If you're interested in helping a pair of local entrepreneurs get a microbrewery off the ground, you should plan on being at Denton's Simone Lounge around 8 p.m. Saturday. When you get there, look for the two guys in brown shirts at the center of the action: Bobby Mullins and Yianni Arestis from Armadillo Ale Works.
Mullins, 27, and Arestis, 25, are the owners, founders, chief brewers and fundraisers for their nascent operation. They met through mutual friends while attending the University of North Texas. Like every college student with a pulse, they shared a big passion for beer.
Unlike most college students, however, they soon got serious enough to start planning a craft brewing business. Mullins, the team's creative force and head brewer, had just come off a stint with Saint Arnold Brewing Co. in Houston, and he was anxious to put his professional brewing experience to work under his own label. So he reached out to his old friend Arestis, the entrepreneurship and marketing expert of the pair. "I hit him up, and he said yes," Mullins says.
Arestis is clear about why he jumped in. "I've known, literally as long as I can remember, that I wanted to own my own business," he says. "When we started talking more about this, and I started looking into the industry, all the data are there to support this. Craft beer has had double-digit growth for awhile now."
With the team assembled, they got to work building a business plan for Armadillo Ale Works, which turned out to be good enough to win a $10,000 prize from the Murphy Center for Entrepreneurship at UNT. Unfortunately, the up-front costs for starting a microbrewery are higher, much higher.
Mullins estimates that they need around $200,000, mostly for equipment and space, just to get the federal, state and local permitting process underway. To help meet this challenge, Mullins and Arestis spend a lot of time and energy on fund-raising. Events like the fundraiser and tasting on Saturday, along with their current Kickstarter campaign, are helping to raise their profile while inching them closer to their financial goals.
At Simone Lounge, you'll be able to sample their starting lineup. "We've got Quakertown Stout. It's an oatmeal stout made with maple syrup," Mullins says. "We've got the Hefe-What?! Hefeweizen, made with coriander and grapefruit peel. We've got the YellaBelly Blonde. With some of our grain choices, it adds a bit of a honey-sweetness and there's a lot of really good citrus notes from the hops. And we've got the FUIPA [Freaking Unreal India Pale Ale] double IPA, and that's just a powerhouse, super-hoppy high-alcohol."
Mullins looks wistful when asked to describe the hardest part of getting their business off the ground. It's not the fact that he's spent years working on these recipes, improving them bit by bit: "Raising capital while working a separate job to pay off my student loans is hard." No doubt, but getting there will taste great.Simone Lounge
222 W. Hickory, Suite 204 Denton 940-387-7240
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