In just four days, Hops & Grain raised a quarter of a million dollars to open a new facility in San Marcos — a second location that will allow the East Austin brewery to double the amount of beer produced each year.
But the money hasn’t come from big venture capitalist firms eager to cash in on the booming craft beer movement. Instead, Hops & Grain’s founder, Josh Hare, has taken advantage of a new federal law allowing ordinary people to invest in crowdfunded companies. Previously, only those with a net worth of $1 million or an annual income of $200,000 could make such an investment.
“It enables anyone to invest, so it’s a really neat opportunity not only for companies trying to grow, but also for just general, everyday people wanting to invest in something other than the stock market or their 401(k). They can invest in something a little more tangible,” Hare said.
His campaign, done through a site called wefunder.com, is completely regulated by the federal government, with Wefunder acting as the broker between the investors and the brewery and the voice box through which the brewery can speak. Hops & Grain has to be careful about what it posts on social media, for example, about the crowdfunding.
Nonetheless, “it’s opened us up to a whole new form of transparency,” Hare said, noting he’s had to sign many legal documents and give financial projections “for a building that isn’t opened yet but mirrors what we’ve already done.”
The Hops & Grain crowdfunding campaign went live late on June 8, and by Friday morning the brewery had already met an initial financial goal that Hare had expected would take a week to achieve. He’s hoping Hops & Grain can raise $1 million by November — and at the rate the Wefunder campaign is pulling in investors, that time frame will probably be greatly shortened.
But make no mistake: Hare still has a deep love for East Austin and the original facility at 507 Calles Street, where the brewery got its start in 2011. At the same time, he recognizes that location is at full capacity, with beers like The One They Call Zoe, a pale lager, and A Pale Mosaic, an American-style IPA, in high demand. These two beers make up 85 percent of Hops & Grain’s sales, and while both are beloved to the brewers, they’re ready to expand the boozy offerings.
In the college town of San Marcos, the new brewery and taproom powered 100 percent by wind energy will double the brewery’s total capacity with a 20,000 barrel brew house and bring back some of the beers that its current facility doesn’t have the ability to make, like Hops & Grain’s first release, Pale Dog. Plus, the San Marcos facility — which doesn’t have a location locked down yet — will have a program devoted to lagers.
“We can sell those at all our distribution footprints,” Hare said. “But we’ll also have specific beers at the Austin tasting room and others only in the San Marcos tasting room.”
Hops & Grain will also have a third set of beers only available at yet another space — a 10,000-square-foot building outside the Austin city limits at FM 969 and Texas 130, funded completely by Hare. Although this place had been previously announced, he anticipates that it and the San Marcos spot will open about the same time: within the next 10 to 12 months.
The far east location, Hare said, “will house 100 percent of our sour and wild beer program, the Volumes of Funk Series. It’ll open up a lot of space for us at the Calles Street brewery. It’s going to be a barrel-aging facility, with all beer made here and then inoculated and barreled there. I’m excited about being able to expand the program and get more bottles onto the market, as well as showcasing a side of Hops & Grain that most people don’t get to experience.”
San Marcos is also going to be the site of something special for Hops & Grain fans: a place where the investors can go and see their investment in action. They’ve contributed $100 to $10,000 each and will receive double that amount in the next five to six years, once beer sales kick in.
For Hare, these investors have made the crowdfunding campaign a humbling experience.
“I wouldn’t expect people to know about Hops & Grain, but they don’t just know it; they want to be part of it,” he said. “I think it’s a testament to our team and to everything we’ve been able to accomplish. People want to be a part of our brewery beyond just their six pack or pint at the bar.”
Staying faithful to 78702
Less than a year after Hops & Grain made A Pale Mosaic one of its canned mainstays beers, the East Austin brewery is doing the same with its kölsch, the sort of German-style ale that Hops & Grain owner Josh Hare and his brewers excel at making. It’s going into bright yellow, green and white cans that will hit local bars and stores on June 27, in time for the Fourth of July holiday.
It’s partly thanks to the pleas of loyal fans (namely, Mike Lambert of the Beerists podcast) that the kölsch has been canned. The kölsch had originally been a limited draft-only offering, but now the hashtag Lambert and others used to persuade Hops & Grain, #canthekölsch, is front and center on the packaging.
Ultimately, though, Hare wants to pay tribute to the many other Austinites who live in the Hops & Grain ZIP code by naming it 78702.
“A big part of my hope for Hops & Grain when I opened it was to showcase the neighborhood I lived in, and I always loved how loyal people in 78702 are to their community,” he said. “I wanted to be a positively contributing member, so everything from how we dispose of our waste to how we interact with our neighbors, all of that is about wanting to be a good member of the community. … So (naming) it was just a fun way to let people know where our commitments lie and where we come from and showing our pride.”