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Beers with the squad: Go inside Hopsquad, a new North Austin brewery

Arianna Auber, aauber@statesman.com
At North Austin's Hopsquad Brewing, customers might forget they’re in an industrial space thanks to the colorful walls and plant life. [LOLA GOMEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

For about eight months before Hopsquad Brewing officially opened its doors, a mural in yellows, reds and blues adorned the side of the building facing West Braker Lane. It was clear a new brewery was coming to the few square miles in the 78758 zip code, where several beer-makers are already located, but when was this new place going to open?

Then, in late December, people driving down one of Austin’s busiest thoroughfares noticed something else about the building — finally, it was hopping with people. The lights were on, and you could make out the taproom through large windows, one at the west end of the bright mural, others around the corner.

Cousins Alex and Cesar Limon had never expected it would take so long to open Hopsquad, a project they’ve worked on for years. After months of searching for a viable spot around Austin, they signed a lease for the 10,000-square-foot facility in November 2017. The required city permits and inspections were checked off the list over the next two years in fits and starts.

But all that time, at least, has meant they could perfect the concept. The result is a colorful, dog-friendly taproom serving up a solid lineup of core beers in front of production tanks separated from the front of house by only a long, low wall.

The cousins got into the brewing business because of Alex — he had been brewing beer at home for more than a dozen years. At the age of 20, he moved from Mexico to San Diego and suddenly found in his new country that he was no longer legally able to drink. His dad proposed an idea.

“He said, ‘While you’re at school, don’t get a fake ID. Here’s a Mr. Beer kit. Make your own thing,’” Alex Limon recalled. “So I started doing that and loved it, and I’ve been doing it ever since. Eventually, we planned this out and found this great location and just went all in on this place.”

“He roped me into this,” joked Cesar Limon, who had been a lawyer in Philadelphia before he moved south to join forces with his cousin.

“He roped me into this,” Alex said before adding, “I think we both just motivate each other.”

In keeping with the name of the brewery, Hopsquad imagines its beers as a cast of characters, the kind you might see in a comedic play about Austin. Lord Zanate, for example, is an auburn-hued, 6.9 percent ABV IPA. As a sort of throwback example of the popular style — with fruit on the front end and bitterness in the finish — the lord, you might say, is elegant and a little righteous, proud to be a tribute to an older era in craft beer.

Other current beer options include the Dutchess of Oltorf Roggenbier, the Cowboy Bevo Brown Ale and the Professor Pleasant Pale Ale.

“We have a squad of beers,” Alex said. “Every beer has its own character representation in one way or another. ... It was important to give them some kind of title and some kind of Austin reference. So ’zanate’ is grackle in Spanish, Oltorf is a street, Pleasant (Valley) is a neighborhood.”

The characters representing the core beers, like Lord Zanate and Professor Pleasant, are displayed in a mural created by the same artist, David Rocha, who did the outside mural.

Walking into the 4,100-square-foot taproom for the first time, you might need a moment to take in the bright swirl of color all around you. The Limon cousins took pains to make Hopsquad feel homey despite its warehouse bones, outfitting the walls with art, adding plant life every few feet and importing blue, yellow and orange chairs for bar seating from the Yucatán Peninsula. The wood-and-metal tables were made by the family carpenter of Alex’s wife.

Her family helped in more ways than one, Alex said.

“Pots and plants, those were all picked up by my wife, to have some kind of variety in here,” he said. “She knows plants. Her dad is an amateur botanist, and he helped us out choosing what we needed. ‘OK, these need shade. These need direct sunlight. These can survive the winter.’ That kind of jazz. It was important to reduce the industrial feel of this place. There’s only so much paint and insulation can do.”

The Hopsquad crew is excited about the Major League Soccer stadium coming to the neighborhood, only a couple blocks from the brewery. When the Austin FC team plays there in 2021, it’s expected to draw lots of traffic to the area. The Limons had signed the lease at the building at West Braker and Kramer lanes a month before the stadium was announced — and that’s when they realized what a find they’d snagged.

The North Austin location has been perfect in more ways than one. On the other side of Hopsquad’s main parking lot is an additional set of warehouses where the neighboring Circle Brewing is located. They’re also not far from the likes of 4th Tap Brewing Co-op, Celis Brewery, Oskar Blues, Adelbert’s Brewery and Austin Beerworks.

Opening a brewery in an area where they’re already clustered might seem tough, given the competition for customers, but the Limons haven’t found that to be the case. (For one thing, people like to brewery-hop.)

“We’re getting signs done that will point with an arrow and the Circle logo indicating to go there. On the other side, there will be the Hopsquad logo pointing this way,” Alex said. “There’s a lot of good camaraderie around here. Everyone’s very friendly.”

Permanently on-site at Hopsquad is a food truck, Tsuke Honten, serving Asian-fusion food by chef Michael Che. He previously worked at two sushi spots in Austin, Soto and Kyoten Sushiko, according to his bio on the food truck’s website.

Hopsquad Brewing is located at 2307 Kramer Lane and open for business 3 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit hopsquad.com.