There hasn’t been a brewery in Waco since the 1990s, when Bosque Brewing Co. was doing business on Sixth Street. Another firm, Scars and Stripes, opened and then quickly closed without much fanfare.
Soon, however, there will be two breweries in the city. One — Bare Arms Brewing — has been in operation since June and has a core of four beers available most of the time with other varieties coming and going, depending on the season or the whims of the brewmaster or even what’s available at the farmers market on any given weekend.
Keith Collier and Justin Veach are both former employees of L3 Communications, and both have degrees in mechanical engineering. Both were also homebrew enthusiasts before going into business for themselves. Bare Arms opened in June at 2515 LaSalle Avenue, just off the traffic circle.
Collier and his wife, Kami, have three sons, Andrew, Ben and Lucas, while Veach and his wife, Heather, are parents to Mara Jade and soon-to-be-born Calvin Felix, who is due to arrive on November 17.
“The brewery is giving birth to a new system about the same time my wife gives birth to a new child,” Veach said.
The second brewery, Brotherwell Brewing, should open in February. It has space in the former Al’s Janitorial Supply building at 326 South Sixth Street, and the owners hope to have a core selection of four beers, with others making special appearances.
Jacob Martinka, Tommy Mote and David Stoneking are the owners of Brotherwell. They all got their start in homebrewing, and they all bring different strengths to the business.
Martinka’s wife, Emily, is a kindergarten teacher at Bell’s Hill Elementary School. Mote is married to Ellen, who is a jewelry designer. Stoneking is single, but he hasn’t ruled out marriage. He laughed and said, “Maybe one day in the future.”
Wacoan writer Kevin Tankersley recently met with the guys from Brotherwell in a small office at their space and with the Bare Arms owners in the tasting room that’s attached to their production facility. They talked about making the transition from brewing at home to making beer on a commercial scale, the popularity of India Pale Ale, the beers they serve — or plan on serving — and the whole craft movement that’s afoot in Waco.
Bare Arms Brewing
2515 LaSalle Avenue
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 4-6 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 1-8 p.m. (Saturday hours vary during football season to cover the game. Weekend hours change a little bit.)
On-site beer and off-site beer. Pick up beer to go.
WACOAN: When did you open?
Collier: We’ve been open since June 5. We’ve been permitted since March 13.
WACOAN: What are your backgrounds?
Collier: We’re both mechanical engineers by degree. We were co-workers over at L3. I had left L3 several years back to help my father with his business, land and ranch property management.
Going from that, we started homebrewing. I fell in love with the process. Being an engineer, I loved to tinker with things and find out, ‘This beer isn’t tasting the way we wanted it to. What happened?’ Figuring out all the different processes involved in making beer and the different temperatures and controls and flavors that you can actually adjust to get the beer that you want. That really spoke to both me and Justin, how we liked that process.
Texas Tech [University] is where I graduated from. Where am I from? Texas. The Houston area is where I spent the majority of my time growing up. I went to high school in Bellville and college in Lubbock. Moved back here after I graduated and spent a year in Oklahoma. I got married and moved to Waco. Waco’s home now.
Veach: I’m a little bit from all over. My formative years, I was raised outside of Chicago, Illinois. I’ve got family from Texas and moved with them back to Tyler and got my mechanical engineering degree from [University of Texas at Tyler] and moved here for work. I moved here specifically to work for L3 Communications. I didn’t meet Keith until we started working together at L3.
He started homebrewing. He said, ‘Justin, you’ve got to try this.’ I went out immediately and got a very small homebrew kit and just fell in love with it. I quickly put that one to the wayside and got another, better set. Oftentimes, we would brew a beer and wouldn’t even wait for it to fully mature. We would try it and [say], ‘Nah, this isn’t what we were trying to get out of it.’ We would pitch it and then brew it again immediately so we could expedite the process and try it the way we wanted it to be.
WACOAN: With both of you coming from engineering backgrounds, were there any challenges in the day-to-day running of a business?
Collier: Yes, it is challenging, but it’s no more challenging than doing five other businesses at the same time. A brewery really is shipping and receiving, it’s brewing, it’s a bar, it’s janitorial, it is a lot of businesses rolled into one.
One of the things I had done after I left L3 is project management and running some businesses with my father, so I did have a little experience from that, as well as quite a bit of advice from him and others in helping us with this. We do have a CPA running our accounts.
Veach: My parents owned a retail store from when I was 12 until I was about 18. I worked there from when I was 12. As far as a retail business, it was nothing new for me.
Keith’s dad likes to joke with us, like, ‘What hat are you wearing today?’ Sometimes we wear multiple hats. At the beginning of the week, Keith had on his accountant hat because he had to get everything from the previous month, all the taxes from TABC [Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission] and TTB [Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau]. I had my brewing hat on that day because I was keeping a watch on stuff. Sometimes we wear multiple hats throughout the day. It’s what we’ve got to do to get through the day to get everything done.
WACOAN: How does running your own business affect your family life?
Collier: The plan is for it to be a lot easier than it is right now. It’s very strenuous going through this right now, very stressful. However, we do see an amazing reward after all the work.
We have our families with us. This is a family-friendly environment. Both of our families come up here from time to time and bring our kids. We do see them quite often here in the tasting room. They’ll be writing on our chalkboard, playing board games. It is good, and we do see that it’s going to work out.
Veach: We’ve gotten to the point where we do have a volunteer bartender that helps us out. We’ve started taking off every other weekend so we don’t have to do the brewing all during the week and then run the tasting room as well. With these volunteer bartenders, they help us out so we can each get back and see family.
We both have very understanding wives too. It all comes from very understanding wives that help run home life when we’re not there.
