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Barrister brewers

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At some point toward the end of a summer cookout, as they tasted and considered the beer they had home brewed and relaxed one last time before their third year of law school got under way, three young men realized what they really wanted to do when they left the protective bubble of the classroom.

Two semesters away from graduating and joining the legal profession, they concluded they did not want to practice law. They wanted to pursue the activity that had been consuming much of their leisure time away from studying and had been the topic of numerous conversations at law school. They wanted to make and market their own beer.  

blackacre-main-15col.jpg IU McKinney grads (top from left) Jordon Gleason, Steve Ruby and Justin Miller, co-own the Black Acre Brewing Co. in Indianapolis. (IL Photo/Marilyn Odendahl)

Jordan Gleason, Justin Miller and Steve Ruby all continued their studies and graduated from the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in May 2011. However, instead of joining countless law graduates in the search for an associate’s position, the trio, along with Miller’s wife Holly and Gleason’s childhood friend Matt Johnson, opened Black Acre Brewing Co., a brewery and pub in Indianapolis.

As he recounted the beginnings of the business, Gleason removed his fingerless knit gloves and cap and sat at the bar. The brew pub was dark and quiet and the brass taps, lined in a row on the wall, were plugged with blue rubber stoppers.

Ruby leaned behind the bar, listening patiently to Gleason and providing color commentary.

Gleason, Miller and Ruby met at McKinney Law School. In between classes and study sessions, they brewed. They supplied themselves, their friends and their law school colleagues with their beers.

By the time they opened their pub, they had a wealth of experience making beer. Still, turning their hobby into a business was daunting, but the decision was made easier by seeing so many lawyers and former classmates struggle to find work.

Now, instead of contracts and courtrooms, they serve pints and help their customers follow the advice Ruby received from his dad: “If you’re going to drink, drink good beer. Don’t waste your time.”

Fermentation

Black Acre, which will celebrate its one-year anniversary this month, is a neighborhood hangout that reflects the owners’ desire to be a cross between an English Pub and a coffee house. The lighting is subdued, the music is muted, and a television is no where to be found. Conversation is meant to be the centerpiece.

The name, Black Acre, is a play on the legal term Blackacre, used to distinguish one parcel of land from another, and is a nod to their lawyer pedigree.

On a recent Monday, all the stools at the bar were filled and a few tables were occupied with groups of friends. The tall glasses of amber-colored beer were ubiquitous.

In the back room, Gleason, Ruby and Miller were brewing.

blackacre-action-15col.jpg Steve Ruby cleans after making a batch of beer. (IL Photo/Marilyn Odendahl)

The list of drafts on the menu illustrates their imagination. One of their signature beers, Street Lamp Blonde, is brewed with lemon peel. They have made a Chai Guy Chai Tea Milk Stout infused with black tea, ginger, clove and cinnamon; a Late Christmas Gingerbread Porter spiced with molasses, ginger and cinnamon; and a Green Tea Pale Ale that starts with citrusy hops then adds green tea, honey and ginger.

“Lot of ideas,” Gleason said. “Not a lot of time to try them all.”

Brewing consumes eight hours with stirring and waiting before the beer is transferred to the fermentation tanks where it will remain for about a month. It is a three-barrel brewing process which yields 93 gallons of beer or roughly 700 pints.

Along the way, they will continually sample the product, tasting to determine how the flavor will stand once the beer is finished and adding more spices and fruits accordingly. During an attempt at making basil beer, they threw in triple the amount of the herb, which taught them to use a lighter hand when tweaking the flavor.

“Unlike baking, you can keep working on it,” Gleason said.

Miller and his wife got into brewing when they discovered her dad’s beer-making kit. Gleason and Johnson started brewing as undergraduates. Miller and Gleason connected in legal writing class when, as an ice-breaking exercise, the students had to tell something interesting about themselves.

Gleason admitted he hates that kind of thing, but when his turn came, he told his classmates he was a home brewer. The introductions continued until it came around to Miller who said he was a home brewer, too.

After class, the two sought each other out and talked about brewing. The conversation between them did not stop. Ruby joined the group later and eventually all five were making beer at the Millers’ home several times a week.

