“We made our first couple batches of beer and I remember Brent saying ‘I want to make beer for the rest of my life.’ ” So begins the story of Texas Ale Project, which was founded by Kat Stevens and Brent Thompson, both residents of Texas and lovers of beer. Construction is still under way at the brewery, which sits at 1001 N. Riverfront Boulevard in the Design District. They expect to begin serving beer this fall at bars around town and inside the brewery.They’re off to a good start. If you were smart enough to attend the Best Little Brewfest on June 21 in Old Towne Lewisville, then you may have tasted their beers. If that’s true, I am jealous of you and want you to stub your toe right now.
So who the hell are these people and what makes them think they can brew beer for Dallas? Well, I sat down with them recently to discuss their plans for brewing, personal struggles, favorite animals, and some things involving Mars that I am not a liberty to share with you. Let’s take a look at the team behind the brewery.
Kat Stevens - Founder: She’s got eyes that focus like a red tailed hawk pin pointing a stray Chihuahua. Fortunately, she doesn’t eat Chihuahua and she channels that intensity and attention on the business of beer. She started out working at Neiman Marcus at the age of three. That’s not true. It was much later actually. So after Neiman Marcus, she headed up north to acquire her MBA from Cornell while I was conquering Super Mario brothers on my Nintendo DS and eating beans from a box. Some people are doers and others are just there to eat beans. She continued her professional powerhouse domination in retail consulting, and now she and Brent have founded what I presume has her eagle eyes fixed on beer. Yes.
Brent Thompson - Founder: Brent has a disarming kindness in his greeting. He’s a genuine dude. After attending high school in a small town outside of Houston, he joined the navy travelling to 20 different countries by the time he turned twenty. He fell in love with cultural diversity as experienced through the cuisine, the beer and the people. After 4 years in the navy, he moved to Dallas and worked in the service industry. He and Kat started making beer in 2003 while living in upstate New York. They found themselves surrounded by craft beer culture and wondered why this wasn’t going on back home. Well, you may have read our Beer issue and learned all about the laws the prohibited such ventures. Once that hurdle was crushed and people started getting thirsty, things changed. In come Brent and Kat.
Jan Matysiak - Brewmaster: Jan (pronounced Yahn) has a captivating presence, which is solidified by his gentle German accent and towering physique. He’s authentic, trimmed in stature and speaks better English than I do. After attending school in Germany, Jan joined the army. After serving, he began an apprenticeship with a German brewery. He studied brewing science, worked for several breweries, and then moved to America in 2008. After a few more breweries in Austin and on the east coast, he met Kat and Brent and began the journey of The Texas Ale Project. Jan is well spoken and adroitly cunning in his beer prowess. As he says, “he’s ready for the next big thing.”
So there you have it- the story of three people just trying to make great beer in a very beer friendly city. Will it work? Will they find their own space in the now crowded market that is no longer kind to mediocrity in the glass? I think they will. At the Best Little Brewfest, they debuted a beer called The Caucasian. After a night watching The Big Lebowski, they decided to create a White Russian Imperial Stout. Instead of being black, it’s actually golden in color. I don’t even know how to wrap my brain around that, but I know that I want it.
You can taste their beers at the upcoming Texas Craft Brewers Festival in Austin on September 27. It should be big and delicious. Also, if you’re still uncertain of what the Texas Ale Project may be bringing to the table, know this. When I asked them what animal best embodied the spirit of the brewery, they said Velociraptor.