Collier: And it’s not like we forced this on them.
Veach: We asked their backing before we [started the business].
Collier: They are proud that we’re doing this. They’re happy for us.
Veach: The thing is, they’re so much more supportive when you take into account that neither one of them really appreciates beer. So everything we brew, they say, ‘We’ll try it for you, and we’re sure it’s really good, but …’ Neither one of them likes it. That’s how supportive they are. They’re supportive of something that they don’t even like themselves.
WACOAN: What would inspire someone to volunteer as a bartender at a for-profit business?
Collier: It’s kind of how the craft beer industry works. It gets them exposure to the brewing process, exposure to craft beer. And not just the brewing process, but working in a brewery. A lot of people who volunteer want to get that on a resume, saying, ‘I volunteered at so-and-so brewery for two years, working under their brewer.’ That can actually help them get a job in the craft beer industry.
Veach: A lot of volunteers are homebrewers themselves. After you’ve volunteered for a certain amount of time, we’re going to invite that individual to bring in their recipe. We’ll front all the ingredients and invite them to brew on our pilot system. Then we’ll take their beer and bring it in here and put it on tap.
We want to host homebrew competitions. And we’ll give a prize to the [winning] homebrew.
A lot of homebrewers are brewing five gallons at a time, sometimes one gallon at a time. They have a beer that they think is amazing, but they can only share it with like 10 other people. On this scale, they can share it with a lot more people, and they can reap that same reward we get from sharing good beer with people.
Collier: And depending on the success of that program, that might be one of our commercially available beers. If they choose to do so and everyone’s good with it, we may [launch] a community line of beers highlighting a brewer every few months. There are a lot of different things we can do with it and share it with the world. And that would be something that would be amazing and would have been awesome [to have had] when we were homebrewers.
WACOAN: That’s like taking a local product and making it even more local.
WACOAN: This sounds like it was a hobby that ended up turning into your business.
Collier: It was our hobby, and we saw a large opportunity in Waco. Scars and Stripes came, and we were very excited. They turned in their license, and we saw there was a gap in Waco for a craft brewery to happen.
We had our recipes down for our beers, and we got a lot of other people to try them by taking them to certain events and got a lot of confidence from perfect strangers being perfectly honest, saying, ‘This is good. This is bad. Change this. Change that.’
That was the story behind our name, Bare Arms. Sometimes you have to roll up your sleeves, get involved in the work, take that risk, take that step and move forward.
Veach: And the stress.
A lot of people ask us, ‘Why Waco? Why now?’ And it wasn’t like we were out to start a brewery and we looked around Texas and said, ‘Where can we start a brewery?’ This is our home now. We started families here. [Collier] has three kids. I’ve got a child and another on the way. Waco is our home. Let’s do this here. The opportunity is here. Have the business where we live.
WACOAN: What was Scars and Stripes?
Collier: That was a veteran-owned brewery that started in Waco.
Veach: I can’t remember when they started, but they had just received their license in January 2014, but they were already dissolving at that point, and they basically turned their license back in and never actually opened.
When we were homebrewing, we were really excited about someone starting in Waco. And as we are now, we’re excited about Brotherwell opening too because this type of industry isn’t competitive. It’s more cooperative. It’s coopetition. We’re in the same industry, but there’s so much collaboration in the brewing community.
As Bare Arms Brewing, we’re part of the Texas [Craft] Brewers Guild. Keith will get emails all day long from different breweries across the state of Texas: ‘Hey, I’m having a problem with this or this.’ Or, ‘I have extra hops. We’re not going to use this for the next little while. Does anybody need that?’ There’s so much sharing amongst the industry. We’re super excited for when Brotherwell gets here.
WACOAN: The Brotherwell guys said that y’all often get together and share secrets and tips. It sounds kind of like open-source coding.
Collier: This is the way brewing is that’s so amazing. Two brewers could take the exact same recipe and come back with two different beers, just either from the different waters they used or just minor adjustments they make each time. Even if we both had the same recipes, we’re going to try and both make very good beers, different beers. They’re going to do different styles.
The variety of India Pale Ales is really amazing.
Veach: That’s far and away the biggest category, the most brewed by breweries. Every brewery has an IPA.
WACOAN: What makes it so popular?
Collier: That’s a tough question. Honestly, it’s because of the variety of styles that it could actually be. You could have a West coast-style IPA, which typically has a piney or citrusy type of hop. Or you could have an English-style IPA that has more earthy and spicy hops built into it. There is infinite variety between those two. You can start adding fruits. You can start adding different kilned malts that have different flavors. It’s just so wide that you can do hops that change it drastically. If everybody was brewing the same thing, it would be boring, and it would not be such a large category.
Veach: One thing we do is we have a Berliner weisse. That’s our flagship. We’re going to brew it year-round.
I can’t name another brewery off the top of my head that brews a Berliner weisse year-round. Typically, it’s a seasonal style of beer. But it’s a beer that we both stand behind and really enjoy. And it’s something different.
WACOAN: Describe that beer for me.
Collier: Ours is a sour cranapple wheat ale. It’s a wheat ale that’s been fermented with lactofermentation, which sours the beer.
Veach: It’s very refreshing. I like to tell people that it’s my selfish beer because I like to take it and put it in a can and take it out to the disc golf course with me and play a round. It’s so refreshing on a hot Texas day.
WACOAN: What kinds of beer do you brew at Bare Arms?
Collier: We have a variety of styles. We have an American-style lager. Our Berliner weisse, it’s a sour wheat ale. India pale ale and a coffee stout. Those are our four flagships. That’s going to be something we have steady here as well as in steady distribution. We’re going to use the one-barrel pilot system for seasonals, experimental beers, just different styles we haven’t tried before. But we want to keep the menu fresh and interesting with that pilot system.
