When an actor with a rabid cult following opens a brewery in Central Texas, it’s not just local news. It becomes a national sensation.
Within a week of opening the doors, Family Business Beer Company, co-owned by Jensen Ackles of “Supernatural” fame, exploded in popularity. It also drew the ire of a small, but vocal, corner of the Austin beer scene.
The narrative was silly one: how dare some tiny brewery in Dripping Springs get more popular than Jester King, all because it has a celebrity owner? Could this upstart brewery in a market full of them possibly meet the expectations set by its social media reach?
The answers is a resounding yes. By combining years of local brewing experience with a beautiful location in the heart of Dripping Springs, Family Business Beer Company is more than a celebrity passion project. It’s a brewery worth your time and respect.
Note: The crew at Family Business kindly comped my tasting and full pours for this article. All opinions are my own.
As the legend goes, co-owner Gino Graul stumbled on an old 15-acre horse ranch minutes from Hamilton Pool and fell in love with the space. An avid home brewer for years, Graul reached out to his sister Danneel and her husband Jensen, and the idea for a brewery was born.
To helm the fermenters, the team brought in born-and-raised Austinite Nate Seale, the former head brewer of (512) Brewing Company. Ever had a (512) Pecan Porter? That was Seale’s creation.
Fast forward to January 2018 and the brewery opened to an ocean of exposure, thanks in part to the celebrity owners. Within days, Family Business had amassed more Facebook followers than Jester King; fans of the show were flying cross county to visit; and the baby brewery was overrun with people.
Rather than run from the exposure or get lazy, the team used their meteoric popularity for good. “Gino and I discussed this early on–that we’re in a unique position that the average person that walks in here may know nothing about beer,” shared Seale. “It gives us a sense of responsibility to make sure the product is great; make sure we’re not a gimmick; and make sure we’re educated so we lead people through what may be their first experience in craft beer.”
Now that the dust has settled, the team’s heart for being accessible, approachable, and knowledgeable shines through everything they do and make.
Impressive Tap Wall
Using his years of experience at (512) Brewing, Seale curated a compelling tap wall of true-to-style classics and creative off-shoots. If I had to pick one buzzword to describe Family Business brews, it would be “balance.” Where the beer scene can sometimes be a race to the latest trends and craziest styles, Seale is content with creating quality ales the old-school way.
During my time at the taproom, I was able to try a solid cross section of the offerings and I didn’t find a dud in the bunch. For hop heads, the Ocelot IPA features strong grapefruit and pineapple notes up front, and settles in with a deep, malty backbone. Proof citrusy IPAs can remain bright and forward without being a haze bomb.
For fans of the roastier side of the beer spectrum, Haulin’ Oats Brown Ale and Grackle Hill Country Imperial Stout both fit the bill. Perfectly suited for chilly Austin afternoons, the brown ale hits smooth and creamy, with subtle notes of brown sugar and caramel.
On the other hand, Grackle is a lovely entry-level imperial stout for those unfamiliar with the style. Coming in at a relatively tame 8.9% ABV (many beers of this style can top 13%), Grackle warms the mouth with luscious notes of medium roast coffee and bakers chocolate.
Surprisingly, my star of the show was a sensational rye pilsner named The Fox Rye Lager. True to style in its crisp, clean, and dry notes with an unusual amount of depth. The result is an exceedingly easy to drink pilsner that packs more flavor than you’d expect.
Top it all off with the Winter Warmer that conjured up images of fall leaves and apple picking, and you have a tap wall that shines with diversity and quality.
Beautiful Place to Drink Beautiful Beer
As with every Dripping Springs brewery, Family Business has a warm and inviting space for patrons to hang out, and share a pint with pals. Unlike every other brewery, however, the team has paid special attention to making the experience all-inclusive. The taproom itself features a small, cozy bar that looks out to a cool, nearly industrial seating area bathed in natural light.
Outside, a long wrap-around porch opens to a massive oak tree-filled courtyard. Picnic tables dot the impressive space as does a variety of backyard games. And if you have little ones, feel free to cheer for a fantastic fenced-in playscape. Family Business is pet-friendly as well, so feel free to bring your fur babies to hang with the human ones.
And the feature list goes on and on. Live music is featured on a regular basis via a well-appointed stage. Food truck Jep’s Southern Roots (helmed by husband and wife team Jep and Jessica Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” fame) provide the grub. During my visit, I didn’t get a chance to try any bites, but I hear Jep’s makes a serious po’boy.
While tasting at the bar, a customer walked in wearing one of the brewery’s t-shirts. We got to chatting and, after a few minutes, I learned he was in town for work. As a super fan of “Supernatural,” checking out Jensen’s brewery was required. He even admitted to hopefully catching a glimpse of his favorite actor. The rest of our 20-minute conversation was about beer. The flavor notes in the ESB, how nice the space was, his favorite brew in his flight, etc. Not another word about celebs or TV shows.
That’s the heart of Family Business Beer Company. Regardless of why you come to visit, the end goal is always the same. To leave you relaxed, satiated, and hopefully a bit more knowledgeable about craft beer than when you came in.
Jensen Ackles’ Instagram following is a tiny piece of the bigger picture. By combining well crafted beer, an inviting environment, and a passionate team of genuinely nice people, Family Business Beer Company is a place my family will be visiting over and over again.
For more information about Family Business Beer Company’s beer lineup, events, and social media, visit familybusinessbeerco.com.
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
What’s your favorite Family Business beer?