Born in Indianapolis, Mark Swartz went to school on the west side and eventually graduated from Plainfield High School. After high school he served in the Air Force. He got his start as a home brewer doing three extract batches. Realizing he loved the craft, he moved to doing all grain brews. After more than twelve years of home brewing as a passion, Swartz made the leap to brewing professionally by opening his own shop, Cannon Ball Brewing Company. He started brewing with all electric equipment at home the past four years. Finding this a comfortable arrangement, he moved up to a bigger (two barrel) all electric system at Cannon Ball. As he is still working his day job, he has no thoughts of any kind of expansion at this time. He is encouraged by the success
Cannon Ball has enjoyed so far. So, who knows how long the day job will be necessary.
Swartz’s favorite part of the brewing process is the smell of the boil. He writes all his own brew recipes and has around one hundred of them accumulated in his cook book. He has kept really good notes over the years as he brewed at home. While he loves all his brews, he says he is an IPA guy. He is also especially fond of the 17th Street Rye Saison now on tap at Cannon Ball. The Two Speed IPA is his best seller right now in the tap room, followed up by the Coconut Bourbon Stout which has very subtle flavoring.
Swartz has adopted a philosophy of not setting a menu of “house beers.” He plans to continue to rotate beers through his taps while recognizing that some of the better sellers, like the Two Speed IPA, need to be more available to his customers. He has the IPA, another Stout, and a Kolsch all in the pipeline for near future release.
His advice to someone wanting to get into the business is, “if you ever get the chance to sleep, take it.” Apparently Swartz is a bit sleep deprived.
The name Cannon Ball comes from Irwin “Cannon Ball” Baker who won the first motorized race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was a motorcycle race. Swartz himself used to race motorcycles as an amateur in his younger days. His bike was a Honda CBR 600. In a true demonstration of his love of beer, he sold his last bike to help capitalize Cannon Ball. As the weather gets warmer, that decision becomes more and more painful.
Having once been a pilot for ATA, Swartz still likes to get out and fly small planes when his very limited time permits. What with his two dogs, his day job and keeping the taps flowing at 17th and Bellefontaine, he does not have the opportunity to get out much.