WACOAN: The system you have now produces 31 gallons a batch. And you’re about to get in a new system, right?
Veach: Next month.
WACOAN: How much will it be able to produce?
Veach: Ten times as much, so that will be 310 gallons per batch. In beer terms, they call it a 10-barrel system.
Collier: Ten barrels, and the surprising thing about it is it takes about the same amount of labor. It takes the same amount of time to do the brew day. The only increase in labor is cleaning out the mash and dealing with 10 times the grain. Aside from that, everything else is done with the help of pumps and cleaning and everything else. Right now, we’re manually cleaning all our equipment.
WACOAN: What do you do with the grain?
Collier: It really depends on what’s going on. Right now, we have a rancher coming in and picking up our spent grain. We’re not charging for it right now. We’ll see what happens once we’re dealing with 10 times the grain.
Veach: When we get to the 10-barrel size, it’ll be too much for the individual who’s picking it up now. But we have a few more other people that are interested, and hopefully we’ll have the slack picked up. Generally, what they do to it is they’ll use it as fill feed. Either they dry it out and save it for a while or use it as fill for cattle, hogs, chickens. It’s helping out some of the local ranchers with fill feed.
Collier: Compost. Fertilizers. It has limitless possibilities. Wet grain is difficult to use. They definitely dry it out before they use it.
WACOAN: To convert a recipe from homebrewing to commercial, is it just a matter of multiplying the ingredients?
Collier: It’s not just straight multiplying the ingredients. You do have to scale it up. The pilot system does 31 gallons. Homebrew limit is 200 gallons per head of household. So with a 31-gallon production system, we’ve actually brewed on this pilot system for about a year before we got here.
Veach: We brewed over a year before we got here, which was all the scaling up and making all of our homebrew recipes taste like commercial recipes. We had to do it over and over and over again until we matched it the way that we had it before.
Collier: It’s not just as simple as saying it was 5 gallons and now we’re doing 31, so it’s six-point-something multiplication of grains and everything else. It just doesn’t work that way. Hops get utilized more in a larger volume of water. Efficiency on the mash can vary.
On the homebrew level, you could be getting 90 percent, which is on the very high end. On the one-barrel system, it dropped all the way down to 60 percent based on the equipment that we have. We’ve gotten it back up to a certain percentage that we can hit regularly, but it’s not just simple scaling.
WACOAN: What do those percentages mean?
Collier: That percentage is basically saying for the pound of grain you put in there, the percentage of the starches in the grain that has converted to sugars. That’s your mash efficiency.
Veach: It’s one of the technical terms that goes with brewing. It’s not like a grading scale, where you want to hit 100 percent every time. That’s actually impossible.
Collier: And 100 percent is bad. Actually, 100 percent pulls off tannins and other flavors from the mash and the grains that can add to the flavors in your beer.
Veach: It’s where you want a target ratio. That target ratio is, I put in this much grain, and I put in this much water at this temperature, and this is my percentage that I want to get out. If my target was 80 and I hit 80 consistently, that’s perfect. That’s where you want it to be. It’s not like a grading scale.
WACOAN: What drew you to this location?
Collier: This building, we happened on it. We’re very lucky that we found this.
In Waco’s city ordinances and zoning, this sits at a C-5, which allows bottling and typical operations, like a soda plant, things like that (which is very similar to a brewery) as well as sales for alcohol consumption on- and off-site. We went through the city with plans to make sure that was OK. We were looking on the zoning map and saw C-5 and saw this one spot that was right off [Interstate] 35, right off the Circle. That’s a pretty good location. We looked at it, saw that it was for lease. We wouldn’t have been able to get started if we hadn’t gotten this place.
Veach: With M-2 [zoning], we would have had to do what a lot of other breweries in the state are doing. I would have to sell you a tour for $10 and give you a free pint glass, and you can get three samples while you’re here. After your three samples, you’re done. We didn’t really like that restriction. We’ve been to a lot of tours, and it’s like, ‘I would just like to be able to enjoy your beer from your brewery.’ Statewide, that law has passed now, if the city allows it.
We wanted a casual establishment where you didn’t have to catch a tour. If you wanted to come in and purchase a pint and have it here, you can do that at this location. If you wanted to come in and you’re going to the game and want to tailgate, you can pick up beer and take it out the door with you.
We have a lot more flexibility here, and being outside of C-4 [zoning], which is downtown, it’s a lot more inexpensive to do a startup here. That’s kind of the hot spot right now, and real estate is not favorable for startups such as us, with high overhead.
Collier: We were also looking for areas with traffic. We wanted to be close to I-35. We wanted to be in the area. When we started, we had to look at certain places, some going outside the city limits. We really wanted to be in Waco and service Waco as a brewpub.[Being a] brewpub gives us some options. We are a retailer, which means we can have a temporary retailer’s permit off-site. We can sell and dispense beer at other events. It gave us flexibility to do other things, getting a brewpub license.
WACOAN: Are your beers available elsewhere or just at your location?
Collier: On the pilot system we’re currently on, the one-barrel system, we’re unable to sustain distribution. That means that we still do some distribution. We just got back from taking three kegs over to Dancing Bear Pub for Pint Night tonight. We’re very happy to have them as customers. We did Brew at the Zoo as well, but we spent three weeks just brewing constantly, trying to build up our stock of beer.
Other than that, here is the only place you can get it.
