Behind the Beer: Meet Scott Ellis of Big Lug Canteen and Liter House!

Growing up in Selma, Indiana and attending Wapahani High School, the home of the Raiders, Scott Ellis graduated in a class of sixty-two. He went on to become a certified massage therapist, an occupation he pursued for a while in the Muncie area. Eventually, he moved to Indianapolis and found work as a high end roofer and copper sheet metal fabricator. His part time winter job at a liquor store exposed him to a variety of craft beer that brought back memories of the Heorot Pub and Drought House in Muncie where he may have quaffed a few brews in his younger days. He moved on from the construction business but not from the liquor store where continued to work while attending school at Ivy Tech. A business degree was the goal with aspirations to start a brewpub. He had not yet considered doing the brewing, however.P1000544_Moment

 

As fate would have it, Ellis needed another part time job to make ends meet while going to school. There was a small new brewery in Broad Ripple that was hiring – Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Company. He felt that the experience would be beneficial and with a friend already working there, he got the job. Scrubbing floors, walls, and cleaning in general was his life to start. Eventually however, his hard work and the interest he displayed in the job gained him opportunities to participate in different aspects of the actual brewing. When the brewery expanded to a second shift, Ellis was positioned in the pecking order just high enough to run the brew deck, but low enough to draw the late shift. After a while, he moved on to Bier Brewery as a brewer until being offered the assistant brewer’s job at Oaken Barrel Brewing Company in Greenwood. By this time it is safe to assume that he had been bitten by the brewing bug.

Not only did Ellis’ time at Oaken Barrel expose him to recipe development, scheduling, and the other behind the scenes aspects of operating a brewery, it provided him the opportunity to brew his first solo beer. Although he felt a bit bad moving around so frequently, he discovered that in doing so, he benefitted tremendously from the exposure to a number of talented brewers and different brewing equipment. From Oaken Barrel, he went on to his first head brewing job in downtown Indy at RAM Restaurant & Brewery. The RAM was a comfortable job for a young brewer with a young family. However, before long Ellis was approached by Eddie Sahm, an old acquaintance and successful restaurateur.

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Sahm was ready to move into the brewpub business and Ellis was the ideal brewer/partner. So much for the comfortable corporate brewing job. Ellis stayed on at RAM for another several months while spending nights and weekends getting Big Lug Canteen ready to roll. Everything was new at the Canteen, including the beer, which was all from his own recipes. Batch Number One was an oatmeal stout. He then quickly brewed up the three flagship house beers, Quintana, Kings Jive and Kristofferson, an American Wheat Ale, an English Brown, and an American Oatmeal Pale respectively. For the first year and a half, he never repeated a seasonal brew, going through over one hundred different beers. Eventually, he fleshed out the flagship lineup with the addition of Flying Horse, Goat Ranch, and Alpenhorn. The Goat Ranch harkens back to the golf he often played during his younger days.

While he enjoys the entire brewing process, Ellis is especially fond of recipe development and working on the brew deck. The one onerous but crucial task he does not look forward to is kegging. All that time in a freezing, cold cooler is not his idea of a swell time.

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Whereas Ellis played traditional golf as a youth, one of the things he enjoys when he gets a free minute away from the breweries is disc golf. It is less expensive and takes less time, both precious commodities to a fellow with a wife and a four year son old at home. And, yes, that’s breweries, plural. Ellis is the head brewer at both Big Lug Canteen and the recently opened Liter House on Winthrop Avenue that once housed Bent Rail Brewery. Although, he has help at both locations, the ultimate responsibility is his.

The Ellis family also includes two canine members. One is a border collie/cattle dog mix, a rescue dog named Brie. Brie’s siblings are Colby and Jack. All were adopted out to good homes by ARF (Animal Rescue Fund) in Muncie, a place that clearly is esteemed by Ellis. The other dog’s lineage is somewhat suspect as she might be a cattle dog/beagle mix but looks like a “weird beagle.” Her name is Mabel. The menagerie is rounded out by a stray cat they found named Peg (after the Steely Dan song).

From small town boy to big city brewer, Scott Ellis has come a long way in a short time. He left massage therapy behind in Delaware County. However, his amazing brews will not rub you the wrong way.



Categories: Brewers

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