When you get to know Ben Fullelove, owner of The Petrol Station- one of the best craft beer bars in Houston, you’ll find out he has 4 kids, an awesome wife, and a sweet Lincoln. You’ll also discover that Ben’s dream is to open a brewery by the time he is 40. Legally, he can’t do this in Texas because he owns Petrol Station, says the alcoholic beverage code. So, how does one who can’t build a brewery in Texas realize those dreams? Contract brewing. Ben does not have licensing in any state to brew, but he has his brand- Brash Brewing, his recipes, and the funds to have someone else brew beer for him. Fullelove is the first to admit he is not a seasoned home brewer, but he is one of the most knowledgeable guys out there when it comes to beer. Ben has invested his time in reading and studying everything about the brewing process, hop varietals, and different malts and yeasts, so that he can develop recipes for beers that he wants to brew. It should come as no surprise that you won’t find a pale ale or an amber in Brash’s line-up, those aren’t Ben’s style.
So, when Gregg Berman, Owner of Clown Shoes Beer (who also contract brews) gave Ben the opportunity to join them at Mercury Brewing, home to Clown Shoes, Ipswich and several other beer brands, Ben jumped on it. Mercury reached capacity at their current facility but they are moving to a new location that will also be a brewpub, where all of the contracted beers can be sold.
Ben is visiting the Boston area in a few weeks to taste the first beer from Brash, a collaboration with Clown Shoes called Pimp. For this double brown ale, Clown Shoes will be brewing a double batch of Brown Angel, but of course it isn’t the regular 7% Brown Angel- they are ramping it up to 10% for this collaboration. Ben’s half is sort of a cross between a Belgian and a British brown- he used a bunch of Belgian aromatics and a ton of Belgian chocolate, with black patent malts, and surprisingly, not much hops. This beer is only being made once- 750 cases and a few kegs, so we will be lucky if it even makes it to Texas.
While in Boston, Ben will also be tasting his second beer from Brash- an imperial IPA. What a surprise! If you know Ben or visit Petrol enough, you know his taps are dominated by big hoppy beers. The Imperial IPA will be called The Bollocks; the recipe has 9 hop varieties, plus it will be double dry hopped, twice, and it is well over 100 IBUs. This probably won’t be my cup of tea, but no surprise there. The name and label design pull from Ben’s English heritage- featuring a British bobby cop and a Union Jack, in fact, almost all of his beer names and label designs will feature some recognizable English motif. We may not even see Ben’s beers, unless we get some trades going, or someone brings it back to Texas in a suitcase. They are still working out distribution issues- because Ben owns Petrol, and he will be making money off of the Brash beers, there may be a conflict in the TABC code.
By the end of 2012 Brash plans to release 4 beers, including the collaboration. After Pimp and The Bollocks, the next beer will be an imperial coffee milk stout called Smoglifter. The name comes from a coffee from Ben’s roasting days that he used to sell to Central Market. The label features our beloved Houston skyline in the background, but the complete design isn’t finished so I can’t share anything just yet. After Smoglifter will come a “regular” IPA in cans, called Droogs, a reference to the film A Clockwork Orange. He has over 10 recipes being worked on, like a Barleywine with French Oak chips that will be called Good Morning Wood, and a Belgian Strong ale as well.
The beers will start debuting in late summer in the Boston area and several other big markets in the Northeast, after Mercury moves into their new place in June, Brash will get going on their beers. Ben says he, “is trying not to get too excited”, and expects the criticism of his beers to be stronger than with other new beers in our market; Ben is honest in his opinions of beer and sometimes that doesn’t sit too well with brewers, especially as a high profile bar owner. Though, personally, if Ben did anything less than have the big, in-your-face beers brewed that he loves, I would be disappointed. This attitude is exactly where the name, Brash Brewing, came from. Sacha, Ben’s wife, came up with it and it definitely embodies Ben’s personality, his taste in beers, and the way he runs his business.
There are other options Ben is pursuing where brewing in Texas is concerned; he could turn Petrol Station into a brewpub. I’ve been told this has a good possibility of happening after they remodel the kitchen and acquire and develop the lot behind their current deck/outside patio area. Ben told me that he hopes contract brewing with Brash will allow him the opportunity to build a brewery here in Texas in the future, if the laws get changed. He hopes that going before the state of Texas after a year or more of making money in another state, because he can’t own a brewing business in Texas, will be eye-opening to our legislature that the beverage code needs an overhaul. Ben isn’t a political guy at all, but when Texas’ laws are standing in the way of obtaining his lifelong dream to own a brewery, he is willing to make a stand.
Let’s all hope that Texas’ beverage code does not stand in the way of tasting Brash Brewing Beers, there might be riots and chaos otherwise. Ben was trying really hard to keep this news under wraps for a while longer, but Gregg outed him last week in a post on the Clown Shoes blog. But, to the doubters, he wants everyone to remember Sam Adams’ humble beginnings as a contract brewer. I appreciate Ben taking the time to sit down with me to chat, hopefully we will have more news about the beers coming into Texas soon!