Southwest Brewing News February/March 2011 : Page 1

fEi f Ei Einstein’s t i ’ right, i ht and iht d time and space bend, then the second big bang of craft brewing is occurring right now in the Austin universe. Story on p. 6 By Hans Granheim H INSIDE I NSIDE By Bev Blackwood II Beer Bars Abound Since 1985, The Gingerman, one of America’s earliest multi-tap bars has thrived across the street from the now shuttered Two Rows. Hailed by Michael Jackson as “one of the best beer bars in the world,” it is one of many Houston beer-themed businesses that don’t brew onsite, yet still grows Houston’s beer culture. “I think we are underrated,” states Jake Rainey, general manager of the bustling Flying Saucer, a multi-tap bar in downtown Houston. “Our beer culture is great. Just See Houston p. 4 ouston has never been kind to brewpubs. In fact, one of the fi rst to close its doors was from the successful Rock Bottom chain. However, when the last surviving brewpub, Two Rows, abruptly closed in October of 2010, it left Houston as the largest city in the United States without a brewpub. Despite this fact, Houston is not a beer wasteland -in fact, far from it. State by State News Event Calendar .......................2 From the Editor .......................3 Queen of Quaff .......................3 Best of Show ...........................5 Directories & maps ..........12-15 Arkansas ....................8 Oklahoma ...................9 N Mexico/SW TX ......10 S California ..............16 San Diego .................17 S/C Texas .................18 Austin .......................19 N Texas .....................20 Nevada .....................21 C Arizona..................22 N Arizona..................23 S Arizona ..................23 DREAMERS REALLY DO COME BREW. Clockwise from top left: Brian Smittle of Thirsty Planet, Jeffery Stuffi ngs and brother Michael (l to r) of Jester King, Kevin Brand of (512), Judson Mulherin and Ben Sabel (l to r) of Circle. PHOTOS BY: HANS GRANHEIM EXCEPT KEVIN BRAND BY JOHN of AUSTIN-FLICKR

The Ails Of Houston City Without A Brewpub

Bev Blackwood II

Houston has never been kind to brewpubs. In fact, one of the fi rst to close its doors was from the successful Rock Bottom chain. However, when the last surviving brewpub, Two Rows, abruptly closed in October of 2010, it left Houston as the largest city in the United States without a brewpub. Despite this fact, Houston is not a beer wasteland - in fact, far from it.

Beer Bars Abound

Since 1985, The Gingerman, one of America’s earliest multi-tap bars has thrived across the street from the now shuttered Two Rows. Hailed by Michael Jackson as “one of the best beer bars in the world,” it is one of many Houston beer-themed businesses that don’t brew onsite, yet still grows Houston’s beer culture.

“I think we are underrated,” states Jake Rainey, general manager of the bustling Flying Saucer, a multi-tap bar in downtown Houston. “Our beer culture is great. Just look at the local homebrew clubs like the Foam Rangers, or the amount of cask beer you can fi nd now in a wide variety of bars.” Indeed, it seems that a new gastropub or multi-tap bar pops up every month or two all over Houston. However, it seems the common theme is beer, not brewing. That’s not too surprising, according to Mike Brotzman, owner of the former Houston Two Rows. “How much [beer] you can sell within the confi nes of those four walls determines the success [of a brewpub] and it’s really hard to be successful if you’re paying a quarter of a million for your stainless and having a salaried staff on hand if you’re not selling a thousand or twelve hundred barrels a year,” he remarks.

Texas doesn’t make it any easier for a brewpub to succeed, since the capacity of a brewpub system often far exceeds the demand created by the restaurant and the excess can’t be sold in another location, like it can in other states. One way around that problem has been for chains like BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse to outsource their brewing. “Are people fooled into thinking it’s a brewery?” Brotzman muses, “Doubtful, but they do have really good food and they have a great selection of beers and most importantly they don’t have to have the high capital costs of a brewpub.” BJ’s had a brewery in their fi rst Texas location notes Michael Ferguson, the director of brewery operations for the chain. “I think the Clear Lake location legitimized our beginnings in Texas,” he states. “Economically, with the laws of the state of Texas prohibiting brewpubs from shipping beer offsite, it just didn’t make sense to continue its operation.” BJ’s fi ve Houston locations offer their signature beers and upscale food to an appreciative audience. “For beer enthusiasts it shouldn’t matter whether we brew the beer onsite or not, as long as the beer is just as fresh. And we offer at least as much variety as you expect from a brewpub,” Ferguson notes.

