The passing of two wet/dry propositions yesterday isn't the only good news for local beer lovers. Deep Ellum Brewing Company, Dallas' first microbrewery, is on course to open by April or May of next year.
In fact, owner John Reardon just had his final conference call with suppliers earlier this morning and within days will lay down a deposit to equip a 30-barrel system with an initial capacity of 5,000 barrels per year. Also being finalized is a lease agreement for a warehouse space in the southern part of Deep Ellum and an agreement with a brewmaster.
Texas, of course, is infamous for stringent, sometimes nonsensical laws regarding alcohol, particularly beer. Unlike wineries, breweries can't sell beer in their own gift shops, and brewers must choose whether they will sell packaged beer to retailers or operate as a brewpub. Early in Reardon's planning, he had to make that choice. But with his experience as owner of Joyce Lounge and the Walrus Bar, Reardon is knowledgeable in dealing with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, and optimistic that the permitting process from the commission won't create any major setbacks. Likewise, he has no complaints about dealing with the city.
"The city has been quite helpful," he says. "It seems like there's a general excitement for what we're doing."
There was one scare, as the lack of precedents for microbreweries in Dallas caused some confusion about how the brewery would be zoned.
"We were about to be banished to heavy-industrial zoning," he says. "I don't even know where that would have allowed us to open. Fortunately, we got classified as light industrial and food-manufacturing, so we were able to be in Deep Ellum."
In fact, his chief concern as far as paperwork goes is the federal brewers permit. Once he receives the permit, the clock is ticking, as the feds will expect the company to be open within 90 days.
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The brewery has been a dream of Reardon's for years, as he wrote in this DeepEllum.net blog post. An avid homebrewer in college, he pursued the dream of opening a brewery once he was no longer owner of the Walrus Bar and Joyce. He is also currently seeking his certification as a cicerone, the beer equivalent of being a sommelier.
Reardon plans to start modestly, growing the brand through a few select local accounts. With his contacts among the area's bar and restaurant industry and interest already expressed by distributors, he envisions no problems finding customers. But he hopes to expand to annual 15,000-barrel operation within a few years and buy outright the warehouse where the brewing company will operate.
As for the beers, he says, "We've been brewing a ton lately. As far as the style, we don't want to pigeonhole ourselves. We'll get into everything the quintessential American breweries do, probably a stout, a session beer, a kick-ass IPA and a blonde or helles."
We'll drink to that.