Craft brewing companies have provided plenty of fun to beer fans, and according to a report by University of Texas at San Antonio economics professor Scott Metzger (who also happens to run his very own brewery, Freetail Brewing Company) have generated $608 million in the Lone Star State.
Metzger estimates that by 2020, the industry will generate $5.6 billion, a figure he calls conservative.
Jason Ard, owner of Branchline Brewing Company, is new to the San Antonio handcrafted beer scene, and his company has begun distributing kegs of its year-round brews to local pubs, bars and restaurants.
"I'm happy to be in Texas as a production brewery,” said Ard, “and I'm really excited to be in San Antonio to kind of see this market grow."
Ard arrived at the name Branchline -- a railroad term where tracks take a train to pick up cargo on its way back to the mainline -- as a way to pay homage to his grandfather. He said that growing up, he’d spend his days on his grandfather’s land with train tracks not far away.
"So here we are, fast-forward a few years and opening the brewery and brewing beer and about to get it on the market,” Ard said Friday.
According to posts on their Facebook page, Branchline has gone from empty building to full operation in almost a year exactly; an astounding journey from idea to reality.
Ard’s head brewer is Les Locke, a burly-looking man with a full beard and personable attitude, who might surprise anyone who would develop a preconceived notion about him.
Locke said he turned down a position within the State Department in Washington, D.C. to take on brewing beer at Branchline. He has a master’s degree in public administration, but brewing beer is where he wants to be.
"This is it, this is my Zen man. I'm cool,” he said.
Locke is on his fifth batch at Branchline. His three year-round beers include an Amber Ale, a Rye IPA, and a Blonde Ale that will be made with Texas wildflower honey. But he’s got several additional creative ideas in the works.
"When I think about beer I think about the endless opportunities that we can do to incorporate our palate,” he said. "We're going to be putting out an oyster stout; we actually put Texas Gulf Coast oysters in the beer; brings out a real nice salty note, but it's well-balanced."
Locke says some might not like all of his beers, but he says he's not in it to win everyone.
"In fact we probably won't, but the goal is to make a really good product and push some envelopes and then also be consistent in what we do," said Locke.
Where is it now?
Branchline is currently putting out their product by keg, but Ard hopes to eventually can his beer as well, and the brewery's tap room is expected to open next month.
In the meantime, kegs are beging distributed to Oak Hills Tavern, Pizza Italia, Boneshakers, Southtown 101, World of Beer, Friendly Spot, Hills and Dales, and The Point.
- Learn more about Branchline, including where and when to find their kegs, on Facebook: www.facebook.com/BranchlineBrewing