Scott Metzger, Freetail’s owner observes, “The trail of dead brewpubs littering the streets of Houston is a concern. There isn’t any common thread I’ve picked up on, other than that they all have some excuse, that taken on its own, wouldn’t be a cause for alarm. “When you add them all up, however, the excuses become almost irrelevant and the city’s history becomes the elephant in the room.” Even so, the prospect of opening a Houston location isn’t all that daunting to him. “I believe that no matter the market, a properly sized brewpub that makes great beer and food and provides a good atmosphere will succeed.” Even so, Houston is not without its challenges. “Now I do believe that Houston is a picky market,” Metzger comments. “There is no room for bad beer in that town, and those who make it will be doomed to fail.” One of the concerns he does have about locating a Freetail brewpub in Houston stems from the very people he wants to serve, the beer lovers. He notes, “When Ronnie Crocker [of the Houston Chronicle] wrote his piece on our possible location in Houston, someone made a comment - ‘We already have a brewery, it’s called St. Arnold’s.’” Such loyalty is earned and Metzger seeks to do just that. “It is important to me that we become part of the fabric of a community, not just another component lying atop of it.” That attitude will go far in winning Houston over.

Scott Birdwell, owner of DeFalco’s Home Wine & Beer Supply, has been involved in the Houston brewing community for nearly four decades. “I don’t think we’re going to sit around without a brewpub for real long,” he opines. “I think somebody’s going to open up and I just hope they’re very successful so that other people will be encouraged to do so.” With luck, America’s largest city without a brewpub will hold that title only briefl y.

Hope is on the Horizon

Even so, a brewpub is distinct from a beer themed restaurant, gastropub or beer bar notes Saint Arnold Brewing Company owner Brock Wagner. “I think both types of establishments are important,” he observes. “Beer-centric restaurants can pull from breweries around the state, country and world, while a brewpub will provide the fresh beer brewed right there.” Wagner feels both complement his brewery. “If somebody goes to a brewpub and has great, fresh beer, they are much more likely to seek out a Saint Arnold at the grocery store and other bars and restaurants.” Despite seeing brewpubs bite the dust over the past 16 years, Wagner sees the current dearth as an opportunity. “If it were legal for me to do so, I would start work on opening a brewpub tomorrow.

Wagner wouldn’t be alone. Freetail Brewing in San Antonio is considering a Houston location for its second brewpub.

Read the full article at http://swbnonline.brewingnews.com/article/The+Ails+Of+Houston+City+Without+A+Brewpub/632878/59977/article.html.

Austin A Brewing Boomtown

Hans Granheim

If Einstein’s right, and time and space bend, then the second big bang of craft brewing is occurring right now in the Austin universe.

Bang number one occurred in the mid- ’90s, a few scant years after brewpubs were legalized in Texas. An implosion later in the decade, caused by mercurial real estate values and the unforgiving financial realities of running small businesses, doomed in succession: Stone House, Katy Blooms, Copper Tank, The Draught Horse (reopened as The Draught House) and downtown anchors Waterloo and Bitter End - all brewpubs. The lone microbrewery in this group, Celis, closed after a deal with Miller soured, leaving the Celis brand to languish until it was sold to the Michigan Brewery in 2002.

Fast-forward to the 2000-somethings, and no fewer than a dozen breweries or brewpubs are in various stages of fermentation, with several upstarts likely to have beer available by the time you read this.

Micros Abound

The (512) Brewing Company staked a claim in South Austin in 2007 and Kevin Brand carved a niche with his Pecan Porter, also recently released as a whiskey-barrelaged version. This ambitious brewery continues to evolve and their (512) TWO double IPA (debuted at (512)’s second anniversary party) and the brandy-barrelaged (512) ONE Belgian strong ale are just two of the excellent high gravity beers coming out of this former medical device engineer’s brewery.

Brian and Tammy Smittle planted their brewery, Thirsty Planet, without fanfare in the scrub oaks just west of Austin and dove into the big IPA fray last year with Buckethead, a beer that shows the Smittle’s aren’t hop shy.

