I didn’t want to go. I didn’t fancy myself as much of a “people person”. I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I was anti-social or anything but talking to complete strangers about something, even if I was passionate about the subject, was a foreign concept to me. But I had been asked by a friend to go. Someone I respected. Someone that was counting on me to make some new friends.
I drove past the small shop twice before realizing where it was, but that was probably in part because I was looking for a place called Stubby’s rather than what was written up on the marquee, “Texas Brewing Inc.”. After gathering myself, I nervously made my way inside, looked around the small room filled with tables, beer, and people. People with anxious eager faces. I’m not sure what it was that made my switch turn on. Maybe it was the looks on those faces… eager to please. Maybe it was that they looked more nervous than I was. Whatever it was, I felt comfortable in my own skin and caught the eye of one of the fellows in the corner.
Approaching David, I introduced myself and he did the same, and asked if I’d like to try a beer. He wanted me to try some odd sounding cereal beer but I was a man on a mission and wanted to try the one billed as There Will Be Stout. It poured thick and chocolaty dark with a malty tan head. David introduced me to his brewery partner Cody and after making some small talk I moved on to one of the other tables where I was met by a wide-eyed, fedora wearing, talkative guy named Matt and his equally wide-eyed buddy, Tom.
Both Matt and Tom were eager to explain to me the eccentricities of the two English Bitter style beers they were pouring and the complexities of each. Once Tom heard what my yet to be opened restaurant [LUCK] planned to serve and how we intended to use beer in our recipes, he insisted I try what he was calling an Imperial Saison made with spicy grapes. Talk about something awakening your senses. To this day, I still think about that beer and how it could be used, in a culinary sense. From there I moved over to the table occupied by Chris and his merry band of guys and gals who, if I’m being honest, seemed a little out of their element as if they were happy to be there but knew they were a few steps behind the other participants, on that day.
Not being a huge fan of brown ales, I was hesitant to try his but was pleasantly surprised and could see that my resistance turned satisfaction was like a feather in his cap. My last stop for the day was to visit with Natalie and Jeremy. Natalie poured me samples while I listened to Jeremy telling another patron about the process he used to toast the coconut and how using actual toasted coconut rather than an extract really came through in the overall color and flavor in the beer. The passion for his craft was written all over his face and after tasting that first sip I understood why. The toasted coconut ale was like nothing I had ever had before and immediately got my mind spinning that it would make a perfect ice cream or sorbet.
For those of you keeping score at home, yes, I met David Wedemeier and Cody Martin of Martin House Brewing Company, Matt Morriss and Tom Anderson of Rabbit Hole Brewing, Jeremy & Natalie Roberts of 903 Brewers, and Chris Rigoulot and his then fiancée now wife Kindra Valentine of soon to be open Noble Rey Brewing Company all on the same day. All before they were brewing beer to be distributed to the public. All in a small home-brewing shop in North Richland Hills. No disrespect to any of the other founding members of these fine breweries that I failed to mention, it’s just that these are the people that were present that day that I was fortunate to spend some quality time with. I consider myself LUCKy to have sampled the test recipes for what has become (in no particular order), Pretzel Stout, Daybreak, The Chosen One, Crackin’ Up Pecan Porter, Steam Punk, BA Baracus, Rapture, 10/6, and Wonderlust,
Looking back on that day, what I take away from it is that the craft beer world is filled with people eager to learn, eager to share, and eager to spread the good word about the growing craft beer community. This community is welcoming, helpful to their peers (ironically these same peers are their direct competition), and above all friendly. I walked into that little shop feeling like a nervous outsider and walked out feeling like I had not only made future business connections but set the groundwork for long term friendships.
Ned Steel is one of the three owners at LUCK located in Trinity Groves. The threesome, along with a few willing barmen and mangers at the beer-centric restaurant have agreed to collectively submit a weekly column devoted to their passion – beer. Stop by and visit LUCK for your own adventure in beer.