Pierson v. Post, where Black Acre’s popular rye IPA, “Saucy Intruder” gets its name.
The Beginning of Black Acre
So, the story begins with a group of friends who were attending the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law and who, in their third year (2010), decided to deviate from the typical post-law school trajectory and incorporate their brewery model well before the phenomenon of pop-up breweries throughout Central Indiana had begun.
Miller and Ruby graduated from law school in 2011 already employed, albeit self-employed, and were feverishly working to complete the renovations on their Irvington location in time for Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
“In terms of getting contractors and permits, it was just a frenzy,” Miller recalled. “So, we opened a week after Super Bowl.” Co-founder Ruby, added, “In the end, we think it worked out better because we didn’t rush [opening] to meet a deadline that ultimately probably wouldn’t have been that great for us.”
Taking their knowledge of build-outs and anticipated deadlines and applying it to the process of opening Zionsville, the founders have decided to continue with their conservative and thoughtful approach to rolling out a new location, a new restaurant concept and a new distillery line.
“We’ve always had a conservative approach,” Ruby said. “Having said that, we were looking at expanding our brewing production within a year and a half of being open. I remember, Justin and I were brewing 90-hour weeks straight that first year and doing 800 barrels in a three-barrel system.”
Miller added, “We started with a 100-gallon, three-barrel system and were really small for the first six months. We had guest taps flowing until our [brews] were ready. We were learning on the fly with our small, conservative system, which is great until you’re constantly running out.”
The founders soon doubled their production and attributed their sanity and perseverance to the support of the Irvington community and fans of Black Acre, who supported them through their growing pains and continue to support the founders in their current expansion phases.
Black Acre is also undergoing an expansion renovation at the original Irvington location and is building out a beer garden at its brewing facility, located two blocks from that location. Black Acre will be hosting events at the new beer garden in Irvington, which is slated to be completed this fall.
As Black Acre’s production grew, its list of wholesale distributorships has also grown. It is currently distributing throughout Indiana and parts of Ohio and Kentucky through beer and wine distributors such as Monarch Beverage Company and Five Star Distributing, as well as a few small European distributors.
Miller emphasized they will open Zionsville and launch the spirits line with the intention of gathering feedback from their Zionsville patrons to tweak and make improvements before moving into the distribution phase of the new spirits.
The Next Phase
While the bones of the Zionsville location are good and in place, Miller and Ruby emphasized that the three founders did not want to slap some paint on the walls, roll in their kegs and throw an open sign up on the door.
“When we first discussed wanting to expand, we looked at places in downtown [Indy] and in Broad Ripple,” Miller shared. “While those areas have density, they don’t have the sense of a built-in community that we have been fortunate to have here in Irvington. So, we continued searching for an area that would fit our concept and become a gathering place for the community.”
Utilizing the existing unique features of the former Zionsville bank—the old bank vault—the founders plan on remodeling the space so that it reflects Black Acre’s pre-Prohibition ambiance while incorporating the personality of Zionsville.
“We have our plans from our architects at ONE 10 STUDIO and are now going through the permitting process,” Ruby said. “We want the space to have its own feel and personality. We don’t want to take [Irvington] and fit into the space in Zionsville and have it become ‘Black Acre 2.0.’”
Miller added, “We wanted to make sure that [the second location] would be something that stands on its own. We don’t want to do a ‘copy and paste’ of Black Acre but want to feel out the community and build something that becomes part of the fabric of Zionsville and isn’t just a transplant from another community.”
What Zionsville Can Look Forward To
Future patrons at the Zionsville location can look forward to the first releases of the Wilderland Distillery line that will include a dry gin, a barrel-aged gin, a chardonnay barrel-aged white rum and a Beard Tax Russian Imperial Stout barrel-finished bourbon. Whiskey will soon follow as it ages in barrels at Black Acre’s new rickhouse, located in Irvington.
The new location will offer a dining concept that will also be new to Zionsville, featuring rotisserie chickens from local purveyors and a rotating menu of specialty sandwiches, salads, appetizers and a variety of unique vegetarian dishes. It will also have on tap craft cocktails, a menu of the new spirits and 20 taps of Black Acre Beer and a curated selection of guest beer, cider, mead and wine.
When asked if, when looking back, they feel like they made the right decision right out of law school, Miller half jested, “We still don’t know if it is a good idea, but it’s what we like doing, and we’re going to continue doing it.”
Both Ruby and Miller shared their respective moments when they first felt like they had successfully crossed the threshold of being new to the craft beer market to having a legitimate following, which has continued to fuel their passion for making quality and enjoyable craft beers for their enthusiasts.
“For me, the moment that I felt like we had kind of ‘made it’ was when I was driving to my old house [downtown] and I saw somebody walking down Mass. Ave. wearing a Black Acre T-shirt who wasn’t a friend, a [taproom] regular or a family member. It was cool.”
Miller recalled a particular party he attended where he didn’t know many of the people there. “I guess you’ve ‘made it’ when you go to a party attended by people you don’t know and someone brings your beer to the party,” he said. “Then that person tells you that they get [it] every week, and you know it’s not a filtered response. It’s someone who is actually enjoying what you do.”
Be sure to join us in welcoming the Millers and Ruby to Zionsville and follow them on social media and/or the website at blackacrebrewing.com for updates on the grand opening, slated for this coming fall!