A hallmark of any brewery is its taproom — a place where you can drink the beer straight from the source, getting to know the people who made it and the brand it represents. But for one Austin brewery, having one isn’t a requirement just yet.
Instead, Frontyard Brewing is making its mark another way: by selling its beers in area bars and restaurants and relying on the eye-catching tap handles and 12 oz. cans (when those are available, that is) to pull in new customers. A taproom will eventually be built, though not at Frontyard’s current location in the Cuernavaca area of West Austin.
So far, the nontraditional business plan is working. Frontyard’s owners, former homebrewers Kevin Jones and Chad Worner, are barely able to keep up with the orders for its full-flavored beers and must constantly put to work the small three-and-a-half barrel system they installed in a colorfully painted warehouse space last fall.
All the time, they also hear from people asking what the hours are for the taproom — taking for granted that one exists.
"People expect if there's a brewery, there's a place where they can sit down and have a beer. But we're working on that," Jones, who serves as the head brewer, said.
In the meantime, about a dozen Austin spots, such as Stouthaus Coffee, Pinthouse Pizza and the League Kitchen & Tavern, have Frontyard Brewing ales on tap. Because of Jones’ love of "strong-flavored beers," he tends not to make anything below 6 percent ABV and is focusing on a Rye IPA, Belgian Blonde Ale, Coffee Milk Stout and Belgian Golden Ale at the moment. The first three are set to become Frontyard mainstays, he said.RELATED: How Pinthouse Pizza mastered the hazy IPA, making the beer all its own
Jones and Worner, who met through church and developed a friendship thanks in part to their shared hobby of homebrewing, began exploring the possibility of owning a brewery together a few years ago. Starting modestly, they said, turned out to be a wise move.
"We have proof of concept now. We know this can work. So now we can go out and get funding for a brewery and taproom," Worner said. "It’s not that we want (Frontyard) to be huge. We just want it all under one roof."
Jones is also hoping the brewery can reach a scale that will grant him a salary. He serves as Frontyard’s head brewer by night and on weekends and works as a financial consultant by day, supporting his wife and three kids. Worner has already quit his previous career and is able to devote full-time hours to the brewery, tackling brand development, sales and other key odds and ends for the fledgling business.
For both, family is the ultimate priority. Their kids — Worner has two boys — often hang out at the brewery on weekends while their dads work. So coming up with a concept for Frontyard was fairly easy: It has to be as family-friendly as a brewery can be. Once land is secured for the brewery build-out somewhere between West Austin and Spicewood, where Worner lives, much of it will be devoted to making kids happy.
"We want to have a little bit of land because part of our goal in the initial build — we keep saying ‘family-friendly,’ ‘family-oriented,’ but literally — unlike some other places that slap a playground up or put a slide on a tree, we’re going to be intentional about creating a place where families want to come," Worner said.
It’ll be the sort of hangout where kids just might be asking their parents to visit. And what parent can say no to a pint while their kids play?
The Cuernavaca neighborhood where Frontyard is currently located and where Jones lives has been a big early supporter of the brewery. A nearby gas station bought up a bunch of Frontyard cans (which are now sold out), and the neighboring Civil Goat Coffee Co. provides the beans that go into the rich, aromatic Coffee Milk Stout. The owner of the little cafe is asking for the beans back, now that they’ve been in beer; he’ll dry them out and see how they taste.
Like the Coffee Milk Stout, the Rye IPA and the Belgian Blonde Ale have been big hits. The Rye IPA isn’t overly bitter, drawing much of its flavor from the spicy rye that comprises 15 percent of the grain bill. The blonde ale, boasting coriander and orange peel, is no bore, either.
Jones and Worner are still working on the purchase of property where they can build the final Frontyard brewery and taproom. But they know one thing: Frontyard aims to be welcoming for anyone, a philosophy that nods to its name.
"It’s the idea of the open invitation, being in your front yard, seeing your neighbors, hanging out with a beer," Jones said.
For more information, visit frontyardbrewing.com.
RELATED STORIES:Get to know Austin’s breweries, distilleries and more in the Austin360 Boozery GuideThis is the ultimate Austin michelada, and you can make it yourselfSt. Edward’s University houses first archive of Texas craft brewing