Veach: As soon as we get our larger system, which is due in next month, when we get that up and running, we’re looking at the new year when we’ll be able to meet distribution to other retail establishments. That’s what we want to do. That’s our goal. We want to supply the retail establishments here in Waco with locally crafted beer.
WACOAN: With Brotherwell opening and the popularity and success of Balcones [Distilling], is Waco becoming a draw —
Collier: It is. Waco does have tourism just from Balcones. People from all over the world are coming to this world medal-winning whiskey distillery, and we want to give them other options.
Veach: We’ve had guests who have finished the Balcones tour on Friday afternoon and have come over to see us. We’re friends with Jared Himstedt and other workers at Balcones, and when we have a little bit more volume, we definitely want to get some barrels from them and do some aging of our beers in their barrels. Then if [tourists] are coming in town to visit Balcones, they can visit Balcones and then come over and have some beer that has been aged in Balcones barrels.
Collier: Even more exciting than that is Chip Tate separated from Balcones, but he’s starting another distillery. They just got in their distillery equipment. Now Waco and the surrounding area is going to have two distilleries. I believe that Chip Tate, with what he did at Balcones, he will have another good distillery. And we will work with them as well.
Veach: And it’s not just Waco. Everywhere is going real craft-oriented. Craft drinks. Craft food. All the food trucks that are coming around, doing a very niche market. We have craft coffee and cocktails downtown with Dichotomy [Coffee & Spirits]. Craft beer and craft spirits. It’s all along the same evolutionary step. Everywhere is moving to it.
Collier: The growth of the farmers market can actually be a testament to that. It has expanded recently. It went from two lanes of stalls to three or four.
Veach: We actually have a vendor who’s at the farmers market every weekend that comes in here and uses our beer to cook with. They’re using local.
In the summer, in July, we did a cucumber saison. I went down to the farmers market and bought 16 pounds of cucumbers from Johnson Farms, and we brought that back and put it in our beer. In our chocolate coffee stout, we use coffee that is roasted from Pinewood Roasters in McGregor.
All these different businesses are doing local, and we definitely are trying to do local when we can. It’s part of the craft movement, where everything craft is very community-driven.
WACOAN: What’s the appeal of craft?
Collier: It’s the locally based stuff. The unprocessed, locally based, handmade.
Veach: I feel like there’s more put into it than something mass-produced. You go to a craft place, and they can probably tell you what farm or where they got their ingredients. To me, that’s really cool. That type of control they have over what they’re putting into what they’re giving to you. I really enjoy that.
WACOAN: Keith, you said something along the lines that the lack of family time is worth the reward. What is that reward?
Collier: Seeing people enjoy the beer. It’s not just a monetary reward for us.
We’re not here because of trying to make money. We’re here trying to serve good local beer to the community. Having everyone come in and welcome us the way they have and having them appreciate the beer is just the most amazing reward we can get from them.
Veach: We can think of beer as good all day long, but there’s not validation until you get a random stranger coming in and [saying], ‘I think this is the best IPA I’ve ever had.’ That right there just validates everything that we do.
WACOAN: Brotherwell. Where did that name come from?
Martinka: It was a gift. A friend of ours who was a painter, she loves modern art, and she had seen an artist, [Robert] Motherwell. She said, ‘Oh, that’s a cool name. What if we changed it and made it Brotherwell? That could be something really cool because there’s not a lot of Brotherwells out there.’
Stoneking: Once that was thrown out there as an idea, we just sat with it and realized that we feel like that really represents what we’re going for, which is the idea of community, quality. Everything we’ve done in this process has been very community-oriented. Ourselves and our friends and our families and being able to expand that to Waco as a community.
Mote: It can have other interpretations, being able to meet with other brewers and discuss information openly and the idea of being kind to your brother, being kind to your neighbor, that sort of thing.
WACOAN: What are your backgrounds, and how did you end up doing what you’re doing?
Stoneking: I came down to Waco to finish my bachelor’s degree at Baylor [University]. Then once I graduated, went back up to Dallas for a short year. Then moved back to Waco post-college, and I got tied in with one of the few guys that I knew in town from my post-college years who was actually homebrewing with Jacob at the time. So that was my in, I guess.
I started hanging out with them, brewing at each other’s houses fairly infrequently. It developed into something very frequent. That started off a chain reaction, and we got into a pattern where we pretty much brewed every week for a year or two.
WACOAN: What was your bachelor’s in?
Stoneking: Film and digital media. I have a company here in town. I do video production.
WACOAN: What’s your company?
Stoneking: It’s called Karis Productions. It’s mainly commercial videos for local businesses, doing TV commercials or web videos, informational and instructional videos, things like that.
WACOAN: Tommy, what’s your background?
Mote: I just moved back to Waco from Portland, [Oregon,] about five or six weeks ago. I was working at a couple of different breweries, and I trained under three different brewmasters in that period of time. I was there for about a year and a half.
My background in brewing came from homebrewing originally as well. I did that, became super interested in it, then worked part time for Balcones here in town. I did that for about a year and a half before moving to Portland, so that was my original production experience, which got me jobs in Portland.
Working there, I got interested in what it would look like to open a brewery of my own, got talking with these guys, and they had a very similar idea, so we combined efforts, and I moved back to Waco.
WACOAN: Does the beer-making process give you more satisfaction than, say, at Balcones, because it seems like you would have to wait for so very long to taste your product?
Mote: Sure, it’s a lot faster turnaround. Obviously, good things come to those who wait, and certain beers can benefit from longer aging times. Personally, I think about two weeks is as long as I’d like to wait if I don’t have to wait any longer.
WACOAN: What were you doing in Waco originally?
