Barring an act of God (or the city of Dallas), the long wait for Manhattan Project Beer Company’s Dallas taproom should come to a satisfying end this fall.
The Dallas brewery opened in 2016 when husband and wife team Karl and Misty Sanford and Jeremy Brodt began brewing through a contract relationship with Addison’s Bitter Sisters Brewing. Since then, they’ve moved their brewing to Hop and Sting’s facility in Grapevine, from where, thanks to access to a canning line, six packs of Manhattan Project beer have been sent to retail shelves across North Texas.
Now that construction has roared into full-swing on its West Dallas space, brewery co-owner Misty Sanford is understandably relieved. She says she “wouldn’t change a thing” about how her company’s first couple of years have gone, but she admits that opening their own taproom and brewing facility has been a primary goal from day one.
“It went on much longer than anticipated,” Misty says of their time contracting space from other brewers to produce beer. “The first year and a half was pretty excruciating, because we were limited to 40 barrels per month. We could service only a couple dozen accounts, so it was tough to say no to new business again and again. But it allowed us to learn and make our mistakes on a much smaller stage.”
The venue, under construction on Sulphur Street in West Dallas about a mile from downtown, was purchased in January 2018. A series of city-related challenges and expenses have kept them from progressing too far on the build-out until now. The space will include a 30-barrel brewhouse with the ability to produce approximately 600 barrels per month. Sanford says the amount can go up to as much as 1,700 barrels per month with the addition of new equipment, if needed.
As for the front of the house, Sanford says to expect the taproom to “feel more like a coffee shop than a taproom” with upholstered chairs. While the science and chemistry theme will be present in subtle ways, the indoor/outdoor space will be decorated similarly to the minimal designs of their cans, “with clean lines, moody moments and plenty of black, white, brass and polished stainless steel," she adds.
With most North Texas brewers opening their doors with finished-out, pristine taprooms, this delayed approach from Manhattan Project is certainly an unusual one these days.
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“I thought we needed to physically see our end customers every day to develop the customer experience and the brand,” Misty says. “But we quickly learned that every bar and restaurant is our taproom. We have 25 events this month, and that’s not uncommon. We’re in the field as much as possible so we can get to know our end customer and the buyers. It’s my favorite part of the job.”
On Friday, May 24, Manhattan Project will again be out and about when they relaunch a limited-edition summer special. The result of a collaboration with Rick Ali and the gang from Lone Star Taps and Caps in Lewisville, the Atomic Alliance is a milkshake IPA the brewers prefer to refer to as a “pina colada IPA.”
The impact of Manhattan Project’s successful retail presence in grocery stores and other retail outlets over the past couple of years has been the big bang Sanford initially thought they were missing out on by lacking an established brick-and-mortar space. Just like a skilled chemist, it seems Sanford and her partners developed the ideal formula for them, even if it doesn’t quite jell in the same way for everyone else.
“The retail presence is what really secured our branding and made our mission clear,” she says. “It completely changed the business and allowed us to expand our portfolio and significantly grow our brand recognition.”