Tired of lawyering, Jeffery Stuffings launched his Jester King Brewery shortly after, building an adjacent beer hall and turning an old barn into a music and special events space. Located on a four-acre ranch in the nearby Hill Country, Stuffings started boldly, experimenting with local wild yeast fermentations and barrel aging at the same time turning out Commercial Suicide, lowalcohol English session ale that bucks the trend of double styles.

The duo of Ben Sabel and Judson Mulherin brewed their first 30-barrel batch of Envy in December at Circle Brewing Company and the pair quickly followed with Blur. “We’re planning a grand opening in February,” says Sabel. We just want to make sure the beer is settled out and conditioned. It’s ready when it’s ready.”

Brewpubs are Booming

On the brewpub front, veteran Austin brewer Brian Peters spent the past year setting up the second Uncle Billy’s location high on the bluffs above Lake Travis. The beers and the view are equally stunning, a kind of Texas Riviera featuring the holy trinity of beer, music and barbeque.

Perhaps the most interesting development is the long anticipated opening of Black Star Co-op and Brewery, the brew brain child of Steven Yarak, who envisioned a brewpub owned by its patrons but also open to the public. Members have input into beer styles produced in this business model that seems to have little if any precedent in craft brewing.

Equally unusual is the morphing of the Whip In, a beer/gourmet food store, into a combination tap bar, restaurant, music venue and mini brewpub all in one. Owner Dipak Topiwala had to jump through a giant slinky of bureaucratic hoops to get it done.

But that’s not the end of this movement. A group of trailing upstarts is rapidly making their beer happen. South Austin Brewing has secured a building but doesn’t yet have beer on the market. Jordan Weeks and Caleb Cranford have all the vessels to brew and plan to focus on what Weeks calls, “a wide open niche market for Belgian-style beers in Austin. We’re targeting February for our Belgian Golden to be out,” says Weeks. “We’ll have beer in kegs and in wire cage {corked] bottles.”

Likewise, Hops and Grain owners Josh Hare and Jeff Russell recently moved into a 3,000 square foot warehouse at the east end of 6th St., sharing their hood with the veteran Live Oak Brewing Company.

Adam DeBower of Austin Beerworks informs, “We currently have a lease on 8,200 square feet in North Central Austin. We have all of our equipment in house and hope to start brewing in late February with beer in the market by late March.” Notably, Austin Beerworks wants to be the first craft brewer in Austin to can its beer.

The trio of Shane Bordeaux, Shawn Franks and Jim Sampson of Twisted X Brewing Company, are now located in a warehouse on the north shore of Lake Travis just west of Austin. Bordeaux says they are, “focusing on Mexican-style lagers and the Austin market, initially with kegs.” Look for their Dia de Los Muertos style labels sometime in early 2011.

More on the Way

Others with less concrete assets include Chris Orf of Orf Brewing, who plans to brew what his Web site says are “hybrid American ales, the loveable mutts of the U.S. craft beer scene,” and Erik Marr’s Moonlight Tower Brewing Co., which for now, consists of a business plan and a Web site extolling the merits of organic and sustainable brewing practices. He’d like to be brewing sometime in 2012 with a 100% organic brewery.

There are also a few brewery satellites circling the Austin area including Johnson City’s Pecan Street Brewing, a brewpub trying to stake a claim in the heart of light beer country, a daring foray into a land where Comanches once held sway. Also on the radar is the diminutive Darkside Fermentation in the Root Cellar Café and Brewery in San Marcos, which specializes in Belgian styles and The Wimberley Brewery/Brewster’s Pizza, newly remodeled with eight house beers on tap an hour south of Austin.

The questions remain: Can Austin support a dozen or more new breweries? Which of these upstarts will still be brewing five, or 10 years from now? Who will get the cold shelf space and choice tap accounts? There’s no way to tell, but it’s clear the same passion and enthusiasm in this new phase of craft brewers reflects the dedication of Austin brewers who came before them. Even more encouraging - Austin brewers are generally open and supportive of newcomers and are eager to share their knowledge.

Austin might not yet rival Portland, Ore., or the concentrated brewing activity in many parts of the Midwest, East and West coasts, or even Colorado, but all the ingredients are all here in this beer-loving city.

Read the full article at http://swbnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Austin+A+Brewing+Boomtown/632941/59977/article.html.

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