Mote: I worked for Balcones as well as Common Grounds. I was the head barista at Common Grounds. I was also pursuing a master’s degree at Truett [Seminary]. I finished that degree in about two years.
WACOAN: What’s your master’s in?
Mote: Master’s in theological studies.
WACOAN: What were you wanting to do with that?
Mote: At that point in time, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. I thought for a little while that I might like to teach and might like to — not necessarily teach at a seminary, but I went through seminary training to maybe teach at an undergraduate level. As I was going through school, I didn’t have a real strong idea of what I wanted to do, but I knew that more schooling couldn’t hurt. I knew that studying theology was something I was already interested in and continue to be interested in today, and it was a degree I’m very glad I did work through and achieve. I don’t feel that it’s wasted.
I have people ask me, ‘Why did you get a seminary education and now you’re making beer? You could make monastic ties and talk about monks and all those things.’ For me, it was not that lofty. It was just something I was very interested in and continue to be interested in.
WACOAN: Jacob, tell me about you.
Martinka: I’m from Dallas originally. I went to school at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Got a bachelor’s degree in English there.
I was in Fayetteville, Arkansas, spent some time up there. I was working at a bakery up there, and baking and brewing, there’s a lot of overlap. Some of the bakers there were brewing beer. I got into it with a buddy of mine.
I moved a few different routes, got to Waco to marry my wife, who was going to Baylor at the time. I’ve been homebrewing ever since, so it’s been about 10 years now.
I’ve been teaching at Live Oak [Classical School] for the past seven or so years. I taught Latin and history, primarily. I taught many things besides, but those were the primary things. I’m now still working with Live Oak in a very removed position but have been devoting a lot of time to getting the brewery off the ground.
WACOAN: How did you all end up meeting?
Martinka: David and I were on a trivia team together.
Stoneking: We did well.
Martinka: We did well. We weren’t ashamed.
Stoneking: It was at Sam’s on the Square, which is now Coach’s. Back at the time, they were running a weekly trivia thing. Again, through a mutual friend, we ended up playing on the same five-person team just about every week for a whole summer.
Martinka: And we had other mutual friends. I knew definitely one, maybe two, folks from Live Oak who ran around with David’s circle.
Stoneking: Well, and a year later I actually ended up teaching at Live Oak part time just for a year, and our classrooms were across from each other. Got to know each other really well through that year.
They had been brewing for a while before I got here. But then once I got tied in, I jumped in brewing with them. Then Tommy and I met.
Mote: We met when I moved in.
Stoneking: Yeah, we were next-door neighbors.
Mote: So whenever I moved to Waco for the master’s degree, my wife and I were living right next to David. I think I might have been outside homebrewing one day. We just struck up a conversation because we were neighbors.
They brewed at a building in downtown already. They had all their brew equipment there, and I just brewed outside of my house, so I was brewing regularly outside as well
At that point in time we didn’t all brew together. It wasn’t a combined effort. They had a separate group, and they had been doing it awhile, and I was brewing also. We didn’t combine efforts until I was already living in Portland.
Stoneking: We would swap beers, swap stories.
WACOAN: Y’all had a building downtown?
Martinka: Not that we owned. A friend of ours basically said, ‘Hey we’ve got this building. You’re welcome to occupy some space here.’ [Editor’s note: The Percy Medicine building, where The Findery is opening this month.]
WACOAN: Tommy, you said you were brewing outside. I know nothing about homebrewing. Is brewing an outside activity?
Mote: It can be. When you’re homebrewing it is. When you’re homebrewing, generally, you’re using a burner that people use for outdoor cooking. So whether it be frying a turkey or a shrimp boil or something.
WACOAN: Like a propane burner.
Mote: Yeah, a propane burner. So you put a stainless steel pot on a propane burner, and it produces quite a bit of heat. You need to either be outside or in a well-ventilated, large room. With production brewing, that flame is enclosed in the fire box and you don’t have to worry about the heat that it emits.
Stoneking: I went through my photos recently and found this photo of you. It was a day when it must have been 20 degrees outside, and you’re brewing, standing with your thickest coat possible, and you’re standing over the kettle, and I was like, ‘What is he doing?’
Mote: That’s my favorite time to brew.
WACOAN: So you all ended up back in Waco. Did you move back to join this company?
Stoneking: Yes. I left my job in Portland to work with these guys to help open up Brotherwell.
WACOAN: What was the appeal of homebrewing? You can go to H-E-B or any liquor store.
Martinka: Why do we cook things in the kitchen?
WACOAN: As I was asking that question, that was the first answer that came to mind.
Martinka: Yeah, so I can’t paint. You don’t want to hear me sing. This is sort of a creative outlet, I think.
At first, you don’t know what you’re doing. You’re buying a kit with syrups, and you’re just like, ‘Oh, let’s see what happens.’ The more you get into it, I guess, the more control you have of it, and the more you understand the process. So then you can play around with things. You can try to imitate this one idea that you had that you thought was amazing or [try to recreate] this one porter that was fantastic. Then as you really get to know the grains and the hops and all that, yeast especially, then you can put your own twist on it. That’s super gratifying. That’s why I do it.
Also, it’s nice to say, ‘This is the beer I made,’ and be proud of it with your friends.
WACOAN: What was the inspiration? You were all homebrewing in a space. What was the next step? What led from brewing for your friends and family to starting a business?
Martinka: I think that’s it. We went from brewing for friends and family. If we were brewing for ourselves, we never would have taken on this. But we wanted to share it with as many people as we could because we enjoyed the product, and when people would come over to my house or David’s and we gave them the sample, they loved it too, which was just very encouraging.
