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The Buzz: Big Lug Canteen Is Coming

Scott Ellis and Eddie Sahm aren’t looking to create the next hipster draw. Nor are they trying to spark a buzz among local hopheads. They just want a spot where they can make the kind of beer they want to drink. “We see the average guy in Nora out mowing his lawn. He works hard, he’s got kids at North Central, and he likes to relax,” Sahm says. “We want to be the place where that guy goes to get a beer.”

Enter Big Lug Canteen, the latest in a family dynasty that includes Rockstone Pizza and Sahm’s Place, which Sahm, son of local entrepreneur Ed Sahm, bought outright after working in restaurants since he was 14. Opening this spring in the former Snooty Fox location (the longtime watering hole that closed not long after a 2011 appearance on Food Network’s Restaurant: Impossible), this brewery and full-service restaurant will feature the flagship beers and rotating seasonal taps of brewer Ellis, a Selma, Indiana, native who got his start at Three Wise Men Brewery before becoming head brewer at Ram Brewery in 2014.

The burly pair didn’t even meet specifically to talk about beer. “We were both at Bier Brewery one night,” Sahm says. “I asked Scott if his tattoo was a Radiohead reference [it’s a graphic from the band’s OK Computer tour]. We’ve been buds ever since.” Sahm hopes to apply his extensive knowledge of tasty, approachable food to a beer-friendly menu of poutine, burgers, and a selection of concession-stand classics like hotdogs and vegetarian walking tacos that he will serve to people using the Monon Trail. A bike rack and a trailside patio will allow customers quick access from the popular path, and a second location of Rockstone Pizza is planned for a separate storefront next door. Just don’t expect repurposed wood or vintage collectables at this democratic drinking hole.

Ellis plans on a specialty beer he’s christened Pilgrimage for the annual trips he and Sahm will take to legendary breweries across the country. Last fall, they visited celebrated Hill Farmstead Brewery in Greensboro, Vermont, from which they will get hops for a farmhouse-style double IPA. “We stopped in upstate New York on the way home,” Ellis recalls with a chuckle. “The hotel clerk took one look at our beards and guessed we were beer-makers from Indiana. I guess it shows.” 1435 E. 86th St., facebook.com/Biglugcanteen

 

A graduate of IU’s Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing, Terry Kirts hails from a town in Illinois so small it didn’t have a restaurant until he was in the 8th grade. Since 2000, he’s more than made up for the dearth of eateries in his childhood, logging hundreds of meals as the dining critic for WHERE Indianapolis, Indianapolis Woman, and NUVO before joining Indianapolis Monthly as a contributing editor in 2007. A senior lecturer in creative writing at IUPUI, Terry has published his poetry and creative nonfiction in a number of literary journals and anthologies, including Gastronomica, Alimentum, and Home Again: Essays and Memoirs from Indiana, and he’s the author of the poetry collection To the Refrigerator Gods, published by Seven Kitchens Press in 2011.
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