IU McKinney Alumni Turn Craft Brewing into Business Venture


Justin Miller and Steve Ruby, Class of 2011Three law students discovered they all shared a love of home brewing during a cookout prior to the start of their first year of law school. Jordan Gleason, ’11, Justin Miller, ’11, and Steve Ruby, ’11, at first joked that they should pursue their own craft beer business.

The initial thought was to keep brewing their own beers at home and “after making the big bucks in the legal field,” Ruby said, maybe pursue a second career making craft beers. But as the job market continued to look soft as their graduation date approached, they decided to switch their career plans around and put the craft beer business first.

They launched a website for their venture and began to be courted by neighborhood development organizations clamoring for new businesses, said Miller. Black Acre, named for the fictitious name for real estate holdings in law classes, opened in February 2012 and is located in the Indianapolis Irvington neighborhood. The law school friends are three of the five co-owners. The other two are Justin Miller's wife, Holly, and Gleason's childhood friend, Matt Johnson.

Their talent and skill for brewing craft beer is on display every day at their pub, as are their legal skills. Without the legal background, they "would have had to hire a lawyer," Miller says, to navigate the paperwork involved in opening a craft brewing business in an historic neighborhood.

First, there were the state and federal alcohol permits. Then, they had to make sure their plans for their new location complied with the covenants that govern an historic neighborhood like Irvington.

There also were variance of use issues, zoning hearings, and the occasional problem with vendors that magically disappeared once it became known they were lawyers.

"It's amazing how problems get resolved when you tack an ‘esquire’ after your name,"; Ruby joked.

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