And the laws in Texas are such that homebrew is for personal use only. We thought, ‘How can we make this available to more people?’ We had friends who wanted us to do [their] weddings, and we really couldn’t. So we were just trying to find a way to make it available to our friends for celebrations, and that was sort of the impetus of the whole thing.
Then we got serious about it, and we started to look at numbers and everything and thought this could really work. Waco could definitely support this based on national averages that we researched. We were just gung-ho about it, and we’ve gotten this far.
Stoneking: The plan escalated quickly. The original idea was to be able to provide, in a legal sense, beer to our friends and family. Not that we were hoping to make a living out of it, but we were looking to locally cover our costs. Could we provide this for our friends? Could we receive money? It’s all, like Jacob said, the Texas laws are very restrictive about that. Although they’re slowly loosening up as we go.
So once we started to look into what it would take to actually legally sell it and provide it to people, then all the number crunching came in, and our idea of what that meant grew very quickly. It went from, ‘We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing, and we’ll figure out how to cover costs,’ to ‘There’s this huge 15-barrel system, which is what we’re gonna launch with,’ which seems to be the smartest, balanced, most economical way to go into it. Which happens to pull us all into this thing full time. Now this is our breadwinner, I guess.
WACOAN: Tommy, how did you get started brewing?
Mote: My background was in coffee before beer. Similarly to how there’s a lot of parallels between bread and brewing, there’s a lot of parallels between either coffee roasting or coffee extraction that’s very similar to the process that barley has to go through or the process in order to convert the starches into sugars.
I became interested in coffee at not an advanced, exclusive level, but I led coffee cuppings and was very interested in flavor profiles for coffees that came from different regions of the world and the way they were processed. That very organically led into being able to pinpoint a flavor in a beer and deciding I wanted to use this type of hop combined with this type of malt in order to achieve a specific end. So flavor, for me, was the most interesting part of the whole process. It’s what bridged things for coffee and beer.
WACOAN: You said you led coffee cuppings. What is that? Kind of like a tasting?
Mote: They’re tastings, but it’s coffee brewed in a very rudimentary way in order for the brewing process to get out of the way and for you to just taste coffee in the purest sense. You can taste either eight different coffees that were roasted one day apart from each other or maybe three different coffees that were grown at the same farm, but at different elevations. So you can pinpoint very specific differences in coffee by tasting them alongside other coffees.
Martinka: Tommy’s great at that. Since we met, I’ve been super impressed and a little intimidated. But I love that about Tommy and his ability to pull out flavors.
WACOAN: David, how did you get started?
Stoneking: It’s what my friends were doing on Friday nights. Very literally that’s what it was. So I came over, saw the process, didn’t have any idea what was going on, but it was a fun thing to do. There was music playing and things cooking and beers being sampled and tasted, and I just kept coming back, I guess.
WACOAN: You were talking about Tommy’s palate. What strengths do each of you bring to this venture?
Mote: My role is the head brewer, and I will be heading up production. I will have Jacob helping me with production and David, as much as he’s interested in it as well, but I’ll be actually producing the beer on a day-to-day basis. My contribution is the experience of working in breweries and that sort of thing.
Stoneking: As well the palate that we were referring to, because [Tommy’s] able to pick up very specific chemicals and aromas and things like that, not only does he know from the business side how to work with commercial equipment, he also has a very fine palate. Tommy, as our brewmaster, is most in charge of beer quality and consistency. I mean, my palate isn’t there. I wouldn’t be able to pick out the kinds of things he can.
Martinka: Tommy’s the bloodhound.
Stoneking: Let’s put that on your business card.
WACOAN: David, what do you bring to this venture?
Stoneking: I bring some experience running a business. I purchased a business two years ago. I was working for it, and the owner had a change of career, and I ended up purchasing it from him.
WACOAN: Is that the video company?
Stoneking: Yes. So once this idea became bigger and bigger, I had the most experience and comfort dealing with the legal side of things and the financial side of things. Once we’re up and running, I will probably be, of the three of us, I’ll be the most behind the scenes, doing things like business operations, marketing. Since I work with a lot of marketing now, I’ll be able to bring a lot of that experience to it as well.
WACOAN: Jacob, what’s your strength?
Martinka: In addition to the production side, which I hope to be as involved with as I can, the sales side is going to be a big part of my occupation.
Over the years of living in Waco and being super interested in craft beer, I’ve been able to frequent a few establishments and build relationships with the owners and operators. So with that, I’ve got the brewing experience, formulating my own recipes and doing plenty of research to make it into something that we are proud of. To communicate to the buyers in these bars and pubs and restaurants, I think, will be a valuable asset. To be able to talk about it one-on-one with the bartender, or we can be present for a tasting in front of a hundred people.
WACOAN: What kind of products will you be brewing, selling and marketing?
Mote: Our core lineup right now, we’ve discussed four different beers that we’ll launch with. In addition, we’ll have various seasonals of different types of colors and that sort of thing.
