PKW’s How to Open a Startup Brewery Series: “We Never Found It, So We Built It”

Steam Theory Brewing Team with PKW Brewhouse

Steam Theory’s Brewmaster & Co-Owners Share Their Experiences Starting a Successful Brewery / Restaurant in Dallas Texas

Their Beer: The majority of Brewmaster Kirk Roberts’ beer is meticulously produced on a Portland Kettle Works 15 bbl brewhouse.  To further ensure freshness and quality, 12 beers on tap are poured directly from PKW 15 bbl serving tanks with each tank set individually to the correct serving temperature for the style contained within.

Their Food: The brewmaster and executive chef work closely together all year long to ensure a synthesis between beer and food. All ingredients are fused in unique ways that will make you reach for one of the seasonally paired beers designed to go with each specific dish.

PKW recently spoke with Steam Theory’s Brewmaster Kirk Roberts, Co-Owner Chuck Homola, and Co-Owner Jonathan Barrows who generously shared their experiences starting this amazing brewery and restaurant.

Steam Theory PKW Brewery Tanks

PKW Serving Tanks Pour Fresh Beer Straight Into the Customer’s Glass

PKW: Where did you find the courage and inspiration to open a brewery?

STB: Let’s start with the inspiration portion of this.  Jonathan and Chuck met through home brewing, which of course led to a lot of weekend trips to local breweries.  Once we exhausted that supply, we branched out to establishments around the state and then across the nation.  We started to see some trends between breweries and brewpubs and different themes that varied from one part of the country to another, primarily in the styles of beers produced.  This led to a quest to find what we thought would be the perfectly balanced brewpub.  Guess what?  We never found it, so we decided to build it.  Now, about this courage thing, honestly that is only part of the equation; you need support from many people, you need to pick the right people to work with, and above all, a passion so strong you are willing to give up pretty much everything to make it happen.

PKW: What was the biggest challenge in opening the brewery and how did you overcome it?

STB: The single biggest challenge was finding the right location.  Once we defined our concept, we went on a Tolkienesque journey to find a place in Dallas that was zoned properly, had parking, a good traffic flow, a lack of breweries in the immediate area, demographics that fit our model, and a space that could accommodate our concept.  The first location we selected ended up being a nightmare of issues between the city parking requirements, a hostile homeowners association, and a city council that was unsupportive.  We had completed our architecture work while the landlord worked with the city and homeowners, but we finally had to tap out and move on due to these mitigating factors.  The search then led us to several prospective areas around the central business district and we selected Trinity Groves in West Dallas.  This is an up and coming area that has huge potential over the next few years, and we wanted to get in early to grow with the area.  Granted the first year has been challenging as we build our brand, but as more people move into the area, we are seeing the growth we need to go forward.

PKW: Now that you’ve gone through the process, what would you do differently?

STB: We had significant overruns on construction costs; you can never overestimate that.  Working with the city was very difficult, so plan plenty of time in the schedule for those delays.  Definitely research the neighborhood you are targeting to make sure local organizations like the HOA [home owners’ association] and the local officials are going to be supportive before you start spending money.  Make sure whatever signage you plan to put on the spot is very visible to the passersby.  We have a large sign and no one seems to see it, so we are having to augment that.  Build relationships with the locals well before opening:  get them hyped up for months prior to opening day.

PKW: What has brought you the most success in your business?

STB: First and foremost, our celebrity investor [Chris Harrison, host of ABC’s Bachelor reality TV show franchise] has brought in a lot of attention.  Having a strong social media presence is key, but don’t let those dime a dozen social media startups take advantage of you.  Work with people you trust and look at what other successful breweries in the area are doing.  Be consistent at all times.  Whether it’s recurring events, branding look and feel, the quality of your beer, or food and service.  You are only as good as your worst day in business.

PKW: What’s your funniest/most memorable moment at the brewery so far?

STB: This is easy!  One of our bar managers was prepping to open and was carrying a full rack of washed glassware and took a spill behind the bar.  It was like something right out of a cartoon – feet went out, fell on her butt while holding the glass rack, hit the speed rail on the well; three bottles of booze flew straight up in the air and landed next to her.  Being a nice owner, I ran over to see if she was hurt.  When she said she wasn’t and started laughing, I asked her to pick up the expensive tequila bottle before it all ran out.  Again, being a responsible owner on our liquor costs!

Steam Theory Brewmaster with PKW Brewing Equipment

Kirk Roberts, Steam Theory Brewmaster, in his element

Next time you’re in Dallas, stop by Steam Theory Brewing Company, introduce yourselves, and stick around to taste their latest seasonal beers paired with their delicious food.

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New Smyrna Beach Brewing: Brings Home the Gold

New Smyrna Beach PKW Brewing Equipment

NSB Wins 2 Gold Medals at the 2019 Best Florida Beer Professional Competition

New Smyrna Beach Brewing has been an amazing partner of Portland Kettle Works for 2 years now, and we are so happy to see they are getting some much deserved recognition. They recently purchased two new 10 bbl fermenters to fill out their cellar which will allow for so much more great, local beer. Make sure you stop in for a beer next time you’re in the Tampa Florida area. New Smyrna Beach Brewing Co. is a “must-visit.”

