When Twisted X moved into a much larger, scenic space in Dripping Springs a couple of years ago, the warehouse its brewers left behind in Cedar Park was still outfitted to make beer — making Robert Chaney’s transition from homebrewer to commercial brewer just a little easier.
That made all the difference considering the difficulty he and his brother-in-law, Grady Reynolds, have had turning their vision of IronSight Brewers into a functioning business. Like other start-up breweries these days, IronSight has faced permitting delays and other problems that the two co-founders, relatively new to the industry, couldn’t have anticipated. They’re putting all that behind them, though, with the arrival of a milestone: IronSight’s grand opening is just around the corner.
"Finally," Chaney said. "After a long, hard road."
On Saturday, IronSight will open with a big bash offering visitors first tastes of the brewery’s four core beers and a few small-batch brews made just for the party. The grand opening celebration, which requires an RSVP to attend, will also have live music from Bear Creek Wilderness and food from Mission Dogs.
After that, the brewery plans to offer taproom hours on weekends — Friday nights and Saturday and Sunday afternoons — and eventually also will distribute the beers in kegs and cans. The kegged beer will probably come first, and it’ll be available in the Cedar Park and Leander area until Chaney, who handles the brewing side of the business, is able to expand production farther into Austin.
For the most part, he’s got all of the recipes ready to go. He and Reynolds are starting with a cream ale, an amber, a white IPA and an oatmeal pale ale because of their "drinkability," a factor they sought out when choosing the brewery’s main beers.
"We want beers that are easy to drink, something you can enjoy after mowing the lawn," he said. "We were also wanting beers we knew were good. Each of the four beers we’re doing have won multiple awards" from homebrewing competitions.
The cream ale, he said, serves as a great introduction to craft beer because it’s lightly hopped, straddling the line between ale and lager (which it balances, Chaney said, because it’s made from an ale yeast that ferments at colder temperatures). The amber, made with a West Coast-style twist for extra hoppiness, is IronSight’s darkest beer, but it stays sessionable at 5 percent ABV. The unfiltered white IPA is "sort of like a Belgian white, but with American hops" for a big fresh finish, he said. And the oatmeal pale ale, so called because about 25 percent of the grain bill is oats, isn’t overly bitter but still has nice hop aroma and flavor thanks to late-addition Citra and Cascade hops.
The IronSight Amber isn’t the only beer in the lineup that keeps the ABV relatively low; the white IPA clocks in with the highest ABV at only 6 percent.
"I’ve worked really hard on these beers," Chaney said. "The two homebrew clubs I belong to, I’ve learned a lot from both. I’ll take my beer and say, ‘Here, try this.’ Hearing feedback from people who have been brewing for 20, 30 years has really been valuable."
Although he hasn’t been brewing for as long as some of the other members of the Austin Zealots or the Texas Carboys homebrewing clubs, he’s picked up a lot from them. He originally started because "I thought it would be something easy that I would enjoy," he said.
Brewing hasn’t been easy, but he’s hooked. So is Reynolds. He works in the oil and gas industry in Wyoming but visits Austin as often as he can to help Chaney with IronSight. His role with the brewery is to handle the legal and financial sides of the business, all of the paperwork, although he’s got a beer background, too. When he was an undergraduate in business administration at Texas State University, he used to work at the Tap Room Pub & Grub in San Marcos, purchasing all the bar’s beers.
The native Austinites — Chaney, a safety manager for a construction company, is married to Reynolds’ sister — developed their love of craft beer together, to the point that they couldn’t resist putting together an initial business plan for IronSight.
"I was always adventurous with beer, and I guess I passed the craft beer thing on to him. I was always having him try something new," Chaney said.
Neither of them anticipated how difficult it would be to open a production brewery. Throughout the past couple of years, they’ve had to rebrand IronSight after realizing their original name was already taken; had to find a different location for the brewery and move it to Cedar Park; and had to re-apply for TABC permitting from a brewpub to a brewery license. And all of it, Reynolds said, was funded out of their own pockets.
"The ultimate goal is for us to brew full-time and quit our current jobs," he said. "But honestly, I’m just happy we’re finally getting this thing off the ground."