Starting out, our four core beers will be a Czech-style pilsner, which is a Czech lager. It’s a very clean, pale-colored, very balanced between malt and hop, easy-drinking beer for Texas heat, which is kind of the idea. We’ll do an IPA, India Pale Ale. Arguably the most popular style in the past five to seven to 10 years, probably. Within that style some people like to make that beer as bitter as they possibly can to really showcase the bitterness of the hops. While this beer will be bitter, it won’t be bitter just to showcase what bitterness can be. It will be a very floral, aromatic, pretty-flavored kind of beer. Not because flowers or anything have been added but because hops are a very interesting, very broad-tasting plant that brings different things to the table. So our IPA will be very hop-flavorful without being very bitter. The third is a porter, which is a dark brown, almost black-colored beer that has flavors of roasts of coffee and chocolate. It won’t be a sweet beer, so when you think of chocolate it won’t be like a Hershey’s candy bar, but it does have a little bit of maltiness to it and a very balanced beer as well. The fourth is the oddball of the four. They’re becoming more popular lately, but it’s a German-style tart beer called a gose. It’s spelled g-o-s-e, but it’s pronounced ‘go-za.’ It uses additions of salt and coriander, not to a very high amount, but they round out the flavor. The coriander brings a little bit of a floral note, whereas the salt is really just salty enough to make it a very thirst-quenching beverage. And the tartness comes with an additional step of fermentation, which brings about a bit of acidity to the palate. It makes it a very thirst-quenching beer as well. That one’s kind of the oddball, but it’s not a difficult or confusing beer once you try it.
WACOAN: That seems like an oxymoron. You said it had salt and that it would be thirst-quenching. Usually when you have salt it makes you more thirsty.
Mote: Salt really just brings out the other flavors that are already present in the beer. So the coriander and the tartness, the acidity of it, will be accentuated with the salt rather than it being an actually salty beverage.
WACOAN: Can salt kill yeast? Or is there just not enough in there?
Mote: There’s not near enough. There’s a very little amount. It’s a very, very low amount.
WACOAN: All the grains that are left over. What happens to those?
Mote: We will give those to local farmers. Cows and pigs can consume the malted barley that’s been washed. At that point in time it’s all pre-fermentation, so there’s no alcohol in those grains. They’re just slightly sugary grains that animals like to eat up.
Stoneking: The spent grains, once we’re done with all the grain, it is fun to be able to give those to local farmers and participate in the whole local system. It’s a very common practice, and we’ve already had folks come up to us and say, ‘Oh, I’d love to use some of it for baking’ or for their livestock or whatever.
WACOAN: How is it used in baking?
Stoneking: You can just use it as you would with any other kind of flour or whole grain.
Martinka: The whole-wheat flour.
Stoneking: Malted barley comes in this grain that we crush and turn into our own grain flour, essentially. Once we take all the nutrients that we need out of it, you can still bake with it and do whatever. I’m not the baker, so that’s the only answer I can give.
Martinka: A good buddy of ours, an old brewing friend who baked a lot of bread and supplied our community with some bread, he would take some of the spent grains, like from the porter, which is a darker beer, and he’d make a dark bread with it. It had some great flavors to it.
WACOAN: When do you think you’ll be up and running?
Martinka: We hope to be up and running early 2016. I think it’s a fair estimate that it will be running in February.
Our tanks are in production right now up in Portland. Our contractor’s putting out bids, so construction should be happening soon, very soon. This should all coalesce fairly in step to where tanks will arrive right as a lot of the construction is being completed. Our government processes, we’re going through three different governments — city, state and federal — and those are being worked on right now.
WACOAN: So if you open in February, you’ll have product on the shelves, available to drink, how soon after that?
Mote: In terms of being open, we’re planning on launching and having beer immediately available for bars as well. So as soon as we’re open, we’ll have beers on tap here. But our batch size is large enough that we’ll be able to service our own pub, our own tasting room, as well as different restaurants and bars and pubs around town.
Stoneking: There’s roughly a month’s lag, depending on the style between the day it’s brewed.
Mote: Probably more like two to three weeks, brew day to drinking day.
Martinka: It depends on the style.
Stoneking: We can brew some continuously, and it becomes a round robin on where it goes and which tank, depending on the process of the beer. Once we’re in a rhythm, then beer will be coming out very regularly, weekly.
WACOAN: You mentioned having a bar here. Will this be a brewpub?
Stoneking: It is. Some people hear brewpub and they think of a restaurant that brews its own beer, which is how it’s done oftentimes. We’re kind of that reversed. We’re a manufacturing brewery. We’re producing mainly to sell to local restaurants and bars and vendors, but we just so happen to sell on-site. So we’re not going to be operating as a full bar all the time. Our priority is producing enough beer so that we can sell through other people.
Martinka: I think a highlight of the Brotherwell experience will be the tour. We’ll try to do tours regularly. People [can visit] on a Saturday. We’ll open our backroom and invite people into the production space to say, ‘This is what this does. This is how we make it. You’re going to get to taste it right now.’
Stoneking: Tours are a very popular thing with breweries around the state, around the country.
It’s a big open opportunity for folks to come in and really learn about the beer-making process and to be able to taste probably the freshest beer you’ve ever had in your life and really feel a part of the process.
Also just hanging out. We will have indoor space and an outdoor space. We don’t have a kitchen, but we hope to partner with one of the food trucks and probably some music of some sort, just making Saturday tours a fun experience.
WACOAN: Would you also be considered a microbrewery?
Mote: That’s a pretty broad term. In the U.S., a microbrewery is just defined as a brewery smaller than Samuel Adams [beer company], basically. But the Boston beer companies, they produce roughly 2 million barrels of beer a year. (I could be off on the number.) But a very, very high number. Most breweries in the U.S. are microbreweries, with the exception being the really big guys. So yes, we are a microbrewery.
WACOAN: In 2012, microbreweries had an economic impact of $2.3 billion in Texas. Why do you think smaller breweries are so popular?
Mote: I think people are realizing more and more each year that beer is more than just one flavor.
For a long time beer has been one beverage. Beer has been much more about marketing, about packaging, than it has been about flavor and the different styles that can be produced. I think the average consumer today is much more informed than they were, say, 10 years ago. With that kind of experience and familiarity comes a lot more appreciation and understanding and desire to taste more new and different things.
