South Austinites will soon be able to purchase essentials for brewing their own beer–without punishing their odometers, when a new homebrew supply shop opens its doors on South Congress Ave. this August.
Dubbed SoCo Homebrew, the upcoming shop is the brainchild of Chris Ellison, Joseph Butler and Mike Campbell, all experienced homebrewers who reside in the southerly portion of the city.
Looking to cities like San Antonio, which is home to three homebrewing shops, and Portland, which is home to no less than a dozen, the group believed that a city with as much beer enthusiasm as Austin could more than support a second homebrew shop. Throw in the city’s notorious traffic problems, and the group saw an untapped southern market.
“We saw this opportunity, and after researching and researching and researching, it just seemed like a great idea,”Butler said, in a recent interview with Bitch Beer.
Butler (who worked in banking) and Campbell (who works for an architecture firm) had been marinating on the idea of opening up a supply shop for quite some time before they were introduced to Ellison, a former Austin Homebrew employee who longed for a supply shop on his side of the river. The group teamed up, and with a collective vision in place, the next step was finding the real estate to make the business idea a reality.
“The biggest frustration was trying to find a spot to lease,” Butler said. “Not only a spot, but a good spot.”
But after months of planning and searching, the crew discovered an available space with great bones on South Congress Ave., just south of Highway 290.
“This one did just kinda feel right,” Campbell said.
But for one member of the trio, it was more than that gut feeling that made the place an easy sell.
“It’s also a block from my house, so it really worked out,” Ellison joked.
With a little imagination, and the help of a good contractor, they’ve tackled renovations in just a few short weeks–transforming the formerly dated office space into a clean, bright storefront.
Now, they’re just in the process of receiving inventory and stocking the shelves.
“It’s just a matter of being ready and getting all our ducks in a row, and being confident that when we open those doors we can serve everybody,” Ellison said.
To achieve this, the store is stocking as wide of an inventory as it can pack into its 2,400 square feet.
One room will be dedicated to ingredients, with a fridge for hops and yeast, and “serve yourself” containers along the wall housing grain like it’s the Whole Foods Bulk aisle. That room will also contain a malt mill so customers can mill their own grain in house.
As for recipes, SoCo Homebrew will utilize a cloud based system to catalog community-sourced recipes. The database will be accessible both in-house and off-site so customers can plan recipes ahead of time, or come into the store to browse recipes and pick the guys’ brains.
In addition to carboys, starter kits, bottling supplies and all your other homebrewing basics, SoCo plans to carry kegs and barrels.
The shop will also carry wine making equipment and ingredients, plus supplies for making kombucha, cheese, sauerkraut and other fermented foods.
“I’m a huge foodie,” Ellison said. “I’m fermenting food all the time…and I have lots of friends around who are into that same thing down here [South Austin], so that’s going to be huge.”
Early enthusiasm suggests that SoCo Homebrew could indeed be huge for South Austin.
“We’ve had a lot of great response from people,” Ellison said. “The Brewing community is phenomenal in Austin…Now that we’ve been doing this I’ve gotten to meet a lot of people that I should have met a long time ago.”
SoCo Homebrew plans to open up shop at 4930 S. Congress Ave. Suite 307 in early August. Tentative hours or operation are 11am to 7pm. Stay tuned for the Grand Opening date.
-Brewing ingredients and equipment graphics by Sarah Wood, originally published in”Austin Beer: Capital City History on Tap” 2013, The History Press.
Soco Homebrew has been open for business for a couple weeks now, and will be officially celebrating with a Grand Opening bash Saturday, September 6.