Afterward, faces glistening from a light sweat gather around tables with pints of beer, squares of paper and pens in front of them. Some have giant pretzels or plates of nachos. They're getting ready for group trivia, a fast-paced, pop-culture, general knowledge-friendly game hosted by a funny 20-something-ish with a microphone in the center of the room. It's a good time. Easy and spacious. Different parties around the room lean into their own conversations. The founder makes the rounds regularly, refilling beers or passing out stickers, as many as you'd like.
Art Harvey, Founder
In 2016, he was on his usual six-mile Friday run with a neighborhood group. Along the route, perhaps with a runner's high, another runner and friend convinced him to take the beer plunge. Go all-in (huff-puff). Open your own brewery (huff-puff).
After that run, Harvey knew it was time to start cutting those safe, yet restrictive ties to the corporate world. He found a beer home in an old building in Deep Ellum; he was partial to the area because it wasn't far from his own neighborhood, Lakewood. Plus, he felt like the proximity to other brewers would be advantageous for all of them.
It took an entire year just to get a permit from the city of Dallas to start building. Seven months for the zoning approval. Westlake Brewing Co. finally opened in October 2019.
Peter Hemmingsen, Brewer
That sent Hemmingsen down a brewing rabbit hole.
"Soon, I got immersed in it. Then, I got overwhelmed trying to start my own brewery," Hemmingsen says.
He decided to get experience with other breweries and took an assistant position at Bitter Sisters Brewing Co. in Addison, where he says, "I cut my chops." He moved to Oklahoma for his first head brewer job, where managing 600-gallon batches built confidence. Wanting to immerse himself deeper into the brewing culture, he moved to Colorado for more experience before being hired by Harvey at Westlake early in 2019.
Pandemic Not in the Business PlanA few years after that fateful 6-mile Friday run, Harvey was finally opening the brewery in Deep Ellum and had no idea that in just a few months a pandemic would hit, placing the world on an extended pause.
"Well, we didn't have a pandemic in our business plan," Harvey says. "It took the wind out of our sails, for sure. But, you know other brewers had told us to be prepared to grow faster than you think you're going to." That's advice he did include in his business plan, which allowed them to stretch through the pandemic.
They also already had a large patio and a kitchen, giving them more latitude to be open. A canning line, something they had planned to invest in eventually, was purchased sooner than expected. And Whole Foods picked them up for retail sales, which helped too.
All-in-all, the first year under the weight of a pandemic was bad, but not awful, and things are starting to pick back up.
"We get a lot of travelers," Harvey says. "I'm always amazed at how many business travelers we get brewery hopping. They come in either right before a flight or as soon as they land."
Harvey says many tourists or business travelers find them by just using a map: A big draw is that there are now three breweries all in walking distance in Deep Ellum. "It becomes a destination for travelers," Harvey says.
So, What's Good Here?When asked what their flagship beer is, Harvey and Hemmingsen thoughtfully squint across the table at each other, each waiting for the other to answer.
They agree that they don't have a particular favorite, but rather make a variety of styles as "best" as they can. A mix-tape of beers, not too heavy on any particular kind, like say, sours or IPAs.
Their most popular beer is Rain Out. Most beer names having something to do with running: There's a Fast-n-Light (2.8% ABV), Finish Line is a grisette (5.5%ABV), Texas Trail is an English mild brown ale. Here's hoping that their Belgian-style triple "This Many" isn't from being asked, "How many fingers am I holding up?" Maybe it's the 7.9% ABV — that many is "this many."
Building on the popularity of Rain Out and "in the vein of Dallas weather," they also named a beer "Delkus" (an 8% IPA) hoping that the local weatherman would come down and have a beer with them. You know, take his jacket off, just relax for a bit. Hasn't happened yet. It is spring, though, so maybe the local meteorologist has to stay close to the office.
Harvey also wants the brewery to be a neighborhood space, and it does have a good community feel. Short of going around and asking the 20-somethings there during trivia, "Where do you live, Sugar?" it was hard to be certain, but it felt like a good number were downtown residents.
In addition to the running and trivia, they host Saturday morning yoga in their big courtyard and game nights on Tuesdays. But really, Hemmingsen says, "I just want Pete Delkus to come down and have a beer."