Text: Sarah Vasquez
Big Bend Brewing Company celebrates 5 years on Saturday, November 18, and everyone is invited to their anniversary party. The tasting room will be open from 1 pm to 8 pm. Alpine’s Doodlin’ Hogwallops will perform.
The most remote brewery in the country first opened during ArtWalk (the annual art and music festival) in 2012. Then it was in a tiny building that was less than 2,000 square feet with 3 fermenters and a canning line. The late Steve Anderson was the brewmaster.
Through an expansion, that tiny location has since grown to 7,000 square feet of production space. The beer cans have a new look this year, so the brewery’s name is prominently displayed. The taproom sits in the middle of all the action at the facility where visitors can taste any of defining, and/or the limited edition beers during the weekend.
The 2014 expansion allowed Big Bend Brewing to produce more barrels of beer per year, increasing from 800 barrels in 2013 to 7,000 in 2016. But production reached its max, which makes it harder for them to meet the ever-growing demand. “Our primary objective is to satisfy the demand for our core beers,” said Jan Matysiak, Director of Brewing Operations (aka the brewmaster). “That’s the main reason why we’re building the San Antonio facility.”
The additional facility is set to open in 2018 and will provide 54,000 square feet of space. It will give the brewery space to produce their core beers as well as provide more opportunities to create more beer styles. The Alpine location will stay to give the taproom some room to breathe and to make it more hospitable. The cramped space was a last minute addition after the Texas Legislature approved Senate Bill 518 during the summer of 2013 that allows breweries to sell beer onsite. It became a struggle having the room right next to production though.
“We couldn’t have extended the hours. We couldn’t operate the production and the taproom at the same time,” said Mahala Guevara, Vice President of Operations.
For Matysiak, the idea is to split the creation of specialty beers in San Antonio, but mostly in Alpine. “The situation just suits itself to make these crazy one-offs,” said Matysiak.
The laid-back spirit of west Texas allows Matysiak and the crew to create experimental beer; a Russian imperial stout named Marfa Light was stored in wooden barrels for a year—which gave the beer an even deeper flavor and aroma—according to Matysiak. It’s meant to be sipped and to drink slowly. It recently won the bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival in the “Barrel-Aged Strong Stout” category.
“We feel that it’s definitely something that marks a milestone in our brewing history,” said Matysiak.
The special brew will be available to the public during the anniversary party with a bottle release to follow.
Another beer, named Spontaneity, lives up to its name as it was Big Bend Brewing’s first 100 percent spontaneously fermented beer. Meaning, they exclusively used cultures native to the region and let it brew its own thing for a year. Matysiak describes the beer with a little bit of sour notes and a little bit of fruity notes.
“We always say that we’re bringing a little bit of west Texas to the rest of the state, but with this beer, we’re literally bringing west Texas,” said Matysiak.
Only 288 12-ounce bottles were produced, so it’s down to the wire to find one to try. But with the new space, Big Bend Brewing will continue to grow and experiment. “This is just the beginning,” said Guevara. “We are super committed to the area and the beer. We feel really lucky to outgrow the space.”