Craft beer has become a nationwide staple and North Texas has no shortage of home grown microbrews to choose from or places to find those beers with 69 and counting regional breweries, brewpubs, and retail members of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild.
Craft brewers can be found across the entire area and a common denominator within the industry is an entrepreneurial spirit. Even when craft beer brands outgrow the small business label, the industry ethos remains in juxtaposition with brewing giants such as AB InBev and MillerCoors.
PASSION AND THE LAW
Peticolas Brewing Co. is a highly decorated craft brewer based in the Design District with a long-running list of United States Beer Tasting Championship and United States Open Beer Championship medals going back to 2012 along with other accolades including being named D Magazine’s Best of Big D: Best Brewery in 2013 and 2017.
Founder Michael Peticolas wrote the business plan in 2010, built the brewery the following year, and at the end of 2011 brewed Peticolas Brewery’s first beer — Velvet Hammer, an imperial red.
“I have two passions in life — beer and soccer.”
“I have two passions in life — beer and soccer,” Peticolas said. “After accomplishing all of the goals I set for myself in the legal industry, I turned to my passions. I couldn’t find a soccer job and thus, beer became my work.”
But, his previous life as a lawyer has played a role in both the success of his brewery and for craft brewers in Texas overall. Just to open Peticolas Brewing Company, Peticolas had to get a law changed that made brewing beer at its address illegal.
“The legal background has been extremely helpful. Not only did I change the law in Dallas to allow for the brewery to open in the first place, but having an understanding of the legal landscape continues to pay dividends,” Peticolas said.
“By way of example, I sued the State of Texas in connection with an anti-craft beer law I believe to be in violation of the Texas Constitution.”
NEW TO THE SCENE
While Peticolas has racked up several years’ worth of awards and its founder has been involved in more than one seminal legal battle around craft beer in Texas and the region, White Rock Alehouse & Brewery represents one of the most recent entrants to the space.
Owners Greg Nixon and Dave Kirk opened the alehouse portion of the business last November with a location just south of White Rock Lake including an entrance to the patio off of the White Rock Trail encouraging traffic from lakeside walkers, joggers, and bikers. Its brewing equipment arrived this February and WRAB released its first four beers on April 14, with three of the four brews given lake-centric names: Big Thicket Blonde Ale, Bonnie Barge Coffee Brown Ale, and Urban Parakeet American Pale Ale.
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Both founders have entrepreneurial backgrounds with Kirk coming from the wireless telecom industry owning his own company for 15 years and Nixon working as a financial advisor for 20 years. The brewery was created based on the partners’ shared love for craft beer and opened after a four-year plan along with capital investment.
Even though the brewery is the heart of the business, Nixon and Kirk said the alehouse portion of the company is critical to their concept.
“We did not start this to be in the food business, but recognize that when people drink beer, they want to eat and are proven to stick around longer if there is food available,” the founders told Dallas Innovates. “We want this to be a destination that people can come and relax and have good food and drinks available in addition to the great beer we serve.”
Kirk and Nixon added they love the entrepreneurial spirit surrounding the craft beer world and that ethos is a major part of what drew them in to creating WRAB.
BEER INNOVATION IN ACTION
Community Beer Co. founder Kevin Carr has a startup background with the brewery being the fifth business he started. Just prior to launching Community in June 2011 (and then opening January 2013), Carr owned a legal software company with five offices across the U.S. requiring him to travel to beer-centric areas of the country before the North Texas craft beer explosion.
“… many brewery owners have been thrown ‘into the fire’ and are learning tough lessons on-the-fly.”
Carr was a home brewer in his spare time and enjoyed sampling craft beer around the U.S. He eventually began extending business trips so he could visit breweries and talk to owners and brewers and also started researching opening his own brewery.
Since making that leap, Carr said Community is now among the top 10 largest craft brewers in Texas per recent market reports. The company has more than 30 team members and is on track to produce 35,000 barrels this year.
Community has a number of innovative processes in its operations and Carr shared several with Dallas Innovates:
- To discover new beers it allows its brewers to get creative and develop new beer styles through a one-barrel pilot system. Those new beers are served in Community’s taproom and based on customer feedback might end up released to the public. Carr said two of its pilot brews recently won Silver at the LA International Beer Competition.
- Community’s lab program includes managing and propagating a wide range of yeasts for its brews; and it has been experimenting with new hop formats, such as hop powder, to increase flavors and yields.
- The brewery utilizes innovative equipment like its hop gun which increases hop utilization and also maximizes yields and improves beer quality.
- Measurement and testing is important to the process. Precise measurements — such as measuring exact alpha acid readings on each hop addition — are taken during each step of brewing, and quality control protocols are in place around elements like oxygen pickup in packaging including an archive of packaged beer for quality testing after weeks, months, and even years on the shelf.
- Carr even tapped into his software background to develop proprietary software to manage inventory and sales.
Entrepreneurism is a key component to the craft beer movement according to Carr, but he said his background with four previous startups isn’t the norm in the space.
“For most brewery owners, [their breweries] are the first businesses they have started out on their own. As such, there is still lots of learning about running a business, financial analytics, human resources, marketing, sales, operations, and more that are required to run and grow a successful business,” said Carr. “And since we are operating in a high-growth industry, many brewery owners have been thrown ‘into the fire’ and are learning tough lessons on-the-fly.”
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