Born in Detroit and growing up in suburban Chicago, Steve Ruby moved to Indianapolis to attend Butler University after graduating from Hinsdale South High School. At Butler he studied mid-20th century Marxist revolutions in Central America and U. S. foreign policy on the way to earning his degree in political science and history. He moved on to the IU School of Law where he secured a law degree and subsequently passed the bar exam. Home brewing was something he encountered in law school after he met two of his partners who were also law students. As he was joining two experienced home brewers, he did not start with extract brews, but, rather jumped right in to full grain.
Home brewing was a significant part of these law student’s lives. So much so, that they put together a web page about their brewing adventures. This caught the eye of Southeast Neighborhood Development who approached the fellows about opening a brew pub in the Fountain Square area. While this did not pan out, it “lit the fire under our butts” with the realization that they could open a brewery with at least some confidence of success. That confidence led them to open Black Acre Brewing Company on East Washington Street in Indianapolis. They have never found the time to practice law.
In the beginning one of Ruby’s partners was brewing on a humble 3 barrel system at the Washington Street location. Ruby helped with the brew when he could and took over the brew side of things about a year later. At the peak of that system, Black Acre was brewing 800 barrels a year, which required a constant 60 – 70 hours a week of brewing. Now with a 15 barrel brew deck and over 100 barrels of fermenting tankage in their spacious brewing facility, he has a little breathing room and can better ensure a high quality product.
The first brew made to be served at Black Acre was the Fairwind Porter. The Saucy Intruder was another early offering at the pub. This rye IPA is still on tap today although it has been subject to continuous development, especially the water profile. The Saucy is far and away (at least double any other beer) the bestselling brew at the pub. Ruby describes one of his recent favorite brews as an oatmeal pale ale that is his own recipe. Listening to him describe the ingredients of this brew and the resulting body and taste reveals a brewer who truly delights in his craft. The beer was dubbed the Psycho Oats Beast. When asked about his favorite beer now on tap, he mentions several including the Natural Liberty (an American pale lager), the Groundskeeper (a Scottish ale), and the Original Intent (an IPA).
Ruby’s suggestion to would be brewers is to volunteer or work part time at small brewing operation. Production brewers generally do not have the time or situation to provide a lot of instruction in the finer points of the craft.
Having once worked at Goose the Market, Ruby has developed some culinary skills and enjoys cooking. . There is a complementary relationship between craft brewing and the take on food at Goose that extends to Ruby’s blend of art and science. If his brews are any barometer, his food is undoubtedly awesome.
When Ruby is not brewing up his delicious beers, he can occasionally be found playing bass guitar with the band Uh. The band’s drummer is Erik Fox, the head brewer at Flat 12. Ruby also spends some time shepherding the menagerie that he and his lady friend have – two dogs (a pit bull named Dougan and a German Shepard named Ziggy), three cats (Roland, Chairman Meow Balls Ruby Esquire, and Dr. Sassy Pants McGee M.D.), and a turtle (Leonardo). Clearly higher education for their feline friends is a priority in the Ruby household.