Every couple days this summer, people pulled into an unfinished parking lot near Prestige Circle in Allen and asked whoever would listen when construction would finally be finished.
"The city of Allen is behind us," says Keith Ashley, owner of the Nine Band Brewing, soon to be Allen's first craft brewer. "We want to be their local craft beer."
Ashley, a former investor at Franconia, had always talked about opening a brewery with brewmaster Jack Sparks, who worked at the world's highest elevation brewery in La Paz, Bolivia, before moving back to the states.
"And lo and behold, he finally pulled the trigger and now we're here," Sparks said, standing behind the finished bar in the taproom. They also brought on Mike Kraft, recently of Lagunitas and former brewmaster at Two Rows, where he met Sparks. Kraft, originally of Tennessee, is also a graduate of the Siebel Institute of Technology, the nation's oldest brewing school. The team at Nine Band seems almost unfairly stacked for success.
That's something Ashley is counting on. He didn't want to say too much, lest they jinx themselves, but he has a lot of well-founded confidence in his brewmasters and their ability to put out some good beer. The two men do have several medals between them after all. Sparks was actually awarded the silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival in Colorado in 1998 for his American pale ale.
Allen, at first, doesn't seem the most likely place for a brewery. But with the Dallas market so heavily saturated and McKinney being the only other Collin County challenger, Ashley and Co. have set themselves up nicely in a growing market. The city is ripe for a craft brewery: It is the third-fastest growing city in the metroplex, with one of the most closely knit communities. They love their neighbors, their football team, and their city.
And hopefully their beer. With the Allen water tower looming directly behind the brewery, it's a safe bet that Nine-Band is going to become a large part of the community.
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Ashley says they hope to be open and putting out beer around the first of the year. They'll start with about 4-6 beers behind the bar in the taproom, and bottle several for distribution in the surrounding area.
"We'll grow as our customers demand," he says. They have some lofty goals, though. Ashley hopes you'll be able to buy Nine Band beers in a bar in Austin or San Antonio some day, while keeping a couple special brews available only at the source.
"We want to create a destination," he says. "We'll have events here, there will be tours on Saturdays. Pending these guys' approval (the brewmasters) we'll have multiple brews on tap that will only be accessible here."
It's a smart business move for a company intending to become a destination. But don't mistake this for your local bar. Ashley doesn't intend to be open until 2 a.m. and kicking drunks out to the curb. But at least until 10 or so, you'll be able sit out on their newly finished patio, enjoy a couple beers brewed in the next room over and talk about football, your neighbors, or both.