At the beginning of July, I mentioned a new brewery in a beer news round-up that I hoped to be able to chat with, not only because it’s a new brewery and I wanted to know their plans, but because they had already stirred up the beer nerds in town regarding their name and imagery. Hey Babe Brewery, started by two co-workers who share a love for drinking and brewing beer, is based out of the east side of town. They agreed to chat with me about their plans and to clear up any negative connotations people may already have about them.
I sat down at Petrol with Rob and Mike, the founders, and got to know them, their story and their dreams to open a production brewery. Two years ago, Rob started home brewing and his first recipe was a Scottish ale that sits around 8% ABV, they liked it so much, they just kept brewing it and honing the recipe. When they decided they wanted to open a brewery it had to be their flagship beer.
Before we get into the other styles they hope to brew and the status of their venture into commercial brewing, the name should be addressed. When I first saw the name and logo (a rather sexy lady’s shadow), I knew there had to be some reason for choosing that, other than them being sexist or something. I am not a super feminazi by any means, but I do think it’s silly to use imagery that caters to only one sex in any company’s marketing campaign, because you immediately alienate half of your potential consumer base. I had to ask Rob and Mike about the name and logo selection, and they told me about another co-worker, that they brew with, who greets everybody, male or female, with “Hey babe!” and it just stuck. When you meet Rob and Mike, you can tell they aren’t sexist, they are both family men that enjoy good beer, are still learning about it and started brewing as a hobby. They decided that to get out of the daily grind of shift-work, they wanted to brew the beer that their friends, co-workers and family can’t get enough of.
They call their Scottish ale, their flagship beer, Hey Babe, and to keep the theme going, their sweet/lacto stout is called Hey Sweetie. Another beer in their line-up, the one that interested me the most, as one of the main ingredients (rye) is so underrepresented in locally available beer, is a honey rye wheat, aptly named Hey Honey. They also have some other recipes they are tweaking, like an IPA and a vanilla oatmeal stout, but mainly, they want to brew beer they like to drink.
Hey Babe wants to keep production small at first, hoping to purchase a 4 barrel system from Psycho Brew out of Michigan. They are in the process of acquiring more funding (they have both invested some of their own money as well) and may try to utilize tools like Kickstarter (that helped Armadillo Ale Works out of Denton, Texas, secure funding) to obtain a portion of their funding as well as use private investors. They haven’t started the permitting process but hope to have their beers in the market by the middle of next year. You can follow their updates on Facebook and on Twitter.
All this talk about new breweries popping up, which seems like one a week, compels me to comment on a few things. A lot of breweries have very lofty goals regarding timelines, funding and consumer demand for their product, but no judgement will be passed until we start seeing their products in the market, and I make no exception for Hey Babe. As long as the quality of the beers is at a certain level, I honestly don’t care what you call your brewery, but you have to have the beer to back up the name. There are other examples of this I can think of, not necessarily anything sexists albeit. Take names that evoke a memory about Houston, like Buffalo Bayou Brewing or 8th Wonder Brewery, they have an obligation to make beers that represent us well, because I believe the craft beer consumers will make haste to shun them if they do not. This is my personal opinion, but I think I am not alone in this belief. Houston (and Texas in general) can undoubtedly sustain an amount of breweries in the double digit (if not triple!) numbers, but only if the product is worth buying. Maybe I’m optimistic and a dreamer because I want more local options, but I want each of the new breweries to succeed. Our market has room for all types of brewery business models, from the eccentric beers to the standard styles and everyday drinking beers, and I believe these new breweries realize this and it is evident in all of their wildly different ideas on the styles they want to brew, how they will operate, package their beers and even in their locations. Only time will tell if all of these breweries make it past the funding, permitting and construction phases. I think 2012 will be the year of choice for consumers in Texas and I for one, cannot wait.