Hops & Grain is no stranger to attention. Just six months after brewing its first batch of beer, Hops & Grain took home the gold medal at the 2012 World Beer Cup for their Alt-eration, a German-style brown ale. Since then, the East Austin brewer (which is housed in an industrial complex at the end of East Sixth Street) has watched its tiny tasting room turn into a city-wide hot spot operating at full capacity nearly every time it opens.
To keep up with demand, owner Josh Hare has decided to expand the booming brewery, adding 2,200 square feet of seating next door to the current space. "Starting out, we couldn't build a big tap room," Hare tells CultureMap. "We've been trying to find a way to expand the experience for everyone who comes to the brewery." And in 2014, expand they will.
"We've been trying to find a way to expand the experience for everyone who comes to the brewery." — Hops & Grain owner Josh Hare.
With seating for more than 100 (a big leap from the single-digit stools that populated the original tap room), the new addition is part of a larger plan that ultimately includes an outdoor space, events and food, says Hare. "My vision is locally-sourced bar food," he says. "We're not trying to compete with Mettle [next door]; we're just trying to offer high-quality bar snacks."
Though Hare says Hops & Grain will not be adding a kitchen, the brew crew is sourcing quality people to get involved in finding a permanent food option, whether it's a food truck or something else. In the meantime, local food trucks will take turns setting up shop in the parking lot, allowing visitors to the brewery to nab a nosh before getting a taste of Hops & Grain's ever-evolving menu (we love the Zoe).
But just a few months ago, providing this level of service — or even selling beer onsite — was a pipe dream for Texas craft brewers like Hops & Grain. During the 2013 legislative session, Texas lawmakers passed a key provision allowing craft brewers to sell their beer on their premises. Before the changes went into effect in June 2013, these small breweries were forced either to go through a distributor or to circumvent the law by selling something else in exchange for beer (at Hops & Grain, it's a pint glass).
Though the law was signed this summer, brewers in Austin have to wait a little longer due to a city ordinance that must be lifted before local breweries can join the rest of the state and sell their brew on the property. "[Austin City Council] is amending the city code to accommodate the new law," says Hare, who, along with many other Austin brewers, began selling onsite before learning that the city code supersedes the state law. "It was frustrating for our customers, but it's cool that the city is willing to do that legwork [to get the new code in place]." The new code should be in effect by March.
But in the meantime, Hare and company will continue to grow, adding hours, building a deck and installing a large, retractable door to integrate the space. "I want that sense of community. I want people to interact with us, " says Hare. "And have a great selection of beers."