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Hops and Grains: Unexpectedly inspired brews (and biscuits)

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Bourbon barrels for select brew blends and wild yeast fermentation and the shiny pony kegs of delight for the private label brews Photo by Leah Moss
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Josh Hare, brew master, scientist, dog lover, and beer lover Photo by Leah Moss
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The brew house is in place and ready to go Photo by Leah Moss
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Kegs and barrels ready for filling up with sweet ambrosia Photo by Leah Moss
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If it's true that good things come to those who wait, we can hope that this holds true for the owner, founder, and head brewer of Hops and Grain, Josh Hare. His experience in the brewing industry has had its ups and downs, but his vision has grown and expanded and, finally, it looks like his seemingly Sisyphean efforts are paying off, with Hare firmly planting his flag at the top of local brew mountain. I’m sure you are familiar with that peak—the one with frothy rivers, mountain goats munching on barley, Adonises serving steins of ambrosia and jorts-adorned locals haplessly wiping the foam from their superior beards.

Yeah, that one. Josh Hare will soon be king of that mountain; that is, as soon as he can get his doors open.

Ten years ago, Hare was introduced to the world of brewing like any underage drinker with a penchant for science and voracious appetite for cheap  alcohol: he bought a home brew kit online. “My first batches were terrible, but they had alcohol in them and that’s what counts,” he reminisces with an impish grin.

Originally from Abilene, Texas, Hare relocated to Austin to teach middle school science but quickly became irritated with the Texas education system—and the scorching Texas summers—so he decided to move somewhere cooler: Boulder, Colorado. In Boulder, he became part of the local craft brewing community, honing his skills and his palate while training become a brew master. He intended to open a brewery in Boulder but, as much as the Texas heat was unbearable, the Colorado snowfall was just too much to dig out from, and he eventually made his way back to Austin.

An avid cyclist and runner, Hare helped open Rogue running and, for two years, limited his brewing to homemade batches. Finally, with the support of friends and investors, he decided to take a risk, beginning construction on a space at the end of 6th Street that will soon be the Hops and Grains Brewery and Tasting Room.

The brewery's lease was signed in October, with a projected January launch, but the mountains of red tape and construction permits have continually set the opening date back. While the equipment is in place and the finishing touches are just two weeks away from completion, efforts are on hold until all the necessary paperwork goes through.

While Hare is frustrated by the delay, he hasn't let it set him back. In fact, the downtime helped him come up with an unexpected sideline for Hops and Grains: dog biscuits. 

In between coaching with the running store and waiting tables at Z'Tejas, Hare brews up new ideas and delightful flavors at home with his trusted sidekick, his dog. “I noticed he would eat any grain I spilled,” he recalls.

Hare was already concerned about cutting down on his waste stream, and he realized that the high fiber, high protein and low sugar runoff from brewing could be used for a secondary product (most large scale breweries, on the other hand, send unused grain to ranchers to fatten their cattle before slaughter). At first Hare tried to make his own bread, but it wasn’t quite right and his pup seemed to enjoy it more than he ever did. So, with an eye for science and a great appreciation for the dietary needs of our canine friends, he started creating a recipe for dog biscuits.

“Any way I can keep the waste down and make a little money is great for me,” Hare says of his accidental discovery.

For now, you can pick up the tasty treats at local vendors like H.O.P.E Farmer’s Market, even though Hare's tasty human treats are not yet available to the public.

While the puppy treats have been taking up plenty of Hare's time, he's still devoted to expanding Hops and Grains' expected offerings. The first large batch brews are going to be a German Altbeir and an American Pale Ale, and Hare is already in talks with some local chefs to create private label beers designed to go with seasonal local menus, exclusively available in the participating restaurants and at the tasting room. He also already has label approval for 12 different kinds of beer.

The barrels are ready, the kegs are neatly aligned, and everything is just waiting for the final go ahead from the city. Fingers crossed that, by the end of the year,  we will all have the opportunity to pull up a stool and sample the sweet ambrosia Hare has been perfecting for the past decade of his life.

While the craft brewing community accounts for only 9% of today’s beer market, Hare is hoping to have a strong impact on the numbers here in Austin and, eventually, throughout the world.

“People in the craft beer community are totally open and helpful," he says. "The more of us making good beer the better.”

And the care a master brewer puts into his batches shows in the end: craft brewing, much like the slow food movement, appreciates the process of making something good and good for you. With the incorporation of a distributor, a commercial kitchen for the biscuits and brewery and a tasting room all under one roof, Josh and his small team are ready to take Hops and Grain all the way to the top—as soon as they get the green light.

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