It’s May 18th, Thursday of American Craft Beer Week and for today’s feature, we delve into the story of one seriously determined local brewery: Denton’s Armadillo Ale Works.
Their new production brewery is set to open later this year and we managed to take a tour with Customer Service Liaison Will Sikora (pictured). We also caught up with Bobby Mullins, Co-founder, Chief Brewing Officer, and Denton native to hear a little bit more about the struggles they’ve faced trying to open their doors.
Read what he had to say below!
The following is a condensed transcript of the conversation, which has been edited for clarity.
Can you tell us a little about your background?
Bobby: Well I moved down to Houston after I graduated from UNT and started working at Saint Arnold. That’s really where I cut my teeth in the industry. I was actually brewing there while they were expanding to their new facility, so I was fortunate to see the ins & outs of large scale production brewing as well as seeing what it takes to build a new brewery. The craft beer scene hadn’t really exploded yet, but I got to experience the community & culture built around Saint Arnold and the enthusiasm from fans of the brewery and I always thought Man…Something like this in my hometown, Denton, would be amazing. I kept thinking “Oh, somebody’ll do it someday”, and then it dawned on me…why am I waiting for someone else? Why don’t I do it? And that was really the motivation to come back up, bring that craft beer culture back to my hometown, and open up Armadillo.
It seems like you guys have had a rough run opening your brick & mortar brewery. Can you tell us a little about the story?
Bobby: So back in 2010, we were planning on doing something small like a brewpub. At the time, really the only breweries in North Texas were Rahr & Franconia. So we set out to open our brewpub and we actually won a contest through the school of business at UNT which was a program through the Murphy Center for Entrepreneurship, (The New Venture Creation Contest). We won 3rd place with our business plan, got a little bit of seed money there and shortly thereafter, based on notes from the contest and after meeting with industry insiders, we scratched the brewpub idea and decided to go bigger. At the time brewpubs weren’t able to distribute, so we ultimately decided to go the route of a production brewery.
That obviously meant scaling things up a bit, right?
Bobby: Yeah, absolutely…Actually, about that time, we started producing sodas. There’s so much less red tape with soda, so we rented out a commercial kitchen in the basement of Andy’s bar in the downtown Denton Square, and started doing small batch sodas. I think our max capacity was like 20 cases at a time, but we were pumping out and selling around the square and at some Mom & Pop shops around Denton. Shortly after that, Deep Ellum approached us.
So you guys were making some buzz in the community.
Bobby: Yeah, they had heard a little about us, saw what we were doing and invited us out to one of their first Brew-B-Qs. We brought some of our homebrew, they loved what we were making and offered us a place to come brew our beers large scale. Now, it wasn’t contract brewing, it was a different sort of arrangement, but it gave us the opportunity to get our beers out to the market and really do our proof of concept. Our first production beer was Quakertown. Greenbelt came shortly thereafter, then WunderMelon, Brunch Money.
While we were there, we secured our own location off of 35, going toward Fort Worth…I think everyone in Denton probably saw the big neon sign that was on that building. And of course, that location fell through at the last minute.
That had to be hard.
Bobby: Yeah, it really was. We had already stopped producing at Deep Ellum because we were preparing for this new location, and when it fell through, it basically stopped us in our tracks for 18 months. But we got our feet back underneath us and found a new location that should be open here in a few months. About that time, Grapevine Brewing was starting contract brewing and Gary Humble, the owner there, approached us about brewing out of their facility until we got our place open. And that brings us to now!
What a ride man…
Bobby: Yep…that’s the last 7 years in a nutshell! Hahaha! It’s been tough, but we have a really loyal fan base that have been with us all the way.
Will met us up for a quick tour of your new building, and it seems like you guys really care about the Denton culture.
Bobby: Absolutely. Growing up here and seeing how the city has changed, its really cool to see downtown thriving. I mean… I spent my formative years here, going to shows at Rubber Gloves & Dan’s, going to house shows and pop-up art galleries, soaking in the culture and I really wanted to create that kind of vibe for our brewery as well. We’re really excited about it. I think it’s going to be really special.
So what new beers should we be looking for from Armadillo Ale works?
Bobby: Well we just got a bunch of label approvals that you’ll probably see soon…The big one we’ve got planned is our IPA. People have been begging us for a hoppy option for years, and we’re finally able to make an IPA we’re proud of. You know, securing hops can be a task and even though its common practice in the industry to use hop substitutions, we really just wanna make the beer the way we intended to, without substituting anything. It took us a little while to secure all the hops we needed, but that’ll probably be our next big release. We’re really looking forward to getting our taproom open too, so we can do some more off-the-wall, experimental brews.
Well thanks for taking some time out of your day to chat with us. We’re really excited for Armadillo’s next step.
Bobby: Absolutely man. It was my pleasure!
Armadillo Ale Works
Armadillo Ale Works new facility will be located at 221 S Bell Ave, Denton, TX 76201 and we’re more than excited for them to have their own brick & mortar brewhouse & taproom. Until they open their doors to the public and let’s face it, even after they do, you can find a rotating selection of their beers at your closest Taps & Caps.