In a town that has dozens of craft breweries, finding quality isn’t too much of a grind for beer drinkers. One brewery that has shown a strong commitment to quality beer and sustaining its environment is Hops & Grain Brewing.
As most brewers will tell you, growing and improving your beer is all part of a long learning process. Hops & Grain is no exception to this and Founder Josh Hare would be the first to tell you that.
Originally opening its doors back in October 2011, Hops & Grain has grown from a small operation to a successful craft brewery. Hare provided some insight into the brewery’s early days. “My initial vision for [Hops & Grain] was to create a brand that enhanced the human experience through everything that we do from community involvement, taking care of our employees and taking care of the planet through responsible production. Our vision is still the same but we’ve learned quite a bit since the beginning,” Hare said.
Visions always seem to change as a companies move along in its lifespan, but often times, its goals remain the same. Another factor that drives how a brewery changes or doesn’t is the market’s reaction to the brewery’s beer. Austin seems to have taken to Hops & Grain in a significant way.
Inspiration for making new beer can come from a profound place or it can simply be something as simple as trying a new combination for the hell of it. Hare attributed credit to its patrons for inspiring some of Hops & Grain’s newest beers.
“At our brewery we have the luxury of operating a complete pilot brewing facility where we are able to experiment with recipes, processes and unique ingredients. In this pilot plant creativity is our focus. The inspiration for new beers generally begins with our tap room patrons. Feedback that we receive from the folks that visit our tap room is invaluable and creating a beer that each of them can feel a part of is incredibly inspiring to me,” Hare said.
Some exceptional beers I have been able to try were Alt-eration, Pale Dog and Porter Culture. I found the Alt-eration to possess a high-level of drinkability despite some of the bitterness that surrounds its overall presentation. The Pale Dog is reasonable with its hoppiness and in no way hits you over the head with it. The same can be said about the Porter Culture. I found the Pale to be of a higher drinkability than the porter, but still the latter was a delicious treat, particularly in cold weather.
Dogs are welcome at most craft breweries around the country, but how many do you know that make their own dog treats? That’s right, Hops & Grain Brewing “brews” their own dog biscuits from “spent brewing grains.” Apparently, making dogs treats is something Josh has been doing since college. During a “stint” at Abilene Christian, he made treats for his dog Suzy and it was a bonus since home brewing was a “necessary step” in improving his college experience.
“The problem was that I was brewing beer about 3 times a week and the spent grain was starting to create some less than pleasant smells in our dumpster. So I got to thinking about ways to use this stuff, read an article about the Coors facility in Golden, CO sending grain off with cattle ranchers and the wheels started turning. I experimented with recipes until my dog was happy with them and the rest is history. We actually started selling dog treats before we had a brewery,” Hare said.
Hops & Grain Brewing is by far one of the most unique breweries for a variety of reasons. They make their own dog treats, but they also do not have seasonal beers. Hare attributed the absence of seasonal brews to the fact that Austin’s climate is “very [one] dimensional, hot.”
Another factor in seasonals not being a thing at Hops & Grain is the fact that they experiment so much with new beers. If they had seasonals in addition, Hare says, they would probably get lost in the shuffle. “That being said we definitely try and focus the core of our experimental beers to be relevant to or city and to the weather. So on the few cold days that we get in Austin we try to make sure that we’ve got some warmer offerings in the tap room,” Hare said.
The common thought within craft beer is beer drinkers prefer darker beers in the colder months of the year, while the more pleasantly tempered months equal lighter tastes for folks. However, it makes sense for states that see warmer temperatures year-round, therefore not needing to accommodate the winter tendencies of the market.
Reacting to trends within craft beer is something Hare and company try to stay abreast with, but they do not enslave themselves to the whims of beer drinkers only. “[We] also to be aware of the trends in other industries like wine, spirits, food and coffee. We try and react to trends in a way that represents our brand personality but also appeals to the consumers who are ultimately driving those trends,” Hare said.
Expansion means different paces for a lot of breweries. Hops & Grain is indeed looking to grow its operation in a major way this year. Both the brewery’s tap room and location where they produce beer are due for overhauls, as Hare said.
“We’ll be receiving 6 new fermentation vessels. My goal for 2015 is to execute these expansions without any major hiccups. We’ve been expanding basically since we opened and each time it gets easier and easier. Still waiting for the flawless expansion! And we hope to hit 9,000 [barrels] of production in 2015 up from 4,200 in 2014,” Hare said.
If you want more information regarding the latest happenings at Hops & Grain Brewing, you can check out their blog.