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North by Northwest, one of Austin’s first brewpubs, seeks major expansion


North by Northwest Brewing Co. wants to be in a grocery store near you. 

Founder Davis Tucker, who has been commercially brewing for more than 30 years, opened the first NXNW Restaurant & Brewery in North Austin in the late 1990s as one of the city's first successful brewpubs. There are now two locations, each with a focus on delivering quality food and beers. 

But you'd be hard-pressed to find most NXNW beers beyond the walls of both brewpubs, aside from popular exceptions like last year's Zombie Dragon New England IPA. (The brewpub also offers crowlers now, 32 oz. cans that people can take home with them.)

That's where Tucker is seeking to expand: with cans of three NXNW beers. He has launched a Wefunder campaign that will help NXNW "tap into a whole new market," as the Wefunder page notes. The cans will be part of a new company, NXNW Brewing Co., started specifically to sell beers off-site.

"Producing canned beer costs much less than opening a new brick-and-mortar brewpub," according to the Wefunder page. "Plus, with cans, we can get our beers out to the whole state of Texas rather than confining them to a local area." 

Very soon, 12 oz. cans of Zombie Dragon, as well as Northern Light German-style Helles and Red Zeppelin Irish Red Ale, will be in almost 40 Austin-area H-E-B stores as well as Spec's. By this summer, that number will grow. After the first year, the goal is to add in restaurants, convenience stores and additional liquors stores as beer production is ramped up. 

The campaign has raised more than $14,000 from 11 investors so far, but NXNW is hoping for up to $750,000. NXNW will pay investors 10 percent of revenues each quarter until all of their principal is returned, plus 100 percent on top. 

To make the expansion possible, NXNW's original North Austin location will produce a bulk of the draft beer available at both brewpubs, while the South Austin spot on Slaughter Lane has the means to do all of the canning. According to the Wefunder, the brewpub has secured 60-barrel tanks needed for the expansion. 

Tucker has been professionally brewing since before Belgian brewmaster Pierre Celis began making the beloved Celis White in 1992. Even longtime Austinites might not remember the Pecan Street Lager, "one of only three craft beers selling in Austin grocery stores and bars" in 1987. "The craft beer industry was in its infancy," according to Wefunder. 

He had to make Pecan Street Lager at Spoetzl Brewery, maker of Shiner, “because at the time it would’ve been insane to open a brewery and think you could survive when nobody knew what craft beer was,” he said recently.

It didn't stay that way, of course. Tucker's next project was as co-owner of downtown Austin's now-defunct Copper Tank Brewery, which opened in 1993, the year Texas law legalized brewpubs. By the time he decided to strike out on his own in 1999 with NXNW, most Austin brewpubs had flourished and then failed. It would be another decade or so until Austin's beer industry truly took off. 

But Tucker was there at the very beginning. 

"I still see myself as that kid behind the beer, hocking my samples and proselytizing about the virtues of well-crafted beer, pure ingredients, no adjuncts, and as fresh-as-you-can-find lagers and ales," he wrote in the Wefunder campaign.

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