Craft beer craze: inside Beaumont's beer scene

The Beaumont area only has one brewery, but that could change in the very near future.

The band is jamming and the beer is flowing. For a weeknight, there's quite a crowd at Neches Brewing Company in downtown Port Neches.

"Seeing people come here and enjoy themselves and support their hometown economy and business is awesome," said co-founder David Pool. "There's not a better feeling in the world."

"I'm ecstatic," added Tyler Blount, the other founder. "Sometimes I just come in here and look at the crowd we have and I'm just like, 'What did we do?!' It's amazing."

Pool and Blount opened the doors of Neches Brewing Company back in September, but it's something they'd been brewing for years.

"It was scary just because of the time it took for us to put this place together, figuring out how we were going to make it all happen," Pool said.

Theirs is currently the only brewery in the Beaumont area, but the fledgling Pour Brothers Brewery is looking to put down roots in the city.

"Beaumont is one of only two of the top 20 metro cities in the state of Texas that doesn't have a brewery," said Michael Broussard, Pour Brothers' brewer and CPA. "That's insane in the current craft beer market."

"I think the time is right and I'm surprised it hasn't happened already," said Nic McLaughlin, the group's master of operations.

The friends are still working on logistics, so they won't be able to pour you a Pour Brothers brew for at least a year. But, they said, it's time to tap the potential here in Beaumont.

"There's a demand for it," said Joel Hollier, so-called "tech lord" for Pour Brothers. "People want it and we want to give it to them."

DONATE TO POUR BROTHERS BREWERY'S INDIEGOGO FUND

Like Pool and Blount, the guys behind Pour Brothers said their thirst for craft beer started with home brew.

"Finally they get some beer with flavor," said Ira Sawyer, owner of The Brew Shop, which has locations in Beaumont and Lake Charles. "It's not like drinking water. It has a good taste. It's an actual real beer."

Sawyer has been making his own beer since the '60s, but in the past few years, he said he's helped a lot more customers with a passion for pints.

"The interest has really gone up. Way up," Sawyer said.

Would-be home brewers flock to The Brew Shop for the supplies they need, including bottles, barley, recipes and rye.

"A couple hundred bucks will get your first batch," said Sawyer.

He said he knows a lot of brewers are out there; he helped them get started. Here's what he doesn't know: "I'm wondering why they don't have a brewpub-type thing, where you can go eat and drink some of their craft beers."

A brewpub is exactly what the City of Beaumont would love to see in a warehouse it owns off Magnolia Street in downtown.

"It's a big building, but it's a solid building," said Christopher Boone, the director of planning and community development.

He said the city's serious about bringing in a high-traffic tenant.

"We would be able to offer possibly tax incentives such as city tax abatement and fee waivers. We could even offer some lower-cost lease for the building because we own it," Boone said.

He admitted that he's as surprised as anyone else that Beaumont doesn't have a brewery yet.

"If you had asked me that five years ago, probably not," said Boone. "But there's been such a tremendous popularity recently in the demand of craft beer as tastes have changed, laws have changed."

Jeff Wheeler has seen that popularity increase firsthand. He's general manager of 2 Row Distributing, a division Del Papa Distributing Company started two years ago because of the call for craft.

"We're a little behind the times, but I think now is the time to capitalize on it," said Wheeler. "It's been huge."

The shelves in Del Papa's warehouse speak for themselves; they're loaded with beers from as far away from Oregon and as close as Houston. Wheeler said the market now demands that kind of variety.

"We're starting to get more accounts that have multiple taps," he said. "Three or four years ago, you had four or five taps in any given account. Now we're getting the 15-, 20- or 30-tap accounts across our entire territory."

Madison's on Dowlen's 16 taps are pumped full of Saint Arnold's Art Car IPA, Karbach's Hopadillo and Guns and Oil's American lager.

"It's difficult to keep up with at times, but it's always so much fun to do," said Robby Valvano, Madisons' regional brand manager. "We're definitely going to expand on that as we continue to grow in this area."

Back at Neches Brewing Company, Pool and Blount know they have something special bottled up in the walls: a unique blend of hops and hometown love.

Said Blount: " People want to support something that's good."

(© 2016 KBMT)


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