21 September 2010

The Hoosier Beer Geek Six Pack: D.J. McCallister, Black Swan Brewpub, Plainfield, IN

Indiana's brewery and brewpub renaissance is spreading to areas wider than just Indianapolis - Plainfield is next in line with not just one, but two brewpubs opening soon. Today we'll focus on Black Swan Brewpub and head brewer D.J. McCallister.

1. Who are you and what do you do?

Black Swan Brewpub is located in Plainfield, IN and owned by D.J. and Erin McCallister. D.J. is a native of Beech Grove and has been associated with the Indiana brewing community since 1996. Erin is a journalist and works for BioCentury Publications Inc., a California-based BioTech/Pharma publication. Black Swan Brewpub will be a restaurant and brewery, with growler sales but no further outside distribution. We will have about 110 seats between family dining and the bar, with an additional 50 to 60 seats on our patio. We will also add room for interactive Brew Master Dinners as part of the brewery construction.

2. What inspired you to start brewing? How did you get your start?

I studied physics at Wabash College, but at the end of the day, I knew I was not interested in it as a career path. Instead, I realized the enormous amount of time I was spending thinking, reading, and living beer. Whether it was beer history, style exploration, home brewing, or learning about water chemistry, I couldn't get enough of it. It was about that point that I decided I wanted to transition from being a home brewer to being a professional brewer.

The following summer, Brooke Belli from Oaken Barrel allowed me to come in occasionally to clean kegs, scrub floors, and take out grain. I loved it! The street credit I gained through that experience, along with some good timing, parlayed into an apprenticeship under Greg Emig at Lafayette Brewing Co. I stayed with LBC until May 1999 when I decided I needed to take on some other challenges, and put myself in a position to open my own brewpub some day. Greg and Brooke taught me nearly everything I needed to know about commercial brewing, and it was an honor to serve under two of the founding fathers of the Indiana brewing industry.

3. What is the philosophy of the brewing operations/restaurant operations at Black Swan Brewpub?

Our overarching philosophy has four pillars: Simplicity, Freshness, Craftsmanship, and Customer Service. Our goal is to make these four things play off of one another in a way that creates a rare, unique experience for our customers or a “Black Swan” per se.

From day one of this project we have been committed to keeping the menu clear, concise, and appetizing. You will not come in BSBP and be inundated with a 10 page menu. For us, that is too much to process. While we may not have 100 items on the menu, the 20 (or so) things that we do have will be high quality, well made items.

We have a commitment to using local farmers and suppliers whenever we can. Tapping into the resources around us gives us a fresher product with a distinct line of sight to the people who grew, packaged, and sold it to us. Those things translate into a better product for our customer.

Whether we are talking about our brewery or our kitchen, artisanal excellence is imperative. Our award winning chef, Nick Carter loves what he does, as do I, and we are wholly committed to using our resources to put out food and beer that screams of hand-made goodness. For us to create meals and beers that our guests would probably not make at home will set us apart.

But at the end of the day we know our fate lies in customer service. Warm, hospitable, family-friendly service is what all of the guests should expect at BSBP.

4. What styles do you plan on brewing for the brewpub? Seasonals?

We are putting in an 8bbl custom brewery, and expect it to be operational and licensed by early next year. The real question is, what style of beer won't we brew? We have a 16 tap draft system in place as well as two hand pulls for cask conditioned beer and we are going to have a great time filling those taps with exciting beers. Right now we are expecting our line up to be categorized into three basic groups: standard, heavy, and seasonal.

Our standards will sit on 4-7 taps and rotate with familiar craft beer styles: IPA, Cream Stout, Brown Ale, ESB, Porter, and Hefewiezen to name a few. Our heavy's will take 2-5 taps and highlight beers with higher gravities, ridiculous hop contents, and bold flavors. Seasonal beers as well as one-off creations will occupy any remaining taps we have. With these beers we are going to have a lot of fun. You should expect to see lagers, several different Belgian styles, a few sour beers, and any experimental beers we are trying out. Of course, I can't forget our truly seasonal beers for winter, spring, summer, and fall. Our cask conditioned beers will be no holds barred.

Admittedly it will take time to fill all of the tanks and taps filled, but we are going to get there and have a great time doing it!

5. Plainfield is going from having zero brewpubs to two brewpubs instantly. How do you feel about that?

For the residents and travelers around west and southwest Indianapolis I think it is a great thing! For too long, new brewpubs have been drawn to other pockets of the Indianapolis area. It's high time the drought ended on this side of town, and it's only appropriate that the people get what they want, better beer and more of it.

From a business perspective, I do not give it much thought at all. Every day I wake up and execute my plan to the best of my ability, and that is my sole focus. With that perspective, the number of brewpubs around me is irrelevant. We have neither a rivalry nor a friendly competition with Three Pints Brewpub, but I'm certain we could share a mutual laugh at the timing of our projects. Who would have guessed it would work out like it has?

Overall, I genuinely feel that having more breweries in Indiana is a good thing for everyone.

6. Any insights on the menu yet? When is the projected open date?

Our award-winning chef, Nick Carter, has brought to the table a combination of creativity, pragmatism, and flat-out deliciousness. You can see it all at www.blackswanbrewpub.com. His goal is to match the level of creativity and craftmanship found in Indiana brewing right now – producing high quality, interesting food with a local and seasonal flavor.

For appetizers, we offer Brewpub Stuffed Peppers, which are peppadew peppers stuffed with chorizo and served with goat cheese fondue. We will also offer frites with a variety of flavorful tosses and aioli dips sure to please any palate.

Nick won 2nd place this summer at the State Fair in the Shoup Family Farms Backyard BBQ Cookoff for our “Hoosier” sandwich. This is a great sandwich, with sliced pork, tomato onion chutney, Capriole Farms goat cheese and mixed greens. Our reuben features house made corned beef. If you haven't had freshly corned beef, you are in for a treat.

Our entrees feature Indiana farm raised pork, lamb, and chicken. Some of the highlights are the Braised Lamb Shank, Brewpub Porterhouse (this is a 14 oz. Porterhouse style pork chop - a great piece of meat!), Pan Fried Chicken with mac & goat cheese, and an incredible meatloaf with chili pale ale sauce. We are proud to partner with out hardworking Indiana farmers from Fischer Farms and Viking Lamb to provide an excellent dining experience for you.

For dessert? Fresh baked warm cookies and milk: God Bless America!

Anything else about the company or yourself you'd like to add?

Look for Black Swan Brewpub to open in early October with a line-up of about 15 or 16 great Indiana beers. Nick and I are always here, so feel free to say 'hi' if you catch us walking through the dining room. Like any new business we appreciate your support and we can't wait to get our own beers on line and get your feedback. For more information on what's going on at Black Swan Brewpub, go to www.blackswanbrewpub.com, search Black Swan Brewpub on Facebook, or find us on Twitter @BlackswanBP.


  1. Congrats DJ looks like you are going about things the right way, can't wait till you're open and we can come see the place first hand. I knew you'd make things happen, you'll be a fantastic addition to the Indy brew scene. Keep on the path and keep focused, looking forward to your tasty beers!

  2. Greg @ Lafayette BrewingSeptember 23, 2010 3:16 PM

    Looks like another great brewpub in Indiana's future! The folks in Plainfield are lucky to have DJ opening up in their neck of the woods. Quality brewer... quality individual... gonna be a good thing!