In addition, there’s been a big push lately — not just in Texas but all over the U.S. — about local things, about whether it’s going to a farmers market or buying locally roasted coffee, that sort of thing. People are excited about local beer.
That’s something up until this past year that Waco hasn’t had. There hasn’t been a local beer to get excited about. Now they’ll have two breweries here in Waco to provide local beer.
Like David said earlier, people likely have never had beer this fresh. Beer going through distribution channels is a great way to sell a lot of beer, but it’s also so difficult to ensure that the product is still fresh once it hits the shelf. So being able to come into a production space and taste things, likely directly from the tank that they’re being produced in, is a really cool experience, a really unique thing for Wacoans to get to see.
WACOAN: If I taste a beer directly from the tank, how will it taste different than something that’s been bottled and sat for six months?
Martinka: It’d be like the difference between fresh-baked bread and packaged sealed bread that you buy at 7-Eleven.
WACOAN: On your Facebook page, it said ‘Brothers in Brewing,’ so how are y’all collaborating with Bare Arms?
Mote: I think we have all talked with Keith [Collier] a couple times. We’ve joked about names for what a collaborative beer could possibly be and things like that. Nothing set in stone. Something that really rubbed off on me in Portland is how collaborative and how respectful the brewing community is to one another. I really, really enjoy that. It’s something I want to actively work to bring to Waco and to Central Texas. In Portland, brewers would get together once a month and bring a growler, a large half-gallon container of beer, and pour samples for a number [of people], sometimes 12 to 15 to 20 people around a table. And each person, maybe there would be a couple of people from each brewery, [representing] maybe 10 to 12 breweries, who would taste and talk about each beer. So rather than thinking of the brewing process as some sort of closely held trade secret, it was a very open, communicative, fair information sharing.
WACOAN: Like open source.
Mote: Right. Everybody wanted each other to succeed. We’re really not each other’s competition. It’s more if we can work together to educate the consumer. The entire industry succeeds whenever the customer knows more about beer.
Martinka: There are so many styles of beer, and there are so many interpretations of the different styles to where you can have a completely different idea from somebody else’s even in the same city.
Mote: Yeah. I think we have beers with similar parallels to each other in terms of stylistically, but each style can vary so widely that even though the descriptors on a surface level could look very similar, once you taste all eight of our core year-round beers, there would be vast differences in each one of them.
Stoneking: You can taste an IPA from a dozen different breweries in Texas, and they can all taste very different. So even if it’s brewed in the same style, there’s so much room, like they’re saying, within the style. It’s pretty apparent that this is not the same beer.
It’s as exciting as one farmer finding out another farmer wants to sell his product, and they form a farmers market. You’re not afraid of competition. You’re excited about the possibilities.
WACOAN: You said you were going to be open on weekends. Right behind you is Magnolia Market. When y’all got into this place, did you know that was coming in?
Martinka: We were looking for places to brew. We were connected through a mutual friend to this place. We were concerned that it would meet all of the requirements to open a brewery — to put in tanks, to service the electrical and plumbing and that sort of thing. And so once those were checked off, everything seemed to check out like we could do this. Shortly afterwards [we heard,] ‘Oh, by the way, Magnolia’s opening up right there.’ [We said,] ‘Let’s find out more about them. Oh yeah, that would be good for us.’
We weren’t looking for that. We didn’t go out looking for what’s the next big thing in Waco. We wanted to be close to downtown. We wanted to be able to be a part of the growth. We wanted to be close to the farmers market because the farmers market preaches all things craft, essentially. And we wanted to be near campus. And this fulfills all those requirements. And Magnolia, just, there you go. It’s in its own way a craft culture. So we love being a part of that.
WACOAN: Balcones isn’t too far from here. Do you think its success, even though it’s a different product, can help your company?
Mote: I think it goes hand-in-hand with the appreciation of fine beverages. I think although there are whiskey connoisseurs and there’s beer people, and people kind of tend to choose their beverage of choice. I think there still will be a lot of overlap of people appreciating both things. Maybe not too much on the same day, but appreciating both things, and I think it works really well together.
Stoneking: There’s an idea too that Balcones has become something people in Waco are really proud of. It has such a national reputation of quality and excellence that I get to tell people, ‘Oh yeah. This is made in Waco.’ So it will be exciting to get to that point that people are excited to say, ‘Oh, this is made in Waco. This is a Waco brewery.’
WACOAN: Outside of your friends and family, who already know the stuff y’all can put out, have you gotten any feedback from the community yet?
Mote: I’ve brought some beers that I produced in Portland at that brewery. I brought them to friends at Balcones, friends that still work there and are a part of that company, and they’ve been really excited about the idea of a brewery opening up just down the road.
Stoneking: If it was up to us, we’d give away as many beers as we could right now, just to develop excitement, get feedback. Unfortunately, it’s not allowed.
Martinka: However, when we were at Pints in the Park, we were able to talk to many people about craft beer, and most of those people were from Waco. The event itself was a huge success. Super positive feedback. Having that localized support was very encouraging to us. The community really seems to support a craft brewery in town. And set up right next to us, the booth right next to us, was Bare Arms.
WACOAN: You mentioned giving back. How has Brotherwell been involved in the community? Or how do you plan on getting involved once you start producing product?
Martinka: Just to be present in the community, and that’s a very small thing, obviously. Philanthropy would be wonderful if we could build up the momentum to help out the city in that way or different groups.
Stoneking: Breweries are very social by nature. They’re very involved in their communities. They do events and partner with other people. Oftentimes they partner with biking races or charitable events or fundraising things. You know, if you have an event, that’s one thing, but if you have an event with beer, you’ll probably get more people to show up.