At any one time, the barrister brewers had four to 10 beers ready for pouring and another two to eight fermenting. Four refrigerators were full of beer and the kitchen was overwhelmed with the beverage.

“It got a little ridiculous,” Ruby acknowledged.

Ironically, Gleason and the others might be practicing law if the economy had been better. Gleason likely would have followed his father into government work, Ruby might have moved to Washington, D.C., to be a legislative aid, and Miller possibly would have returned to graphic design.

Yet, while the recession wiped out opportunities in the legal profession, it heightened their sense of accomplishment with opening a brew pub. They note they are helping the economic recovery by buying products and creating jobs.


blackacre-pull-1col.jpg Co-owner Holly Miller pours a beer for a customer. (IL Photo/Marilyn Odendahl)

“In the city we love, we’re helping,” Gleason said. “You’re doing your little part to help people get back on their feet.”

Intoxicating results

After the late-summer barbecue, the friends became serious about opening their brew house. They put together a comprehensive 55-page business plan. They lined up investors. They brewed.

Gleason, Miller and Ruby were able to use their knowledge of the law to obtain a federal brewing permit, maneuver through health department regulations, and get the needed variances. Pulling back his sleeve, Gleason showed a colorful tattoo on his forearm but he said, once he put on a suit and flashed his law degree, he was taken seriously.

Following graduation, the trio squeezed preparing for the bar exam into the days of heavy labor they were doing to launch their business. Watching their classmates become extremely nervous about the approaching test, they could only shake their heads. To learn what nervous is, they quipped, open a business.

Running the daily operations has turned out much different than they imagined. Namely, they spend a lot more time cleaning, so much so that Gleason added the job description of janitor to his business card.

Ruby’s parents have switched from admonishing him to work harder and apply himself more to asking him when he is going to take a day off.

Since its opening in February 2012, the business has grown beyond their expectations. They have already reached the third year of the business plan, and they need a bigger brewing facility and warehouse. Soon, they intend to start bottling.

Gleason admitted some of the beauty and glamour of brewing has been lost because they are not doing it for pure fun anymore but rather as a way to pay rent. Still, the passion and joy are there and remembering that late summer day, he said they are doing what they wanted.

“Ultimately, at the end of the day,” he said, “we get to make beer.”•
 

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  • When did they say they didn't want to be lawyers?
    I don't really get folks like Skeptic, who want to criticize the motives of others...they didn't say they didn't want to be lawyers...they realized they wanted to brew beer. Good for them...this is a good place...the beer, as with many other craft breweries in Indy like Sun King, Flat 12, Broad Ripple, is excellent, and this is a nice place...do yourself a favor, stop being a "skeptic" or a "cynic" and go get a good beer...and do some home brewing while you are at it...it will make you a lot less "skeptical"...it will make you happy.
  • Repost?
    This is a great post, would you mind if we repost on our barrister website? Thanks
  • Why did you finish law school?
    So you all figured out around the halfway point of law school that you didn't want to be lawyers. Why did you then waste the time and money getting a JD? And you even took the bar exam? Why? P.S. It doesn't take a law degree to fill out a couple forms from the SOS, so don't try to make it sound like it was still useful.
  • Good Beer; Different Locale
    I agree with Marty's comment on tne fine beers the Black Acre folks are brewing. But Black Acre and Irvington are on the east side along East Washington. If you don't know this great neighborhood, pay a visit and have a good beer while you're here.
  • Excellent Brew Pub
    Been to Black Acre many times and sampled many of their beers. Wonderful! Great beers, both their own and their guest beer choices from other breweries. Great decor. Ample parking in back in beautiful downtown Irvington out W. Washington St. in Indy. Definitely worth the visit.

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    1. Am I the only one who sees that the City is essentially giving away the MSA site AND giving millions to build new buildings on the site when this site would be the perfect place for the Justice Complex? Across from City-County, check; keeping it centrally located, check, etc. It's my understanding that the GM site must be purchased by the City from Motors Liquidation Company. STOP WASTING WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE AND OUR TAX DOLLARS! The Ballard Administration has not been known for it's common sense...never voted for him and never will!

    2. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

    3. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

    4. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

    5. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

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