North Texas beer aficionados are almost certainly familiar with the offerings from Garland-based Lakewood Brewing Co. In fact, fans of its seasonal Tangerine Queen, an American wheat beer with orange peel and tangerine, will be happy to discover it’s now available year round. But what they may not know is the family-owned success story behind Lakewood Brewing—and its award-winning craft beer lineup.
Lakewood Brewery founder Wim Bens was born in Belgium—a country known worldwide for its high alcohol by volume (ABV) malt-based beers—and relocated to Texas at age seven. After earning a B.S. in advertising from SMU, Bens began a career as an associate creative director at Tracy Locke. At the same time, he started home brewing. “I fell in love with brewing’s perfect blend of art and science,” he said.
After graduating from the American Brewer’s Guild, a brewing school providing practical experience for future brewers, he cut the cord to the ad world, founded Lakewood Brewing in 2011, and sold his first keg of beer in August 2012. Lakewood Brewing’s first year was ambitious, rolling out 11 types of beer, and completing the family-owned-and-operated aspect of the brewery, Bens’ wife Brenda Busch serves as vice president of the company.
Belgium-born, but offering a beer for any occasion
Belgian beer typically brings to mind Trappist breweries and high-alcohol bottle-conditioned brews. For Bens, he said his beer journey began after graduation with the “search for a taste from Belgium here in Texas.” But that journey also led him to find American craft breweries doing new and exciting things with beer.
Bens told Dallas Innovates he appreciates Belgium’s influence on global beer culture, but the approach by Lakewood Brewing is varied and local. The idea is to have a beer for any palate and any occasion. For example, Lakewood’s Temptress is the number-one selling stout in Texas and is the basis for many of its other beers.
From serendipity to innovation
The inspiration for a new brew might come from the Lakewood team having a beer out on the town and thinking, “Ooh, such and such would be good with this.” This kernel of an idea leads to research, finding the right flavor, and finally perfecting the final product.
The brewing process begins with small batches using high-quality ingredients, and quality control is important to Lakewood Brewing and its dedicated Beer Scientist. The goal is for every Lakewood beer to taste the same whether someone is drinking it in El Paso or North Texas.
An example of the full development process for a Lakewood beer is Muy Importante. This brand was first tested in a tiny homebrew production and then moved to small batch before finally being offered year-round in multiple markets across Texas because of consumer demand.
The magic happens at Lakewood Brewing’s Garland location and its 20,000 square-feet of production space, 2,000 square-foot taproom featuring 24 beers along with wine and cider, and an outdoor beer garden space soon to undergo expansion for more outdoor games, fire pits, and a kids’ area.
Meeting challenges and looking to the future
Manufacturing businesses around the globe faced COVID-19 pandemic-created supply chain issues, and Lakewood Brewing was no exception. But an unforeseen issue was a trend tied to the shift to curbside pickup. As Dallas Innovates was told, “You have to go in-store to get the weird stuff,” which meant people were missing out on Lakewood’s limited and seasonal releases that didn’t get regularly updated in store and restaurant “to go” menu ordering platforms.
What’s next for Lakewood Brewing? This year it’s coming out with its “Mechanical” series of beers, both its taproom and beer garden are getting a facelift, and in the spring Lakewood is adding a kitchen to make the brewery a destination fit for an entire afternoon.
And as always, the taproom has an R&D system in place so Lakewood’s mad scientist brewers can explore new styles and flavors. As Bens says on the brewery’s “about” page, Lakewood strives to “create the highest quality beers by developing new and exciting styles while staying true to the art and precision of craft brewing.”
Get on the list.
Dallas Innovates, every day.
Sign up to keep your eye on what’s new and next in Dallas-Fort Worth, every day.