New Smyrna Beach Brewing Taproom

Tampa FL, USA – During the 2019 Brewer’s Ball, the best craft brewers gathered to find out who would win gold, silver, and bronze in the most prestigious professional beer competition in Florida. With over 200 breweries in the state of Florida and 800 entries, only the best of the best would take home a medal and New Smyrna Beach Brewing Company took home two:

  • Gold Medal, Mixed Culture Brett, Three Sisters Saison
  • Gold Medal, Irish Red Ale, Feeding Frenzy Irish Red

New Smyrna Beach Brewing Company’s Three Sisters Saison went through a mixed culture fermentation and was aged in French white wine barrels for 10 months before undergoing bottle conditioning. It is available in 750 ml corked bottles which can only be purchased in the taproom located at 143 Canal Street. New Smyrna Beach Brewing Company’s Feeding Frenzy Irish Red is available in both the NSB taproom as well as local bars and restaurants in Volusia County.

Make sure you stop in for a beer next time you’re in the Tampa Florida area; New Smyrna Beach Brewing is a “must-visit.”

About New Smyrna Beach Brewing Company: 
New Smyrna Beach Brewing Company is an independently owned brewery and taproom located on Canal Street in historic downtown New Smyrna Beach. Brewmaster Chris Coyle opened the brewery in January 2014 with the goal of bringing quality local craft beer to New Smyrna Beach. Specializing in beers brewed for the beach life style, the taproom offers 16 rotating beers on tap that are all brewed in-house. The brewery also distributes the gold medal Feeding Frenzy Irish Red as well as the infamous Shark Attack IPA to local bars and restaurants.

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Graff Brygghus: Brewing Above the Arctic Circle

PKW Brewing Equipment at Graff Brewery

Portland Exports Brewery System, Culture, & Beer Names to Norway

Tromso, Norway – Steeped in beer brewing tradition, Norway has become a bright light in the north for craft beer lovers.  Not surprisingly, Norway has a rich and wild history of brewing and drinking beer.  Too far north for grapes, the ancient Norse would not be vanquished in their desire for heady drink.  Likely on a raid of their fairer neighbors, the Vikings discovered beer which they imported to their homeland as far back as 1000 AD.  Eventually Norsemen began to develop strong traditions and customs tied to its consumption.  So serious were the Vikings about their adopted drink that it was considered a crime not to participate in the public drinking rituals or in brewing beer.

In times gone by, traditional porters were brewed for Norwegian weddings, christenings, and funerals by farms throughout the country.  By law, every farm was required to brew beer, and at Christmas the quantity of grain that went into the grist had to be equal to the combined weight of the farmer and his wife.  To fail in this responsibility was to risk having your farm and possessions confiscated and divided between the state and the church.   In extreme cases, “lawbreakers” could find themselves deported to Iceland (ouch!). Out of these strong traditions surrounding beer and community, Norway has become the craft beer destination in Northern Europe.  Today, Norway boasts over 80 craft breweries with many brewing traditional recipes while incorporating American Pacific Northwest, British, and European brewing styles.

“…we have developed our business around the amazing beer scene in Portland, so a brewery supplied by a Portland company fit perfectly for us.”

Portland Kettle Works (PKW), manufacturers of American brewing equipment in Portland Oregon, has been expanding within the European market.  One example of this global expansion is the installation of a 7-barrel (8.2 hl) brewery system (pictured above) in Tromso Norway located 200 miles (350 km) above the Arctic Circle. Thad Fisco, owner of Portland Kettle Works, traveled to Tromso to complete the installation of the PKW brewing system at Graff Brygghus (Norwegian for “brewhouse”) in late August 2015.

Graff Brewery - 200 Miles Above the Arctic Circle

Together, Graff and PKW built on Norwegian beer heritage with the same strong sense of brotherhood found both in Norway as well as the Portland beer scene.  Martin Amundsen and Marius Graff setup their brewery and taproom in a fully renovated character building that has been in the Amundsen family for 3 generations.  After three months of renovations, the first brew through their new PKW brewery system was the well-received Portland Pale Ale. “So much of what we are doing is about the connection with Portland” says Amundsen.  Graff concurs: “My dream is to have an article written about our brewery by The Oregonian… I would frame it and put it on the wall.”

In order to find the perfect brewery system, Graff spent a month in Portland Oregon brewing on systems supplied by several manufacturers before giving Portland Kettle Works the nod.   During his research, Graff brewed with several local favorites including Buoy Beer Company in Astoria, Coalition, BTU Brasserie, and Kells.  In Graff’s own words: “we wanted a brew system from the United States because the most innovation in the market is American, and we have developed our business around the amazing beer scene in Portland, so a brewery supplied by a Portland company fit perfectly for us.”

Since then, Graff Brygghus has become a popular local destination.  Aiding the popularity, Tromso is home to a university and Norway has a drinking age of 18 years. Additionally, with 3 months of midnight sun and 3 months of northern lights, Tromso is a popular destination for thirsty tourists.  “Graff Brygghus is perfectly positioned to rock the craft beer scene in Tromso and Northern Norway” says Fisco; “their PKW brewing equipment is going to allow these guys to make a clean, perfect product with creative recipes that were not previously available in this area.”

Update: Graff Brygghus continues to grow and has just reserved their second order of brewery tanks from PKW.  Congratulations Marius and Martin!  Skål!

Graff Brewery's Brewer & CEO

Marius Graff (L), Head Brewer & Martin Amundsen (R), CEO, Graff Brygghus

Photography by: Torgrim Rath Olsen/Nordlys LAB

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